Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thing of Beauty

bourke street bakery
An impromptu picnic with Bourke Street Bakery goodies on our walking tour of Surry Hills

I have extolled more praises about Bourke Street Bakery than I can count, from my daily trips to the Broadway store for coffee and crossiants, and my love of the recipes from the beautiful cookbook. There’s something magical about actually snagging a table at the Surry Hills store, and biting into the crackly crust of a ginger brulee tart. And the sound of the crust as you slice into a fresh loaf of sourdough. This is why I have chosen to cook a recipe from the book each month in 2010. You might remember that Mark and I cooked from the Tartine Bakery cookbook last year, and I wanted to keep with the theme. What better than Bourke Street, a Sydney institution and the home of some of my favourite delicious treats.

This month I have chosen a recipe for sausage rolls, to coincide with Australia Day. Sausage rolls are sold all over Australia, from the footy ground, to kids parties, to fancy bakeries. If we’re being honest, I never really liked sausage rolls. The frozen ones still scare me a little. It even took me a while to get up the courage to try one at Bourke St Bakery, but I’m so glad that I did. When done well, it’s thing of beauty. A flavoursome meaty filling, encased in delicious flaky pastry – it doesn’t get much better than this, except dunked in copious amounts of tomato sauce.

veal & fennel sausage rolls
Veal and Fennel Sausage Rolls. Photo by Simon

I cheated a little bit, not using the book’s recipe for puff pastry, but instead using the remainder of my home made batch that has been sitting in my freezer for the last few months. I have only recently been converted into liking fennel, after having shunned it since I don’t particularly like aniseed. But it was at Sparrow Kitchen & Bar that I changed my mind. The fennel seeds worked so well in the goat meatballs so I knew this recipe would be great. I swapped the pork mince for veal, which was a delicious substitution. I also cut down the pepper in the recipe below, because I think it had a little too much. I made half the recipe, but still ended up with about 16 small sausage rolls.

Unfortunately, the photographs I took didn’t turn out very well, but luckily Simon from The Heart of Food had snapped the one above. Thanks Simon!! These were enjoyed at the most perfect Australia Day lunch at Gourmet Rabbit’s lovely Balmain apartment. It was a fantastic lazy day of cooking, eating, and drinking some really excellent wine with some great people.

We also had goat’s brie, prawns, maple and soy marinated chicken wings, and the most incredible lamb shanks with roasted eggplant and purple sweet potato. For dessert, we had a fruit salad with some delicious Achacha ice cream and a bottle of dessert wine I had to go all the way to Adelaide to find! And that’s what Australia Day should be all about – good food and good friends. With lamb, and prawns, and sausage rolls of course.

Veal and Fennel Sausage Rolls
Adapted from the Bourke St Bakery Cookbook
Makes 12

• 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 30g fennel seeds, finely chopped
• 4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
• 150g brown onions, finely chopped (about 2 small)
• 150g celery, finely chopped (4-6 stalks)
• 150g carrots, finely chopped (about 2 small)
• 1.2kg finely minced veal
• 40g dry breadcrumbs
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 2 teaspoons white pepper
• Puff Pastry (I used the recipe from Daring Bakers)
• Egg wash, for brushing
• Fennel seeds, for sprinkling

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the fennel seeds and thyme and stir together for 1 minute, or until aromatic. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly mushy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
2. Put the veal mince in a large bowl and add the cooled vegetables and breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix the meat quite forcefully to thoroughly combine. If you like, you can fry a little ball of the meat to test for seasonings.
3. Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle, about 92 x 32 cm. Cut the pastry into six rectangles about 15 x 30 cm each. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
4. Divide the filling mixture into six equal size portions. On a clean work surface, roll each portion out into a 30cm log with a 3cm diameter. Place each log lengthways in the center of a pastry rectangle. Brush one long edge with egg wash.
5. Firmly fold the pastry over, pressing to enclose the log tightly, leaving the edge open. Cut each roll into 2 or 3 equal size pieces and place on baking trays lined with baking paper, seam side down. Brush the top of each roll with egg wash and sprinkle with fennel seeds.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C (375°F) and bake for 35-40 minutes or until they are a golden brown roll of steaming oozing goodness.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Franks Lebanese, Fairfield

lebanese accompaniments

Usually when people refer to “their local” they mean a pub around the corner, within easy stumbling distance from their front door. Until recently, I didn’t have one of my own. The pubs in my area are seedier than I’d like, so I have adopted Franks, the Lebanese restaurant down the road. Funnily enough, I’d walked past it almost every day for the last four years without even thinking to walk inside, and it was actually recommended to me by someone who lives on the other side of Sydney! I know Howard and Linda from Eat Show & Tell are also big fans.

fatoush salad

I’ve been to Franks a few times over the last couple of months and loved it. So when my favourite food bloggers had a day free, they decided to head out west with the promise of great Lebanese food and then ice cream at my place. We started with a Fatouch Salad (small $4.50 / large $7.90) which has lovely crispy pieces of Lebanese bread throughout. It was delicious and a great accompaniment to the other dishes.

chicken

You can’t come to Franks without trying the Charcoal Chicken, which is unlike any chicken you’ve had before. The rotisseries are constantly in motion cooking delicious chickens fresh. Half a chicken is served with hommos, tabouli, baba gannouj and garlic cream ($9.90). Take away chicken is also available, which we took full advantage of on Friday night, because it was just way too hot to cook.

falafel

We also got some Falafel ($10.90) to share, five pieces of falafel with the same accompaniments. It’s the best falafel I’ve ever eaten, without a doubt, and I was thinking about it for the rest of the afternoon. I think I could have eaten this entire plate on my own. I’ll know for my next visit…

lebanese mixed plate (16/365)

My favourite dish is the Mixed Plate, which is three skewers – chicken, beef and lamb kofta served with tabouli, hommos, baba gannouj, picked, and grilled tomato ($11.90). The meat is beautiful and tender with the right amount of spices and the accompaniments are perfect with the complimentary Lebanese bread. Frank himself is lovely and the staff are welcoming and attentive. Frank remembers me even though I have only been there a handful of times! I’m falling more and more in love with Middle Eastern cuisine and it’s fantastic to have a place so close to home that serves such great Lebanese food.

Franks Lebanese Restaurant - 16 Smart St Fairfield



I also have a treat for my readers today. The lovely people at menulog.com.au have offered you guys $10 off your first delivery at Menulog, for participating restaurants in Australia when you use the code above. Just click on the image to take you to the website!

Frank's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Summer Afternoon

peach & ginger ice cream blondie

My favourite part of summer has to be the fruit. I wait patiently all year for a few sultry months of peaches and nectarines, mangoes, plums, berries and the delicious things I can do with them. While I do wholeheartedly think that peaches should be eaten over the sink with the juices dripping from your mouth and hands, I have to say, this peach and ginger ice cream blondie comes pretty close. A great combination of the fresh peach flavour and a crispy, yet slightly gooey blondie studded with white chocolate chips, this dessert is perfect for a summer afternoon. It was certainly a winner with Steph, Karen and Betty who had trekked to my neck of the woods for a great Lebanese lunch (more on that soon) and the promise of home made ice cream.

Blondies vs Brownies is a raging debate, and up until this weekend, I hadn’t tried making or eating blondies at all. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe from The Perfect Scoop, and when there looked to be about the same amount of blondie mixture to chocolate chips, I knew it was going to be good. Crispy on the outside and still a little gooey in the middle, like a real brownie should be. While I still prefer my brownies to be, uh, brown, I think there is certainly place for a blondie recipe in my repertoire and baby, this is it.

mentioned in cleo! (18/365)

In other exciting news, I received my first ever mention in the press recently, in an article about food blogging from the February issue of Cleo magazine. I’m in some great company, being featured with Lili from Pikelet & Pie, Suze from Chocolatesuze, Jen from Jenius and Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella. Some great insights from these lovely ladies and it’s always a very positive thing to see food blogging in the mainstream media. Wheee!

Peach and Ginger Ice Cream Blondies
Adapted from Design*Sponge

• 500g perfectly ripe peaches
• 1/3 cup plus ½ cup sugar
• ½ - ¾ teaspoon fresh grated ginger
• 2/3 cip heavy cream
• 2/3 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or ½ vanilla bean
• 3 egg yolks

1. Slice the peaches into a bowl. Toss with the 1/3 cup of sugar, vanilla and ginger. Set aside while you prepare the custard.
2. Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Heat until almost boiling. Whisk the ½ cup of sugar and egg yolks in a heatproof bowl. Add about 2 tablespons of the hot milk mixture into the yolks and whisk constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs. Gradually add the remaining milk, whisking constantly.
3. Return the mixture to the pan and heat until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Chill completely before proceeding.
4. While the custard is cooling, puree the sliced and marinated peaches in a food processor until smooth. Mix the peach puree and custard together and then process in your ice cream maker. Freeze until ready to serve.

Blondies
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Makes 12 blondies

• 115g unsalted butter
• 1 cup (140g flour)
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (215g) packed light brown sugar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 large egg
• 175g white chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Butter a 20cm square cake pan and cut a square of non-stick baking paper to fit the bottom.
2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and then let it cool to room temperature.
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking sugar and salt.
4. Stir the brown sugar and vanilla into the melted butter, then stir in egg. Stir the melted butter into the dry ingredients and then fold in the chocolate chips.
5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 30 minutes or until slightly puffed in the center. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Serve with peach and ginger ice cream.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Craving

mexican corn soup

I am a little bit obsessed with Mexican food at the moment. I’m tempted to put guacamole and black beans with almost everything I eat and I’ve been to the Guzman Y Gomez store in Australia Square so many times in the last few weeks that the staff have practically memorised my order. I’ve initiated ‘Taco Tuesday’, a Mexican dinner with a gaggle of food bloggers for the near future, and I’m planning to cook up a Mexican feast when I’m in Perth later this month. Phases like this come and go quite often for me but I try to make the most of it while I’ve got the craving.

Which is why, when I saw the Mexican Corn Soup recipe in January’s Gourmet Traveller, two hours later I was shopping for ingredients. Sweet corn is in season right now, and I managed to pick up nine cobs from my local greengrocer for only $3. I do love a bargain! There is quite a bit of prep involved in this recipe – first the husks and stringy bits need to be removed from each cob, and then the kernels dislodged from the cob. I did this with a knife, cutting each cob in half horizontally first. Also the peppers have to be char-grilled and peeled. I did this on the BBQ, but you could use a frying pan or grill if you like.

I changed the recipe a fair bit from how it is written in the magazine, purely because I felt it didn’t taste quite right to me. Even with four red chillies, there wasn’t even a hint of spice, so I added in some dried chilli flakes. To me, the soup tasted a little watery and bland so I added a little butter and cream. Dad suggested adding chicken, mostly because he didn’t think it looked very filling and some protein wouldn’t go astray. In the end, I was very pleased with how it came out, and it was a really great meal, though I’m not sure how traditional it is after my tinkering and tweaking of the recipe. I especially liked the avocado and cherry tomato on top for a bit of colour and flavour.

I would highly recommend making this soup while fresh corn is at its seasonal peak. Chose cobs sold still in their husk, which are fresh and green, with no signs of yellowing or browning.

Mexican Corn Soup with Crushed Avocado
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 4 – 6

• 4 yellow or red banana capsicum
• 4 long red chillies
• 1 head garlic, halved horizontally
• 90ml olive oil
• 1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
• 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
• 2 teaspoons cumin
• 2 teaspoons paprika
• 1.2kg corn kernels (from about 8-9 cobs, cobs reserved)
• 1 litre chicken stock
• 1 cup water
• ¾ cup cream
• 50g salted butter
• 1 chicken breast, cooked and cut into small cubes (optional)
• 2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped
• Salt and pepper, to taste
• Dried chilli flakes, to taste

Crushed Avocado
• 1 or 2 scallions (spring onions), sliced thinly
• 2 tablespoons lime juice (or to taste)
• 2 avocados, coarsely chopped
• 120g cherry tomatoes, quartered (about ½ punnet)
• 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• ½ cup fresh coriander, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat a grill or BBQ to high. Cut the capsicum, chillies and head of garlic in half and brush both sides with olive oil. Wrap the garlic in aluminium foil. Place cut side up on BBQ plate, or on a baking tray under the grill. Grill until starting to blacken. When cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic from skins, finely chop and set aside. Peel capsicum and chilli, coarsely chop flesh and set aside.
2. Heat remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and celery, sauté until very tender. Add spices and sauté until fragrant, then add corn (reserve 2 cups), reserved corn cobs, grilled garlic, capsicum and chilli and stir to combine.
3. Add stock and 250ml water, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until corn is tender. Discard cobs, and process mixture in batches in a food processor or blender until very smooth.
4. In the meantime, cook reserved corn kernels in boiling, salted water until tender. Drain.
5. Return pureed soup to saucepan over medium heat, add butter and cream and stir until combined. Add cooked corn kernels and chicken, if using and season with chilli, salt and pepper.
6. For crushed avocado, combine shallot and lime juice in a bowl and stand for 5 minutes until shallot is tender. Stir in avocado, tomato, olive oil and coriander and season to taste. Serve dolloped into corn soup.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lazy Lunch

gazebo wine garden

I love long, lazy lunches – preferably on Sundays, and definitely with wine. There’s something about them that appeals to me in the nicest way, and it sure makes a good change from scoffing down a sandwich at my desk! One of my favourite places for lunch that never disappoints is Gazebo Wine Garden in Elizabeth Bay, the original of the “Gazebos” after the recent addition of the Winery in Surry Hills and the soon-to-open Manly Wine.

I decided to treat my Mum to a nice lunch for her birthday back in December. It was meant to be a surprise, but I couldn’t keep it a secret and hinted like crazy until I eventually told her. Every Sunday, Gazebo has $15 jugs of sangria, as well as a Sunday Roast special. We had the red wine sangria, which is infused for a week with cognac, oranges, apples, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg and topped with lemonade. It tasted like mulled wine, complex with spices yet ice cold, refreshing and completely moreish.

gazebo wine garden - confit duck salad

Our meals came out soon after, my sister went for the delicious sounding Confit Duck salad with watercress, orange and warm hazelnut dressing. We’re still not sure what the crispy ribbons on top were, but they added a satisfying crunch to the salad. The orange was a zingy contrast to the tender duck meat, which just melted in your mouth.

gazebo wine garden - lamb burger

My Mum had the Pine Nut & Mint Lamb Burger with onion jam, roasted veggies and crinkle cut fries, which I liked so much on my first visit to Gazebo. Mum loved it as well, especially the presentation. The tender lamb patty was served on a lightly toasted panini and served with a little bucket of crunchy crinkle cut chips. It’s not the easiest thing to eat – there are far too many fillings for it to be picked up and bitten into like a normal burger, and it’s also quite difficult to portion up and share, but it is still absolutely delicious.

gazebo wine garden - grilled sirloin

I couldn’t go past the grilled sirloin, with café de Paris butter and shoestring fries. These days, I don’t often order the same thing at a restaurant twice but after I had it at The Winery and loved it, I had to have it again. Served rare, it was perfectly cooked and I was very happy with my carnivorous meal, though the serving is large and I couldn’t finish it by myself.

While it was tempting to order dessert, we settled for coffee instead because Mum was contemplating gelato and I was about to head off to the Food Bloggers’ Picnic in Hyde Park. It’s always amusing to dine at my work’s venues because I see my work design all over the place, including the little comment cards that came with the bill at Gazebo. Happy Birthday Mummy!

Gazebo Wine Garden on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Kind of Excited

summer berry tart (1/365)

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. I find goals easier to achieve when they’re broken down into smaller steps and written on a list, so you can put a big red line through them once they’re done. It’s particularly satisfying. This year’s list includes making jam, harvesting something (anything!) from my little vegetable garden, learning more about Middle Eastern cuisine, finally organising a passport and travelling overseas and having many more eating adventures with the Sydney food bloggers. I’m also attempting to take a photo each day again – I hope to make it past April this time! I’m kind of excited.

But this also marks the end of one project, and the beginning of another. This one is my final recipe in the Tartine Cookbook project. I really enjoyed it, and it was a great way to get to know this beautiful book better. Huge thanks must go to Mark from No Special Effects for taking the journey with me, I hope he got as much enjoyment from it as I did. I would like to do the same thing again in the New Year, but with another book from my collection. More about that towards the end of the month!

I adapted the recipe from the Blackberry Tart on page 63. It was originally served with a rose geranium cream, but I swapped this for a vanilla bean, and replaced the blackberries with strawberries and blueberries. I also didn’t add heavy cream to the pastry cream, because I thought it was perfect the way it was. I also liked that it used whole eggs, and didn’t leave me with half a dozen extra egg whites like many custard recipes do!

This is one of my favourite desserts in the world, so simple and yet so delicious. Sweet, buttery pastry, creamy vanilla bean spiked crème patisserie and topped with a tumble of sweet summer berries. It sure was a delicious start to 2010, and a great way to finish the challenge. I brought it along to New Years Day lunch at my Grandmother’s house, and there wasn’t a crumb leftover!

handful

Summer Berry Tart
Adapted from Tartine
Makes 1 9-inch tart, 8-12 servings

Sweet Tart Dough (makes 2 x 9-inch tart shells)
• 255g unsalted butter, room temperature
• 200g sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 2 large eggs, room temperature
• 500g all purpose flour

Vanilla Pastry Cream
• 2 cups whole milk
• ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 115g sugar
• 30g cornflour
• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
• 55g unsalted butter

To Serve
• 570g mixed berries (including strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or whatever you like the most)
• Icing sugar, to dust

1. To make the sweet pastry, combine butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until smooth, and then add in 1 egg. When combined, add the remaining egg and mix until smooth. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour all at once and mix on low speed until just incorporated.
2. On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in half and shape each half into a disk. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
3. While dough is chilling, make the pastry cream. In a saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla bean and seeds and salt. Place over a medium heat and bring to just under a boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 1 hour.
4. Have a heatproof bowl and a fine mesh sieve ready. In a medium size mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar and cornflour. Add the eggs and whisk until evenly blended.
5. Remove the vanilla beans from the milk, return the pan to medium heat and heat until just under a boil again, whisking occasionally. Take the pan off the heat. Add about one third of the hot milk to the egg mixture while whisking constantly. Add another ladleful of the hot milk to the eggs and whisk again. All at once, pour the egg mixture back into the pan with the hot milk. Place back over medium heat and whisk until it is as thick as lightly whipped cream. Remove from the heat and pour through the sieve into the waiting bowl.
6. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut the butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. When the pastry cream is ready, add the butter bit by bit, whisking in each addition before adding the next one. Let the pastry cream cool for a few minutes, and then cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the cream to stop a skin forming. Let cool for about 30 minutes and then refrigerate until chilled (at least 2 hours.)
7. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured work surface until about 3mm thick, working quickly to prevent the dough becoming warm. Carefully transfer to a tart pan, easing it into the bottom and sides, and then pressing gently into place. Trim the dough level with the top of the pan with a sharp knife. Place pastry shell in the freezer for about 15 minutes, or until it is firm.
8. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F). Dock the bottom of the tart shell with a fork, making tiny holes about 5cm apart. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 – 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Let cool completely on wire racks.
9. When cooled, spoon in the pastry cream, scatter mixed berries on top and dust with icing sugar, if desired. This tart is best eaten the day it is made.

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