Disclosure: My meal was courtesy of Food Pampering and Universal Restaurant.
Recently I was invited to a lunch at Universal Restaurant by Ashley of Food Pampering, along with a small group of other food bloggers. Located on Lygon Street, Universal Restaurant was established in 1969 – I’m sure that Lygon Street has changed a lot in that time! Alfie, the executive chef and manager, introduced himself and told us a bit about his restaurant, which was started up by his father. Alfie took over several years ago, and it’s still a family business – I’m pretty sure he told us that his brother also works there. (more…)
Recipe: A really good spaghetti bolognese
From: Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries
The theme for the Cookbook Challenge this week is “Italian”, and after a lot of hunting through my cookbooks, I decided to make bolognese. Normally I don’t follow a recipe for bolognese, but for the purposes of the Cookbook Challenge, I decided I would for once.
Unsurprisingly, I had a few recipes to choose from, and I decided on a Nigel Slater version from The Kitchen Diaries. I’ve posted before about my love for Nigel Slater before, so I had very high hopes for this recipe. (more…)
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.
Welcome to the gnocchi party! I am just turning up on time to the party – but in my defense it has been a busy week. My mother-in-law Annette, and her husband Terry, have been visiting, and so we have been out all week (it has been a major eating week!).
A few weeks ago, Penny from Addictive and Consuming rounded up several interested bloggers for a gnocchi party. Everyone was to make gnocchi, following the theme “unami”, and post it oh, right about now!
I have never made gnocchi before, but being a carboholic, I love it. The recipe I followed was from The Cook’s Companion, and it was very straight forward and easy to make for a gnocchi beginner.
Potato gnocchi with blue cheese sauce
Adapted from the Cook’s Companion
For the gnocchi:
salt 1 kg potatoes – Stephanie recommends Toolangi delight, desiree or nicola 300g-325g plain flour
For the blue cheese sauce:
125g blue cheese 1/2 cup milk 20g butter freshly ground pepper 2 tablespoons cream
Give the potatoes a good wash, and then place them in a large pot of water until tender. Drain and peel.
Pass the potatoes through a food mill or ricer directly on to a clean work surface and sprinkle with salt. I don’t have a food mill/potato ricer so I used a steamer basket that has large holes. It took AGES. But my arms got a good workout!
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil in preparation for cooking the gnocchi.
With one hand, sprinkle the potato with flour and, using the heel of the other hand, work it in. Be as quick and deft as possible (I wasn’t either of these things!). Continue until all the flour is incorporated – I only used 2/3 of my flour. Having never made gnocchi before, I wasn’t sure how stiff/sticky it was supposed to be, so I just stopped when it didn’t seem to want to take any more flour.
When the cooking water is boiling, roll the potato mixture into a long rope and cut into 1cm pieces.
Roll each piece across the curved side of a fork using one finger to create the traditional shape. I had NO IDEA what I was doing here so my gnocchi were all weirdly shaped!
Lower the heat for the pot of water until it is simmering. Drop in some gnocchi, and wait a few minutes until they rise to the surface. Lift them out with a slotted spoon, drain for a moment over the pot, and tip into a bowl (into a warmed oven to keep warm if you’re making lots). Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
I served the gnocchi with a blue cheese sauce. The sauce should be hot on the stove while you’re cooking the gnocchi. Here’s the recipe for the sauce:
Combine the cheese, milk, butter and pepper in a heavy-based frying pan over a gentle heat and cook until thick and creamy. Add the cream, increase the heat a little, and cook, stirring, until the sauce starts to thicken. Keep warm while you cook the gnocchi.
When all the gnocchi is cooked, pour the sauce over it, shake gently and serve.
For my first time making gnocchi, I was rather pleased with them. They were (relatively!) light, and delicious with the blue cheese sauce. I did find the sauce rather strong so a bit less blue cheese or less sauce over the gnocchi would be a good idea next time. And I’m sure there will be a next time – since I now know how easy gnocchi is to make. I might buy a potato ricer first though!
Eggs are stupid, Eggs are dumb, So take the eggs And stick em up your……..
The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is “eggs” and I actually don’t think eggs are stupid nor dumb. I love eggs! My favourite way of eating them is poached, with a still oozy yolk. Which is probably why I decided on this recipe.
For the theme this week, I made fresh pasta (with eggs) and turned the pasta into oozy egg ravioli. Double the egginess right there. I think I remember seeing this ravioli on the Fifteen reality show, and I remember it looking very impressive.
The recipe involves first making the pasta, and then rolling it out (or putting it through a pasta machine) into thin sheets. A tablespoon of seasoned ricotta is placed down, and an egg yolk is placed on top.
Here’s one ravioli ready for the top sheet of pasta – look at that beautiful yolk. After the yolk is placed, the ravioli is sealed, and then cooked for a few minutes, before being covered in a butter sauce and topped with some pepper and a smattering of parmesan.
While making the ravioli isn’t complicated, it is a bit of effort putting them together. You have to be quite careful not to break the egg yolks – I broke two, gaaaah. The only change I made from the recipe was to put some sage leaves into the butter.
Ideally, only cooking the pasta for a few minutes will leave the yolk still runny. And ahhh yes, so it did. It does look good with the gooey yolk. I’m not sure I would bother making them again, but I’m glad I tried it at least once!
This is a double edition of ladies who lunch – I had the pleasure of having two lunches with two friends in the same week.
Jo and I went to Nudel Bar for a long over due catch up. It was a cold, wintry day, and I felt like something warm and soupy. So I ordered the Tom Yum soup ($19.80) – it was packed with egg noodles, a slurpable, spicy, sour broth, and lots of seafood (mussels and squid).
It was a very large serve, and if I hadn’t eaten all of it I would’ve been tempted by dessert. There was a chocolate cake that the waiter described in persuasive detail that sounded wonderful.
Nudel Bar 76 Bourke Street, Melbourne Phone: (03) 9662 9100
The next day I met up with Emily and her daughter, Audrey, for a lunch at Society. It was much posher inside than it appeared from the outside (all the yellow outside threw me off), but they were okay with a pram being pushed through the restaurant.
We were given bread and oil, along with the tastiest olives I’ve eaten in ages. I had a baby on my lap at the time, so I didn’t manage to take photos.
Society do an express lunch during lunch time – for $20 you get a plate of food (from a shortened menu), a glass of wine and a coffee. Good value!
I opted for something off the main menu – a small serving of potato gnocchi with slow-cooked beef ragu & fresh shaved black truffle ($18 / $28). The little gnocchi were light and the sauce was rich and plate lickingly good.
Emily had something off the Express menu – a pear and blue cheese salad. You can see Audrey’s hand (on the right) picking up a piece of blue cheese. It appears that kid has good taste already!
Two lovely lunches with two lovely ladies in one week – it was a rare treat and very much enjoyed.
Society Restaurant 23 Bourke St, Melbourne Phone: (03) 9639 2544
To continue the celebration of my Bro’s birthday weekend, we headed to Gills Diner last Saturday night with a few of his friends. The quote above is from our pal, Ben, who requested that I post it on my blog sometime. He is a very articulate man indeed.
Gills Diner is a warehousish space which has been described as part school room. I got the school vibe while there, probably due to the wooden chairs, wooden tables, and school style heaters. Unlike school however, Gills is hippity, hip, hip.
The menu is on a large blackboard on the back wall. It’s cooler and funkier than having a paper menu, but a bit problematic if you have bad eyes (like me). We were seated just far away for it to become difficult to read after a glass (or two or three) of wine.
We were advised not to order a main and a starter each, so we got four starters to share between the nine of us.
The first one was the farmhouse terrine with chutney ($15). It was delicious, but I’m glad that we were sharing. It was a rather large slice!
We also had a plate of antipasto ($22). On the plate was little fried fish (anchovies? whitebait?), pickled vegetables, bread with pate, slices of a rolled up chicken thing with stuff in the middle, and fried cheese. Crumbed, deep fried cheese! Crispy but gooey, it was the best thing on the plate just due to the fact that it was fried cheese.
And we got two plates of one of the specials – chorizo and calamari. It was pretty simple, but good.
Bro had the roasted quail with saffron gnocchi ($25). All those peas looked a bit scary but it was a good dish.
Alastair had the rabbit saddle, prosciutto rolled and stuffed with walnuts and dates on chickpea stew ($33).
And I had the risotto with porcini and forest mushrooms and tallegio ($23). Oh, yum. I tried four other mains (we rotated our plates so we could have a taste of what everyone was eating!) and I thought that I had ordered the best dish. I was happy when it made its way back to me! The mushrooms gave the risotto an earthy flavour, and the rice had the right amount of “bite”. The buttery tallegio was delicious, particularly where it had melted into the risotto.
And finally, Lisa and I had to have dessert. We had been eyeing up the churros with chocolate ($10) the whole night. Unfortunately, for me, it turned out to be a disappointment. There was no mention of it on the menu, but the chocolate was flavoured with orange. Ew!! Personally, I think that chocolate and orange should stay as far away from each other as possible. Down to chocolate and orange! I couldn’t even eat the churros on their own, because they didn’t taste right without chocolate on them. Boo. Fortunately, Alastair doesn’t have choc/orange issues, so he happily finished off the churros, despite being “too full for dessert”.
Even though I had my issue with the churros and chocolate, we had a really good night. I enjoyed the food and atmosphere and would happily go back. Maybe no churros next time though!
Gills Diner Gills Alley (rear of 360 Little Collins St) Melbourne Phone: (03) 9670 7214
Isn’t it annoying how life always gets in the way? When I first started working in the city, my friend Emily and I had the intention of having lunch about once a month. With lots of stuff happening in both our lives, it was difficult to set a date and we skipped a couple of months. In April, we finally managed to get together again, and headed to Journal Canteen.
Journal Canteen is located in the Centre for Adult Education building, and used to be a vacant first floor classroom. The menu, written on a couple of blackboards around the room, changes often but generally comprises antipasto, a couple of main courses and a dessert.
On our visit, the main choices were orrechiette with peas, pancetta and fresh ricotta, chicken coletta with cucumber and tomato, stuffed peppers with green beans, and spaghetti with three meat ragu.
I had the spaghetti with three meat ragu ($18). The braised, shredded meat in the rich, tomato based sauce was nothing fancy, but it sure hit the spot.
Em had the stuffed pepper with green beans ($18). I’m not sure what the pepper was filled with – we were too busy yakking for me to find out!
And we got a wee salad.
To finish off, we each had a freshly filled ricotta cannoli ($4.50 each) and a complimentary stovetop espresso. The cannoli was perfect – the fat tubes, dusted with icing sugar, were wonderfully crunchy with just a touch of sweetness. A lovely end to a long overdue lunch.
Journal Canteen 253 Flinders Lane Melbourne Phone: (03) 9650 4399
Last week was a busy one – work was unusually silly and my mother-in-law, Annette, was visiting.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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
My friend Emily and I just managed to sneak the next instalment of Ladies who Lunch into January. The restaurant of choice this time was Bottega, which is located at the top end of Bourke Street, not too far from Parliament.
We were offered bread to begin. Really Good Bread. Sometimes it’s the very simple things that make me happy and the bread certainly did! The bread had a lovely chewy crust and moist, soft centre. The friendly and professional waiter came back later to offer us another piece, which I gratefully took because the bread was divine. (Another simple thing at Bottega that made me happy? Good quality wine glasses.)
We started off with the Silician sugar cured kingfish carpaccio with lemon, sherry, currants, radicchio and
pinenuts ($18). Look at it. It was so beautiful it was a shame to eat it.
My main was the romesco crusted barramundi fillet with roasted eggplant shown on the left ($31.50). My dish was stunning. It seems like such a simple dish, but it was totally amazing. The fish was cooked perfectly – moist and just flaking under my fork. The eggplant was meltingly tender (and y’know how much I love eggplant). The romesco was full of flavour and garlic. The garlic didn’t totally dominate though, and I didn’t really notice the amount of garlic until I realised I was sucking down glasses of water like crazy.
Em had the nettle tagliatelle with fresh spanner crab ($21). I’m told that it was delicious and rather filling.
We shared a side of broccolini with lemon anchovy dressing ($6). Again, something relatively simple, but done so well. The still slightly crunchy broccolini was dressed in a salty, buttery, lemon dressing. Breadcrumbs provided a bit of textural difference to the dressing. So freaking gorgeous.
We didn’t leave without having dessert. I had the cannoli filled with ricotta, hazelnut and chocolate candied orange with bitter chocolate icecream ($14.50).
The cannoli was a good way to finish off the lunch – not too rich or too sweet. The pastry tubes were slightly crunchy and firm, providing a nice contrast to the soft filling. I did find it a bit hard to eat with a spoon and a fork – too bad it wasn’t the kind of place where I could just pick it up with my hands!. While I’m not that into candied orange or orange flavours (I have no problems with the fruit or juice though) I still found myself gobbling the little chocolate candied pieces up. They gave a little zing to the creamy ricotta. The ice cream was a deep, dark chocolate and my only complaint is that it melted too quickly!
Em had the bittersweet chocolate tart with morello cherries and creme fraiche ($15). It looked very decadent!
Bottega is comfy and stylish, and on the day we were there, much quieter than I was expecting (perhaps the rain that day had kept people in their offices).
It was a wonderful lunch to finish off January. The next restaurant in the Ladies who Lunch series will have to be pretty good to compete with this meal!