Saturday, October 31, 2009
With October all but over, we are now well on our way to the festive season. Melbourne Cup is next week, the Christmas decorations are up in all the shops, and we’ve already started doing artwork for New Years Eve at work. I’ve got no idea where the year went, but I can’t really complain, because this means cocktail parties, and lots of them! Canapés served at functions can be very hit and miss sometimes, and it’s often hard to balance a tricky morsel on a napkin when you have a glass of wine (or a camera!) in your other hand.
These gougéres are this month’s recipe from the Tartine cookbook, a perfect bite-size puff of savoury choux pastry, flavoured with Gruyére cheese, thyme and black pepper, although you could use any herbs or spices you like. I’d never made or eaten a savoury choux before – usually I stick to the sweet varieties – but this really worked. They are the perfect finger-food, and so moreish, in fact I would say completely addictive. The whole batch disappeared more quickly than I’d like to admit.
I paired them with a fantastic Honey and Thyme Daiquiri, adapted from this one on the Gourmet Traveller website, and finally christened the cocktail shaker I bought over six months ago! I cut back on the rum, upped the amount of honey and thyme water, and also added some vanilla sugar to the shaker, because I like a sweeter cocktail. The thyme flavour made it a perfect match for the gougéres.
I am also very excited to be a Featured Blogger on I Eat I Drink I Work for the next 12 weeks! It’s a great resource for food and hospitality news, and I’m thrilled to be involved. And don’t forget to check out Mark’s gougéres on No Special Effects.
Recipe from The Tartine Bakery Cookbook
Makes about 30
• 1 ¼ cups non-fat milk
• 140g unsalted butter
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup all purpose flour
• 5 large eggs
• ¾ cup Gruyére cheese, grated
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
• Pinch salt
• Grated Gruyere, for sprinkling
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking paper.
2. To make the choux pastry, combine the milk, butter and salt in a heavy saucepan and place over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a full boil. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan. This should take about 3 minutes.
3. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed, incorporating each egg before adding the next. The mixture should be thick, smooth and shiny.
4. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, add the cheese, pepper and thyme and mix in with a rubber spatula. Use a teaspoon or small ice cream scoop to drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 4-5cm apart. Lightly sprinkle the top of each pastry with grated cheese and a small pinch of salt.
5. Place in the oven immediately and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until they have puffed and are nicely browned. Serve hot or warm, or at room temperature. Or they can be cooled completely and re-crisped in the oven for 5 minutes before serving.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The month of October seemed to fly past especially quickly this year, and with it went the first ever Sydney International Food Festival. For those not in Sydney, it’s a month-long festival celebrating great food, with plenty of opportunities to get involved. There are outdoor events, like the Danks Street Festival and the first ever Breakfast on the Bridge, as well as brunches, lunches and dinners at some of Sydney’s top restaurants. I didn’t manage to get to any of the ‘Lets do Lunch’ specials this year, and the my first visit to the Noodle Markets was a little disappointing, but what had me most excited was the Sugar Hits, held between 9-11pm every night for $20 including a glass of dessert wine or cognac.
With my two favourite dessert junkies, we decide to tackle two Sugar Hits in the one night, after a dinner of duck pizza and chicken wings at The Australian Hotel. The Macquarie Lounge in the Mariott Hotel was our first stop, a short walk from the Rocks on Pitt Street in Circular Quay. We were a little early, but the friendly waiter fixed us up with drinks, and then waited more than half an hour for our dessert plates to be brought out, which is surprising considering how quiet the Lounge seems to be on a Friday night.
It was described as a Valrhona Chocolate and Raspberry Symphony Delight – two slabs of chocolate mousse cake, one topped with a raspberry jelly compote, and the other with a chocolate glacage. There was also a mini chocolate macaron and a gorgeous pipe of tempered white and dark chocolate. The presentation was lovely but unfortunately the taste was not as impressive. The macaron was cold from the fridge, the chocolate pipe didn’t really taste like anything at all, and I’m very glad we shared two plates between three of us because I would never have been able to finish one by myself.
From there we scurried around the corner to the Four Seasons Hotel. The Sugar Hit was held in The Café by Kables, though it was hard to find a waiter and he looked a little dumbfounded when we only ordered one plate to share. They offered a Baked Chocolate Mousse with Mandarin Sorbet and Anis Seed Croquant, which looked amazing on the plate. The mousse was sinfully thick and rich, but while the sorbet tasted nice, I think the mandarin flavour didn’t quite stand up to the richness of the chocolate. The tiny cubes of jelly were a nice touch and the anis seed croquant added some texture and crunch, and was thankfully not too liquorice-y. Again, I am very glad we were sharing this, because the chocolate was so intense.
And with plates scraped clean, full bellies and sugar highs, we headed off. Maybe our expectations had been set a little too high, but these desserts didn’t quite deliver on taste. Nevertheless, I’m sure I will be back again next year, I can never say no to dessert. If you do want to go along, you only have a few days left so hurry down! Bookings are highly recommended.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Wow. I can honestly say that this month’s Daring Bakers challenge was a challenge indeed, the most difficult one I’ve ever done – yes, even more than last December’s Yule Log! I always knew it would come up at some point, but I was hoping it would be later rather than sooner. This month’s challenge was Macarons. The delightful French sandwich cookies that are notoriously difficult to make, and something that I had never attempted before. I can’t say that the journey was easy, but it was definitely a learning curve, and I’m really glad I persevered and finally managed to make macarons.
From the beginning, I had serious problems with the challenge’s given recipe, and from the sounds of things on the forum I wasn’t the only one. After three complete failures following the recipe to the letter (and a lot of wasted eggwhites!) I decided to try Syrup & Tang’s recipe that used the Italian meringue method. This worked for me first time, and it was the best feeling to finally see that my macarons had feet!
Thinking up flavour combinations was the most fun part of this challenge, after seeing so many interesting ones posted on other blogs over the last few years. I decided to try my luck with the classic combination of Peanut Butter and Jelly flavour. I swapped out half the almond meal for ground peanuts when making the shell with a sprinkling of crushed peanuts on top, because I like my peanut butter crunchy. In between, I made a strawberry jelly disc. I really liked the combination of flavours and textures.
I still need a lot of practice with folding, piping and judging the baking times on my crazy oven, but this is a great first step to help me overcome my irrational fear of making macarons. I really look forward to experimenting further with flavour combinations and working on the technique in the future! The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.
I won’t publish the recipe I used, but it’s here on Duncan’s blog Syrup and Tang along with many other helpful tips about making macarons.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Bourke Street Bakery. Utter those words and a good percentage of Sydney foodies will sigh happily with thoughts of their gorgeous ginger brulee tartlets, signature sausage rolls or their excellent coffee. I was lucky enough to be within walking distance of their now-defunct Broadway operation when I was at college and it became a regular haunt for mid-morning caffeination, an amazing sandwich at lunchtime or an afternoon sugar hit.
When I heard that Paul Allam and David McGuinness were about to release a Bourke Street Bakery cookbook, I was more excited than I’d care to admit and immediately ordered it. When it arrived, I stroked the cover and pored over the pages, knowing that soon there would be stains and flour between the pages. It was a bigger book than I’d expected, coming in at over 350 pages, with beautiful photography throughout. I joked with friends who know how relaxing making bread can be, that I would be so zen when I’d managed to get all the way through the book!
The first recipe I tried was for some absolutely delicious chocolate and raspberry muffins, and they did not disappoint. They were so simple to prepare, basically just using one bowl, which saves on some washing up. I also really liked that they were not overly sweet, unlike a lot of muffins you find in other cafes or coffee shops. The flavour combination was also spot on, but I think this would be a good base recipe for a variety of other flavours - anything you can think up! They would be equally perfect as a decadent breakfast or an afternoon snack with a cup of tea.
Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins
Recipe adapted from Bourke Street Bakery by Paul Allam and David McGcuinness
Makes 12 or 24 depending on your muffin tin
• 400g (2 2/3 cups) plain flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 300g caster sugar
• 310g unsalted butter
• 480ml buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 eggs
• 225g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
• 225g raspberries, fresh or frozen
• 55g raw sugar
• Icing sugar, for dusting
1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin and line with paper cases.
2. Sift the flour and baking paper into a bowl and add the sugar, mixing well to combine.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the buttermilk. Using a whisk stir in the eggs to combine. Pour over the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Use a large spoon to gently fold through the chocolate and raspberries.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops with raw sugar. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F) and bake for 20-25 minutes. It may be necessary to drop the temperature about 10 minutes before the end of baking time if the muffins are starting to brown on top.
5. To test if the muffins are done, push the top gently to feel that it is firm. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before eating. Dust with icing sugar to serve.
Monday, October 19, 2009
I am the first to admit that when it comes to ‘alternative’ cooking, I don’t have a clue. Which is why I was intrigued when I received an email from Clare at Mark Communications offering to send me some samples of a new Carnation product – Soy Creamy Cooking Milk, created to cater for anyone with special dietary requirements. It is both lactose and gluten free, low fat, and also suitable for vegetarians. It’s the only soy-based product available in Australia suitable for cooking purposes. But what does it taste like?
It took me a little while to actually decide what to make with the product – maybe a panna cotta or a creamy pasta dish. I finally decided on tapioca pudding, a delicious dessert that can be flavoured in any way you can think up. I chose to use some warm spices – a cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, fresh ginger and vanilla bean to infuse the Soy Creamy Cooking milk before adding the pre-soaked tapioca pearls.
Surprisingly, it didn’t have an overwhelming flavour and the spices worked exceptionally well with the subtle nuttiness of the soy. To make it extra special, a few chopped dry figs (or other dried fruit would work as well) and a scattering of roasted nuts on top made it a perfect dessert that anyone can enjoy. Thanks again to Clare for sending the samples and pushing me out of my comfort zone! Carnation Soy Creamy Cooking Milk is available in supermarkets nationwide for RRP $2.85.
Spiced Fig and Tapioca Pudding
• ½ cup tapioca pearls
• 1 x 375ml can Carnation Soy Creamy Cooking Milk
• ¾ cup soy milk
• 3 cardamom pods
• 1 cinnamon stick
• ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 3-4 thin slices fresh ginger, peeled
• 55g caster sugar
• Pinch of salt
• Dried figs, chopped
• Slivered almonds, or hazelnuts or pistachios, chopped and roasted for 5-10 minutes.
1. The night before you plan to serve the pudding, place tapioca pearls in a bowl with some cold water, using enough to allow to pearls to expand. Leave to soak overnight.
2. Drain and set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine the Carnation soy cooking milk, soy milk, cardamom, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean and seeds and the ginger. Bring to the boil, then cover and allow to infuse for 30 minutes.
4. Bring back to the boil, add the sugar and salt, and stir until dissolved. Add the tapioca. Cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring constantly until tapioca is tender and well cooked.
5. Serve warm in ramekins or small bowls scattered with dried figs and nuts.
Friday, October 16, 2009
I recently got back from one of the nicest holidays I’ve had in a long time. Adelaide is the capital of South Australia, a two-hour flight from Sydney, and a really lovely little city. Quiet maybe but definitely not boring, with so many fabulous restaurants to try, and one of the most amazing produce markets I’ve ever seen right in the center of the city. I’ve only been home for a week, but I’m already thinking about going back. One of my favourite restaurants we visited was called Sparrow Kitchen and Bar in North Adelaide, a short cab ride (we had a mental taxi driver who was too busy pointing out the landmarks to worry that he was driving on the wrong side of the road) or a 30-minute walk from the city center. I read about the restaurant in the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Guide, and with a dish called Duck Donuts on the menu, it was clear that I had to visit.
I fancied the quirky yet classy décor, especially the sparrow pictures coloured in by kids in the hallway near the bathrooms. The menu was comprehensive, covering everything from tapas to seafood to pizzas and a wine list that left you spoiled for choice. It was a quiet Thursday lunch on our first visit, when we were told the sad news that their pizza oven was on the fritz, but the rest of the menu was available. Unfortunate, since the both of us had our eye on the pizzas, but it nonetheless gave us a reason to return.
There was a nice selection of tapas, though items were priced and served individually which sort of goes against the “sharing” concept that is usually associated with tapas. We of course tried the duck donuts with porcini salt ($3.80 each), a crispy dough exterior giving way to tender shredded duck meat inside. It was very flavoursome and a great blend of textures. I could have eaten many more of these, and sort of wish I had.
I can never go past a mini wagyu burger, there is something so cute about them. This was served with pancetta and beetroot crisp ($5.80), and although this one was delicious, nothing can compare to those we had from Etch at the Taste of Sydney launch. We also tried the Giant South Australian prawn with garlic and lemon ($8.50), and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger prawn in my life! It was very tasty, although slightly messy to eat as we had to shell it ourselves.
On our second visit, we ordered fewer tapas, knowing how full we were after last time. The braised pork and fennel sausages ($12) were tiny in size but full of flavour, served in a tomato sauce. I had a lone mushroom arancini ($3.50) which was one of the nicest I’ve ever had – perfectly cooked risotto, with a golden and crispy fried exterior.
With pizzas out of the question, we both settled on pasta dishes. There was a great variety with very unique flavour combinations. The angel hair with cockles, peas and mint ($14.90) also went down well, with great fresh ingredients. It was a very summery dish that I think worked quite well.
For me, it was quite a tough decision between Rabbit Linguine with almonds and thyme, Pappadelle with beef cheek ragu and the Spaghetti with goat meatballs, nutmeg and basil but I was happy with my choice of spaghetti ($16.90). The entrée serving was very generous and I loved every bite. The meatballs were perfect and flavoursome with the addition of fennel seeds, and I thought this was a very successful modern take on a classic pasta dish that teamed perfectly with the glass of New Zealand Pinot Noir I was drinking.
On our second visit, thankfully, the pizza oven was back in working order. The scallop pizza was a relatively new addition to the menu, which has not been updated on the website yet, so sorry no price for this one. It was served with red cabbage and pesto. The flavours were interesting but I don’t think I would order this for myself.
However, I was very happy with my choice of BBQ Rabbit Pizza with home made BBQ sauce, rosemary and fontina ($17.90). I hadn’t eaten rabbit in a long time, and didn’t know that it was actually white meat! The pizza had a great blend of sophisticated and yet homely flavours that worked well and I really enjoyed it.
We were seriously full by this point, but luckily my second stomach kicked into gear when asked if we’d like to see the dessert menu. There several intriguing dishes that caught my fancy, but we decided to share some churros with chocolate sauce ($8.50). The churros were nice, although I would have preferred a thicker, richer chocolate sauce to dip into.
On our second visit, the lovely waitress convinced me that I must try the Treacle tart with goat’s cheese ice cream ($7.50). I liked the deconstructed approach, with the toasted bread crumbs served separately from the tart.
It was a rather small serving, but quite delicious. Neither the tart nor the ice cream were very sweet though, and perhaps just boosting the sugar a tiny bit would have made it even better.
The Crema catalana ($9) was a big success though, with the telltale visible vanilla seeds and a delicate flavour. I was, however expecting the top to be bruleed and crunchy, but it was a liquid caramel like you’d find in a crème caramel. And so, both times we left happy, with full tummies after lazy long lunches. I especially liked the mix of classiness and quirkiness in the décor, and the unique reinterpretations of classic dishes with some of South Australia’s finest produce that really characterise the menu. I think it’s safe to say I’ll be back for a third visit next time I’m in town – they serve breakfast on the weekend as well!
Sparrow Kitchen & Bar – 10 O’Connell St North Adelaide
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
I have been a little naughty, and have missed a few Daring Cooks challenges in the last few months due to lack of time and inspiration. But when I saw this month’s challenge, hosted by the lovely Jaden of Steamy Kitchen, I knew that I would dust off my tongs and get back into the game. The challenge was to make Vietnamese Pho, from Jaden’s brand new book, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. I love Vietnamese food, and was pretty excited about making my own Pho for the first time.
We were given the option to either make a quick version from the cookbook, or to make the stock from scratch using a recipe that Jaden had posted on her blog. I was running a little short of time towards the end of the month, and had some homemade chicken stock in the freezer that I used as the base for my Pho. It came together really quickly, which makes it absolutely perfect for a fuss-free weekend lunch or midweek dinner. I really liked the flavour that came from toasting the spices, and will absolutely be making this again in the future.
The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.
Recipe from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook
• 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
• 4 whole cloves
• 2 whole star anise
• 2 litres chicken stock (store-bought or homemade)
• 1 whole chicken breast
• ½ onion
• 1 3-inch (7.5cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with the side of a knife
• 1-2 tablespoons sugar
• 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
• 500g dried rice noodles
• 2 cups bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
• Fresh coriander (cilantro) tops, leaves and tender stems
• ½ cup shaved red onions
• ½ lime, cut into wedges
• Sriracha chilli sauce
• Hoisin sauce
• Sliced fresh chilli peppers of your choice
1. To make the chicken pho broth, heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out of the pan to avoid burning.
2. In a large pot, add all the broth ingredients including toasted spices and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently as required.
3. Use tongs to remove the chicken and shred the meat. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce, or sugar if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
4. Prepare the noodles as per the directions on the packet. Ladle the broth into bowls and divide the shredded chicken and soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
5. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customise their bowl with these ingredients.
Monday, October 12, 2009
I’m the kind of person who usually has several projects on the go at once, always flitting from one to another to keep from getting bored. But inevitably, I get distracted and often leave things half finished when I move on to the next new thing. It seems that I’m very good at planning, but not as good at actually executing all my ideas. Does this sound familiar? An example – over a year ago, we had the idea to cook a meal from a particular cuisine decided upon by closing my eyes and pointing randomly at a world map. Portugal was the lucky winner, and I threw myself into the research, fascinated by the culture. I had grand plans of making Feijoada, Broa Bread and Piri Piri chicken but I could never seem to motivate myself to take the plan to the next step.
Until I had tons of leftover puff pastry from the Daring Bakers challenge last month, and decided to finally try out a Portuguese recipe I had been wanting to try for all this time – Portuguese tarts, or Pastéis De Nata. A delicious egg custard tart that was believed to have been created by Portuguese monks in the 18th century as a way to use up egg yolks, since egg whites were used to starch the nuns’ habits.
They have long been a favourite of mine, though it can be hard to find a good one sometimes. I hear the best ones in Sydney are found at Sweet Belem in Petersham, but have yet to try them. I must say that my home-made ones were pretty spectacular, some of the best I’ve had. I really loved the creamy custard and the speckled caramelised surface with the buttery and flaky pastry. I added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the custard, although often it’s sprinkled on top. And so with dessert done, maybe one day, I’ll get around to a making a full Portuguese meal. One day…
Recipe adapted from Bill Granger
• 3 egg yolks
• 115g caster sugar
• 2 tablespoons cornflour
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• 230ml cream
• 170ml milk
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 300g puff pastry, home made or store bought
1. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin.
2. Put the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and cinnamon in a saucepan and whisk together. Gradually whisk in the cream and milk until smooth.
3. Place the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
4. Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling wrap to prevent a skin forming and leave to cool.
5. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Cut the pastry dough sheet in half, put one half on top of the other and set aside for 5 minutes. Roll up the pastry tightly from the short end and cut into 12 x 1cm rounds. Lay each pastry round on a floured surface and roll out until each is 10cm in diameter.
6. Press the pastry rounds into the prepared muffin tin. Spoon the cooled custard into the pastry cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the pastry and custard are golden. Leave the tarts in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
I love the concept of tapas and share plates, and when done well, they form the makings of a great night out, along with a couple of cocktails of course! I was recently contacted by Chris from Emmilou Tapas Bar in Surry Hills to see if I would like to come down for dinner. I couldn’t answer yes fast enough – not only had Emmilou been on my list of restaurants to visit for some time, but I had also just read Shez’s glowing review earlier the same day and was very excited about it.
Chris welcomed us with a smile and showed us to the bar where we were shown a very comprehensive and exciting cocktail list – just what we needed to start our Friday night. Steph picked one of Emmilou’s signature drinks – the Jamaican Julep with rum, passionfruit, fresh mint and hints of apricots while I decided on the exotic Bah-teeh-dah with Cachaca, citrus, passionfruit, apple and vanilla sugar, which was refreshing with a great blend of flavours.
We were shown to our table outside, unfortunately it was quite dark, hence the quality of the photos. We started with seared scallops and whitebait beignets served with smoked pepper oil and squid ink aioli, an interesting dish in terms of flavour. Next up was the Jamon – delicious melt-in-your-mouth Serrano ham with sourdough and olive oil. It was great to nibble while sipping a cocktail and soaking up the atmosphere.
The sardines on toast with sweet chilli salsa was a great play on flavours, and one that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. It was also beautifully presented, and all round a very successful dish.
The duck liver parfait is a signature dish at Emmilou and we were very happy to get to try it. It was served with crunchy sourdough toast and fried beetroot. It was very moreish and delicious.
When we were asked if there were any dishes we would like to try in particular, I was talked into the wagyu beef brisket, but unfortunately I didn’t read the whole description which included salsa verde and an almond sauce so when it arrived, Steph couldn’t try it due to her nut allergy. Sorry Steph! I loved it though, it was a delicious meld of flavours, and I only wish I could have managed to eat the whole thing, but I struggled just to eat my half. I always forget that tapas are deceptively filling.
The staff at Emmilou were attentive and friendly, with water glasses constantly being topped up throughout the evening and great recommendations from the menu. We were amazed at how busy it became as the night went on, with people stopping in for just a quick cocktail or a full meal. We barely made a dent in the menu, so I would definitely come back to try some other dishes (and cocktails). Thanks again to Chris and the team for having us down!
Emmilou Tapas Bar – 413 Bourke St, Surry Hills.
9360 6991 www.emmilou.com.au
Spicy Icecream dined courtesy of Emmilou Tapas Bar.