We are away

May 29, 2016 § Leave a comment

Hi everyone,

There are things that need getting’ done, and places that need a-visitin’.

We’ll catch you folks when we have some more time to tell our stories here.

Please direct all comments and queries to almeidareena at gmail dot com, and we’ll try to respond as quick as we can.

Fritters and Foogyas

Sunday Brunch at The Ponycat

January 20, 2015 § Leave a comment

We both had a few things to feel happy about, but Melroy had more reason to and hence it fell to him to select a cafe to visit yesterday.

In true Melroy fashion, out comes his trusty Entertainment Book (EB) which he shut down after thirty minutes of intense Melroy-to-Melroy debate. Next in line was his EB app (as you can see, he loves his EB) and several minutes of pondering later, he announces that we ought to visit The Ponycat.

After a quick read of the blurb, I said OK, let’s do this!

With much anticipation (especially on my part – as my husband has simple tastes as opposed to my penchant for all things fancy), we got into the car and set out for The Ponycat.

And ended up waiting in the miserable heat (it was one of the hottest and most humid days in a long time) outside this quirky little establishment in the very hip and whimsical Brunswick St strip in Brisbane for about 10 minutes.

The Ponycat interiors

Despite that, I was impressed – because a place like The Ponycat would usually be my choice of cafe. I deflated upon seeing the menu (more on that later), but I quickly recovered after a glance at the interiors.

weird cats welcome sign

Anyway, ten minutes is a long time especially with a baby and not many busy cafes will take the time to be nice to the patrons waiting for a table. But the staff at the The Ponycat were adorably conscious about our needs and informed us that they would take our order while we waited.

No sooner did we do that, a table emptied out and we were quickly seated inside the blissfully cool interiors.

Coming back to the menu, it was scribbled above the food counter on a chalk wall and seemed to offer mostly cafe staples – hence my slight disappointment.

The Ponycat menu

And then, my cup of flat white arrived and I sighed in bliss after my first sip.

And then Tara’s slice of nicely toasted banana bread arrived, which as you can see was set upon immediately. (Much later, Melroy had a taste and informed me that it was very good.)

baby eating at The Ponycat

And then Melroy’s order and my order arrived in two well-presented plates and we took our first bites and looked at each other with these wide stuffed-mouth grins – the food had hit the right spot.

beef burger at The Ponycat

Melroy’s beef burger with Swiss cheese, tomato chutney and beetroot coleslaw was bursting with flavour and meat (I tasted it).

My smoked salmon on scrambled eggs and ciabatta with balsamic glaze and tomato salsa was generously and most attractively piled on to my plate and I couldn’t get enough of the rich and delicate smoked salmon coupled with the creamy scrambled eggs.

smoked salmon at The Ponycat

It was delicious and our food looked too beautiful to eat.

But we ate to our heart’s content. Amidst a lot of noise (at a comfortable level), in a charming little cafe with absolutely terrific wait staff. What’s more, Tara had a good time too!

feeding baby at The PonycatWhat a marvelous start to our Sundays of Food and family. Hurrah for us! Hurrah for The Ponycat!

Total bill: Below $35
EFTPOS & split bills: Yes
Parking: Street
Babies and pets: Yes (although, I don’t think they have any baby seats – we should’ve asked)
Should you eat here: Oh yes, absolutely!
Website: The Ponycat

New baby, new year, new traditions.

January 19, 2015 § Leave a comment

You know it’s been a fair while since you’ve blogged if you can’t recall what the last post on your site was all about.

But hey, I had a baby and these things are hard to track when growth charts, daycare schedules and the like compete with interesting career developments.

Not complaining. At all.

So here’s Tara, my little baby having an idli (for the first time, I should add) that my very talented Aunt Sally made. Baby with idli

A year old now, Tara’s learning all about food right now and she devours pretty much everything that’s set in front of her with utter gusto – just like her mom.

The time seemed right for my little family to embark on a food adventure of sorts where Tara would get to experience new foods and new flavours.

So every alternate Sunday, my husband, my baby and I will set out to discover and learn a bit more about Brisbane, the city we now call home. We shall breakfast/brunch/lunch in cafes and eat terrific food and spend at least a morning from our busy, busy week, relaxing together as a family.

And then, if I have the time to do it, I shall write about it here. So here’s hoping that happens.

But here’s to new beginnings too. Cheers!

Savoury Breakfast Muffins: Flour Variant

October 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

In essence, these are not really muffins, but are actually called popovers and are supposed to be baked in a popover pan. The popovers I make are adapted from another recipe I came across on Kirby’s Cravings (as you can see, I really love her recipes!) and I make them using a muffin pan.

Popovers take longer to make than the flourless breakfast muffins, but they are worth it and personally, I find them more wholesome and appetising (I’m not really big on more egg than anything else in my breakfast).

For the ingredients, as well as the baking time and temperatures (converted to Celsius of course), I use the same measurements as what Kirby uses for the flour, milk, salt, eggs and butter.

The popovers tend to deflate after a few minutes out of the oven – this is normal.

The changes I usually make to this recipe are:

Using heaps of cheese and bacon.

Adding smoked paprika powder.

Adding a sprinkling of fresh herbs like chives, finely chopped garlic, basil, etc.

When using a muffin pan to make popovers, it’s not sufficient to merely grease the pan. Grease it and add a generous pat of butter to the base. Fill the muffin cup leaving 1/4th of the cup empty – the batter looks absolutely enticing once it puffs up over the brim!

The quantity of batter these ingredients result in are generally not sufficient for one 6-cup muffin pan and I tend to use large ramekins or a tiny baking dish (it looks like savoury cake if you use one of these things!).

While you can serve these muffins with a savoury chutney, I love clubbing them with jam. Sweet jam on savoury muffins are most excellent in my book.

I suggest you don’t half the ingredients if you are making breakfast for 4-5 people, as trust me, these lovelies are so tasty they are devoured in a snap.

Savoury Breakfast Muffins: Flourless Variant

October 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

Sometimes, you end up waking before everyone else on a weekend.
And you then fret over breakfast.
Especially when you have guests staying over.

I usually fret over what would be the best option for breakfast. Because I happen to have several choices in my arsenal.

Baked using regular cheddar cheese

Like the Bacon and Cheese Egg Cups I came across on Kirby’s Cravings – quick to whip up and quickly ready too.

Some additions I make to this recipe are:

Adding a light sprinkle of smoked paprika powder in each cup.

Adding a light dusting of dried Italian herbs in each cup.

I sometimes switch feta for regular cheddar cheese.

Baked using coriander, chopped garlic, tomato and feta

But honestly, pretty much anything can be loaded into the egg cups. Pineapples! Pepperoni! Leftover chicken!

Hooray, right?!

It’s nicer when you grease the cups with salted butter or olive oil. Make sure you crack the egg without breaking (breaking the yolk is no point, because everything ends up cooked anyway).

Just remember this order:

Bacon (chop it into small pieces so that it’s easier to cook) or leftover chicken/turkey/beef/whatever.
Bake at 200 C for 10 minutes.
Serve with sauce/chutney.
Accept looks of awe with grace and a quiet, knowing smile.


Aromatic Choriz-Pulao – Winter Warmer

July 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

It is an indisputable fact that Goan sausages are the ultimate chorizo on the planet. Anybody who has burned their lips and teared up while enthusiastically shovelling that evil Goan (in)delicacy with spare morsels of pao (bread) will tell you so.

I am one of these people. Along with missing my mother a lot, I also miss Goan sausages in Australia – especially the traditional way in which she cooks them. I did come across an Indian couple owning a business called Mac Marshall (based in Perth, AU) when I put a search for them online, and I’m devouring the information there before I get ready to place my order!

Until then, it is my lot to be content with the spiced turkey chorizo we get here – which are still not that common and come somewhat close to the Goan pork ones in taste.

The other day we came across pork chorizo at the supermarket and thought we’d give them a go, as it had been too long since we had last had any chorizo out here. I gave making them the usual way we make them – with lots of chopped tomatoes and potatoes – a miss and decided to cook them in a pulao.

Very good idea, as it turned out. I’m writing this the next morning, after I had a visitor who complimented me on the way my kitchen smells. It’s that wonderful!

What you need:

Pork chorizo – 2, sliced thin
Brown onions – 2 medium-sized, sliced thin
Tomatoes – 2 medium-sized, chopped
Cloves – 2
Cardamom pods – 2
Bay leaves – 2 (small)
Garlic – 3 fat cloves
Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
Red chilli flakes – 1 tsp
Basmati rice – 2 cups, washed and kept to soak for 30 minutes or till it’s time to use it
Chicken stock powder – 3 Tbsp
Coriander leaves – approx. 2 tbsp, roughly shredded with your fingers
Olive oil – 1 tbsp

What you need to do:
Crush the garlic, chilli flakes and fennel seeds together and set aside. Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add the cloves, cardamom and bay leaves. Toss them around and add onions once the leaves turn slightly golden. Saute the onions till they soften.

Add the crushed garlic-fennel-chilli at this stage and quickly combine everything stirring continuously to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the onions turn translucent, add the sliced chorizo and continue to toss about in the pan.

Mix in the chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon of either paprika or half a teaspoon of hot chilli powder (you can drop this ingredient if you don’t agree with spice) once the smaller chorizo slices start to cup and cover the vessel for two minutes.

Measure 4 cups of water (if you have used a mortar-pestle to crush the garlic, etc. add a cup to it and swirl around to get any remaining juices) and pour into the saucepan. Add the torn coriander leaves, and the chicken stock, combine gently and replace the lid. Once the broth comes to a boil, reduce the flame to medium-low.

I added a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning at this stage as I just bought a tin of it the other day and can’t get enough of it. However, the pulao will still be quite delicious and aromatic without this ingredient, so don’t fret if you don’t have any at hand.

Drain the soaked rice and add it to the boiling water. Gently combine and replace the lid. Your rice should absorb the water within fifteen minutes.

Uncover the lid as soon as you notice there’s no broth in the saucepan. Gently stir the rice about. The rice will be slightly wet, but not soggy.

Turn the flame off as soon as you feel the rice is sticking to the bottom of the vessel and gently keep stirring it about to release all the steam inside. Leave the pulao uncovered to allow the steam to escape and if you aren’t serving it immediately, keep stirring it every 20 minutes to keep the rice from sticking together.

You can either have the choriz-pulao as a meal in itself or serve it with a light salad of chopped onions, cucumbers, coriander and lemon juice. Oh and don’t forget to sprinkle some lemon juice over the rice as well.

Enjoy the flavours and fragrance!

Purple Gaajar Halwa

June 7, 2012 § 2 Comments

Purple carrots?! Are they injected with purple food colouring?” Strangely, I reacted in the same way as my mother when I first saw purple coloured carrots. I HAD to buy them and unsurprisingly, the first thing that popped into my mind was “Hey, I could make some cool-looking gaajar halwa with these!

Purple carrots taste slightly sweeter than the regular orange ones and are more juicy as well. The next time I deal with them, I’m going to lay out some paper under my cutting plank – the juice flies everywhere and if left un-wiped for more than a few minutes, could stain. I made a mess.

That apart, they were a joy to photograph and cook and I have saved one of the carrots to add some colour to a salad when I make one next (or perhaps add it to freaky pulao, hmm?).

Here’s what you need:

Grated carrots – 500 gms
Milk – 500 ml
Jaggery – 200 gms (you can use about 5-6 tbsps of regular sugar as well – I just happened to have some jaggery at hand)
Ground cardamom – 1 tsp
Ghee (clarified butter) – 1 tbsp
Cashews, chopped and lightly fried in ghee – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

Saffron – 3 strands
Ground nutmeg – 1/4 tsp

Here’s what you need to do:

Add milk to a saucepan and bring to boil with the lid on and on medium heat. Add the grated carrot – the milk will look too less compared to the carrot but that’s fine as the carrot will soften down.

Once the carrot’s softened and half-cooked, add the jaggery/sugar and the ghee and start stirring. Add a pinch of salt for taste after a few minutes.

When there’s little milk left in the vessel, add the nutmeg/saffron and cardamom powder.

You have to keep stirring till all the milk has been absorbed, taking care to keep the carrot from sticking to the bottom of the pan and from getting burnt.

Clockwise: The milk absorption process while cooking halwa

Gaajar halwa takes close to an hour to cook completely and it doesn’t really matter whether you end up with a halwa that’s either mushy or dry as long as there’s no water remaining. Taste the halwa at this stage and if you think it could do with some more sweetness, you can always sprinkle some castor sugar and lightly fold it in before you serve it.

Toss the fried cashews in the halwa or use them as a garnish – either way is fine. The halwa is preferably served warm in portions of three-four tablespoons.

I had a bit of fun with my purple halwa though and filled it in tart moulds in the shape of little rosettes that I had purchased from Cheap Jack in Bandra, Mumbai. While you can’t make out the finer details of the rosettes, the tiny shapes were handy for the purpose I had in mind – bite-sized sweetmeats!

I dusted castor sugar in the moulds and stuffed each with warm halwa, freezing each batch for 10 minutes and refrigerating after they were removed from the moulds. 

I hope to use them as a substitute for the traditional pedhas that are usually distributed after announcing good news, and since it’s a crazy shade of purple, this particular batch works extremely well for me *wink*.