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.