Greek stuffed vegetables

Recently, a friend asked me if I’d show her how to make my silverbeet and filo scroll, which of course I was delighted to do.  We gathered at her place with a couple of others, one of whom showed us her Greek stuffed vegetables, called “yemista”, for a very relaxed and fun night of cooking and chatter.   I knew The Marito would like this, so had a go at making it myself a few nights later.

Like a lot of my Italian recipes courtesy of Mamma Rosa, she made it on look and feel so I’ve done my best on quantities.  Also like a lot of our Southern Italian recipes, there are many many versions of this Greek dish, depending on the village or how it was tweaked over the years.  Often, currants and nuts – either toasted flaked almonds or toasted pine nuts – are added, particularly at Christmas.  You can also add garlic when frying off the onion, but my cooking companion, like me, doesn’t cook with garlic (her husband doesn’t like it, and neither does my father, so Mamma Rosa never cooked with it and so I don’t), and other herbs such as fresh oregano if you have it on hand.  For our vegetables we stuffed tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant, but you could just do one of those if you prefer.  Capsicum are also often used. You can also do a meat version of this using a mince combination of your choice. I really loved the use of mint in this dish.

Ingredients
6 tomatoes
2 medium eggplant
4 medium zucchini
1 large red onion, diced
50ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 cup medium grain rice
500ml chicken stock, plus a few tablespoons extra
1 cup continental parsley leaves
1 cup mint leaves
100g feta
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Making it
1. Slice the tops off the vegetables (about 1cm from the top, maybe a little more for the eggplant) and set aside. These will be the “lids” later on

2. Using a spoon, scoop all the pulp out of the tomatoes, chop coarsely, and set the pulp aside in a bowl

3. Similarly, scoop the flesh out of the zucchini and eggplant, to form a boat shape. Leave a good rim otherwise they will collapse during cooking. Chop the flesh coarsely and set aside.

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4. Add the olive oil to a pot with the onion and a pinch of salt, and fry off on medium heat until the onion starts to soften. Add the reserved eggplant and zucchini flesh to the pot and continue to cook for a few minutes until softened, then add the tomato pulp. Cook for a few more minutes and add the rice and 250mls of stock and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Coarsely chop the parsley and mint, add to the mixture, combine and remove from the heat. Check for seasoning at this point and add if needed. Note the rice will still be on the crunchy side, don’t worry about this, it will cook in the next stage.

5. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Place your vegetable “boats” in a baking dish (you might need two dishes) and then loosely fill each with some of the rice mixture. Don’t pack it down or overfill (you’ll see I overfilled my tomatoes and little as a couple split) as the rice will expand during cooking. You might have a little rice mixture left, if so you can add more stock and keep cooking and turn it into a bit of quasi risotto for another day!

6. Cut the feta into small pieces and place one piece in each tomato, two or three pieces in each of the eggplant and zucchini depending on the size. Then spoon a teaspoon or two of stock into each vegetable. Next, place the “lids” on each vegetable, season to taste, and drizzle with a little olive oil on the top. Pour about half a cup of stock into the bottom of the baking dish. Put the dish in the oven and cook, uncovered, for an hour. Remove from the oven and serve, hot if you wish or at room temperature, which is typically how they are served in Greece. Delicious!

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Bennelong, Sydney

Recently, I was invited to a lovely lunch at Bennelong.  Now in the hands of Peter Gilmore, I haven’t been here since Guillaume was at the helm.

When Guillaume’s lease was up back in 2013, the space was put out to tender with a brief that it would be “more accessible”, and Guillaume wasn’t keen on a more casual type venue.  The Van Haandels, behind Melbourne’s Stokehouse, won the tender and planned to open it seven days a week including breakfast on weekends.  While it was not going to be cheap, the plan was to make it more affordable than a fine diner and not such restricted opening times.  Imagine going there for a breakfast or brunch on a special occasion like Mother’s Day or a birthday, or going just because it’s a beautiful Sydney morning.  It never happened though, with the Van Haandels’ Melbourne restaurant tragically falling to a fire, and their attention had to be focussed on rebuilding that.

In steps Peter Gilmore to take over. And I’m not sure what happened to the whole desired more casual vibe that made Guillaume walk away, as it’s very much a fine dinner, with lunch only three days a week and dinner seven days.  And I don’t think the whole “accessible” thing has really been achieved with a three course meal at $135 for lunch and $145 for dinner; add a few wines and coffee and $200 per head is not a normal meal for most people, even the well healed, so special occasion it is.  Bit of a shame as more people should get to experience this unique space.

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Now I will say that I’ve always thought Peter Gilmore’s Quay was a little overrated, and I’ve been a few times.  If I was going to splash out, it wouldn’t be on my list. So I was curious here.  And it was a really lovely and beautifully presented meal – with entrees outperforming mains –  but I didn’t walk away thinking I’m dying to go back, and there is a dish I must have again, and I must take the Marito and and and…

On the menu that day:

Tartare of Rangers Valley wagyu with horseradish cream, capers, parsley and crispy beef tendon.  I love a good tartare and this was well balanced with the horseradish and the textural element.

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Confit tomatoes with straciatella, smoked almonds, sherry caramel and linaria (which is a herb apparently).  Essentially Italian cheese and tomatoes – a very classic combination, but a richness was added with the caramel.

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Yellowfin tuna with kohlrabi remoulade, anchovy emulsion, black rice and lava chips.  Beautiful quality tuna.

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And for the mains, pink snapper with radish, shellfish broth and lobster roe emulsion.  So tiny for a main course, and not sure where the broth was.

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Grass fed lamb, spring cabbage, fermented rye peas and blossoms.  Again a very small main course, and this was disappointing as the lamb was cold and a bit chewy.

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Onto dessert. Now this dish, strawberries and cream, did wow me.  I don’t really do strawberries much, but this was just a wonderful combination of flavour and texture and tasted so lively and fresh.

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Finally chocolate cake from across the water (does that mean Tassie?).  I’m not big on chocolate and found it bitter, but the chocolate fans on the table liked it.

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Bennelong, Sydney Opera House, Ph 9240 8000
http://www.bennelong.com.au

Mushroom and filo scroll

Always on the hunt for good vegetarian recipes for The Marito, I thought I’d give this recipe, courtesy of Belinda Jeffrey, a try. I did make a few changes, using less butter, less and lite sour cream and skipping the garlic. You’ll serve 4-6 with this, more if part of a banquet. I think this is one of those versatile “any time of the day” dishes – it would easily work for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or a late night supper! I used a good variety of mushrooms – other than standard cup I used oyster, Swiss brown, enoki, shemeji and shiitake, about half cup and half the others. It can turn into a costly dish if you go all exotic varieties, and nothing wrong with just using standard cup for the whole thing.

Ingredients
Mushroom filling
80ml olive oil
50g unsalted butter
2 medium brown onions, finely diced
1kg mushrooms sliced
100g lite sour cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
lemon juice, to taste (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup (about 15g) tightly packed finely chopped dill
60g pecans, coarsely chopped

Pastry
12 sheets filo pastry
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Poppy seeds for sprinkling

Making it
1. First make the filling. Place the oil and butter in a large frypan on medium heat, then add the onion and cook for 8-10 minutes or until softened. Then add the mushrooms and cook for 15 or so minutes. All the juices will need to evaporate or your scroll will be soggy.
2. Remove the pan from the heat and add the sour cream, mustard, lemon juice (I just used a squeeze), season with salt and pepper and combine all ingredients. Allow the mixture to cool and once cool add the dill and the nuts
3. Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees. Place some baking paper on a baking tray and place your 12 filo sheets on a slightly damp tea towel.
4. Take one filo sheet, lightly butter, then place another sheet, until you have three sheets. Repeat so that you have four lots of three sheets. Divide your mushroom mixture into four and spoon in a “log” shape down one long side of the filo. Then roll each of the four lots into logs. Take the first log and shape it into a coil and place it on your baking tray. (You can if you like place the logs inside a springform cake tin to ensure it holds its shape). Lightly butter the outside edge so that the next log sticks and then coil the next log and the next and you’ll end up with a large coil. Brush the top with butter, season the top with a bit of salt and pepper and sprinkle the poppy seeds. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the filo is nice and golden. Slide it onto a serving plate. I find it is easiest to cut using a serrated knife.

PaRi Pasticceria, Concord

PaRi Pasticceria, named after owners Paolo and Rita, opened just after the new year. For some time now, they have wanted to share with Sydney some of the sweets they grew up with in their home town in Sicily in Italy’s south. A pretty little spot with parquetry floors and marble tables on the Concord strip, the shelves at PaRi are laden with glistening deliciousness and service comes with a smile and authentic Italian accents.

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They particularly wanted to serve traditional Sicilian granita with brioche, something you’ll find many enjoying in the piazza in Taormina in Italy during the hot Summer for breakfast. I tried the refreshing espresso granita (it usually comes with cream on top if you choose) and it’s generous enough to share. There are a few flavours to choose from, among them strawberry, almond and pistachio. The texture of granita varies from place to place in Italy, with PaRi’s version being a smoother sorbet style.

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The Marito and I both loved the brioche with the ricotta and pear compote

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The baba was lovely, one of the better ones I’ve tried in Sydney, as was the ricotta cake.

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The (Not So) Small People rated their Nutella ciambella.

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You’ll also find plenty of other traditional Sicilian sweets such as cannoli and Minne di Sant’Agata (Saint Agatha’s breasts), a sweet with ricotta, chocolate and candied fruit. In the next few weeks you’ll find a traditional Pignolata Messinese, something hard to come by down under.

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If you’re not into sweet stuff, there are arancini with ragu and vegetarian arancini (I really liked the spinach filling, next time I will try pistachio which I’ve never had before) as well as focaccia. There’s a breakfast and brunch menu and a small selection for lunch.

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PaRi Pasticceria, 83 Majors Bay Road Concord, Ph 02 9743 425
http://www.paripasticceria.com.au

PaRi Pasticceria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Carriageworks Farmers Markets, Eveleigh

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A friend and I went for a wander to the Carraigeworks markets.  I’ve been wanting to get here for the longest time, but often Saturday schedules with sport and other Small People commitments make it tricky, so took the opportunity to squeeze in a visit before that all starts up again. But having visited and been very favourably surprised by the variety and quality of produce and the reasonably sized – not too big and not too small in my view – and generally well priced market, I’ll have to find a way to get there again.

There are all sorts of goodies on offer – fresh produce, cheeses, flowers, bakery items, and a few food stands such as Bar Pho and frequently (though not that day) Billy Kwong.  Sonoma was doing a roaring trade with some of the most giant loves of bread I’ve ever seen. There’s a little sign above each stall showing where each business is from.  Some were in striking distance of my house, others from far afield, but all NSW based. There were a few ingredients for recipes I’ve struggled to find in supermarkets and even specialty grocers, but they were all here!

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Flour and Stone are also a regular there. I tried one of their caneles which I adored and will find hard to resist on my next visit.

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Check out other markets I’ve visited in San Francisco, Tel Aviv, and Florence.

Carriageworks Farmers Markets, Saturdays 8am to 1pm,
245 Wilson St, Eveleigh

Shorties Bar & Dining, Lane Cove

Shorties has upped the bar ante in downtown Lane Cove.   With an experienced small bar crew behind it, the locals have breathed a sigh of relief.  Come for a drink and a snack, or settle in at a booth for a meal.   It has the pre-requisite small bar features – moody lighting, exposed brick, and cocktail names the bar man came up with while sampling too many.

So I gave their refreshing Nice Melons a whirl, though they are more than happy to mix up a classic if that’s what your after.  The staff were friendly and welcoming.shorties (10)

The menu has a good mix of dishes

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We started with the kingfish ceviche, simply done and lovely quality fish

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I also really enjoyed the scallops

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And I find it hard to go past a beef tartare

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The pork cheek was flavoursome but the octopus on the chewy side

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And the buttermilk fried chicken wings were juicy and tender, but unfortunately a little bland, they needed a little something to give them an edge

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Banana is not my thing but the girls rated the banana parfait with Nutella mousse

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The second desert, which I think was a mango ice cream and a cream, just blended, it really needed some texture and some separation to distinguish the components

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But for a venue just recently opened, they are ticking a lot of boxes.  Welcome to Lane Cove!

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Shorties Bar and Dining, 96 Longueville Rd, Lane Cove
http://www.shortieslanecove.com.au
Ph +61 2 9418 9780

Shorties Bar & Dining Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In My Kitchen, January 2018

Kicking off with the first 2018 edition of In My Kitchen, a global monthly link up currently hosted by Sherry’s Pickings which gives a peek into kitchens around the world.  Here’s what’s in the Napoli kitchen this month.

We were dragged to the Boxing Day Sales by our Small People who were very keen to spend some of their Christmas gift vouchers.  The Marito and I picked up a new NutriBullet as our previous one had died after a good few years of use.  Beginning the year with good intentions to counter Christmas excess, we’ve been starting our day with various vegetable and fruit blends.  My go to has been beetroot, baby spinach, a bit of mango and plain yoghurt.

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In my kitchen is a very sad looking tomato plant we are trying to revive.  At the house we are renting while the renovation is going on, there are some rather large trees.  We hear the possums scurrying at night and they have decimated everything we’ve tried to plant. Last night I think they may have been practicing for this year’s 2018 Commonwealth Games relay. I’ve put nets on things now, but we’re probably a bit late to get a good tomato crop. Anyone know any good natural possum deterrents?

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I recently saw at Coles a new line of pasta called Rana.  I have to say, for shop bought ravioli and tortellini, it’s among the best I’ve come across.  Really fine casings compared to others which tend to be on the thick side and cooks in a few minutes.

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In my kitchen is some beetroot marmalade a friend bought for us to try, it’s made in Tasmania. Being a marmalade, it is sweet, but works well on burgers and sandwiches, the Marito is a fan, we’ve already gone through half of it!

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Also from Tasmania is this apricot and Armagnac conserve that the Marito received in a Christmas hamper.  I’d love to use this as a glaze on a cake or a tart.

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In my kitchen are scraps for the girls and lettuce heads I am sprouting to grow for them (if the possums don’t eat them first, they’ve devoured all of my attempts so far).  They wait expectantly at the coop door every morning for my delivery, it’s quite funny.

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At the Italian deli this morning I picked up some buffalo ricotta….mmmmm……I will eat some as is on toast, but haven’t decided what to do with the rest.  Some fritters perhaps?

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I also bought some Caputo flour.  It’s meant to be the flour for pizza and I thought I’d try it; I will use my neverfail pizza dough recipe.

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And finally in my kitchen is some pasta made from chickpea flour.  I was watching a documentary about US startups and one of them was a company that made a chickpea pasta which was having huge success.  San Remo seem to be the only company here that do it and curiosity prompted me to try some.

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Wishing you all a happy 2018 filled with fun food adventures!