I’m not a big fan of autumn, winter, grey skies, and rain. Every year, I eagerly wait for summer to arrive. But even I must admit that there are some positives to the cold, wet weather – one of them being wild mushrooms.
A couple of weeks ago, the Boys and I headed down to T’Gallant for a mushroom hunt. It had been raining heavily the night before and we showed up to find that almost everyone else had gumboots on. Uh oh! Were we going to be under prepared? Trust me, if we had owned a pair of gumboots, I would have brought them, but we live in Melbourne…. where it rarely rains for more than 30 minutes. So gumboots have always seemed like a stupid thing to buy. But maybe that’s just envy talking because everyone else was so prepared!
My mind is a bit fried tonight. This morning I got out of bed early, made gnocchi, baked muffins, baked a banana cake, and went out to a 1 year old birthday party, where I drank bubbles, and ate far too much cheese and cake.
The early start, combined with far too much sugar, has left me feeling a frazzled, so I’ll keep this post short and sweet.
The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is potato, and when I asked Alastair what I should make, he replied, “Gnocchi!”. I made gnocchi for the first time the other month, but since I couldn’t think of anything else I wanted to make, gnocchi it was.
This time I followed a recipe from a different cookbook, and it worked out pretty well. I managed to roughly make the gnocchi shape by rolling it over a fork – unlike last time when it was too soft to shape. Oh! And I bought a food mill, so it was much easier this time. Whoo hoo for not having to push potato through a fine sieve!
We had the gnocchi for lunch so I sauteed some mushrooms with garlic and butter to have with it. I have to say, it was pretty good! The gnocchi turned out quite well too, fairly light and fluffy. And if we hadn’t eaten such a filling, carbalicious lunch, I’m sure the bubbles, cheese and cake would have put me in a worst state. As it is, I think I’m done for the evening. Thank you and good night!
1kg starchy potatoes 2 small eggs, lightly beaten about 320g plain flour pinch of salt
Wash the potatoes, and cover with cold water in a pot. Bring the water to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Let the potatoes cook until they are soft (about 45mins – 1 hr depending on the size). Drain the potatoes – you may want to put them in a hot oven at this stage to dry them out.
While the potatoes are still hot, peel them and put them through a sieve/food mill. (I found it easiest to hold the potato with tongs and peel the skin off with my fingers.) Put them in a bowl or on your work surface and create a well in the centre. Add the egg, pinch of salt, and three quarters of the flour. Mix well and as soon as the dough comes together, stop. Only add the rest of the flour if you think it needs it. Don’t overwork the dough.
Dust your work surface with flour and flatten your dough into a rough square about 1.5cm thick.
With a knife, cut the dough into strips about 1.5cm wide. Roll each piece lightly until it is cylindrical.
Lay two or three cylinders next to each other and then cut through them at the same time , cutting them into 1.5cm wide pieces. Repeat with the rest of the cylinders.
Take a fork and push each piece of dough on to the prongs, so that it rolls itself up and is marked with lines. Repeat with all the pieces.
To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the gnocchi, stirring until they rise to the surface (a minute or so). Lift them out with a slotted spoon and serve with your choice of sauce.
Cookbook Challenge: Week 31
Recipe: Pissaladiere From: The Australian Women’s Weekly “Kitchen” Dear Cookbook Challengers in Melbourne! See the end of this post for details of a meet up!
The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is French, and initially I was stumped. What could I make for French week that would be fairly easy and only involved ingredients already in my pantry?
But after a bit more thinking, I realised there’s TONS of things that come from French cooking! I almost made a dessert (it was a toss up between brulee or clafoutis) but, despite all the sweet things on this blog, I don’t actually have a huge sweet tooth. (Lots of sweet things make an appearance here because they’re easier to photograph…..! Confession time!) So rather than dessert, I made pissaladiere – an onion and anchovy tart.
The recipe I followed for the pissaladiere had a bread type base, although I believe pastry can also be used. The topping is made from a rather large amount of slowly cooked onions, on to which anchovy fillets and olives are placed. Oh. Notice anything missing on mine? I ran out of olives so mine is sans olives!
Despite the missing olives, the pissaladiere was DELICIOUS. There’s something about the combination of the bready base, sweet onions and the salty fishiness of the anchovies that really did it for me. I know lots of people don’t like anchovies, but gosh it’s worth acquiring the taste for them, just so you can eat pissaladiere!
And now an announcement for all Cookbook Challengers in Melbourne! April and I have been discussing a meet up and we have decided on a date. It’ll be a potluck lunch on Sunday 11 July – with the theme being Spanish (which is the theme for the week after – so if you come, you get to tick off your dish for the following week!). Email me or comment on this post if you’re interested. And if you’re a lapsed Cookbook Challenger, perhaps this could be the motivation to get back into it?!
50g butter 1 tablespoon olive oil 3 large onions (600g), peeled and sliced thinly 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 bay leaf 1 sprig fresh thyme 1 tablespoon baby capers, rinsed 3/4 cup (110g) self-raising flour 3/4 cup (11g) plain flour 30g butter, extra 3/4 cup (180ml) buttermilk 20 drained anchovy fillets, halved lengthways 1/2 cup (90g) small seeded black olives
Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan over low heat and add the onions, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Cover the pot and let the mixture cook gently for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the onions to be soft but not browned.
Let the mixture cook uncovered for a further 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme, and stir in the capers.
Preheat the oven to 220°C and oil an oven tray.
Make the base by sifting the flours into a large bowl. Rub in the extra butter, and then stir in the buttermilk to form a soft dough (mine needed more flour). Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth.
Roll the dough into a rectangular shape that is about 25cm x 35cm. Place on to the tray.
Spread the onion mixture over the dough, up to the edges. Top with the anchovy fillets, placing them in a diamond pattern. Put an olive in the middle of each diamond.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the base is crisp.
I am a big fan of noodles, most kinds of noodles in fact. See the ramen hunt post as an example of my dedication to noodle goodness. As soon as the theme was announced, I had a fairly good idea of what I wanted to make. We had so much fun making soba noodles in Japan, that I really wanted to make my own noodles – and what better noodles to make than hand pulled noodles?
When Alastair and I were in China years ago, one of our most memorable meals was a bowl of noodles at a street stall. We watched the noodles being pulled in front of us, and five minutes later we were tucking in. Amazing.
I knew that I wouldn’t be able to come close to replicating that meal. Hand pulling noodles is a skill that takes lots of practice to develop, but hey – I’m always up for a challenge!
I followed the instructions on this website – How to make hand pulled noodles. The dough is easy to put together – it’s basically flour, water, salt, a tiny amount of baking soda, and oil. The dough needs to be kneaded for a long time – to “destroy the gluten structure” according to the website, until it gets to a point where it stretches easily without breaking. I let my mixer do the kneading, but even after 25 minutes my dough didn’t reach that point and I couldn’t do the first pull without it breaking.
Now panic and freak out!
Finally, I figured out that if I added more water, it made the dough more supple and less prone to breaking. So eventually, after rather a lot more water, YAY NOODLES. I still had a lot of problems with the noodles breaking, and they were all uneven thicknesses, but look!
If you watch the above video, you can see how wet the dough is at the beginning. If I was ever silly enough to want to try pulling noodles again, I would try lots and lots more water. I wish I had started with wetter dough – it probably would’ve been much easier!
If you’re considering trying this, let me tell you. It is HARD. I now have first hand experience of exactly how hard it is, and goodness gracious do I appreciate the skill that is involved in pulling noodles! It is definitely something that takes a lot of practice.
It took me so long to make the noodles (we’re talking hours…) that I was exhausted afterwards and couldn’t be bothered doing much with them. Fortunately, I had a large pot of chicken stock already made, so I boiled up the noodles and served them in the chicken stock with some enoki mushrooms. They tasted okay, but not amazing…. not like I had spent hours making them! But I’m really glad I gave it a shot.
That’s it for my contribution to the International Noodle Incident Party. See Addictive and Consuming for the round up or check out the following links:
Following on from our punny lunch at Cutler & Co, we decided to continue the Andrew O’Connell love and headed to dinner at Cumulus Inc with Maria and Daz from The Gourmet Challenge.
Since Cumulus Inc only takes bookings for large groups, Alastair, Bro and I showed up early in the evening to secure a table. Good thing we did, because it filled up fairly quickly. Although now I realise that with five people, maybe we could have booked?!
Between the five of us, we ordered several dishes to share.
We started with a serve of crispy school prawns, sautéed with chilli and garlic ($14), because we can’t seem to resist school prawns whenever they are on the menu – see exhibit A and exhibit B. They were light and crispy with just a tiny hint of heat and garlic.
Oh and we noticed the table sitting next to us shelling their prawns. Sadness. They missed out on the best part, which also would have happened to be most of the dish!
This was a portion of slow cooked octopus with aioli and dehydrated olive ($10). It was teeny, but the octopus was oh so tender and a very nice little mouthful.
Next we had the foie gras parfait with toasted brioche ($17). The parfait was very rich and smooth, but umm… there were five of us and only four small pieces of toast! We had to ask for a bread refill to finish up the parfait.
Oh, this was gorgeous. So gorgeous. The grass fed steak tartare ($21) was delicious. We mixed in the egg and onions, cornichons etc, and tucked in.
It was served with condiments – normal tabasco, jalapeno tabasco and anchovy sauce. The anchovy sauce came with a little dripper – it was very potent! But the steak tartare was so perfectly seasoned that we found it didn’t need the condiments.
And for mains we had a whole slow roast lamb shoulder ($69). This is really good value for money! It was great too – the meat was so tender and juicy. We shared it between the five of us, and it was the perfect amount of meat. I think it’s a main that is best shared between several people, but we saw a couple a few tables over sharing it between the two of them (as well as sides!) They ate quite a lot of it too – I was rather impressed at their lamb eating prowess.
The lamb came with lemon and onions, and a big knife to carve it with. Thanks to Maria for carving it up for us!
We also had a salad – the cracked wheat and freekah salad with preserved lemon and barberries ($11). Although now that I look at all these pictures, I feel like we should’ve ordered some vegetables or greens.
And then – dessert!
Alastair and I shared the pear sorbet with burnt butter shortbread and almond milk ($16). This is one of the best desserts I have eaten in ages. The sorbet was intensely peary, cold, smooth and slick. I loved the super butteriness of the shortbread and the almond milk was soft, resembling a panna cotta.
And Bro had the steamed chocolate pudding with hazelnut toffee and crème fraiche ice cream ($17). He said that it was rich and delicious.
For second dessert (as you do) we all had a madeleine filled with lemon curd ($2.50 each). The slightly crisp crust lead into a fluffy, cakey biscuit that was filled with tangy lemon curd… drool. They came to the table still warm, and were gone very quickly. Next time I think I might be tempted to order two per person!
In case you can’t tell, we loved our meal at Cumulus Inc – actually much more than our lunch at Cutler & Co. It’s obvious why Cumulus Inc has so many fans – and you can count me as one of them!
I was pretty keen to bake bread of some kind, but I ran out of time to do a proper loaf. Instead, I pulled out a book that has recipes for quick breads, and put together this loaf in just over an hour. It should have taken longer, but I didn’t let the oats soak for the full 30 minutes – as soon as my oven had preheated I figured it was good enough.
The loaf is made with porridge oats, molasses or treacle (I used treacle), buttermilk and a mixture of wholemeal and white flour. And it is really good! The oats and wholemeal flour give a chewy, nutty, texture and flavour with a crisp crust. Because it has a mix of white and wholemeal flour, it’s not too dense or heavy. When it came out of the oven, I couldn’t wait for the loaf to cool completely before I cut a slice to taste. Bad, I know, but who can resist bread straight from the oven? Not me! It was great with butter (natch) and a second slice was also really good with honey. The third slice (ha!) saw the return of butter, but I do think a bit of sweetness works really well with this bread.
I’ll definitely make it again. And I’m looking forward to eating the rest for breakfast tomorrow!
After stops at two wineries (T-Gallant and Montalto), our lunch stop was Pier 10. Pier 10 used to be a weekender, and became a vineyard in 1996. It’s a very pleasant spot, with the restaurant looking out over the vines and fields. I seem to remember being told that it’s called Pier 10 because the structure in the front garden used to be part of a pier.
After tasting a few wines in the tasting room (where we came across a bucket of seriously gigantic zucchinis that were looking for homes), we headed to the back deck for food.
For lunch, we had an antipasto platter to share. It was all pretty good – olives, cured meats, some very good crunchy green beans, marinated vegetables and a bit of smooth pate.
And for the mains, the options were: a wild mushroom risotto, fish and chips, roast chicken breast and pan roasted ocean trout.
Alastair, Terry and I, ordered the pan roasted ocean trout, with nicoise salad and basil pesto. We were all pleased with our lunch – the trout was perfectly cooked with crispy skin, and the vegetables and salad were crunchy and fresh. Good boiled egg too!
Annette had the roast chicken breast with mashed potato, green beans, and gravy. This looked great – and it was a massive portion!
It was a very pleasant lunch – nothing fancy, but the food was well cooked and tasty. And as a bonus, we took a zucchini home for later – I told you they were massive!
In May, Provenance in Collingwood held one of their semi-regular seasonal produce events. The latest was an autumn degustation to celebrate local pears, held over three evenings, with 7 courses for $75 and matched wines for an additional $22. Alastair and I rounded up Dany for a peary peariffic evening.
The first course was a Gorgonzola dolce pannacotta with salt pear coulis and crispy prosciutto. Interestingly, the panna cotta was fizzy on the tongue, which was a bit distracting. Apart from the fizziness, it was rich and creamy and sharp with the Gorgonzola, which I really enjoyed with the sweet pear coulis.
Next up was a pear tarte tatin with parmesan crisp, watercress, and rocket pesto. This was a gorgeous little tart – good flakey, buttery pastry and sweet pear. While the pear was sweet it wasn’t a dessert dish and managed to find that balance. The rocket pesto was a tad too bitter for my tastes, so I left most of it.
After the tarte tatin, we received a whole quail that had been partially boned, with a pear and pecan farce on cavalo nero and jus gras. This was the best savoury course of the evening. Thankfully the quail had been partially boned, so it was tender and easy to eat. The pear and pecan stuffing was great and the cavalo nero helped cut through the richness of the meat and jus.
This was a pear and Roquefort millefeuille with walnuts. Instead of pastry layers, slices of crunchy pear were used, with dabs of Roquefort in between and a bit of lemon zest on top. This was fantastic, and yet so simple.
The final savoury course was described as a partridge in a pear tree. On the plate was partridge breast that had been braised in pear cider, served with pear confit, and a few pear and ginger tortellini. The partridge wasn’t quite as nice as the quail, and the pear was strangely salty. I quite liked the pear and ginger tortellini.
The first of the desserts was a caramel pear pudding with double cream. This was a wonderful dessert, perfect for winter and cold nights and deserved to be eaten while sitting by a fire. Gorgeous! It was a real comfort pudding – soft, cinnamony goodness in a cup.
And finally, our last course and second dessert was coffee assiette – espresso poached pear, a rich, dark chocolate espresso mousse, and “pear-fogato” (ahh, we love a pun in this house. Sad but true.).
The espresso poached pear was decorated to look like a Xmas pudding, with the white chocolate and fried mint leaf on top – ahh so cute! It was a bit hard to eat with a spoon though as the white chocolate was very hard to break. And the espresso for the pear-fogato was REALLY strong. I wish I hadn’t poured it over the ice cream and just eaten the ice cream plain.
We had a great time, although at four hours it was a long night. The timing at the beginning seemed a bit slow, but thankfully things picked up at the end.
Cookbook Challenge: Week 29
Recipe: Blueberry and pistachio muesli slice From: Australian Women’s Weekly “Bake”
For the Cookbook Challenge this week, the theme is “blue”. And for the Challenge, I present “FAIL SLICE”. What is fail slice? It’s when you forget a vital ingredient when baking. Yes, major fail.
But let me tell you what it’s supposed to be. I baked a slice for this week’s theme – a blueberry and pistachio muesli slice. Sounds okay, right? The original recipe used cranberries, which I substituted with dried blueberries to fit with this week’s theme.
It all started out fine. It’s the easiest recipe to put together. Basically, it just involves melting sugar, butter and honey in a saucepan, and then adding the berries, oats, pistachios and self-raising flour. Oh yeah, unless you’re me, and you just leave out the flour. Because why would a slice need flour?
Funnily enough, when I mixed it all together, I thought to myself, “I wonder if this is supposed to have flour in it?” Did that make me reread the recipe? Nope! I told myself it didn’t, and put it in the oven!
In fact, I didn’t realise my error until after the slice had been in the oven for almost 15 minutes and I realised it didn’t quite look right…. and it was kind of burnt around the edges… and oh. Wait, what was that about flour again?
I am not sure what it tastes like. I’m sure if it’s made properly, it’ll taste great! Someone try it and let me know!
And since it’s blue week, I’ll leave you with a picture of Cookie Monster cupcakes. They didn’t quite turn out the way I imagined them in my head – I certainly didn’t imagine them looking so demented (and these are the good ones, seriously). The cupcakes are these vanilla cupcakes with the addition of crushed oreos in the batter and the face is made from fondant, with a mini chocolate chip cookie shoved in the mouth. Cookie, cookie, cookie!
125g butter, chopped coarsely 1/3 cup (75g) firmly packed brown sugar 2 tablespoons honey 1& 1/2 cups (135g) rolled oats 1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour 1 cup (130g) dried cranberries 1 cup (140g) roasted pistachios, chopped coarsely
Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 20cm x 30cm slice pan. Line the base of the pan with baking paper, extending it a couple of cms over the side.
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter, sugar and honey over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Tip the mixture into the prepared slice pan and press firmly into it.
Bake for about 20 minutes and cool in the pan before cutting.
Here are some random snacks and sweets from our trip to Japan last year.
I’ll start with the mochi and mochi type items – because I loved the mochi in Japan. It was all so fresh and delicious!
I’ll start with some of the best. When we were in Takayama, there was a sweets shop down the road from our ryokan. I wish I had taken a photo of the shop now – they had glass fronted cabinets lined with what must have been rows of 20 different flavours of individually wrapped daifuku (mochi with a filling). It. Was. Wonderful. The daifuku from there was the best I have ever eaten! The mochi had the usual characteristic chewiness, but it was really fresh and soft, and seemed to melt in the mouth.
Just before we left Takayama for our next stop, I purchased three flavours to eat on the train – green tea, chocolate and the purple one was a purple Japanese fruit that we had seen at the markets, which I believe is called akebi. My favourite was the green tea with chestnut filling. The sweetness of the chestnut filling was perfect against the bitterness of the green tea. Sigh. I still remember that daifuku very fondly and wish we could get ones as good here in Australia.
This is the purple fruit that I think is called akebi. We never tried the actual fruit, but the daifuku didn’t really have a distinctive taste. It wasn’t memorable at all, and all I can recall of it is the red bean filling.
We came across these in a market in Osaka – they are like an inverted daifuku with the red bean paste wrapped around plain mochi.
In this version, the green colour of the mochi wasn’t green tea, as I assumed. I’m pretty sure that I was told it’s due to mugwort, a herb that grows wild in Japan. It gives the mochi an earthy taste. I preferred the plain version, although this one was interesting to try.
This sweet was part of a lunch set we ate on the top floor of a department store in Kyoto. I believe this is called warabimochi, and it’s not a proper mochi. Mochi is made from pounded glutinous rice, while warabimochi is made from bracken starch. It has a chewy, jelly like texture. We had a couple of pieces with green tea powder and some with kinako (toasted soy bean flour). It may not have been proper mochi but I loved it. It wasn’t too sweet, and I really enjoyed the texture.
When we were in Koyasan, we rather quickly ran out of sights to see and things to do. We ended up killing time by hanging out in a sweets shop, eating sweets and drinking tea. We tried three varieties – this one was a warabimochi with kinako covering.
I think these ones were a type of manju (fukashi manju?), a steamed rice cake with a red bean filling.
This was the third item from the sweets shop, and I will have to be honest and tell you I have no idea what it’s called! It’s on top of a paper bag because I bought it for the train ride to Osaka and it got a bit flattened in transit.
These triangle shaped sweets are big in Kyoto and are called nama yatsuhashi. The soft, mochi-like skin is made from rice flour, flavoured with cinnamon, and comes with different fillings inside, such as red bean, black sesame, or fruit flavours. The skin can also come in a variety of different flavours. These were some of my favourite Japanese sweets – I loved the faint cinnamon flavour, and of course, the soft chewy skins. I did try a fruit version (strawberry) but I preferred the ones that were green tea, black sesame or red bean.
They were almost as good as the daifuku from Takayama.
Here you can see all different varieties boxed up for sale. They can also be baked into cookies called yatsuhashi, but we didn’t try the baked versions.
By the way, I have read that a piece of mochi that is around match-box sized has the same amount of calories as a bowl of rice. Gulp! Perhaps if I had known that I wouldn’t have stuffed my gob with so much mochi…. Nah, who am I kidding! It wouldn’t have stopped me!
Now moving away from the mochi, and back to Takayama. This stall at the morning market sold sweets that were like cubes of marshmallow, covered in egg and honey and then grilled.
The cubes were super sweet, soft and eggy. So so sweet! I had a hard time eating a whole one.
Everyone knows that Japan is the land of crazy Kit Kat flavours – we came across an apple and carrot version. Sadly, it was horrible and tasted rather like bodywash!
Alastair bought this box of chocolate covered ice cream balls from a vending machine. When he opened it up, we found that each ball was individually wrapped!
This is vanilla ice cream in a squeezy pack – called Coolish – and yes, we did buy it because of the name! How could we have passed it up? Alastair only ate half before it was stolen off him! Okay, not really stolen – a teenage boy with Down’s Syndrome came up to him, said hello, and grabbed the Coolish. Alastair let him have it, although he said wistfully later, “I was really enjoying that ice cream.” Awww!
This was a green tea ice cream we ate in Tokyo and the reason it’s up here? LOOK AT THE CONE! It catches any ice cream drips! Isn’t that just genius?
And now on to drinks – Mitsuya Cider was one of our favourites. There are other flavours, but the basic flavour sort of resembles Sprite, although not quite as sweet. There are also Mitsuya Cider hard candies, which fizz in the mouth as they dissolve. I loved the candies and made sure we purchased several bags to bring home.
We are big fans of Calpis. Big fans. I love all those fermented milk type drinks. This flavour is a “more nutritious” yoghurt version, and was fantastic.
If you’re still with me – yay you! Only a few more snacks to go. I had to take a photo of these potato chips because I was rather amused that the chips were encased in a bag inside the tube.
Not being able to read Japanese, I purchased these chips expecting them to be salty. I was rather surprised when I ate one and discovered that they were sweet potato and therefore, sweet! After I got over my initial surprise, I quite liked them.
And how about some crunchy sticks of unhealthy, fried, processed carbs? Yes please!
And to finish off, here’s a photo of taiyaki, a Japanese fish shaped cake. We ate these in Tokyo, where there were numerous little shops selling freshly cooked ones. The outside is like a pancake/waffle, and inside the most common filling is red bean, although we also tried custard.
We ate many, many more snacks in Japan, but fortunately I didn’t take photos of everything otherwise we would be here all night. If you want more Japan eats, previous Japan posts can be found here.