Friday, 18 May 2018

Iron Pan Japanese Kitchen - Review

I love Japanese food and I adore sushi, but don't expect to combine those 2 loves here at Iron Pan.  They do curries, and salads and fried chicken but not sushi.  Just so we're all clear:)  No, no, hold your horses.  Update: as of 11 May, they now make sushi!  

cute sign

Mr P. and I set off for a quick lunch at this local restaurant recently.  It is a casual space, in a tiny shopping precinct, but with a large outdoor dining area.  The young lady serving was very charming and helpful.  Service was prompt and pleasant.  Mr P. chose Mapo Tofu, a milder, Japanese version of a Szechuan dish which is originally very hot and spicy.  This has lots of tofu and vegetables in a lightly spicy sauce.

Mapo Tofu $14

Hubby enjoyed this vegetarian dish.  The green beans were crunchy, just the way we both like them.  He loved the sauce on the tofu; the corn was fresh and sweet, the mushrooms flavoursome, and the pumpkin was deliciously sweet and roasted.  I know this dish looks a bit strange and quirky, but Mr P. was fond of it.  Kind of an odd mix to go with tofu, but everything tasted fine.  

chicken karaage salad $12

I chose the chicken karaage salad, served with corn, tomato, leaves, cucumber and red onion.  Tasty and fresh, you could probably call it healthy:=)  Here we have succulent, battered pieces of fried chicken, served on a fresh salad, including that sweet, fresh corn.  This is great value, and perfect for a light lunch.

beer battered chips $7

The chips were crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside.  You can't go wrong when ordering these.  They were also extraordinarily long!  It almost made us laugh, thinking of those incredibly long potatoes growing somewhere.  So all up, a tasty, cheap and cheerful lunch.  But wait, there's more...

Feeling lazy one night, we decided to get the ubiquitous Uber Eats to bring us takeaway from Iron Pan.  (How many Uber Eats riders can there be in one city on a given night? Answer: many.)  Not all the menu is available for delivery but you can get fried chicken and burgers and salad and desserts, which we did:=)

salad $5/beer battered chips $7

Nice fresh salad, and you know the chips are good. 

crispy chicken karaage burger $18/roast veg. curry $14  

Not much to say here.  The burger was fine, though why the soft buns?  Man, I like real buns, hard, manly buns...Ooh ooh never mind all that.  Here we have lettuce, cheese, tomato, fried chicken on a bun - yay!  Perhaps some pickles or salad would have been a nice addition though.  Hubby liked his mild curry, and the odd boiled egg.  There was rather a lot of rice, compared to sauce...

tiramisu $7/chocolate fondant $7

I know, not very Japanese but delicious.  Soft and creamy tiramisu; chocolatey, gooey fondant.  Yum.

And then there was dinner - a few weeks later, we went out for a mid-week meal à deux.  We started with chicken gyoza, which were fine.  You can't go past a cute little dumpling, dipped in soy sauce.  But we had to fight over the last one.  I wish servings were made to suit the table.  Anyways, a minor gripe.

chicken gyoza $10

I chose the prawn omelette rice for my main.  This was a very filling meal, and I asked to take home a doggie bag, which they happily supplied.  In fact, the waitress said to me she had been very worried that I hadn't liked it!  Very sweet of her.

prawn omelette rice $18

This was filling and tasty.  The thin omelette surrounds a large amount of rice, in a cute package.  I enjoyed the roast pumpkin, and the (slightly too) crunchy green beans.  The fresh corn was a sweet pop in the mouth.  My doggie bag gave me a great lunch the next day.  

teri burger $15

Mr P. was a little disappointed with his burger.  He felt it needed something extra, rather than just lettuce and cheese.  He liked the tangy, Asian-inspired sauce on the pattie, but would have liked tomato or pickles, or something to give it a bit more pizazz.  The meat pattie was excellent; the burger not too sweet (as they often tend to be these days).  The whole dish was very plain, as you can see.  Chips were great, he said; crispy outside and soft inside.

ginger beer $4.50 for him/prosecco $10 for moi
All up, we had a tasty, casual dinner, at a great price.  What Iron Pan lacks in ambience, it makes up for with a great value, tasty meal.  And good service.  (Would love to see a bit of Japanese decoration here.  Or maybe that's too kitsch?)  Nevertheless, we will be back.

heaps of info in this one little pic:)

a lunchtime shot of the terrace 

Ph: 07 3856 5656
Shop 6/100 Days Rd., Grange

Iron Pan Japanese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Chicken Stir-Fry - The Mel Way

Here is another dish from Mel's 12 week challenge.  (See my last post for details.)  You may chuckle, or not, when you read the post title if you come from Melbourne.  Melway is the name of the old-style paper street directory from years past.  Sorry, just a childhood memory surfacing there.  Read on.  This is another of Mel's sexed-up meals; well, she calls it sexy stir-fry.  

Mr P. and I have been making stir-fries since we were knee-high to grasshoppers.  Well, since we both left our respective homes and became vego like our assorted weirdo flatmates.  And being vego was just the tip of the iceberg... Oops let's not go there again.  Anyway, we are old hands at it, but Mel's way of cooking the meat is new to me.  So here we go, folks.  

veggies chopped - thanks Mr P.


For marinade:

3 tbs honey

3 tbs tamari or soy sauce

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed

2 tbs fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped

1-3 red chillies, finely chopped

1/2-1 tsp sesame oil

For the fry:

600g. chicken strips or dice (but use whatever protein you like)

1-2 tbs veg. oil - I used olive, but use your fave

1 cup (140g.) carrots, cut into small batons

1 cup (130g.) zucchini, in small batons

1 cup (120g.) red or green capsicum, cut into fine strips

1 cup (150g.) red onion, finely sliced

1 cup (105g.) snow peas, yep as above (use cabbage if you prefer)

For nutty bling:

1/2 cup cashews, toasted in a dry pan  (Mel suggests peanuts)

1/2 tsp dried chillies, (or 1-2 fresh, finely chopped)

1/2 cup fresh mint or coriander or basil, chopped - I used 2 tbs lightly dried coriander

2 tbs sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan for a few minutes


First make the marinade by stirring all the ingredients together well

Throw in the chicken, and let it swim happily for about 20 mins.

Now put your large skillet/wok on a high heat and tip in the oil

When it is sizzling, the chicken goes in, on one half of the pan only

The hard part is now leaving it alone!  Let it sizzle; don't turn it

Once the chicken is caramelised on the bottom, give it a tweak with your tongs.  Put any meat that isn't juicy and brown in the hot spot

When all the meat is looking beautiful and brown, throw in the veggies

Stir it as it cooks till the veggies are as tender as you like

Serve with rice or noodles, and throw on the bling 


How to speed things up:

Use 2 tbs ginger paste (yes, from a tube)

Buy chicken tenderloins or already-diced chook

Use dried chillies and lightly dried herbs

Mel says the sesame oil is optional, but we love it so I used more than the 2 drops she suggests

Mel's recipe asks for 2 cups of wombok cabbage, but we prefer snow peas.  Once again, use your fave veg.

gather your ingredients 

Reminds me of a song:  "here we go gathering nuts in May"... etc.

caramelising the chicken

stir the bling together

looking all juicy and delicious 

cast on the bling and eat with gusto - or gutso as Mr P. used to say

Oh, and did I tell you it's the 5th blogiversary for this little blog today?  Who can believe?  Oh the people you meet, the places you go!  Thanks to all the wonderful bloggers and commenters and readers for all the fun I've (we've) had.  Here's hoping for a wee bit more fun and food.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Mel's Moroccan Mince With Pistachio Gravel

Our friend Mel who runs the Vanilla Zulu Cooking School in our local village has started up a 12 week Cooking Challenge to help us all sexy-up our food.  Is that a word?:=)  So I am attempting to make her weekly recipe and blog it.  For 12 weeks?  Eek!  We shall see how I go.  I may not get to doing it every week, or it may end up being a quick kamikaze blog post each week. 

First up is this Moroccan mince which I decided to give a slight Mexican twist.  So here we have my Moroccan/Mexican Mince with some nutty bling on top.  Mel is very keen on foodie/gourmet bling for her cuisine.  Truthfully, I'm not much into bling - food or otherwise, but I gave it a go.  Oh, and I decided to make it into a sort of pseudo-Mexican nachos.  

tasty Moroccan mince with a Mexican twist

Serves 4-6:


1/2-1 tbs olive oil

800g. lean minced beef

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 small zucchini (about 145g.), grated or finely chopped - or use the vegetable of your choice

1 tbs ras-el-hanout spice mix

1 tsp turmeric

1 tin (400g.) tomatoes or chop up a couple of small fresh ones

2 tbs tomato paste

1 tin (400g,) chick peas, drained and rinsed

1 tsp stock powder - I used chicken but use beef or veg. if you prefer

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp lemon zest

Gravel ingredients:

30g. (=1 large handful=2 tbs) of shelled pistachios, toasted

zest of 1 lime

a few dried edible rosebuds

1-2 tbs currants or sultanas

a very big pinch, maybe 1/4 tsp smoked salt or plain sea salt

2-3 tsp lightly dried parsley

To serve:

1 packet lightly-salted corn chips

4-5 large dollops of thick Greek yoghurt

1-2 tsp lime-pressed olive oil 


Add the oil to a large skillet and heat up on high

Place your fluffed-up mince into the pan, evenly

Now let it sit!  Do not stir, do not toss it around, leave it for 10-15 minutes - thus spake Mel, and yes it works

Now throw in the onion and garlic and stir into the mince

Cook down for a few minutes on medium heat till it starts to look tender

Stir in the zucchini and cook for a few more minutes

Add the ras-el-hanout and turmeric, tomatoes and tomato paste

Now you add the chickpeas, plus the stock powder, salt, pepper and lemon zest

Let it cook away for several minutes to meld together

If using for nachos, grab a pie plate and spread corn chips over the base

Spoon on the mince mixture and then add another layer of corn chips and mince

Whack into the oven at 190C for about 20-25 mins.

Splash on the yoghurt and oil mix, and sprinkle over the bling


If you're in a hurry, just grab your small processor and blitz the veg.

Serve with rice if you prefer

ingredients gathered

spread the mince evenly across your pan 

after 10-15 mins, add the onion and garlic

add in tomatoes and paste

zest your lemon and in it goes

ready for the bling

toast your nuts for a few minutes in a small, dry pan

now crush 'em with gusto (and a pestle)

stir the bling together

stir the lime (or lemon) olive oil into the yoghurt

throw on the bling, me hearties

This was an excellent and fairly quick mid-week dinner.  (Much faster if you don't have to photograph and blog it.)  Give it a go, folks.  Great to learn a new technique - i.e. NOT stirring the mince for the first 10 minutes.  Scary but it worked.  Let's see what next week's challenge brings:=)

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

In My Kitchen - May 2018

May you say?  Noooo, how can this be?  April has been a big month here at chez Pickings, with Mr P.'s big birthday, my sister's birthday and several friends' birthdays.  And a funeral, and Anzac Day, and and ...  So I haven't got much to show you, folks.  I hope my lovely blogger mates (that means you) can fill the gap:-)  Oh, there is one biggish change for IMK as of this month: the closing date for your posts will now be the 28th of the month.  This gives everyone lots of time to get it in; no excuses:=) 

In my kitchen:

another book by Chelsea

Chelsea was a Masterchef NZ winner, who has put out a prodigious number of cookbooks since her win in 2012.  Her recipes are home-style with a chef-ly twist.

a cup and saucer by Starr

I already have a lovely platter made by Starr, and I couldn't resist getting this sweet cup and saucer.  She is a local artist who paints, and has just branched out into ceramics. 

Polish Easter Sernik cake 

This was the cake I made for Easter.  It has become a bit of a favourite in the last few years.  I used to make Nigella's chocolate cake which uses about half a kilo of chocolate, but this is a light and lovely alternative made with ricotta and a big splash of rum. 

Clarice Cliff cup and saucer 

Mr P. and I were back in our fave haunt - the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales - in March.  I had previously bought a lovely little jug from an antiques store down there, and happily for me, there were more Clarice Cliff pieces in the shop.  This was what came home with me.  There was a ferociously keen collector lady in the shop also, who swooped in front of me to grab a platter I had my eye on.  Darn!  I must be faster (and more ruthless) next time.

as per the label :=)

I'm not really a big cake decorator, so I rarely go to the cake decorating store nearby.  But I went along on the weekend to grab some of this caramel essence for a future cake (and blog post).  What a fabulous, magical shop - full of marvellous colours, and essences and moulds and baking tins of many shapes and sizes.

hubby's great-uncle Mick Shanahan, having lost a leg in WW1

Sorry, this is not food-related, but I just have to add this photo of hubby's Great-Uncle Mick, since we Aussies commemorated Anzac Day last week.  He was a rather famous fellow here in Australia, serving in the First World War and losing a leg.  He was in his forties when he joined up, a brave and amazing man.  You can read about him here.

Hoping to see you lovely ladies (and gents) here for IMK this month.  Here's your reminder on adding your IMK posts: 

1. Adding via the link button at the bottom of this post.  Instructions can be found on the sidebar of this page, under Add your IMK link
2. Comment on this post, providing a link to your post so I can add it to the linky list below
3. Email me:, with your link or any queries about the link process


    An InLinkz Link-up

Sherrys Pickings

Monday, 23 April 2018

E'cco Bistro - Review

It was hubby's big birthday last week.  I mean big - I mean, how the heck am I married to this old dude?:=)  Clearly, he deserved a big treat for hanging around so long, and surviving the fatal diagnosis he got from doctors years ago.  So we headed to E'cco, a Brisbane institution, which has just moved to a new location in trendy Newstead.  Foolishly, and I admit this is my fault not theirs, we went to lunch rather than dinner.  I should have known better!  Lunch is full of businessmen doing deals, and showing off their big ... well, you get the picture.

I shall get the whinges out of the way first.  The waiter, nice lad though I'm sure he is, managed to drive me just that little bit crazy.  Did he really feel it necessary to explain what a jowl was, even though I said we had no questions about the menu?  Did he have to tell us how the menu was divided up into various sizes and prices?  And what about the noise level?  Mr P. being the sensible designer that he is, checked the decibel level, which was way over the comfort zone for humans.  Just imagine the noise at dinner, when the restaurant is full!  Those poor chefs and waitstaff will be deaf by the time they're 40.   

reflections in the glass

A fairly minimalist entrance, which surprised me a bit.  Not sure what I was expecting.  Or perhaps I should call it lean and sophisticated?  

Tasmanian sparkling water $10

Some lovely Tassie water from the windswept cliffs of north-west Tasmania.  Cape Grim is also where cattle are grown to become beef.  Tassie - how we adore you:=)  

sourdough bread with French butter $8
This was deliciously tasty bread, as was the butter.  I think there were half a dozen pieces of bread, so not a bad deal for the money.

ginger ale or ginger beer? $4

Mr P. ordered ginger beer, but the receipt said ginger ale.  Whatever it was, hubby really enjoyed the strong gingery taste.

oysters $5 each - with fermented chilli mignonette

The waiter seemed to query my order of 3 oysters; not sure why.  I told him that hubby doesn't eat them, (true fact)  just to assuage his disquiet.  He came by later to ask which sort of oyster I wanted.  As it was so darn hard to hear him, I went along with his suggestion for the Clair de Lune (?) ones.  I love oysters, and these were fresh and briny and plump.  The spicy condiment went very well with them.  

Brussels sprouts $18

Mr P. chose the sprouts for his entrée, though it was more of a side dish really.  Hard to tell when the menu isn't entirely clear as to what is what.  (Sorry folks, sounds like I am whingeing again.)  These were very crispy.  I do like a crispy veg., but these were erring perhaps just a little too much.  Otherwise, they were very tasty with a soft egg and fried onion on top.

see the sous-chef/underling straining his cabbage?:) 

I think this fellow was a wee bit unhappy straining his cabbage.  But I had a lot of fun watching him.  It got quite heated after a while, when he started to toss it into plastic bags bare-handed, with the strength of ten men:=)

duck breast $42   (sorry, slightly off-putting photo of the sauce)

The duck was superb; tender and mouthwatering.  And the walnut tarator was really a wonder; full of flavour and went so well with the duck.  The crunchy walnuts and the sublime fig were delightful with the soft meat.  But I could happily have lived without the greenery.  Okay, I am about to whinge again so jump ahead if it offends you - 2 small strips of breast?  Really?  Truth to tell, I was still hungry after this.  And the waiter had suggested sharing.  Sharing?  I felt there was a bit of cynicism here; charging a substantial amount for such a tiny amount of food.  I understand the huge costs that restaurants face, but!   

pastrami brisket with fennel $38 

Mr P. on the other hand, chose a nice chunk of brisket.  This was reminiscent of beef cheek; nicely shredded, tender meat with a creamy fennel accompaniment.  I enjoyed my wee taste of this dish, and hubby was happy with it too.  He was satisfied with the quantity, and loved the taste and texture.

chocolate marquise $17

Chocolate marquise with caramelised white chocolate and pecans was our last dish of the day.  This was so delicious.  A crunchy little crumble and a few colourful leaves decorated the plate.  I kindly gave Mr P. a few bites.  This was a mousse-y, light but rich chocolate delight.


forgot this!

We had finished lunch, and got up to pay when the waiter came rushing by to tell us he had a surprise for us.  Et voilà - this cute plate with 3 sweet little macarons.  A thoughtful gesture for Mr P.'s big day.

All up, we had a pleasant lunch with some fantastic dishes.  Love the open kitchen; enjoyed watching the chefs do their thing.  But -  there is a but: neither myself nor hubby can quite define what we found troublesome here.  There just seemed to be a general lack of warmth and joie de vivre.  Service was fine, timing was fine, and the meal was superb for the most part, but ...  The words perfunctory and mechanical come to mind.  I will leave it to you, dear fellow diners to find out for yourselves.

63 Skyring Tce., Newstead 
Ph: 07 3831 8344

E'cco Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato