Wednesday, August 31, 2011

RECIPE: Murgh Methi (Chicken and Fenugreek Leaf Curry)

I was watching TV a couple of week's back and a cooking show was on. It was your typical cooking/travel show where the chef/cook goes somewhere exotic and cooks up food that poor people eat. This was certainly no different.

The Rajashtani people on the talking rectangle certainly looked poor. So the food must be good, right?

Sure thing. Two things stood out at me: yoghurt and fenugreek leaves.

I am well versed with yoghurt as an ingredient--going as far as using it on my speciality/daily dish of muesli with yoghurt--but I'd only ever used fenugreek in seed form. I enjoyed it in seed form, so what of the leaves? Huh, what of them? Are you silent because you are checking what of the fenugreek leaves?

But I digress (get back to me on that). Shockingly, Bondi Junction--normally the hub of culturally different food--was oddly devoid of fenugreek leaves when I was looking for them, so I got my trusty Indian spice/leaf supplier from work to hook me up with some. I then chucked said leaves with aforementioned yoghurt and made some stuff. There's slightly more to it than that.

Serves 6 with rice, mild-to-medium spice.

The Masala
- 1 T salt
- 1 large cinnamon quill
- 12 cardamom pods (the green variety, 3 of the black ones)
- 2 star anise
- 2 T cumin seeds
- 6 dried chillis
- 2 t fenugreek seeds
- 2 t black peppercorns
- 2 T chilli powder
- 4 cloves

Put that on an oven tray and into a moderate oven until you can smell the spices (5-10 mins if the oven is preheated).

Once cool, blend to a fine powder.

- 1 C fenugreek leaves

Blend them up into a powder.

- 1 bulb of garlic

Wrap it in foil and put it in a moderate oven for around 45 mins until it feels soft. Let it cool.

Once cool, cut the base off and squeeze out the delicious, gooey, roasted garlic.

The Other Stuff
- 1 handful of ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 onions, sliced.
- 3 T ghee
- 1 K chicken thigh fillets (or 1.5 K bone in)
- 1 K natural yoghurt (greek)
- 1 C peas (fresh are best but frozen are fine)
- 1 T sugar (caster or brown)

The cooking
1. Add the ghee, ginger, garlic, onions, masala. Cook over a medium heat until onions are translucent.
2. Add the chicken. Cook until white.
3. Add the yoghurt. Stir. Add the fenugreek leaves. Add the sugar.
4. Keep it over a low heat, stirring every now and then, until the chicken falls apart (around an hour). Add the peas after half an hour or so if fresh. If frozen, add 15 mins before you finish cooking. You can't really over cook this so don't worry about that.

Serve over rice with naan, obviously. With poor people around you, optionally.

I brought some in for my beloved spice merchant at work to get the word from an official Indian on my (fairly non-traditional) curry. He was a fan. Apparently, so were his housemates.

I think this may only be the beginning of this recipe. Further refinement could produce something incredible. At the moment it is merely "very good".

And there is so much more that can be done with fenugreek leaves (methi) that I'm yet to discover. Can't wait.

Friday, August 26, 2011

RESTAURANT: Tianyuan Asian Fast Food

I have to admit, I had my doubts when Hong Fu, the hugely popular Chinese restaurant in Parramatta, moved up the road, away from the crowded Church st and into the outskirts of the corporate area near Colonial Tower.

But the corporates must have an almighty appetite for Asian food, because not only has Hong Fu continued to thrive (despite it not being as good as many people say, in my opinion), but a new takeaway and dine-in Chinese restaurant has opened only two doors down to plug the apparent gap and is already getting a steady following.

The dreaded and non-committal "Asian" in it's name belies the quality and authenticity that Tianyuan Asian Fast Food has sitting alongside the western favourites like honey chicken and sweet and sour pork. While the entrees like the shallot pancake and dumplings appear to come from the freezer and aren't anything special, the mapo tofu ($10.80 or $7.80 with rice) is extremely solid. So too are the dry-fried beans with pork ($12.80). Both dishes are available as part of the bain-marie lunch special, which is top value at $7.50 for 2 choices with rice or $8.80 for 3.

It's the dine-in food, though, that is the best bet. The versions of the above dishes benefit heavily from being freshly made, and you open up some of the better dishes. The beef stir-fried in cumin sauce ($12.80) is delicious with a brilliant clarity of flavour. The kungpao chicken ($12.80) is also well worth your ordering. The dry-fry shredded beef in spicy sauce ($18.80) isn't bad either.

Service is fairly typical for a cheap Chinese restaurant, though with their mix of bain-marie specials, take-away and dine-in available, it can get a bit busy.

I'm interested to see how this place evolves. For the first week or two it was mostly people popping in for the lunch special to see if the food was any good. A few weeks later and nearly all of the tables are taken for Friday lunch, almost to the surprise of the staff. And I was a little surprised too. What was sterile and boring when empty is exciting, loud and vibrant when full. Catering to both the westernised tastes and those of people looking for more authentic flavours is smart, and I can't wait to go back and find more dishes that I personally enjoy.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Tianyuan Asian Fast Food on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 22, 2011

RECIPE: Chocolate and Pistachio Brownies

I like the moister, fudgier style of brownie. So I made it as such.

- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 100g of dark cooking chocolate
- A small drizzle of vanilla paste (optional)
- 1 t coffee
- 1 T cocoa powder
- 1 C caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 C peeled, roughly chopped pistachios
- 1 C plain flour
- 1 pinch sea salt flakes

1. Preheat oven to 160c.
2. Over a double-boiler, melt down the chocolate and butter.
3. Once melted, add the vanilla, coffee, cocoa powder and sugar. Stir and remove from the heat.
4. Once the mixture has cooled slightly, add the eggs, one by one and mix thoroughly.
5. Add the pistachios and flour and mix.
6. Add the salt and mix.
7. Put the mixture in a greased, medium sized tin (I used an 8"x8") and put into the oven. Cook for 30 mins.
8. Turn the oven off and leave until cool enough to handle.
9. Remove from the oven and eat whenevs.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

RESTAURANT: Taste of Shanghai (World Square)

Usually when I walk through World Square and pass Taste of Shanghai it’s after I’ve had dinner elsewhere. I’ve wanted to go there for a while, since the crowd that’s constantly hanging around outside at around 8 must count for something.

Finally, I went there.

I shouldn’t have waited so long to come, because the food is awesome. The pan-fried pork dumplings had a crispy base and a great, soupy filling. The cumin lamb stirfry was one of the best I’ve had and the shredded pork in yu xiang sauce with golden buns is delicious. Yes it’s probably 25% more expensive than normal Chinese places serving Shanghainese food, but the quality is there. Service is pretty friendly and quick, and it’s a pretty comfortable place.

A second was just as--if not more--enjoyable. The fried pork buns were delicious and still filled with heaps of soup (to my shirt's detriment) and give the dumplings a run for their money. While mapo tofu isn't up with some other Szechuan restaurants around the city, it's still very respectable. And cod fried in shallots was well cooked and delicious, being a popular dish in the restaurant for good reason.

My one gripe is with all of the additional charges. For example, it will have pork dumplings listed as $9, but you have to add $2 for getting them fried. Or the milk tea with pearls in the drinks section is listed as $4 + 50c (50c for the pearls). It’s good if you want to order a dish without the extra charge item (ie unfried dumplings) but if you just want what’s on the menu without then it feels like they’re just adding an extra cost to screw you. That’s not the case, but that’s how human psychology works. Give me a flat fee and let's keep the transaction at that.

RATING: Will return to [?]

Taste of Shanghai on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 18, 2011

RECIPE: Fresh Pappardelle with Broadbeans in a Chorizo, Porcini and Burnt Butter Sauce

This dish has a very similar (nearly identical) core to yesterday’s dish, but comes across totally different.

Start by making some pasta dough (no, dried pasta will not work in this dish—fresh egg pasta is essential) with 1 heaped cup of 00 flour. Pretty simple. Just make a well in the centre of the flour and add around 4 egg yolks. Slowly incorporate the flour into the egg until you have a pasta dough. If the dough is wet then add some more flour. I always guess at the quantity needed because I’m a lazy idiot and find that it’s easiest to make it wetter and dry it with flour than make it dry and try to add more egg to a brick of dough.

After covering it in cling film and resting it in the fridge for 30 mins or so, roll it out over a lightly floured surface then cut into sections for the pasta machine. Start on the widest setting then roll the dough through each setting once until you’re done on the finest setting. If you don’t have a pasta machine, roll it as thin as you can get it with a rolling pin or a bottle covered in glad wrap. Once done, gently and loosely roll the dough up and slice it around 1cm thick so you have pappardelle.

You’ll need to work smart when you’re cooking the dish.

Take one pot—slightly bigger than you think you’ll need for the pasta--and get it onto a rolling boil.

Get your ingredients together. 50g of butter, 5 torn sage leaves, a little bit of thyme, the beans from 5 broadbeans and 3 tablespoons of chorizo and porcini jus.

In a pan on a medium-high heat, add the butter, sage and thyme. Heavily salt the boiling pot of water and add the pasta. Add the broadbeans and some cracked black pepper.

Once the butter is looking slightly brown the pasta should be cooked. But check the pasta as you go. It won’t take long to cook. Once the pasta is done, add it to the pan using tongs. A bit of the pasta water will help the sauce stick to the pasta. Immediately add the chorizo and porcini jus and toss.

Put all into a bowl and grate a whole heap of parmesan of the top.

It should make 2 serves.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

RECIPE: Pan-Fried Latchet with Broad Beans, Jamon, Sage and Chorizo and Porcini Jus

This works fine with any white fish that is a bit stronger in flavour. Flathead would be an excellent substitute.

Dust the fish fillet with flour mixed with a little salt and pepper.

Put a pan on a medium-high heat and add a good knob of butter. Once it starts melting, add the fish, skin side down.

Add 3 torn sage leaves and 1 torn slice of jamon Serrano (prosciutto would be fine as a substitute).

Once the fish is looking golden brown and crispy, turn it over and add the beans from 3 broadbeans (I like to break then in half before adding). It should only need 1-2 mins on this side, depending on the thickness of the fillet.

Once the fish is done, put it on a plate with the jamon and broadbeans. In the pan, add roughly 3 tablespoons of chorizo and porcini jus (unreduced. Add only 2 teaspoons if jus is reduced), stir and ladle a couple of spoonfuls of this sauce on and around the fish.

Finish the dish with a small squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some thyme leaves.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

RECIPE: Chorizo and Porcini Jus

Chop up 3 chorizo and put them in a medium pot with half a handful of dried porcini and 1 sheet of dried nori (torn up). If you have a brulee torch, give some of the chorizo a bit of colour. If not, put the pot over a hot stove and stir for 30 seconds.

Add enough water to just cover the contents and put in a low oven (around 100c) for 3 or so hours.

Strain into a smaller pot. You can either further reduce the contents (by around ¾) for an intense sauce, or keep as is, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and blend and add to other sauces/dishes for a rich (but less intense) boost at the end.

If you let it cool or use it later, make sure you include some of the fat that congeals. The majority of flavour is in that fat.

You can still keep the chorizo that were strained off and cook with them too. They won’t be as strong or oily, but can still be used in heaps of different ways.

Over the next 2 days I'll show you 2 things you can cook with the jus.

Monday, August 15, 2011

BEER: Beers of the Week

Been a few months since I did this, so let's get into it without any delay.

3rd Place - Theakston "Old Peculier"

I haven’t seen this one around before, which is odd considering it’s over 100 years old.

No mistaking that it’s an English old ale. Rich, roasty malt flavours with a background of spice and fruit. It holds a good middle ground of flavour for an old ale, not being overpowering in any particular characteristic and, as a result, drinks really well.


2nd Place - Sierra Nevada 011 Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale

A fresh hop ale made each autumn when hops are at their ripest, once for the northern hemisphere and once for the southern hemisphere. This is the latter, brewing up a shipment of hops from New Zealand sent to California craft beer meganaut, Sierra Nevada.

Not surprisingly, it’s packed with floral, oily hops with a good structure of fruit and bitterness. It drinks super well and has an excellent depth of flavour.


1st Place - Eric Bordelet Poire Granit

This week’s beer of the week isn’t actually a beer. Eric Bordelet is one of the finest producers of cider in the world and they don’t come any better than his incredible pear cider. Unlike nearly every other pear cider on the market, this actually tastes like pears. Pears with the skin on and smelling of the tree. Sweet, crisp, earthy and well-rounded; a cider of supreme flavour and balance.

It’s not cheap (around $40-50 for a 750ml bottle), but trust me when I say that it’s worth it. It’s a classy as hell drop with outstanding balance. It’s great on it’s own or with food. It shines with the obvious pairings like apple-based desserts and cheese, but is also great with pork, some fish dishes, salty or fried food and appetisers. Not that it’s much of a secret; I’ve had it paired with dishes in some excellent restaurants like Melbourne’s Attica (where I first had it) and Cumulus, and Barcelona’s Comcerc24.

He also makes a pretty mean calvados that is worth checking out.


Sunday, August 14, 2011


Something happened last time I went to Bilson's. I don't think there's any other way to describe it.

I went there once and it was a superb meal; instantly one of my favourites. Then they got a new head chef and announced that they were going to serve a 15 course meal that would take around 4 hours and would cost $280--just for food.

So far so good, I suppose.

I went there expecting something similar to the first experience, but a little different and much longer. I knew there was a new head chef and saw that as a plus. And even though the new chef was only a month or so in, people were already saying that he was doing a great job.

But, man, was that shit underwhelming. Broths were added to dishes and made them a headache to eat, elements on the plate destroyed other elements, modern techniques felt added-on rather than vital to the dish, service was a little unpolished and the wine pairings didn't always match the food. One of my favourite restaurants in Sydney had become something confusing and better-off avoided.

While I kept wondering what happened, excellent reviews kept on pouring in, climaxing with the apparent return to 3 hats from the Good Food Guide. Basically, I started to doubt myself.

There was only one solution: a ~$450 roll of the die.

It started the same way it did last time, with the fish chips: dry, crisp chips made from fish and potato, served with a tartare that is fairly inconsequential, with the chips being tasty and salty enough on their own without a punch of vinegar to go with it. This time, however, the chips seem thinner and crispier; less like the legs of soft shell crabs like last time.

An amuse bouche arrives and it catches me off guard. I'm probably getting this wrong, but I think it was a sweet potato mousse with ginger, miso, croutons, black sesame cake and a couple of other things. It was fucking brilliant. Flavourwise it was perfect. But, more relevantly, the dish worked in the bowl. It was texturally brilliant. Every element played it's role to perfection. This was nothing like last time. And it was only the amuse bouche. So much better than the coconut and garlic amuse served last time. A good sign.

The next three dishes that follow were fairly similar to dishes served last time.

The starter of oyster, king crab, apple cous cous and yogurt works a lot better on the second take. The compressed apple, celery and (I think) finger lime were balanced perfectly, whereas last time they ruined the texture of the dish by being in large chunks. There's a buzz of chilli which is almost profound. The flavour and heat of red chilli is, strangely, well matched to the mineral flavours of the oyster. A staggering amount of work has gone into making the many elements work together and it really pays off.

The dish that pissed me off the most last time is back and it's barely changed. The raw and barely cooked prawn parts are great. And the fried (I think) quinoa adds a nice texture. But I find that the consomme that gets added at the table to be really confusing and just ruin the way the dish eats. It makes the quinoa soggy--but not soggy enough to make it texturally interesting--and on a relatively flat plate with a relatively flat spoon, it eats poorly. It's not a bad dish, but it's not a great dish.

The slight reworking of the carrot, calamari, shaved macadamia and cocoa is, however, a great dish. Somewhat forgettable and confusing last time, it's reworked the balance of the elements and become outstanding. Everything on it makes sense and the combination of the shaved macadamia with the sweetness of the carrot and calamari is bang on. The matching wine is a cracker--an aromatic, almondy pigato--and takes the dish to the next level, giving the dish a buttery but clean finish.

Enter The Marron. I don't recall the next dish--marron with a rectangle of butternut pumpkin, milk foam and mandarin puree--from last time. If it had have been served I'm certain I would have, because it's awesome. Great textures, super marron, a foam that makes sense and that mandarin puree in combination with the flax seeds atop the marron holds all of the flavours together.

Egg yolk with truffled chicken soup and cauliflower is nice but is difficult to eat in the same way that the prawn dish is due to the barely cooked yolk that oozes all over the plate once punctured. Ever tried to eat some egg yolk off a plate with a fork? Fairly frustrating. It's like that. The truffles barely come across and aren't really necessary. The dish is better than what I remember of last time--and certainly isn't "bad"--but it still isn't one of the better dishes, despite promising a luxurious experience on paper. The saving grace is the brilliant matching wine that cuts through the cloyingness of the yolk but still allows the dish the richness it requires.

Smoked mackeral with salsify, jerusalem artichoke, rosemary and citrus banishes any bad thoughts. It's perfectly balanced, well-textured and beautifully flavoured. Oddly, the star of the dish is the powdered citrus, which holds all of the flavours together. It's a contender for dish of the night.

The next dish--inspired by chef Munoz's time at El Bulli--is just insane. It's a rich, parmesan-laden polenta, spherified, along with fried zucchini flower petals, hazelnuts and some pieces of baby zucchini. Fucking incredible. A rich polenta is great on it's own, but to have it contained in a gnochi-like morsel that explodes in your mouth is something special. Along with some texture from the crisp zucchini flower petals and hazelnuts and the flavour of the hazelnut and baby zucchini rounds out everything perfectly. Thanks for ruining polenta for me forever. It WAS my one of my favourite things before this dish set the bar WAY too high for me.

The mushroom and quail dishes that follow are also excellent, rounding out a spectacular middle of the menu. If every dish was like the middle section of dishes you'd have a contender for best restaurant in the country, if not the goddamn hemisphere.

A plate with pears arrives and a hare jus is poured. Like the prawn and egg yolk dishes, it eats poorly. Eating a jus/broth/consomme with their thin spoon is fairly unrewarding. Balance wise, I felt the chunks of pear were a bit strong for the hare jus. Although the small brushing of oloroso sherry add a nice depth to the flavour. Another saving grace was, again, the wine pairing. The DJP mencia was best mates with the hare jus, taking both to new heights.

The final savoury course is the wagyu shank--cooked for something like 30 hours--with kipfler potatoes and a watercress puree. It's almost like mashed potatoes and corned beef, but significantly better. A really nice dish that looks tremendous on the plate. Last time I really hated the wine match which was some sort of red and got totally blown away by the rich potato mash. I'm still not blown away by the red that is matched this time.

The cheese course takes the form of mascarpone with beetroot, orange and white sesame. A brilliant and refreshing dish after the rich beef dish. The mascarpone is perfectly flavoured and the other elements add good flavour and texture to the dish.

"Citrus" is the first dish and replaces the rose, raspberry and white chocolate dish from last time that I felt ate poorly. It's brilliant and, yes, citrussy. Citrus in all it's guises, put into plenty of different forms. Great flavour, great texture and eats so much better than last time. And very, very citrussy.

"Equatorial" finishes things off. A gooey chocolate fondant covered in coffee mousse, chocolate sauce and chocolate snow. Chocolate and coffee on an extreme, rich scale. Good flavours but I don't like the way it eats. A fondant covered in sauce doesn't really work. And the chocolate snow on the side of the bowl feels added on. There's no denying that there were some great elements on the plate (or bowl, as it were) but for me I think it needs a bit of a rework if it wants to be on the same tremendous level as some of those savoury courses.

It all concludes with the chocolate box--a box filled with chocolates and an edible base, which you can't really eat because it doesn't taste great--which I refuse to accept as a course because it's basically just petit fours, which isn't normally (ever) considered a course.

I leave around three and a half hours after I began, shaking my head. The turnaround from my last meal is incredible. The food is, generally, exceptional. The wine pairings are often inspiring. The staff now appear to be brimming with pride in their food and are well represented by sommelier Richard Hargreaves who is as passionate about the restaurant as he is likeable as he is great at matching wines.

I now rate Bilson's up with Marque and Quay as Sydney's best fine-dining restaurants. Better than Sepia, better than .est, better than Bentley. More importantly, Bilson's is better than I've ever seen Bilson's before. They're on a great path here.

RATING: Will return to [?] (promotion from 'Okay, may go back')

Bilson's on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 08, 2011

RECIPE: Taramosalata and Buffalo Mozzarella Pizza

It’s late. You’ve been drinking. You’ve got that unshakeable hunger for something hot and oily and juicy. You could swing past that kebab joint near the station on your way home and suit the craving that way. But... there’s a problem.

You’re drunk at home tonight because your friends don’t want you hanging around after what happened last weekend at Darren’s place in the laundry with his purebred Suffolk lamb. Why does he have a pet Suffolk lamb in his laundry? It doesn’t matter, they tell you. And if it did matter, what you did wasn’t going to shed any light on the question.

So you’re at home, drunk, questioning your sexuality and you’re craving something to eat. It has to be quick. It has to be easy. It can’t be lamb. At least... not until you reconcile these feelings you’re having...

How about a super easy pizza? A unique one. Because you’re a unique sort of guy.

Put your oven on it’s highest setting and chuck a thin oven tray in there.

Take a wrap. I use a souvlaki wrap because it has a nice thickness but you could use a Lebanese one or something like that.

Spread it very thinly with taramosalata (should be around a heaped tablespoon).

Get some buffalo mozzarella. Around 50 grams should do it (which is roughly half a medium sized ball). Tear it into a few chunks and put it around the pizza. Don’t put it in the centre as it could make it soggy. I know it’s hard to concentrate now because the white cheese is reminding you of a Suffolk lamb, but I need you to stay with me for a bit longer.

Give the whole thing a little drizzle with olive oil.

Hopefully your oven is screaming hot now. Put the pizza on the tray and let it cook. Cook it until the edges are well browned but not burnt. It should take around 10 mins.

Take the pizza out. Another drizzle with olive oil. A few drops of lemon juice if you have a lemon around. A little cracked black pepper. Slice into pieces.


Wash up.

Cry yourself to sleep.

Yes, again.

Monday, August 01, 2011

RECIPE: Prawn Ceviche

Ceviche is a noble dish. THERE I SAID IT.

It could just be one of those awesome dishes from a part of the world that has been around for centuries and was created purely out of what was available to the people making it. But it's more than that; it's a dish that doesn't let you lie.

There's nowhere to hide in a ceviche (especially if you make a small quantity lolololol). If you don't use the freshest of ingredients then your dish is going to totally blow. Hell, you even risk poisoning whoever eats your dish if you use dodgy seafood. You don't get that shit with a lasagne.

This recipe is good for any shellfish or boneless white fish. I'd originally intended to do this with scallops, but the prawns at the fish store looked a bit fresher. You could use a combination of seafood if you wanted, but just make sure whatever you use is extremely fresh. If you can't find fresh seafood don't make a ceviche. If you even attempt it you will spontaneously combust and fish parasites will feast on your charred remains.


- 250g of prawns (peeled, deveined weight), roughly chopped
- 1.5 lemons
- 1 lime
- 2 chillis, deseeded and finely chopped (to taste)
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 shallot
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 big handful of corriander leaves, finely chopped
- 4-6 mint leaves, finely chopped
- Olive oil to finish


1. In a shallow bowl, add the juice of 1 lemon, 1 lime and the zest of 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 a lime.
2. Finely grate the garlic and shallot into the bowl.
3. Add the chillis and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
4. Add around 4/5 of the corriander and mint. Reserve the rest for finishing.
5. Add your prawns, mix and refrigerate for 25 mins, mixing after 15 mins.
6. To finish, transport the mixture to a serving bowl, discarding the liquid. Finish with the reserved herbs, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with crusty bread, toasted wraps or prawn crackers.