Friday, August 29, 2014

Review | Pasha's Turkish Restaurant, Newtown

I noticed Pasha's in Newtown a couple of months ago, the brightly coloured glass lanterns and the decor in general bought back memories of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. And the fact that I had been craving Turkish the moment I left Turkey (to read about my actual travels through Turkey, click here), made me add Pasha's to my mental list of places to try.

So last night, along side my fellow Turkey travelers, Carly and Mel, I paid a visit to Pasha's for dinner.

We wanted our meal to be just like in Turkey, beginning with meze options before a main and dessert. Because of this, we ordered banquet one which we calculated to be the cheapest option for us, given that we wanted a lot of the dishes that we had while in Turkey. So banquet one was as follows:

Entrees



A selection of dips, an eggplant dish, zucchini with garlic yogurt and pomegranate salad and Turkish bread.

The dips, in particular the spice capsicum one, was my favourite of the entrees. It was so good dipping the tasty, warm bread into the different options.

Zucchini, in general, is an average vegetable but garlic yogurt was tasty and complemented it well. The eggplant was also nice, and I actually preferred it better with some rice that was served with the main.



Mains




Next up, the mains. We had already indulged ourselves with the entrees so were bordering on full already. The main was a lamb shish, chicken shish, meatballs and traditional Turkish rice. Both the shishes were well cooked and seasoned. Luckily we still had the dips from the entree, because it wasn't served with any sauces, which I think it needed.

To be honest, although the mains were nice, it wasn't amazing and maybe not worth the price its charged at on its own.

Desserts




The desserts for option one were pistachio baklava, turkish delight served with Turkish coffee or apple tea. I chose the option of apple tea, so was a very sweet but oh so tasty dessert. The baklava was crispy, yet dripping in honey- just how I like it. And the Turkish delight was legit Turkish delight, not the choc coated version by Cadbury, and I wish I had some right now. The apple tea was also a great warm, sweet treat- perfect for the wintery, rainy day it was.

And although $40 per person may seem like a lot on a uni student budget, it was worth it considering how much the dishes cost individually. Overall, we had a delicious experience and the food and the decor of the restaurant bought back a lot of fond memories of Turkey. If you are on a budget but in the mood for Turkish (or like us, want to relive a little part of Turkey), I would recommend getting a plate of the mixed dips followed up by some baklava, Turkish delight and apple tea.

Pasha's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Turkey | Istanbul Part Two and Intrepid's "Turkey Active" Tour



When we told people we were going to Turkey, we were often recieved with warnings to be careful, and how it may not be safe for three women. These warnings got the better of us so we ended up booking a tour. We selected Intrepid's "Turkey Active" tour, and although it wasn't the cheapest one available, it gave us the opportunity to partake in a lot of activities that we otherwise wouldn't of done, plus it made travelling around Turkey so easy. And although the claims of Turkey being unsafe for women travellers seem unjustified while we were there, we were grateful we booked the tour because it really was a load of fun.

We met our Turkey Active group in Istanbul. The group was very different to the classic travel tours we had seen/been part of. For one, it was significantly smaller, consisting of only 12 (the Turkey Twelve, as we would later call ourselves) plus our local tour guide. And second, it was a very mixed group, with ages ranging from 21-70.

Spice Market selections

To kick off the tour, our Turkish guide took us on a walking tour of the city. The highlights were:
  • The Spice Market: The spice market boasts an array of tea, sweets and, you guessed it, spices. Our guide took us to a store that belonged to his friend where we were able to sample a delicious selection of Turkish Delight (never did I imagine there were so many varieties) and Apple and Pomegranate tea (not being a tea drinker, I took quickly to this sweet, syrupy version).
  • The Bosporus:  This is the body of water that forms part of the boundary between Asia and Europe, and also the strip of water that sits between "Asian" Turkey and "European" Turkey.
The bosporus

After the tour, we were left to our own devices, with the option of meeting up with the group later for dinner. We opted out of meeting the group for dinner (which may have been a regrettable choice!) and instead we caught a ferry to the "Asian" side of Turkey....which was no different to the European side. After some exploration, we went back to Europe for dinner (as you do). We randomly picked a restaurant and Mel and I both ordered what we thought at the time was a delicious doner kebab dish (pictured). The restaurant also gave us a free loaf of Turkish bread and also insisted we have free apple tea (told you in my previous post that it happens a lot).

The offending kebab

We then headed home to get ready for a night out. Unfortunately, that doner kebab hadn't different plans for us. Both Mel and I got food poisoning soon after and spent the night curled in bed. To add salt to the wound, we heard that the rest of the group had enjoyed a lovely meal with no food poisoning and had also used it as a chance to get to know each other and bond as a group. Last time we skipped group dinner!

Stayed tuned as we wonder out of Istanbul and get to know more of Turkey!


Friday, August 22, 2014

Turkey | Istanbul, Delightfully Charming (Part One)

It has been over a year since I was in Turkey, and as I settle in to finally share my stories via my blog the memories of the charming people, the delicious foods and the awe-inspiring sights come flooding back to me. But lets start at the beginning of my delightful Turkish (see what I did there?) adventure- Istanbul.

Carly and I arrive in Isantbul bright and early, and are picked up at the airport by the Intrepid transfer. After dumping our bags at the hotel, Carly and I set off on a mission to find pide. But given how early it was, this mission proved almost impossible so we decided to make our way to the Blue Mosque. Confused by which tram to catch and lacking in coins to pay for a tram ticket, we decided instead to walk along the tram tracks and hope for the best. This turned out to be a pretty good tactic, and one we used a lot in Istanbul (and saved us from wondering around lost). As we walked along the tracks, we quickly started to get an idea of how friendly and charming this city is. Walking along, people kept calling out things like "Hello Spice Girls!" or trying to guess where we were from. It was always friendly, and rarely ever followed up with an attempt to sell us something. It felt like they just genuinely were keen for a chat.


Walking up the Blue Mosque is definitely a beautiful sight, the green lawns leading up to that magnificent Mosque. As you enter you are asked to remove your shoes and put them in a plastic bag. You are required to cover your hair (if you are a woman) and any exposed arms or legs. I was wearing a maxi dress, cardigan and a shawl so was fine to go in but if your outfit is not appropriate they do provide robes and cloth.

Not surprisingly given the exterior, the inside of the mosque was very pretty with beautiful glass and lighting. There was a gated off area for only women, and a fenced off area where people could pray. The tourist were free to explore the rest of the space. And even though I was also a visiting tourist, I did find it a little strange how watching people pray was almost like an attraction itself, with tourists lining the gate watching as people prayed.

As we made our way from the Blue Mosque to the Grand Bazaare we spotted a restaurant that was selling cheese pide- victory! As we waited for our pide to be made, the man at the restaurant insisted we take a seat at one of the tables outside and have some complimentary Turkish tea. And I mean insisted! This was the first of many times when we were offered a seat, a chat and some free tea at restaurants and cafes.

Grand Bazaare

We munched on our pides, which were tasty and salty, and made our way to the Grand Bazaare. Carly and I agreed that we could both easily spend a day there, as it was so easy to get caught up in haggling and looking at the array of products ranging from rings, to rugs, to tea.

We then returned to our hotel and were reunited with Mel, who was lucky enough to have had already started her Euro adventure weeks before us. We then prepared to go meet out Intrepid tour group, who we would be spending the next 12 days with. We tried to keep our expectations low, we had been fortunate to have had an amazing group when we had travelled with Topdeck (which if you read my blog regularly is how I actually met Carly and Mel) and we tried to be realistic and assume that was a one off, us getting lucky. But we would soon find out either way! Stay tuned, as I share my adventures through Turkey on Intrepid's "Turkey Active" tour.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Review | Candelori's Restuarant, Smithfield

The Horsely Drive is lined with the classic Western Suburb main street offerings: kebab joints, Chinese restaurants, charcoal chicken shops. Nestled among these is one restaurant that is not like the others, once you step through the large (and slightly intimidating) door it feels like you've stepped into a fine dining restaurant in the CBD. Beautiful pendant lights, crisp white table cloths and perfectly set tables. Welcome to Candelori's.

But it's not all about how the restaurant looks, of course. I was keen to try the food, and see if it was like the Italian I had in Italy.

To start us off, the waiter brings us olive oil and balsamic vinegar with some fresh bread, just like in Italy- they are off to a good start!

Between the four of us we order a pizza: the teramano, a pasta dish: tagliatelle porcini with pork sausage and a risotto: truffled mushroom risotto.

Teramano Pizza


The food arrives and they serve it with a dish of Parmesan and a dish of hot chillies in oil (just like in Italy! Another win for them).

I first dig into the pizza, to see how it rivals to that from Naples and Florence. Pretty good but not as good as Naples (although I'm beginning to think I am over imagining how good the pizza was over there, as it really has ruined all other pizzas for me), but the rest of my family found it delicious, especially commenting on how good the base was.

Next up, the risotto. And my favourite. Perfectly cooked, and to sound all mastercheffy- a good combination of textures.

Truffled mushrom risotto

Finally I tried the pasta and, honestly, it was a bit meh. The pasta itself was fresh and nicely cooked, but as a dish it was average.

Tagliatelle porcini with pork sausage

Despite only ordering three meals between the four of us, we were pretty full and had a tiny amount leftover as well. That said, we still ordered desserts! We ordered two desserts between us all, given how stuffed we were. We ordered the nougat toblerone and the hazlenut and chocolate ricotta calzone (which the menu notes serves two). Both were delicious and it was hard to pick a favourite out of the two. The calzone was very big and was a more delicious and sophisticated version of a nutella crepe.  The nougat toblerone was a tasty, rich chocolate dish, complimented well by the gelato it is served with.

Hazelnut and ricotta chocolate calzone

Nougat Toblerone

So to sum up, I would recommend Candelori's. It's a rare fancy find in the West that is reasonably priced, and best of all the food is good. I hope I get chance to go back because I hear their stuffed zucchini flowers are pretty amazing.


Candelori's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Greece, Part Six: Ios and the wrap up

Ios. The final chapter of my Greece story, and unfortunately as far as stories go there isn't much to tell. Ios is definitely a party island, and that really is the main attraction. Our nights were spent club and bar hopping, and our days relaxing on the beach.

Far Our Beach Club


For those who weren't wrecked from the night before or cash poor (like us as it was nearing the end of our trip), the island offered a number of water sport activities.

We stayed at Far Our Beach Club, in a little hut like room. Outside the front of Far Out is a a bar and pool, where bikini clad and shirtless bods surround the area dancing and drinking up a storm. To be honest, by this point we were pretty accustomed to the scene so we walked right through without a sense of awe, like we had when we first arrived on the island.

Our Room
And after two nights in Ios, we bid goodbye to the Islands as we boarded the ferry back to Athens. See below for my video wrap of my time in Greece:


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Recipe | Hot Butter Calamari

Hot butter cuttlefish from Chinese Dragon is always on the top of my to do list when I go to Sri Lanka. It's a dish of crispy, sweet, salty and chilli deliciousness. My mouth waters at the thought of it, and then I'm saddened because I've never been able to find a similar dish here in Australia. And for some reason it never occurred to me to try making it myself. That is, until recently. Now, my version wasn't exactly the same as the infamous dish in Sri Lanka but it was still pretty delicious. Hmm now my mouth is watering at the thought of it. So enjoy bringing a bit of Sri Lankan Chinese into your kitchen- and your bellies!





Ingredients
  • 500 gm Calamari (rings)
  • 25 gms Thinly sliced, spring onions
  • 1 tbs Chilli paste (less or more depending on your tolerance)
  • 1 tbs Minced garlic
  • 1 Egg
  • 50 gms Plain flour
  • 50 gms Cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • To taste Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Water
  • 100 gms Butter
  • 1 tsp Sugar
Directions
  1. Soak the calamari for two hours in milk before commencing the cook, will help when cooking the calamari and avoid it going rubbery. Pat it dry when ready to cook
  2. In a small bowl mix together the two flours, the egg, salt, pepper, baking powder and the water to make a batter, mix until smooth.
  3. Mix together the calamari.
  4. Heat up a pot of oil over the stove, and slowly drop in the calamari, one at a time. Cooking it in batches so they don't all stick together.
  5. In a wok, heat up the butter. Once it is melted, throw in the spring onions, garlic, chilli paste, sugar and a dash of salt.
  6. Finally mix through the calamari. Once its well combined, take it off the heat and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review | Hot Star Chicken, Sydney

Chicken the size of your face! That’s what the people say about Hot Star’s fried chicken. But was that the only thing that was special about this chicken? In the CBD with a hungry belly, I stopped by Hot Star. It was quick to order but a bit of a wait time to get your meal, as they make everything once ordered.

I ordered myself the "Hungry Combo" which was $10.90, which for me meant a Spicy chicken and a side of fried mushrooms.



The chicken was indeed the size of my face! The spiciness of the chilli version comes from the seasoning that they put over the original chicken and gives it a yummy, spicy look. The chilli did have a tinge of a kick but nothing too overwhelming. But once you get about half way through the chicken it gets a bit same same and I got over it.

First look at the serving of the mushrooms, I was a little disappointed by the small serving. Especially when I tasted my first one and loved the salty, fried flavour. However, they were pretty greasy so the serving was more than enough.

So, would I go back? Maybe for the fried mushrooms.



Hot Star Large Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Fashion Spotlight: DFO and Bauer Media's Shopper of the Year

Source: Cleo Australia, Instagram


$200 and 45 minutes to find and style an outfit. Last Friday, 50 finalists were released at DFO Homebush to do exactly that, with two winners being picked at the end of the day to go into the running to be named "Shopper of the Year"  (and win $5000!). I was lucky enough to be one of these 50 finalists.

Hosted by former Miss Universe Australia, Renae Ayris and judged by Alissa Thomas, Fashion Director for Cleo magazine and Alex Carlton, Editor of Shop Til You Drop magazine.

The day was a lot of fun, running around like mad women shopping up a storm. I felt slightly like a celebrity, being followed by the photographers and being stopped and asked what I was wearing. In addition to keeping anything that we bought, we were also gifted with a goodie bag. Although I didn't get a win, I was pretty happy with my haul (see below), all coming in under $200!



My final outfit is pictured below, coming in at around $110. The sweater and skort is from Glasson, heels from Wanted, socks from Bonds and necklace from Collette.

Source: DFO Homebush Facebook page



Source: DFO Homebush Facebook page

The two looks below (yes, that's be in the background accidentally photo bombing!) are the ones that got selected as winners on the day and will go into the running to be Shopper of the Year!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Recipe | Lemon cream and curd stack

Lemon desserts are quickly become the alternative favourite to chocolate. Being a lemon fan myself, I decided to do some experimenting in the kitchen and came up with this easy dessert. I was particularly surprised with how well the lemon cream turned out; so light, tangy and fresh! I even used the extras to fill a chocolate cake.



Pastry

1. Thaw out 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry
2. Slice into six rectangles. Sprinkle with icing sugar.
3. Cooking according to packet description

Lemon Cream

1 cup Double cream
1 cup Icing sugar
1 lemon, juiced

Directions
  1. Beat cream and icing sugar until it becomes more thicker and stiff in consistency.
  2. Fold in lemon. Taste, if you feel its need more sweetening, add more icing sugar. Likewise, for the lemon juice.

Lemon Curd (adapted from Maggie Beer's recipe)

4 Egg yolks
75 g Caster sugar
3 tsps Lemon zest
80 ml Lemon juice
40 g butter

Directions
  1. Whisk yolks and sugar in a small saucepan, until pale
  2. Add the zest and butter, then place the saucepan over very low heat
  3. Cook the mixture, whisking continuously for about 7 minutes or when thickened into curd.
And now that you the three different elements prepared, its time to assemble! I sprinkled some more sugar on the pastries and ran over it with a blowtorch but that is an optional step.

Blowtorched or not, coat three of the pastry slices with curd, top with a generous helping of lemon cream (you can pipe it on if you want to be fancy), and then top with another slice of pastry.

Warning- as yummy as this is to eat, it can also be a little messy!

p.s I'm giving you a chance to win a free dinner, enter here now!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Greece, Part Five: Santorini, On Our Own

Lying on a slab of concrete with my Ipod in, I was strangely relaxed considering I didn’t have any idea how we were going to get home or where “home” even was from here. For an island that was so touristy, it sure was hard to get around Santorini on your own.

It was our first “non busabout” day in the Greek Islands, after bidding them goodbye the night before. We opted for a relaxed day visiting the Red Beach, which we only briefly got to visit the day before.

Red Beach

After a nice sleep in we checked out of our room and checked into Katerina and John Hotel. Definitely more hostel than hotel, and the princess in me was a little turned off by the room at first sight, but it ended up being fine and I got a good sleep and didn’t get bed bugs, which for me is an accommodation win!

We then walked to the bus stop. There was no real indication of when the bus would come but we assumed it was the right place because there was a group of tourists waiting there as well. After waiting for 5 minutes, I asked some of the people gathered if they knew what time the bus was coming. They told me they had no idea but they had been waiting for ages with no sight of a bus and weren’t even sure if it was coming. Uh oh, not a good sign. I reported my findings to Carly and Mel and we discussed what we should do. It was decided that maybe we should try our luck walking to the beach instead (some of the people gathered at the bus stop had said that was one option, although would be a very long walk). The walk in the heat, hunger from no breakfast plus the uncertainty if we were even headed in the right direction did result in some bickering and we ended up deciding walking was probably not the smartest option and we could re-evaluate over some breakfast. So we headed to the bakery, located across from the bus stop. And I guess the universe decided to be kind to us because as we were finishing up our breakfast I spotted a bus coming down the road, so we bolted for it and made it in time!

Once arriving at Red Beach, we stopped for lunch and the people there were so nice and gave us a free dessert- yogurt with honey, topped with a honeyed/caramelised tomato. I’m usually not a fan of tomatoes but I loved these sweetened ones and sadly haven’t seen them around since.

We then beached it up on Red Beach (another rocky beach so bit hard to get comfortable if you don’t want to pay for a sun lounge, like us). Funnily enough, while we were lying there we spotted two German girls that had been waiting for the bus. Turned out the girls also gave up on waiting for the bus so decided to walk- which took them over an hour! Poor girls!

Getting home from the beach was a total disaster, we just missed a bus which was too full to take anyone so we made ourselves comfortable, settling in with our music devices and hoped that a bus would eventually come as we had no idea how to walk home and there were no taxis.. It must have nearly an hour but a bus did finally arrive.

Starting to feel a little under the weather (we had gotten sick in Paros), we decided instead of a night out we would indulge in a big, decadent dinner. We picked a cute restaurant by the water and ordered four appetisers and a main each. When we considered ordering more, the waiter told us enough! Never had staff tell us to stop ordering, but he was right, we struggled to finish it all.  And despite advising us to stop ordering, the waiter bought us each a slice of orange cake with banana ice cream on the house, which we thought was very sweet.

Despite the public transport mishaps, we did have a nice, relaxing day which was topped off with two free desserts!

Oia


DAY TWO

It was our fourth and final day in Santorini, and our second day sans Busabout. We booked a Volcano-Hot Springs-Oia tour through the local internet café. There are several of these tour options available and I would highly recommend doing one of these. You get to see heaps and don’t have to rely on the public transport system to get around!

The mode of transport for the tour was a  pirate-esque boat which first took us to the volcanic island, Nea Kameni. Unlike the volcanoes that are normally portrayed on television and movies, the one on Nea Kameni was more like a giant crater. A tip for the day is wear sensible walking shoes, we were not expecting to have to hike at all and poor Carly wore thongs, one of which ended up breaking mid walk!

On top of Nea Kameni


After the volcano we boarded back on the boat (where I had a total coughing fit, damn that Paros sickness. I was a little embarrassed because I couldn’t stop and a sweet Italian man even came over and gave a me a toffee, hoping that would help!), the boat then stopped by the hot springs/mud bath. It was really fun, we got to dive off the boat into the water which was cold until you swam a little further out, where it was warmer. Honestly, the mud bath looked a little dirty (dirty for a mud bath, ie hairs and other things mixed in) and having already had two mud bath experiences in Turkey we opted not to partake this time, instead enjoying the water.

The boat then took us to a small island, Thirissia where we had lunch and chilled out before heading to Oia. We had heard that the Donkeys on the island were treated cruelly so decided instead of taking the donkeys up, we would walk up hundreds of steps to get to the town instead. Even though it was a painful climb, we had a clear conscious and probably toner legs.

Donkeys passing us as we climbed up the stairs

It was our second Oia sunset and we were determined to witness a proposal so were sussing out all the couples, we thought we were onto a winner when we spotted a couple where the male was looking a little nervous and kept feeling his pocket- but alas the sun set and we saw no proposal.


We then headed back on the bus, our sickness fully catching up with Carly and myself so we opted to go to bed straight away, hoping to recover for Ios the next day. 

Stayed tuned for my post on Ios, the final part of my posts about Greece!

p.s I'm giving you a chance to win a free dinner, enter here now!

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