Eggplant croquettes

This is a recipe courtesy of Mr Yotam-I-made-vegetables-sexy-Ottolenghi. But I added some parsley, and substituted his feta for ricotta. Charring the eggplant gives these a lovely smokiness. Makes 20 generous size croquettes.

eggplantcroquettes

Ingredients
4 medium eggplants
2 medium potatoes, cooked, peeled and smashed
1 egg, beaten
150g ricotta, well drained
1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups dried white breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper
oil for frying

Making them

  1. Char the eggplants on your cooktop on your gas flame, turning frequently until skin is burnt and they are starting to collapse. Once cool, you should be able to easily peel off the skin. Discard skin and place flesh in a colander and leave to drain for 30 minutes
  2. Place eggplant in a large bowl. Add the potatoes, egg, ricotta, parsley, Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper. Bring everything together gently with a fork. Add 1 cup of the breadcrumbs, just enough so the mix is sufficiently solid to hold its shape but is still a little sticky.
  3. Remove the mix from the bowl and divide it into four. Roll each portion into a thick sausage that is about 1 inch in diameter. Sprinkle the remaining breadcrumbs on your work surface and roll the sausages in them so they are completely coated. Cut each sausage into five pieces, gently shape and transfer to a tray and leave to firm up in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
  4. To cook, pour enough frying oil into a frying pan to come about ¾ inch up the sides. Heat up the oil, then fry the croquettes in small batches until golden, turning them over to color evenly. Make sure the oil is always hot but not so hot that it burns the croquettes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve hot.

Winter warmers

I know it isn’t officially Winter yet, but it has certainly felt like it with some of those cold, dark, stormy nights.  There’s nothing better than a warm and hearty – but still healthy – meal on nights like that.  Of late I’ve been preparing a lot of stuffed vegetable dishes that go into the oven, usually on a Saturday or Sunday as during the week I keep things pretty simple.  On the weekend I like dishes where I can do some or all of the ingredient prep in stages throughout the day, as I’m ducking in and out of the house constantly in between the boys sport and other myriad of activities.  Then when evening comes I can just put the dish into the oven, all the prep and cleaning up done.

One weekend I made stuffed cabbage rolls.  I used rice and mushrooms, with some toasted breadcrumbs for texture.  Mamma Rosa also likes to use noodles.  As I’d bought a whole cabbage and still had a good bit left, the next day I chopped it up and slow braised it with some leek and a little stock, its a nice little side dish.winterwarmers (2)

Stuffed artichokes.  Traditionally in Italy these are stuffed with a meat filling, but a simple breadcrumb, parsley and parmesan filling can also work very nicely.  You can cook them in a tomato sauce or mix some white wine, olive oil, stock and herbs.winterwarmers (5)

Another weekend I did some stuffed large mushrooms.  In these I put tuna, pinenuts, chopped boiled egg, parsley and breadcrumbs, drizzled with olive oil and into the oven they went.  You can be very versatile and imaginative in your fillings for all these vegetables, whatever takes your fancy.  Spinach and ricotta works nicely too on the mushrooms, and throw on some coarse breadcrumbs to add texture.winterwarmers (3)

In an effort to minimise waste, I used the large stalks from the mushrooms as part of a mushroom stock for a mushroom risotto the next day.winterwarmers (1)

During the week it is simple soup dishes like this that take about 15 minutes.  I sautéed some onion in some olive oil, added couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and sautéed some more, a litre or so of stock, a cup of risoni, some cannellini beans, and to finish throw in some baby spinach and grated parmesan.winterwarmers (6)

The other day I had a craving for a soup that Mamma Rosa used to make me when I was a little girl, so decided to make it – its a polenta soup, with tomato and broccoli.  This is “cucina povera” – peasant food – at its finest.  Delicious.winterwarmers (4)

Five Points Burgers, North Sydney

I’ve often said that in Sydney, people will travel for food. Armed with a Google Maps or a GPS, we will hunt down that laneway, that side street, the underground bar. Whether it is in the CBD or some suburb we can’t pronounce and have never been to, we will go to extraordinary lengths to track down and try something new. Sometimes it is only one dish, one slice of cake, a certain drink that drives us Sydneysiders in our – frankly occasionally crazy – food pursuits and our willingness to stand in a very long queue.

So when a Heston Blumenthal alumni opens a burger joint in a North Sydney street of largely office blocks that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic and not much other retail nearby, word spreads quickly and I find a ridiculous number of people in a small space and a line out the door. I heard that Eastern suburbs residents even crossed the harbour bridge to come here.

Five Points is the new burger hotspot with Tomislav Martinovic as the “consultant chef”. Yes, TM worked for Heston – and more recently had his own hatted restaurant in Sydney – so I can’t help but wonder if I’m going to get an actual burger or just something that looks like a burger.

Its American style – probably American calories too but what the hell, I contemplate walking back to the CBD afterwards and feel justified in getting burger, chips and a milkshake. Of course I don’t actually do that but it is the thought that counts. Your choices are the Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. Being in Sydney I do think they could still throw in a bit of a patriotic ‘Straya burger with a bit of beetroot.

I go for the Bronx Burger – it’s big, it’s juicy, and it’s delicious with the right amount of mustard and sauce so its not just a drippy mess; the bun has a good consistency and is not sugary like some brioche burger buns have been of late. The chips have decent crunch though are underseasoned, and unfortunately they have no slaw available that day to try. The salted caramel milkshake has a proper amount of flavour without being sickeningly sweet.   Despite the queue, my order does arrive reasonably quickly.  I know the next time I’m at Aldi in North Sydney buying the occasional random stuff like a slab of marble or garden gnome with built in lighting I’ll be enticed into trying the other boroughs.Fivepointsburger

 fivepointsmenu

Five Points, 124 Walker Street, North Sydney

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In My Kitchen, May 2015

The insane Sydney rainfall and cooling weather meant there was plenty of time indoors and in the kitchen the last few weeks. The rain also made me think about how very very lucky I am to actually have a kitchen, a roof over my head, and a warm meal when there were so many homeless out on the streets and so many who were displaced because of the storms.  In my kitchen this month you will find gratitude.

In my kitchen you’ll find Anzac biscuits. There are a few different stories about their origin – one saying that wives would send them to their men at the front, because they travelled well and would keep for a while; others saying they were sold at fetes to raise money for the war effort. I used a recipe by Donna Hay; she must have made them quite small to get 35 out of the mixture – I made them growing-boys-who-are-always-hungry size and got about 24.imkapril (1)

In my kitchen there are ‘rogue’ tomatoes. A few weeks ago my husband and I found in the garden near our side fence three tomato plants, nowhere near our herb and vegetable patch. We have no idea how they got there. There were flowers and tiny fruits; I thought it would already be too cool for them to grow but grow they did. I was going to leave them to ripen on the vine but the storms meant a few ended up on the ground – I have no idea how the other twenty or thirty stayed on the stems. They won’t have the flavour of Summer tomatoes but I’ll find a way to use these little rogues – a real example of survival of the fittest!imkapril (7)

With the turn in the weather I’ve been making lots of different soups – asparagus, corn, leek, and others. I don’t generally use cream in soups so they freeze well and are great to take to work for lunch. I made the Marito a pumpkin one (he loves it, but pumpkin is one soup I don’t like), and I roast the pumpkin first, skin and all, with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper, to give the soup extra flavour.imkapril (2)

Stick blenders are perfect for making soups. After 13 years of loyal service, my Braun stick blender went into retirement, and I had this KitchenAid one ready and waiting. I actually won it, along with a blender and stand mixer. We were watching some random cooking show one Saturday afternoon, and there was a competition at the end of it saying text in your details for a KitchenAid prize pack. I was so shocked when I won, but that may well have been because I was the only person watching the show! I was pretty excited, the last thing I won was a watch at a school raffle in third grade.imkapril(10)

I also sliced up some of my bread, sprayed it with olive oil, and made it into croutons.imkapril (4)

The bread making has continued in the Napoli kitchen, though I’ve been playing with the shape of my loaves. The boys prefer them shorter, fatter and higher, it makes for better toast and for heaping on some scrambled eggs.imkapril (6)

I also had a go at making Turkish bread, not bad for a first attempt…..imkapril (9)

….and burger buns for the kids.  I used Celia’s recipe from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, the hostess of this great monthly series.imkapril (3)

I saw some lovely artichokes at the grocer the other day, and stuffed them and slow cooked them in the oven. If you are cooking artichokes, don’t throw away the stem, just peel them back a little and cook them too – they are delicious.imkapril (5)

And finally in my kitchen is a get-well-soon almond cake that I made for my brother-in-law, who was in hospital recently.  Hope you are enjoying lots of kitchen adventures too!imkapril (8)

Whiskey biscuits

I tore this recipe out of an issue of now defunct SBS Feast magazine to make one day, and today was that day. Such a shame they discontinued it, it was one of my favourite food magazines. If you don’t want to use whiskey, vanilla would also work or I think coffee would be nice. Very easy.

whiskey biscuits

Ingredients
120g unsalted butter, softened
55g caster sugar
2 teaspoons whiskey
1/2 teaspoon salt
120g crumbled walnuts
150g plain flour
Icing sugar, for dusting


Making it

1. Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius
2. Cream the butter, sugar, whiskey and salt on low speed using a paddle attachment for 5 or so minutes, until pale and fluffy
3. Carefully fold in the walnuts and flour
4. Using a dessert spoon, gently shape into small balls. I ended up with 30 or so. Very gently flatten and put in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden
5. Allow to cool and dust with icing sugar

Guillaume, Paddington

This is a French restaurant for grown-ups. You won’t see any maman’s urging their petite filles to eat their haricot verts here. Guillaume Brahimi may have lost his iconic Opera House home, but he’s moved into a bijou little terrace in Paddington, with its plush carpets, thick white table cloths, and quietly gliding waiters.

We’re here with some good friends and decide to splurge on the degustation menu.   The dishes range from just good to knock-it-out-of-the-park and we come away happy and sated. I will be back, but next time will quite happily do a la’ carte – I have my eye on the duck.  The service was excellent from the moment we arrived till the moment we left – they even held open the doors of our taxi for us. Given plenty of decadent ingredients and the intimacy of the setting its an ideal place for a special occasion dinner. Personally I thought it was better than the original venue all round.

My photos aren’t the best – bring back daylight savings!

We start with an amuse bouche of salmon with lemon, fennel and wasabi. Tangy, fresh, flavoursome.

guilluame (1)

The first course of the degustation is the scampi, but we ask if they wouldn’t mind giving two of us the tuna from the a la’ carte menu, and two of us the scampi so we can try both. They kindly oblige. And I’m so glad about that because the yellowfin tuna is one of the knock out dishes, no surprise it’s a signature.guilluame (2)

The scampi with cucumber, chili, croutons, peach, shiso & Ocean Trout Roe.  The scampi are beautiful but I find the dish sweetened too much by the peach.guilluame (1b)

Royale of Peas with truffle and mud crab – creamy and decadent.  Love the Mother of Pearl spoon!guilluame (3)

Marron with pork cheek, radish, cauliflower, sea sprayguilluame (4)

Patagonian toothfish, peas, onion confit, speck, chicken jus, béarnaise.  I adored this dish, loveliest fish dish I’ve had in a long time….guilluame (5)

….and even better with a dollop of bernaise on top!guilluame (6)

Oxtail with carrot, bone marrow, parsley guilluame (7)

Melt in the mouth wagyu and silky mash
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Meanwhile, Marito Vegacquarian has a pasta dish followed by a luxurious lobster risotto.  We informed them of his dietary situation at the time of booking and checked in one of the lovely staff on the night.  “Don’t you mean Pescatarian?” she says.  “No, I think Vegacquarian works”.  “Yes, yours is better, I’m going with it”.guilluame (8)

Our “pre-dessert” – mango with lychee and coconut – such a feather light cream combined with two of my favourite fruits.  Would have loved a big bowl of this. guilluame (10)

The main dessert is passionfruit soufflé crème anglaise, passionfruit and banana sorbet.  I’m not a soufflé chick, so can’t really opine here, but I would have happily taken a big bowl full of that crème anglaise. guilluame (11)

And in that lovely touch also seen at Vue De Monde, you get a goody bag to take home. Ooh la la! Its a lovely brioche and jam for breakfast.  One of my little men, who has a discerning palate, spread some of the jam on his toasted home made bread the next day.  “Is this professionally made”, he queried, “its much better than what we usually get”.  The cheek.guilluame (12)

The restaurant also offers a private dining room that can accommodate up to 14 people.

Guillaume, 92 Hargrave St, Paddington Ph 02 9302 5222
http://www.guillaumes.com.au/

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Ironwood Coffee Company and Cafe, Woolwich

ironwood (10)It was time for a another Girl Crew & Mamma Rosa gathering, so we decided to check out the new kid on the Woolwich peninsula. Ironwood has moved into the space where Koi used to be, and by the looks of it, the new kid is pretty popular. We visited two weeks after opening and it was full and buzzing, a happy, relaxed casual place where you’d be happy to sit and read the paper on a lazy Sunday. It’s a bit of a “something for everyone” café menu, with burgers, salads, pasta and pizzas, going on, but there is a big Greek influence with haloumi, spanakopita, prawns saganaki and the like on offer. Most places don’t pull it off with such a broad spectrum of dishes, but they do a pretty solid job of it. Kids meals are $12 and include a drink and a scoop of ice cream which is great value. Service was a little haphazard that day but I figure they are still finding their feet in the first fortnight so will cut them some slack. Will certainly be back to try their breakfast menu (and the coffee!).

Some of what we tried that day:

Stuffed zucchini flowersironwood (4)

Haloumi with dried figironwood (5)

Slow braised octopus – meltingly tender but a little saltyironwood (6)

Beetroot and goat’s cheese saladironwood (7)

Mixed seafood plate. The soft shell crab was a bit oily and soggy, but the other components were goodironwood (8)

Mixed meat plate with some nice lambironwood (9)

Kids fish and chipsironwood (3)ironwood (2)ironwood (1)

Ironwood Coffee Company and Café, 102 Woolwich Rd Woolwich, Ph 02 9879 7770
http://www.ironwoodcoffee.com.au/

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