Monday, December 19, 2011

OZKitchenware Christmas Giveaway!!!

Hello there dear friends,

EXCITING NEWS. Today, I am hosting my FIRST ever giveaway here on The Hungry Excavator. HURRAHHHHH!!! I'd like to thank each of you for all your visits/clicks since I relaunched this blog in August to bring it to where it is today. Thank you.

Just in time for the festive season, the lovely people at OZKitchenware has approached me to host a giveaway competition for them. And the prize? A whopping generous $200 Gift Voucher to spend on ANYTHING you like from their website! WAO WEEE~~! I remembered the first time that I logged on to their website and literally spent half an hour or more just browsing through all the kitchen products that I wanted to get.

I'm sure that most of you already have kitchenware items in mind that you'd like to get for your home, so this is perfect for you because $200 can go a LONG way. I know that I constantly have at least 3 kitchen products that I'd like to get off the top of my head and I don't know why. OZKitchenware is a great place to browse for kitchen items because they carry all the great brands such as Scanpan, Cuisinart, Chasseur, Global Knives, and so on. They've also set up a helpful Christmas Gift Guide, so please check that out!

But what I LOVE most about this giveaway is that it encourages people to think about how THEY can demonstrate love and generosity to those around them, all in the spirit of Christmas! So here's how you can win this awesome $200 Gift Voucher! Simply answer the following question:

"What kitchen product would I like to get from OZKitchenware this Christmas and how can I use that to bless others around me?"

To enter, simply:
Leave a comment with your answer below (try and post the link of the product so that other people who may be interested will know which product you're referring to!) by just signing in as "Guest" with just your name and e-mail. That's it! And the entry with the best answer will win!


BUT WAIT! That's not all! We are ALSO giving away this UBER cool Scanpan Spectrum 6-Piece Steak Knife Set!!! All you need to do to enter, is either:
(i) Mention @ozkitchenware on Twitter, OR
(ii) Like BOTH The Hungry Excavator and OZKitchenware Facebook pages!

How fun would it be to own a set of these in your kitchen?! I want one too!!

The winner will be chosen at random and if you're already a fan of these two FB pages, you will be automatically qualified. TOO EASY!

This competition is open to people residing in Australia only and closes on 11pm, 27th December 2011.

So what are you waiting for?! Start sending in your entries for this awesome prize. Good luck and Merry Christmas to you all!! =D

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

A REALLY delectable afternoon snack =)

This holiday so far has really been about cooking and experimenting with recipes that I didn't have the time to try during semester. Which is why I've been baking a lot recently, of all things. And if you know me, baking is seriously not my forté. I've failed so many times in the past that I'm surprised I actually let myself bake again. BUT, I'm glad I did because I must say that I am very slowly, getting the hang of it (as well as my oven) with lots of practice and helpful recipes. Also, I find that it's a great way for Mum and me to bond in the kitchen =)

Also, VERY happy to announce that I've finally tested out this Cake Flour Substitute (which I've included in a separate post) that I came across on the Internet a long time ago. And let me just say, it works AMAZINGLY WELL. Very happy with the results. Try this out next time you happen to come across a baking recipe that calls for Cake Flour =D

So, Mum's been having a number of baking adventures back in KK as well recently. Only that she does it at Aunty E's house and she couldn't stop raving about this Carrot Cake Recipe so I decided to give it a go! I LOVE a good carrot cake. Though, I wanted to do it in cupcake form because I imagined it would be more fun to eat. Also, I can't remember the last time I actually made cupcakes, so here you have it. Oh, and we've reduced the sugar, butter and squeezed out some of the carrot juice to suit our liking.

Mum e-mailed me this recipe not too long ago (during my finals, actually. LOL MUM). It was taken from a cooking class conducted by a pastry chef of a 5-Star hotel in KK. Interesting. Honestly, making this recipe for myself, it really did turn out to be one of the BEST carrot cakes I've ever tasted! If I must say so myself... It's not me, it's the recipe.

It was so light and soft, but jam-packed with the sweetness of the carrots as well as the fragrance of the walnuts. Texture and flavour wise, this recipe really is an absolute winner. Also, I liked that the frosting had a higher concentration of butter, which made it almost like a Buttercream, but not quite. Easier to pipe/spread onto the cake after.

I've tried the carrot cake recipe from the Masterchef website before and though it was good, it didn't even come close. Compared to this, that one was rather stiff and a tad dry. ANYWAY, if you're looking for a really, really good carrot cake recipe, give this one a go and I promise you won't be disappointed. So easy to make, too!

Hope you get to try this out and share it with your loved ones sometime soon! Peace! =)


Carrot Cupcakes
(makes 24 cupcakes or 1 big cake)


50g + 10g (for garnishing) chopped walnuts
250g sugar
270ml cooking oil
4 eggs
240g cake flour (or 60g corn flour + 180g plain flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp cinnamon powder
340g (or 2 large) carrots, grated *

* TIP: Briefly squeeze out juice from one of the carrots. Otherwise, too moist

* Squeezing juice from just ONE of the carrots


Preheat oven to 190C. Toast the walnuts in a dry pan until fragrant, set aside. Cream sugar, oil and eggs in medium speed for 8 minutes.

Sieve cake flour, baking soda, baking powder into the mixture and fold. Add in vanilla essence, cinnamon powder, grated carrots and chopped walnuts. Fold to combine.

Line a 4 x 3 cupcake tray with paper moulds. Spoon batter into moulds until 2/3 full (or 2 scoops per mould with an ice-cream scoop). Bake for 25min or until cake tester comes out clean. Set aside to cool. Repeat with second batch of cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting


150g cream cheese
75g butter
75g icing sugar
zest of 1 orange/lemon *

* For carrot cakes, orange goes better IMO but totally up to you =)


Cream all ingredients until smooth. When cupcake is cool, spread or pipe frosting on top. Garnish with more chopped walnuts and ENJOY =)

The PERFECT carrot cupcakes. OH! And I got a new cake stand from Big W, hur hur hur...

So, SO yummy... MMMMMM!!! =)

Cake Flour Substitute

Cake Flour.

An ingredient very, very commonly used in baking recipes from the US and many Asian regions (and I guess other parts of the world, too). AMAZING ingredient to have in your pantry as it yields very soft and light sponge cakes with very delicate crumbs. Mainly due to its lower protein levels compared to the other wheat flours.

For the longest time, I've been stressing out about how come I can never find this ingredient in Australia! Fortunately, I came across a substitute from this baking forum and decided to give it a go with this Carrot Cupcake Recipe.

Let me just say, it worked SO well. Absolutely perfect!! The cake turned out so beautifully and I can now proclaim that: This cake flour substitute is true, tested and works a 100%!


Cake Flour Substitute

Simply substitute cake flour ingredient with 1 part corn flour + 3 parts plain flour.

For example: If recipe calls for 240g cake flour, combine 60g corn flour with 180g plain flour.

Works like a charm. Hope this helps. Happy baking, all!! =)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Green Tea Cheesecake Bites

"Accidental" Green Tea Biscuits

Lots of people know that I LOVE canapes or bite-sized foods. I always seem to find them more delicious because they're much more moreish when food can be eaten whole, one after another, in just one bite. Eating them by hand is a huge plus, too ;p. If it's good, I can keep popping them babies in my mouth like there's no tomorrow. Anyone share the love for canapes?

So when a mate had a potluck for his 21s a coupla months back, I volunteered two canapes for his birthday: 1 sweet and 1 savoury. And phew, was this recipe a load of work or what. It's not that it's complicated, but I had LOTS of screw ups in the kitchen that day. Fortunately, some of them actually worked even better as a result! Let me share what I've had to learn the hard way...

FIRST! Rookie Mistake Number 1: Mistaking the teaspoon measurements for TABLEspoon.(LOOOOOOOL). BUT, this was one mistake that worked well in my favour. Because of that, the green tea flavour was much more stronger and what we enjoyed most about these lovely cheesecake bites. However, I did add too much gelatin but most people didn't mind, because it wasn't that bad anyway.

Lesson: This much green tea is highly recommended

Next, mashing the biscuits into crumbs. First, smashed in ziplock bag with my hand, but found it hard because of the air pocket inside. Then, pressed them in the same bag with a small pot. BAD. The ziplock bag started having holes and crumbs spilled everywhere. Later, I got exasperated and just crushed a few at a time in a metal bowl with a pestle. PERFECT. It was really even and still crumbly, yet not too fine. Next time I did it, I tried a blender but this was an even WORSE idea. Biscuits came turned to fine powder, and we want CRUMBS. Made it totally pasty when mixed with melted butter, no crunchy texture.

Lesson: Crumb with pestle few at a time, or in cheesecloth with rolling pin

Another thing I did wrong was neglect to read the initial recommended size of tray to use. I just grabbed the massive steaming plate I had when in fact it was meant for a tiny brownie tray(smaller than an A4 paper!) which is why my first attempt turned out sooo thin. Still, lots of people enjoyed it so I decided to call them, "Accidental Green Tea BISCUITS" instead hehe.

Lesson: Read the recommended size/portion for any recipe!

Bought a piping kit for the first time for only $2.95 at Coles lol

ANYWAY, lots of errors in the kitchen that day but totally no regrets! I learned from figuring out what was wrong and also from making improvements on them. Hope you guys can learn from my mistakes too.

Was so dissatisfied with my first attempt I immediately made another batch the next day before the party despite the much effort of making another trip to the supermarket, making and cleaning again. Happy to say both seemed warmly received. Then, I made this cake again for my cousin's birthday few months later. You can also leave the whole cheesecake as it is or choose to cut them up to serve.

Whole Green Tea Cheesecake. First time decorating a cake lol hmmm...

Anyway, made lots of adjustments to the recipe and now I can't tell you how extremely happy I am with the taste, texture and quantity of the entire cake now! Also adjusted the quantity to make it more manageable, i.e. using whole packets of ingredients. Isn't it annoying when you're left with like, 2/5 or 3/8 of a packet of ingredient and not sure what to do with them after?

Finally, I've tried my best to lay out the recipe in a way that's much easier to comprehend. Just know that there are 3 main components to this cake: A) cream B) cream cheese C) green tea milk before mixing them all together.

Hope you guys enjoy this recipe! Really recommend this for your next get together/potluck as they really are quite delicious and addictive to eat! Happy cooking!! =)


Green Tea Cheesecake Bites
(adapted from this recipe by Raspberri Cupcakes)


250g Arnotts Nice biscuits
150g unsalted butter, melted
300ml pure (whipping) cream
250g cream cheese
1/2 cup caster sugar
150ml milk
3 tbsp matcha (green tea) powder *
3 tsp powdered gelatin

* Found that Yahweh Asian Grocery sells the cheapest Green Tea powder amongst the other Asian Groceries in the CBD =)


Grease a 20cm square baking pan and line with baking paper, ensuring that two ends of the paper hangs over the edges of the tin. Place biscuits in food processor or mortar and pestle to crush (4 biscuits at a time) until fine crumbs. Stir in melted butter and mix until well combined. Press tightly into thin single layer in prepared pan and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Beat cream in a mixing bowl using balloon whisk on high, and then turn to low as cream thickens until it reaches soft peaks. Set aside.

Place cream cheese in a separate mixing bowl and beat on high until smooth. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Place gelatin in a separate bowl with 4 tbsp water. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat milk until it just comes to boil (bubbles form at inside of pot), remove from heat and whisk in green tea and gelatin powder to dissolve (make sure no lumps!).

Add C to B and beat until smooth. Fold mixture into A until even. When no one's looking, scrape some off with your fingers, lick and hear yourself go, "MMMMM...." from the delectable green tea goodness. Finally, pour mixture over crumb layer and spread evenly. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Remove from fridge and slice into equal sized squares. Top with fresh whipped cream and/or berries and serve chilled. Can be stored for two days in the refrigerator.

PERFECT for all green tea lovers out there =)

Monday, December 5, 2011

4-Day Sydney Food Itinerary

Hey all,

Following up on my previous post, which wraps up the last of my Sydney posts from our trip in September, I thought it'd be nice to also share with you guys our detailed Foodie Itinerary during our 4-Day Trip.

Note, this was a result of many, many hours of research on the Internet as well as personal recommendations from dear food bloggers in the community. In the end, our list of places to eat were too long but we tried our very, very, best to fit as much as we could into those 4 days. It really was a non-stop eating trip and it was EPIC. When we weren't eating, we were just lazing around on the grass. Total fatties.

Anyway, I hope you guys find this list useful, especially if you're planning a trip to Sydney and unsure of where to eat! Cause I know that's my number one concern whenever I'm traveling somewhere: "Where and what to eat". Please do not misconstrue this as a dictation of "The Very Best of" Sydney. I have no authority to suggest such a thing. More as a guide for people planning a trip to Sydney so you don't have to take it word for word! Though, I must say that we were really, really happy with this Food Itinerary. I am merely sharing with you all food that we enjoyed when we were there and hope that you'll like them too =)

Happy eating, everybody!

Winston =)


4-Day Sydney Food Itinerary

Day 1:

Chat Thai, CBD *

Gourmet Food Hall, Westfield CBD

Porteño, Surry Hills

Meet Fresh, Chinatown

Day 2:


House, Surry Hills

Bondi Surf Seafoods, Bondi Beach
Hurricane Express, Bondi Beach


Day 3:

Bills, Surry Hills

Gumshara Ramen, Chinatown
Chatime, Chinatown

Marque, Surry Hills

Day 4:




* We actually ate at Makoto during this slot but I decided to suggest somewhere else because I didn't actually enjoy my experience there that much this time, which is why I didn't bother to blog about it too. Really unfortunate case because I enjoyed it a lot in the past that I went there 5 times in my past 2 trips (and even bumped into Guy Sebastian there once lol) but found that standards have dropped.

Maybe you can substitute this with something else you'd like to try. I hope to go to Chat Thai in December and heard so much about it. If I like it, I'll amend this Food Itinerary to that permanently. Peace! =)

Marque, Surry Hills

Quaint little restaurant almost unnoticeable from the outside but charming on the inside

After weeks of planning, we've already decided very early on that what better way to end our EPIC 4-Day Sydney Food Trip than with a nice degustation dinner on our very last night at a 3 Hatted Restaurant. (Now you know where all my savings went, lol). Being a student that lives on a budget, I've never brought myself to spend such a huge chunk of my hard earned savings from my part-time job on a meal like this. That's the reason why I've never actually had a degustation dinner before until then.

As it was going to be my first time (and I doubt I'll be able to afford a meal like this again for a very, very long time, heee...), you can imagine the countless hours I spent on the Internet (at home and also in lectures looool) researching for the PERFECT place for us to go. There were lots of great choices that we considered. Tetsuya's, Est., Quay, Marque, Rockpool... You name it.

In the end, it came down to either Tetsuya's or Marque. And for a number of very good reasons, we finally went ahead with Marque, being:

- Our 8 course meal (+1 for pre-dessert) was only $150 whereas most other places go up to almost $200 for their degustation or on average $120 for only 3 courses, which made this extremely worth it IMHO
2) Awarded Restaurant of the Year in 2011 by the SMH
3) French cuisine (more unusual compared to Japanese or Modern Australian)

I've been so eager to blog about this meal since I been back and I'm so excited to share with you my experience here today! Great way to wrap up the last of my Sydney posts. SO, here goes the most unique and unforgettable culinary adventure of my life! ENJOY!!!

Eager faces all-round, hur hur hur...

We took LOTS of photos of each other to entertain ourselves before the meal, lol

Complimentary Brown Rye and White Sourdough with House Butter

So good that my friend, S, couldn't stop asking for more. It was funny because the waiter was so happy to keep bringing more because he considered it the biggest compliment to them lol

Course #1:
Bonito with Foie Gras & Olive Truffle

Interesting starter! Every element brought a very distinct taste to the dish and the thin, crisp potato was a perfect shell for all of that. Bonito fish was definitely the star but everything else complemented really well. D-d-d-delicioussss...

Eating with our hands at a fine dining restaurant, yeeerp... SO GOOOD

Course #2:
Almond Jelly with Blue Swimmer Crab, Almond Gazpacho, Sweet Corn & Avruga

Man, this was amazing because the smell of the corn immediately filled the air as soon as it hit the table. The swimmer crab was SO umami sweet, best I've ever tasted. Though the mousse and custard felt almost the same, but tasted completely different in the mouth. Add the lovely jelly-like texture of the caviar, it was such a great dish overall. One of my favourites that night!

Course #3:
Yellow Fin Tuna with Campari Turnip, Ruby Grapefruit, Radish & White Soy

The Amaranth grains were actually from the Himalayas. There, the locals use it as source of protein but the restaurant bought the seeds to grow it themselves. Was a very interesting concept of a dish. How I interpreted the dish was that the star was really the Tuna, which acted as a vessel for all the other elements on the plate, each representing the flavours of the basic tastes.

Bitterness from the campari turnip and grapefruit, sourness from the round wheat, saltiness from the Amaranth grains (which were incredibly delicious, btw!), and also spiciness from the peppercorns

Course #4:
WA Marron with Paprika, Wakame, Avocado & Lemon

Already so happy from the first 3 courses, I had no idea that we were JUST getting started. This was hands down my FAVOURITE dish of the night!!! First of all, my jaws dropped as soon as the waiter presented this dish before us. One of the most remarkable food I've ever seen -- LOOK at that!


My oh my, the marrons were sooooo good!!! And buttery too. I highly suspect that they used the French sous-vide method to prepare this because it was SO incredibly moist and succulent. The seaweed was great and chewy too without bearing too strong a flavour of the sea. The purple potato (which was thinner than paper!) was just a great accompaniment to the prawns and just looked so friggin' cool. I also enjoyed the crepe-like texture of the lemon sheets a lot too. ABSOLUTE WINNER, seriously.

Course #5:
Smoked Duck Egg with Sorrel, Green Strawberries, Tea & Toast

The herb puree was UNREAL and so was the uber delicious toasted brioche (which basically tasted like a giant crouton, lol yum). Foam was REALLY fun to eat too because it disappeared INSTANTLY in your mouth but didn't fail to leave its flavour behind. What a play of textures! Cooool... And I was thoroughly surprised, yet entertained to see the strawberries pickled this way. Enjoyed this a lot too.

Beautifully rich and viscous consistency of the duck egg yolk

Course #6:
Spatchcock with Mullet Roe, Sauteed Lettuce, Cucumber & Dill

Another mind-blowing dish! Most of us considered this one of the top dish that night too (and there were so many to choose from!). The meat of the spatchcock -- WOW!! For some reason, we didn't taste any of the fibre or rough texture even though it was the breast meat. Instead, it felt like it was all coalesced together into one piece of soft, moist meat. Amazing.

The cucumber ball and cabbage tasted damn good too, so sweet and crunchy and with that sauce, mmmm.... And foahhhhh that skin was crazy delicious and tasted FRIGGIN' good LOL!! The seawater gel really tasted like water from the ocean, coool...

Course #7:
Blackmore Grain Fed Wagyu Sirloin with Beef Tendon, Wasabi & Spring Peas

COOL way to serve the Blackmore Wagyu!!! The meat was raw and uber thin, but placed on a really warm plate just to cook it ever so slightly. The little peas were just bursting in flavour and the shards of fresh wasabi contained the smell but not really the heat of our regular wasabi, which was nice.

The meat was truly delicate and fresh with beautiful, fatty marbelisation and it's no wonder they chose to serve it like that. But, the best part of this dish really has to be the tasty, gelatinous tendon you see at the bottom left of the picture. YUM

Optional course:
Carles Roquefort, Beetroot, Guava, Rose Petals & Raspberries

Three of us decided to share this additional course between us because it sounded so interesting. The cheese wasn't as pungent but just nice actually and the crumble was delicious. Lovely~

Pre-dessert course:
Sauternes Custard

This course was complimentary and I'm glad they didn't give us your usual sorbets as a palate cleanser. This beautiful custard, which was made with French wine with rather strong alcohol on top, was perfect to soften the pellets before entering the dessert course. We really enjoyed this!

Course #8:
"Tomberries" with Chocolate Jelly & Crème Fraîche

The candied raspberry sheet were so delicate and fruity. And OMG I couldn't believe that round ball there was actually a tomato! Hence, the "tomberry" name. Totally unexpected but tasted soo good and subtle, yet rubbery on the outside. I like how the dark chocolate was nicely balanced by the syrup and crème fraîche. Interesting flavours from the chocolate, to the raspberry, crème and tomato.

Some tea to wash down the great meal

Complimentary petit fours:
Apple Ginger Pate, Salted Caramel Chocolates, Lemon Drops & Bitter Bon Bons

First of all, I love how much thought went into even the petit fours that they served. Designed to have a consistent progression of flavours from left to right. Apple ginger pate was YUM. The lemon literally bursts while the chocolate actually collapsed in the mouth.

Decided to take a picture of our very final bite of food that night, haha...

Last group photo with the Head Waiter to end our night

Final thoughts:

Really enjoyed the whole experience from beginning till end. The food was great and so was the company. But I'll be honest, some of us did think that even though the food was great, it wasn't as "WOW" because they were sorta expecting a molecular gastranomical experience. Something involving the pouring of liquid nitrogen or frozen pellets of food, that kinda stuff.

I, personally didn't see it that way at all. Every single detail was really well thought out. What I liked most is that NOTHING on the menu comes close to anything you can find anywhere else. Totally original and full of surprise, one after another. We weren't given a menu to keep us in suspense and were clueless about what we were gonna be served next! It's also great that when asked which were our favourite dishes that night, most of us had different answers.

Also thought that everything was perfect and saw that they went to extra lengths just to source ingredients from around the world, even if it's just for a tiny element of the dish. Mark of their truly well deserved 3 Hat accolade and worthy of their title of "Restaurant of the Year". Milessss ahead of all the other restaurants in the 2 Hat league.

Finally, I also noticed that even though the service that night wasn't as "formal" or "professional" as what you'd expect from a Hatted restaurant (like the ones we received from Vue De Monde or The Press Club), but I enjoyed the meal even more because of that! It felt less robotic and made the mood even lighter because they were so friendly and cheerful. We felt so comfortable that we were exchanging so many jokes with the staff throughout the night. Personally, I prefer it that way and appreciated it even more!

Looking past the "lack of liquid nitrogen & stuff" and bearing in mind that our amazing 8-course meal was only $150, you can see why I HIGHLY recommend Marque Restaurant for degustation dinners. It was so great and it's times like these that really make me count my blessings and think of my parents.

I hope you guys get the chance to dine here someday too! Take care!!

Marque on Urbanspoon