Thursday, July 29, 2010

WIN A Collectors First Issue of GourmetRabbit and a Year's Online Subscription!

gourmetrabbit cover

For the last few months I’ve had rabbit on the brain. Not cute fluffy pet rabbits, not cooking a delicious rabbit stew, but GourmetRabbit magazine, which I art directed and designed - cover to cover! I’m so thrilled with how it looks and very proud that we had such a great response. We sold out of our first printing in one week, and had to order a re-print, which is even more beautiful!

GourmetRabbit is part cookbook and part magazine and all about things that are good and good for you, and written by the people who know best – the growers, the chefs, the winemakers and many others. So whether you like to explore, cook, sip, forage or munch there is something for everyone! If you can’t wait for your next fix, you’re in luck because the GourmetRabbit website is a veritable treasure trove of goodness. Every month there is a different theme, and brand new articles, recipes and competitions are published every few days!

Today I’m giving my lucky readers the chance to win a copy of the collectors edition first issue of GourmetRabbit (worth $16.95), as well as a one year subscription to GourmetRabbit online (worth $22.95), which means you can read full articles and recipes every month, leave comments, have the chance to win some fantastic prizes and be the first to know about some great events!

The theme for July is Weird and Wonderful, where we explore some truly unique dining experiences and recipes. To win this great prize worth nearly $40, just leave a comment on this post and tell me what is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten. Entries close on August 20th and entries will be judged on creativity. Hop to it! This competition is open to readers in Australia only.

strawberry & coriander panna cotta

My article for Weird and Wonderful is all about desserts that combine fruit with herbs, and actually taste delicious. So if you're interested, hop on over and check out my recipe for Strawberry and Coriander Panna Cottas. It's delicious, I assure you! And if you’re in Sydney or Melbourne, you can still grab your copy of the launch issue. They are being sold at some lovely places including Danks St Depot, Fix St James, Flying Fish Restaurant, The Gourmet Grocer in Balmain and many more. Hit the website for your closest retailer.

Good luck guys!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Etch, Sydney

etch, sydney

I had wanted to visit Etch ever since it first opened. I was fascinated by the beautiful and quirky décor and of course Justin North’s brilliant way with food. So I gathered the girls on a cold Friday night, the occasion was my 22nd birthday and we had been looking forward to this for weeks (although now this post is also weeks late!) Tucked away on Bridge Street beside the Intercontinental, the entrance is marked by a birdcage and a bookstand. Positively laden with giant bags of birthday presents (thanks guys!!!), we were shown to our table, and we took a few minutes to simply admire the gorgeous wallpaper and wish that my dining room looked even remotely as elegant as this one.

The menu has gone through several incarnations since it opened, regularly changed to use the best in seasonal produce. In fact it had changed in the few weeks since I made the booking! Justin North is famous for bringing together the best quality produce into gorgeous, seasonal dishes with a great wine list to boot. Some things that used to be menu staples are now served as bar snacks and are not available in the restaurant, which is slightly disappointing as I was looking forward to trying the goat’s cheese balls with honey and lavender and the mini wagyu burger, for which Justin is so famous!

By the time the whole group arrived, we were quite hungry and it was only now that we noticed there was no bread served, which is quite strange for a hatted restaurant. According to the girls, a glass of birthday bubbles was in order. The classic Champagne cocktail was lovely but went to my head quickly on my empty stomach.

etch, sydney

We order some entrees to share – the Tasting of Aylesbury duck ($22), and the Caramelised pork head with roasted prawn, pickled rhubarb and kohlrabi puree ($21). The duck was absolutely lovely, although I wasn’t a huge fan of the duck egg caramel, but then I’m not a huge fan of eggs just generally. The rest of the dish was fabulous, especially the pancake and the pate. The caramelised pork head was one of my favourites of the night. The textures and flavours went so well together, and I was also a big fan of the stunning presentation.

etch, sydney

In true food blogger style, we each picked a different main so we could share and each taste everyone else’s dish. Steph decided on the Ballottine of free range chicken with sautéed brussel sprouts, bacon and bread sauce ($32). I really liked this dish, I think when a restaurant serves a chicken course, it has to be really impressive and this dish most definitely was!

Karen chose the Risotto of Spencer Gulf prawns, lemon and saffron cream ($30). The flavours were sort of delicate and subtle, but the risotto was perfectly cooked and delicious. Leona’s dish, the Flathead with Serrano ham, parsnip puree, potato fondant and jus gras ($33) looked absolutely beautiful on the plate, it tasted lovely but a little unusual.

etch, sydney

I think I struck the jackpot with my dish though, the general consensus was that mine was the prettiest and tastiest of the lot and I tend to agree. I ordered the Roasted sirloin, daube of beef, spinach, carrot, and red wine jus. It was divine. The sirloin was cooked to a perfect rare and all of the elements complemented each other beautifully.

Denea decided on the special, which was a Pork loin with beetroot jus. It was the biggest of all of our dishes, which was ironic since she was feeling sick and had no appetite! The pork loin was perfectly cooked with absolutely delicious crunchy crackling. I also really liked the beetroot. Betty picked the Crusted sea bream with Jerusalem artichoke barigoule and trompette puree ($31). It was a unique combination of flavours that really worked well and she loved it.

etch, sydney

And then it was time for dessert, of course. We just had to get the Etch lolly tray ($15), it was a total given. It just looked like fun, and I loved the way it made all of us 20-something women giggle like schoolgirls again. There was a mint-chocolate “Aero” bar, white chocolate covered lemon sherbert ice cream balls, a delicious nutty brittle and some tiny cones filled with sour apple sherbert. The Spiced Quince crumble with Hoegaarden ice cream ($15) was lovely, although it was up the other end of the table and I only got a tiny taste, but I’m a sucker for a good crumble, and quince is always fine by me.

etch, sydney

The prettiest was definitely the Baked rice custard with poached rhubarb and white chocolate and juniper berry ice cream ($15). The rice custard itself tasted a little bland, like it needed a bigger hit of vanilla flavour. Another dish that had us salivating by just looking at it was the Chocolate and peanut butter mille feuille with Manuka honey marshmallow ($15). The flavour combination sounded like a solid win, but it was actually quite strange. The marshmallow was just a little weird, perhaps a mousse would have worked better for this one.

The dessert that was far and away the best of the lot was the Caramel date tart with burnt butter ice cream and Earl Grey tea syrup ($15). It was very sweet that the staff had piped “Happy Birthday” to me in chocolate (though luckily there were no candles!) The caramel was delicious and smooth, and I loved the addition of Earl Grey tea. We loved this one so much that we ended up ordering another serving of it to share and it was demolished in seconds.

I suppose I had high expectations, since I had heard such good things, but to be honest I wasn’t wowed by any of the desserts except the Caramel date tart and the lolly tray. While the desserts all looked stunning, but they were a little overcomplicated and lost out on what was most important – taste. All in all it was a lovely meal in a lovely restaurant and I can definitely see myself coming back here soon. As long as they keep that incredible date tart on the menu! And a huge thank you to the lovely ladies who made my birthday dinner so much fun!!

Etch Restaurant - 62 Bridge St, Sydney

Etch on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Spicy Icecream Sandwiches

spicyicecream sandwiches

It’s a little hard to believe, but last week was my third blog birthday. I honestly can’t believe how quickly it’s gone – I remember so clearly sitting down for the first time to write my very first post. This one is my 214th post, and I just couldn’t imagine life without my little blog anymore. I’ve met people who are now some of my best friends through this blog, had some amazing adventures and incredible meals, and learned so much about cooking, baking and photography. While the “blogosphere” has changed quite a lot in the last few years, it’s still a great, fun hobby that I hope will keep me busy for the next three years at least!

To celebrate, I made the only thing I thought would be truly fitting – spicy icecream. I have wanted to make chocolate chilli ice cream for quite a while now, and I can’t think of a better occasion than this! I adapted the amazing chocolate ice cream recipe from ‘The Perfect Scoop’ by David Lebowitz (a book anyone who owns an ice cream maker must have, one of my favourite cookbooks for sure), infusing the cream with dried chillies, and adding hot ground chillies as well. This is without a doubt, the best chocolate ice cream recipe I’ve ever made. The combination of cocoa and quality chocolate really makes this something special. The chilli flavour is definitely present but its more of a warming aftertaste than a real hit of spice. Of course if you like, you could use a chilli chocolate like Lindt instead of chilli powder.

the cookies

The cookies are also fabulous. I wanted a slightly fudgy chocolate cookie, and these were perfect and also very easy to prepare. I added a little chilli powder as well. Just try not to nibble the dough as you’re rolling it out, I dare you! They bake up into perfect cookies that are slightly crisp on the outside and still slightly doughy and fudgy in the center. When sandwiched with the icecream, they make a decadent little snack, just perfect for a celebration! Mine are kind of rough and rustic looking, but I kind of prefer them that way.

To all of my readers over the last three years, I’d just like to say thank you for your visits and your comments, which always make me smile! And thanks to Leona for the gorgeous plate!

spicyicecream sandwiches

Chocolate Chilli "Spicy Ice Cream" Sandwiches
Adapted from ‘The Perfect Scoop’ by David Lebowitz

Ice Cream
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
• 3-4 dried chillies (mine are from Herbies Spices)
• 140g dark chocolate, chopped
• 1 cup whole milk
• ¾ cup sugar
• Pinch salt
• ½ - 1 teaspoon ground chillies, to taste
• 5 large egg yolks
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm 1 cup of cream with the cocoa and dried chillies in a medium saucepan, whisking to thoroughly blend the cocoa. Bring to a boil, and then turn off the heat. Allow to infuse for 30 minutes – 1 hour. When the mixture has infused, turn the heat back on, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 seconds, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, stirring until smooth, then stir in the remaining cup of cream. Pour the mixture into a large bowl, scraping the saucepan, and set a mesh strainer on top of the bowl.

Warm the milk, sugar, salt and ground chilli in the same saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly and then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan. Stir constantly with a heatproof spatula over a low heat, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir into the chocolate mixture until smooth, then stir in the vanilla. Cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies
Makes 16 cookies, for 8 ice cream sandwiches

• 115g unsalted butter, room temperature
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 6 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa, sifted
• 210g flour
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• ½ - 1 teaspoon ground chillies, to taste

Beat together the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together to cocoa, flour, baking powder, salt and chilli. Stir the dry ingredients gradually into the creamed butter mixture until completely incorporated and there are no streaks of butter. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Lightly dust a work surface with flour, and roll out dough into a ½ cm disk. Use cookie cutters of your choice to cut out shapes and place on baking trays. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating the baking trays halfway through baking, then remove from the oven. Once the cookies are cooled completely, sandwich the ice cream between 2 cookies, then wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Caramel Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie

I love a good bargain, and you can’t get a much better buy than pumpkin at under 30c/kilo! We bought a lot, a good nine pumpkins. I spent the better part of Saturday roasting and pureeing about 15kg worth of pumpkin. We made an epic pot of soup, to stock the freezer for the cooler months. But what to do with the leftover pumpkin puree? I’d been eyeing off Gourmet magazine’s pumpkin recipes since last year, and the pumpkin pie in particular. Being an American thing, I had never actually tried one before, and this recipe looked delicious with a nice kick of caramel.

The pastry itself has no sugar, which I thought was a little odd, and shrunk a fair bit in the oven, which I found particularly annoying. If I were to make it again I would use the never-fail Tartine sweet tart dough. In fact I might just use that fabulous recipe for every sweet tart I ever make again for the rest of my life. Finally, a sweet pastry that will bake up perfectly every time and not shrink! I can’t praise it enough. I haven’t given the original pastry recipe because I found it a little uninspiring, so feel free to use your favourite (or my favourite!)

The pumpkin pie filling itself was very interesting, and a bit different to what I was expecting. When baked, it takes on a mousse like quality, which just melts in your mouth. If it were a blind taste test, I would be hard pressed to guess that the main ingredient was pumpkin. The caramel and spices round out the flavour beautifully. It’s a lovely dessert for autumn and winter when pumpkins are at their seasonal peak. I served mine with a dollop of just-sweetened whipped cream spiked with half a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.

This makes quite a large pie. The recipe says to make it in a deep quiche pan, however I didn’t have one and had about double the filling leftover. This pie tastes best on the day it is baked, however it can be refrigerated overnight. Bring back to room temperature before seving.

pumpkin pie

Caramel Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 8-10

• 1 quantity sweet pastry, use your favourite recipe, or this one which I love, par-baked and cooled in a deep quiche pan

Filling
• 1 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup water
• 2 cups heavy cream
• 2 cups pumpkin puree
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 ¼ teaspoons ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• Pinch ground cloves
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 4 large eggs, lightly beaten

To make the filling, bring sugar and water to the boil in a large saucepan, stirring until dissolved. Gently swirl pan (do not stir) until mixture is a deep golden caramel, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and carefully add 1 cup cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Stir until caramel has dissolved. Stir in remaining cream and bring just to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together pumpkin puree, spices and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the hot cream mixture, then add eggs, whisking until just combined. Pour filling into the prepared, cool pastry crust and bake for about 55-60 minutes, or until puffed and center is set. Cool in pan, on a rack for about 2 hours. The pie will cotinue to set as it cools. Remove side of pan before serving.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Christmas in July at the Löwenbräu Keller

Löwenbräu

I love the idea of Christmas in July, because here in Australia Christmas occurs during our summer and a hearty roast with all the trimmings is the last thing we feel like preparing on a hot day. An Australian Christmas lunch usually consists of seafood or a BBQ and then a dip in the pool. Christmas in July means we get to indulge in all of the traditional dishes when we can truly enjoy them – when it’s cold outside! I was recently invited to sample a sneak peak of the Löwenbräu Keller’s Christmas in July menu by Darcie at Zing PR, and on a drizzly Thursday night, I joined some lovely ladies for a fabulous dinner.

We started off with beer, what else! I can never go past the Mango Weissbier and it went down a little too easily after a long day! The entree was a Cream of Mushroom soup, with a dollop of creamy crème fraiche on top, served with warm garlic bread. The soup was served in gorgeous individual tureens and when the lid was lifted, the smell was delicious. In the cosy atmosphere, inside, away from the cold it was the most perfect start to the meal!

Löwenbräu

Next up, five delicious dishes were brought out to share. But not before five logs were placed onto the table, prompting giggles in regard to our favourite wood-chopping Perfect Italian Man. It was an epic and delicious meat-fest, the exact kind of food I love to eat in winter. First up there were the slow braised lamb shanks, which were beautifully tender and absolutely delicious. Next were the marinated roasted beef cheeks, cooked slowly until they were falling apart under your fork. An interesting dish that I hadn’t tried before was bier goulash, served with giant bread dumplings and crispy onions. I really loved this dish, the epitome of winter comfort food.

Löwenbräu

Ribs are one of my favourite foods on this earth, so the beef short ribs were definitely going to be a standout for me. These and the beef cheeks are definitely close to being my favourites of the night. Next up was the venison stew, which was served with mushrooms and bread dumplings. I have only recently discovered venison, when we visited a venison farm on our trip to Orange in April and were given some meat to cook with. I loved it, and I also really liked this dish! And dinner at the Löwenbräu wouldn’t be complete without the famed Schweinshaxn, the pork knuckle with sauerkraut and mashed potato, which Suze hacked into with glee, wielding a very large knife. This is what it’s all about - succulent pork and crackling to die for. And really, it wouldn’t be Christmas without pork and crackling!

A few shots of schnapps can make a girl do embarrassing things, and Suze, Darcie and myself were all enlisted into some “audience participation”. There was cow-bell ringing, tuba playing, and in my case, beer drinking! I’m told afterwards that it is a non-alcoholic variety, which is surprising because it actually tasted damn good. The band also plays a hysterical rendition of a Backstreet Boys classic, bringing back long forgotten pre-teen memories.

Löwenbräu

And then, thankfully my dessert stomach kicked into gear when this delicious dish was placed in front of us. The smell has us positively salivating. We were told that it’s called kaiserschmarrn (thanks Helen, for paying attention as I had too much schnapps by this point), a delicious combination of pancakes, with rum-soaked raisins and almonds, served with little pots of cinnamon ice cream. It is absolutely delicious, especially with the ice cream, and I’m lucky enough to be able to take some of the leftovers home with me after dinner. I have to admit, I’m a little disappointed not to be able to try the gluhwein, but I’ve had more than enough to drink by this point, it was probably for the best!

Christmas in July is on at the Lowenbrau all month, with a different selection of traditional dishes served each week. A huge thanks to Darcie for organizing such a fabulous event! Spicy Icecream dined courtesy of Zing PR and Löwenbräu Keller.

Löwenbräu Keller - Corner of Playfair & Argyle St, The Rocks Sydney

Lowenbrau Keller on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ginger Beer Scones

scones

I think it’s safe to say that I’m addicted to ginger beer. I practically drink my body weight in it on a weekly basis, and after water and coffee, it’s my beverage of choice, hands down. It’s a fabulous drink on its own – tangy and refreshing, especially on a hot day, but it’s also great as a mixer or in cocktails. However I’d never tried it in cooking, until now. I love scones, and for a while I’ve been thinking about making ginger beer scones, similar to lemonade scones but using ginger beer as the liquid component.

And you can’t have scones without jam! I decided it was time to face my fears and make my very first batch of jam, ever. I adapted a Strawberry and Ginger jam recipe from Gourmet Traveller and it was absolutely smashing, just as good if not better than any jam I’ve ever bought. I was really surprised at how easy it was to make. I’ve been slathering it on everything this week, and it’s nearly gone already. I see another batch of jam in the very near future.

What could be better than a homemade scone? I’d never tried making scones this way before, but I am pleased to say they worked perfectly! I think they could have had a little more of a gingery flavour, so next time I would add half a teaspoon of ground ginger to the mix. The key to making great scones is to be very gentle with your mixture, otherwise they’ll turn out flat and hard instead of beautifully risen and fluffy on the inside.

Don’t forget to enter my Good Food and Wine Show competition, for your chance to win one of two double passes to the show in Sydney! See here for more details. Entries close Monday, good luck!

Ginger Beer Scones with Strawberry & Ginger Jam
Makes about 12 scones

Strawberry & Ginger Jam
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
• 350g strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped
• 285g golden caster sugar
• Juice of 1 lemon
• 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely grated

Scones
Adapted from Delicious
• 300g self raising flour
• 55g caster sugar
• ½ teaspoon ground ginger
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 125ml thick cream
• 125ml Bundaberg ginger beer (room temperature)
• 40ml milk

To make the jam, combine strawberries, sugar, lemon juice and ginger in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil and stir frequently until reduced to a jam consistency (8-10 minutes). Refrigerate until chilled. Makes about 500ml.

To make the scones, preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F). Line a baking tray with non stick baking paper. Sift the flour, sugar, ground ginger and salt into a large bowl. Add the cream and ginger beer and mix to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured workbench and knead lightly until just combined. Press the dough with your hands to a thickness of about 2cm.

Use a 6cm round cutter to cut out scones, place on a baking tray and brush the tops with milk, Bake for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned. Serve with jam.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

WIN Tickets to the Good Food and Wine Show!

win tickets to the good food and wine show

It’s that time of year again, that’s right, its time for the Good Food and Wine Show! A celebration of good food, good wine and good times. And that’s what food should be all about, isn’t it? It’s on in Sydney between Friday July 16th – Sunday July 18th at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center and features celebrity chefs galore including George and Gary from Masterchef, Matt Moran, Pete Evans, Tobie Puttock and more, as well as a huge range of activities and master classes to get involved in.

So no matter what takes your fancy, whether it’s chocolate, coffee, wine, cheese or all of the above, there’s something to suit every taste. Get your cookbooks signed by your favourite chefs, and learn some new tricks in the kitchen. There’s also 300+ exhibitors showcasing some fabulous products, and don’t forget the samples!

Spicy Icecream is pleased to be offering two double passes to the Good Food and Wine Show in Sydney on either Friday 16th, Saturday 17th or Sunday 18th July worth $57 each.

If you’d like to win this prize, leave a comment on this post and tell me which celebrity chef you’d most like to meet and why. Entries will be judged on creativity and humour.

Competition closes on Sunday 11th July. The two lucky winners will be notified by email. Please give me your mailing address by Monday 12th July so I can post the tickets out to you in plenty of time.

This competition is open to Sydney residents only. Thanks to The Reputation Group for this giveaway!

PLEASE NOTE THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED

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