Cookbook Challenge: Week 28, Breakfast

Crepes with stewed pears and raspberry sauce

Recipe: Crepes
From: Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion

The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is breakfast – fortunately a much easier theme than last week’s! The only problem with the theme this week were all the options – I had visions of omelettes, baked eggs, pancakes, French toast and bacon circulating in my head.

But then I got up this morning and went to the kitchen and suddenly – Crepes! I want to make crepes! As you do.

The best thing about crepes is how quick they are to put together and how quickly they cook. The bad thing about crepes is that I’m not very good at making them. Mine always end up rather thicker than the thin, lacy ones I imagine should come out of the frying pan. The recipe for crepes in The Cook’s Companion says “you will get better – and so will the pancakes!” but I don’t think this applies to me. I keep trying though.

Crepes with stewed pears and raspberry sauce

Whenever I make pancakes or crepes for breakfast, I always like to serve it with fruit – it makes me feel better about eating something that’s not terribly healthy! So today I stewed a couple of pears in a raspberry sauce to go with the crepes. We keep receiving masses of pears in our fortnightly fruit and vegetable delivery but I’m not a huge fan of pears. I really only like fresh pears when they are still crunchy, but the bloody things ripen so quickly. Fortunately, I don’t mind cooked pears so poaching them is one way I deal with them.

The stewed pears and raspberry sauce is super easy – I cut a couple of peeled pears in half (removing the core), and put them in a small pot with a literal splash of water and a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Into the pot went a handful of frozen raspberries, and then I put the lid on and let it cook until the pears were soft. After that, I removed the pears and simmered the leftover liquid without a lid to reduce and thicken it. When the sauce was nice and thick, I stirred in a small knob of butter, and it was ready.

If you don’t like crepes (wtf) there are other pancake/waffle/crepe posts here.

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Update: see the round up at My Food Trail.

Crepes with stewed pears and raspberry sauce

Crepes

From Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion

Makes about 8-10 crepes

30g butter
pinch of salt
1 & 1/2 cups of milk
150g plain flour
2 eggs

Warm the butter, salt and milk until the butter has melted.

In a separate bowl, sift in the flour, and then make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into the well and work in some flour.

Add the warm milk and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate for 2 hours before cooking. Add more milk if the batter seems too thick.

Heat a frying pan over medium-low heat. Wipe the pan with a piece of buttered paper for the first pancake. Lift the pan from the heat, add in a ladle of batter and swirl the pan so the batter spreads to the edges.

Put the pan back on the heat and cook for a minute. Lift the thin outer edge of the crepe with a spatula and flip to cook the other side for another minute. Repeat with the rest of the batter.

Montalto: Anniversary picnic

Picnic at Montalto

Isn’t it interesting how the older you get, the faster time goes by? Three years ago in March, Alastair and I were married (AWWW) but sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. Should I write something embarrassingly gushy about love and all that jazz? No, I’ll spare you! Be thankful!

Since March is always a very busy month, we waited until April to celebrate our anniversary. I booked us a picnic at Montalto, a winery on the Mornington Peninsula. I have been wanting to picnic there ever since I read about it on Vicious Ange’s blog a couple of years ago. For $70 per person, we were allocated a private picnic spot (there are five) on the winery grounds, with food and other assorted picnic stuff set up for our arrival. We checked in at the cellar door, taking the opportunity to taste a couple of wines, and were then given a map so we could walk down to our picnic spot. Our spot was Half Moon, and would have been a 5-10 minute walk from the cellar door, except we got lost a couple of times and at one point I sent us crashing through the bush in what was pretty much the opposite direction. Now normally I have a fantastic sense of direction, and am very good with maps, but this was a hand drawn one with no sense of scale – what kind of map is that?? Bah! Ultimately, Alastair had to take over and lead the way, figuring out how to get to our secluded spot.

A good picnic is, of course, reliant on the weather and we totally lucked out. It was a beautiful sunny day, with a balmy temperature of about 25°C.

Picnic at Montalto

Our picnic spot was set in a clearing surrounded by trees. When we arrived, a table and umbrella had been set up for us.

Picnic at Montalto

The table was set with white linen, plates and cutlery, and off to one side was a big esky fridge thing (chillybin!) that held the food.

Picnic at Montalto

There was also a picnic basket which was loaded with a picnic blanket, insect repellent and sun screen. The insect repellent was definitely very useful as I started to get bug bites almost straight away – thank goodness it had been provided!

Picnic at Montalto
The esky fridge thing!

At the cellar door, we had ordered a bottle of wine, and someone must have driven it down while we were navigating the winery grounds, because there was a freshly opened, cold bottle waiting for us.

Picnic at Montalto

It didn’t take us long to get stuck into the food. In a covered dish on the table were several chewy bread rolls, and a bowl of nice olive oil.

Picnic at Montalto

On our first platter of food were: slices of terrine, a couple of dips (hummus and capsicum), some very good olives, smoked salmon on lentils, and a cherry tomato and basil salad. Good all round, with both of us particularly enjoying the smoked salmon, terrine and olives.

Picnic at Montalto

After a rest, we pulled out the mains platter. For mains we had duck, roast beef with chutney, and vegetables. The duck, cooked medium, was flavoursome and not too gamey. I also enjoyed the sweetish chutney with the thick slices of beef. But I would have loved more salady stuff – there was a lot of meat on that plate!

Picnic at Montalto

And for dessert, we had two kinds of cheese, crackers, quince paste, a sliced up fig, a couple of seriously fantastic strawberries and raspberries, raisins, a mandarin jelly thing, and a dense and rich chocolate cake.

Picnic at Montalto

It was nice to spend the afternoon hanging out under the trees with the sounds of the bush around us: birds chirping, the breeze blowing, cows mooing in the distance…! Yep, we picnicked to the serene sound of the occasional moooooooooooo. Hilarious.

We finished with a complimentary coffee at the Montalto garden café before we had to head back to Melbourne.

We had a very lovely picnic – it’s such a beautiful spot and great for a special occasion. It was very well organised, and I was impressed that small things had been thought of e.g. insect repellent being provided, the table being set, and our cold bottle of wine being driven down. It was just a shame that we couldn’t spend longer hanging out there!


Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove
33 Shoreham Road, Red Hill South, Victoria 3937
Phone +61 3 5989 8412

Montalto Restaurant and Winery on Urbanspoon

Carrot cupcakes

Cookbook Challenge: Week 27
Theme: Insect
Recipe: Carrot cupcakes
From: The Australian Women’s Weekly “Bake”

The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is the most challenging one we’ve had yet – insect. YES INSECT! I racked my brain the whole week, trying to decide what to make.

In the end, I decided to bake something and decorate it to look like an insect. Carrot cake is one of my favourite cakes, so I decided to bake carrot cupcakes and make them into ladybirds. I made the carrot cakes on Saturday, doing so in a bit of a rush because we were heading out for dinner. I had an hour to do the baking from start to finish – but fortunately the recipe I chose was, with the help of a food processor, super quick and easy and I threw it together in 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, I made a rookie mistake and………. forgot to put the eggs in the cake mixture…………. Sheesh! It’s not even the first time I’ve left eggs out of a cake – I am a fail baker sometimes. Without the eggs, the cupcakes tasted fine, but they didn’t rise very much.
Ladybird cupcakes

Today (Sunday) I did the decorating. It was a very time consuming job – it took me nearly two hours to do six cupcakes! But I think they turned out pretty cute. :) My inspiration for the cupcakes was this image on flickr. Mine weren’t as polished, but it was my first time covering cupcakes with fondant (I’ve only made fondant toppers before – see here and here). If you’re interested, here’s how I made them:

Ladybird cupcakes

To start with, I iced the cupcakes with a thin layer of lemon buttercream. I had a small amount of left over buttercream in the freezer – just enough for six cupcakes.

Ladybird cupcakes

To colour the fondant, I used red and black gel paste food colouring.

Ladybird cupcakes

I started off with the red fondant – this was for the body. I rolled out the fondant and then cut out circles that were about the same size as the cupcakes.

Ladybird cupcakes

The circles of fondant were placed on top of the buttercream, and then I smoothed it down and around the buttercream with my fingers.

Ladybird cupcakes

To make the black faces, I rolled out black fondant and cut out smaller circles. These circles were cut in half. I wet the back of one of the semi circles, and placed it at the edge of the cupcake.

Ladybird cupcakes

I used my fingers to smooth and pull the straight edge of the black fondant down to the paper case, and cut off the corners that overlapped.

Ladybird cupcakes

After all that, I was on the home stretch! I cut a line down the body, and then pasted on several small dots of black fondant for spots. I also pasted on some eyes and used a circle cutter to cut a smile into the face.

Ladybird cupcakes

And – ta dah! All done! I was very pleased with the result. My biggest problem now is I can’t bear to eat them – they’re way too cute!

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here

Update: See the round up at My Food Trail.

Ladybird cupcakes

Carrot cupcakes

Adapted from AWW’s Bake

Makes 12

1/2 cup (125ml) vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 & 1/2 cups (225g) self raising flour
1 cup (220g) firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups (480g) firmly packed coarsely grated carrot
3/4 cup (90g) coarsely chopped roasted almonds (the book recommends pecans, but I only had almonds)

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases.

In a bowl, combine the oil, eggs, sifted flour, sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the carrot and chopped almonds. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until cooked. Let them stand for about 5 minutes, before placing on a wire rack to cool.

Top with your favourite frosting and to decorate as ladybirds – see above!

Cutler & Co: Puntastic

We went to Cutler & Co for a leisurely Sunday lunch recently with Maria and Daz from The Gourmet Challenge. On Sundays Cutler & Co have a set menu for $65, which we thought was a great opportunity to try them out.

The fit out of the restaurant is quite stunning, the long room kitted out in dark tones and with a rather flash automatic door to the loos. We were particularly taken with the industrial looking lights with a super long filament that hung above the tables.

There were four courses for the set lunch. We received all of the dishes listed for the first two courses, and then for mains and desserts we selected one dish each from several options.

We started with three small dishes: French breakfast radishes, Clair de Lune oysters, and cured ocean trout toast.

Cutler & Co

Bro started us off on our punny lunch by saying that the radishes were radiscal. Oh dear. I can’t say that the jokes improved from there, but I have recorded them for prosperity anyway! Apart from being radiscal, the rather cute, little crunchy radishes were mild in flavour.

Cutler & Co

The oysters were lovely. Served raw with a squirt of lemon, they were fresh and sweet.

Cutler & Co

The ocean trout toast was also delicious, with little cubes of ocean trout on top of the crispy toast. In Bro’s words: it was troutriffic.

Cutler & Co

The bread was so good that everyone had second or third servings.

Next we received a selection of starters to share.

Cutler & Co

This was beetroot salad with goat’s curd and apple. It was really nice – seemingly simple, but the little beets were sweet and tender, and fortunately for us non-goat-cheese lovers, the goat’s curd was only a little bit “goaty”. It looked beautiful as well.

Cutler & Co

We received a bowl of pearl barley with radicchio and ricotta salata. I quite liked the firmish barley with the salted ricotta and radicchio, although it wasn’t very popular around the table.

Cutler & Co

The next dish was garlic sausage, potato and ravigot. This perked us all up after the barley. Bold and salty sausage and a bit of potato. Nice.

Cutler & Co

Next up: FRIED GREEN TOMATOES. Fried green tomatoes, people! Does anyone remember the movie? I have waited years to eat fried green tomatoes! They were great – crumbed slices of slightly tart green tomato on top of what I think may have been eggplant. I loved the little frying pans they were presented in as well.

Cutler & Co

The last dish before mains was peppers, migas and tuna mayo. This was another nice dish – the peppers were sweet, the bread was crispy, and while the tuna mayonaise sounded strange at first, we all loved it. Alastair said that it was a-mayonaising. Pun of the day!

For mains, there was an option of four dishes:

Cutler & Co

Alastair had the local line caught snapper, tomato, prawn and chorizo. It looked pretty good, particularly the big bursty prawn underneath the fish.

Cutler & Co

Bro and Daz had the roast quail, smoked sausage and sauerkraut. The sauerkraut was served separately in a small pot and it was really something – WOW HELLO PORKY PORK – there was nothing sour about that sauerkraut! (ba bow). It was all bacon porky goodness. Poor boys though, they had the biggest appetites and they received the teeniest dish!

Cutler & Co

Maria and I both had the braised lamb, buckwheat polenta and gremolata. The lamb was very tender although a bit fatty. I liked the soft polenta and the dark wilted greens too.

The fourth mains option was a baked ricotta, eggplant Calabrese and fennel salad, which none of us ordered.

And for dessert, there were three options.

Cutler & Co

Bro and Alastair both had the Earl Grey tea ice cream, chocolate ganache, and macerated prune. I had a little taste and thought it was delicious, and I adored the faint floral bergamot fragrance of the Earl Grey ice cream. Bro said that the ganache was also great, although I didn’t try it.

Cutler & Co

Maria and I both had the quince baba, sheep’s milk yoghurt and cherry. I found the baba a little dry – it was nice, but I was expecting it to be drenched in something. The quinces were gorgeous though. I wouldn’t have minded a massive bowl of just the quinces with the yoghurt!

And Daz had… oh Daz… he selected the Gruyere d’Alpage
and shiraz jelly (which I neglected to take a photo of – because I was in fits of laughter). Why was I in fits of laughter? Because Daz had been expecting dessert… and received cheese and crackers and a teeny dollop of jelly. Oh we laughed at the disappointment on his face (sorry Daz!). If I had been quicker off the mark, I could’ve said, “Gryuere’s your dessert?” (bah bow!) but unfortunately I only thought of that one at home. Isn’t that always the way it goes.

Cutler & Co

We finished off with a round of coffees, which saw us all whip out our phones and google coffee puns. Really, really, REALLY terrible coffee puns ie if you drink a lot of coffee, you’ll be in a latte trouble.

Dear oh dear. Apologies for the terrible puns. At least they kept us amused during lunch. Speaking of lunch, I think the Sunday lunches at Cutler & Co are a definite goer. There were lots of staff working that day – there seemed to be about twenty on the floor – so we didn’t have any issues with service. Apart from a few minor things, overall the food was good (although not mind blowing) and good value for the quality of the dishes. We really enjoyed ourselves and I would be keen to spend a lazy Sunday eating there again.

Cutler & Co
55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Phone: 03 9419 4888

Cookbook Challenge: Week 26, Green

Pandan cupcakes

Cookbook Challenge: Week 26
Theme: Green
Recipe: Pandan Cupcakes & Green tea cupcakes
Adapted from: Primrose Bakery’s Cupcakes

Wow, it’s week 26 of the Cookbook Challenge – and you know what that means, don’t you? We’re half way through the challenge! The theme for this week is “green” and I really like these kind of themes because it’s so open.

This week I really wanted to make something with green tea – but unfortunately I couldn’t find any recipes in any of my cookbooks. So I decided I would bake cupcakes and adapt a recipe for my purposes.

Green tea cupcakes

For the cupcakes, I thought that using matcha powder would be best. However, when I went to the Asian grocery store I couldn’t find it anywhere. Fortunately, I came across a bottle of pandan extract. Perfect – for green week AND cupcakes!

Pandan cupcakes

For the pandan cupcakes, I followed a recipe for vanilla cupcakes, but substituted pandan extract for the vanilla extract. The extract was really green, but I wasn’t sure how strong the colour would be after baking so I added a few drops of green colouring – it was for green week, after all!

Pandan cupcakes

For the frosting, I made pandan flavoured buttercream, piping it on in a rose shape. I didn’t really think it through – green roses?? Maybe I should have tried piping leaves!

Taste wise, I didn’t think that much of the cupcakes. I wish I had used this recipe for vanilla cupcakes which I have always had great success with. I found these cupcakes a bit dry, and they weren’t as fluffy as I would have liked. But the pandan in them was lovely – giving a vanilla-ish, nutty fragrance. I would definitely try using the pandan extract in cakes/cupcakes again, with other recipes.

Green tea cupcakes

For the green tea cupcakes, since I couldn’t find any matcha, I tried infusing milk with green tea. This didn’t work as well as I had hoped – when they were warm and not frosted, there was a faint taste of green tea But when they were cold and with buttercream on top, I couldn’t detect it at all.

Oh well! I’ll have to get my hands on matcha and have another go. Now, who wants some cupcakes??

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Update: See the round up at My Food Trail.

Pandan cupcakes

Pandan cupcakes

Adapted from the vanilla cupcake recipe in Primrose Bakery’s Cupcakes


Makes 12 cupcakes

110g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self-raising flour, sifted
125g plain flour, sifted
120ml milk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pandan extract

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cupcake wrappers.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter for several minutes with an electric mixer. Gradually add the sugar, beating well between additions, until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition.

Add a third of the flours to the butter mixture and beat on low speed. Add a third of the milk and beat again. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk have been added. Add the pandan extract and beat until just combined.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcakes cases. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until cooked.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, ice with pandan flavoured buttercream – see recipe below.

Green tea cupcakes

Green tea cupcakes

Adapted from the Earl grey cupcake recipe in Primrose Bakery’s Cupcakes


Makes 12 cupcakes

125ml milk, at room temperature
4 teaspoons of green tea leaves (I used sencha)
110g unsalted butter, softened
225g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self-raising flour, sifted
125g plain flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole cupcake tin with cupcake wrappers.

In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it just begins to boil. Remove from the heat and add the green tea leaves. Leave to infuse for about 30 minutes. Once infused, strain the milk into a measuring jug. You may need to top up the amount of milk, so do that if necessary.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter for several minutes with an electric mixer. Gradually add the sugar, beating well between additions, until the mixture is pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition.

Add a third of the flours to the butter mixture and beat on low speed. Add a third of the milk and beat again. Repeat these steps until all the flour and milk have been added.

Spoon the mixture into the cupcakes cases. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until cooked.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. When completely cool, ice with vanilla flavoured buttercream.

Pandan cupcakes


Pandan buttercream


Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

250 grams unsalted butter, cut into cubes and very, very soft
3 cups sifted icing sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon pandan extract

Beat the butter in an electric mixer on high until it is very pale and fluffy.

Gradually add the icing sugar (I do this a tablespoon at a t
ime), beating well between additions. Beat until the buttercream is very fluffy – about 5-6 minutes.

Heat the milk in the microwave until it’s very warm. Add to the butter cream and beat on high for another couple of minutes. Add the pandan extract and mix to combine. Pipe on top of the cupcakes.

International Dumpling Incident Party

Dumplings

International Pizza Pie Incident Party

It’s time for another International Incident Party hosted by Penny from Addictive and Consuming, and this time we’re bringing dumplings to the table. When I started thinking about what I was going to make, I immediately thought of the mother of all dumplings (imho) – Shanghai soup dumplings / xiao long bao. But after a bit of research on the internet I decided it would be too much trouble and tried hard to think of an easier alternative.

I walk past a butcher on my way to work every day and as well as all the usual cuts of meat they also sell a lot of offal. Last week I noticed they had a tray of pork skin in the window – and since pork skin is one of the components of the broth that goes in the xiao long bao I decided it was a sign that it was meant to be!

Xiao long bao

For those uninitiated in the magic of xiao long bao, they are dumplings with a meat filling that contains jelly made from a savoury soup. When the xiao long bao are steamed, the jelly turns into a piping hot soup inside the wrapper. They are WONDERFUL. After picking up my pork skin and chicken carcasses, I set to work.

Stage one in making the dumplings was to prepare a broth out of chicken bones, pork skin, ginger and onions. After the broth was ready, I added flavourless gelatine to set it into a jelly.

On Sunday morning I got up early just so I could make them. First I made the dough for the xiao long bao wrappers. The dough had to rest for thirty minutes, so while that was happening I put together the meat filling, which has the jelly mixed into. I wish I had read the filling recipe before I made the jelly, because it turns out only 1 & 1/2 cups of jelly is required – but the recipe said to make 4 cups of jelly. Rah! I was a bit annoyed – maybe because I was up early and hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet!

After that it was time to roll out the dough and pleat the dumplings. I started off by rolling out the dough and using a cookie cutter to cut out circles, but eventually found it easier to roll the pieces of dough thinly into circles. The thinner the dumpling dough was, the easier it was to pleat (and the better they are to eat as well). My pleating was not great – but hey it was my first time!

Xiao long bao

The xiao long bao were steamed and, after giving them a bit of time to cool down, it was time for a taste test. It probably took me about an hour to make forty xiao long bao – but it certainly didn’t take that long to eat them! I thought my wrappers were still a bit thick, but the filling was tasty and, JOY OF JOYS, the steaming hot soup was contained inside. We ate them with vinegar. Nice! I was rather pleased with my effort – they weren’t complicated to make, just time consuming. The hardest part was not losing the soup after they had been steamed – the little buggers had a tendency to stick to anything and everything!

I also made har gow / prawn dumplings, apparently because I hadn’t spent enough time making dumplings! I found the har gow much harder to make than the xiao long bao. I could tell when I went to roll out the har gow wrappers that it was too stiff. Because the dough was relatively stiff, I couldn’t get the wrappers to be as thin as I wanted them, and I also couldn’t pleat them nicely. You really want a very thin wrapper for har gow, because the best ones have that translucent, thin skin when steamed.

Har gow

The har gow were, as I expected, not great. Bro said they were better than the xiao long bao, but Alastair wasn’t a fan. I didn’t think they were terribly great, although not THAT bad for my first attempt. However, I don’t think I’ll try making har gow again – it’s too much effort to master the wrappers.

So that’s it for my contribution to the International Dumpling Incident Party. See Addictive and Consuming for the round up, I’ll update this post later with links for all the party goers.

Recipes:

Xiao long bao

For the xiao long bao, I found Steamy Kitchen’s post very useful.

Har gow

For the har gow, I followed this recipe on About.com.

Cookbook Challenge: Week 25, Silky

Pumpkin soup with a twist


Recipe: Pumpkin soup with a twist
From: Neil Perry’s Good Food

The theme for week 25 of the Cookbook Challenge is “silky”. I had a number of things in mind for this week.

I ended up doing a lot of cooking this weekend – egg fu yung, chicken stock, waffles with poached pears, ox cheek stew, and two different types of dumplings (which will be unveiled on Wednesday) so unfortunately I didn’t have a lot of energy to devote to the Cookbook Challenge. I had intended to make a tart with a curd filling, but couldn’t be bothered going up the road to get cream! Also I hate buying cream because I tend to only use half the container and the rest is wasted.

Pumpkin soup with a twist

And then last night it hit me. Soup! A nice pureed soup can be smooth and silky. I had a large pumpkin that I needed to cook so pumpkin soup it was.

I have made pumpkin soup a zillion times before, and I never follow a recipe. But for the purposes of the Cookbook Challenge, I found a recipe and followed the directions exactly. Wow! That is rather rare for me, unless I’m baking. The recipe I selected was called pumpkin soup with a twist – with the twist being the addition of ginger, ground coriander and ground turmeric.

Pumpkin soup with a twist

When I make pumpkin soup, I normally add a touch of curry powder because I love the slight spiciness with the sweetness of the pumpkin. So this version was okay, the spices give a touch of difference from normal pumpkin soup – but I prefer my usual version! Still, it was relatively quick to whip up for this week’s Challenge and worth a shot if you don’t already have a favourite recipe for pumpkin soup.

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Update: see the round up at My Food Trail.

Pumpkin soup with a twist

Pumpkin soup with a twist

From Neil Perry’s Good Food

Serves 4

1kg peeled butternut pumpkin, cut into 2cm thick pieces
30g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
sea salt
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 litre chicken stock
freshly ground pepper
creme fraiche to serve (optional)

In a large heavy based pot, heat the butter and oil over a medium heat.

Add the onion, garlic, ginger and a bit of sea salt and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes. Don’t let it colour.

Stir in the coriander and turmeric and cook for another minute.

Add the stock and pumpkin to the pot and bring to the boil. Turn it down to a simmer and let it cook gently for about 25 minutes, or until the pumpkin is soft.

Remove from the heat and puree the soup until smooth – I use a stick blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, some freshly ground pepper and a splash of oil. I just laid on a parsley leaf for garnish.

Nobu Melbourne

The other month, we headed to lunch at Nobu. Truthfully, I had heard so many mixed reviews about Nobu, combined with reports about how expensive it is, that I had never been that keen to go. But when I found out that they do a deal at lunch time for $57, which includes an entrée, main with miso soup, rice, and dessert, I figured it was worth a shot. So I roped in Maria and Daz from the Gourmet Challenge and off we went.

The menu for Nobu is long and it’s not terribly descriptive, so Bro and I pored over the menu beforehand to ensure that we weren’t caught out on the day (don’t you hate being in a restaurant and ordering hastily and then having food envy when the food arrives?). For the lunch deal, not everything is included – premium items like wagyu, lobster, and the signature black cod with miso aren’t available for example – but that still leaves plenty of choice. The menu isn’t specifically set up in categories like entrees and mains, but we assumed that the first section – “special appetizers” were entrees and the rest of the menu were considered mains.

Nobu Melbourne

Alastair ordered the sashimi tacos with yellowtail tuna, salmon, lobster and crab. I’m not sure what the tacos were made out of, but the crispy shells were filled with fresh sashimi and quite tasty.

Nobu Melbourne

Bro and Maria both ordered the beef fillet tataki, with onion ponzu and garlic chips. This was really nice, the thin slices of rare beef just seared on the outside and served in a sharp, tangy, salty sauce.

Nobu Melbourne

I had the tuna tataki with tosazu. Like the beef, it was just seared on the outside, and the thin, tender slices of tuna were in a vinegary soy sauce.

Nobu Melbourne

We also received a bowl of miso soup, which was pretty standard.

For mains, it wasn’t immediately clear what we could order. I assumed that everything past a certain point was considered a “main” and was part of the deal, barring the exceptions. Turns out, the waiter wasn’t entirely sure as well, but assumed what I assumed!

Nobu Melbourne

Alastair had the soft shell crab kara age. It looked really good, and I didn’t hear any complaints from him about it. I really liked the way it was presented – look at that mushroom!

Nobu Melbourne

Maria had the tempura baby tiger prawn with creamy spicy sauce. This photo cracks me up – when I went to take a photo, Maria flashed the peace sign without warning me. Naturally, I had to include it in this post! Maria’s prawns were cooked really well, and tasted great with the creamy sauce.

Nobu Melbourne

Daz had the wagyu gyoza with goma ponzu. Normally $37, could they be the most expensive dumplings in Melbourne?! I didn’t try any, but they did look and smell good.

Nobu Melbourne

Bro had the wagyu intercostal with seasonal vegetables and wasabi salsa. I think this was the best dish of the day – the beef was super tender with a bit of smokiness and the wasabi salsa gave a nice kick to the dish. It smelt so amazing too. Bro ordered very well!

Nobu Melbourne

And I ordered something from the grill menu – beef sirloin steak. There was a choice between three choices: teriyaki, wasabi pepper or anti-cucho sauce. I selected wasabi pepper.

Nobu Melbourne

I requested it medium rare. It was cooked really well, but it wasn’t as tender as I thought it could have been. I did really like the sauce though, but it was quite a lot of meat for one person and I did end up trying to foist slices on to the others!

The menu at Nobu is really designed for sharing – but with the lunch deal we all ordered our own dishes (tasting one another’s of course). So the timing of dishes, particularly the mains, was off – mine was the last to come out and it was at least 15 minutes after everyone elses. The waiter explained that this was due to the fact that Nobu had seven different kitchens (orly?). If we had been sharing the dishes,we might not have noticed the timing issue, but since we weren’t it really made us wonder about the seven kitchens.

Nobu Melbourne

For dessert, Daz and I both ordered the green tea trifle mousse layered with vanilla brûlée, almond and coconut meringue and milk chocolate ice cream, with lime and vanilla foam. I loved the way it was presented, and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t too sweet, or not too rich, and I found the green tea mousse nice and smooth with the almond and coconut meringue providing some crunchy contrast. I didn’t really eat the toffee, but it was very pretty!

Nobu Melbourne

Alastair had the Suntory whisky cappuccino layered with crunchy coffee cacao, coffee crème brûlée, milk ice cream and Yamazaki whisky foam. His dessert was very small compared to the other ones, and looked just like a coffee.

Nobu Melbourne

Bro had the tofu cheesecake with green tea crumble, berry compote and tuile. When the dessert arrived at the table, the compote was presented in a separate bowl. The waiter, noticing that we were taking photos, offered to pour the compote on top of the dessert for us so we could get a good shot. We all stifled giggles as the compote just plopped on to the dessert in a big blob. Not sexy at all, but points to him for trying!

Nobu Melbourne

Maria had the warm chocolate satandagi filled with pistachio and chocolate ganache in a Japanese bun and served with caramelised pistachios, berry coulis and almond ice cream. They looked like big balls with a chocolate filling!

I thought the lunch deal was good value – but only if you order carefully. I wouldn’t mind going back to Nobu again for lunch. There is a $45 bento box that I noticed other tables ordering that looked good, but I doubt I will ever eat there at dinner time. It is expensive. When I go to a restaurant, particularly a fine dining one, I realise that prices on items are going to be higher because I’m also paying for service, the fit out, etc. And that’s fine – it’s part of the experience. However, there is a point where a mark up just seems to be taking the piss – and Nobu reached that point for me. $40-$50 mains can be okay, but when a bowl of miso soup costs $6.50, a bowl of rice costs $4.50, or a milk coffee is $5.70, as it is at Nobu, it just seems ridiculous. But maybe that’s just me!

See what Maria thought of the meal.

Nobu Melbourne
6 Whiteman St
Southbank VIC 3006
Phone: (03) 9292 7879

Nobu on Urbanspoon

Spicy chocolate cookies

Spicy chocolate cookies

Cookbook Challenge: Week 24
Theme: Chocolate
Recipe: Spicy chocolate cookies
From: The Golden Book of Chocolate

Second recipe: Mexican chicken mole
From: The Golden Book of Chocolate

We’re on week 24 of the Cookbook Challenge and the theme this week is chocolate. I decided to crack open a book that Bro gave me a while ago – the Golden Book of Chocolate – and make two recipes. One sweet, and one savoury. Oh yes, savoury!

Let’s start with the sweet. I LOVE chilli and chocolate together, so I decided to make spicy chocolate cookies (biscuits? let’s stick with cookies). As I was baking these cookies, I realised why I don’t make cookies often. Because I don’t find it rewarding! The batch of cookies used 250g of chocolate as one of the ingredients and I only made 19 cookies! C’mon! For that amount of chocolate I could have had a massive chocolate cake, such as the best chocolate cake ever.

Spicy chocolate cookies

That aside, what did I think of the cookies? I made a couple of changes to the recipe – rather than using coffee liqueur I opted for strong espresso, and instead of chocolate chips I dug out some cocoa nibs that I had in the pantry. I’m glad I didn’t use chocolate chips because OH MY GOD these things were sweet! Mostly, I blame the inclusion of raisins – why oh why oh why with the raisins? If I felt like making these again I would definitely leave out the raisins. I would also up the amount of chilli flakes, they were only very faintly spicy and could have used a bit more punchiness.

Or perhaps I might just bake a cake next time. :)

Chicken mole

On to the savoury – the second recipe was a Mexican (inspired) chicken mole. Having never eaten a proper mole before, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. What can I say about this? It was weird and I’m sure that it was the recipe’s/my fault as I have no doubt that a proper and authentic mole would be rather delicious. My main issue with my mole was due to an oily aftertaste I thought I could detect. The recipe asked for a cup of breadcrumbs, and I’m sure that the aftertaste was due to the breadcrumbs. I should’ve used better quality breadcrumbs! Oh well. As for the inclusion of chocolate, the dish didn’t taste like chocolate – it just seemed to add an interesting dimension to the sauce. I would really like to try a proper mole one day.

Anyway, enough of that. Let’s have a look at the cookies again, shall we?

Spicy chocolate cookies

Ahh. That’s better.

See previous Cookbook Challenge posts here.

Update: see the round up at My Food Trail.

Spicy chocolate cookies

Spicy chocolate cookies

Adapted from The Golden Book of Chocolate

Makes about 18 cookies

2/3 cup (100g) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you’re feeling brave – do it!)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (60g) raisins (highly recommend that you leave this out!)
2 tablespoons strong coffee
250g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (60g) butter
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (150g) caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (90g) cocoa nibs (or chocolate chips)

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Heat the raisins and coffee in a small saucepan (or in the microwave).

Place the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl over a pot of simmering water until melted. Set aside to cool.

In an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar at high speed until very pale and creamy (about 5 minutes).

Add the chocolate mixture and vanilla extract to the eggs, and mix at medium speed.

Add the flour, baking powder, red pepper flakes and salt to the mixer and beat on low speed. Add the raisin mixture and cocoa nibs (or chocolate chips) and mix until combined. It will be a very wet, thick batter/dough.

Drop tablespoons of the dough a couple of centimetres apart on the prepared baking tray. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until risen slightly.

Let the cookies cool on the baking tray for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chicken mole


Mexican inspired chicken mole

From The Golden Book of Chocolate

Serves 4

1.3kg chicken pieces
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
4 tablespoons blanched almonds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons raisins
3 black peppercorns
1 clove
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons red chilli paste
2/3 cup water
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
30g dark chocolate
salt and pepper

In a large pot, place the chicken pieces, the quartered onion, and enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and let it simmer until cooked – about 30 minutes should do the trick. Remove the chicken and strain the liquid into a bowl, setting aside for later. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, discarding the skin.

Place the chicken in a large oven proof bowl and set aside. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

In a dry frying pan, toast the almonds and sesame seeds until lightly browned. Transfer to a mortar and pestle with the raisins, peppercorns, clove and cinnamon and crush until finely ground. Transfer the mixture to a food processor, along with the chile paste, water, chopped onion, garlic, tomatoes and breadcrumbs and process until smooth.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and saute the processed mixture for about 5 minutes. In a separate saucepan, add 2/3 cup of the reserved stock and the chocolate. Stir over a low heat until melted.

Add the chocolate mixture to the sauteed mixture and season well with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the chicken, and place in
the oven, baking for about 30 minutes. Serve hot.