Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Skewered Lemongrass Prawns

Queensland Prawns are one of those great seafood treats - succulent and sweet, almost lobster like in texture, they seem to love Asian flavours - with winter almost upon us, here's one last summer hurrah.

Prawns

Skewered Lemongrass Prawns

16 fresh prawns, shelled but tail tip left on
1 lemongrass stalk, chopped roughly
4 coriander stalks, roots and leaves chopped roughly
1 bird's eye chilli, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 tablespoon palm sugar, grated
fresh ginger, thumb-tip sized, peeled and sliced
1 lime, juiced
skewers

Place the ingredients into a processor and process. Add some oil to help form a thick paste. Set aside while you prepare the prawns.

Remove the digestive track that runs from the tail tip. Slice two-thirds of the way in along the track path to butterfly the prawn.

Coat the prawns in the marinade, making sure you cover the opened up section. Re-shape the prawn as you skewer it into place. Due to the lime juice in the marinade I wouldn't prepare these too far in advance.

Grill on a BBQ or on the stove - 30 seconds to 1 minute should do - you just want the prawn to change colour and the sides to crisp up a little.

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This is part of VRC: Recipe on a Stick, hosted this month by Erika from Tummy Treasure.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Apricot Almond Oatmeal Cookies

Another serving from the AWW cookbook "Cakes, Biscuits & Slices" a deliciously chewy oatmeal cookie studded with apricot and almond chunks.

apricot almond oatmeal cookies© by haalo


Apricot Almond Oatmeal Cookies

90g rolled oats
150g plain flour
220g caster sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
90g finely chopped dried apricots
70g slivered almonds
125g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon boiling water


Combine oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, apricots and almonds in bowl.

Melt butter with golden syrup over low heat. Mix bicarbonate of soda with boiling water, then stir into melted butter mixture. Add this to the dry ingredients, mixing well.

Roll tablespoons of the mix into balls, place on baking paper lined trays, flatten slightly. Bake in a preheated 150ºC/300ºF oven for approximately 20 minutes. Cool slightly on the trays before moving to a wire rack.

This makes around 36 cookies.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Pesto Polenta

Weekend Herb Blogging is on the move and this weeks host is Ilva from Lucullian Delights. I thought it might be fitting to use a classical Italian herb and one of my favourites, Basil.

basil© by Haalo


Besides using it as is, I love to make Pesto as I've shown in an earlier post. But once you've made Pesto, what do you do with it?

How about some creamy Pesto Polenta?

Pesto Polenta© by Haalo


This truly has to be one of the simplest things you can do and it certainly livens up plain polenta.

Whether you use the quick mix type of polenta or the more traditional, just add Pesto, to taste, as you approach the end of the cooking time. I still like to add extra parmesan as well.

This is a great accompaniment to stews or casseroles.

Friday, May 26, 2006

SHF#19 - Ginger

Ruth from Once Upon a Feast has spiced up this month's Sugar High Friday with Ginger. There aren't that many sweet things that I would normally use ginger for, it's usually consigned to savoury dishes so this is a perfect opportunity to explore ginger's sweeter side.

With thanks to the Tatin sisters and "Spice It" I've gone for this nifty twist on traditional Tarte Tatin. Crystalised and ground ginger are used in the shortcrust based pastry - ginger a perfect partner to the caramelised pineapple topping.

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Pineapple and Ginger Tarte Tatin

165g plain flour
1½ teaspoon ground ginger
85g butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
50g glacé ginger, chopped
3 tablespoons water

100g butter
160g caster sugar
½ pineapple, peeled, cut into slices then into triangles

To make the pastry:
Place flour, ground ginger, butter and glacé ginger into processor and process until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and process again, add water with motor running, one tablespoon at a time until it forms a ball. Remove and knead briefly into a round, flatten slightly to form a disc. Wrap in baking paper and place in fridge for 20 minutes to rest.

In an ovenproof frypan, add the butter and melt, then add sugar, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Using a medium heat, cook until the sugar starts to caramelise and turns golden brown. Reduce heat and add pineapple slices and cook until pineapple is tender and the sauce is reduced, about 15 minutes

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Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Roll out the pastry until just a little larger than your fry-pan. Place the pastry over the pineapple and tuck the edges down the side of the pan. Cook in the oven for 40-45 mintues or until pastry is golden.

Turn the tart onto a serving platter when still hot.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

From my Rasoi #5

For this month's Rasoi, Meena from Hooked on Heat put out the call to join her picnic. I've made these quick and easy miniature Pasties filled with a mix of sautéed vegetables and chicken spiced with a warming Madras curry powder. These can be eaten hot, warm and cold and should be popular for people of all ages.

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Chicken and Vegetable Curry Pasties

2 chicken thighs, very diced finely
1 brown onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
2 carrots, peeled and diced finely
1 zucchini, diced finely
1 potato, peeled and shredded
1 cup peas
1 tablespoon Madras Curry Powder
finely ground salt and pepper
finely chopped coriander, to taste
Puff pastry sheets

Add a little oil to a deep-sided frypan and over heat over medium flame. When it's achieved the right temperature, add the finely diced chicken pieces and brown off until nice and crispy. You need the pan to be hot so the meat doesn't stew but colours.

Take these out and add the onions, carrots and garlic. Sauté until the onion becomes translucent then add the zucchini. When these have soften add the peas and then sprinkle over with Madras curry powder, stirring well to combine before adding the chicken. Cook this for a few minutes before adding the shredded potatoes. Add a cup of water and then let it simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables have cooked.

Depending on the level of liquid you have left, you might need to thicken it with a mix of cornflour and water.

Let this cool completely before making the pasties. Stir through with some shredded coriander, and salt & pepper to taste, when you are ready to make the pasties.

Using a 12cm cutter you can get 4 rounds from each sheet. This amount of filling will make at least 28 pasties.

Brush the edge of the puff pastry round with milk then lay a little of the filling in the centre, mounding it a little and tapering it towards the edge. Avoid the temptation to overfill as they will end up splitting.

Keeping it flat to the board, draw the edges together over the filling. Pinch the edges together before crinkling it with your fingers. Push down slightly to flatten the base a little. Brush with some more milk and a little poppy seeds (or sesame if you like).

Repeat the process until you've used up the filling.

Preheat the oven to about 180°C/340°F.

Place the pasties on a baking tray and cook for about 15 minutes - until the pastry is golden.

Cool on a wire rack.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Chocolate Lace Cookies

Quite a simple cookie whose crackle appearance comes from generous dousing in icing sugar before baking. This version is from the latest AWW cookbook "Cakes, Biscuits and Slices"

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Chocolate Lace Cookies

100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
80g butter, cubed
220g caster sugar
1 egg, beaten lightly
150g plain flour sifted with 1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons Cocoa powder, sifted
40g icing sugar, sifted

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter. When fully melted, pour this into a medium sized bowl.

Add the caster sugar, egg and sifted flour, bicarb and cocoa. Mix well to amalgamate. Cover and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes or until the mixture firms up enough to handle.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/340°F.

Roll tablespoons of mixture into balls then roll generously in icing sugar - the look of the final cookie will depend on how well it's covered in icing sugar. Place the balls on baking trays, set apart to allow for spreading. Bake for about 15 minutes. Cool slightly on the tray before moving to wire racks.

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This mix makes between 24-36 cookies.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Almost Evil

Poor old white bread - it certainly has copped a battering amongst the foodinistas. Who eats it when we have access to all sorts of other breads like focaccia, ciabatta, sour dough's, breads with all types of seeds, wholemeal, rye...but sometimes you just want something simple, something basic and nothing really is as simple as plain white bread.

white bread

White Bread

3 teaspoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon caster sugar
125ml tepid water
500g plain flour sifted with 1 teaspoon fine salt
175ml tepid water

Place the yeast and sugar in a bowl along with 125ml tepid water, whisk to combine and then let sit in a warm place until the mixture is bubbling, about 10 minutes.

Add the sifted flour and salt mixture and using the dough hook of your mixer, mix together while streaming in the 175ml of water. Depending on the flour, you may need to add more water - if so then only add a tablespoon at a time, wait until fully incorporated before adding again.

Let the mixer work the dough for about 10 minutes. I like to stop it a little short of time and knead the final couple of minutes by hand - gives me a chance to feel the dough and make any adjustments if necessary.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover and let it stand in a warm place until doubled in size - 1 to 2 hours should be enough.

Remove from the bowl and give it a really quick knead only to shape it for whatever tin you are using.

Oil the tin and place the dough inside, cover and let it stand again until it's doubled in size again - about a half to one hour.

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Preheat your oven during this rise to 180°C/340°F.

Bake for around 45 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from tin and cool on a wire rack.

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Excuse me while I go and eat those crusty end bits.

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Dried Cherry, White Chocolate & Coconut Cookies

This is one of those great recipes where once you've made the base you can add whatever flavourings to turn them into anything you desire. Usually, when I've made these type of biscuits/cookies in the past I've used caster sugar so I was quite interested in trying out this version that uses icing sugar. This seems quite a logical choice as the trick for achieving that melt-in-the-mouth characteristic is in getting the sugar to totally dissolve in the butter. Icing sugar would eliminate any of the gritty feel which is something you need to be aware of when using normal sugars. This version is from the latest AWW cookbook "Cakes, Biscuits and Slices" which I must say, has the most scrumptious looking cake on its cover.

cookies

Dried Cherry, White Chocolate & Coconut Cookies

200g softened butter
½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
160g icing sugar, sifted
1 egg
260g plain flour, sifted with ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
70g dried cherries
50g shredded coconut
70g white chocolate buds, roughly smashed if they are a large size

Preheat the oven to 170°C/340°F - if your oven is fan-forced preheat to 150°C/300°F.

Place the butter, vanilla bean paste, egg, and icing sugar in the bowl of your mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the flour & bicarb in two batches.

You have now made the basic vanilla biscuit/cookie.

Stir in the dried cherries, coconut and chocolate buds, making sure they are evenly distributed through the dough.

Roll a tablespoon of dough into a ball, place it on a baking sheet and press it down lightly. Leave some space around each to allow for spreading.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden with a crisp edge. Cool on tray before lifting onto wire racks.

Store in an airtight containers - if you can resist their charm!

This recipe made about 36 biscuits.

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Fabulous Favorites Festival

What happens when Wine Blogging Wednesday combines with Is My Blog Burning? - you get Fabulous Favorites Festival! Lenn from Lenndevours and Alberto from Il Forno join to host this event. The objective was simple - pick a favourite wine and cook a dish to match or pick your favourite dish and select a wine to match but making a decision couldn't have been harder.

After much thought I decided to stick with something local and uniquely Australian, it might be considered an odd choice, but I settled upon a fortified wine - Liqueur Muscat. The best examples (said without bias of course!) come from my home state of Victoria, from the Rutherglen and Glenrowan regions.

Why a Muscat? It's just extraordinarily hard to beat a Muscat for complexity of flavours and lusciousness. It can be enjoyed as an aperitif, with dessert and cheese and of course, while relaxing after dinner.

The wine I've picked is a Baileys of Glenrowan Founder Liqueur Muscat.

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Located 230 kilometres north-east of Melbourne and founded in 1870 you'll find Baileys of Glenrowan. The climate consists of warm days and cool nights with long dry autumns. The Muscat grapes become particularly sweet and flavoursome in these conditions.

There's only one Muscat variety used here in production and it's the Muscat a petit grains Rouge or as it's known locally Brown or Rutherglen Muscat.

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It has that characteristic mahogany brown colour in the glass. Swirling will highlight it's syrupy viscosity. On the palette you'll get caramel, fruitcake, raisin and figs amongst others - the flavours linger long after you've finished the glass.

Chocolate has a natural affinity with Muscat so I've teemed this up with the White Chocolate Tart.

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The tart is quite creamy and being white chocolate, it's not particularly sweet, so the Muscat worked quite well in balancing the dish.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

White Chocolate Tart

Lemon Tarts are very popular but you can have too much of a good thing. At one point in time it seemed whenever you were offered dessert, it would invariably be a piece of lemon tart. They do have that wonderful look with the lemon yellow custard but here's a tart that gives you that look but with the surprise of being made with white chocolate. It's quite a light and delicate dessert, something you wouldn't necessarily be saying if it was made with dark chocolate.

Tart

White Chocolate Tart

1 portion Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
300g white chocolate
2 cups cream
4 egg yolks

To ensure the least amount of shrinkage when making the pastry case I like to refrigerate it for at least an hour and if I've been organised enough, I'll line the case the night before I need to make the tart and keep it in the fridge until I'm ready to use it. For this recipe I've used a long rectangular tin - feel free to use a round or square.

Preheat oven to 160°C/320°F.

Roll out pastry to line a 12 x 34cm tin. (This is the point in which it goes into the fridge)

Lightly prick the base then line with baking paper filled with weights and cook for 10 minutes - remove paper and weights and cook for another 5 minutes or until the pastry has coloured. The pastry needs to be almost fully cooked at this stage. You may need to turn the heat down a little if it seems to be colouring too quickly.

To make the filling:
Place the chocolate and cream in a saucepan and cook gently, stirring until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks. The colour you see in the final product is due to the wonderful eggs used - free range is the way to go. Pour this into the baked pastry tart and bake at 140°C/285°F for 25 minutes or until the tart is just set.

Let it cool before placing it in the fridge to firm up - you'll notice that the tart will be a lot firmer after it's been in the fridge.

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Before serving, dust with icing sugar.

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As part of Blog Party #10, I've made bite sized versions of the tart - they are basically made in the same way, but with time adjustments due to their small size. For decoration, they have been topped with Persian Fairy Floss for a bit of fun.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Blog Party #10

It's Blog Party time again and this month Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness has opted for a Garden Party Theme.

For me, a garden party speaks of spring - fresh flavours and produce, nothing too heavy.

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On offer are:
Tuna Rice Paper Rolls
White Chocolate Tartlets topped with Persian Fairy Floss
Pimm's Cocktail

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Tuna Rice Paper Rolls

This is an alternative to those sandwiches we usually associate with Garden Parties - instead of using bread, I used Rice Paper and made these little rolls. Naturally they can really contain anything you like but I thought I'd stick with clean, fresh flavours.

Rice Paper Rolls

Tuna Rice Paper Rolls

Rice Paper
Fresh Tuna
Ground Sansho
Salt and Pepper
1 Avocado, halved and sliced finely lengthways
1 bunch of Spring Onions, cut into finger lengths, then quartered
1 bunch asparagus, cooked then sliced into finger lengths, then quartered
Fresh Rocket, washed and dried
Bunch of Fresh Coriander, leaves picked, washed and dried

Rub the tuna piece with a little olive oil, then sprinkle with Sansho.

Heat a non-stick pan and when hot add the Tuna. I like to serve my tuna quite rare so I'll only cook this for 30 seconds to 1 minute a side. You can keep a track on how the Tuna is cooking by watching the sides and observing the colour change. Flip over and continue cooking, grind over with salt and pepper, cook for another 30seconds to 1 minute. Take off the heat and set aside to cool. When cold, slice across the grain into thin slices.

With the Spring Onions, I like to briefly cook them in the same pan as I've cooked the tuna. I just want them to soften slightly and lose any astringent flavour - this should take less than a minute.

To assemble:

The key to making these rolls is to have everything prepared and lined up in front of you.

Take a sheet of rice paper at a time, dip into a bowl of tepid water. When softened, remove and place onto a board, pat it dry with a clean tea towel. Start by placing avocado slices about two thirds down the sheet. Top with slices of spring onion and asparagus, then a generous amount of coriander leaves and rocket. Finish this with a slice of Tuna. Roll the rice paper just enough to tightly cover the filling, fold in the sides, then continue rolling until you reach the end of the rice paper.

Place on a dish and continue with the process until all ingredients are used.

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To serve I like to slice them in half at an angle - this shows off the interior better. Serve them as is, with a simple dipping sauce.


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Simple Dipping Sauce:
Mix together 1 tablespoon of palm sugar with 2 tablespoons water, stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add 1 tablespoon of lime juice and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce. Stir again then add 1 crushed garlic clove and 1 small red chilli that has been de-seeded and very finely chopped. Stir once more and serve in a small bowl.

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Pimm's Cocktail

This is just one of those timeless cocktails and it's just perfect for a Garden party. It's refreshing and fun and can as easily be made for one person as it can be for a hundred.

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Pimm's Cocktail

Slice of cucumber, cut lengthways
green apple, peeled and cut into chunks
orange, cut into thick slices and then quartered
Pimms
Ginger Beer
Lemonade
crushed ice

In a tall glass, fill with a mix of crushed ice, apple and orange pieces. Add the Pimm's (about a quarter of the glass) then top with equal measures of Ginger Beer and Lemonade. Stir to combine and finish off with a spear of cucumber.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Food Destination: Melbourne

*This is an old post - some of the places listed here have changed hands and/or are no longer open - if you plan on visiting always check ahead of time to make sure the venue is still in operation*

Maki from Just Hungry had a great idea for bloggers from around the world to highlight their favourite food destination. For me, it could only be one place, my hometown of Melbourne. It's the capital city of the State of Victoria and it's home to 3 and a half million people. I've decided to use categories so lets begin with


Chocolate...
Since the mornings are getting chillier, it's a perfect excuse to indulge in a luscious Italian Hot Chocolate. One of the best places I know is also conveniently located near Camberwell Train Station - it's a small cafe called Espresso.

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If the chocolate was any thicker the spoon would be able to stand up in the cup.

Afterwards we can hop on the train and go into the city in a leisurely 15 minute trip where we can continue on this chocolate excursion.

Taking the train to Melbourne Central you'll find the first of two Max Brenner stores - it's very hard to miss the chocolate by the bald man.

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Here you'll be tempted by the hug-mugs and the suckao - Suckao's are like incense burners, but instead of incense, the bowls hold pure chocolate, jugs of warm milk are offered on the side for you to add to taste.

Although starting in Adelaide, Haigh's flagship store can be found in the glorious Block Arcade, one of Australia's most beautiful Victorian arcades (I'd say the most beautiful but I might be biased). Haigh's is currently celebrating it's 91st birthday.

Also located in an arcade, this time the Royal Arcade, you can find Koko Black which was founded in Melbourne in 2003. There's a cafe but a real treat is in watching the chocolatiers at work. All the chocolates available are made in store.

Espresso
845 Burke Road, Camberwell
Phone: 03 9882 4999

Max Brenner
QV Square - Level 2, 25-27 Red Cape Lane
Melbourne Central - Shop OE5, Menzies Alley, 300 La Trobe Street

Haigh's Chocolates
Shop 7-8, The Block Arcade
282 Collins Street, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9654 7673

Koko Black
Shop 4 Royal Arcade
335 Bourke Street
Phone: 03 9639 8911


Lunch...

Federation Square is one of the latest precincts in the city - you'll either love it or hate it. One spot I particular like is Arintji - grab a seat on the banquette with a view on the Yarra River and choose from the shared plates menu.

Now if you're got a feeling for something Jamaican, you'll need to head to Elwood and in particular to Babble on Babylon, where you should order the Jamaican Platter - you'll find jerk pork and chicken, stamp & go, callaloo fritters, festival, tomatillo chutney and voodoo chilli sauce (which has to be hottest thing ever created!). Wash it down with Jamaican Red Stripe beer, Sorrel and even Irish Moss.

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Arintji
Federation Square
Corner Swanston and Flinders Streets
Phone: 03 9663 9900

Babble on Babylon
85 Brighton Road, Elwood
Phone: 03 9532 4211


Pizza...

There's been a renaissance in pizza over the last few years and one of the leading lights is a place called Ladro. It's success is it's only drawback - it's really difficult to get a booking, but keep trying it's worth it!

Ladro
224a Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9415 7575


Markets...

Although Queen Victoria Market is our biggest tourist attraction, I prefer the more approachable Prahran Market, it's also happens to be our oldest market.

Another trend over the last few years has been the emergence of the farmer's market - on 2nd Saturday of the month you'll find one at the Collingwood Children's Farm. Every Friday you'll also find a market at Federation Square.

A market with a sentimental value is the Glendale Street Market in Richmond, where every Saturday the street is closed down and a fruit and vegetable market appears.

Queen Victoria Market
Corner Elizabeth and Victoria Streets, Melbourne

Prahran Market
163 Commercial Road, South Yarra

Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers Market
St Helier Street, Abbotsford


Books...

You'd probably be better off buying your cookbooks from Amazon but you could also peruse the shelves of Books for Cooks or The Essential Ingredient which can be found at the Prahran Market.

Books for Cooks
233-235 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 8415 1415


Other Food Stores...

September 2005 saw the opening of the first Macro outlet in Melbourne. Macro is like an organic supermarket - it's structured in the same way, with a deli, fruit & vegetables, meats, grains and general grocery items - there's even an in-store Naturopath/Homeopath and if you are feeling peckish, the Macro Cafe should satisfy those cravings.

Enoteca Sileno has been in operation since 1953 - a veritable repository of Italian delights. In the 50's and 60's Australia wasn't quite as gastronomically aware as it is these days - my mother tells the story of having to buy olive oil in the Chemist shops in tiny bottles - it was used for medicine not to dress your salad. It really wasn't until the 70's that these types of foodstuffs entered the mainstream.

Enoteca Sileno along with the delis and cafes of Lygon Street provided the true taste of Italy that was missing. It's now moved into larger premises and includes a cafe serving regional Italian dishes.

I've mentioned the book section earlier but The Essential Ingredient is really a place for those "essential ingredients", be it glassware, plates, flatware, mixers, coffee makers, or those hard to find food items. It's sells to the trade and the public so if you want one of those industrial sized stick blenders this is the place for you.

Macro Wholefoods Market
153 Bridge Road, Richmond
Phone: 03 9935 888

Enoteca Sileno
920 Lygon Street, Carlton North
Phone: 03 9389 7070

The Essential Ingredient
Prahran Market
Phone: 03 9827 9047


Food Streets...

Acland Street, St Kilda
Try if you must, but I doubt you'll resist the cake shops here. If the delights in the first window don't tempt you, then one of the other shops will! One of leading lights is Monarch - it's been operating since 1934. If you're looking for some traditional Jewish food then Scheherazade is the place for you - it's the oldest restaurant on the street, founded in 1958.

You'll also find more dining options in nearby Fitzroy Street and The Esplanade in St Kilda.

Monarch Cake Shop
103 Acland Street, St Kilda
Phone: 03 9534 2972

Scheherazade
99 Acland Street, St Kilda
Phone: 03 9534 2722

Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
If you have some type of cuisine in mind, you'll probably find it here. It's an eclectic mix of cafe, bars and restaurants interspersed by second-hand bookshops, clothes shops, retro goods, home-wares and even a plant nursery.
Feel like Ethiopian? Go to Nyala.

A great place for a cocktail is Polly - swathed in red velvet and rococo furniture, it really is one of the funkiest and coolest places to go.

While you are here, wander down Gertrude Street and take some time to also explore Smith Street, Collingwood for even more dining options. Don't forget to visit Jonathan the Butcher while you are here.

Nyala African Restaurant
131 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9419 9128

Polly Bar
401 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9417 0880

Jonathan's the Butcher
122 Smith Street, Collingwood
Phone: 03 9419 4339

Chinatown, City
Chinese presence in Melbourne dates back from the gold rush of the 1850's. Chinatown runs along Little Bourke Street from Swanston Street to Spring Street. The famous Chinese Arches mark it's length. One of it's most famous and awarded restaurants is the Flower Drum. It even came in at No.20 in the 2004 Worlds Top Restaurant list.

Flower Drum
17 Market Lane, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9662 3655

Lygon Street, Carlton
It's Little Italy - it's impact to Melbourne dining and living can't be overstated - this is where we learnt to dine on the footpaths, to enjoy real coffee and absorb that cafe culture that we're now famous for and is second nature to us. It's hard to imagine a time when this wasn't the norm. If Italy wins the world cup, expect this street to erupt!

Be sure to visit King & Godfree (wine store), Excell Meats (butchers) and an old favourite, the Lygon Food Store

King & Godfree
293 Lygon Street, Carlton
Phone: 03 9347 1619

Excell Meats
307 Lygon Street, Carlton
Phone: 03 9347 5516

Lygon Food Store
263 Lygon Street, Carlton
Phone: 03 9347 6279

Victoria Street, Abbotsford
With the new wave of immigration from Vietnam, Victoria Street moved from it's Greek heritage to be a mecca for Vietnamese food and produce.

Running parallel and well worth exploring is Bridge Road, Richmond. Besides finding Macro here, this is the place to go to find those designer bargains. And if you also develop an appetite from all the shopping there's a fine list of cafe's in which to satisfy those needs. One favourite is Gropius - it's hard to go past one of their burgers or salads, not to mention their crepes, bountiful eggs and coffee.

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Gropius
330-332 Bridge Road, Richmond
Phone: 03 9429 1072

The big night out...

One of our favourites has to be Vue de Monde, it was awarded the Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year for 2006. It's move to newer premises in the heart of the city has been a total success, probably too much since getting a booking is becoming increasingly difficult. It is though, deserving of all the praise it's received. The best way to experience the restaurant is to just let the kitchen decide - you just tell your waiter how many courses you'd like, if you have any allergies or dislikes and whether or not you'll like to be tempted by things such as caviar, foie gras and white truffle.

If you'd like to see an example of the what you can expect you can follow this link to one of our meals from last year.

Another to be highly recommended is Pearl. Chef Geoff Lindsay provides what is best described as multi-cultural cuisine. The menu changes daily and if you can't get into the restaurant, try the adjoining cafe.

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On the left is the famous coddled egg toasty with Yarra Valley Salmon caviar and seared scallops and on the right, Hopkins River Beef tartare with quail egg, beetroot shoots and toast soldiers.

It would be remiss of me not to include an Italian option and there's none better than Grossi Florentino. The Florentino has been part of Melbourne since 1900 and since 1999 has been in the hands of the Grossi Family that returned it to it's former glory. Dine upstairs surrounded by the original 1928 murals of Florence - it has to be one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Melbourne.

Vue de Monde
Normandy Chambers
430 Little Collins Street
Phone: 03 9691 3888

Pearl

631 Church Street, Richmond
Phone: 03 9421 4599
Geoff Lindsay

Grossi Florentino
80 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Phone: 03 9662 1811


Wine...

Go East to the Yarra Valley. Why bother with the bottle shops when wineries abound an hour a way from the heart of Melbourne. This is a perfect trip for a leisurely Saturday or Sunday.

If you like champagne, then visit Moet & Chandon's venture, Domain Chandon. Wonderful views across the winery and towards the Great Dividing Range can be seen from the restaurant.

If you're really lucky you might be here on the weekends that Yarra Yering is open. This has got to be my favourite place but be aware that the cellar door closes once the stock runs out and it seems to be happening quicker every year.

It's obvious that I do love all things Italian so I must recommend a visit to Bianchet. Though no longer in the founding families hands, it still produces wonderful wines including the rare Verduzzo. There's also an excellent cafe/restaurant attached to the winery.

If you want to taste something other than wine, then I have to recommend the Yarra Valley Diary. Unfortunately the cafe part has been closed but you can still visit for tasting and purchasing. The Persian Fetta is sublime.

Domain Chandon
Moorondah Highway, Coldstream
Phone: 03 9739 1110

Yarra Yering
Briarty Road, Coldstream
Phone: 03 5964 9267

Bianchet Winery
187 Victoria Road, Lilydale
Phone: 03 9739 1779

Yarra Valley Dairy
McMelkans Road, Yering
Phone: 03 9739 0023

That will probably make for a good start and I'll update this post when other places come to mind. Best advice is to Wander the streets, go to the markets and just enjoy.


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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Spice is Right #2: Sweet or Savoury

Barbara from Tigers & Strawberries has come upon a most challenging theme for the second edition of The Spice is Right. We're to take a spice that's used in our "native cuisine" and then utilise it in an opposite manner.

A classic Italian dish is Risotto Milanese and it's most well known for it's use of Saffron, so for this event, I'm going to take a classic Italian dessert, Panna Cotta and add saffron.

spanish saffron

There is something quite wonderful about Saffron - whether it is the delightful colour it imparts or it's unique taste. It seems every where I looked over the last week, there was a story on TV or articles about Saffron.

One interesting point was in how to tell you have good quality saffron. Good saffron takes time to release it's colour, it will though impart it's flavour, so you need to be aware and let taste be the guide not the colour. Apparently with Tasmanian Saffron you should let it soak for a few hours and up to 24, if you are looking for that vibrant colour.

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Saffron Panna Cotta with Saffron Syrup

500ml cream
60g caster sugar
2 Titanium Gelatine sheets (see below for notes on Gelatine)
pinch saffron threads

Saffron Syrup
pinch saffron threads
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup water

To make the Syrup:
Let the saffron threads soak in the water overnight.

Next day, strain the water into a pan and add sugar. Heat until sugar is dissolved then simmer under it's reduced slightly. Set aside to cool.

To make the Panna Cotta:
In a saucepan and under a gentle heat, place cream, sugar and saffron and bring to near boiling point.

Strain into a jug.

Soak the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water until they soften. Remove from water, squeeze dry then add to hot cream mixture, stir well to combine.

Pour into moulds and place in the fridge to set. Ideally you'll leave these overnight.

To serve:
Depending on the type of moulds used you can serve them as is, or turn them out. You'll notice that there isn't a huge colour shift but there is, most importantly the wonderful taste of saffron wrapped in the silky smoothness of the Panna Cotta.

In the photo above I've turned it from the mould and drizzled over some of the cooled Saffron Syrup.

The ones shown below, would be served in the glass, perfect as finger food, with Saffron syrup offered to taste - just a thin layer over the top will do.

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and finally this is unmoulded and topped with Persian Fairy Floss, which gives it a more middle eastern feel

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Notes on Gelatine:
The amount of gelatine required is dependant on it's grade. If you are using "titanium" gelatine than the rule is that 1 sheet will be able to set 250ml of liquid. If you use a lower level of gelatine, it might be labelled "gold" then 3 sheets will be needed to set 250ml of liquid.
A similar problem exists with using powdered gelatine as it's available by weight or in sachets. Following the guidelines, 2 teaspoons will set 250ml of liquid so for this recipe use 4 teaspoons.

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Orange & Blueberry Scrolls

There's something in the scent of baking that brings a smile to your face, and in the case of these sweets scrolls the smile becomes a grin. Spying a tray fresh from the oven cooling turns any adult into a little kid, eager to sneak a taste. These are another serving from the book "Bake It".

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Orange and Blueberry Scrolls

1 tablespoon dried yeast
75g caster sugar
125ml warm milk
125g softened butter
80ml orange juice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
375g plain flour

Filling:
200g softened butter
230g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 2 oranges (zest the oranges first then squeeze to provide the juice for the dough)
300g blueberries

Place the yeast, a pinch of the caster sugar and 50ml of the milk in bowl and let it stand until the mixture becomes foamy.

Put the rest of the milk and sugar into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the beater attachment. Beat until butter has melted then add the orange juice, eggs and yeast mixture and continue beating to combine.

Using the lowest speed, add the flour, a half cup at a time, continue mixing until the dough is soft and smooth.

Note: You may find you need to either add more milk or more flour - this just depends on the flour used. The dough will be quite soft but a little hand kneading will soon resolve this problem.

Place the dough onto a floured surface knead until no longer sticky then place in an oiled bowl and cover - let it stand until doubled in size.

To make the filling:

Whip the butter, sugar and orange zest until pale, fluffy and the sugar has dissolved - there shouldn't be any gritty feeling to the mix.

To make the scrolls:

Turn the dough out and divide into two. Roll each into a rectangle about 35x25cm. Spread half the filling over the dough and then scatter with half the blueberries. Repeat with the other portion of dough.

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If you use frozen berries, don't de-frost, just place them on the dough still frozen.

Starting with the longest side, roll the dough to form a cylinder. Then cut into even sized pieces - you'll get between 9-10 slices per roll.

Arrange the rolls in a baking paper lined tray (20x30cm) and set aside, covered, until they double in size.

When choosing a dish to bake them in, make sure there's room around the scrolls for the dough to expand. They will also expand a little more as they cook.

While they are rising, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Bake the rolls for 25-30 minutes or until they are golden. Let them sit in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

I applied a light sugar syrup glaze (2 parts sugar to water) to the scrolls as they came out of the oven - you could also just dust them with icing sugar after they have cooled.

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The scrolls separate quiet nicely and the dough has a wonderfully light texture. It's not overly sweet and the blueberries provide a nice accent. Now the only trouble is eating just one!

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