Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shaker Lemon Tart

shaker lemon tart

What the heck is a Shaker Lemon tart?

Apart from a recipe I’ve had on my “to bake” list for quite some time, it’s an ingenious culinary creation by the Shakers. Essentially, the raw ingredients for lemon curd are placed into a pie shell, leaving the oven to do the work! Yes, that’s right, the thrifty bunch use whole lemons in this pie, not even wanting to waste the skin.

I had two gorgeous Meyer lemons from my tree Sparky and I wanted to do something special with them. Meyer lemons have thinner skin and are slightly sweeter than regular lemons. And since I knew they were organically grown and unsprayed, I thought they would be perfect in this tart that used the whole fruit. The recipe itself differs from more traditional ones, as it’s an open tart and not a proper pie, but I was quite taken by the beautiful photo with the lovely lemon slices on top.

Putting the tart together was really easy – just slice the lemons (which is easier if the lemons have been refrigerated prior) and place them into a large bowl with the sugar and vanilla. Make sure you don’t use an aluminium bowl as it will give the filling a metallic taste. The lemons macerate in the sugar overnight, and then the next day it’s simply a matter of separating the slices from the filling, mixing in a few eggs and pouring it into a prepared tart tin and baking!

I have to say, it’s kind of an acquired taste. As a lemon lover, I enjoyed the sweet-tart nature of it. The lemon slices give the filling a marmalade-y kind of texture. If you use regular lemons (rather than the Meyer lemons I used) you might want to add an additional ¼ cup of sugar to the mixture. Happy Baking!

shaker lemon tart

Shaker Lemon Tart
Serves 6
Adapted from Delicious

Note: Start this recipe a day ahead

• 2 large lemons (I used Meyer lemons)
• 2 cups caster sugar
• 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
• 4 eggs, beaten
• Icing sugar, to dust

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
• 2 cups plain flour
• 3 tablespoons caster sugar
• 150g cold butter, chopped
• 2-3 tablespoons iced water

Cut the lemons into wafer-thin slices (a mandoline is ideal, it’s easier to cut them if they have been refrigerated prior), then carefully remove any seeds. Place the lemon slices in a glass bowl with the sugar and vanilla pod and seeds. Toss gently to coat the lemon in the sugar, then cover with plastic wrap and stand at room temperature overnight.

The next day, gently stir to dissolve as much of the sugar as possible without breaking up the lemons.

In the meantime, for the pastry, process flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. While the motor is running, add enough iced water to form a smooth dough and process until just combined. Knead the dough lightly, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface or between sheets of non-stick baking paper until 2-3mm thick and line a tart tin. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) and place a piece of non-stick baking paper over the pastry. Fill with baking weights or uncooked rice. Bake for 10 minutes, remove the weights and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile, strain the lemon mixture into a bowl, reserving the slices. Discard the vanilla pod. Beat eggs into the mixture until just combined, taking care not to overbeat. Pour into the prepared pastry case and arrange the lemon slices on top in a decorative pattern, then bake for 15 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes, reduce oven to 160°C (320°F) and cook for a further 15 minutes until filling is set and the lemon starts to caramelise. Cool slightly in the pans, then remove, dust with icing sugar and serve warm with crème fraiche.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

LL Wine and Dine, Potts Point

LL Wine and Dine, Potts Point

It’s a well-known fact that Sydney’s Kings Cross has a rather sordid history. Today it’s a buzzing and cosmopolitan drinking and dining strip, and in a laneway just off Darlinghurst Road, you’ll find LL Wine and Dine. Last month Steph and I were invited to try their new menu, which I was pretty excited about! Head Chef Jin Kung has given the menu a strong mod-Asian twist, with all of the dishes designed for sharing with friends.

As we were given a tour of the restaurant, we’re told that the place used to be an illegal gambling den, brothel and adult bookshop complete with panic doors in case they were ever raided! In a tribute to the building’s origins, one wall is plastered with vintage adult magazines that were found in a secret room of the premises during the renovations. Only in the Cross…

We start with a couple of cocktails, the Botanical Fling was a delicious combination of Hendricks Gin, St Germain Elderflower, kaffir lime and lemon and the Ginger and Lychee Martini was exactly as perfect as it sounds, with fresh ginger and lychee muddled and shaken with 42 Below vodka and lychee juice. I would be hard-pressed to pick a favourite between them - I loved the herbaceous quality of the Botanical Fling, but I’m also a total ginger fiend! Looking through the cocktail list, there were plenty of other delicious and very unique sounding options too, like the Chilli and Coconut Martini.

LL Wine and Dine, Potts Point

The first dish to come out sounded a little strange – Sashimi Nachos of kingfish and ocean trout. It was served in a pretty little tower with a spicy lime, capsicum and corn salsa, avocado sour cream and black caviar. I really liked the way the seemingly disparate flavours and textures worked together, however I think the whole dish would have benefited from a good squeeze of lime. It was the perfect little starter dish to snack on with a cocktail.

LL Wine and Dine, Potts Point

I get excited at the mere mention of dumplings, so I was happy to see the telltale steamer approaching our table. However the dish we were served was more decadent and delicious than I could have dreamed of – Steamed lobster bisque soup dumplings, served with soy and red vinegar sauce, fresh ginger and spring onions. And yes, it was every bit as good as it sounds! I would recommend a visit to LL Wine and Dine based on this dish alone. It’s that good, seriously.

LL Wine and Dine, Potts Point

The next dish was the Confit crispy skin duck breast with five spices served with homemade pancakes, cucumber, spring onions, taro chips and plum and orange sauce. I loved the duck and how nicely it worked with the delicious plum and orange sauce, but the pancakes were just slightly on the thick side for my taste. The taro chips were an interesting crunchy, textural element.

LL Wine and Dine, Potts Point

Another of my favourites of the evening that I just couldn’t fault were the Roasted lamb cutlet crusted with Massaman curry and lime leaf, served with cucumber and mint jelly. Sitting elegantly on the plate, they tasted as good as they looked with a great balance of flavours – a subtle hit of spice from the curry crust and just a touch of sweetness from the jelly. A really great dish!

LL Wine and Dine, Potts Point

I was starting to get full by this point but dinner was nowhere neat over yet! Our next dish was a taster version of the Singaporean jumbo king prawn curry with capsicum, broccoli and sugar snap. These prawns were huge, easily the biggest I’ve ever seen in my life! We're told that this dish is usually served with six prawns, to make 1kg! The curry was served with fritter dipping sticks, which helped sop up all that awesome sauce.

Really, really struggling for stomach space, the final savoury dish was the Braised beef cheek served with smoked bacon and sweet potato mash, sugar snap, carrot and garlic-soy jus. The beef was tender and perfectly cooked, and falling apart with the slightest prod from a chopstick. It’s a nice, hearty dish for a cool autumn evening and I think it will be a very popular choice from the new menu.

LL Wine and Dine, Potts Point

The dessert platter for two was very generous, providing tastes of all the desserts on the menu. The Cinnamon and honey panna cotta was served with delicious caramel ice cream and cinnamon sugar swirls. It was lovely and sweet, with just the right amount of spice. The Hot Belgian dark chocolate pudding was a little on the dry side, I was hoping for a nice molten interior, but it was nice with the accompanying hazelnut ice cream.

My favourite was the Ginger sugar coated doughnut balls, which were filled with coconut custard and served with a refreshing pineapple sorbet. The doughnut balls themselves felt like they were made with a glutinous flour as they had a sticky sort of feeling to them, quite different to a normal doughnut but still absolutely delicious.

LL Wine and Dine is looking like it will be a nice local haunt when our office moves just around the corner in the next couple of weeks! With a laidback atmosphere and a great menu, I really enjoyed the evening. I think the sharing concept of the dishes really works well. I'd definitely like to come back soon to try the Pork belly bun and Crumbed soft shell crab, as well as some of the other awesome cocktails. Also check out their Yum Cha with a twist, with live music, cocktail jugs and awesome food every Sunday from 11am-4pm.

Spicyicecream dined as a guest of LL Wine and Dine

LL Wine & Dine on Urbanspoon

LL Wine and Dine – 42 Llankelly Place, Potts Point

Monday, May 16, 2011

Espresso Zeppole with Vanilla Mascarpone

espresso zeppole with vanilla mascarpone

Sometimes when life gets tough, or when I’ve had a really bad day, I come here to my blog – my little space on the internet (or, alternately, I visit the Daily Puppy for some cuteness overload!) Here, I share some of my favourite recipes. I read your lovely comments and they make me smile, every time without fail.

That’s what I did today, when nothing went as planned. So, I just wanted to say thank you to all my lovely readers, especially those who take the time to comment. You brightened my day, and for that I give you doughnuts!

I made these little Italian doughnuts, called zeppole when I was in Perth over Easter, a fitting end to a fantastic dinner. For some people, making doughnuts can seem a little scary, what with the yeasted dough and deep-frying. But this is one of the most well-behaved (and delicious) doughs I’ve ever worked with. It comes together so easily, whether you’re mixing by hand, as I did, or in a stand mixer.

For the sugar-espresso coating, I opted to simplify the recipe by simply mixing finely ground espresso with the caster sugar, as you would make cinnamon sugar for regular doughnuts. I was a little worried it would be bitter or grainy but it worked perfectly and was actually quite a subtle coffee flavour. The mascarpone, with hints of vanilla and rum was the perfect accompaniment. I substituted the Marsala used in the original recipe for rum.

espresso zeppole with vanilla mascarpone

Espresso Zeppole with Vanilla Mascarpone
Serves 16-20
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

• 125ml (1/2 cup) pouring cream
• 60ml (1/4 cup milk)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 225g (1 ½ cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• 1 tablespoon dried yeast
• 30g caster sugar
• Vegetable oil for deep frying

Espresso Sugar
• 5 tablespoons caster sugar
• 1 tablespoons espresso

Mascarpone
• 250g mascarpone
• 2 tablespoons rum
• ¼ cup pure icing sugar, sifted
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For espresso sugar, combined caster sugar and espresso in a container and
shake to combine.

For zeppole, combine cream, milk and vanilla in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until lukewarm (30 seconds - 1minute). Meanwhile, combine flour, yeast, sugar and a pinch of fine salt in a large bowl. Add cream mixture and stir to combine. Turn onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth. Transfer to a lighly oiled bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (35-40 minutes).

Knock back dough, divide into walnut sized pieces and roll into smooth balls. Place on a lighly floured tray, cover with a tea towel and stand for 30 minutes or until risen.

Meanwhile, whisk mascarpone, rum, icing sugar and vanilla in a bowl until smooth and combined. Refrigerate until required.

Preheat oil in a deep fryer or deep-sided saucepan to 180°C (350°F). Deep fry zeppole in batches, turning occasionally until golden and cooked through (3-4 minutes) Drain with a metal sieve, toss in espresso sugar and serve hot with mascarpone.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dedes Restaurant, Abbotsford

dedes restaurant

Dedes is a lovely little restaurant in Abbotsford, situated on a scenic bend of the Parramatta river. The restaurant was very busy on the drizzly Sunday afternoon, as I caught up with blogger friends old and new. I can just imagine how lovely the view would be from Dedes on a sunny day and why it’s such a popular spot for functions and wedding receptions!

dedes restaurant

Dedes Restaurant is all about modern Australian with a focus on fresh seafood, but what we were here for today was all about sweets – an event called #dedesdesserts. At least that’s what I thought – until we were informed that we would also be sampling Dedes’ signature hot and cold seafood platters!

Ordinarily the platters would be served separately, but due to timing and our large group, they are served together and make quite a sight! On the cold side, there was marinated octopus with feta, oysters, prawns and smoked salmon. The hot side consisted of delicious baked barramundi, bbq prawns, salt & pepper calamari and crayfish tail, Western Australian scampi, angels on horseback prawns and hand cut chips.

dedes restaurant

I almost can’t believe that a few years ago I didn’t eat seafood. While I still can’t bring myself to eat oysters, the rest of the platter was delicious. The highlight for me was the scampi – absolutely delicious. But the other thing that impressed me was that the batter on the hot items wasn’t too heavy or oily.

The delightful Yaya also made us some plates of greens – snake beans and chicory prepared simply with olive oil and lemon, which she convinced us would balance out the cholesterol. Bless! The platter was matched with a beautiful 2009 Watershed unoaked Chardonnay from Margaret River.

dedes restaurant

Thank God for the mandatory food blogger dessert stomach, as I was getting full already! But pastry chef Jason Langthorne had prepared an absolute dessert feast for us. The first of our sweet treats was a strawberry crème brulee with vanilla bean shortbread. With a perfect crackly sugar crust and a flute of NV Moet & Chandon Champagne.

dedes restaurant

Next up was an absolutely delicious chocolate truffle dacquoise with almond praline and turkish delight ice cream. What a dessert! There was a great play on textures – from the nutty dacquoise to the mousse-like truffle filling, to the crunch of the praline. The ice cream was the perfect foil for this rich dessert, and there couldn’t have been a better match than the Frangelico frappe – a shot of frangelico over crushed ice.

dedes restaurant

The dessert onslaught wasn’t over yet! The next delicious treat was a flourless citrus cake with lemon semi freddo and orange caramel. The flavours were mild and sweet with a nice crunch from the spun sugar. It was matched with a piccolo latte. Denéa professed it her favourite.

dedes restaurant

My favourite of the day had to be the baked rhubarb tart with cinnamon crumble and toffee apple ice cream. I love rhubarb in almost any form, and this was no exception. The presentation was stunning, and it was perfectly matched with NV Galway Pipe Port.

dedes restaurant

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat anything else, but Yaya had prepared us some pumpkin tart with delicious homemade filo pastry! It was served with truffles and peppermint tea – the perfect end to a delicious lazy afternoon. Thanks very much to the restaurant manager Kelly and the amazing staff at Dedes. I can’t wait to come back for dinner one day soon!

Spicyicecream dined courtesy of Dedes restaurant

Dedes Restaurant - 613 Great North Road, Abbotsford

Dede's Bar & Grill Sydney Rowing Club on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spaghetti con Polpette

spaghetti con polpette

This post is sponsored by Nuffnang

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, I’m sure I’m not the only one trying to think of a great gift! Something a little bit special, not the typical fluffy slippers, chocolates or flowers. Magshop.com offers hundreds of different magazine subscriptions at affordable prices (with some great special offers too) so Mum can have her favourite magazine delivered straight to her door for a whole year. Convenient? Absolutely!

There is something to suit absolutely every interest, from cooking to craft, fashion to travel and much more. A magazine subscription is the perfect Mother’s Day gift! Subscribe now to House & Garden Magazine or to a cooking magazine and you could win a trip of a lifetime to Italy worth over $25,000!

I would love to spend hours wandering the cobblestone streets with my Mum, visiting world-famous landmarks, people-watching in tiny cafes, and gorging on the best pizza and gelato in the world, whilst trying to remember all that I learned in high school Italian classes! But even if you’re not so lucky, you could still take your Mum’s tastebuds to Italy on Mother’s Day instead! Start with this delicious dish for lunch – Spaghetti con Polpette, or spaghetti and meatballs – a hearty, comforting classic that I just can’t get enough of.

This recipe from Gourmet Traveller is a winner (and just one of the many titles available on magshop.com!) It is not difficult and comes together quite quickly, but it is absolutely delicious and sure to impress. If you’re pressed for time, the sauce can even be made in advance. With a lovely bottle of red, a decadent dessert, and a subscription to her favourite magazine, it’s the perfect way to celebrate her special day!

spaghetti con polpette

Spaghetti con Polpette
Serves 4
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller (Eugenio Maiale, A Tavola, Sydney)

• 500g dried spaghetti

Salsa al Pomodoro
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ½ onion, finely chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• ½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
• ½ cup red wine
• 1.5L tomato passata
• 200ml chicken stock
• 10 basil leaves, torn
• ¼ cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Polpette
• 2 pieces white bread, crusts removed
• 100ml milk
• 2 teaspoons olive oil
• ½ onion, finely chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 4 slices prosciutto, roughly chopped
• 1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped
• ½ cup red wine
• 450g chicken or pork mince (I used a combination of both)
• 1 ½ cups (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
• 50g finely grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve

For salsa al pomodoro, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and chilli and cook for 1-2 minutes or until just starting to colour. Add wine, passata, chicken stock and basil, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until thick (about 45 minutes). Remove from heat, add parsley and season to taste.

For polpette, combine bread and milk in a bowl and set aside until bread softens (5 minutes). Meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan over low heat, add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until tender (7-10 minutes). Add prosciutto and rosemary and cook until tender (8-10 minutes). Deglaze with wine, and cook until liquid evaporates (3-5 minutes), set aside to cool in a large bowl. Squeeze excess milk from bread (discard milk), add to onion mixture with mince, parsley and cheese. Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper and roll into walnut sized balls. Refrigerate until required.

Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Place polpette in a baking dish and pour over salsa al pomodoro, cover with foil and bake for 35-45 minutes or until polpette are cooked through. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, toss through polpette and sauce, season to taste and serve hot with grated parmesan.

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