Sunday, January 30, 2011

Taste of Summer

taste of summer

Summer is a special time of year, especially in a beautiful city like Sydney. I love the long days, the sultry nights and the amazing produce. Most of my favourite fruits are in season right now and I’m spoiled for choice as to what to make with them.

taste of summer, bel mondo
Bel Mondo's Poached Fillet of Ocean Trout with Creamy Mash, Tomato & Olive Compote and Shaved Fennel

I’ve recently been involved in a great project – the design and photography of an e-cookbook called Taste of Summer filled with absolutely beautiful and seasonal recipes from three of Sydney’s favourite restaurants – MUMU Grill, Sydney’s only sustainable steakhouse in Crows Nest, Bel Mondo, in the heart of the historic Rocks district and Sails on Lavender Bay, at the edge of Sydney harbour.

taste of summer, mumu
Mumu Grill's BBQ Pork Ribs with Homemade BBQ sauce

All of the recipes are fresh and seasonal, and every one of them looks absolutely stunning. You’ll find refreshing (yet deceptively potent) drinks like the Christmas Caipirinha, classy and interesting salads such as Bel Mondo’s Alaskan Crab Salad with Marinated Feta beignet and Maple Lemon Dressing, favourites like Mumu’s BBQ Ribs and stunning desserts like the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry, Lime and Pavlova from Sails, plus lots more!

taste of summer, panna cotta with pavlova
Sails' Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberry, Lime and Pavlova

To download your FREE copy, head over here and you’ll also get to dine for free on your birthday at MUMU Grill, as well as a selection of other special offers included in the e-book.

taste of summer, mumu
Mumu Grill's Poached Fruit with Labna and Persian Fairy Floss

Thanks to all three chefs, Craig, Nathan and Andy for such beautiful and inspiring food. It was a pleasure to be involved in this project and to be able to combine my love of food with my passion for design. And to finish, a teensy bit of self promotion: I’m always available for graphic design projects big or small, so please get in touch by dropping me an email – lisa @ spicyicecream . com . au

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Watermelon, Raspberry & Gin Iceblocks

watermelon & gin iceblocks

Apologies for the lack of posts recently, I have been crazily busy working on several exciting design projects, which I’ll be sure to post about soon. Do you remember at school when summer used to be about endless holidays and completely carefree days? I’ve been a bit nostalgic for those times, when afternoons were spent swimming in the pool until your fingers were wrinkled and I got $0.50 on a hot day with which to buy an iceblock from the school tuck shop, trying to eat it as quickly as you could before it melted on your fingers.

I always picked the red one, and I guess things haven’t changed at all. These iceblocks are decidedly more grown-up, with watermelon, raspberries and gin for a delicious and refreshing frozen treat on a hot day. These were adapted from a recipe in the great feature on iceblocks in this month’s Gourmet Traveller. I made these in long skinny shot glasses but you could also use dariole moulds.

Whether you call them iceblocks, icy poles or popsicles, they are so easy to make, and you can get really creative with flavour/booze combinations, to suit everyone’s tastes. Just remember not to go too heavy on the alcohol or the iceblocks will not freeze properly. And if you’re making these for the kids, just omit the gin. They’re still totally delicious.

Watermelon, Gin & Raspberry Iceblocks
Makes about 12-15
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

• ½ cup caster sugar
• ¼ cup water
• Half – 3/4 medium seedless watermelon
• Juice of half a lime
• ¼ cup gin
• Handful of raspberries (fresh or frozen)

Combine the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

In the meantime, cut watermelon flesh into 4cm cubes. Process in a food processor and pass through a fine sieve to get 700ml juice. Stir in cooled sugar syrup, lime juice and gin.

Divide juice between shot glasses or dariole moulds and freeze for about 1 hour. After an hour, divide raspberries between iceblocks and return to the freezer for another hour, or until you can insert a paddle pop stick without it moving. Insert a stick into each ice block.

Freeze overnight or until firm. To serve, gently twist iceblocks from glasses, or run glasses under a little cool water to dislodge.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Greenhouse, Perth

greenhouse, perth

One of the most talked about restaurants in Perth at the moment has to be Greenhouse. A small, eco-friendly oasis designed by Joost Bakker, complete with a rooftop garden providing much of the produce for the kitchen and the bar. The exterior is covered in potted ivy and strawberry plants, and almost everything else, from the furniture, to the fittings, to some of the serving ware is made from recycled and reclaimed products. Check out the time lapse videos of how the restaurant was built, it’s absolutely brilliant and definitely a sight to behold on a bustling city street!

The amazing young chef, Matt Stone has a great vision to use the produce they grow to create beautiful, seasonal dishes. While this seems to be the flavour of the month in the food world (even though this is the way that people should be cooking and eating), I have yet to see anyone do it better than Greenhouse. It was a busy Friday lunch when we visited, I booked in this lunch a few months ago and the wait has felt particularly long!

greenhouse, perth

The restaurant itself is a beautiful space – simplistic, rustic, but rather stunning with bottles hanging above the bar and a gorgeous mural painted on the wall.

I ordered a cocktail to start, a blend of gin, naked barley water, rosemary and strawberries. All of the barley-based drinks I’ve had in the past have had a lovely earthy sweetness that I was expecting to find in this drink, but it was completely overpowered by the gin. A little disappointed, unfortunately this drink wasn’t really my style.

greenhouse, perth

The menu is full of great dishes, with a daily pizza, pasta and “bits and pieces” special to make the most of the great produce. I decided on the Spiced Lamb Kebab with Mohamarra served with flatbread on a little wooden board rather than a plate. It came out looking rather dangerous, I was a little scared I would impale myself on the metal skewer.

The lamb was deliciously tender, atop a delicious house made whole-wheat flatbread with a spicy capsicum dip, fresh parsley and mint. I really enjoyed this dish and I’m looking forward trying to recreate it at home!

greenhouse, perth

Steve picked the pasta special, which was fettuccine (made in house of course) with salted snapper, tomato and saffron. It was a great combination of flavours in a beautiful dish, however I thought perhaps a little under-seasoned.

We also ordered a side of potato bravas, which were served in a flowerpot with the aioli served on an old jar lid. The potatoes were deliciously crispy and were also delicious dipped into the Mohamarra that came with my flatbread!

greenhouse, perth

Of course we couldn’t leave without trying dessert! We shared the Valrhona chocolate parfait with hazelnut and vanilla bubbles. I’ve always been a bit wary of foams and such, because for me they don’t add all that much to a dessert but in this case it really worked. The parfait was rich and decadent with the various “crunchy bits” – honeycomb, hazelnuts and chocolate crumbs – to add a nice textural contrast.

I really enjoyed lunch at Greenhouse and I respect what the guys are doing. It’s very cool to see recycled objects in new ways – the door handles to the bathrooms are the tops of old gas bottles, there are car rear view mirrors in the men’s room. Seasonal produce driven cooking should be the norm, not just for restaurants but for home cooks as well. The food at Greenhouse is not fancy or pretentious; it’s accessible, honest, fresh and downright delicious.

Greenhouse – 100 St George’s Terrace, Perth (08) 9481 8333

Greenhouse on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 10, 2011

Popcorn and Caramel Icecream Sandwiches

Popcorn Caramel Icecream Sandwiches

Hello and Happy New Year!

I’ve just got back from a gorgeous (but hot!) week in Perth, so it’s now back to work, back to real life but most importantly, back to the kitchen, because the blog has been a little too quiet lately! Today we need to talk about popcorn. The world’s most popular movie snack, delicious covered in butter and salt but also amazing with caramel and a great part of this dessert.

Popcorn in a dessert isn’t a new idea, but it adds a good dose of fun and a hint of quirkiness which I just love. The idea has been stuck in my head since we had an amazing popcorn ice cream at Vasse Felix in Margaret River back in May. It just worked so well, and I’ve been wanting to make a popcorn dessert ever since. This recipe came courtesy of pastry chef Catherine Adams from Rockpool, from the September issue of Gourmet Traveller. The woman is a genius – a popcorn and caramel ice cream sandwich, it couldn’t get any better!

My version isn’t as neat and perfect as the one in the magazine, but it was absolutely delicious nonetheless and went down a treat with everyone who tried it. The caramel popcorn would make a great snack on it’s own, but with the caramel parfait it is sublime. Dark chocolate is the perfect match, and I think with this recipe, a slightly bitter one will work best.

The recipe does take a fair bit of time, but most of it is in waiting for the parfait to freeze. Don’t be impatient, as I was, because the parfait needs to be quite firmly frozen before you attempt to cut it up. The components come together relatively easily and it can be made in advance for an impressive dinner party dessert.

Popcorn and Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 6

• 150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids, finely chopped)

Candied Popcorn
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 40g popping corm
• 60g caster sugar
• 50g butter, coarsely chopped
• 30g honey

Caramel Parfait
• 400ml pouring cream
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 180g caster sugar
• 6 egg yolks

For candied popcorn, heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add oil, then corn, quickly cover with a lid and shake pan occasionally until all corn has popped (2-4 minutes). Transfer popcorn to a tray and cool to room temperature. Discard unpopped kernels. Combine sugar, butter and honey in a large saucepan over medium high heat, stir until sugar dissolves, bring to the boil and boil until caramel (3-5 minutes). Add popcorn, stir to coat and then divide between two lightly oiled 20x12cm loaf pans. Stand until cool then remove from tins.

For caramel parfait, combine 75ml cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan over low heat, stir occasionally until warm. Whisk yolks in an electric mixer on medium speed until pale and doubled in volume. Meanwhile, heat a saucepan over high heat until hot and then add sugar. It should start to melt and then colour. Swirl pan occasionally until sugar is dissolved and dark amber in colour. Do not leave unattended as caramel can colour very quickly. Gradually add warm cream (be careful as caramel may bubble up), stirring to combine.

Carefully pour hot caramel into the egg yolks and whisk to combine. Whisk until cool (6-8 minutes). Whisk remaining cream in a bowl to stiff peaks, then fold into yolk mixture in three batches. Pour into a 20x12cm load pan lined with baking paper. Place one sheet of candied popcorn on top (I had to freeze mine for about an hour before I did this). Freeze until firm (3-5 hours), then turn out and press on the remaining sheet of candied popcorn. Return to freezer and freeze until very firm (3-5 hours), then cut into six 3.5cm wide sandwiches and freeze until required.

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Dip one end of each sandwich into the chocolate, or drizzle chocolate one top. Freeze until ready to serve.

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