Monthly Archives: March 2013

Today’s Cake – Ricotta Tart



300g self raising flour
1/4 cup caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, cubed
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tbsp pine nuts
1 egg yolk, for glazing

Filling450g ricotta
1/3 cup caster sugar
40ml rum
3 eggs lightly beaten
1 tbsp plain flour

Making it

1. Combine flour and sugar in a bowl, rub in butter until the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Stir in the egg until mixture comes together, knead on a floured surface until dough is smooth. Form into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes
2. Meanwhile, in a food processor, process ricotta, sugar, rum, egg and flour until smooth
3. Take about 2/3 of the pastry, and roll out to fit a 10x34cm rectangular tart tin
4. Pour filling into tart shell
5. Preheat oven to 160 C
6. Roll out remaining pastry and cut into 1cm strips. Lay them across the tart to form a lattice, brush the strips with egg yolk, trimming any excess pastry. Scatter pine nuts on the top
7. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden and ricotta set. Cool in tin.


Gelato Messina, Darlinghurst

We’re well and truly in Autumn, and April is just around the corner, but its still warm in Sydney and plenty of time to sneak in some more gelato before the cold weather sets in.   We head on over to acclaimed gelataria Gelato Messina in Darlinghurst.  I gather by the name Messina that these people are from Sicily, and Sicilians sure know their sweets.  I see that these guys also run gelato making classes but they are SOLD OUT FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR, and they are taking names for 2014……in Sydney there is a list for everything.

The technique is old school, like Cow and Moon, but in terms of available flavours as well as the classics there are some non-conventional ones, like N2 Extreme Gelato. They have a selection of regulars as well as daily specials.

IMG-20130324-00047 IMG-20130324-00048

Next door, they also do these stunning looking “monoporzione”- single portion gelato creations – they look like works of art and its hard to imagine eating them.


Mmmm apple pie, salted coconut, pannacotta with fig jam, pear and rhubarb, dulce de leche….what to have!!! Fortunately they do this ‘tasting plate’ where you get to choose 5 flavours – great value for $12.  The salted caramel (far right) and the pear and rhubarb (centre) – yuuuuuuuum.


Its a very close call, and I can see why there’s always a queue even in winter, but I think I’ll go out on a limb here and say that texturally I slightly prefer Cow and Moon. The difficulties of fabulous choices.

Gelato Messina, Shop 1/241 Victoria St, Darlinghurst ph 02 8354 1223

Gelato Messina Darlinghurst on Urbanspoon

Tapioca, Cremorne

There’s a big divide in the world of Asian desserts – people seem to either love them or hate them, there’s no in between.  Me, I’m in the love camp, so bring on the sago, the black sticky rice and the pandan ice cream.  I’d expect some pretty good tapioca at a restaurant so named. The difference between tapioca and sago, by the way, those silky little pearls – file this away for the next pub trivia night – is that sago comes from the sago palm, and tapioca comes from the root of a plant called the cassava. But you’d be forgiven for mixing them up.

I’d been to Tapioca a couple of years ago, and remembered it being a good meal, so thought I’d give it a whirl with some girlfriends.  Its run by an all Thai team of good pedigree, though their main star, a woman named Air, has been busy at Sailor’s Thai, and is now returning.

The staff are subtle and friendly, a nice combination of attentive without being in your face, and happy to make suggestions to flesh out our chosen menu.  The entrees arrive and are a little disappointing with the flavour balance not quite right – too much ginger on the betel leaves overpowering the trout; heavy handed fish sauce on the cupcakes of prawn and chicken, and a little too much chilli on the scallop such that it is lost.

The winner is without a doubt the deep fried quail egg, crispy noodles surrounding a sweet little egg, with a nice bodied tamarind sauce to drizzle over the top.

We fair much better with our mains.  The jungle curry looks beautiful and has a nice depth of flavour – though blue eyed cod is probably not the best fish for it.  The pad thai is devoured by the table and the side of vegetables is outstanding. The papaya salad is fresh and vibrant.

We’re pretty full by this stage but dessert must be done.  And the tapioca is the star of the night, smooth, not too sweet, silky little balls as they should be. Its a generous serve and we really could have shared, but oh well.

Some dishes in my view need adjusting, which Air’s return may settle, but this is well above your standard neighbourhood Thai. Order well and you’ll have a nice evening indeed. Another plus is that they are BYO and a bottle shop is not far away. They also have banquets available for groups.

Tapioca, 318 Military Road, Cremorne ph (02) 9908 1588

Grilled scallops with mint, coriander, chilli powder-lime dressingtapioca1

Rice cupcakes with chicken and mince prawn (special)tapioca2

Deep fried quail eggs with minced prawns wrapped in eggs noodle with tamarind saucetapioca3

Smoked trout on betel leaves with roasted coconut, peanuts, chilli, lime, ginger and caramel saucetapioca4

Chicken Pad thai with bean sprout, tofu, egg and ground peanuttapioca5

Jungle curry fish of the day with oyster mushroom, corn, snake bean, wild ginger, roasted rice powder

Green papaya salad with sweet and salty pork, cherry tomatoes, snake bean and chilli-lime dressingtapioca8

Pandanus tapioca pudding with young coconut and coconut creamtapioca7

Tapioca on Urbanspoon

Sails at Lavendar Bay

Ah, food with a view. Its always a bit controversial in Sydney. Plenty of places figure that good can be ‘good enough’ because they’re always going to get enough through traffic or tourist trade to keep things ticking along. So here I am at Sails at Macmahons Point – its a gray and miserable day, but even that doesn’t dampen the majestic view. Its a medium size glass framed restaurant to optimise the view with a ferry stop conveniently located at its door.  There’s also a valet parking service if you’re driving, which is a good idea as spots are hard to come by there.


Its not a large menu, but there’s enough there to tempt and choose from. I start with an entree of Crystal Bay prawns with a crab and shallot pastille and sweet corn puree. Packed full of flavour, but the plate was also scattered with popcorn, which really didn’t work.  If you order this, ask them to hold the kernels!

Then onto Eye Fillet with polenta and salsa verde. A well cooked piece of meat and creamy polenta, but the salsa verde was somewhat bitter and unpleasant.


Caramelised Onion and Oyster mushroom tarte tatin, with asparagus, tomatoes, emmental, truffle and chive dressing – looked like spring on a plate!


For dessert, raspberry and basil creme brulee with raspberry sorbet. I couldn’t taste basil, but I could taste a good hit of Amaretto or some other almond liquer, which isn’t mentioned in the description.  Brulee was slightly heavy.


As far as food with a view goes, they do reasonably well. It comes with punchy pricing, with mains in the $38-43 range. Service however was very snooty indeed and the staff were not warm or welcoming.  It was really hard to get anyone’s attention – but really we shouldn’t have needed to be trying to get someone’s attention to order after being there for 20 minutes, someone should have approached us by then.  Similarly difficult to ask for the bill, I think we could have done a runner!

Personally I’m not that hung up about food with a view – our beautiful harbour is free and can be enjoyed in many ways.  Given the choice, I’d rather have outstanding food in a plain room with some great company, than decent/good food in beautiful surrounds – but that said, there’s a time and place for everything

Sails at Lavendar Bay, 2 Henry Lawson Ave, McMahons Point, Ph (02) 9955 5998

Sails on Lavender Bay on Urbanspoon

Almond and Rosewater Shortbread

A delicate and not too sweet treat.



120 gm natural almonds
220 gm softened unsalted butter
75g pure icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 egg yolk
30 ml Sambuca
330 gm plain flour
3½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp rosewater, or to taste
Additional icing sugar, for dusting

Making it
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Spread almonds on an oven tray and roast, stirring occasionally, until golden (5-6 minutes). When cool, coarsely chop and set aside.

2. Beat butter, 75gm icing sugar and vanilla bean paste in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in yolk and sambuca, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl.

3. Sift in flour and baking powder, add almonds and stir to form a stiff dough, then turn onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

4. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to 1.5cm-thick. Cut into shapes as desired and place on baking trays lined with baking paper.

5. Bake until light golden (18-20 minutes), cool on trays for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with rosewater. Dust heavily with icing sugar, cool completely on trays.



The Cow and Moon Artisan Gelato, Enmore


So after our pizza at La Disfida, we zip up the road to Enmore to The Cow and Moon. We arrive and grab a table, and a few minutes later it seems 30 other people appear out of nowhere at the counter. This is ‘artisan’ gelato – old school – and damn, its good. All my old favourites are there. You’ll find some modern flavours, but nothing out there like N2 Extreme Gelato.  My buddy Salvatore (who makes his own gelato as well as pizza, the village is starving while he’s on his jaunt Down Under) peers into the window of the “Gelato Lab” and claims they have all the “proper” stuff to make a good quality product.


The staff were quite happy to let us try a few samples before we decided. What we ended up with – from left to right: Strawberry & Balsamic (devine) and Vanilla Bean (probably the only one I didn’t rate); Strawberry Sorbet & Mango Sorbet; and Hazelnut & Pistachio – I couldn’t decide which of these two was better. If you happen to be hooning down Enmore Road, make sure you stop at this corner.


The Cow and Moon, 181 Enmore Road, Enmore, ph 02 9557 4255

Cow & The Moon Artisan Gelato on Urbanspoon

La Disfida, Haberfield

I’ve been on a bit of an Italian restaurant bender in the last few weeks – Popolo, Cucinetta, Rosetta, and now La Disfida.  It wasn’t intentional, goodness knows I get plied with enough Italian from Mamma Rosa, and also make it myself (and maybe in 20 years I’ll nail the flavours like she does), but it just worked out that way. Tonight we’re out with Salvatore, who is visiting from the Motherland.  He actually owns a good – and ridiculously cheap – pizzeria in my mother’s village.  No, I’m not being brave taking him out for pizza, but like many Italians I know (eg my father), when they go out to eat, they go out for ……Italian. I can’t blame them for not being adventurous, they haven’t had a lot of exposure to other cuisines growing up like we do in Oz.  In the village Salvatore comes from (total population 1,000), you can’t exactly pop up the road to pick up some Pad Thai.

So here we are in downtown Haberfield at La Disfida which opened sometime in the ‘90’s. I used to go there a bit, and I stopped going because, well, actually I’m not sure why.  Probably because others started to open that had to be tried, and then the owners changed and it got sidelined. They were one of the first in Sydney to do ‘proper’ Italian pizzas with a really thin base and only a couple of toppings instead of your thick-crust-super-supreme-with-the-lot. Salvatore tells me he’s had some great, some average pizza in Sydney – in his view there are two essentials – first, the dough must be proved for 24 hours; second, the tomato sauce used should not be pre-cooked.

So after a long time between visits, its time to check out if La Disfida still lives up to the mark. The new owners decided to add a few extras to the menu so it wasn’t just about the pizza and to give a little more choice.  We arrive just after 6pm on a Sunday and the place is heaving –  they take bookings only for groups of 5 or more.  There’s a good and tempting antipasto selection on the specials board as well as a pasta and pizza special of the day.

We order and the food comes out very quickly.  Its a bit of a mixed bag, some dishes are great, some have missed the mark with seasoning. The pizza is good but nothing special – I actually preferred all the antipasto dishes. The damage for five people for 4 antipasti, 1 pasta (Bolognese which was underseasoned and the sauce tasted like it hadn’t been cooked long enough), 4 pizzas and 2 beers was just over $40 a head, so ok I suppose but not extreme value either for pizzas and a few extras (to compare – a margherita here is $22 vs $17 at Lucio Pizzeria and $20 at Via Napoli, and their ‘gourmet’ pizzas are $26, which is also dearer than others). Once it was clear we weren’t having dessert the staff busied themselves cleaning the table and it felt like a little nudge to say  ‘move on already’. I’d put Via Napoli  over this in terms of value and overall taste Northside, and Lucio Pizzeria in the East.

Scampi Gratin (special)…..skinny little scampi, nice gratin but barely any flesh to go with it

Insalata Caprese – excellent creamy Buffalo mozzarella, wonder if its from Paesanella across the street?

Calamari e Zucchini Fritti – underseasoned

Potato, prosciutto and cheese croquettes – this was dish of the day for me. Plump and fatter than I expected, nice crust, creamy inside, and great flavour.

Barletta   – Tomato, mozzarella, prosciutto crudo, basil, pepper, olive oil

(The remains of) Tartufa – Mozzarella Prosciutto Wild Mushrooms Truffle

Bufala – Tomato Mozzarella di Bufala and Basil (where’s the basil?)

La Disfida, 109 Ramsay St Haberfield, ph (02) 9798 8299

La Disfida Enoteca Pizza on Urbanspoon

Today’s Cake – Classic Lemon Tart

Lemon tarts are great any time of year!


300g plain flour
1/2 cup caster sugar
100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
2 egg yolks
Iced water

5 eggs
200g caster sugar
200ml double cream
Juice (strained) and finely grated rind of 3 lemons
Icing sugar for dusting

Making it
1. For pastry, place flour, sugar and butter into a food processor and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of iced water and process until it comes together. Form into a disc, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour
2. Roll pastry out on a lightly floured surface till about 5mm thick and line a 22cm tart tin, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
3. Heat oven to 180 degrees. Line shell with baking paper, fill with weights or rice, and bake for 20 mins. Remove weights and bake for anotehr 5 mins or until slightly brown. Reduce oven to 150 degrees.
4. Meanwhile, place eggs and sugar in a bowl (or easier in a large jug if you have one) and whisk until sugar dissolved, add cream, lemon juice, and lemond rind and combine. Pour into tart shell and bake for 45 minutes or until just set.
5. Once cool, dust with icing sugar and serve.