Meals other people have cooked

Jeepers. My entire weekend has been spent cleaning the house in anticipation of my parents’ arrival on Wednesday. Now, my house is not normally that unclean, considering we all work full time and we HAVE LIVES, but every time they visit they comment on how dirty it is. Obviously the house is clean enough to me, but not clean enough to them. Being Chinese, they have very high standards and nothing is ever good enough. Kidding! Kidding! That may be the stereotype, but fortunately my folks aren’t really like that. Just with cleanliness, apparently!

Since I haven’t had any time or energy for cooking this weekend, here’s a little showcase of meals other people have cooked! Y’all know by now that I love cooking, but it’s still nice when other people cook for me. :)

Derm's chicken curry

My Bro’s friend Derms visited at the beginning of this year. One night he made chicken curry for dinner (with some assistance from my Bro). I find curry terribly difficult to photograph, so I didn’t do the meal justice. We teamed the chicken curry with basmati rice, and it was fragrant, tangy and spicy. Visitors who cook are visitors worth having!

Bro's lasagne

And this is a lasagne that my Bro made one evening a while ago. He cooked up a rich meat sauce, and layered it with cheese sauce and lasagne sheets.

Bro's lasagne

It’s hard to go wrong with lasagne, and despite my Bro’s grumbles about the cheese sauce, there was nothing wrong with this lasagne. It was pretty ace, actually.

Roast lamb

When my mother in law, Annette, was here the previous week, she offered to cook dinner one evening. Alastair got to choose a meal, and he asked for a lamb roast. Poor lad, he only gets a few roasts a year from me! This is the roast lamb, perfectly cooked and tender.

Roast veges

Along with the lamb there were roast vegetables: pumpkin, kumara/sweet potato, parsnip and roast potatoes. The pumpkin and kumara had softened up and become sweet and slightly caramelised. A special mention must also be made of Annette’s roast potatoes, which were gorgeously crispy with a pillowy soft centre.

Gravy!

And she even made gravy! Proper gravy!

Roast dinner

Ahh, it was a good meal.

Blueberry & yoghurt

But that wasn’t all! There was also dessert – yoghurt sweetened with honey and orange juice and layered with blueberries.

Roast lamb salad

There was lots of lamb left over, so the following night we had the rest with some salad. The lamb was tender and garlicky, and the salad was thrown together from bits and pieces that has been hiding in the bottom of my fridge. Nom nom nom.

De Bortoli

Last week was a busy one – work was unusually silly and my mother-in-law, Annette, was visiting.

De Bortoli

On Monday, Alastair and I took the day off and the three of us headed out to the Yarra Valley for a long lunch. Alastair had a new GPS unit to play with, so we entered a random road in the Yarra Valley to test it out. The GPS unit got us there – eventually – via the scenic route. Instead of taking the Eastern Freeway, we ended up driving through the windy, hilly roads behind the Valley.

De Bortoli

We decided to have lunch at De Bortoli, one of the prettiest wineries out in the Yarra Valley (in my opinion!). Our table was right by the window, giving us a beautiful view of the Great Dividing Range and the vines.

De Bortoli

After we had a chance to look at the menu, we were bought some bread and white bean puree. The bread was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. It was seriously amazing! The bread had been baked on the premises that morning, and the inside was moist and spongy. The crust was topped with crystals of rock salt, which crunched and gave off little bursts of saltiness. The bean puree was a nice complement, with a lovely fruity olive oil. We were given six generously sized slices of bread, and were offered more, which we had to regretfully decline due to lack of stomach space. It was a very regretful decline on my part. A week later and I’m still lusting after that bread!

De Bortoli

Annette’s starter was the pumpkin risotto – a risotto of carnaroli rice with pumpkin and pancetta ($17). Annette had been wavering between this and another starter, and asked the waiter what he thought of her two choices. He said the risotto without a second thought, and it was easy to see why. The dish was magnificent, intensely flavoured with pumpkin but also very creamy.

De Bortoli

Alastair had the wagyu bresaola which was thinly sliced and served with rocket, black pepper and shavings of parmesan ($18). The dried meat was sweet and tender.

De Bortoli

As for me, I ordered the insalata di gamberi which were char grilled prawns with Sardinian pasta ($19). The four prawns were large and juicy and generously dressed with olive oil. The pasta was a touch salty, but otherwise nicely flavoured with lemon and herbs.

De Bortoli
De Bortoli

For mains, Annette had the veal rib eye with green beans and salsa d’erbe ($34). Alastair had the duck – which was steamed and roasted in balsamic and pinot noir, then stuffed with lemon and sage and served with swiss chard, muscatels and pan juices ($34). Both looked really good and there were no complaints about either dish!

De Bortoli

My main was the ocean trout – the fillet was pan fried and served on top of a castelluccio lentil, roast vine tomato and herb salad ($32). The lentils were dressed with an anchovy and rosemary dressing. They had managed to crisp the skin without overcooking the fish and it was moist and tender. The lentils were perfectly cooked and the dressing complemented the fish well. As a bonus, the little tomatoes were a little burst of intense tomato flavour – yum!

De Bortoli

We also ordered a side of Italian fried potatoes with rosemary and garlic ($7). The potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside – perfect and very moreish.

De Bortoli

Afterwards we finished, we had a look at the dessert menu but soon realised there was no chance of fitting it in. We ordered coffees instead, and along with the coffees we received some biscotti and little cake things.

De Bortoli

After a quick walk around the winery, we headed back the long way to Melbourne. Yep, we tried the GPS unit again! Despite the extra travelling time, it was one of the most pleasurable lunches I’ve had in a while. The location, food and wine were wonderful, but as always with meals out, it was the company that was the best thing.

De Bortoli Winery & Restaurant
Pinnacle Lane, Dixons Creek
Yarra Valley, Victoria 3775
Telephone (03) 5965 2271

Caramelised onion tartlets

I found out a “neat” thing today – chestnuts explode! Fortunately, I have a lovely husband who is currently cleaning my oven while I sit on the couch. If I had bothered to google roasting chestnuts before I popped them into the oven, I would’ve found out that I should’ve cut them first. Whoops!

On Saturday, the highly entertaining PG kindly hosted the second Bloggers Banquet. Oooooh pressure! What do you cook for people who love food and know a lot about it? I had a feeling that there would be lots of sweet items, so I went down the savoury route.

Smoked salmon & cream cheese bagels

One of my items was bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese. I’ve owned a copy of Richard Bertinet’s Crust (not an affiliate link) for a couple of months, and so far all I have made are bagels. To be fair though, none of the bread recipes in this book are quick and easy. This was my second attempt at the bagel recipe, and initially it all seemed to be going rather well. The starter dough fermented in the fridge for a day, and then on Friday night I added the rest of the ingredients and worked the dough as instructed. The dough started to come together and was very light and lively. I let it rest for 30 minutes, then separated it into small balls and shaped into bagels. The bagels then proved for an hour.

When I came back to them, the bagels had risen but seemed a bit limp. But I was too far gone by this stage and had to keep going – the bagels got a brief boiling then baking. They tasted okay (I think), and had the chewy texture, but they were a bit flaccid and some were wrinkly.

Obviously I haven’t quite mastered the art of bagel making yet, but I will keep trying!

Caramelised onion tartlets

Fortunately I had another item to redeem myself! The recipe for the tarts is from Cuisine.com.au and the shortcrust pastry recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. My bread making skills are a bit lacking, but at least I can make pastry! It was 11pm by the time I rolled out the pastry, and despite the late hour and my haphazardness, the pastry was still light and slightly flakey.

Caramelised onion tartlets

Onion tartlet recipe from Cuisine.com.au.

Shortcrust pastry

From Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion

Will line up to a 26cm tin

180g unsalted butter
240g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup water

Remove butter from refrigerator 30 minutes before making pastry.
Sift flour and salt onto a marble pastry slab or workbench.
Chop buter into smallish pieces and toss lightly in flour.
Lightly rub to combine partly.
Make a well in centre and pour in water.
Using a pastry scraper, work water into flour until you have a very rough heap of buttery lumps of dough.
Using the heel of your hand, quickly smear pastry away from your across the workbench. It will combine lightly.
Gather together, then press quickly into a flat cake and dust with a little flour.
Wrap pastry in plastic film and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes.
When required, roll out pastry, dusting generously with flour as necessary.
Line your required tin and blind bake.

Wellington: Zibibbo

On our last evening in Wellington during our long weekend there, we met up with Alastair’s father, Malcolm, for dinner. He booked Zibibbo, located on Taranaki Street in the old Police Station building.

Alastair and I rocked up a bit early, and headed upstairs to the restaurant. There was some confusion about whether it was too early for us to be seated. We offered to go downstairs for a drink, but were told somewhat vaguely that it was fine.

Our table was located just beyond the entrance and in front of the kitchen. It was a rather draughty position to sit in, and I felt cold the entire evening!

Zibibbo

Alastair and I shared one of the specials for our starter – Bluff oysters ($25 for 6, $45 for 12). We opted to have them natural (the other option was battered and deep fried) and they came with a bowl of tangy thousand islandish sauce and buttered brown bread. The Bluff oyster season starts around March each year, and it is eagerly anticipated by oyster lovers. I never liked oysters when I lived in NZ, and I think it’s because of Bluff oysters. They just don’t seem to excite me! They were very popular though and these were okay, although unexciting (to me) – I saw many, many plates of oysters leave the kitchen.

Zibibbo

For mains, Alastair and I both choose lamb. This was a brioche crumbed braised lamb with salsa verde and thyme jus ($29.00). It was an interesting way of serving lamb. The very tender braised meat was shaped into a log, covered in brioche crumbs and baked (I think). The tenderness of the lamb was very enjoyable, but I found that the meat and the jus were a touch too salty. The creamy mashed potato on the side helped with the saltiness though.

Zibibbo

For desserts, I had the vanilla bean pannacotta with poached apricots ($14) and Alastair had the blueberry crème brulee with lemon financier ($13.50). The pannacotta was great – creamy and silky with little specks of vanilla seeds, and the poached apricots were a nice fruity contrast.

Zibibbo

Alastair’s crème brulee was mostly good too, although I noticed some spots on the top had gone past caramelisation and were actually burnt. He ate his blueberries but left behind the lemon financier. I took a bite, and found it light and zesty. Malcolm had the chocolate fondant cake and he said that it was one of the best chocolate cakes he had eaten. High praise indeed!

All in all, it was a mostly good meal. Service seemed a tad distracted, and we found it hard to flag someone down to order coffees after our desserts were cleared.

When we left, I realised why I had been so cold the entire evening. The weather had completely changed from when we had entered – there was a bitterly cold wind blowing and whipping the heavy rain sideways into us as we walked to the car. Ahh yes. This was the kind of weather I had been expecting during our visit. Wellington, I love you, but I sure as hell don’t miss the weather.

Zibibbo
25 Taranaki Street
Te Aro, Wellington 6011, New Zealand
Phone: +64 4 385 6650