Monthly Archives: January 2013

Today’s Cake – Italian Breakfast Cake

This simple cake is an ideal accompaniment to your morning caffelatte.

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Ingredients
400g plain cake flour
2 tbsp baking powder
pinch of salt
finely grated zest of 1 small lemon
225ml milk
150g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
75ml lemon juice
6 large eggs
175g caster sugar

Making it
1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Grease and flour a 20cm square cake pan.
2. Sift flour, and combine with baking powder, salt, and lemon zest
3. In another bowl combine milk, butter and lemon juice
4. Beat eggs and sugar together until thick and pale
5. Gradually fold in flour mixture and liquid mixture in alternating batches until it is smooth
6. Pour into cake tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean
7. Enjoy with your morning coffee!

The Grounds, Alexandria

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The Grounds has been absolutely thriving since the day it opened its doors – either there were a lot of hungry people in the surrounds of Alexandria, or they just got it right. Clearly they have the formula right – the grounds of the The Grounds are spacious plot with a lovely outdoor area, a cubby house for the kids, roosters and chickens, a luscious flourishing kitchen garden, a buzzing cafe with a welcoming interior, and of course the essential ingredient of an appealing menu.

Be prepared to wait though, especially on weekends – we were told 25 minutes and waited a solid hour. Fortunately the surrounds are so pleasant, and cleverly they do a roaring trade in takeaway coffee while you linger hoping that someone, anyone, will get up and leave so you can have a table. Alternatively, you can now head over to Salt Meats Cheese just next door, where you can easily pass the time doing some shopping for your next fabulous home cooked meal until your buzzer goes off.

You can book on Mondays to Thursdays though for 6 or more. There was a pizza oven being built in one of the outside corners so I suspect the place is just going to get busier.

Finally, we were seated and water was bought to the table and coffee/juice orders promptly taken. I love the old style glass milk bottles and juice glasses they use.

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One of us wanted to try the Croque Monsieur but we were told they had run out – by 10am! So on the menu:

Turkish style eggs with cannellini beans, spinach, pistachios and labneh. Nice amount of spice with good crunch from the pistachios.

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Ocean trout with soft boiled eggs, dill cream fraiche, and pickled cucumber. The cucumber especially beautifully pickled.

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The Grounds Breakfast Board with ham, avocado, tomato, feta, eggs and pesto – a nice simple combination with a lot of appeal – they were churning these out by the dozen.

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The food overall is good (but not outstanding) though the serves could be a little more generous – for instance with almost every dish, you only get one slice of toast – another wouldn’t go astray. Though I’m sure this won’t stop people coming – on our way out the size of the queue had doubled! Staff are run off their feet so they are brisk and efficient rather than particularly friendly – other than the guys manning the door who were charm itself trying to placate hungry crowds (“no one wants to leave today, I’m not sure what it is!”).

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The Grounds, Huntley Street, Alexandria, ph (02) 9699 2225

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The Grounds of Alexandria on Urbanspoon

Salt Meats Cheese, Alexandria

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Salt Meats Cheese is a treasure trove of (mostly Italian/European) food products – the more you look, the more you’ll find. A large warehouse space next to The Grounds, most of the staff are native Italian, from Liguria in the North – they know their stuff and are enthusiastic about what they have to offer. They also have a cooking school.

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Sauces, cheeses, cured meats, pasta, vinegar, coffee, truffle products, honey, chocolate, stock, olive oil, canned fish, gelato, pulses, brioche, the list goes on and on. There is also a plethora of flavoured salts – the vine ripened tomato smelt just devine. I love wandering around places like this and thinking of all the possibilities that could result at home in the kitchen.

They make fresh mozzarella on the premises and will generously let you have a taste.  At the back there is a prosciutto and jamon bar if you need some nourishment before going on your treasure hunt and stocking your shopping basket.

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The Mozarella Dude in “The Lab”

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Flavoured Salts

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The Prosciutto and Jamon Bar

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The Cheese Room

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Comparing it to the Italian delicatessans in the Inner West I have been frequenting for years, pricing is, overall, very decent, and would certainly be better than your Simon Johnson/Jones the Grocer type stores. If you’re having breakfast at The Grounds its worth a wander, and if you’re not, its worth a wander anyway.

Salt Meats Cheese, 41 Bourke Road, Alexandria, Open 7 Days
http://www.saltmeatscheese.com.au/

Salt Meats Cheese on Urbanspoon

Buzo Cabbage Salad

Flicking through an old edition of Gourmet Traveller, I stumbled across Buzo’s cabbage salad recipe. Great if entertaining a crowd with a variety of dishes as its quite a big serve.

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Ingredients
100g Iranian raisins (or seedless raisins)
125 ml (½ cup) marsala
600g savoy cabbage
1-2 tbsp white balsamic or white wine vinegar
100g pine nuts
100g sourdough
80g pecorino
4 cups (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves

For the Salad cream
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp Dijon mustard
300 ml olive oil
100 ml pouring cream

Prep work
1. Place raisins in a bowl and cover with marsala, and leave overnight
2. Finely slice cabbage
3. Lightly toast pinenuts
4. Toast sourdough and tear into small pieces
5. Grate pecorino
6. Coarsely chop parsley

Making it
1. For salad cream, process egg yolks, vinegar and mustard in a food processor until combined, then gradually add oil in a thin, steady stream until emulsified. Transfer to a small bowl, stir through cream and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate until needed.

2. Combine cabbage and vinegar in a bowl, toss to coat and stand for 10 minutes.

3. Drain raisins, discarding marsala, and add to cabbage with pine nuts and half the breadcrumbs, pecorino and parsley. Add salad cream, toss gently to combine and season to taste. Serve immediately scattered with remaining breadcrumbs, pecorino and parsley.

Ippudo Sydney

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I must confess I’d never heard of the Ippudo chain before it opened at Westfield. For my fellow Ippudo ignorami, apparently the first one opened in Japan in 1985 in a place called Fukuoka – use your imagination on the pronunciation – and Australia is foreign country number six to get one. But their PR machine is obviously well oiled, because very quickly everyone seemed to have heard about it and the queues were longer than long.

I’ve never been a big ramen eater, on the handful of occasions I’ve just found it too salty or too watery with no flavour, but they say (who is they exactly I’m not sure) this is meant to be the ramen to eat if you are going to try it.

Health warning: you may have a nightmare that evening of people chanting Irrashaimase repeatedly at you. I’m impressed that the staff can still do it with gusto after about the 70th time.

My friend and I hadn’t caught up for a while and wanted to chat, and I liked the fact that the staff weren’t pushy with us and hurrying us up to order. Everyone was friendly and welcoming.

So on the menu

The pork buns. These were quite a generous size and just plain yum. Succulent pork with a nice tang to the sauce – an absolute bargain at $4 a pop. A lot of people have compared these to Momofuku, I think they are different but both delicious, with the latter being more a slow braise.

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Gyoza – I’m used to big, fat, plump, juicy gyoza. So these small slightly crunchy ones weren’t really my style. Don’t rush to order these.

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Bakuretsu Tofu – tofu with minced pork, and noodles served in a sizzling stone pot, and yes it really was sizzling when it was delivered to the table. This was a winner, the spice of the broth and the slight crunch of the noodles – great combination.

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Shiormaru Motojai – their original tonkotsu broth with thin noodles, pork loin, and black mushrooms. The ‘egginess’ of the noodles, the ‘porkiness’ of the broth – delicious. No wonder I didn’t like ramen before, I just hadn’t been eating any good ones.

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The food was $39 for the two of us, and we were well sated. There is a reasonable wine selection by the glass at $10 a pop. This isn’t fine dining or anything salubrious, but its great for a casual meal at a very reasonable price point.

In the words of Arnold – “I’ll be back”.

Ippudo, Westfield Sydney Level 5, ph (02) 8078 7020

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Ippudo on Urbanspoon

Watermelon Granita

Very refreshing on a hot summer’s day, or great as a palate cleanser between courses.

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Ingredients
2kg seedless watermelon, rind cut off
220g caster sugar
250ml water
Mint, to garnish

Making it
1. Combine caster sugar and water in a small saucepan, stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat and allow to cool
2. Put the watermelon in a juicer (or in a food processor if you don’t have one) then strain through a sieve
3. Combine sugar syrup and watermelon, and place in a shallow baking tray. Put the baking tray in the freezer
4. After 3-4 hours, once partially set, use a fork to break up the mixture. Return to the freezer and repeat after 2 hours, then again after another 2 hours. If needed, repeat again just before serving
5. Place in a serving glass with a spring of mint

N2 Extreme Gelato, Chinatown

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Its not just all about the artistry here. N2 is the creation of the affable Min, who I figured had some kind of background in chemistry. But no, he was a bored accountant who wanted to do something different. It took many months to perfect the techniques first of developing unusual flavours, and second using liquid nitrogen to make ‘instant gelato’. In a couple of words, its uber cool, no pun intended.

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The list of flavours is relatively small compared to your standard gelateria (however of course this is nowhere near standard), but they change every Thursday, and most you will not have seen before elsewhere. On the menu that day were: Truffled Popcorn, Sour Cream Chocolate, Salt & Pepper and calamari (really), Chocolate Nibbles, Mango Sorbet, Earl Grey Caramel, Ice Lemon Puerh, and Blackberry Cheesecake.  The flavours sit in liquid form lined up in giant beakers, and once you choose what you want the white coated staff spring into action.

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The Kitchen Aids whir, the smoke billows, and presto! Its gelato!

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The result is beautifully smooth gelato. The Earl Grey Caramel was just gorgeous and I couldn’t stop eating it. The mango tasted like real mango. The Sour Cream Chocolate was oh so creamy. We weren’t brave enough to try the salt and pepper icecream with the dehydrated sprinkle of calamari (optional!) but Min assured us it was more about the tang of the white pepper and not fishy, maybe next time. At $6 a scoop its not cheap, but they are very generous scoops and given the quality I’m happy to pay for it again, especially on a cracking Sydney Summer day like today.

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There is a ‘flavour archive’ board at the back. Get a load of some of these! I’d love to try the Me So Happy which is a Miso Caramel Combo.  Min mentioned that funnily enough the best seller was plain old Cookies and Cream – we need to get more adventurous peeps!

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N2 Extreme Gelato, 43/1 Dixon Street, Sydney

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