Casarecce with asparagus and baked ricotta

With the arrival of Spring comes an abundance of Australian grown asparagus, rather than the wilted imported stuff we get a lot of the year.   Often I gently bake it with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, but that evening I felt like throwing it in some pasta.  I chose casarecce, but any short pasta will work well.  The ricotta can be done a day ahead. Serves four.

asparaguscasarecce

Ingredients
250g fresh ricotta, well drained
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
3 bunches of asparagus, cut into 3cm length
500g casarecce, or pasta of your choice

Breadcrumb topping
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbps olive oil
Half a cup of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 tbps finely graded lemon zest (optional, or to taste)

Making it
1. For the ricotta, add a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper and combine. Place in a mini cake tin or loaf pan sprayed with olive oil, and bake in a 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to cool in tin then remove and refrigerate until ready to use.

2. For the breadcrumb topping, heat the olive oil in a small pan, and gently fry the bread crumbs until golden and crunchy. Place in a bowl and allow to cool. Add the parsley, parmesan and lemon zest and combine.

3. Blanch the asparagus for a minute in a pot of boiling water, remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside. You can then use this water to cook your pasta

4. While the pasta is cooking, in a frypan, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and fry the asparagus for 3 or so minutes. Add the drained cooked pasta once read, crumble in the baked ricotta, season and drizzle with a little more olive oil if desired, and serve. Top with the desired amount of the breadcrumb mix.

Mama’s Buoi, Crows Nest

Most cultures have a word or a phrase that means “mummy’s boy”.  In Italian it is mammone, in Greek mamakias.  And while “buoi” is actually the Vietnamese word for a type of grapefruit, the name of this traditional Vietnamese eatery is in fact a play on words by founder Bao Hoang, and a reflection of love and admiration for his mother, and recipes he learnt from her along the way.

I had often walked past its little corner in Crows Nest, seeing heads bent over steaming pho or munching on rice paper rolls.  The place doesn’t take bookings, but on a cold and wet Sunday night we are in luck and seats are free in the small indoor area, as most of the seating is outside.  I’m having a long overdue catch up with a lovely friend; like the Marito, she is a vegacquarian, so we stick to vegetables and a fish dish.  Everything that comes out is tasty, light and fragrant, and I would happily come back to try some of the meat dishes. The staff are friendly and attentive too.

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We start with some fresh rice paper rolls with mushroom and tofu

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Followed by this delicious dish of smoky eggplant with a slight hint of chilli. My friend, who has an ambivalent relationship with eggplant, loves it.

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Mushroom and snow pea stir fry, simple and tasty

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The barramundi, marinated in lemongrass and kaffir lime comes with a decent chill hit and is very fragrant, though the fish is a little overcooked

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It is a pleasant and unfussy meal in a relaxed environment, just what we needed to cram in a few months worth of conversation.

For groups, there is a $49 banquet menu

Mama’s Buoi, 77 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, Ph 02 9438 5005
http://www.mamasbuoi.com.au

Mama's Buoi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Caponata – Italian sweet and sour

Caponata is a humble but delicious Sicilian eggplant dish.  While the origin of the name is unknown, it is considered by many Siciliani to be a core dish of the region’s cuisine . Typically served at room temperature or even cold, it makes a great side dish for fish or grilled chicken.  Or even for breakfast on some crusty bread with a fried egg.   The quantity below is enough as a side dish for 8-10, however it keeps well in the fridge for a good few days if you’re keen on making a batch and eating it gradually. I had some the following day from the refrigerator and it was even tastier with more developed flavours. Variations on the theme – some versions add toasted pinenuts and sultanas. Also add some fresh basil if you have it on hand.

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Ingredients
4 medium eggplant
Salt
Olive oil for frying
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
1 large brown onion, diced
2 cups celery, cut into 1cm pieces
1/2 cup green Sicilian olives, pipped and quartered
2 tablespoons salted capers, well rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon raw sugar
50ml red wine vinegar
1 tin peeled tomatoes

Making it
1. Cut eggplant into 2cm cubes, sprinkle with salt and leave for 20-25 minutes. Rinse and dry with paper towels.
2. Put a generous amount of olive oil in a frypan, heat, and fry the eggplant in batches until golden and soft but not collapsing. Line a colander with paper towels and drain the eggplant, using more paper towels as needed.


3. In a heavy based frypan, heat the 2 tablespoons of extra olive oil and saute the onion until soft, then add the celery and saute for another 5-7 minutes. Add the eggplant, capers olives, sugar, red wine vinegar and tomatoes, gently combine and simmer on low heat, covered, for 10-12 minutes
4. Remove from frypan and place in a serving bowl and allow to cool

 

Toque Time (Melbourne) – The Age Good Food Guide 2017 Awards

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Fill the tank with petrol, people.  If you want to try The Age’s Restaurant of the Year, or sample the fare of the Chef of the Year, its an expensive Uber ride. Its happening out of the Melbourne metro with twenty eight regional restaurants awarded hats this year.  That’s not to say the city isn’t bustling, with Shannon Bennet’s Vue de Monde regaining its three toque status and Japanese fine diner Minimishima jumping one as well.  Plenty of newcomers in the one hat category, and Heston’s Dinner was a double toque debut. Moon Under Water, Bistro Vue, Da Noi, Huxtable, Movida Aqui, No 8 by John Lawson, Pure South, The Roving Marrow, and Kenzan all dropped from the list.

And the winners are…….

Restaurant of the Year: Brae, Birregurra
Best New Restaurant: Embla, Melbourne
Chef of the Year: Aaron Turner, Igni
Regional Restaurant of the Year: Igni, Geelong
Bar of the Year: Heartbreaker, Melbourne
Best Cheap Eat: Hem 27, Flemington
Café of the Year: Higher Ground, Melbourne

CITY

Three Hats
Attica, Minimishima (up a hat), Vue de Monde (up a hat)

Two Hats
Circa, Cutler & Co, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (new hatter), Estelle by Scott Pickett (new hatter), Ezard, Flower Drum, Grossi Florentino Upstairs, Lume (up a hat), Matteo’s, The Press Club, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Saint Crispin, Spice Temple, Woodland House

One Hat
Amaru (new hatter), Anchovy (new hatter), Bacash, Bar Lourinha (new hatter), Bistro Guillaume, Cafe Di Stasio, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane, Centonove, Coda, Cumulus Inc., Dandelion, Donovans, Easy Tiger Smith St, Elyros (new hatter), Embla (new hatter), Epocha, European, French Saloon (new hatter), The Grand, Highline at the Railway Hotel (new hatter), Ides (new hatter), Il Bacaro, Kappo, Lee Ho Fook (new hatter), Longrain, Maha, Marion (new hatter), Merricote, Mister Jennings, MoVida, Noir (new hatter), Nora (new hatter), O.My, Oter, Pei Modern, The Point Albert Park, Rosetta (down a hat), Sarti, Supernormal, Tipo 00, Tonka, The Town Mouse, Union Dining

REGIONAL

Three Hats
Brae, Birregurra

Two Hats
Fen, Port Fairy; Igni, Geelong; Lake House, Daylesford; Provenance, Beechworth; Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld; Stefano’s, Mildura; Ten Minutes by Tractor, Main Ridge

One Hat
A La Grecque, Aireys Inlet; Catfish, Ballarat; Eleonore’s, Yering; Ezard at Levantine Hill, Coldstream; Gladioli, Inverleigh; The Good Table, Castlemaine; Healesville Hotel, Healesville; Kazuki’s, Daylesford; Masons of Bendigo, Bendigo; Montalto, Red Hill South; Paringa Estate, Red Hill South; Patricia’s Table, Milawa; Pickled Pig, Warrnambool; Port Phillip Estate, Red Hill South; Public Inn, Castlemaine; Simones, Bright; Source Dining, Kyneton; Tani Eat & Drink, Bright; Terrace Restaurant, Wahgunyah; Tulip, Geelong

Toque Time (Sydney) – SMH Good Food Guide 2017 Awards

threehats

With Spring comes restaurant award season and all the angst that goes with it.   It seems a little less dramatic this year with the three hat list remaining unchanged bar the disappearance of Rockpool, which, if you haven’t heard, just re-opened as Eleven Bridge (apparently to avoid diners getting confused). Newcomers Hubert, Automata and regional restaurant Paper Daisy made strong two hat debuts, and Hartsyard regained the gone toque from the previous year.  Pop up Café Paci finished its popping and is gone from the list, Mark Best threw in the towel at Marque, and MoVida decided to close its doors.   Balla, Bistro Moncur, Three Blue Ducks, Longrain, and Osteria di Russo and Russo also lost a prized toque.

And the winners are……

Restaurant of the Year: Quay
Chef of the Year: Federico Zanellato (LuMi Bar & Dining)
Best New Restaurant: Restaurant Hubert
Regional Restaurant of the Year: Paper Daisy
Café of the Year: Paramount Coffee Project
Best Bar Food: Bar Brosé
Wine List of the Year: Monopole
Bar of the Year: Continental Deli Bar & Bistro
Best Cheap Eat: Bovine & Swine Barbecue Co

CITY
Three Hats
The Bridge Room, Quay, Sepia

Two Hats
ARIA, Automata (new hatter), Bennelong, Bentley Restaurant & Bar, Est., Ester, Guillaume, Icebergs Dining Room & Bar, Lucio’s Italian Restaurant, LuMi Bar & Dining, Momofuku Seiobo, Monopole (up a hat), Mr. Wong, Ormeggio at The Spit, Oscillate Wildly, Pilu at Freshwater, Restaurant Hubert (new hatter), Rockpool Bar & Grill, Sixpenny, Spice Temple, Tetsuya’s

One Hat
10 William St, ACME, Ajo, Aki’s Indian Restaurant, The Apollo, Baccomatto Osteria, Bar Brose, The Bathers’ Pavilion, The Bellevue (new hatter), Berowra Waters Inn (down a hat), Billy Kwong, Bistrode CBD, The Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay, Bodega, Buon Ricordo, Catalina, China Doll, Cho Cho San, Continental Deli Bar & Bistro (new hatter), Cottage Point Inn (down a hat), Da Orazio Pizza + Porchetta (new hatter), The Dolphin Hotel Dining Room (new hatter), Felix, Firedoor, Fratelli Paradiso, The Gantry, Gastro Park, glass brasserie, Hartsyard (up a hat), Izakaya Fujiyama, Jonah’s, Kepos & Co, Kepos Street Kitchen, LP’s Quality Meats, Master, Mercado (new hatter), Ms.G’s, Nomad, One Ford Street, Otto Ristorante, The Paddington, Porteño, The Restaurant Pendolino, Sagra (new hatter), Sean’s Panaroma, Sokyo, Stanbuli, Sushi-e, Uccello, Vini, Yellow

REGIONAL

Two Hats
Aubergine, Biota Dining, Fleet, Muse Restaurant, Paper Daisy (new hatter)

One Hat
Bistro Molines, Caveau, Courgette, Darley’s Restaurant, eightysix, Eschalot Restaurant, Fins, Lanterne Rooms, Lilotang, Lolli Redini, Margan, Monster Kitchen & Bar, Muse Kitchen, Ottoman Cuisine, Pearls on the Beach, Pialligo Estate Farmhouse, Restaurant Como, Restaurant Mason, Rick Stein at Bannisters, St Isidore, The Stunned Mullet, Subo, Temporada, Tonic, Town Restaurant & Cafe, Waters Edge, Zanzibar, The Zin House

http://www.goodfood.com.au/

 

In my Spring kitchen, September 2016

Hello Spring.  I’ve been waiting for you.  Winter and I, well, we don’t really get along.   And I know that you’re here because my bread rises so much better.

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So what’s been in the kitchen of late?

In my kitchen is homemade salami, courtesy of Mamma Rosa and Papa.   The bought stuff doesn’t taste that good when you grow up on this.  Drive through Sydney and peek inside Calabrese and Sicilian garages during Winter and you’ll find rows of these hanging out to dry.  When I was younger and my grandparents were able, my parents would go pick up a whole pig.  Friday night was spent chopping and preparing – there is a picture of me, circa six years old, in my school uniform wielding a large meat cleaver – and Saturday the sausages would get made.

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The other day the Marito bought home some olive oil and caramelised balsamic from Mudgee, can’t wait to try it.

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In my kitchen is a box of lettuce leaves.  There are a couple of lovely Italian grocers in the area (one has Eros Ramazzotti and Toto Cutugno and the like on constant rotation, love it) who give me lettuce scraps for “le galline”.  The chooks go completely wild over lettuce.  When I go check on them first thing in the morning, they’ve cottoned on to the fact that I’ll be armed with goodies.  There are nose-dives for the door.

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With the weather getting warmer they are all laying pretty much every day.  This week we got our first double yoker!  I haven’t gotten to eat many of the eggs.  The boys get home from school and head for the coop.  They collect, cook, consume.  Every so often there are a couple of spares.  I’ve noticed there is a huge difference in the whites of eggs from home chooks versus bought.  They are thick and gelatinous and they whip like a dream.

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In my kitchen is a flathead that the boys caught on Sunday morning.  Nothing like fishing from your own backyard! Though unfortunately after checking a few websites, we decided it wasn’t safe to eat.

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The other night I made pizza for dinner, using my trusted dough recipe.   One of them was a “pizza bianca”, a white pizza, as those with no sauce are called.  Potato slices, fried in olive oil sprinkled with fresh rosemary, then drained on paper towels.  Onto the pizza they go with ricotta, more rosemary, salt, and parmesan.  Molto buono.

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What’s happening in your Spring kitchen?

Have a peek at other IMK posts from different kitchens around the world!

 

 

Sweet ricotta fritters

Ricotta is one of my favourite dairy products – not just because it is delicious but because it is so versatile. You’ll find lots of my recipes here contain it, both sweet and savoury.  These gorgeous little fritters are courtesy of Tobie Puttock.  However he uses sultanas, which I have skipped, and I added a little brandy instead.  I used a mini ice cream scoop to make them consistent and easy to dispense, otherwise use a tablespoon measure.  Resist the urge to make them bigger as they won’t cook in the middle.   If you don’t overcrowd the pan, they actually flip themselves over when they puff up, pretty nifty.  Serve these delightful little treats warm.

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Ingredients
400g fresh ricotta
3 eggs
5 tablespoons of caster sugar
Grated zest of one lemon
Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon Brandy
200g plain flour
2 cups of oil for frying
Icing sugar for dustin

Making them
Drain the ricotta and place it in a bowl with the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugar and brandy and beat until combined. Then add the lemon zest, bicarbonate of soda, and flour and stir well until all combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and the scoop dollops of the dough and carefully drop them into the oil. Cook until they are a nice golden brown, turning as needed, and drain on paper towels. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

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