Remember last year when we went to Taste of Melbourne? Alastair and Bro were so enamoured with the KFC (Katherine’s Fried Chicken) served by St Katherine’s, that I knew we would have to schedule a fried chicken dinner there one night.
Well, it took a while but fried chicken dinner finally happened this month, thanks to the organisational efforts of Mazza. A couple of other friends were roped in, and off we went.
Located in Kew, St Katherine’s is a big, busy restaurant seating 140 downstairs. Tables are bare and you grab your own cutlery and napkins from the tomato tin in the middle of each table. The menu has the previously fried chicken, as well as other Middle Eastern style dishes that are meant to be shared. If you don’t want to make a choice, there’s a few set menu options ranging from $45 to $75 per person.
Where I grew up, the weather was pretty stable. It was shit, but it was stable. When it rained (and it did often), it rained for days – pelting, horizontal rain. When it was windy (and it almost always was), it was a strong, bitterly cold wind that would turn umbellas inside out in an instant. When it was cold (and yes, it normally was) it would be cold for the whole week.
8 years in Melbourne, and I still think the weather here is insane. Hot sunny days suddenly transform to torrential rain in the space of an hour. One day it’s 30 degrees, the next it’s barely nudging 15. How is one meant to plan for such unsettled weather?? Should I leave the house in sandals, or do I need gumboots? Do I need tights, or will I be sweltering by the end of the day? AAARGH.
Maz, Daz and I caught up recently at Agraba on a Friday night. When I booked a table, I noticed that Agraba had both inside and outside seating. It was a gorgeous day on Friday, and I was tempted to request an outside table. And then I remembered – this is Melbourne.
Lo and behold, by the time I got home from work, the rain had started. Good thing I hadn’t chosen the outside table!
Recipe: Persian jewelled rice with chicken From: The Jewish Kitchen by Clarissa Hyman
The theme for this week’s Cookbook Challenge is “mixed”, which is a fairly open theme. I had a few ideas for things I could do for this week. I thought that I could make something that had different textures, or a dish that had a mixture of sweet and savoury. I also thought about making something that needed a mixer as part of the preparation, or cooking something that involved mixed berries.
In the end, I decided to do this Persian jewelled rice with chicken. It fits into the “mixed” theme, because the dish has a mixture of dried fruit, as well as being a mixture of sweet and savoury.
I had great intentions of cooking this dish in the late afternoon, so that by the time it was cooked, it would still be bright enough to take photos, and then I could exercise before dinner (it’s habit, I must exercise at the same time on my exercise days otherwise it doesn’t happen!). My good intentions were almost dashed by the fact that I ended up having a nana nap on the couch for a couple of hours….. and by the time I got off the couch, the cool change had kicked in and storm clouds had gathered over the house, cutting out a lot of light.
Fortunately, I didn’t need as much time as I had thought to cook the dish, and there was still enough light to take photos, despite the rain. Phew. Glad I didn’t end up regretting that nana nap, because really, is there anything better than a nap in the arvo??
The recipe itself was a bit of a kerfuffle. It seemed overly complicated for what is essentially cooked rice mixed with chopped up chicken and pieces of dried fruit. I did follow the recipe when making it, but it would be different if I were to do it my way. My way would involve cooking the rice by absorption method, and once cooked, mixing in the cooked chicken and dried fruit. It would be less complicated and take much less time!
I was a bit worried that the rice would end up far too sweet (check out the part where carrots are simmered in water and 200g of sugar!) but it was fine. With all the dried fruit, there were definite sweet parts to it, but not overly so. The nuts and the chicken helped balance it out.
I’m not sure that I would bother following the recipe again, although I did like the idea of the rice studded with bits of coloured fruit. Like I said, it seemed overly complicated and while it was tasty, it wasn’t tasty enough to be worth all that effort!
500g basmati rice 1.5kg roasting chicken, jointed salt 2 large onions, chopped finely shredded rind of 1 large orange (I used lemon) 2 large carrots, cut into fine slivers 200g sugar 4 tablespoons sunflower oil 150g raisins 150g dried barberries or cherries (I used cranberries) 150g dried apricots, chopped into small pieces a few strands of saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water (optional) shredded almonds and chopped pistachios to garnish
Rinse the rice well, and leave it to soak in cold, salted water for a few hours.
In a non-stick pan, place the chicken and one of the chopped onions. Sprinkle in a little salt and then cover and cook over a very low heat (don’t add any water). Let it cook for about 45 minutes. The chicken will simmer in its own fat and juices. Cool, then bone and skin the chicken and cut into small pieces. Set aside, and reserve any juices from the chicken.
Next, place the orange rind, carrots and sugar in a pot, and cover with 300ml water. Boil for 10 minutes and then drain.
In a frying pan, cook the other onion in half the oil until translucent, then add the raisins, barberries and apricots. Cook for a few minutes, then add the orange and carrot mixture. Drain, and set aside.
In a large non-stick or heavy based saucepan, bring 1.5 litres of water to the boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt, and then add the drained rice. Bring it back to the boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Let the rice simmer for 3 minutes and then drain. Rinse with tepid water and shake gently into the sieve to keep the grains separate. Set aside.
Wash out the pan, and add the rest of the oil. Swirl the oil around so it covers some of the sides as well as the bottom.
With your hands, sprinkle in a layer of rice (this helps to aerate it). Top the rice with some chicken, then fruit. Continue with the layers, trying to build up into a conical shape, and finish with a layer of rice. Poke a few holes through the rice with the end of a wooden spoon.
Drizzle over the reserved chicken juices, the remaining oil and the saffron. Cover the pot with a clean tea towel, then a tight lid, and cook for 1-2 minutes on a high heat. Then reduce the heat to very low and let it “steam” for a further 40 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and leave to stand for five minutes before lifting off the lid. Serve in a mound on a large platter, garnished with almonds and pistachios (I just mixed mine all through the rice).
On the Friday before Australia Day, Bro took the day off, so we organised to have lunch in the city. Rather than going for cheap Asian again (like the other lunches we’d had recently), we went down to Maha Bar & Grill.
After looking at the rather awkwardly sized lunch menu we decided to go for a soufra (banquet). There are 3 options available – two courses for $35, three courses for $40 and four courses for $45. We decided that we didn’t want dessert and choose the two course option.
Not too long after we had ordered, the first course came out on a wooden board. On the board there was a selection of mezze: marinated olives, char grilled eggplant, warm and crunchy runner beans, rather good hummus, cucumber topped with harissa and a feta-ish cheese, a carrot salad, and pita bread.
Everything was really tasty, and I particularly liked the cucumber – it was a great way of serving a mostly disinteresting vegetable! Almost everything can be jazzed up with spiciness and cheese!
We didn’t wait long for the second course, which also came out on a wooden board. On the board was butterfish with pinenuts and pomegranante seeds, fattoush, chargrilled lamb mince balls with heirloom tomatoes, capscium dip, cous cous with raisins, and more pita bread.
The smokey, garlicky lamb balls were nicely spiced, charred on the outside, and served quite raw in the middle – the capscium dip complimented them well. I enjoyed the heirloom tomatoes, and since Bro doesn’t like raw tomatoes I got to eat them all!
The butterfish (at the back) was also very good, perfectly cooked and juicy.
Bro and I both really, really enjoyed our lunch. The amount of food was just right and, more importantly, delicious. At lunch it’s particularly good value – at dinner it’s a bit more expensive. Judging by the meal we had though, I’m sure it would still be worth it!
Maha Bar & Grill 21 Bond Street, Melbourne Phone: (03) 9629 5900
In celebration of my Bro’s birthday in August, we took him out to dinner. Because it was a weekday, I didn’t feel like going somewhere too fancy, so I picked Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant.
Well, it was a good thing I wasn’t looking for fancy, because Tiba’s certainly isn’t! The atmosphere was…… what’s the best word? Functional comes to mind! It was a bit like having dinner at someone’s house – someone who hadn’t decorated for a couple of decades. Still, we weren’t there for the atmosphere or interior design – we were there for food.
After perusing the menu, we decided on the set menu and chose Tiba’s House Special. I assumed that the price was per person, but it wasn’t – it was per serve. After a bit of confusion where we got the feeling that we only had ordered one House Special (we had), Alastair went to the waiter to clarify and settled on two serves of the set house special. He was told that three would probably be a bit too much for the three of us and that was good advice.
I really needed to eat – a strong coffee in the late afternoon had been churning my stomach and I was still feeling a bit nauseous. I kept being teased by the sight of food being bought out only to disappear around the corner. So when food arrived (after a couple of quick nasty photos of course) I started stuffing myself.
Because I was so focussed on eating, I don’t really remember exactly what we had… I know there was pita bread, and dips (hummus, tzatziki, & baba ganoush), dolmades, chickpeas, parsley salad (I’m still not sure if this was supposed to be tabouleh as there was no visible signs of burghul), garden salad, pickles, Lebanese pizza and falafel. While I was eating stuff individually, Alastair had the brilliant idea of sticking stuff in pita bread and wrapping it up. Just like a bought one!
Then the meat came out – lamb, chicken, beef, sausage, some random meat on a stick, sitting on a bed of rice.
And that rice – OH MY GOD. All the juice from the meat had soaked into the rice and it was so tasty. It was oily and meaty and delicious – I could’ve eaten a bucket of it. My only wish is that the rice had been a bit warmer. There is nothing like steaming hot rice straight from the pot or rice cooker. Mhmmmm.
It didn’t feel like I had eaten that much, but by the end of the meal we were all completely stuffed. Not that my full stomach stopped me from taking a small pack of pastries home to savour on the couch…!