Easy asparagus soup

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I love green vegetables, get cravings if I go too long without them.  I think it must be genetic, as my boys are the same and actually ask for broccoli, beans and peas (and get excited about them!).  This is an easy to make soup by Neil Perry, its a little naughty compared to the leek, pea and zucchini from the other week, as it does contain cream and butter.  Serves 4 and super easy

Ingredients
60g butter
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 leek, white part only, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
4 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3cm pieces
1 large all purpose potato peeled and roughly chopped
800ml chicken stock
150ml pouring cream
1tbsp fresh lemon juice

Making it
1. Heat butter and oil in a large, heavy based pan. Add leek, salt and pepper and sweat on low heat until leek is soft. Add asparagus and potato and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes
2. Add stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes, then process using a stick blender (or food processor) until smooth
3. Add the cream and lemon juice and serve with crusty bread or croutons

Today’s Cake – Blueberry Crumb Cake

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Blueberry prices have been a King’s ransom of late.  I saw this cake by Smitten Kitchen back in July and knew that my husband would love it, but waited till the weather got warmer and blueberries were more reasonable, otherwise it’s one very extravagant cake! I used 3 x 125g punnets (375g) of blueberries but as the recipe suggests, you can use even more if you wish. Me, I’m take it or leave it when it comes to berries, not a fan (except for mulberries, which I adore), but as I predicted, the husband was a big enthusiast and loved the end product. The walnuts, by the way, are optional.

Crumb topping
40g plain flour
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
55g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt

Cake
240g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons table salt
55g unsalted butter, softened
150 g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
340 to 455g fresh blueberries, clean and dry
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped medium fine
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Butter a 23cm round baking pan and line with baking paper
  1. Prepare the topping by mixing the flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt, then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar and zest together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredient mixture until just combined, followed by 1/2 the milk; repeat with remaining dry ingredients and milk, finishing with the dry mixture. The batter will be quite thick. Fold blueberries into cake batter until evenly distributed.
  1. Scoop cake batter into prepared pan and smooth so that it is flat. Scatter walnuts on top. Sprinkle with prepared topping. Bake in heated oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out batter-free. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the tin, then remove, dust with icing sugar and serve.

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Dimitris’ Moussaka

With this run of dismal wet weather in Sydney, our idyllic blue sky days on the island of Paros in Greece only a couple of months ago feel like a bit of a dream. While we were there we had some great food, some of it prepared by a local cook Dimitris at our villa. A few weeks ago I tried his baked eggplant recipe, which my husband loved. This time I tried his version of moussaka – there must be endless versions, every yiayia must pass down her own to her family, and it is a labour of love. If you have a mandolin (one of my kitchen essentials), you’ll make light work of the slicing. I used a 7mm slice for the eggplant and a 5mm slice for the potatoes and zucchini. If you have nice ripe Summer tomatoes, you can use fresh instead of canned. You could also use Pecorino or Parmeggiano instead of gruyere. My baking dish was approximately 20cm x 34cm and about 6cm deep.  Dimitris if you’re reading this, I hope I did an ok job!

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Ingredients
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced
4 medium zucchini, sliced lengthways
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
Olive oil for brushing and frying
100g of Gruyere, grated
50g of Gruyere, extra (for topping)
1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs

Meat sauce
1 large onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1kg beef mince
½ cup white wine
1 can peeled tomatoes, pureed
2 bay leaves
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of raw sugar
Salt and pepper for seasoning

For the béchamel
100g butter
3/4 cup plain flour, sifted
1 litre milk
100g Gruyere, grated
Salt for seasoning
Pinch of nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten

Making it

1. For the meat, sauce, put the olive oil in a pan, add the onion, and saute until softened. Add the mince and cook until browned, add the wine and cook down. Add the tomato, sugar, bay leaves, nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. It should not be too wet as you don’t want your moussaka to be runny

2. Fry the sliced potatoes in olive oil, season and set aside; fry the zucchini slices in olive oil and set aside

3. Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Brush the eggplant with olive oil, season, and bake until softened, 20-30 minutes

4. Meanwhile make the béchamel. Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and whisk, and cook for a few minutes. Add the milk, whisking constantly; the mixture will thicken and begin to bubble. Season, add the nutmeg, remove from heat and whisk in the cheese. Finally whisk in the egg.

Assembly
Place a layer of potato on the bottom of your baking dish, covering as best possible. Follow with a layer of eggplant, the half the grated cheese. Then add the meat, make sure it is a nice smooth layer. Follow with a layer of zucchini, the rest of the cheese, another layer of eggplant, then finally top with the béchamel. Sprinkle the extra cheese on top and the breadcrumbs, bake in a 180 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

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Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar, Melbourne

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No, it’s not named after the actress. Surely they must be tired of saying that by now – they being George Columbaris (Press Club), Michael Lambie (ex Taxi and The Smith) and a few buddies who have opened a new Mod Asian eatery in PM24’s old digs. It has only been open a few weeks when we try it out, and it is already heaving on a Tuesday lunch.

It has taken me a while to get round to writing this post – ‘the backlog’ is many a food blogger’s curse. But here’s the thing. Even when I’m writing up a place several weeks later, there will be a dish that stands out in my mind, that I can still taste, and that I’m dying to go back and try again, even before flicking through the photos that are going to go on the post. And that memorable quality for me, was slightly lacking here, no real wow. Don’t get me wrong, the food was fine, and it was early days, but the return pull factor isn’t huge. I would probably rather try Supernormal again, which I was also a little divided on, but it was slightly more interesting. My view is probably also due to the fact that I think Sydney far outweighs Melbourne in the number of great choices in the Mod Asian space and we’ve been really spoilt on that front (Melburnians don’t yell at me!), so the benchmark for this type of cuisine is pretty high.

Anyway, here’s what we ordered that day. Clockwise, starting top left Crystal Skin Prawn and Bamboo Dumplings with cucumber & yuzu dressing; Barramundi & Scampi Dumplings with chilli, ginger and spring onions; Wok fried local calamari with pickled papaya and hot mint salad, red nam jim; Crispy Fried Quail with shichimi pepper and spicy plum dressing. I found the dumpling casings a little on the thick side, though the flavours were good. The quail was crisp and not at all greasy.

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Next up, clockwise from top left: Peking Duck Dumplings with Lucy’s hoi sin sauce; Rare breed sticky pork belly, palm sugar caramel, young coconut salad & red chilli; Soft Shelled Crab Jianbing Pancake roll with spicy hoi sin; Stir fried Asian greens. The pork gave us a surprise – when we ordered it, the waitress advised that it was only two pieces, would we like to up the order to three pieces – she didn’t mention it was two very tiny pieces of pork for $20, so a very small dish for $30 – how rare is the breed exactly? The pancake, like the dumpling, was on the thick side. The greens were excellent, and probably the favourite thing I ate that day.

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As I said it had only been open a few weeks, and some refining and tweaking to be done, and I also think the serves are quite on the small side for the price.

Lucy Liu Kitchen and Bar, 23 Oliver Lane, Melbourne Ph (03) 9639 5777

http://lucylius.com.au/

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Toque Time (Sydney) – The SMH Good Food Guide 2015 Awards

 

2015awardsHot on the heels of the Melbourne Awards  last week comes the Sydney session.  The Good Food Guide turns 30 this year. It is quite extraordinary to think that 30 years ago, there was no such thing as “Modern Australian” food – instead it was called “Anglo Saxon” cuisine; and a meal at a three hatter would set you back $29.  Over the years the GFG has gotten bigger, more powerful (some would say that’s a bad thing), and the toques are always a cause for debate amongst restaurant goers like me….especially for places like Marque (sorry I had to throw that in, but really?)

So who were the casualties of war in the last 12 months? Well Guillaume at Bennelong closed, refusing to become a more casual, 7 day a week, breakfast-lunch-dinner bistro as requested by the Opera House Trust, and re-opened his fine dinner just a few weeks ago in Paddington, merci beaucoup.  Claudes shut down, with Chui Lee Luk opting for the more casual Chow Bar & Eating House, serving modern Chinese.  Xanthi went into liquidation, succumbing to the Fine-Dining-In-A-Shopping-Centre-in-Australia-Doesn’t-Work curse; Buzo is now Pinbone, though they recently taunted diners with a pop up serving THAT lasagne and the cabbage salad (when will you open that whispered CBD site?), and Foveuax and Tomislav are no more.   That’s a total of nine hats. In all, 40 of the restaurants that were in the 2014 guide closed. As we hear all the time, it is a tough gig in the hospitality game.  Having said that, 80 new restaurants have appeared in the Guide this year.

Drumroll please…..and the winners are

Restaurant of the Year – Sepia

Best New Restaurant – Ester

Legend Award – Peter Doyle (Est)

Chef of the Year – Brent Savage (well deserved in my view, loving Bentley at the moment)

The Hatters – City

Three Hats
Momofuku Seiobo, Quay, Rockpool, Sepia

Two Hats
ARIA Restaurant, Bentley Restaurant & Bar (re-entry), Berowra Waters Inn (up a hat), The Bridge Room, est., Ester (new hatter), Gastro Park, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Lucio’s Italian Restaurant (up a hat), Marque, Mr. Wong, Ormeggio at the Spit, Pilu at Freshwater, Porteño (up a hat), Rockpool Bar & Grill, sixpenny (up a hat), Spice Temple, Tetsuya’s

One Hat
4Fourteen (up a hat), Aki’s Indian Restaurant, Alpha (new hatter), The Apollo, Arras, Bar H Dining (re-entry), The Bathers’ Pavilion, Billy Kwong, Bistro Moncur, Bistrode CBD, BLACK by Ezard (up a hat), The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Bodega, Buon Ricordo (down a hat), Cafe Paci (new hatter), Cafe Sopra, Catalina, China Doll, Cho Cho San (new hatter), Clareville Kiosk, Cottage Point Inn (new hatter), the devonshire, Farmhouse (new hatter), Felix (new hatter), Fish Face (new hatter), Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar, Four in Hand Dining Room (down a hat), glass brasserie, Hartsyard, Jonah’s Restaurant, Kepos Street Kitchen, Longrain (down a hat), Lox Stock & Barrel (new hatter), Monopole, Moon Park (new hatter), MoVida (down a hat), Ms.G’s, Nomad (new hatter), Oscillate Wildly, Osteria Balla (new hatter), Osteria di Russo & Russo (new hatter), Otto Ristorante (re-entry), The Restaurant Pendolino, Saké Restaurant & Bar, Sean’s Panaroma, Sokyo, sushi e (new hatter), Three Blue Ducks, Uccello, Ume Restaurant, Vincent (new hatter), Vini (new hatter), Yellow (new hatter)

Lost hats – Ananas, Popolo, Gowings Bar & Grill

Regional Hats

Two Hats
Biota Dining (Bowral), Muse Restaurant (Pokolbin, up a hat), Subo (Newcastle West)

One Hat
Bistro Molines (Mount View), Caveau (Wollongong), Cupitt’s Kitchen (Ulla-dulla, new hatter), Darley’s Restaurant (Katoomba), Eschalot (Berrima), Fins Restaurant (Kingscliff), Harvest Cafe (Newrybar, new hatter), Lolli Redini (Orange), Manfredi at Bells (Killcare Heights), Muse Kitchen (Pokolbin, new hatter), Restaurant Como (Blaxland), Restaurant Mason (Newcastle), The Stunned Mullet (Port Macquarie), Tomah Gardens (Mt Tomah, new hatter), Tonic (Millthorpe), Town Restaurant & Cafe (Bangalow), Wharf Rd Restaurant & Bar (Nowra), Zanzibar Cafe (Merimbula)

Today’s cake – classic tiramisu

Lots of people and restaurants claim to have ‘invented’ tiramisu, and who knows who is telling the truth.  What we do know is that it was an invention of the 60’s, along with audio cassettes, the beehive hairdo, and colour television.  Fast forward fifty odd years and we still predominantly use savoiardi, or lady finger biscuits, to make it but in the modern world there have been endless versions with berries, mango, yoghurt, and in the latest trend I’ve noticed in restaurants, “hot and cold tiramisu” (the last of which I recently had a delicious version of at Sarti in Melbourne).

The one below is classic in my mind.  My Mamma Rosa has always always made it with marsala, so that’s how I make it too. My cousin Concetta on the other hand uses Amaretto, and the method below is hers; Mamma Rosa has given me a couple of versions – one with a custard and cream (if you don’t like the thought of raw eggs, or are allergic, this is the way to go) and a ricotta one.  But whatever you use, like most Italian sweets, they are never complete without a splash of alcohol somewhere.  Tiramisu is great for a dinner party, because you can serve a crowd with it easily, but also you can make it the night before, or at least give it several hours before serving – many recipes say to leave it two or three hours, but I think you need at least twelve.

Once upon a time you could only get lady finger biscuits at Italian delis, but now the supermarkets stock them too. If you’re worried about the raw egg whites, use some cream instead. You can use a square, oval, or round dish, or you can even make it in individual glasses. So easy and so good!

Ingredients
6 eggs, separated
1 cup caster sugar
250 ml espresso coffee, chilled
150 ml marsala (or other preferred alcohol)
500g mascarpone
1 400g pack Saviordi biscuits
Cocoa or grated chocolate, for topping

Making it
1. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and caster sugar until thick and pale. Add the mascarpone, and beat till combined
2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the yolk and mascarpone mixture
3. Combine the marsala and coffee in a small flat dish of a suitable size for dunking the savoiardi. Put each biscuit in the liquid mixture just for a few seconds so that only half the biscuit is dunked (if you put it in too long it will collapse). Place the biscuit in your serving dish with the “undunked” side on the bottom. Repeat until you have covered your serving dish.  You may need to cut your biscuits in order for the dish to be covered.

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4. Cover the layer of biscuits with half the mascarpone mixture. Then do another layer of dunked biscuits, then the other half of the cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve. You could also do it in individually served glasses or bowls.

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5. Just before serving, dust with the cocoa or grated chocolate.

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Toque Time (Melbourne) – The Age Good Food Guide 2015 Awards

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And yes, here we are again at Award time. Restaurant “Award Season” is in full swing, with Gourmet Traveller releasing its 2015 Restaurant Awards last week, and The Australian coming out with its Hot 50 list.

 

Lest you think these awards don’t actually matter, this is what happened to Saint Crispin in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood last year after it won New Restaurant of the Year:

‘Scott Pickett, the chef and co-owner,…….arrived at the restaurant on Tuesday (the day it’s closed) at noon to find 198 voicemails and 78 emails inquiring about bookings. ”By the time we got through them all at 3pm, we had another 138 messages to address,” he says. By Wednesday, Pickett had employed a second staff member ”to manage calls and bookings”. Other winners on the night also saw a peak in phone and email activity when they arrived for work on Tuesday’ (Good Food, 3 September 2013). 

Extraordinary, no?  But at the end of the day for everyone who lovesloveslovesloves restaurant x, there will be someone who can’t stand it, because that is what makes the world go round. One can’t help but wonder though, if The Age has struck a deal with Tourism Victoria – most of the new hats are to regional restaurants, which will see foodies (did I mention I hate that word?) around the country piling into their cars driving around the state and throwing around superlatives.

And the winners are…..

Restaurant of the Year – Brae, Birregurra (watch the population of this town go up in coming months. Does anyone actually know where it is?)

New Restaurant of the YearSupernormal (really?)

City

Three Hats
Attica, Flower Drum, Vue de Monde
Two Hats
Cafe Di Stasio, Cutler & Co, Ezard, Grossi Florentino, Matteo’s, MoVida, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Rosetta, Saint Crispin (up a hat), Spice Temple
One Hat
Bacash, Becco, Bistro Guillaume, Bistro Vue, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane, Centonove, Circa, Coda, Cumulus Inc, Da Noi, Dandelion, Donovans, Easy Tiger, Epocha, Estelle, The European, The Grand, Hare & Grace, Huxtable, Il Bacaro, Kenzan, Longrain, Maha, Merricote, Moon Under Water, MoVida Aqui, No. 8 by John Lawson (new hatter), Noir (new hatter), 
Pei Modern, The Point Albert Park, The Press Club, Pure South, Sarti, Shoya (new hatter), Stokehouse City, Supernormal (new hatter), Tempura Hajime, Tonka, Town Hall Hotel, The Town Mouse (new hatter), Union Dining (new hatter), 
Woodland House (new hatter), Yu-u
Regional

Three Hats
Brae (new hatter)
Two Hats
Gladioli (up a hat), Jim McDougall in Stefano’s Cellar, Lake House, Provenance, Royal Mail Hotel, 
Ten Minutes by Tractor
One Hat
A La Grecque, Annie Smithers Bistrot (new hatter), The Argus Dining Room (new hatter), Chris’s Beacon Point, Du Fermier (new hatter), Eleonore’s, Healesville Hotel, Kazuki’s, Montalto, Paringa Estate, Port Phillip Estate (new hatter), Simone’s Restaurant, Tani Eat & Drink (new hatter), Terminus at Flinders Hotel, Terrace Restaurant, Tulip (new hatter)
Lost Hats
Albert St Food & Win, Bella Vedere, Brooks, Grossi Florentino Grill, Nellsons