Monthly Archives: February 2014

Scott Conant’s Stromboli

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I really enjoyed Scott Conant’s Scarpetta in New York, and ended up buying the Scarpetta cookbook when it came out late in 2013. Stromboli – essentially a type of stuffed bread – feature in the excellent bread basket at the restaurant. The dough makes enough for two “logs”, so I decided to make one as per the recipe and one vegetarian version (a friend suggested I try eggplant which worked really well!). These would be great as part of a bread basket for a crowd at a dinner party. The recipe calls for smoked mozzarella – I couldn’t find this at the supermarket, but found it at Salt Meats Cheese.

Dough
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing bowl
575g of 00 flour
1 tablespoon salt
350ml water

Fillings
225g smoked mozzarella
75g mozzarella
150g ricotta
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, torn
Freshly ground black pepper
100g thinly sliced mild/sweet salami
1 medium eggplant, thinly sliced and chargrilled
Extra-virgin olive oil

Topping
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt flakes

Making it
1. In a stand mixer using the dough hook, combine the yeast, olive oil, and water for 5 minutes on speed 1. Add the flour and continue mixing for an additional 5 minutes. Then turn the mixer to speed 2, and mix for another 5 minutes. Add the salt and mix for a further two minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, add the dough, cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm, draft free area for one hour; the dough should double in size.

2. When ready, grease two baking trays with oil, divide the dough in half, and using the palms of your hands make two rectangles.

3. For the vegetarian version – spread the ricotta gently over the dough, top with half the mozzarella, season with pepper, then layer the eggplant, and finally half the basil. For the salami version – top with the rest of the mozzarella, season with pepper, layer the salami, and then the basil

4. To form the log fold over the bottom edge a few cm, then fold in the sides, and then gently roll. Cover with plastic and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the plastic, top with the rosemary, tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt.

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5.  Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the trays around and bake for further 20 minutes; if needed turn again and bake for a final 5 minutes.  Remove from oven allow to cool for 20 minutes then slice using a serrated knife. At the restaurant these are served with a decadent mascarpone butter.

Glass Brasserie, Sydney

With 13 metre high walls of it surrounding the restaurant, Glass couldn’t be called anything else.  Eight years in, and the room still looks impressive and imposing – it is certainly one of the CBD’s better dining rooms, and I’ve visited several times.  As part of the Sydney Hilton, it is a bit of a ‘something for everyone’ hotel menu, with a little Asian, French, Italian, ModOz, steaks and fresh seafood.  But where many places fail with this approach, Glass, for the most part, pulls it off, with Luke Mangan’s clearly versatile kitchen team and attentive staff.  We are there for an early dinner (6pm) with our children in tow; they are obviously used to families given the large number of hotel guests that dine there, and the children are warmly welcomed which always speaks volumes to me about a venue.

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We start off with a little tapas, a stuffed zucchini flower with corn,  preserved lemon, and salsa verde – absolutely delicious – and some duck croquettas.  The latter don’t quite hit the mark and the flavour of duck gets a bit lost.

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Next is the signature dish which I’ve had a few times on my several visits over the years – the feather light omelette with crab meat, enoki mushroom and herb salad.  After dividing it between two of us, a lovely rich miso broth is poured.  Really lovely dish.

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The snapper fillet, tempura prawns with Thai salad and spicy broth follows.  The prawns are enormous, but I would describe these more as a batter than tempura, and I would have preferred a different style of prawn.  The salad on the other hand, is texturally delightful and I could have eaten a whole dish of it; with the fish and the broth it’s a great combination.

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The “simply prepared fish” on that particular day is salmon, accompanied by asparagus, watercress and an excellent tomato chutney.  As they say endlessly on those reality TV cooking shows with simple food, “there’s nowhere to hide”, and there isn’t any need to with food this fresh.  But it also looks very healthy, so we need to balance it out with some (undoubtedly low fat) silky smooth truffle mash.

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The children’s steak, at $16.50, is generous and given the thumbs up by my children who have developed strong carnivore tendencies, and are very critical of steak.DSC02815 (2)

For desert, we opt for the toffee soufflé with pecan butter ice-cream.  The soufflé doesn’t win me over, with the toffee flavour being rather subtle, but that ice cream  – could I please get a litre or two to takeaway? It’s devine.

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So yes there are some minor execution flaws, and it’s an expensive night out, but overall Glass remains a class act. Here’s to the next eight years.

Glass Brasserie, 2/488 George St, Sydney, Ph: (02) 9265 6068
http://www.glassbrasserie.com.au/

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Pistachio Biscotti

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These easy to make biscotti are delicious.  Next time I want to try throwing in a tablespoon of limoncello.

Ingredients
60g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
Finely grated rind of 2 small lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
180g natural unshelled natural pistachios
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 egg, extra

Making it
1. Cream butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon. Add the 3 eggs one at a time until combined
2. Fold in flour, baking powder, bicarb, and nuts. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
4. Halve the dough, shape into logs and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 20 minutes, remove from oven and reduce temperature to 160 degrees.
5. Allow logs to cool for 10 minutes, then slice into biscuits using a serrated knife, place on baking trays and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.

Stain @ The Cove, Lane Cove North

Following the successful Stain @ The Hill, the experienced team have opened up a second venue in Lane Cove North. There’s a lovely outdoor balcony, a play area with some equipment for the kids, and a good stretch of grass in front.  The balcony was a very pleasant place to sit on a nice Summer’s day.

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The breakfast menu has plenty to appeal and is well priced, as are the children’s selections.

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Coffee is good and the food was great! Pictured below, clockwise are – scrambled eggs with salmon, feta scrambled eggs with black toast, French toast with yoghurt, nuts and maple syrup (absolutely delicious), and avocado toast with poached eggs.

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While the lady who welcomed us was lovely and warm, our waiter was unfortunately very very grumpy, rude and abrupt. Maybe he didn’t like us? I’m hoping he was just having a bad day, as this has to be one of the best breakfasts in the 2066 postcode.

Stain @ The Cove, Corner of Mowbray and Felton Avenue, Ph (02) 9427 8083
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stain-Cafe-Lane-Cove/1432090903676419?fref=ts

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Roman Semolina Gnocchi

I’m not sure if these originated in Rome, but what distinguishes them from traditional gnocchi is that they do not contain potato, but semolina.  I usually serve this as a side dish – it is easy and really delicious.  It is vital that you get the seasoning right, otherwise it is bland.  You’ll see recipes with varying quantities of butter, cheese, or milk, but the core ingredients are always the same. I’ve also seen these served with a mushroom fricassee on top, or with a plain Napolitano tomato sauce.

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Ingredients
300g fine semolina
1 litre milk
100g butter, plus a little extra for greasing
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
3 egg yolks
100g grated Parmesan

Making it
1. In a pot on medium heat, place the milk, nutmeg, some ground pepper and pinch of salt. Bring it to the boil, reduce heat, then add the semolina in a stream, whisking constantly or it will get lumpy. It will thicken pretty much immediately. Continue to whisk for a few minutes them remove from heat.
2. After a couple of minutes, add about half the cheese and the butter and stir thoroughly with a wooden spoon. At this point taste for seasoning, and add more salt if required. Add the egg yolks and stir thoroughly.
3. Line a baking tray with baking paper and smooth out the semolina in an even layer. Allow to cool.
4. Using a round cutter (4-5cm) cut into discs. Grease a baking dish with butter, layer the discs and top with remaining parmesan. If you are preparing this ahead, you can cover the dish with cling wrap and put it in the fridge at this point until ready to cook. Otherwise put it in a 200 degree oven for about 20 minutes till a little golden and serve.

The Banquet Edition – Sydney Restaurant Banquets

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I am often being asked – where can I take a group and get a banquet? I don’t mind banquets when you’re with a crowd (or I’ll very happily take charge of a la carte ordering for the group if given the leeway, as anyone who knows me will tell you), they are easy and no thinking required.  But sometimes there is that one dish (or two) on the a la carte menu that you really really want to try that isn’t a part of the set banquet.  I often find that if you call in advance and ask, a  lot of places are willing to make a substitution or two.

So here’s a roundup of banquets around Sydney, budget and luxe, please feel free to add any I have missed. Most of them need a minimum of 4 people, though some are for 10 plus groups. Also check carefully as some have a compulsory service charge for groups of a certain size.

Obviously Asian food wins hands down in this category, in terms of the number of options and price point, with Italian a close second. If you’d also like a private dining room, see my list here.

Italian

Ventuno, Walsh Bay – $25, $35 and $50 menus

ACME, Rushcutters Bay – $60 menu

Café Sopra, Waterloo – $70

La Casa, Russell Lea – $44, $54 and $69 menus

Gatto Matto, Five Dock – $43, $53, $62 menus

Terrazza, Chatswood – $40, $50 and $60 menus

Via Napoli, Lane Cove – $35 and $45 menus

Mercato E Cucina, Gladesville – $40, $50, $65, and $85 menus

Asian – Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Modern Asian

China Lane, Sydney CBD – $59 and $75 and $92 menus

Red Lantern, East Sydney and Surry Hills  – $69, $85 and $145 menus

Cho Cho San, Potts Point – $65 menu

Longrain, Surry Hills – $65

Billy Kwong, Potts Point – $75

Mr Wong, Sydney CBD – $68, $88, $118, and $148 menus

Golden Century, China Town and Pyrmont – $44, $55, $77, and $88 menus

Bar H, Surry Hills  – $79

Moon Park – $65 menu

Ms G’s, Potts Point – $65

Neptune’s Palace, Sydney CBD – $48, $68, and $88 and $108 menus

Spice Temple, Sydney CBD – $75 and $95 menus

The Malaya, Sydney CBD – $55 menu

Palace, Sydney CBD – $38, $52, $68, $108 menus

Blue Eye Dragon, Pyrmont – $50 and $60 menus

Chinta Ria, Sydney CBD – $36, $42, and $48 menus

Bay Tinh, Crows Nest – $35 and $39 menus

Thai Pothong, Newtown – $31, $37, $43 and $48 menus

Tapioca, Neutral Bay – $50 and $60 menus

Lotus Dumpling Bar, The Rocks – $49 and $59 menus

Chat Thai, Westfield Sydney – $35 and $40 menus

Mama’s Buoi, Crows Nest – $49 menu

Japanese

Sake, The Rocks – $88

Azuma, Sydney CBD – $68 and $88 menus

Tokonoma, Sydney CBD – $98 menu

Osaka Trading Co, Tramsheds – $50 menu

Toshiya, Cremorne – $39

Toko, Surry Hills – $78 and $98 menus

Jazushi, Surry Hills – $48 and $55 menus

Greek

The Apollo, Potts Point – $75

The Animal, Newtown – $50

1821, Sydney – $75 and $110

Middle Eastern

El Phoenician, The Rocks – $50, $56 and $69 menus

Kazbah, Balmain – $65

South American/Spanish/Tapas

Braza, Leicchardt, Darling Harbour –   $42 and $65 menus

Porteno, Surry Hills – $80

Gardel’s Bar, Surry Hills – $35 and $50 menus

Contrabando, Sydney – $28, $35, $44 and $50 menus

Tapavino, Sydney – $58 menu

Encasa, Lane Cove – $42, $46 and $55 menus

Other/Mod Oz

Bowery Lane, Sydney CBD – $55 and $65 menu

Chiswick, Woollahara – $75 menu

Firedoor, Surry Hills – $85 menu

Orto, Surry Hills – $65

Monopole, Potts point – $65

Nomad, Surry Hills – $65 menu

The Botanist, Kirribilli, $35 menu

Ester – $65 menu

Happy feasting!

Monopole, Potts Point

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I’m here with a dear friend, who, when we see each other, kindly lets me drag her wherever I want to go. Now that she has moved to Melbourne though, our catch ups are less frequent, it’s often a quick coffee on work trips.  Our last big meal was a splurge at Vue de Monde.

Monopole is the younger sassy sister of Bentley, opening in December 2012.  It is dark, but more of a sultry dark, rather than I-can’t-see-what-I’m eating-or-who-I’m eating-with dark.  Fine wines line the walls, and there is bar seating as well as table seating, if you’d prefer to see the kitchen team in action. The most expensive dish on the menu is $28, which for this pedigree is frankly very good. There is also a $65 seven course tasting menu, though I think if there are two of you, you are better off ordering 3 different courses each and sharing them, you’ll be well full and likely come out ahead (we ordered 7 dishes and it was one or two too many, we were stuffed). The tables are pretty close together, so we had a good chat with our convivial neighbours and eyed off each others choices.

If you’re vegetarian you will really enjoy some of their dishes –

Sugar Snaps and Celtuce with Savoury Lemon Curd. Beautiful fresh vegetables, but what made it a standout was that lemon curd.  Very clever, very delicious.

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Polenta with Baby Corn – this was a much creamier, more runny style than what you would have in a traditional Italian polenta.

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And for the meatlovers –

Chicken Liver Parfait with Grilled Sourdough.  It was good texturally, not a smooth as others I’ve add and probably not the best flavour. What I did like is that they were generous with the sourdough.  Often with pate and parfait you get a few little slivers that are never enough.

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Roasted Pork Neck, Mustard Beans Parsley & Mint.  Nice smokey flavour to the pork (it was served very pink though which may not be to everyone’s taste) with nice crunchy beans.

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And then from the sea – Snapper, Pumpkin, Zucchini & Black Olive.  Like the other dishes, a nice sized serve, and a gorgeous pumpkin puree that we scooped up with bread, reluctant to leave any of it behind.

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There were only two desserts, but I liked one and my friend liked the other, so we ordered both.  Very generous serve and one would certainly have been enough for both of us. I thought the desserts here were much better than Bentley.

Strawberries and Cream with white chocolate milk crumb. Stunning looking dish, with a combination of fresh and dehydrated strawberries, and good texture from the addition of the chocolate crumb.

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My pick was Pineapple, Lime Meringue & Coconut with Mint & Verjus Granita.  It was a hot Summer night, and I though this sounded very refreshing, which it was. A great flavour and texture combination.

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Monopole, 71A Macleay St, Potts Point Ph (02) 9360 4410
http://monopolesydney.com.au/

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