Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of 2010

best of 2010

2010 has been the craziest, busiest and most creative and rewarding year I can remember. Denea and I launched GourmetRabbit magazine in March, which has been such an incredible journey, and we’re now well into production on the second issue to be released early next year. I’ve visited some of my favourite places and made some truly amazing friendships. I’m already looking forward to 2011, which I hope will be an even more incredible and adventure-filled year!

The year has flown past ridiculously quickly, but has been darn delicious! I went on a huge doughnut making bender, I perfected my recipe for BBQ Pork Ribs, and finally made chocolate and chilli “spicy ice cream”. Here’s a quick recap of my favourite posts of the year.

Coconut Pancakes with Banana and Caramel - I made these pancakes for my boyfriend’s birthday when I went to visit in March. They were delicious and totally decadent, the perfect breakfast for a special occasion.

Pomegranate Baklava - I had a little rant about blogging, and gave a baklava recipe a nice little twist. Every single time I see pomegranates at the market I think about remaking this recipe.

Chocolate & Chilli “Spicy Icecream” Sandwiches - For my 3rd blog birthday I thought I would finally make my blog’s namesake! It ended up being one of the most delicious ice creams to ever emerge from my kitchen, apart from…

Lemon Delicious with French Earl Grey Ice Cream - Oh baby, this was one of my favourite desserts of the whole year. I used the first fruits from my Meyer lemon tree, Sparky to make this amazing pudding and paired it with an ice cream I infused with T2 French Earl Grey. It was really something special.

best of 2010

BBQ Pork Ribs - 2010 was definitely the year of ribs. I think I ate more ribs this year than the rest of my life combined. I set about perfecting my recipe, and here it is.

Turkish Delight Doughnuts - This recipe came from an awesome restaurant in Melbourne called Maha, which I visited on my trip in October. I attempted to recreate them at home. They’re delicious, with a honey and rose syrup and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts.

Churros with Orange-Spiked Hot Chocolate - Another foray into doughnut making, these churros require a bit of elbow grease but are totally worth the effort. The hot chocolate spiked with orange and Cointreau is decadent and delicious, perfect for dipping.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse Cake - This is possibly one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever made, for my dear friend Denea’s birthday. Peanut butter brownie was topped with caramelised bananas and milk chocolate mousse. So much yum.

best of 2010

And of course, I had to mention my favourite restaurant meal of the year. Christine Manfield’s Universal restaurant in Darlinghurst was the winner far and away, an absolutely flawless experience that I can’t praise highly enough. Every dish got better and better, from a fresh and fragrant Sichuan Duck Salad, to a perfectly balanced Venison dish, to a borderline orgasmic Braised Wagyu Vol au Vent. Dessert was a naughty Ménage à Trois of chocolate mousse cake with passionfruit curd and fromage blanc sherbet. I would definitely love to go back in 2011!

Other notable restaurant experiences include the gorgeous Vasse Felix in Margaret River (I’m still thinking about that popcorn ice cream!), Mamasita in Melbourne for the best Mexican I’ve ever had, and my birthday dinner with some of my best friends at Etch in Sydney.

I would just like to take a moment to thank all of my readers for visiting me this year, and for all of your wonderful comments. You really do make my day! Wishing you all a very happy and healthy new year filled with good food, good luck and good times! I’m looking forward to hopping on a plane to Perth tomorrow afternoon to see the boy, then spend three days camping at Southbound festival in Busselton, so I'll see you on the other side!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Earl Canteen, Melbourne

earl canteen

sand·wich (noun) A food item, often consisting of two or more slices of bread with one or more fillings between them

The sandwich has to be the world’s most versatile and popular lunchtime food, although it’s funny to think that it’s origin is kind of sordid. The word as we use it today was born in London, when the infamous Fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu was on a gambling bender in 1762. When he got hungry, he ordered a waiter to bring him roast beef between two slices of bread so he could continue gambling and not get his fingers greasy while eating his snack!

I’ve long thought that almost anything tastes better between two slices of bread, but I’ve also had my fair share of disappointing sandwiches. Earl Canteen believes that sandwiches should never be boring or soggy. Why shouldn’t sandwiches be restaurant quality too? Situated in Melbourne’s CBD, the café itself is quite small with only a handful of tables, where you can order a glass of wine or beer to go with your lunch, but I imagine they would do a roaring take away trade.

I start with a Long Black, which I had been craving since I’d left Sydney a few hours before. The quality of Melbourne’s coffee is generally miles above Sydney’s and this was no exception, definitely satiating my caffeine craving.

wagyu meatball sandwich

The decision of what to order is quite a difficult one, with almost everything on the menu sounding mouth-watering. Whether you fancy duck with caramelised figs and walnuts on ciabatta, trout nicoise on focaccia, or slow-cooked lamb and honeyed carrots on baguette, you’re covered. The vegetarian selections sounded delicious as well, especially the roasted mushrooms, goat’s curd, pesto and chestnuts on ciabatta. Amazingly, everything is cooked to order, which was impressive as the service was still quite fast.

I decided on the Wagyu Meatball sandwich – Moondarra wagyu meatballs in sugo, zucchini pickles, and shaved parmesan on baguette ($12.50). It was delicious, although there is definitely no ladylike way to eat it! The meatballs were very flavoursome, although I had expected them to have been simmered away in the sauce, which would have made them even more tender. I think the zucchini pickles were a really great addition, providing bursts of vinegar to offset the slightly sweet sugo.

lime poached chicken sandwich

Steve chose the Lime Poached Chicken – Lime & palm sugar poached Glenloth chicken with crunchy salad, coriander, chilli and nuoc nam on a baguette ($12). It looked rather stunning, although Steve thought that the sauce overpowered everything else and there wasn’t a lot of flavour in it. He’s also not a fan of cucumber which came in the “crunchy salad” so this was a bit of a miss for him.

We finish off with a couple of macarons from the display, Earl Grey and Salted Caramel. They were on the small side, but very well made, with signature feet and the perfect texture. Both were delicious, but I especially loved the strong tea flavour.

earl canteen macarons

I really liked Earl Canteen, from the great coffee to the amazing “sandwiches for grown-ups”. It’s clear these guys care about what they do, from using the highest quality seasonal ingredients to even sourcing biodegradable packaging. I wish we had something similar near where I work in Sydney, so I could munch my way through the awesome menu! I’d definitely come back on my next visit to Melbourne, perhaps to try the homemade crumpets for breakfast or that pork belly sandwich that everyone raves about!

Earl Canteen - Ground Level, 500 Bourke St (Little Bourke St Courtyard near NAB), Melbourne

EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gingerbread Ice Cream

gingerbread icecream

I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but hasn’t this year has absolutely flown past?! I can’t believe that Christmas is only a day away, I think my brain is still stuck sometime between August and October. My favourite thing about Christmas is always food, family and friends, you can’t get better than that. I haven’t done as much Christmas baking as I would have liked to this year but I really wanted to tell you about this awesome gingerbread ice cream before the big day, just in case you’re looking for something delicious to serve for dessert.

This post is quite a long time coming, I came up with the idea last year but I wanted to wait until I had perfected the recipe before sharing it here. I took the flavours of a traditional gingerbread biscuit – golden syrup, ginger, cinnamon, vanilla and spices – and transformed them into a delicately spiced and completely delicious ice cream that would be delicious served alongside a chocolate cake or pudding. If I had more time I would have loved to crush freshly baked gingerbread biscuits into the ice cream itself for a bit of textural contrast, but it’s beautiful as it is too.

And just in case you’re still looking for something to cook on Christmas Day, here’s a list of some awesome festive recipes from the last few years on spicyicecream.
- Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies
- Christmas Pudding Ice Cream
- Fruit Mince Pies
- Gingerbread Men
- Little Figgy Christmas Cakes

Or if you’re really daring
- Gingerbread House
- Buche De Noel

merry christmas

I also want to wish all my wonderful readers a Merry Christmas filled with lots of delicious food, and a very Happy New Year! Hope that everyone enjoys some well-deserved time off and that everyone travelling comes back safely! I’m looking forward to recharging my batteries and coming back with lots of great recipes!

Gingerbread Ice Cream
Adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
Makes 1 Litre

• 1 ½ cups milk
• ½ cup sugar
• 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped (or 1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger)
• 2 peppercorns
• 1 cinnamon stick
• ½ vanilla bean
• Pinch salt
• ½ cup golden syrup
• 1 ½ cps heavy cream
• 5 large egg yolks

Warm the milk, sugar, ginger, peppercorns, cinnamon and vanilla seeds and bean in a medium saucepan until just boiling. Remove from the heat, cover, and allow to infuse for at least 1 hour. Rewarm before using.

Pour the golden syrup and cream into a large bowl. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly strain the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan. Discard the solids.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through a strainer and stir into the cream. Stir over an ice bath until cool.

Chill the mixture until cold and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cherry Pop Tarts with Vanilla Bean Glaze

cherry pop tarts with vanilla bean glaze

Pop tarts. To some of us they’re magic words, a delicious breakfast food and a definite weakness of mine. But on closer inspection of the packet, there are over 50 ingredients in these highly processed treats, many of which I can’t even pronounce. They’re packed with sugar and sodium and are generally pretty bad for you. I thought I would try making them at home with a Christmassy twist, as a little edible Christmas present for some of my favourite people.

These babies are made with real butter with no high fructose corn syrup in sight! A delicious flaky pastry encases a sweet cherry jam and vanilla filling and is then topped with a sweet glaze spiked with vanilla bean. The pastry is relatively easy to make, although assembling the tarts can be a little fiddly and time consuming but completely worthwhile. I did however find the glaze a little on the thin side and didn’t coat the tarts as well as I’d liked, so I’ve adjusted the recipe below.

If I’d had a little more time, or if cherries were more affordable right now (many of NSW’s cherry crops have been affected by the recent floods) I would have made my own jam for the filling. I’ve been thinking up other flavour combinations – imagine rhubarb and ginger pop tarts! I thought they made lovely little presents and looked very cute packaged in clear cellophane bags, tied with a red and green striped ribbon! I’m so glad the girls liked them!

cherry pop tarts with vanilla bean glaze

Cherry Pop Tarts with Vanilla Bean Glaze
Adapted from Joy The Baker
Makes 8

• 2 cups plain flour
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 225g unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
• 1 large egg
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 large egg, for brushing the dough

For the filling
• 2 cups cherry jam
• 2 tablespoons plain flour
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the glaze
• 1 cup icing sugar
• 2 tablespoons milk
• ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt. Add the cold butter and pulse until only pea sized lumps remain in your mixture. In a small bowl, beat the egg with the milk. Add the mixture all at once to the dry ingredients and pulse until moisture is introduced to all of the flour mixture. Lightly dust a clean surface with flour and knead the dough until it starts to hold together. Divide the dough in two, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

In the meantime, combine jam, flour and vanilla in a bowl and stir until combined.

Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator. On a well floured surface, roll the dough out to 3mm thick. Trim the dough into rectangles 14 x 8cm. Place the dough rectangles onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and refrigerate while you prepare the second piece of dough in the same way. Brush one set of 8 squares with a beaten egg. This will act as the glue for the top layer of dough. Spoon an even layer of jam into the center of each brushed dough square. Top with a second piece of dough and use a floured fork to crimp the sides closed. Use the tines of the fork to create vent holes in each tart.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Let the tarts rest in the fridge while the oven preheats. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top. While the tarts bake, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze and set aside. Let baked tarts rest on a cooling rack to cool completely before glazing. Best served within 2 days.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Blackberry and Almond Clafoutis


I wish I had a great story to tell with this recipe, but alas, this time I do not. The truth is that I was looking for something quick and delicious to satisfy my sweet tooth, preferably without having to leave the house to shop for ingredients! Clafoutis is a great standby for an easy and impressive dessert using ingredients you’re likely to already have in your pantry, that takes one bowl and almost no time at all to prepare.

The texture of a clafoutis is kind of like a baked custard, almost like pancake. The recipe itself was adapted from Gourmet Traveller. It came from one of my pastry chef heroes, Philippa Sibley, previously of Circa, The Prince in St Kilda. I’ve got to say, it’s the best clafoutis I’ve ever made because it didn’t taste too eggy, and I think it will be my go-to recipe in the future. Traditionally it’s made with cherries but they can be substituted for other kinds of fruit for a twist on the classic.

I had a punnet of blackberries that I’d frozen in their seasonal peak last year, and a huge bag of almond meal that I used instead of the pistachios called for in the original recipe (see above about not wanting to go shopping!) I thought the flavours worked really well, and I especially liked the added crunch of the chopped nuts. I think it would also be delicious with raspberries or apricots, but the beauty of a dessert like this is that you can add almost any fruit that’s in season. It’s a great recipe to have in your repertoire for last minute dinner parties or dessert cravings alike!


Blackberry and Almond Clafoutis
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 6

• 250ml (1 cup) thickened cream
• 2 eggs
• 3 egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 100g caster sugar
• 70g almond meal
• 10g plain flour
• 125g blackberries, fresh or frozen
• 100g almonds, coarsely chopped

In a bowl, whisk together cream, eggs, egg yolks and vanilla extract until well combined, then whisk in sugar, almond meal and flour and rest for 30 minutes to allow mixture to settle.

Preheat oven to 180C°C (350°F). Divide blackberries between 6 shallow 1-cup capacity lightly greased and sugar-dusted ovenproof dishes. Pour the batter over berries and scatter with chopped almonds. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and golden, but still creamy in the center. Stand for 5 minutes to cool slightly. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ladro, Prahran

ladro, prahran

Where can one find the best pizza in Melbourne?

Many people agree that you’ll find it at Ladro. With such high praise, of course we had to visit! I’m a huge pizza fan so I was definitely looking forward to trying it for myself. There are two Ladro restaurants in Melbourne, the original and ever-popular in Fitzroy and the recently opened Prahran outpost, which is where we decided to venture for lunch on a cold and drizzly Friday.

The restaurant itself was quiet when we arrived but that didn’t last long as the lunchtime crowds arrived. The atmosphere was bustling, however it did get quite noisy inside as the restaurant filled up. I started with a lovely Punt Road ‘Napoleone & Co’ Pear Cider from the Yarra Valley, which was lovely, crisp and refreshing. I’m a huge cider fan and this is one of my favourites of the year, more delicate than an apple cider and totally delicious.

pizza at ladro

Choosing a pizza to share was quite a difficult decision! I loved the sound of almost all the flavour combinations on the menu. We finally decided on the ‘Badabing’, with tomato, provolone, pork sausage, oregano, fresh chilli and basil. Interestingly, the pizza was brought to the table whole, and we had to slice it ourselves with the pizza cutter provided. It just felt a little bit awkward and slicing duties were quickly relegated to the boy.

The pizza was absolutely delicious, one of the best I’ve ever had. The crust was traditional, thin and perfectly cooked. The toppings were very fresh and packed with flavour, simple but not sparse. I think the pizza totally lived up to the hype!

panna cotta at ladro

We were tempted to order another, but decided to move on to dessert instead. The panna cotta was served with a flourless orange cake and Frangelico syrup. The dish was nice but not amazing. The panna cotta was very creamy, not overly sweet, and had a nice wobble. While I liked the cake a lot, it was a strange match to the panna cotta and I can’t help but feel the dish would have been nicer with a big dollop of whipped cream instead.

bomboloni at ladro

I am powerless towards anything involving doughnuts, so the Bombolini was a must try. Three Italian doughnuts were served with vanilla ice cream and a tangy blood orange syrup. I really liked the combination, but it seemed slightly odd to have two orange flavoured desserts on the same menu!

I was very impressed by the pizza at Ladro, but a little less so by the desserts. The pizzas are the selling point and they’re done superbly, however I’ve heard less positive reviews of the other mains on the menu. I thought the service was very efficient without being obtrusive, even when the restaurant got busy. Next time I’m in town, I’d love to try Supermaxi, another pizza restaurant established by one of Ladro’s original chefs Rita Macali. I liked the casual atmosphere and I think this would be a great spot to catch up with friends over a few slices of pizza and a few glasses of wine.

So tell me, where do you think you'll find the best pizza in Melbourne?

Ladro Greville – 162 Greville St, Prahran. 03 9510 2233 (phone bookings only)

Ladro Prahran on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Earl Grey Caramels

earl grey caramels

I’m struggling to process the fact that it’s December. I mean where on earth did 2010 go? It has been, without a doubt, the craziest, busiest, most fabulous and rewarding year of my life and has absolutely flown by. Now it's time to think about Christmas shopping and New Year’s plans.This year I decided to get a head start on my Christmas baking. I always have the best of intentions and lots of ideas but run out of time to actually make them during the ever-busy festive season.

Over the weekend, I tried my hand at making candy with these gorgeous caramels, based on a recipe from Alice Medrich’s fabulous book Pure Dessert. This recipe was actually an optional part of a Daring Bakers challenge a few years ago, which I didn’t make at the time, but kept on file for future reference. And what a lovely recipe it is! I decided to infuse them with French Earl Grey tea leaves for an interesting twist, which worked really well.

Wrapped in wax paper or cellophane, these caramels would make beautiful Christmas gifts and you can get really creative with flavours to infuse into the cream, perhaps vanilla bean, ginger, lavender or something more unique like chilli or lemon myrtle. Use your imagination!

Making caramel is a little bit scary for many people as it can cause some very nasty burns, but as long as you have a candy thermometer, a large saucepan, a fair bit of patience and take a few simple precautions, it’s actually quite easy. I chose to make a softer chewy caramel, however next time I would probably try heating to a just few degrees higher for a slightly firmer candy.

So tell me, what edible gift would you love to receive this Christmas?

earl grey caramels

Earl Grey Caramels
Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich
Makes 80 1-inch caramels

• 2 cups heavy cream
• 3 tablespoons loose leaf Earl Grey tea
• 1 cup golden syrup
• 2 cups sugar
• ¼ teaspoon fine seat salt, preferably fleur de sel
• 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

Add the Earl Grey tea to the cream and allow to infuse for at least 2 hours. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminium foil and grease the foil.

Combine the golden syrup, sugar and salt in a large, heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes (meanwhile rinse spatula or spoon before using it again). Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom, and cook, uncovered without stirring, until the mixture reaches 150°C (305°F).

Meanwhile, put the tea infused cream in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

When the sugar mixture reaches 150°C, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream through a strainer to separate the tea leaves. It will bubble up and steam dramatically so be careful. Turn the heat back on and adjust so the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally to about 120°C (245°F). Then cook, stirring constantly to 125°C (260°F) for soft chewy caramels or 130°C (265°F) for firmer, chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4-5 hours or overnight until firm. Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired, pressing in to the caramel. Cut caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


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