Saturday, 1 May 2010

Oh Tequila, it makes me happy....

I apologise again for my lack of consistency in posting but work is ever busier (I'm doing almost 80 hours a week now, in 5 days) so I have little time to eat out and little energy to make anything blog-worthy! Last weekend however I blame my void of blog posts on my Mexican buddy, Jose Cuervo. 

I'll try and cook and/or eat something this weekend. In the meantime; tell me - what's your favourite tipple and why?

Mine is definitely not tequila - I'd probably opt for Kahlua and Vodka on ice. Technically a Black Russian, but if you ask for one in a bar they'll invariably top it up with Coke.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil

Sorry it's been a fair while since my last post; I have been painfully busy with work.

This Saturday, I once again went to Eveleigh Markets (I'm almost doing all my shopping there every week) and picked up some fantastic mixed mushrooms (Oyster, Wood Ear and Swiss Brown) for $5/100g. I also got a 50g pack of dried Porcini (or Ceps, if you prefer), and a cute 50ml bottle of Black Truffle Oil for $9. On the way home, I also bought some delicious Parmigiano Reggiano and Carnaroli Risotto rice from The Deli in Erskineville.

I'd told my flatmates that I was cooking dinner for them on Sunday evening so after watching the Stereophonics play a live acoustic session in Hyde Park, I rushed home to make Mushroom Risotto.

First, soak the dried mushrooms in warm water, and make/reheat some vegetable or chicken stock. I had some chicken stock in the freezer so I defrosted that.

Dice some onion and garlic, and sweat slowly in a large pan. You could throw in some thyme leaves now too. When cooked through, add your rice (I always always always do far too much risotto - 100g per person of raw rice is probably loads). Now, either pour in a glass of white wine or if you prefer, just start on the stock now. If you are using wine, stir it in and evaporate all the alcohol - you want the mix to smell beautifully perfumed before you add stock. Add the stock a little at a time, stirring often to avoid sticking. The rice will absorb a lot more than you think, so just keep going until there is still a little bite to the rice.

At this point, you can stop cooking, pour out the rice onto a tray to cool and you can keep this base for several days in the fridge, or use it later if you want to get most of the work out of the way before your dinner guests arrive. Alternatively, obviously, you can just continue cooking. Add more stock until the rice is just a little firmer than you'd like, and you can use up the mushroom stock left over from soaking your porcini too.

Throw in your mushrooms. I thought about cooking them first but decided it wasn't necessary, and I was fairly happy with the results. The mushrooms will cook in about five minutes in the hot risotto, but put in a little more stock if you think it needs it. I like a wet risotto myself. Season well with parmesan, butter, salt, pepper, and herbs (I would have used fresh parsley but I didn't have any), as well as a good dash of truffle oil through it too.

When you're happy with it all, and the rice is cooked how you like it, spoon big piles of your gorgeous mushroom & truffle risotto into bowls. Sprinkle over a little shaved parmesan, drizzle with more truffle oil (or shaved truffle if you have it!!!) and enjoy.

It can be tough to make risotto a beautiful, photogenic dish, but it tastes good so who really cares. On the other hand, a little chopped parsley would go a long way to improving the aeshetics in this dish.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Tarte Aux Pommes

I saw the beautiful produce for sale from Batlow Apples at Eveleigh Markets this Saturday and I knew I had to make something with them. It's been a while since I'd made sweet pastry but I was relatively happy with how it turned out. Overall, however, the recipe does need a little tweaking - it's not quite perfect, yet!

I got my recipe for the sweet paste from the ABC website, from Stefano di Pieri's book, A Feast By The River. I do have an excellent and reliable recipe of my own which I think originates from the Roux Brothers but I've left it at work.

Sweet Paste
200g Butter
100g Caster Sugar
1 Egg
300g Plain Flour

Cream the butter and sugar together, before mixing in the egg and finally folding in the sifted flour. Try not to overwork the pastry. I did. Anyway, mix it all together well then cling-wrap it and leave to rest in the fridge for a good half hour. Then roll out to your desired thickness, and carefully put into your buttered flan tin. Rest again in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. This helps to avoid shrinkage.

Tarte aux Pommes
I pretty much made this up as I went along, hence why it's not perfect.

About 9 Apples - I used Royal Gala this time, beautifully sweet and juicy.
Golden Syrup
Calvados (Apple brandy) - If unavailable, another liqueur or brandy will do

Peel and roughly dice 5 apples, throw into a little bubbling butter with a cinnamon stick and some vanilla. Maybe use an empty vanilla pod that you'd scaped for something else. (I didn't have any cinnamon, vanilla, or brandy this time). Put a lid on the pan a stew until very soft. Stir occasionally to make sure the apples aren't sticking. If you use cooking apples, such as bramley, they may need a little extra sugar but sweet apples like the Royal Galas definitely don't. When they're well cooked, remove the lid and allow the apple mixture to dry out a little, before pouring in the brandy (a good splash). It's up to you if you want to actually puree the apples but I'm happy to have it a little bit lumpy and rustic.

Now start blind baking your pastry (at 190°C), and slice the rest of your apples thinly. You can leave the skin on if you like. You could saute the apple slices in butter if you like, I might try it next time. When your pastry is ready, egg-wash the whole thing and put it back in the oven for thirty seconds - this will help to waterproof the it, so the puree doesn't make it soggy. Remove the vanilla pod and cinnamon from your puree and pour into the base. Your puree should be about as dry as you can get it, without letting it catch in the pan and burn. Neatly arrange your sliced apple over the top of the puree and back into the oven to cook through, still at 190°.

I hadn't sauteed the apple slices beforehand so I pressed some greaseproof paper over the tart middle, so that the apple slices would cook faster in the steam from the puree - especially since I'd over-blind-baked my pastry. (It's just mistake after mistake with me!).

Just before it comes out of the oven, you need to glaze your tart. The way my mum used to do it, she'd use warmed apricot jam to get a fantastic shiny stickiness to the top of the tart, but I tried it with Golden Syrup, heated with a little butter. I think maybe it didn't need the butter and I should have gone for straight Syrup.

Anyway, end result was pretty good - my flatmates and Red all loved it.Overall I was happy with balance - lots of apple but still a good contrast in texture with the pastry. I find all to often with store-bought tarts there's a thick wedge of pastry and barely any apple.

You can see some of the juice bleeding out of the tart here, but I think that was because I sliced it hot - when it was cool, the moisture stayed in the fruit. I reckon I actually prefer it cold anyway.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Pan-Fried Snapper....

 Pan Fried Snapper fillet, served with Sweetcorn Puree, Balsamic Baby Onion, and Wild Mushrooms

This is more or less a reproduction of a dish served at my restaurant. I made this on Easter Saturday for my flatmates, who (told me) they loved it. 

I first put the dried mixed wild mushrooms in lukewarm water to soak (at work we just use trompettes), before preparing the corn puree. First, dice eshallot and garlic, and sweat very slowly in plenty of butter - you don't want any colour on them. Meanwhile, take the corn off the cob, retaining the bare cob for stock. When the eshallot and garlic is nice and soft, throw in all the corn and some more butter, with plenty of salt and pepper. Continue to sweat this all off slowly, stirring regularly to avoid it catching on the bottom of the pan. In another pot, place your corn cobs in water with some garlic cloves and a good pinch of salt to simmer, making your corn stock for the puree. 

When the corn is pretty much cooked and tasting fantastically buttery and salty, pass the corn stock through a seive or chinois and pour over the cooked corn. Simmer to reduce a little, depending on how wet you want your puree - leave it very wet for a pretty tasty corn soup! Puree, season and pass through a seive again, and it's ready to go! You should cover the puree if you're not using it immediately as a skin will develop. It's easy to reheat when you need it and it should keep for at least 4 or 5 days in the fridge.

Next, peel and half your baby onions and place them cut-side-down in hot oil to colour them nicely, before deglazing the pan (with the onions still in) with a good splash of balsamic vinegar (or you can use red wine vinegar). When the vinegar has reduced, turn off the heat and turn over the onions and let the residual heat cook them through - you still want some bite in it to provide texture, but noone likes raw onion.

I then cooked the Entree of Moules Mariniere - sweat some onion and garlic (and parsley if you have it - I didn't) into oil, then throw in your mussels and a glass-ish (per kilo) of white wine. Lid on, and steam until cooked. Easy. Into some big bowls with a fat slice of white bread, and enjoy. Make sure you save some bread to mop up the juices at the bottom of your bowl!!!!

As soon as I'd finished my mussels, I was back in the kitchen to get the snapper cooking. Hopefully, you use a decent fishmonger (or you fillet the snapper yourself) and there are no pin-bones left in - just check before you cook it. If you have a seriously good non-stick pan, then lucky you - get it hot, then a little clarified butter and put the fish skin-side down, then turn the heat down to medium so it doesn't burn. I've been taught never to season seafood until after it's cooked, because salt will draw the moisture out of the flesh before and while it's cooking. If you don't have a good non-stick pan, like me, you can use greaseproof paper underneath the skin - put clarified butter on both sides - and you still get a good result. In either case, you should put a weight on top of the fish to ensure it doesnt curl up, and you get a nice evenly crisp skin. Put greaseproof paper on top of the fish and another (cold) pan on top. 


Meanwhile, reheat your balsamic onions in clean pan, and throw in your soaked mushrooms and parsley leaves if you have them at the last minute, just to warm through. Also reheat your corn puree, it's not great when it's cold!

That's about it - plate it up when it's all ready. You want your snapper to be slightly translucent still, and then start eating at the thin end - the fat part will be nicely cooked through by the time you reach it. Remember to season you fish after you've plated it up too. Enjoy.

I was slightly disappointed with the crispiness of my skin - it's much easier at work.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Wagamama, Bridge St, CBD

I stopped into Wagamama last Sunday as I was feeling far too lazy to go far from Circular Quay. Back home, many of my (admittedly non-foodie) friends have raved about Wagamama for years, so I thought it was as good a place for lunch as any.

First impressions were about as I expected. The decor is fairly modern but it has a feeling of a fast-food chain - the tables and chairs are bolted to the floor and there are disposable placemats-cum-menus set out. There was little atmosphere although I was eating very late for lunch, or very early for dinner, so the restaurant was almost empty.

Asahi Black
After waiting a little too long for someone to notice me, I ordered an Asahi Black - never had it before and while it is a tasty beverage, I found it a little too heavy for the food.

My Entree was three Ebi Gyoza, described as deep-fried dumplings filled with finely chopped king prawns, water chestnut and spinach. served with a chilli, garlic and soy sauce. While I cannot deny that's what I received, it does sound much better in writing. The Dumpling itself was nice and crispy, but the filling was a bit of let-down; I think having the prawns less finely chopped would be much better, although it'd probably send the company's food costs up, which is probably what a chain of this size cares most about. Also, the soy sauce had been spilt onto the plate - not exactly a horrific mistake but presentaion should be important, even in a restaurant such as this.

Ebi Gyoza

Very soon after I'd finished, my Ginger Chicken Udon arrived - a steaming mound of teppan-fried udon noddles, chicken, snow peas, spanish onions, beansprouts, chilli, egg and spring onions. garnished with pickled ginger and fresh coriander. The flavour was pretty damn good, and the portion was (happily) larger than I expected, although I would have appreciated more chicken. I also think that having a more gingery flavour to it would be better, rather than simply scattering the pickled ginger on top. Not a bad dish though, but it's probably a fairly westernised meal, rather than a traditional Asian plate.

Ginger Chicken Udon

To conclude, I think that Wagamama is about what I expected. Decent, fast, Asian-style food for the masses. I won't be back - there are plenty of independent, cheaper and better Asian restaurants in Sydney that I have yet to visit. As a reader of this blog, I assume you're a foodie, and as such I'd recommend not going to Wagamama. As if you needed me to tell you that.

38 Bridge Street
Sydney 2000
+61 (0) 2 9252 8696

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Hot Cross Buns!

I normally avoid days like these. I don't mean days when I cook alot, i mean Easter, Christmas, Birthdays, Valentines etc etc. I generally can't be bothered. But I do love Hot Cross Buns, and I've never attempted to make them before.

The recipe is easy to follow and pretty straightforward - the hardest bit is getting the crosses in neat straight lines!

600g Plain Flour (+ extra for dusting)
2 x 7g Dried Yeast
55g Caster Sugar
2 Tsp Mixed Spice
Pinch Salt
270g Currants (or mixed fruit)
Zest 1 Lemon
40g Butter
300g Milk
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
Golden Syrup
150g Plain Flour (for the crosses)

Combine all the dry ingredients (except for the last 150g Plain Flour). Melt the butter into the lukewarm milk and add to the rest of the ingredients, as well as the eggs. Knead well, then prove in a warm place until doubled in size. Knock the dough back and form into 12 balls, placed about 1cm apart on a lined baking tray.

Prove again until doubled in size, then mix the 150g flour with about 4 tbsp water to make a thick paste, and pipe over the buns to make the crosses. Bake at 190° for about 20-25 minutes, then glaze with warmed Golden Syrup as you take them out of the oven.

Pretty damn good, although I reckon I managed to overcook mine, and they were probably too big. And I don't have a pastry brush so the drizzled Golden Syrup doesnt quite cut it for me.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Capital Grill, Circular Quay

I always said I'd never do a review/blog of where I work, it's... immoral..?  Nevertheless, I would like to say that I am trying my best to leave my bias out of it.

Furthmore, I unfortunately have no photos because I didn't really feel right taking photos where I work - I don't really want my colleagues to know I'm a food blogger. Not because I'm embarrassed or anything, I'm just not sure how appropriate it is to be a chef/blogger, doing reviews of competitors etc. Anyway, will add in some pics from our website.

Anyway, onto the food. I recently went to Capital Grill with a couple of friends who are currenly living in Hong Kong and visited Sydney for four days this week. I'd planned on going to Sake, a Japanese place in the Rocks but they wanted anything but Asian food.

The girls ordered cocktails, Nic had a fantastic fruity thing (created by our Bar Manager) and Rach had a pretty good looking Pisco Sour - she enjoyed it but I didn't taste it myself.

Having been seated upstairs, we were given the royal treatment. It was a quiet Tuesday evening so the head chef had time to create some specials for us: Obviously I'm a chef there so I knew the menu, which meant that he tried to mix it up as much as possible and ended up providing us with a fantastic 7 course meal. We were also offered a fantastic Pinot Noir that had been matched to our menu (not sure of anything about the wine though; it was recommended and we drank it!)

First up, we had an amuse bouche of a spicy gazpacho with basil oil, followed by our first entree of Sydney Rock Oysters (from Port Stephen I believe); served with Red Wine Vinegar Granita, diced eshallots and cracked black pepper. Awesome - much prefer these to the Irish Oysters I'm used to back home.

Next course was what is becoming our signature dish, having featured in our Telegraph and SMH reviews. Carpaccio of Hiramasa Kingfish with Pomegranate, Watermelon Vinaigrette and Salmon Roe. I'd tasted it several times before but never actually had a whole dish, and it was beautifully presented and the flavours will brilliant, only I might've liked a little more salt, even with the saltiness of the Roe.

Kingfish Carpaccio

Third course, we were sent up two seared scallops on sweetcorn puree with sauteed trompette mushrooms and parsley. This dish isn't on the menu as such, but the flavours were fantastic together, the sweetness of the scallop and puree, which give way to the deep earthiness of the trompettes.

The Fish Course, and we received a fantastically presented fillet of Blue-Eye Cod with Desiree Potato scales, sat on top of sauteed Cavalo Nero (a Tuscan Cabbage), with whole roast garlic cloves and a Bordelaise sauce (not an overpowering bordelaise though, we made it half chicken and half beef, and the Blue-Eye is a fairly meaty fish that can stand up to the flavour of the jus.) Again, everything was delicious.

Meat Course was Beef Fillet from Riverine, SA, with Soubise (a creamy onion puree-ish), Red Wine Jus, a Fondant Kipfler Potato and Roasted King Brown mushrooms. The meat was cooked to perfection, a beautiful medium rare, although the girls would have preferred it more well done. (Rest assured, for normal customers the meat is cooked to their requests, it's just for me that he sent up the meat cooked [in a chef's opinion] how it should be!)

Finally, on to dessert. I was trying to guess what Zac, the head chef, would send up to us but I'd completely forgot he'd been experimenting recently with a peach souffle... It arrived at the table, towering up over the plate, garnished with a fat chunk of beautifully creamy vanilla parfait and some scattered fresh raspberries, and I prayed the girls were too full to eat theirs!!! I love desserts - I hope to develop into a pastry chef eventually - and this souffle was magnificent. For those of you that are turning green with envy now, there is a chance that it'll go on the menu soon, and I promise you wouldn't be disappointed!

Mezzanine Dining Area

So, that's all folks. Definitely the best meal I've had in my five months in Sydney, and one of the best I've ever had. Granted, we weren't "normal" customers so we were treated to that extra bit of attention that makes all the difference, but I am still confident that when the new Good Food Guide comes out in September(?), we'll win our Chef's Hat.

I don't really intend this post to read like a review, I pretty much just wanted to make you jealous. I know I'm salivating just thinking about it.

Monday, 22 March 2010


Not the most adventurous home-cooked meal but I'm on a tight budget this week...

It's obviously pretty straightforward, but everyone's recipe differs. Mine differs every time I make it, depending on what I have in the kitchen!

Tomato Pasta Sauce
Sliced Onion
Ripe Tomatoes
Tinned Tomatoes
Tomato Paste
Capsicum (Roasted and peeled, if you can be bothered)
Mixed Herbs (Today I used Basil, Parsley and Thyme)
Salt & Pepper
Worcestershire Sauce

Sweat the onions, then add everything else and simmer... Sometimes I puree it, sometimes I leave it pretty rustic.

Sauce, pureed.

Meat, balled.
1kg Beef Mince
500g Pork Mince
Diced Onion
Chopped Chilli
Chopped Garlic
Chopped Parsley
Salt & Pepper

Sweat the onion, chilli and garlic slowly, then allow to cool before mixing into the meat and rest for half an hour. Shape into balls, about 50g/the size of a ping-pong ball. Seal the balls in hot oil, then pour over the tomato sauce and simmer gently for... a while.

Ideally, serve on top of spaghetti or linguini, garnish with finely chopped parsley and grated parmesan. Eat.

This batch wasn't bad, not fantastic. I like having capsicum in the sauce too, not really traditional (I don't think), but it adds a bit of extra depth.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Eveleigh Farmers Market (And Lunch!)

My first ever visit to Eveleigh Market and, to be honest, I love it. Granted, it's a bit smaller than I expected but I loved all the stalls there and I'm going back next week for sure.

The market was fairly busy, packed full of like-minded foodies (and Kylie Kwong), although it wasn't so busy as to be frustrating. Beautiful day to be strolling through the market too.

The variety of fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses and everything else was fantastic, and everything was very reasonably priced too.

At the market, I bought a bag of these apples, $6, as well as a selection of cheeses including a fantastic NSW Brie, a bottle of Bell River Estate Reserve Tawny Port ($25), some great awarding winning Alto Olive Oil (and the guy let me have some tasty olives too for $20 all together), a tub each of Yalla hummus and capsicum salsa (both brilliant), some lovely, fresh Oak Leaf lettuce and sorrel, and a bright orange little pumpkin, which I haven't tasted yet.

Not the Oil I bought, but still pretty good!

An hour later, back at my place, Red & I cracked open the Port, set up a brilliant lunch for ourselves and sat back in the beautiful Sydney sunshine. 

Eveleigh Market (Every Saturday, 8am - 1pm)
243 Wilson Street

Monday, 15 March 2010

Bairro Portuguese Festival / Goan Pork Curry

Since my funds are running painfully low, I couldn't really afford to try out a restaurant this weekend, and laziness stopped me from cooking at home (Is it bad that I never want to cook for just me alone?). I walked up to Petersham (a lot further than I thought!) to visit the Portuguese festival there.

The Festival was OK, lots of crowds, live music, capoeira demonstrations, and a good range of food stalls offering everything from Portuguese (obviously), to Brazilian and Goan, and even a few random stalls too - including Spanish Paella and Dutch Pancakes.

After buying a frankly rather average plastic cup full of Sangria ($5), I wandered over to the stall run by Viva Goa, a restaurant in Pyrmont, where I opted for a small serving of the Porco vin d'alho (Wine & Garlic Pork). It was delicious, maybe since I'd been craving an Indian curry, but nevertheless I did find it well seasoned and tasty and the pork was fairly tender too - I'm confident it'd be even better in the restaurant.

In all honesty I couldn't really identify much difference between Goan and other Indian curries, but I'm not exactly an expert - the "Indian" curries back home in England have little or no authenticity to them!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Bump 'N' Grind Central Cafe, King Street, Newtown

I stopped into Bump N Grind for a quiet coffee on Sunday morning, having walked past it so many times and it's almost always lively.

After being greeted by the smiling waitress, I sat outside and ordered a Soy Flat White and Toasted Banana Bread ($6.50). The service was fast and attentive, and both the waitresses were friendly and pleasant.

The coffee arrived first, and was pretty good. Nicely hot, not too bitter so I didn't need to add sugar, and good looking as well. I won't say it's the best coffee in the world, but it's not bad.

The Banana bread arrived shortly afterwards, sliced into three fat slices and garnished with a strawberry. Unfortunately the promised butter didn't arrive, but I didn't actually notice until I was almost finished because the bread was so moist anyway. It was still hot from the toaster when it arrived, just crisp on the outside. Good stuff.

All in all, I had few complaints - being sat on the pavement of King Street isn't that much of a pleasant experience, any quieter street would have been much better! The strawberry garnish wasn't very tasty; it was very sharp, not sweet and juicy. And finally, the lack of butter... it wasn't strictly necessary but do I like my butter. 


Next time I want a coffee and can't be bothered walking to Campos, I'm sure there's worse places to go than Bump N Grind.

Bump 'N' Grind
534 King Street
Newtown 2042
9516 2888

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont

After walking up Glebe Point Road, I reached my destination: The Sydney Fish Market. I'd wanted to go here after reading about it in the Lonely Planet Australia guidebook, but I was kind of disappointed really. I was expecting one huge market, dominated by commercial buyers and so on.

What I found in reality, was several different companies selling exactly the same thing, each of them much like a large (albeit very fresh) fishmongers. Which is good, I suppose, as a consumer - you can buy one salmon fillet and so on, rather than having to buy a whole salmon, but it's just not the picture I had in my mind. Nevertheless, it was an interesting way to spend half an hour or so, exploring the markets.

Atlantic Salmon

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Baja Cantina / Glebe Market, Glebe Point Road

 Glebe Market

 My weekend-ly (is that a word?) exploration of Sydney today led me to the Glebe Markets, on Glebe Point Road. I wasn't looking for anything in particular at the market, I just fancied checking it out; there is a fantastic, eclectic collection of stalls here, and I'm sure when I do have some spare cash I'll come back!

 Glebe Market

I had planned on going to a cafe or restaurant on Glebe Point Road but inside the market (held in the grounds of Glebe Public School, every Saturday from 9 till 4) I found a mexican food stall, run by Baja Cantina. Here, I got a $10 Pork Burrito, a flour tortilla jam-packed with rice, refried breans, pico de gallo, jack cheese, and a good amount of chunky pieces of juicy pork.

Not the most picturesque meal but seriously tasty!
[Accompanied by Pine-and-Lime-ade from The Citrus Factory] 

Having expected shredded or even minced pork, the delicious bitesize hunks of well-seasoned pork were a great surprise. Overall, the flavour was pretty good, and seemed fairly authentic (although I've never actually been to Mexico!). I think I'd have prefered it to be a little spicier, but there were a range of spicy sauces on offer to add yourself. The accompanying feta salad was simple but good, with fresh crispy leaves, sweet, juicy and ripe tomatoes, all dressed with a tasty yet straightforward vinaigrette. The guacamole was also good - just the right amount of acidity from the lime juice. My only real complaint is that the flour tortilla is from a packet rather than freshly made, but it tasted good all the same.

The restaurant, across the road from the market stall isn't open for lunch on Saturday, but it does open later for dinner service. Inside, the decor is very colourful, bright and bold, with typical Central American art and sculptures. There is also a sign in the window advertising their new courtyard/beer garden.

Judging by the burrito, I would go to the restaurant sometime to try a proper meal, especially with main courses all below $20.

Baja Cantina
43-45 Glebe Point Road,
Glebe, 2037,
9571 1199