Thursday, December 23, 2010

On the menu lately...

Roast Beef and Veg salad

This one is almost too easy - Roast whatever vegetables you like in a hot oven for around an our - I used carrot, parsnip, mushroom, zucchini, onions, garlic and shallots.  Before roasting toss them in salt, pepper and olive oil.  Sear in a hot pan a well seasoned piece of topside/virginian beef, and roast in the oven for around 25 minutes.  Allow to rest for around ten minutes before slicing, and serve with seeded mustard or mustard aioli.  Toss your cooked veg with some roquette and/or spinach leaves, and dress with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  

Jamie Oliver's pulled pork and coleslaw

Click here for the recipe

Mexican shredded chicken salad on corn tortilla with refried beans

Simply poach a chicken breast in some water flavoured with lime juice, peppercorns, tabasco, and dried chillis.  Shred, and toss with chargrilled corn, avocado, cucumber and capsicum.  I dressed the salad with a lime juice and chilli vinegarette, and served it on a crunchy corn tortilla.  

Roast Beetroot Salad

Inspired by a special at work - roast beetroot, spinach, roquette, red onion, fennel, and dukkah coated fetta, dressed in a beetroot gastrique and topped with mint yoghurt. 

Gingerbread House

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Project Bacon - Phase 3

And on the seventh day, God created bacon!

After waiting nervously for a week, today it was finally time to take the pork belly which was being patiently transformed into bacon out of the fridge for the final phase.  I had been checking it every day, worried that it might have grown a mould colony in there, but all appeared to be well this morning.

I removed it from the fridge, rinsed it off and put it in the oven at 95 deg celcius for around 90 minutes.  When I removed it, it had taken on that lovely pink colour, and looked..... well, it looked like bacon!

I couldn't wait for it to cool down, so I sliced some off and chucked it in a pan.  How did it taste?  Delicious, and full of flavour.  Eating it by itself, it was perhaps a little salty, and it is also a little sweet.  The sweetness I had suspected, being an american recipe.  Next time I will probably halve the amount of sugar.  To fix the saltiness, I will blanch the bacon before cooking.  This was mentioned in the recipe I used, and appears to happen sometimes. I was unsure whether to blanch it or not this time, so I just left it.  It seemed like I had rinsed enough salt off under the tap.  Apparently not.

Next time I will hunt down a bigger piece of pork to use, as this one was a little thin.  However it was all that was available when I bought it.  It's a little hard to slice so I will take it to work and slice it on the meat slicer tomorrow!  I look forward to making some panchetta next time.

PS.  Sorry for the dodgy photos - we had changed the exposure settings on the camera, and I hadn't adjusted them!

On the menu this month....

Steamed, and crispy fried dumplings with Nuoc cham dipping sauce.  You can find a great recipe for Nuoc cham (Vietnamese chilli sauce) here.  If you make it correctly, the chilli will float on the surface - apparently a pre-requisite for finding a partner in Vietnam!

Lamb Shanks with soft polenta, courtesy of the mini recipe books that you could get with the Herald sun.  This one came from the Guy Grossi cookbook.

Roast Pumpkin Salad

Delicious, easy to make, and healthy.  It's also great topped with a chicken fillet marinated in some lemon juice, paprika, ground coriander and cumin.

Roast Pumpkin (and Moroccan Chicken) Salad

1/2 butternut pumpkin, peeled and sliced to approx 3-4mm thick
Salad leaves (I used roquette and spinach)
Fetta, crumbled
Pine nuts, toasted
Fried shallots
1 avocado, thinly sliced
4 tbsp cumin seeds
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 deg celcius.  Line 2 baking trays with baking paper, and brush with oil.  Cover with approx 2 tbsp of cumin seeds, salt, and freshly cracked pepper.  Lay the pumpkin on top of the seasonsings, and brush with oil.  Top with more cumin seeds, salt, and pepper.  Roast the pumpkin for approx 20 minutes, or until you think it's done.

Build your salad on the plates using the salad leaves, avocado and pumpkin.  Sprinkle with pine nuts, shallots, and finally the fetta.  Dress with  a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice.

As I said above, it goes well with moroccan chicken.  I make this by marinating the chicken in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and approx 1 tsp each of sweet paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander, mixed with a few ground up coriander stems and leaves.


After racking my brain for a week trying to think of savoury dishes to take to Halloween, the inspiration came all at once and I had heaps of ideas.  Apparently everyone was taking sweet dishes, and that was all I could originally think of also.

We ended up going for Eyeball tarts, and a few 'interesting' dips.

The tarts were simply shortcrust tart cases, filled with a tomato, bacon and mushroom filling, and topped with my version of a culinary eyeball!

I simply cooked off a few tins of tomatoes with some garlic, red wine, chilli flakes, basil and oregano.  I then added thin slivers of bacon, and some finely sliced mushrooms.  This became the filling for the tarts.  We then topped them with thin slices of baby bocconcini for the white of the eye, and added stuffed green olives for the iris.  Some of them had just the right curve for an eyeball, probably the slices of bocconcini that came from the ends.  I was pretty pleased with the results!

The 'Carrot Fairy' dip was simply a mango kasundi I made at trade school, mixed with some grated carrot, and thick greek yoghurt.

The 'Exorcist' dip was a green pea and wasabi puree (recipe below), and the corn chips we made by pressing our tortillas, cutting them into triangles, brushing with oil and salt, and then baking.

'Exorcist' Dip

1/2 onion, very finely diced
1/2 cup cream
1-2 cups of thawed or fresh peas
approx 1 tsp wasabi

Saute the onion gently in some olive oil - do not allow it to brown at all.  Once it is soft and translucent, add the cream and bring to the boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and add the peas.  Season with salt, pepper, and wasabi (be careful!) and allow to cool.  Once it has cooled, process with a stick blender, or food processor.

Note:  I have made this a few times, and sometimes the final consistency varies.  You may have to add more cream to make it runnier, or more peas to make it thicker.  Add the wasabi bit by bit to ensure you don't add too much.

Steak, Bearnaise sauce, and roast beetroot salad

Inspired by our recent heart attack inducing visit to France-soir on Toorak Road, I just had to try and make bearnaise sauce at home.  I had gained a little confidence in my ability to make this, largely due to learning a foolproof method for Hollandaise sauce at work.  Prior to learning that, I had experienced quite a few hollandaise failures at home, and had all but given up.

Thankfully it all came together (and stayed together) this time, and after finishing our meal it was good enough to keep eating with a spoon!

The roast beetroot salad that accompanied the steak was fantastic - that combination is definitely a keeper.  I won't write out a full recipe, but it contained the following:

Beetroots roasted in their skins, and then peeled and quartered
Toasted walnuts
Spinach leaves
Soft boiled eggs

I built the salad, and then dressed it with mustard aioli (aioli mixed with dijon, and seeded mustard), and topped it with some soft boiled eggs.  Next time I might even omit the aioli, as the gooey egg yolks were enough dressing for the salad.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Project Bacon - Phase 2

Well I received my pink curing salts in the mail, and went about the business of creating a spice/salt rub for the pork belly.

Pictured above is the mix of regular salt, pepper, curing salts, minced garlic, crushed bay leaves, nutmeg, thyme, and sugar.  I rubbed it all over the pork, placed in a container, and popped it into the fridge for a week.

Next wednesday can't come soon enough!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trade School Day 3

I thought rice would be a fairly boring class, and even though the recipes were fairly ho-hum, and I'd cooked them all before, it was actually good fun.

First up was wild mushroom risotto.  We finished this off with cream, which I don't normally do.  Usually I add shaved Parmesan to help it get a nice consistency.  However it turned out quite well, and left the dish with a great consistency.

We followed this up with a quick rice pilau, topped with hard boiled egg, crispy onions, and toasted almonds.  Not as bland as it sounds, it would definitely make a good side to a spicy meat dish.

Paella was very tasty, although we needed a bit more saffron.  Also, some more seafood, like mussels and calamari would have made it truly amazing.  It was also missing the poultry component, due to some questionable chicken!

Finally, we pulled our now frozen rice out of the blast chiller for good ole' fried rice!  I tried to dry mine out in the oven a bit, which helped I think.  Upon removal from the freezer, the rice had basically frozen into frosty rice cakes!  

Cornbread, with avocado and poached egg

This is the next installment in the cornbread obsession that is currently happening in this household.  It started after seeing 'Cornbread Muffins' in the Food Safari cookbook.  We have cooked quite a few batches of these (probably too many to be healthy), and it has now evolved into a more savoury cornbread loaf.  The original recipe is quite sweet, and although very yummy, I thought it could be improved by the addition of some more flavour, and the reduction of the sugar content!  So below is our modified cornbread recipe.  By the way, every time you say cornbread, it has to be in a weird, southerner accent, as it is in this house.

Cornbread (adapted from Food Safari)

½ cup polenta
3/4 cup self raising flour
3/4 cup stoneground corn (available from Casa Iberica)
1 tbsp castor sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
½ cup melted butter
3 eggs
1 cup of creamed corn
1 cup full cream milk
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 handful tasty cheese, grated
1.5 tsp baking powder
Cracked black pepper to taste

Mix polenta, baking powder, stoneground corn, self-raising flour, salt, melted butter and eggs.

Add creamed corn, corn kernels, seeds, parsley, pepper, cheese and milk. Mix until you just combined.

Spoon the mixture into a greased loaf tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for around 40 minutes or until golden brown in color.  Check that is cooked by seeing if a skewer comes out clean

Remove from the tin, and cool on a rack.

(I will update this recipe soon, after I test it out using yeast as the raising agent)

Avocado Salsa

2 avocadoes, roughly diced
2 tomatoes, roughly diced
1/2 spanish onion, very finely diced
A few shakes of tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 handful mint leaves, torn
1 handful coriander leaves, torn

Whisk tabasco, salt, pepper, sugar, lime juice and vinegar together in a bowl.  Add the other ingredients and gently toss to coat.

Toast the cornbread, spread with some avocado salsa, and top with poached eggs (and crispy bacon). Yum!

This would work just as well with guacamole, secret recipe below...

My Guacamole

2 avocados
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 spanish onion (very, very finely diced)
1 tomato, concasse
1/4 tsp white pepper
Tabasco, a few shakes
1/2 bunch of coriander leaves, very finely chopped

salt to taste

In a bowl, mash the avocadoes with a fork.  Gently stir through the other ingredients, and season to taste.  

DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ADD SOUR CREAM - or else the guacamole gods will smite you!  You can however optionally add some finely diced red chilli for some extra heat.  

A few things we've had lately...

K's Rhubarb and apple crumble tart - it was to die for!

Chicken Caesar Salad

And of course an 'Ella-sized' one...

Ricotta served with berries, toasted almonds, and drizzled with honey:

Trade School Day 2

This was a great class, as we got to make one of my favourite things - pasta!  We learnt about all thing farinaceous, and then got to put it into practice by making agnolotti, gnocchi, cous-cous, and carrot and chive polenta chips.

Below is my spinach and ricotta agnolotti, finished with a beurre noissete and sage sauce.  I was very happy with the way these turned out.

And here is my potato gnocchi, which also turned out well - however they are a little misshapen.

You may have noticed that I have not posted anything about Day 1 - this was an interesting class, however I didn't feel that honey glazed carrots, spinach mousse, and braised red cabbage warranted photographing.

Project Bacon - Phase 1

.... And Project Pancetta, Project Prosciutto... and so on.

Click here for some very easy instructions on curing your own bacon!  I have sourced the curing salt, and look forward to receiving it in the mail so I can begin.  If successful, I will follow it up with these instructions for pancetta.  I also look forward to getting this book, Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman, apparently a bible for those interested in smoking and curing their own meats

Applications now being taken for the tasting panel!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pork belly with apple, fennel, and crisp potatoes

Pork belly, my favourite kind of meat!  As much as I like it, the actual star of this dish was the fennel and apples which cooked merrily away under the pork belly.  I couldn't believe how much I enjoyed them - they flavour was nothing short of sublime!

This recipe I borrowed from a Jamie Oliver book (you can find the recipe online here), and as per usual, as much as he annoys people, this recipe is a winner.  Look out for his pork shoulder recipe with balsamic potatoes and onions, it's another great one.

I cooked it basically as per the recipe, and it came out almost perfectly. Make sure you top up the liquid in the pan during the last hour of baking as it does reduce down.  I did however prepare the meat a little differently before it went in the oven.  I salted and seasoned the belly with fennel as per the recipe after scoring it, however I then refrigerated it, un-covered, for two hours.  I then poured boiling water over the belly, which actually bought some of the slits I had cut earlier closer together, as it slightly rendered the fat.  I then patted it dry, allowed to air dry for around ten minutes, and then re-seasoned with the salt and fennel powder, before putting it (finally) in the oven.

Salmon en papilotte, with cracked wheat and herb salad

I knew it was an old, and popular method for cooking, but imagine my surprise when I found out that cooking things in paper bags was a classical French method.  This dish is a kind of mash up, as it features middle eastern flavours, with classical french cookery.  The result was fish cooked to perfection.  I have never had fish cooked as delicately as this.

Yoghurt and spice crusted salmon, with cracked wheat and herb salad

Yoghurt marinade

2 salmon fillets
1 cup greek yoghurt (Chris' brand Greek yoghurt is great)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smokey paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 bunch of coriander, finely chopped (include roots)

Cracked wheat salad

1/2 bunch each of parsley, mint and coriander
1 tomato, concasse
1 handful sultanas
1 cup of cracked wheat
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste

Mix all the marinade ingredients together, and coat the salmon.  Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 170 deg celcius.

Put the cracked wheat in a small bowl, and cover with boiling water.  Top with foil and leave to stand for approximately half an hour.  Once softened, drain, and squeeze out any excess water.  Combine the cracked wheat in a larger bowl with the other salad ingredients.

Wrap the salmon fillets skin side up in baking paper envelopes, and scoop in as much yoghurt marinade as you like.  Seal the edges of your paper envelope by folding them over and place on a baking tray.

I think typically you cook fish in the bag until the bag puffs up, however I decided I wanted a bit of a crust on the fish.  I cooked them in the paper for around ten minutes, at which point I then opened up the top of the envelopes, and switched the oven to the 'grill' setting to form a slight crust on the top of the fish.  This only took around 2 minutes.

My Thai-inspired beef salad

This dish just makes you feel good after you eat it.  It contains no unhealthy ingredients, and there is just something about all the crunchiness that makes it feel 'right' - like it's really good for you.  I swear it makes me feel better... really!

Thai Beef Salad

1 medium piece of rump steak, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled
1/4 red cabbage
1 handful bean sprouts
1 cucumber, deseeded
2 spring onions, trimmed
2 tbsp crushed peanuts, un-salted
2 tbsp fried shallots


1 red chili
2 garlic cloves
2 inch piece of lemongrass
2cm piece of ginger
1/4 bunch of coriander (roots and leaves)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp palm sugar or brown sugar

Salad dressing

1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Smash up the marinade ingredients in a mortar and pestle, and transfer to a large, non-reactive bowl containing the beef strips.  Stir to coat the beef, cover, and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

Whisk the salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.

Thinly slice the carrot, spring onion, cucumber, and cabbage.  Add the bean sprouts.

Quickly stir-fry the beef in hot oil in a wok, until cooked medium-rare.

Dress your salad.  Serve on plates, and top with the beef, then sprinkle with crushed peanuts and fried shallots.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Taste of Melbourne 2010

Yes I realise that this post is approximately a month late, however you can still feast your eyes on the deliciousness that was Taste Of Melbourne 2010.  Thanks to some free tickets we scored for the Friday night courtesy of Giant Steps winery, we were lining up in the rain with a few hundred other punters while the MFB were checking the building for smoke/fire.  Apparently an alarm had been triggered accidentally.  Thankfully we only had to wait in the glorious Melbourne weather for about ten minutes. 

Once inside and out of the elements, we did a run around of all the supplier stalls and tasting areas.  There were some great new products here, as well as the standard (but amazing) Yarra Valley Dairy, Ben and Jerrys icecream, and Green & Blacks chocolate to name a few.  After more than filling up on our fair share of tastes from these stalls, we hit the restaurants.  

First stop was Mr Wolf/Melbourne Wine Room, and the European.  At Mr Wolf we met the lovely Karen Martini, who gave me some great career advice!  Not that I was biased after that, but her dish of vitello tonato was definitely the best one we ate all night.  The duck tortellini from the European had a very tasty sauce, however the pasta was a little dry and rubbery which was a let down.  

After that we hit up Koots Salle a Manger for some 7 hour braised leg of lamb with baby carrots.  This was very tasty, however not quite what I was expecting.  The lamb had been cooked until it was amazingly tender, however it appeared to have then been shredded and put back together with some very finely diced veg. 

Finally Mezzo Bar and Grill provided us with a pork cheek with white polenta and a masala sauce (probably the second best dish - sorry, no pic).

We also checked out Matt Wilkinson giving a presentation on salmon cooking, which was interesting, but hardly mind blowing.  

Pictured below is the Ben and Jerry's Ice cream combi van.  On the other side was a stall where they were giving out very generous tastes of four of their amazing flavours - from memory a cookies and cream, double choc, vanilla and one more which escapes me.  We hit this area a couple of times throughout the night!

We also spied a range of great looking Smeg fridges.  As cool as they look, I'm not really sure how they would go in our house.

On the night we picked up a great All-clad frypan for the special show price of $50!  As you can see below, they are at least $100 on and well over $150 in the shops here.

All-Clad 51125 All Clad Stainless-Steel 12-Inch Fry Pan with Lid

All in all it was a great night, and gave us the chance to sample the wares of some of Melbourne's finest restaurants and Victoria's greatest suppliers.  Looking forward to see the lineup for next year.  Click here to be taken to a page where you can sign up for a Taste of Melbourne newsletter.

i'm back online!

Yes I know it's been a while but there's been a bit going on - not to mention a distinct lack of internet after we have moved house.  So expect a barrage of posts now that I have a tiny bit of spare time.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2 vegie dishes in a row

Weirdly a few weeks ago we actually had two or three vegetarian dishes in a row.  This is very strange considering the carnivorous nature of this household.  

First up was beetroot and shallot tart tartin with spice roasted cauliflower and dukkah coated poached eggs.
For the tarte tartin I simply poached the shallots and beetroot in chicken stock, then caramelised them a little in a frypan using loads of butter.  In-between the pastry and the beetroot/shallots I placed a layer of caramelised onion.  I served them topped with a little minted yoghurt. The cauliflower I blanched, then tossed in cumin, ground coriander and olive oil, and roasted in a hot oven for around ten minutes.  We had both of these alongside a little trick from my new work, poached eggs, dusted in flour, and deep fried for around a minute.  Once they are out of the oil you simply gently roll them around in some dukkah - delicious!

Below are our mushroom and caramelised onion arancini served with rocket, pear and parmesan salad (again inspired by a dish at work).  


I started by making a basic risotto, letting it cool uncovered in the fridge, and then rolling it into balls (they were perhaps a little large).  While the rice was cooling, I caramelised some onions, and diced up a selection of mushrooms.  I also cut some mozzerella balls into small cubes.  One the arancini were rolled out, we used our thumbs to create a small indent, into which we placed the onion, mozzerella and mushroom.  We covered this over with some more risotto to ensure the filling were in the middle of the little ball.  We then coated in egg, and crumbed them, and repeated this process again.  

I heated some oil in a wok to around 180 deg celcius, and carefully dropped the arancini in, frying until golden.  The salad is simply shaved parmesan, thinly sliced pear, and rocket, dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice.  We served the arancini on some rich tomato and herb sauce, and garlic aioli. 

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What's on the menu this week?

Whole scotch roast pork with balsamic onions and potatoes - delicious!  This is a Jamie Oliver recipe which can be found here

Frangiapani tart with Raspberry coulis

Kara's delicous french toast and caramelised bananas

Monday, August 23, 2010

Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder

There's not much that I can say about this Melbourne institution that already hasn't been said before, but here's my opinion anyway!

RHCL is one of the best cafes in Melbourne, and they serve some of the best breakfast in Melbourne.  On the morning we went, although it was packed, the always professional staff kept their cool and maintained their high level of service.  This was even though the place was a madhouse, and there were customers lining up for tables.

The winelist is second to none, with an extensive and always-changing list of wines available by the glass.  Not that we paid much attention to it at breakfast time.  That said, the Bloody Mary is worth a look!

From the breakfast menu, I opted for the corn fritters with poached egg and smoked salmon - it was divine!  As was some of the famous RHCL grilled cheese with spicy eggplant relish (you can't get better in Melbourne), which I surreptitiously 'borrowed' from K's plate.

The lunch menu is seasonal, and always seems to be full of great, fresh produce.  Make sure you try the beer battered chips... I feel like a broken record, but again, they are some of the best in Melbourne.

The hardest part about our last visit was the fact that we were seated at a bar which looked through to the famous cheese room.  Also in my opinion one of the best reasons for visiting RHCL!  The selection is fantastic, and the staff so knowledgeable.  It's hard not to go home with an armful of artisan cheeses from all over Europe, as once you taste them all, you feel the need to buy them all!

Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder
Bridge Road,
Richmond 3121
03 9421 2808

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