Thursday, 30 June 2011

Lillie's on Brougham

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Multicultural Cuisine of... France

Lillie's on Brougham
62 Brougham St,
(03) 9431 6622

There's not much more precious to me than an afternoon off work to spend at my leisure. Working in the health and wellness industry like I do basically means working early mornings, late nights and weekends - the times when everyone else has off work to go to the gym! So on this particular Tuesday morning, after starting work at 6:30am, I received a perfectly timed email not long before my 12pm finishing time from Agata of Amore Cucina, suggesting a catch up to discuss some of the cooking classes I'll soon be teaching. And I was thrilled when she suggested Lillie's.
Mum took me there for a ladies afternoon tea the day before my wedding last year, and we had the most amazingly fresh, delicious little cakes there. It's a relaxed atmosphere, and although it's tiny and the tables are close together, you almost feel like you're in a little French cafe where no one can hear your conversation.

Lillie's is a gorgeous little cafe, part of a homewares, clothing and lifestyle business, run by two sisters with a passion for France. Their beautiful wares include handmade pottery, simple clothing made from materials such as cheesecloth, linen and cotton, cook books, French provence inspired stationary. They even organise group tours and trips to France! Unfortunately they do not allow photographs of the inside of the cafe so I can't show you what it looks like, but I was permitted to photograph the food, so you can see how yummy it is!
It is generally recommended that you make a booking here, as it is a very small space (especially in winter when the outside eating area is closed), and Lillie's is almost always busy. They make beautiful fresh small meals, as well as gorgeous cakes and desserts, and that's what Agata and I go for. We're seated next to baskets full of gorgeous, freshly picked lemons, limes and grapefruits - which are all available for sale if you want to take some home with you.

Agata ordered the carrot cake:
It was beautifully presented with a dollop of cream, topped with very soft cream cheese, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, dried apricots and orange zest. The cake itself was magnificent, soft and fluffy, with just enough cream cheese in between the layers of cake.

Being the chocoholic I am, I can't go past the chocolate pear tart. It's calling my name and it would just be plain rude to ignore it.

What can I say? Wow. Just wow. It was filled with big, juicy, poached pears, nestled in amongst the gooey, fudgy chocolate, blanketed with a firm but delicate chocolate crust.

I finished every last chocolatey crumb on my plate as we discussed cooking, weight loss, fresh food, our Italian background. After lots of work shopping and chatting and getting very off topic more than once (hey, this is what happens when two Italian women get together!), here's the list of classes I'll be teaching soon...

  • Saturday 30th July: Italian Christmas Cooking
  • Sunday 31st July: Italian Christmas Cooking
  • Saturday 6th August: Tapas Workshop
  • Saturday 20th August: Gnocchi Workshop
  • Saturday 15th October: Gnocchi Workshop
  • Thursday 20th October: Paella Class
  • Saturday 22nd October: Gluten Free and Healthy Whole Foods Workshop
  • Sunday 23rd October: Gnocchi Workshop
  • Thursday 27th October: Gnocchi Workshop
  • Choose your own date: Chocolate Decandence
  • Choose your own date: High Tea
  • Choose your own date: Cupcakes Made With Love
  • Choose your own date: Kids Cook Brownies
All in all, a very productive afternoon tea date! I'm soooo excited to be getting my classes underway soon, and have been doing lots of cooking and baking at home, testing out some of the recipes that I haven't made in a while (much to Sous-Jeff's great excitement) to make sure I'm all ready to go in a few weeks! And I can't wait to get back to Lillie's again for another gorgeous cake soon :) By the way, after Agata and I had finished catching up and planning, and every last morsel of chocolate from my plate was devoured, I promptly took myself to the gym to attempt to atone for my chocolate sins. But when it's that good, it's worth it!

Would rate it 9 out of 10.

Lillies on Brougham on Urbanspoon

Chocolate Mug Cake

This blog has moved to

Multicultural Inspiration from... family :)

No, it's not a typo. Chocolate mug cake. As in, chocolate cake, in a mug. Ready in 5 minutes. No joke. Before I give you the low down on getting this together, let me tell you how this marvelous recipe came into my possession. 

Wayyy back a few years ago, I got an email from Sous-Jeff's mum. She's usually pretty good at sending amusing, tongue-in-cheek emails, so I always look forward to receiving them for a daily giggle. On this one particular day, I got an email with the subject title "FWD: Chocolate Mug Cake" and thought I might open it up to see a funny picture of chocolate in a mug, or a chocolate cake in the shape of a mug or something to that effect. What I found was quite another story. 

What Sous-Jeff's mum had passed onto me was a recipe for a chocolate cake which is made up in a coffee mug, out of plain, ordinary, always-have-them-at-home ingredients, and takes all of five minutes to put together and "cook." You don't even need an oven for it! I made this one about a week ago - I'd had a rotten day and nothing was going to help except chocolate cake. You know those days? A cookie or piece of chocolate just won't cut it - you just need cake. Well, I was having one of those days. I didn't have the energy, patience or calorie allowance to whip up an entire batch of chocolate cupcakes, so I went to my go-to comfort food in a hurry. Here's how to make it work next time you have one of those days...

First, grab out a coffee mug. Just an ordinary, standard sized coffee mug. Take a good look at it and admire it, for it is about to become the vessel from which your chocolate cake will spring forth from. Also, grab out a proper tablespoon with which to measure your few ingredients.

Now, take 4 tablespoons or plain flour, 3 tablespoons of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of cocoa, put them in the mug and mix.

 Next, add in one egg, and mix thoroughly...

... until it looks like this:

In with 3 tbsp of milk, 1.5 tbsp of oil (olive, vegetable, whatever you have!) and a splash of vanilla extract...

... and mix it again!

This is optional, but being the coconut addict I am, I like to add in a tablespoon of dessicated coconut at this point...

Give it all another good mix, making sure to scrape all the flour and cocoa off the bottom of the mug and mix it into everything else. Now comes the fun part... put your mug into the microwave for approximately 3 to 4 minutes, depending on the strength of your microwave. It will start to "puff" up and tower over the top of the mug - do not freak out, this is perfectly normal. I don't know how or why, but I do know I have made MANY mug cakes, and they've never completely over-flown or exploded in the microwave!

You'll know it's ready when it's firm to touch on top and is starting to come away from the edge of the mug.

Yes, it looks kinda holey and bizarre and almost plasticy, but I promise it's not! Tip it out onto a plate...

... and get ready to eat! Now, you can eat this however you want, but here's how I like to do it: grab a serrated knife and slice your cake in half down the middle.

Then slather it in Nutella and a little shredded coconut!

I'll be the first to admit, this cake isn't the softest, fluffiest, moistest, fanciest, prettiest cake you can make. But when you have a craving for chocolate cake and you don't have the time, energy, ingredients or equipment for a real cake, this really is satisfying!! It's also delicious with raspberries and icing sugar, or with a bit of peanut butter on top! Enjoy :)

Monday, 27 June 2011


This blog has moved to

Multicultural Cuisine of... Lebanon

1092 Main Rd,
(03) 9439 5665

With the plethora of delicious and diverse cuisines available it the Melbourne CBD and surrounds, it's so easy to forget about your own backyard. Which is exactly what Sous-Jeff and I have done. There's this restaurant that we drive past a dozen times a week, which we've been invited to for dinner before but didn't make it, that we're um-ed and ahh-ed over for years - you know that restaurant? We all have one. Maroush was ours. Until Saturday night - we decided to finally give it a shot. We decided to book a table, just in case, even though we didn't think it'd be all that busy, because it was just a local little restaurant. Wrong. It was darn lucky we did book, because it was packed! The car park was full when we arrived at 7pm, with the 50m either side of the restaurant lined with parked cars too. Awesome, we think, it must be good it it's this busy!

We ascend the tiled steps and make our way through the big, wrought iron gates, and past a big, terracotta coin fountain. We make our way through the front door and almost walk into the front counter/kitchen area. The restaurant is divided into two seemingly identical sections, one to the right of the kitchen, the other to the left. We are led around to the right hand side, and seated on a table below some beautiful, huge, golden engraved discs.

Directly opposite us is a large mirror, framed with Lebanese knick knacks and a painted mural on the wall behind my seat.

But enough of the view, time for the food! Neither Sous-Jeff or I had eaten Lebanese before, and were a little scared of what the food might be like... we really, honestly had no idea what to expect! So, what better way to try it than to go with the banquet?! The lovely waitress we had was fantastic - she knew the menu like the back of her hand and explained every dish (all 14 of them!) succinctly and simply. 
First out for our entrees was a trio of dips with warm pita bread and also fried pita bread. 
We had Hommos, which was nutty, meaty, grainy and earthy - it tasted like real chickpeas, and was absolutely perfect!
Baba Ghannouj, which was perfectly silky smooth, and had the most beautiful smokey flavour which was perfectly married with the eggplant.
Baba Ghannouj
Lastly in our trio was the tabouli - lemony and zesty, perfect to refresh our mouths in between what was to come!
Next out were the falafels, a spicy mix of beans, vegetables and herbs, made in meatball form (which were just a little too spicy for me!) with a beautifully smooth tahini sauce which had a great lemon flavour. Unfortunately, there was one grumpy waiter in the whole place, and he happened to be the one who brought out this dish to us, plonked silently and unceremoniously on the table, and off he stomped to the next customers. Sous-Jeff loved the falafels, being the spice fiend he is, and was surprised that a vegetarian, gluten free dish was so delicious!
Falafel with tahini sauce

Next out were the meat cigars; spiced, lean lamb and pine nuts, wrapped in filo pastry, with a sweet, syrupy, unknown sauce on top. Thankfully, the lovely waiter who brought these out to us was more than happy to explain what everything was when we questioned what the previously mentioned falafels were. He said it was fantastic that we wanted to know more about our dishes, as it showed that we were excited about the food - very true. He happily explained what the meat cigars and the falafels were, and to the credit of the staff, the waiter and waitress we had for the remainder of the evening enthusiastically explained each following dish to us with a great big smile on their faces. I loved these little cigars, and was was relieved to find they actually weren't spicy at all! I think "spiced" means "herbed" or "flavoured with spices," not actually hot and spicy! I'm not sure what the sauce was, but it didn't seem to really go with the cigars... it was tasty, but it just wasn't quite right.
Meat Cigars

Along with the meat cigars came with Sambousik - fetta cheese with onion and mixed herbs, wrapped in filo pastry again. This was one of my favourites, I loved the creaminess of the fetta, which wasn't overly salty, contrasted with the perfectly crisp pastry.

Then, out comes the Makanek, which are grilled lamb sausages with lemon juice and sumac, which were very tender and tasty.


And they were followed by the Ors Kafta - grilled lamb patties with onion and fresh parsley. They were perfectly cooked and tasted beautiful with fresh lemon squeezed over them. 

Ors Kafta

With our entrees done (yes, all of that was just the entrees!), the waitress clears out table and tells us she'll give us a few minutes to digest before bringing out our mains. We nod appreciatively. 10 minutes or so later, out come the mains. It's a smaller version of the standard sized main (thankfully!), and we get a beautiful platter of Shish Tawook and Shish Kabab on different rices, and a little side of salad with a garlic and lemon dressing.

Right: Chicken Shish Tawook on almond rice. Left: Lamb Shish Kabab on saffron rice

Side salad

We tried the Shish Kabab first, which was the marinated lamb on skewers, served on a saffron rice. I must admit, I'm not really a lamb eater (hence why we went for the lamb first) and was quite apprehensive at the sight of the menu with all of the lamb... but it was all cooked magnificently and I probably would eat lamb more often if it was always done so well! It was very soft and tender, and the saffron rice was beautifully flavoured - they went together so well that I left my last few bites of rice and lamb to eat after the chicken (I like to finish on a high note!).

Shish Kabab on saffron rice

We tried the chicken next, the Shish Tawook (marinated in garlic and lemon juice), and it was also very soft and tender, but, and I can't believe I'm typing this, but I actually enjoyed the lamb more! I wasn't a fan of the almond rice as it was laced with cinnamon (and I'm just not a fan of cinnamon), but Sous-Jeff quite enjoyed it.

Shish Tawook on almond rice

With our mains finished and bellies full, our plates were once again cleared and we were given another 10 minute reprieve, before dessert was served. We were given a small platter of Turkish Delight, Baklava and Mahalabia. Neither Sous-Jeff nor I are particularly fond of Turkish Delight, but in the name of trying anything once, we give it a crack. It's ok, but not really our cup of tea, so hard to say how good it was, sorry!

Turkish Delight

The Mahalabia was a traditional Lebanese custard, topped with honey syrup, pistachios and blossom water. The first flavour to hit my taste buds was the lavendar flavour of the blossom water, which was incredibly sweet. The custard itself was beautiful, and reminded me a little of panna cotta. Sous-Jeff absolutely loved this, and actually ate half of mine. I traded him for his bit of baklava.


I've saved the best (in my opinion, anyway!) until last. I've never had Lebanese Baklava before, and was a little worried that they may have snuck some cinnamon in it, which would have rendered it uneatable for me... but alas, my dessert prayers were answered, and it was absolutely perfection. Layers of crispy, golden filo pastry with assorted crushed nuts and the most beautifully sweet honey syrup. The flavours were perfectly balanced and it was absolutely magnificent. I begged Sous-Jeff to let me buy a $5.00 take away/take home pack, but to no avail. Will definitely be going back for some more soon though!


With dessert eaten, we shuffled out of our seats, barely able to move we were so full. That enormous banquet came to a total cost of $42.00 each, which we felt was absolutely fantastic value for money. The food was all beautifully prepared and very delicious. We were very pleasantly surprised after initially going in quite hesitant, and we certainly plan on dining there again. Unfortunately, we were met with the grumpy waiter on our way out, but other than that, the staff were friendly and well organised and efficient, considering how busy they were. 

Would rate it 8 out of 10.

How many of you have gone into a dining experience full of hesitation, only to be very pleasantly surprised?

Maroush Restaurant (Lebanese) on Urbanspoon