Product Review: Philips Pasta Maker (HR2358/06)

Oh, how I love a kitchen gadget. Really. So, to add to to the electric pressure cooker, the airfryer, and the automatic ice cream maker, I present: the Philips Automatic Pasta Maker. I’m still obsessed with it after a month. So far, I’ve added some kale juice to make green pasta (as in the video) and some carrot juice (which made the papardelle more yellow than orange).

So far, I’ve had mostly hits, and some near-misses. The spaghetti was delicate and lovely. The papardelle was a bit thick and too al dente.  Plus, the papardelle noodles fell apart during cooking, and didn’t retain their length. I thought the first batch of penne I made (though thrilled with the shape) was also too thick and hard, but the next batch of penne I made with more pasta flour and less semolina with a bit of xantham gum just in case, to keep it together, was nicer.

Angel hair pasta was a hit, and I was surprised how delicate it was. I’m still to try the dumpling wrappers and lasagna sheets but I will, and will report back.

I was very excited to make Asian noodles. Making the rice noodles, made with rice flour and tapioca flour, was my first problem! I didn’t trust the recipe and put too much liquid into it and had to make a new batch. Which turned out just fine. I boiled them briefly and fried them in XO sauce and they were good (but needed more sauce).

Then, I made soba noodles from buckwheat flour. Served with soba sauce, as bought in an Asian grocery store, with some wasabi and green onions, the only thing that was missing was some nori (dried seaweed). I was really proud of these. They were delicious, and the homemade quality of the noodles really shone. Next I’ll try ramen, though the recipe I found on the web requires an ingredient, kansui, a sort of lye, which might be hard to track down.

Weirdly, though these things have been around for a while, I’m finding it really hard to find recipes and tips on how to use it in the best way. So, I’ll experiment with flours and liquid proportions and report back. One person suggested resting the dough longer (by turning off the machine) but my machine doesn’t seem to like that. Anyways, I’ll report on recipes and more tips and hints as I find them, so it might help someone like me who’s searching for advice.

In the meantime, I’m very happy with it. It’s not small, but not humungous. It isn’t hard to clean at all. It makes the pasta so quickly, it’s amazing. I am tempted to buy the shell/paccheri die to try. Also, I grabbed a great bargain I wanted the most expensive of the models, which had the most dies (Fettuccine, Spaghetti, Penne, Pappardelle, Lasagne, Ravioli) and an automatic scale, which sounds essential (as the proportion needs to be just right). New it seems to cost $439 here in Australia, and on sale down to $400 or even $380. But I found one on eBay, used apparently only three times, and I won the bid for $180 plus $10 postage (surprisingly cheap for such a heavy thing). The only thing I like more than a kitchen gadget is a bargain!

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Sydney Food Diary: Nudge Cafe, Surry Hills

Sometimes you pass by places because they just seem too easy to get to! Nudge is a cafe that I pass all the time on my way to Aldi or Vintage Cellars or the discount pharmacy in Oxford Village Square, and I’ve never stopped by. It’s a pretty casual stop off, not meant for a long meal. They seem to do a healthy trade.

This unusual day I was finishing my volunteer shift at GetUp! and was hankering for a treat before I headed home to give a reiki treatment. Nudge beckoned, and seemed an easy option. Plus, they offer a special for a bacon and egg roll, and a coffee, and how can I resist that?

While it’s true, the occasional bacon and egg roll surprises me and becomes a SUPREME example of a bacon and egg roll, I also find it hard to disagree with bacon and egg rolls in general. And so it was.

My coffee had coffee art. Much appreciated. The atmosphere was light and cheery. The service was pleasant. And indeed, my bacon and egg roll was tasty. Just what I wanted. $8 for the combo coffee and bacon and egg roll, and I could have also swapped out the roll for a ham and cheese croissant. Perhaps I’ll try that next.

Nudge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Is the United World Colleges worth it?

My second year at Pearson college, our ‘house’, Harambee House, a dorm where about 40 students from all over the world lived, 4 to a room!

A friend from university wrote and said: “My daughter just got into UWC. Please tell me that UWC is worth it.”

So, having attended Pearson College from 1986 to 1988, I can answer the question, at least from my perspective, though I won’t answer the question: is the United World College movement worth the resources invested in it versus what it brings to the world (which is a question that graduates often ask themselves)?

I’ll simply answer: was it worth it for me?

Dear M.

Was the United World Colleges worth it for me? In high school, I felt out of place. I was too smart and too political. I was not athletic enough and while I had a small group of friends, you wouldn’t say I was well-liked. I was bored in most of my classes, taught by teachers who seemed pretty bored themselves.

When I arrived at Pearson College, what was perhaps the most amazing thing for me was that there many people, from around the world, smart, interesting and talented, and they seemed interested in me simply because of my character, because of myself. I didn’t have to prove myself or try to fit in. I was liked.

We lived together and did activities and learned and sang together and climbed rocks and stayed up far too late in the night, and I felt accepted in a way that gave me an incredible confidence in myself, at such a young age. I felt like I could do anything and I could be true to myself from then on. I marvel at how confident I was.

Without a UWC, I think I would have taken another opportunity, perhaps a Rotary scholarship, and perhaps I would have ended up studying away from my home city and even working internationally, as I have done. But I just can’t imagine I would have done so with as much confidence as I did, and achieved as much.

Academically, the teachers were the best they could be, and surrounded by people who were at my academic level or higher, I learned and loved learning far more than I would have been doing my last year at my high school. And then when entering university, I found I had been far better-prepared than my peers.

Socially, I made lifelong friends. I learned much about myself. I grew in ways I don’t think would have been otherwise possible.

Now, the UWCs aren’t for everyone, and a few students don’t have great experiences. I’ve heard lately that sometimes the academic pressure can be high, and students can spend too much time studying and worrying about getting into prestigious universities. I heard of some who had to adjust from being the best and brightest in their schools to being one of many. A few people, for whatever reasons, might not fit in. And of course, students won’t be immune from life:  an unlucky incident of some sort, a bad (or good) relationship that might take over their lives from regular UWC life, mental health issues. Introverts may find it exhausting to be living with roommates and to be around so many people ALL THE TIME.

But the selection committees do try to select kids with resilience as well as talent, so I hope and expect your daughter to be fine… and wish her all the best … and hope that you share this with her. I used to be shy to talk about my experience at UWC too much, because I didn’t want to make it seem like we were some exclusive club, or make others feel bad who didn’t attend, and I thought that to have one experience that defines you might sound limiting. But looking back, it was my most important formative experience, one that I will always be grateful for, and that really did make me into the person I am today.

In the meantime, as a UWC parent, you will from this time forward have a steady stream of houseguests from around the world, possibly for the rest of your lives! Enjoy.

xo

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Sydney Food Diary: Blackwattle Cafe, Sydney Fish Market

We usually try to come early to the fish market, and at breakfast time, I really don’t feel like hoeing into the fish and chips. So, Blackwattle Deli is really the only choice. Good thing they’re good!

They have a small selection of pastries, but we usually go for their breakfast special of a coffee (I thought the latte art was rather whimsical) and a toasted sandwich (I think it was $10 for the both). This time, we got one with kimchi and smoked wagyu beef and they left it in the sandwich press a little long and it was molten hot. But also crispy and delicious. It also had provolone cheese and japanese mayo. Yum.

Blackwattle Deli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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2019 in lists: concerts & shows, theatre, books, movies, TV

(A work in progress…)

Concerts, Shows, Theatre, Exhibitions & Words

  • Sasha Velour’s Smoke and Mirrors, the Enmore Theatre. See review here.
  • Jane Siberry in concert at the Camelot Lounge, Sydney.
  • Jane Siberry hosting Songwriters in the Round at the Estonian House, Sydney.
  • Bent Burlesque, Seymour Centre
  • Confessions of a Mormon Boy, Giant Dwarf.
  • West Side Story, Handa Opera: A classic musical, maybe my favourite, on a huge stage, colourful, with beautiful singing and acting and dancing. Loved it.
  • Heaven and earth: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Art Gallery of NSW.

Books

  • Lily Brett’s New York (essays)
  • André Aciman’s Call me by your name (fiction)
  • Ali Smith’s How to be Both (fiction)

Movies

  • Three Identical Strangers: A pretty interesting documentary about some terrible incidents (triplets, as well as twins, separated for scientific observation).
  • Roma: The kind of film that if it were an arthouse film, I’d be raving about to tell friends, but since it’s the possible best picture at the Oscars, I think, ‘Is this overhyped?’ It has beautiful scenes yet at times almost seemed too simple and rambling to me.
  • Brooklyn: Finally caught this, on Netflix. I thought it was a beautiful, beautiful film, a meditation on living between cultures and countries, and Saoirse Ronan has this luminous beauty and charisma, a bit like Cate Blanchett.
  • A Star is Born: I’m not sure why this film didn’t grab me. I did like Lady Gaga’s performance, very natural, and found something interesting about Bradley Cooper’s character that he created in his voice and mannerisms, but its treatment of the themes of creativity, fame and jealous relationships was all a bit expected.
  • Isn’t it Romantic?: I have a soft spot for Rebel Wilson, and thought this movie fluff was a fine way to pass a weeknight in front of Netflix.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk: From the director of Moonlight, this was an interesting mix of romance and social history with beautiful acting (and people) and a soundtrack to die for. I found the pace a little slow and would have cut half an hour but I really did like it.
  • Shazam!: Hmm, top film in the USA right now and most of the critics loved it, with a few outliers. I just couldn’t find my way into the story, there are some good bits, but it was too juvenile before it descended into the regular smash ’em ups of regular superhero films.
  • Avengers: Infinity Wars: I had to catch up before seeing the big finale and I have to say I thought it was pretty good. The fight scenes make sense (unlike those of Shazam!): they generally had a logic of what the powers were and how they could be used. It’s fun to see such big actors playing … superheroes.
  • Avengers: Endgame: Likewise, I appreciated the slow, quiet start, the attempt to create emotional bonds with the audience but without overdoing it, and with good moments of comedy (Chris Hemsworth really does a good job with this). It was LONG with a LOT HAPPENING but enjoyable.

Television

  • RuPaul’s Drag Race, All Stars, Season 4: A pretty weird season and I’d agree with the internet chatter. A weird ending with the double-crowning, chosen from pre-filmed clips.
  • Marvelous Mrs. Maizel, Season 1: Binge-watched on a long, plane ride. Enjoyable. The critics LOVE this show, but strangely, I couldn’t then get past the first episodes of Season 2.
  • Bron/Broen, Season 4: How I loved this show. The character Saga is unforgettable and I was captivated every time she was on the screen. But her counterpart Henrik was also fantastic, and the crazy puzzle plot, with all its red herrings, was enjoyable.
  • Tidying up with Marie Kondo, Season 1: I was fascinated about the cultural reception to this show, too much hostility I thought from those who didn’t like it, which had racial overtones. I myself loved it.
  • The Good Place, Season 3: I love this show.
  • My Brilliant Friend: It was great to watch this TV adaptation after the first of Elena Ferrante’s books in her Neapolitan series, which I loved so much. A very different experience, seeing what is imagined come to life, but mostly successful to me.
  • The Umbrella Academy: Husband liked this quite a bit, it just didn’t come together for me. The motivations of … everyone were simplistic and cartoonish. 
  • Project Runway S17: Loving the return of this season to watch talented fashion designers at work. It’s a bit awkward with the new team but I’m willing to see how it goes.
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race S11: Too many queens, too loud: have I overdosed on RPDR?
  • Survivor S38: I am not digging the ‘Edge of Extinction’ concept, combined with the returning players schtick; it’s thrown off the rhythm of the show and I still don’t ‘know’ the tribe members.
  • Leaving Neverland: A deeply disturbing documentary and I find it so hard to comprehend people watching these men and their families speak, and imagining that they made it up.

Posted in Australia, Book, Concert, Exhibition, Film, Review, Sydney, Theatre/Concert Review, Theatre/Show | Leave a comment

Sydney Food Diary, Kanzi Cafe, Chinatown

When I mentioned to Weekend Food Escapes that I have a fondness for Taiyaki, the Japanese fish-shaped waffles, filled with sweet red bean paste or some other such filling, she pointed me in the direction of the Kanzi Cafe. I’ve been in Sydney so long that I remember when this was a bustling Chinese grocery store, right below Golden Century (see the fish tanks there!). I think I shopped there a few times in my early years, way back at the start of the 2000s.

Now, right next to a clothes stores, selling affordable, not-ugly Korean clothes, is a little Korean cafe, specialising in Bing Soo, the Korean shaved ice dessert with toppings (in this case, it looks like melon balls is a particularly popular one).

I was after the fish waffle, of course, but was surprised that this is not advertised as a Japanese taiykai. It is described as a Korean dessert, a fish-shaped bun, and made with croissant-pastry. Oh, and it took about 15 minutes (I was warned) to make.

I had mine with matcha flavouring (of course) and I have to say I was disappointed. Expectations are always a bummer. The problem is that a waffle or pancake batter doesn’t taste anything like a crisp, and dare I say slightly dry, croissant pastry. So, while I am sure I would have appreciated it more if I hadn’t been hankering for a traditional taiyaki, I found it OK, not great.

Still, why not try every Asian dessert the world has to offer? It’s a philosophy to live for. And here, you can go clothes shopping after you’ve had your shaved ice.

Kanzi Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Belly Bao, Newtown

Wow. Currently a 4.6 out of 5 rating on Zomato. That’s ridiculously high. I was impressed but this tells me something about their broad appeal.

I love Asian food, and I’m often intrigued by Asian fusion food, so to serve up unpretentious weird mixtures of fusion food, in a relaxed atmosphere, is pretty fun. The only nod to the Asian menu in the decor are somewhat tacky little lanterns tied on to the lamps, but otherwise, it looks like the place is unrenovated from whatever it was before.

The main dishes on offer are burgers, with the steamed buns instead of a hamburger bun, and bao, or the flat steamed buns filled with yummy things.

I was very amused with the burrata and bao, the bao flattened out and fried, an interesting combo of Chinese chili and the cheese.

The french fries with a bit of onion and Japanese curry was less successful. I love Japanese curry but this was more of the idea of it without much flavour.

But all in all: a very amusing place, and I can see why it’s popular. With so much competition on King Street, and so many places that come and go, good on you, Belly Bao.

Belly Bao Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Sticky Fingers Kitchen and Bar, Surry Hills

I don’t know it took me so long to try out Sticky Fingers, just a block back from Oxford Street along the strip. It’s super close to where I live, and I’d heard rumours it was good. Now I’ve managed to get there twice this year, which is pretty regular for me!

I like the feel of the place. It’s cozy. Got a great seat the first time with the window open behind me; the next time, the sun was too hot through the glass.

I like the menu with the emphasis on sticky sauces, dishes with an Asian influence or something that could be dastardly unhealthy.

Like the macaroni cheese breakfast burger that I had the first time. It was as good (and rich) as it looked. My pal Darryl is much more sensible, sticking to the wraps, which are ONLY EIGHT DOLLARS. This is a deal, readers. Not a cheaper breakfast will you often find in expensive Sydney, and Darryl noted that it is not a small wrap either.

The latest time there, I tried the nasi goreng for breakfast, with a very spicy sauce on the side, and I really liked it, particularly with the bits of fried pork rind on top (photo at the top of the post!).

The coffee is good, as is the service. Recommended!

Sticky Fingers Kitchen and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: McDonalds, 600 George Street

OK. Strike me dead.

I don’t know why McDonald’s is advertising in my social media feed, and the worst thing of course, is that I succumbed. I’ve always had a soft spot for Macca’s breakfasts, and the idea of a Chicken Brekkie Burger, with ‘Delicious barbecue sauce, sizzling bacon, melting cheese, a freshly cracked egg, crispy hash brown and succulent 100% Australian Chicken breast. All in a toasted sesame seed bun.’ Well, that sounded irresistible.

Except of course that EVERY single time as an adult that I’ve been to McDonald’s, I expect it to taste like a childhood treat, like innocence, like deep-fried capitalism … and instead, it is disappointing.

Not that this burger was disappointing. In fact, the crisp chicken patty, tasting like faux chicken, with a crispy hashbrown on top (always a favourite), and then with bacon and BBQ sauce, the egg and cheese slice barely noticeable: it was kind of amazing. And tasty. And I felt full of fat and carbs and calories for the entire rest of the day, and while I don’t need to EVER do that again, I’m glad I tried it.

In the meantime, that particular Macca’s, with the construction of the light rail still outside it, and in its location on George Street across from the cinemas. It was particularly grim.

McDonald's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Sydney Food Diary: Yulli’s, Surry Hills

It’s great to see a restaurant doing so well, and a vegetarian restaurant doing so well in particular (eating less meat is good for the planet).

On a Monday night, Yulli’s was pretty much packed. I’m surprised I haven’t blogged about it before, as I’ve eaten a number of times here (and have a number of vegetarian friends).

What I’d forgotten was that Yulli’s is also a brewery, and serving up local beer. I love that idea. So much I had to try a tasting paddle. Some flavours I liked more, and some less, but I support the venture! In the meantime, the food was awesome.

Some of the dishes were tasty and interesting, as in: how are they going to make a vegetarian version of a dish that usually has meat in it. And other dishes were simply super delicious and I forgot about any rules or categories.

The Thai money bags were tasty. The san choy bao was OK, perhaps a weaker dish of the night. The stuffed zucchini flower was amazing.

A sort of mushroom lasagna with zucchini noodles on top was amazing: rich and tasty with a lot of different textures. I also really liked the steamed buns with jackfruit.

All in all, a great meal in a buzzy atmosphere. I can see why it’s loved, and I should come back more often!

Yulli's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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