Monday, February 3, 2014

Homemade Beef Bourguignon Pies and working at a Petrol Station

I found some old photos of where I used to work!

Pies make me think of petrol stations. Where else can guarantee that there will be a Mrs Mac's waiting for you, if you are desperately in need of food on the run?

The sight of someone walking out of a petrol station with a pie in one hand and a Coffee Chill in the other is very familiar to me.

I used to work at a petrol station and making sure that the pie warmer was filled with Mrs Macs was important. It involved defrosting pies taken from the freezer and microwaving until heated, and then shoving them to the very back of the pie warmer in the hope that they will sit there for at least half an hour or (preferably) more so that the pastry will crisp up a bit before it gets bought.  A steady rotating supply of pies was needed so that there was enough to meet the flow of customers through the station, but not so much that at the end of the day there were pies left in the warmer that have been sitting there for more hours than you can count on one hand. Then it’s a game of pie roulette!

 Gull Como ~2003
Gull Como now

I was a part-time servo chick during my first few years of university. It was my first ‘real’ job. I worked at Gull Como on Canning Highway. It was one of the oldest petrol stations and had probably been around for 20+ years. We’d often joke about how it was falling apart, especially the basement, which we called the dungeon. After 2 years, I stopped working there as it had to be knocked down and rebuilt, and now the biggest petrol station that I know of stands in its place.
(the basement dungeon housed all the stock)

I enjoyed working at a petrol station, but maybe more because I thought well at least I’m not working as a check-out chick or at a fast food joint which is what people’s first jobs usually are. Working at a petrol station has way more street cred, there is a higher probability of being held up than other jobs! It never happened to me but some of my colleagues did get held up. When it started getting dark at night, we had to put up a cage around the counter, but it was too heavy for me to lift so the guy who did the graveyard shift at 9pm would put it up when he started his shift. I didn’t do any graveyard shifts (my parents were against it!), my earliest shift was 6am and my latest 9pm. 

Have you ever seen the movie Clerks? Well that’s what it was like working at a petrol station. Besides being a place for everyone to fuel their cars, we were a one-stop convenience shop for all things needed by humankind and as we were open at all hours, everyday of the year, you meet people from all walks of life. I worked alone on my shifts and was kept entertained with stories about other peoples shifts and random customer encounters as employees spent their time scribbling into a thick spiral bound notebook which we called the ‘Gull Papers’.

You are also faced with customers asking a lot of stupid questions. There would be the usual ones of “what time are you open till?” [we were a 24 hour petrol station, we never close] and “how much is this?” [I didn’t get why people never looked at the signage or price tags first before asking]. Sometimes I’d get a customer who wouldn’t say anything, like I’m supposed to do all the talking and guess which pump you just used to fill up your car because I’m like psychic…not!

But the questions that I would get asked the most were…
•    So where are you from?
•    Are you Japanese?
•    Are you Korean?
•    Do you speak Mandarin?
•    ni hao ma?
•    You speak English really well….
and I could go on but you probably get the point. I know that people generally mean well and are just curious because I look Asian and all but I was born here, I’m Australian, mate.

Oh and then there was this other question or maybe more of a comment? a punch line? statement of the obvious?

 “Your hair matches your t-shirt?!” 

Correct. Unintentional though. I didn’t love my job that much to dye my hair the same colour as my uniform but back in the days when I worked at Gull which has blue as its colour scheme, was during the time that I was dying my hair blue. My black hair bleached until it was unrecognizable and then Fudge Blue Velvet went in. Without a doubt, at least 10 customers during every one of my shifts would think that telling me that my hair matched my shirt was a great conversation starter….um no…but carry on.

I dyed my hair blue because it’s my favourite colour, this is a pretty logical reason for dying one’s hair right? If you didn’t already know, this is why my food blog is called Blue Apocalypse as my hair used to be blue and as a huge Tool fan I used blue apocalypse which comes from the Tool song Eon Blue Apocalypse as an internet alias for various things and it also became the name for this food blog.

While I was working at the petrol station, I always looked forward to the part of my shift where I would have my lunch or dinner break and got to eat pie or some sort of pre-made roll/sandwich from the fridge. I didn’t eat a lot of bread at home and I certainly never ate pies so it was all pretty exciting to me and I found it a treat. And maybe if customers saw me behind the counter stuffing my face with a meat pie smothered in tomato sauce, they would stop asking me where I came from…

I’m Australian mate, can’t you tell?

The meat pie is iconic in Australia and some even refer to it as the national dish. 

One of the best pies that I have recently had is the beef bourguignon pies from La Galette De France. It’s great to have filling in a pie that stands on its own and it gets better when wrapped in buttery, flaky puff pastry! So I decided to make some at home but I didn’t have any pie tins and had no intention of buying pie pans that I would use once in a blue moon and clog up my cupboard, so I made pies in a muffin pan instead. I like how it doesn’t really look like a perfectly formed pie because it isn’t and doesn’t need to be when you are just cooking food at home. In the end what really matters is the taste.

Beef Bourguignon Pies

(Beef bourguignon adapted from Guillaume Brahimi and Julia Child)

•    olive oil
•    1 kg beef (any braising beef), cut into 3cm chunks
•    200g pancetta, diced
•    2-3 garlic cloves, finely diced
•    2 carrots, diced into cubes
•    2 celery stalks, sliced
•    1 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced
•    1 brown onion, diced
•    5 French shallots, quartered
•    5 thyme sprigs
•    2 bay leaves
•    2 tablespoons tomato paste
•    2 cups (500ml) red wine
•    2 cups (500ml) beef stock
•    salt and pepper to taste
•    300g button mushrooms, sliced
•    sheets of puff pastry
•    1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

NB: Size of my muffin pans made about 32 beef bourguignon pies.


Beef Bourguignon

Preheat oven to ~160C.

In a heavy based pot (that can go in the oven), saute pancetta in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for a few minutes until brown and lightly crisp.  Remove and set aside.

Dry beef on paper towels, it will not brown if it is damp. Heat a little more olive oil in the same pot over high heat and add the beef in batches (don’t crowd the pot or the meat will stew rather than brown) and fry on all sides until brown. Remove and set aside.

Then sauté the diced onions in the pot for a few minutes until softened and starts to brown, then add in the garlic and leek and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add carrots, celery and quartered French shallots, and sauté for a few minutes. 

Add in the wine and cook for a few minutes to reduce and cook off acidity. Add beef and pancetta back into the pot. Then add the beef stock, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, and a little salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil and then place the pot in the oven and cook for 3 hours until the beef is tender (take the pot out at 2 hours to check beef doneness and taste for seasoning). Pour contents into a sieve over a saucepan and simmer the sauce until it thickens (thick enough to coat the back of a spoon lightly). Taste the sauce and season if required. While the sauce is reducing, sauté the mushrooms in a frying pan until browned.

Wash out the pot and return beef to it and add mushrooms. When the sauce is done, pour over the top and combine. 

Refrigerate beef bourguignon overnight for flavours to develop and pies will taste better.

Make Pies

Take the beef bourguignon out of the fridge half and hour before making pies.

Preheat oven to ~180C. Cut puff pastry sheets into quarters and use to line each muffin pan. Fill each pastry cup will beef bourguignon and fold the pastry gently over the filling, making sure it is enclosed. Brush the top of each pie with egg wash and use a fork to poke some holes on top. 

Bake for ~ 30 minutes or until lightly browned and crispy.

NB: The bottom of the pie can get soggy so it helps if you add a small piece of pastry on the bottom of the pastry cup to provide double lining. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Watercress, Dried Red Dates and Pork Soup

The thing that I miss the most about living out of home is my mum’s soups. Soup is an important part of Chinese food culture. It is a part of every meal, served at the beginning to stimulate the appetite, or consumed throughout the meal where I often like to have spoonfuls of soup with my rice, but my family usually has soup at the end of the meal, to finish off and help aid digestion.

Soup is also valued for its healing powers, where it is consumed for its nourishing and restorative effects, and it is an ancient tradition to treat colds or fevers with soup. But I guess soup has this sort of significance in every culture - chicken soup in various forms all over the world has a reputation for being a remedy for when you are unwell and is considered a comfort food. However, the Chinese place much more importance on the health benefiting functions of soups where a lot of the traditional Chinese soups are gentle tonics - thin and clear soups, like a consommé, made with fresh or dried vegetables, lean meats or fish, flavored by natural herbal and medicinal ingredients, and simmered for hours. There is an emphasis on soups containing both yin (feminine, darker, cooling forces) and yang (masculine, lighter, hot forces) ingredients to restore the imbalances between the cold and hot elements in the body, as the Chinese believe that illness is a signal that the two forces are out of balance.

My mum will always have some concoction simmering away for the whole day in her slow cooker and I remember that when I used to come home from school, one of the first questions I would ask was not “what’s for dinner?” but “what soup are we having tonight?” This was because I looked forward to having a bowl of soup as an after school snack before dinner and if I was hungry, I would mix some rice leftover from the night before in with the soup.

I don’t cook soup a lot so when I’m over at my parents, my mum will always fuss over me not having enough soup at home and thus not getting enough nourishment. She would have my favourite soups cooking for me in her slow cooker for the nights I’m over for dinner and then insist that I take some home. 


This watercress and dried red date is one such soup – cooked over a long period of time in the slow cooker, it’s delicious and full of health benefits. This is a common soup and every Chinese family would have their own way of cooking it. Watercress possesses many benefits - it is rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C, a source of antioxidants and it is considered a yin food with cooling elements. The pork is the yang providing the heating element resulting in a complementary balance. Red dates are also good for circulation and relieving stress. I love the flavour of this soup where the peppery and tangy edge of the watercress is tempered by the addition of dried red dates which sweetens.
Dried Red Dates  

I made this soup for the first time a few months ago during the lead up to two conferences I was a part of organizing, where for the first time in my life I was so busy that I wasn’t cooking as much as I generally do, and I was feeling stressed out over a lot of things. As this soup uses a few ingredients and was easy to cook, I made it one night and just ate it with rice as there were meat and vegetables in the broth, it felt like a complete meal. This soup also made me less stressed, well it’s supposed to with all the health purporting ingredients in it, but maybe the unstressing feeling was more to do with that fact that it brought back thoughts of being at home and mum looking after me, and for that moment I felt a lot calmer about everything.

Is there a soup that you like to cook that provides a good pick-me-up?

Ok, so you might think it’s weird to drink soup now because if you live in the Southern Hemisphere (I’m in Perth, Australia) it is summer and hot! But funnily enough, in Chinese culture, some soups are considered ‘cooling’ and a way to remove excessive ‘heat’ from the body and this watercress soup is one of the soup’s that has a cool nature.

Water cress, dried red dates and pork soup

Note: I used a pressure cooker which enabled me to cut down the cooking time significantly making it something that I can wipe up in half an hour. The quantities my mum gave me was for her 6 litre slow cooker so I had to scale down and guesstimate the quantities of ingredient to make a smaller amount of soup.

•    2.5 litre water
•    850g pork bones
•    2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped into 3-4cm pieces
•    1 cup dried red dates
•    1 ½ teaspoon salt
•    1 ½ tablespoon fish sauce
•    1 bunch of water cress (~ 550-600g)


Trim the bottom tougher stems parts off, cut/break into shorter stalks and wash the watercress (you should end up with around 400g).

Chop pork bones into 6-7cm pieces. Par-boil the pork bones and rinse with cold water.

Bring to boil 2.5 litres water in the pressure cooker pot (just have the lid on but don’t have it locked to the pressure cooker function or use a different lid). Add in the pork bones, carrots and dried red dates. Turn the pressure cooking function on and cook for 15 minutes.  Note: If not using a pressure cooker, you can use a pot to simmer on low heat for 1.5-2 hours or slow cooker it for hours.

Turn off the pressure cooker, remove lid, add salt and fish sauce to taste.

Bring to boil, then add watercress and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

 Adding watercress into the pot

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bánh Tét – Traditional Vietnamese Tét Sticky Rice Cakes for the Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year is coming up on 31 January 2014 and this year is the year of the horse

The Lunar New Year is determined by the lunar calendar from the cycles of the moon, so the start of the new year falls on a different date every year, sometime between late January and early February in the western calendar. Therefore, a person born in January or early February may have the zodiac animal sign of the previous year (this means you are a year older too!).

Most Asian countries have adopted the western calendar, but the lunar calendar is still often used for selecting an auspicious date for special occasions such as weddings, funerals or opening of a business. Certain holidays are also based on the lunar calendar, for example, the Chinese and Vietnamese celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival which occurs on the 15th day of the eighth month in the lunar calendar, during a full moon, which is in late September or early October in the western calendar. During the Mid-Autumn festival, mooncakes are eaten.

The Lunar New Year is the most important celebration for Asians. My family doesn’t really celebrate Christmas, we’ll get together and have a feast (this holiday is just another excuse to eat!) but it won’t be anything traditional, and I’ve never had a Christmas tree.

Although the Lunar New Year would be the more appropriate and relevant name for this holiday, it is often just called Chinese New Year in cities, even though it’s celebrated by many others besides the Chinese – the Vietnamese, Japanese, Thai and Koreans etc. Maybe because China has a longer history and there are a greater number of Chinese living in cities that celebrate it, so their traditions tend to dominate. Regardless of the name, the celebration of the Lunar New Year in many Asian cultures is similar but each would also have their own specific traditions.

Being Chinese Vietnamese (my grandparents are from China but my parents were born and grew up in Vietnam), I get the best of two worlds!

The Chinese and Vietnamese have almost identical zodiac animal signs for their lunar calendar except that the Vietnamese have the water buffalo instead of the ox, the rabbit is replaced by the cat and goat rather than sheep.

The Vietnamese New Year is called Tét. 

Tét is the abbreviation of Tét Nguyen Dan which means the ‘first morning of the first day’ of the new period. In Vietnamese language, to celebrate Tet is to “ăn Tét”, literally meaning “eat Tét”, where you will often get asked "will you eat Tết with your family?" or "where will you eat Tét this year?". So as you can imagine, food is an important part of the celebrations!

Bánh tét is a traditional Vietnamese sticky rice cake that is consumed during the Lunar New Year. You can buy it at Asian groceries but only in the lead up and during the Lunar New Year or you can make it at home. Bánh tét keeps for a long time, it can be kept at room temperate for a few days, then a week in the fridge or frozen for up to 3 months. This makes it perfect food for celebrating the New Year because it’s something you can prepare (or buy) in advance and it’s ready to eat, so you don’t have to worry about cooking and have more time to enjoy the company of family and friends. 

Its ability to keep well and portability also made
bánh tét food that Vietnamese soldiers took to war as iron rations for a nutritional, sustaining one dish meal.

I love eating
bánh tét. I love how the sticky rice is perfumed with the flavour of banana leaves, and the filling of nutty mung beans and meaty fatty pork that has been marinated with fish sauce, pepper and a bit of sugar is a simple combination of ingredients that taste great together, especially sliced and fried until golden and crispy. Chewy and soft on the inside but crisp on the outside!

like savoury pancakes!

What I also love about bánh tét is the story behind it. Bánh tét is the cylinder version of the square shaped sticky rice cake bánh chưng. Legend has it that around 3,000-4,000 years ago, when it was time for the sixth King Hùng Vương to choose his successor, he asked each of his 18 sons to prepare a dish worthy of offering to their ancestors. As the best dish would decide the next ruler, all the sons traveled far and wide to procure rare and luxury ingredients to make a fancy dish, except for the youngest and poorest son Lang Liêu. Inspired by a dream, Lang Liêu came up with a cake that contained the most humble of ingredients – rice from the nearby fields (something from the earth, an everyday staple), mung beans (representing the sun), and pork (another everyday ingredient), wrapped in leaves from the forest and cooked for hours. Although his offering weren't as extravangant as those of his brothers, Lang Liêu won his father's heart and the throne with these simple and meaningful delicious sticky rice cakes that anyone could make.

For thousands of years, the Vietnamese continue to make these sticky rice cakes. I love that this ancient method of cooking has been preserved and it maintains a central place at the family table, and is provided as an offering for the ancestor worship altar as a way of expressing gratitude. It has become a tradition to eat bánh tét during the New Year. Even though the New Year is filled with themes and messages of prosperity and abundance, with extravagant banquets and gifts, I love the fact that this dish feels contrary to all that - it presents something that is really humble and accessible to everyone as it is cheap and easy to make. 

Bánh tét is prepared using just a few ingredients (rice, mung beans and pork), the method is simple once you get the hang of wrapping the filling in the banana leaves but takes a long time to cook, you need to set aside about 8-10 hours.  

Traditionally, families came together before the new year to make bánh tét as it is time consuming and each member of the family would help out with different tasks, as well as take turns keeping watch over the boiling pot as the packages cook for hours, replenishing with water as needed. Each package would be made together with a lot of love and care.

These days, something so time consuming is made less and less in families who opt to buy it from the shops instead. 

The bánh tét that I have grown up eating has always been bought from an Asian grocery as it was not something that my parents had the time to make as they were always busy running a restaurant. So this year I decided to learn how to make bánh tét. When I brought my first batch over to my parents place two weeks ago, the initial reaction from my mum was that she thought I had bought them, and was surprised that I had pretty much spent half my day making them. (Note: when you run a restaurant, spending hours of your time cooking outside of it feels a little crazy!)

It also feels crazy sometimes when you think about how long a dish can take to make and then it’s consumed in an instant. It makes you wonder if it was worth the time. I had spent almost 2 hours wrapping the bánh tét as it took me a while to get the hang of the technique and I also had to go out and buy proper string. I started off using butchers string that I had at home but I couldn’t get it tight enough around the package, so I went out and bought the type of string that is usually used for wrapping these cakes - raffia string which has a plastic texture. Then I watched over it for 7 hours boiling away in a pot, rotating the parcels every now and then to make sure that they were cooking evenly, and regularly replenishing the water in the pot as it boiled away. The end product doesn’t seem to amount to much in the big scheme of things - like I must have better and more important things to do with 9 hours of my time?!…but the thought and time that you put into making something is the most valuable thing you can give to someone. The best presents are food presents, especially home made ones and from now, each year I will set aside the 8-10 hours needed to make
bánh tét so that I can give them away to my family for the Lunar New Year.


Eat Bánh Tét :)

Bánh Tét – Traditional Vietnamese Tét Sticky Rice Cakes

Recipe adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen. In the book, Andrea Nguyen makes
bánh chưng which are the square shaped sticky rice cakes but I made bánh tét which are the cylinder shaped sticky rice cakes. Vietnamese from the North consume the square banh chung cakes, whereas the Central and South Vietnamese prefer the round banh tet cakes. My parents are from the South – Ho Chi Minh City.

I also made adjustments to the Andrea Nguyen’s recipe – using different quantities of rice and mung beans, adding shallots and sugar to the pork marinade, and I used pork belly instead of pork leg. 


•    4 large pieces of banana leaves, plus more in case the leaves split or you need extra to cover the ends
•    1 ¼ cup dried yellow mung beans
•    1 kg long grain glutinous rice
•    1 ½ tablespoons salt
•    500-600g pork belly, skin removed and cut into strips about 2cm wide, 10cm long
•    1 shallot, finely chopped
•    3 tablespoons fish sauce
•    2 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
•    ½ tablespoon brown sugar
•    vegetable oil

Plus raffia string, glad wrap and foil.

 sticky rice and mung beans

Prep Night Before

Wash the long grain glutinous rice in 2-3 rinses of water and soak the rice overnight in a large bowl, add water to cover by 2 inches.

Wash the dried yellow mung beans in 2-3 rinses of water and soak the mung beans overnight in a bowl, add water to cover by 1 inch.

Prep for Yellow Mung Beans

Drain the soaked mung beans and spread them out evenly on a steamer tray. Steam for about 8 minutes or until the mung beans are tender. Remove the mung beans and let them cool.

When the mung beans are cool, process them in a food processor until it is ground and resembles fine cornmeal but it will hold together when you pinch it between your fingers.

Prep for Rice

Drain the long grain glutinous rice in a colander and then return to the bowl, and sprinkle all over 1 ½ tablespoons of salt and mix in well.

Prep for Pork Belly

Put the pork belly strips in a bowl and add 1 finely chopped shallot, 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 2 ½ teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper and ½ tablespoon of brown sugar and mix well. Marinate in the fridge for 1 hour.

Then cook the pork by heating some oil in a frying pan over medium high heat and add the pork into the pan in a single layer with all the marinade. Cook, turning once, for about 2 minutes each side, or until the pork is just cooked through.

Assembling the Bánh Tét

Note: Wrapping the
bánh tét is tricky and I watched a few You Tube videos to get the technique – check out this and this (btw the videos are in Vietnamese but a good reference to visualise the wrapping process).

Here is a rough guide where I attempt to explain how I made the
bánh tét packages - more useful to watch the videos.

On a piece of banana leaf, spread some of the rice on it to form a rectangle about 3-4 inches wide and 6 inches long (amount of rice added depends on size of banana leaf, leaving a gap for the top and bottom).

Spread some ground mung beans on top of the rice, then add piece(s) of pork on top. Cover the pork with more ground mung beans and rice. Roll up the banana leaf with the filling into a cylinder shape and use string to tie up the roll at intervals. Then stand on one end to add a little bit of rice (make sure the filling is packed in) and fold over the banana leaf (it’s like wrapping a present!), turn over and stand on the other end, add a little bit of rice and fold over the banana leaf. Use string to tie up the cylinder and seal the ends. You want to make the package to be secure and tight but don’t tie it too tightly as the rice expands during cooking. 

Note: I found that the banana leaves can split when you are rolling and wrapping up the package, so have extra pieces on hand and use to patch, double up the ends and tie with string. 

To make it water tight, I then wrapped the rolled sticky rice cake package in glad wrap and then a piece of foil and tied it up.

Repeat. I made 4 rolls of bang chung about 16-17cm long and 6-7cm wide.

Fill a large stockpot ~2/3 full of water and bring to boil. Add the packages and to keep them from floating, weight it down with an empty saucepan on top. Cook uncovered for 6-7 hours. Keep the water at a gentle boil/simmer. As the packages cook they will expand and gain weight, and at about 3-4 hours of cooking time, they will no longer float so you can remove the saucepan as a weight. Keep a kettle/saucepan of boiling water on the stove to replenish the water in the pot as needed to keep the packages submerged in water. Every hour or two, rotate the packages around so that they will cook evenly.

after 7 hours of boiling the foil has gone black!

After the packages have finished cooking, use tongs to transfer packages to a tray/plate to cool. I left it to cool overnight. Then next day I removed the foil and glad wrap. I peeled off the banana leaves and sliced the bang chung into ~1cm rounds and fried them in a frying pan with a bit of vegetable oil for a few minutes on each side until the rice had softened and the outside is crispy and golden. 

You can also eat the
bánh tét at room temperate or warmed by steaming or microwaving. 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Morning Tea Ideas - Raspberry, White Chocolate and Coconut slice

Last Saturday TEDxPerth had our strategic thinking and planning workshop day. With two successful big events under our belt, as well as some smaller unplugged events and live broadcasts of TED and TED Global, it was time for the team to get together and figure out what our purpose was and how we see ourselves progressing into the future. I think that for any organization you can talk a lot about what you want to do, but to articulate it into something that is real, meaningful and actionable is not always easy but necessary (complete with flowcharts, graphs and venn diagrams!). The key reason why we volunteer our time to TEDxPerth is to provide a platform for Perth's most creative and innovative individuals such as scientists, intellectuals, entrepreneurs and artists to share their ideas on stage in 18 minutes or less - to challenge views and attitudes, to find ways to improve our lives and show that you can achieve a lot of great things in Perth! I’m on #TeamPerthIsAwesome

I’m also on #TeamEatTheGoodStuff

A workshop is not complete without morning tea so when I found out that it would have probably just been purchased from the supermarket or Miss Mauds, I was like hold that thought! I’m bringing morning tea. I am the food curator for TEDxPerth after all, and if we need sugary treats to power us through the day, I was going to make sure that it would be the good stuff. 

I don’t know about you… but I will judge how good a café is by their sweets display, where I am immediately attracted if I can see that the baked treats have been done in house and everything looks wholesome. Sometimes you see a display full of magnificent looking cakes at a café and they appear to tick the box, but you can also tell that they have been delivered from some commercial cake making factory and eating such cakes can be filled with regret because you know that you can get and deserve better. I’ve made a pact with myself that if I’m going to be stuffing my face with sugar and butter, I want to make it worth it and homemade baked treats are always the best!

Even if this meant that I was baking four different things in 38 degree Perth heat the day before and I decided that it would be a great idea to be working with pastry and meringue to make these Turkish lemon meringue cookies.

It’s basically buttery dough, spread with meringue, rolled up and baked. I knew that it was going to be a bit tricky to pull together as pastry and meringe are delicate things to work with, made worse by the heat where the pastry was getting too soft too quickly making it difficult to roll but in the end I did manage to roll it all together. However, I had to chuck it in the freezer until it hardened enough for me to slice into rounds to bake. I used a recipe from Lemon Pi and the only thing that I had to do differently was freezing the dough after rolling up first before slicing.

Lemon meringue cookies basically taste like a shortbread cookie with meringue inside, and everyone liked how light it was and enjoyed the crumbly cookie interwined with soft and crispy lemon scented meringue.

Chocolate Puddle
 Baked Chocolate Puddle Cookie 

But the biggest hit were these chocolate puddle cookies which have a meringue like exterior that you break away to reveal fudgey insides. It encompasses all the characteristics that I like to have in my cookies – crisp on the outside but soft and chewy inside. Something that delights and mystifies, where everyone commented on the contrasting textures – like how can it be hard outside and soft inside? The answer is science and therefore something that I can’t really explain but follow this recipe from 101Cookbooks and let the chemistry work itself out!

Another thing I baked was these tahini and almond cookies which are really easy to make. It’s one of those recipes where you can just put all the ingredients into a food processor and process the mixture until it forms a dough, roll into small balls, flatten and bake. I used a recipe from David Lebovitz

I like these tahini and almond cookies as they present a different flavour than your usual cookies, but I found that these were the least favoured so tahini (sesame paste) was not to everyone’s liking. Next time I think it will be best to stick to the classic flavours like chocolate :)

The last thing I baked was a café classic – a raspberry, white chocolate and coconut slice. These combination of flavours work like magic together and it’s something that I see offered quite a lot of cafes. Over the years I have tried to work out my own recipe for it, bringing together all the elements I like – a light crisp layer on the top with the texture of a brownie inside where its cake-like but soft and slightly chewy.

Raspberry, white chocolate and coconut slice

(An original recipe by the Blue Apocalypse)


•    250g white chocolate
•    150g butter
•    4 eggs
•    1 ½ cup caster sugar
•    2 teaspoon vanilla extract
•    1 cup almond meal
•    1 cup desiccated coconut
•    2/3 cup plain flour, sifted
•    ½ teaspoon baking powder
•    ½ teaspoon salt
•    1 lemon, zest only
•    ~150g of raspberries (fresh or frozen)


Preheat oven to 170C and line a 8x8inch square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
Add the white chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water, stir until combined and smooth. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Beat the eggs, vanilla extract and sugar together until smooth. Stir in the white chocolate/butter into the eggs.

Combine the dry ingredients together in a bowl – almond meal, coconut, flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. 

Fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture.

Pour the batter into the baking in and scatter raspberries over the top. 

Bake for ~45 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool before slicing.

Dust with icing sugar.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fridey at the Hydey – Trash Band 1987

This year RTRFM presented Gimme Some Truth, Australia’s first music documentary festival with 10 films over three days from Friday 29 November to Sunday 1 December at Luna Cinemas in Leederville. 

The doco that I was most excited about seeing was Fridey at the Hydey.

 You can watch the short 7 minute version of The Hydey released in 2010, Fridey at the Hydey is the extended 50 minute feature version.

Fridey at the Hydey screened to a sold out audience at Luna Outdoor Cinemas on Sunday night and throughout the doco there was plenty of reactions from the crowd (cheering) as the story of the Hydey and its place within the Perth music scene was celebrated, and the reality of its regrettable demise hit home again (boo to Woolies).   

For those of you that don’t know about the Hydey and what happened to it, here’s the deal - the Hyde Park Hotel or the Hydey as it was affectionately known as by its regulars, was a Perth music institution. A pub that became a local music venue with live music 7 days a week, playing host to anything and everything from punk, pop, rock, metal, indie to reggae and dub ‘n’ ska. Every band in Perth has probably played at the Hydey at some stage and it launched the careers of many of Perth’s finest bands. In 2007, the Hyde Park Hotel was sold to Woolworths by longtime owner Paul Higgins. Higgins explained in the doco that an offer was made and if he had refused to sell, Woolworths would have brought up another place nearby to set up a Dan Murphy’s which would have driven the Hydey out of business as they have their own little bottle-o. After Woolworths acquired the Hydey, original live local music ceased to be. It closed for renovations in 2010 and reopened in 2011, and now it’s just your average run of the mill pub with no soul.  

So things change, and venues will come and go. But there was something really special about the Hydey, evident when you talk to people about it and see how much emotion and nostalgia it brings out for those that experienced the Hydey back in the day. Friendships, bands and the development of the Perth music scene may not have evolved as such without the Hydey there to nurture it, and foster connections and relationships.

I know that I probably sound like one of those people who just wax lyrical about the past like it’s the only thing that matters, but the Hydey was important to me. So I will share why, my story and connection to the Hydey, and you will see why my friends and I vow to never shop at Dan Murphy’s (it’s the largest big-box liquor store in WA).

 Hydey pre-2007

So what made the Hydey unique?


Located on the corner of Bulwer and Fitzgerald street, the Hydey was pretty central and had a big carpark which made it more accessible.

Since the Hydey closed, other centrally located small music venues have popped up like The Bird ) and YaYa’s. Both are located in the heart of Northbridge where parking can be an issue and walking through Northbridge late at night is um interesting to put it nicely…

Plus, the Hydey carpark formed a place for people to take a breather outside between bands, and after gigs finished people lingered on in the carpark…drinking, smoking, conversing, making plans for the rest of the night… The value of bonding in parking lots should not be underestimated, see Heavy Metal Parking Lot.

The Space

The Hydey front bar was small, making it an intimate space where you could play to 10 or 50 people and it didn’t feel empty. The bands played on the floor so there was no stage, no barrier between the band and the audience. It felt like you were playing in someone’s lounge room and for bands starting out, it's the best kind of environment to play in. It was also a special experience watching bands play at the Hydey, as you could get so close that it felt like they were just playing only to you.

Cheap but cheerful

Everything was cheap - the beer, the pool, the carpet, the gigs (usually free!) the décor….it was an old school kind of pub, a bit shabby and rough around the edges with cracks in the wall, the carpets where sticky and looked like they didn’t get cleaned (I fell over on the carpet once and got a nasty rash), the toilets were on par with the public toilets you find at the bus station ….but this kind of all added to its charm as there was just no pretension and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Hydey ceiling - fancy disco?

A place for everyone

The Hydey was like unconditional love where any band could get a gig and anyone was also welcome, and in turn the punters loved it for what it was.

But what makes the Hydey particularly special for me? 

Trash Band 1987  

When I was a teenager, I got into music in a big way, it was my refuge and escapism from my strict Asian upbringing. I got into alternative music. I bought a guitar and taught myself how to play it. I started going to gigs – first to big music festivals like the Big Day Out and Rock It, then to see the shows of national and international touring acts.

Then I would discover local music and the Perth music scene, and I would start going out more to local gigs, often on my own but I found that I wasn’t alone. There were also people out there like me who loved music and seeing bands, and we would eventually connect. Perth is small with a handful of venues that serve the local original music scene, so if you like certain bands or go to certain type of gigs be it punk, indie or metal, you end up seeing the same people at them again and again, and this is how I forged a lot of friendships, to the point where I can say that my close group of friends right now are not people I went to high school or uni with, I didn’t work with them either, but we are friends through the local Perth music scene. 

The Hydey played a big part in fostering this through its casual sharehouse like vibe, cheap drinks and free gigs. It’s not a stretch to say that I was pretty much living at the Hydey every weekend for while and from this I befriended Karen and Leonie through our mutual love of local Perth band The Tigers. I would go and see The Tigers every time they played (frequently at the Hydey) and without a doubt I knew that Karen and/or Leonie would be there so it wouldn’t matter if I was going alone. 

Finding common interests and all being the same height, we decided to form a band. 

Trash Band 1987 (we had aliases), clockwise from the top - Betty Lee (Karen), Aurora X (Ai-Ling), Mother Russia (Gemma) and Talula 3000, formerly known as Talula Scholtz (Leonie).

Although the genesis of Trash Band 1987 happened at the Swan Basement in Fremantle on 25 May 2003, where three short chicks decided that night while watching The Tigers play that we would form a band which would change the face of Perth music…it was at the Hydey that Trash Band 1987 made our mark (on the toilet doors), found our fourth member, got our mojo and played our first show.

The Hydey – where bands are born

When the idea for Trash Band 1987 was conceived, we thought – wouldn’t it be funny to hype up a band that didn’t exist? We wanted to be that band that everyone knew about but didn’t play any shows. 

How? Toilet propaganda. 

First Trash Band 1987 graffiti at the Hydey “Trash Band 1987 kicks someones ass not sure who's ass”.

More Trash Band 1987 graffiti at the Hydey “JOAN JETT GAVE HER RESPECT TO TRASH BAND ’87…HAVE YOU?” 

Comment by someone else “Bin day is Monday night?”.

You know you’ve made it when people start dissing on you – graffiti by non-trashers, trashing the trashers.

More Trash Band 1987 graffiti around town at the Rosemount “TRASH BAND RESPECT YO MAMA!” and someone else wrote under TRASH BAND 1987 - “are gonna have my babies” !!

There was over two months of toilet door graffiti before we got together for our first jam which happened because Karen acquired a tattered, duct taped drum kit from a friend who was moving to Melbourne, and suddenly we realized that we had the complete array of instruments required to kick out the jams and did so one Sunday afternoon at Leonie’s parents garage in Karringup.

Trash Garage

Excerpt from my livejournal 3 August 2003…

“Fuck! I can't believe it actually finally happened but me and red_riven bought all our equipment to joanjett0farc house today and we had our first 'Trash Band' jam and rocked out her garage with her organ beating out kooky tunes, a black and white tv making static noises and Jerry Seinfeld monologues in the background. It was mad and we had no idea what we were doing or how to make our instruments sound together. I didn't realise how hard it is to play with other people, so used to just playing on my own. Towards the end we got better, the sounds we were making started to come together. After months and months of being just talk, talk....TRASH is finally happening for real. I'll have to practice a lot on my guitar and try to come up with some cool riffs.”

It was through toilet door scribblings that led to Gemma joining the band. One night at the Hydey during general chit chat between bands playing, Gemma mentioned Trash Band 1987 in the vein of “who the fuck hell are they?”… “I see them everywhere on toilet doors”…the answer was “that’s us”. Then three trashers became four.

More Trash Band 1987 Hydey graffiti – our motto "BANDS! TUNES! DRUGS! ACTION!"

On the Hydey toilet! TRASH BAND 1987!
The Hydey – where you get your mojo

Talk Graffiti is cheap. It would only be a matter of time before we got our shit together. Turning point would happen at the Hydey one night. 

Excerpt from my livejournal 1 September 2003…

“Saturday night at the Hydey us Trashers were talking to Chris Cobolis (from The Tigers) and somehow it slipped out that we were in a band and he was asking us what we play? what we sound like? and we told him and he said we sound cool and we are going to be his new favourite band and next time the Tigers play he's totally gonna put Trash Band 1987 for support. We came to the conclusion though that he was probably drunk and wake up the next morning thinking........Trash what? and not remember our conversation........... But fuck it got us so motivated to jam Sunday arvo and we fully got our shit together, we have like 3 and a half songs. I recorded some of our jam on my dictaphone and it sounds really dodgy, sounds kind of fuzzy but you can still sort of make out the songs. Love the little ambient melody we created for 'Lick My Love Pump'.........I was humming Love Pump in my head all day.”

The Hydey – where everyone gets their first gig

About six months after we first got together, Trash Band 1987 played our inaugural gig at the Hydey on 16 November 2003 with The Tigers, Ten Speed Racer and Maple. 

 This is a photo of Trash Band 1987 playing our first gig!

Trash Band 1987 - Hydey Memories

The Hydey green room where Leonie models TB87 underwear merch
DIY band merchandise
Besides underwear, we also had tshirts
Trash Band 1987 bar flies
We played many shows over our existence (frequently at the Hydey), bombarding audiences with knickers, explicit spoken word, and both intentional and unintentional distortion 
A Friday at the Hydey - Sabretooth Tigers, Trash Band 1987, 
the Amputee Pornstars, crazy steve!

Photos of Hydey gig posters taken from my scrapbook
The Hydey – where dreams are made

You can’t say that you have being in a band until you have recorded and release something right? This is the aim right? Otherwise what have you got to show for it? 

Well our Trash Band 1987 line of underwear didn’t really take off…

Left - Freud can suck my cock.... Right - Stalin

Trash Band 1987 had our first and only CD launch at the Hydey – putting out a 3 inch CD single for the track “At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul” on 12 August 2005, recorded by our friend Dr Greg in his loungeroom. 

I made 50 CDs and we sold about 30 on the night – various covers and TB87 badges!

Packed out Hydey front bar for Trash Band 1987 CD launch - 12 August 2005

Disclaimer: Listen at your own risk!

Trash Band 1987 - At Midnight I Will Take Your Soul

So while venues will come and go, what kind of impact will they have?

One thing that’s certain for me is that the Hydey was important to my experience of the local Perth music scene and the formation of Trash Band 1987. The Hydey was a place which allowed a little all-girl band to emerge from the garage in Perth, we were not music to everyone’s ears but that didn’t matter.

My story is probably just one of many that the Hydey enabled of friendship, musical discovery and rock’n’roll. This is something that the current Hyde Park Hotel will never have and this for me is the saddest part about the closure of the ‘Hydey”.

Do you have a Hydey story to share?  

R.I.P. Trash Band 1987, inflicting noise on the Perth music scene from 2003-2006.