Sunday, August 30, 2009

Taro and Semolina Tart

I noticed some taro at the grocers and decided to pick it up, having had it many times in dessert form and fallen in love/lust.

I thought a pudding/tart sort of thing would be nice but couldn't find any recipes. I did a bit of freestyling and took a bit from some semolina pudding recipes I saw and came up with this. It was really easy and hugely tasty.

- 2 cups of taro root, chopped into 1cmish squares
- 1 cup of caster sugar
- 3 T golden syrup
- 200ml cream
- 75g butter
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Some for of vanilla flavouring
- Roughly 1 C of semolina

Put the taro in a pot and fill with water so it's covered. Add the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the golden syrup. Cook on a medium heat until the taro is tender.

Preheat oven to 180c.

Once tender, add the cream, butter, cinnamon and vanilla. Mash the taro in the pot while it cooks. Add the semolina in gradually until the mixture becomes quite thick.

Add the mixture into a greased or lined springform tin or cake tin and drizzle the remaining 1T of golden syrup on top. Bake for around 20mins. You don't want it too browned.

Once that's done, turn the oven off and let the tart cool. Then transfer to the fridge and cook for another few hours until it's cold.

It doesn't look too appetising so I'd serve it with a coconut or vanilla bean icecream with some praline or caramel covered pistachios.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Friday, July 10

For dinner I went to Sydney 3-hat stalwart, Bilson's. It was my first visit to the restaurant and I was hugely excited, having drooled over the menu since securing our table.

It absolutely did no disappoint. Each course was brilliant, with a few masterpieces interspersed. The roasted partridge dish took my breath away. The assiette of chocolate was also a huge winner.

One of the courses was interesting. A wine was served in pitch-black, blind tasting glasses and we were instructed to try and guess. Served with this is what is essentially cheese on toast. I may be reading too much into it, but I liked the cheekiness of this dish. Some of us may claim to be gourmands, but when there's a test sitting in front of us, what do we really know? How much of our food and wine knowledge is nothing but hot air?

While the food left me completely satisfied, the whole experience was only heightened by the great atmosphere of the room, and the outstanding service we received.

It wasn't a cheap night by any stretch of the imagination, but a fantastic experience, one I hope to repeat sooner rather than later.

Bilson's on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 7

For dinner I went to Guru in Surry Hills. Previously known as Beluga (reviewed on this blog), the restaurant was closed down for a make-over and a new name. Guru is more strongly-focused on modern Indian food and has a more accessible menu than Beluga.

I'd loved Beluga on both of the visits I made there, so I was a little hesitant to see if the changes had taken anything away from it. The menu was certainly different, down from 7 courses to 4. The previous entrance was now an Indian takeaway shop.

But the things that haven't changed at Guru are the most important. The food was still exceptional and is still entirely unique. The value was outstanding (4 courses, plus 3 palate cleansers/appetisers for $48) and chef/owner Opel Khan's generosity an warmth still fills the room.

Highlight of the dinner was the deconstructed samosa.

Khan mentioned that in a week or so the restaurant will again be having a bit of a makeover. In comes some heavy-duty equipment from overseas for a new 10 course, circa $100 degustation. Out goes the a la carte menu. That's right, only a 4 course or 10 course degustation will be offered.

It should be fantastic and I'll definitely be going back in a few weeks to try the new menu.

Guru Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 5

The Food and Wine Show was in town so I thought I'd head over to the Convention Centre and see if it was any good.

There was a huge array of stalls in the hall. Everything from pasta to sponges to salmon to cat food. And there was samples to try for everything (except for maybe the cat food). Wine was definitely well represented, with dozens of wineries having tasting booths.

Some of the stalls that caught my attention were the following:
- d'Arenberg had a huge range of wines to try (from their massive range).
- Appleton Rum was a big surprise with a great stall. I have no idea that aged rum could be so smooth and tasty.
- The $50 showbag was great value, especially since they gave me an extra one free. My fridge was packed with strange items the next day (and still is, really).

While I would have preferred some more food to eat and some better wineries doing tastings, it was still a good show and one I think I'll be attending in the future.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Saturday, July 4

Around 3 months ago I purchased a bottle of Dom Ruinart 96 on sale. I'd intended to save it for some sort of "special occasion" but had recently become frustrated that there was no foreseeable "special occasion". The bottle mocked me as it sat in the cupboard. I don't know if you've ever been mocked by a bottle of champagne before, but let me tell you that it's not a nice experience.

So I thought of excuses to drink it. They still didn't come, so I put it in the fridge yesterday and set my mind on drinking it today.

To aid in the drinking of it, I got some oysters and scallops from the shops.

I pan-fried the scallops (cleaned, with the roe off) in some butter, seasoned them, took them out and dressed them with some white wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice. I added some diced tomato for freshness. It wasn't one of my more memorable dishes, but it warmed me up for the oysters and champagne.

To the oysters I added some olive oil, lemon juice, white wine vinegar and a small amount of sugar.

I cracked the champagne. It reminds me a lot of Dom Perignon, taste wise. Technically it's very different. A medium bead and mousse. Nice aromas of vanilla, peach, lemon and blueberry. Peach and vanilla dominate the palate. It's really nice and floral. Great finish. Very smooth, lingers for ages.

At yesterday's lunch the topic of Ethiopian food had come up. It's a cuisine which I totally adore. Limited in scope, but containing some of the best dishes I've ever tasted. Needless to say, it put me in the mood for some Ethiopian, which I haven't cooked for a while.

Dinner had to be my favourite Ethiopian dish, a sort of stir fry of chicken thighs, capsicum, red onion, tomatoes, chilli, garlic, ginger and berbere, the greatest spice mix known to man.


Friday, July 3

For lunch we went to Merrylands for some Lebanese food and Al-Arzah. One of the guys in my team at work had recommended it, so a bunch of us headed over.

My favourite option at any Lebanese place is always the mixed grill. A delicious mix of smokey kebabs, delicious dips, salad and soft pita bread.

While it wasn't the best Lebanese I've had, it left us all feeling pretty satisfied and groggy for the remainder of the afternoon.

For dinner I went to Medusa's Greek Taverna in the city, on the corner of Kent and Market sts. I've been there once before and thought that it was probably the best Greek food in the city. Very generous portions, good value, great taste, good service. It's still not perfect Greek food, but it is great for what it is.

The mixed mezes plate is the best way to start, giving the table a selection of all of the entrees. For mains, I had the slow-baked lamb last time (and loved it), so this time I went for the exohiko arni, lamb backstrap with cheese and spinach in filo pastry. Very pleasing.

Dessert was an adventure. We were totally stuffed, but decided that sharing the dessert plate for two (between three of us) would be manageable. What came back from the kitchen was 4-5 desserts on the one plate. The table next to us looked like a Weight Watchers graduation party and looked completely aghast, yet amazed, at our food.

It was totally delicious (particularly when washed down with the port from Cyprus) and we left totally stuffed.

Medusa Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Lamb Saag Cheesecake

I was talking to a guy at work about cheesecakes. He said it was fairly amazing that I thought to put ANZAC biscuit dough inside a cheesecake. I told him that cheesecakes can pretty much contain anything. Even a vindaloo, he said? I said yes. Make it, he said.

I couldn't find any vindaloo on the day, so I made it with lamb saag.

It was... interesting...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

ANZAC Biscuit, Wattle Seed and Macadamia Baked Cheesecake

This week at work we had an "Australiana" bake-off competition. If you couldn't guess by the name, we had to make a dish that best signified Australia. With around 250 people in my department, I saw it as a good opportunity to prove my cooking skills after talking up some of the more "extreme" items I've made (the 14 pie-pie, 16 choc cheesecake, 13 animal pizza, etc).

So I thought long and hard and came up with this.

Ingredients for the ANZAC Biscuits:
- 120g butter
- 2 tablespoons of golden syrup
- 1 tablespoon of hot water
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 cup of rolled oats
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 3/4 cup of plain flour
- 3/4 cup of sugar

- Mix the oats, flour, salt and sugar in a bowl.
- Melt the butter and golden syrup together in the microwave.
- Add the butter and syrup to the dry ingredients. Add the hot water and baking soda and it should start foaming.
- Mix ingredients together and set dough aside.

Ingredients for the cheesecake:
- 2 packs of cream cheese, softened
- 3 eggs
- 395g tin of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon of toasted, ground wattle seeds
- 1 tablespoon of chopped macadamia nuts
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

- Grease a medium sized springform tin. Press around half of the biscuit dough to the base. Bake in a 180 degree oven for around 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- In a mixing bowl, mix the cream cheese until soft and smooth. Then add in the condensed milk, wattle seeds, macadamias and vanilla extract. Mix, but don't over mix. Lumps are fine at this stage.
- Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing after each egg.
- Pour the mixture into the tin. Tear off teaspoon sized pieces of the remaining biscuit dough and drop into the mixture.
- Tap the tin on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake in an 180 degree oven for 45 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and leave for 30 minutes. Then refridgerate until cold.

I thought my team would easily win with that, but we lost to a chocolate cake in the shape of a koala that may or may not have come from packet cake mix. Although when it came time to eat the food, the cheesecake was the first thing to go out of everything.

Sometimes life isn't fair. For those times, you need to take comfort in a thick slice of cheesecake.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Asparagus, Pea, Garlic and Leek Risotto

As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm still trying to eat as little meat at home as possible.

I noticed in my cupboard this morning that I had some risotto that's been there for a few weeks, so I decided to make a fairly simple vegetable risotto with some seasonal ingredients.

The temperature has dropped a little in the past week, so I wanted to make something comforting and a little rich.

- 1 leek, cup thinly
- 6 asparagus stalks, chopped with the wooden ends removed
- 1-2 cups of fresh peas (frozen will work if you can't get fresh)
- 6 cloves of garlic, blanched
- 2 cups of risotto rice
- 2 litres of vegetable stock
- A small amount of finely chopped herbs (I used thyme)
- A good amount of salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne
- 100g of butter
- 2 tablespoons of mascarpone
- 1 cup of grated Parmesan or reggiano cheese

- In a large pot, start by cooking the leek and garlic in the butter until it softens and starts to get a bit of colour.
- Add the rice, peas and asparagus. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne and herbs and stir so everything is coated.
- Have another pot off to the side with your stock simmering away. Add a few ladles at a time and stir until the rice tastes close to done. Don't rush this step. Make sure the sauce is still very runny. You don't want it thick.
- Check the seasoning, you may need to add more.
- Add the grated cheese and mascarpone and stir. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes and it's done.

Serve with more grated cheese on top and maybe a dollop of mascarpone if you're feeling like going all out.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Future of Food & Ethiopian Lentil Stew

I've just started reading Warren Belasco's book, 'Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food'. In it, he looks at articles from the past that have attempted to "predict" what people will eat in the future.

One of the most striking parts of the book is constant references made to the "inefficiencies" of meat, particularly beef. The key to it being just how much in grain/feed protein is need to produce that kilogram of meat that we consume. The shame about it all is that we don't get told these things.

People choose between beef and chicken on a whim sometimes, not really having a preference. It would be nice if we were educated about things like this and we knew that there is a huge difference between choosing beef, chicken or vegetables.

Needless to say, it put me in the mood for vegetarian food. But not just any vegetarian food. If I was going to cure world hunger with one dish then it would have to be filling.

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- 2 tins of diced tomatoes
- 2 litres of vegetable stock
- 2 cups of red lentils
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed and diced
- Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons of berbere (an Ethiopian spice mix, essential)
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 medium onions, sliced

- Saute the garlic, ginger, onion and berbere in a large pot.
- Add everything else to the pot and simmer on a low heat until the lentils and carrots are soft.

Serve over cous cous. Makes enough to feed the third world.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spice Temple & Chinese Chicken and Beer Stew

I must admit, when I first heard that Neil Perry was planning to open a Chinese restaurant I really did fear the worst. I pictured everything from cheesy decor, exorbitant prices, tiny portions, lack of authenticity and a dull, "Westernised" menu. I was planning to avoid it.

But I caved in to the good reviews that came out and I went along. Before we were halfway through the banquet we had ordered, all of my fears had been proven wrong.

Spice Temple is, quite simply, a lovely experience.

One of the highlights of the 10 or so dishes in the banquet (and certainly the most theatrical) was the "Three shot chicken". The waitress brings a small gas stove to the table and sets a clay pot of chicken stew on top. Three shotglasses containing beer, chilli oil and soy are poured into the pot, depending on your tolerance for chilli. The dish is finished on the stove and spooned over rice. A brilliant taste that had me wanting more.

More information on Spice Temple can be found on the website located here.

Spice Temple on Urbanspoon

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So today I decided to give it a shot. I didn't have much of a clue about what Perry used in that Three shot chicken and couldn't find a similar recipe on the net, so I had to experiment (and hope) a bit.

- 2kg of chicken thigh fillets
- 6 cloves of garlic
- Around 8 spring onions
- 1.5 cups of soy sauce
- 1 cup of water
- 100ml chilli oil
- 2 cups of beer (I used Coopers Sparkling Ale, but any ale or draught should work fine)
- 1 thumb of ginger
- 2 carrots
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of cornflour

- Blanch the garlic twice in boiling water to remove the "rawness". This is done by adding the peeled cloves to a pot of boiling water for around 30 seconds, then removing the cloves, replacing the water, repeating the blanching, then removing the cloves and cooling with cold water.
- Trim the chicken thigh fillets of any unwanted parts and cut into pieces. Marinate in around 1/2 a cup of soy, a splash of beer, the garlic and 1 tablespoon of the cornflour.
- Peel and thinly slice the carrots and ginger. Finely slice the spring onions but leave the stalks fairly long, just trim off any bad stalks.
- Add some peanut and olive oil to a large pot and add the spring onions (NOT the stalks) and carrots. Cook briefly to soften. Add the chicken and stir so it seals.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients, except for the spring onion stems. Cook on a low simmer until the chicken and carrot are soft. Just before it's ready, add the spring onions.

I found out a short time ago that Perry's Three shot chicken actually used bean paste as the basis for the stew. But I was still pretty happy with how my version turned out.

Apologies for the poor quality photo. The photos I took before ravaging the bowl didn't turn out properly.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The 14-Pie Pie

A pie that has a filling of 14 pies of different flavours? Sure, why not?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

RESTAURANT: Restaurant Assiette

Type: Modern Australian, French, European
Location: 48 Albion St, Surry Hills
Booking Required: Usually

It doesn't get mentioned much, but I get the feeling that Assiette is a favourite amongst those that have been there. And judging by the small number of tables and (from what I'm told) difficulty in getting a booking on the busier nights, those that enjoy the place aren't too keen to give the secret away.

But I never was any good at keeping secrets.

At $150 for the 10 course degustation with matching wines ($90 without), it's pretty good value for Sydney town. Even cheaper if you go at lunch I've heard. Highlight dishes were the duck with waltnuts and beetroot; salmon confit with beetroot sorbet; and the crispy skinned fish with an onion bahji. The food was steadily good throughout, not a lot of amazing moments but not too many faulters. Some great flavour combos being used.

Matching wine choices were a little out of left field and kept it interesting during the meal. Although there must have been a fair amount of it, because my dining companion and I entered into a fairly heated argument about whether or not a left-hander should expect the table to be set for a left-hander when the table is re-set during a degustation. One of us said "never, that is stupid", the other said "no you are stupid, the point is it should only happen when you are paying over $200 for a meal".

It was an argument that spilled over many days.

Service was great from one, patchy from the other. They need to make sure both of the waiters are on the same page. While one would explain the dish and the wine at length, the other just put it down on the table and rattled off a few ingredients.

For the price, I thought it was very good. If the menu changed significantly I'd go back in an instant. After all, the left-handed table setting issue is still yet to be resolved (please comment if you have an opinion on it).

RATING: Will return to.

Assiette on Urbanspoon