Are macarons the new cupcake? They’ve been sweeping the foodie world over the past year and I must admit that the fad has mostly passed me by. But then I freely admit that I’m late to a lot of trends!
While I would class myself as a fairly confident baker, I’d never attempted baking macarons. Reading numerous reports from other bloggers on how difficult it is to bake them successfully scared me off! But recently I joined several other bloggers for a macaron making support session: Cherrie (and her gorgeous daughter, Deanna!), I-Hua, Liz,Kat, Penny and Thanh.
Are they as hard to make as everyone claims? Were we successful? Read on….
Cookbook Challenge: Week 52
Recipe: Asparagus and gruyere tart
From: AWW Kitchen
Recipe 2: Onion Foccacia
From: AWW Bake
It’s the last week of the Cookbook Challenge! I can’t believe that April, Kat, Shellie and I started it a year ago. 52 themes later, one post and at least one recipe each week, this is the LAST ONE. Amazing! It was a big effort, and I’m quite pleased that I made it right through to the end. There will be another one next year, but it’ll be fortnightly, which should be easier to keep up with. More details to come, if anyone is interested in joining! (more…)
The idea for an Asian snack food tasting session came out of a Twitter convo with Thanh, Adrian and others. It was one of those ideas that sounded fantastic – a group of us getting together for lunch and tasting dried cuttlefish and dried mangoes.
Thanh organised a lunch meet up at Old Town Kopitiam Mamak, where Alastair and I met up with him, Lingy and I-Hua, all prepared with our bags of cuttlefish and mango. Thanks for organising, Thanh! (more…)
We started with a tour of the kitchen, which might sound dull to non food lovers, but to a whole gaggle of food bloggers, a kitchen tour is a VERY EXCITING THING (yes, so exciting it deserves caps!). The kitchen is open to guests, so people eating at Collins Kitchen can go for a wander and watch the chefs at work at the five cooking stations – sushi, deli, wok, grill and patisserie.
We oohed and ahhed at the fresh ingredients on display, the sexy red meat cutting machine in the deli section, and all the super shiny clean surfaces. Whoever cleans that kitchen – please come and clean mine!
In the wok section, there were two turbo jet wok burners. When they turned on, they sounded like a jet taking off. I didn’t take a photo of them because I was transfixed with a serious case of lust over the burners – I WANT.
There was also a steaming station for fresh dim sum with artfully arranged steamer lids. I wonder who has the job of arranging items in the kitchen in an attractive way?
And now for some food pics! We started with a sushi/sashimi platter. It was all very fresh and good. The fresh wasabi was amazing.
And you can bet that I totally ninjaed the unagi – yum!
Next up was the antipasto platter with rockmelon, prosciutto, liverwurst, mini gherkins, deli meats, roasted vegetables, and tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and basil. I didn’t try everything on this platter, but the liverwurst was fantastic, all smooth and rich.
The tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and basil were also very good.
Next was a tomato, olive and basil foccacia, very so cheesey and soft. I restrained myself to only one piece because I knew there was lots more to come.
Moving along, we received a plate of Asian roast meats with roast pork, roast duck, soy sauce chicken and char siu. I only tried the crispy pork and char siu, but from other reports I should have tried the chicken as well! I thought the crispy pork and char siu weren’t bad, though the crispy pork could’ve been crispier.
There were sauces to go with the roast meats – plum sauce, chilli sauce and a ginger and spring onion one.
As well as a plate of Asian vegetables, which I didn’t eat because I was trying to keep some stomach space spare.
With the roast meats, there was also received a plate of fried rice. The rice was fine, and this is probably just me, but I would normally never eat fried rice with other dishes. To me, fried rice is a meal in itself. So I was kind of wanting plain rice with the roast meats….!
And now for the big guns…. this was the grainfed porterhouse steak, which had been aged for 30 days on the bone, and grilled to medium rare. This was some gorgeous steak, tender and full of flavour.
The steak was served with creamy, buttery, mashed potato, very tasty mushrooms, broccolini and a couple of sauces – a red wine reduction and bernaise.
And finally to end the savoury courses, there was also a mixed seafood platter with grilled scallops, salmon, tuna, Moreton Bay Bugs and large prawns. The sweet, plump scallops were a highlight, as were the Moreton Bay Bugs.
For dessert, a gorgeous looking dessert platter came out. On the platter was a banana millefeuille, chocolate fondant, and various flavours of ice cream – pistachio, passionfruit, strawberry and vanilla. The pastry in the millefeuille was particularly good, and I adored the pistachio the most out of all the ice cream flavours.
And on the other side was a rhubarb crumble with custard and peach melba. I actually thought the peach melba was a pannacotta until I dipped my spoon into it and found it very runny. No one seemed particularly enthused about the peach melba, poor little dessert! Too retro for us??
As you can see, there was a lot of food! The only part that was a bit disconcerting was jumping from one cuisine to another to another, but I realise that was so we experienced a cross selection of dishes on the menu. And I soon got over the cuisine changes once the plates of food were placed in front of me. 😉 It was fantastic to spend the night chatting to fellow food bloggers, so a big thanks to Nuffnang and the Grand Hyatt for the evening!
Disclosure: I dined courtesy of the Grand Hyatt and Nuffnang.
Collins Kitchen, Grand Hyatt 123 Collins Street Melbourne VIC 3000 Phone: (03) 9657 1234
It was great to see bloggers from previous meets as well as seeing some new faces. As to be expected with a large bunch of people who love food, everyone bought a lot of delicious stuff to eat. Somehow I didn’t end up taking many photos of it – perhaps I was too busy chatting/eating? So I’ll leave you with those who have covered it better than I can:
And a big thanks to the great staff at The Commoner, who not only let us use their court yard, but fired up the pizza oven, showed us how to use it, provided serving utensils and plates, and were extremely accommodating! What a fab place!
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.
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!
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.
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.