Monthly Archives: April 2014

Lemon Semolina Biscuits

lemon biscuits

The mother of a very good friend of my mother’s used to make a version of these, and very well too. She knew I liked them, so whenever she made a batch she would kindly make sure some came my way. I came across this recipe by Steve Manfredi, so thought I would give them a go. Maybe it was the size of my lemon or my eggs, but I did find the dough way too sticky once combined, so I did end up adding another 1/2 cup of flour in addition to the 200g suggested in the recipe. Also the dough is already quite sweet, so the rolling in the sugar step I’d say is optional. I used a tablespoon measure to form the biscuits, and ended up with about 36. These are delicious!

Ingredients
200g plain flour
100g fine semolina
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
Pinch salt
110g unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
Grated zest and juice of a lemon
½ tsp vanilla extract
60g caster sugar, extra, for rolling (optional)

Making them
1. Mix together in a bowl, the flour, semolina, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside.
2. Cream together the butter, olive oil and 200g of sugar in an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Add the egg, yolk, vanilla, lemon zest and juice until well combined (may be necessary to scrape down the sides).
3. On low speed add the dry ingredients and mix till soft dough is formed. Wrap the dough in some cling film, flatten into a disc and refrigerate for 90 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 170C. Put the 60g of extra sugar in a bowl. Using lightly floured fingers, take a small piece of dough and roll each biscuit to the size of a golf ball. Roll each ball in the sugar and place on baking sheets covered with baking paper. Each ball should be about 4cm from the other.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes till lightly golden. Cool and store in airtight containers.

Breakfast @ Rushcutters, Rushcutters Bay

December 2011. Hot new restaurant opens called Neild Avenue. Sydneysiders flock there (as apparently, according to Manu Fidel, we are all fickle here and only go to the newest and forget all our old faves). Service a shocker, food not much better. Sydneysiders flock elsewhere. Restaurant shuts down some 18 months after opening.

Fast forward to December 2013. One day while eating at Popolo (and note Manu I have even eaten there a few times!) I notice defunct Neild Avenue has been replaced with great looking place called Rushcutters. Mental note to try it, given my inherent fickleness. So husband and I duck in for breakfast one morning. Love love what they have done with the fit out. It’s sort of a modern barn if you like with such a lovely warmth, and great upholstery on the chairs, and other such well put together details. Martin Boetz is running the show here (I hope Longrain keeps up the good food without him!)

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We start off with some very good coffee and a Botanica juice. Our waitress is friendly and helpful. I notice there’s an upstairs and there she tells me there is a private room for 18, which I note for future reference. They also do takeaway.

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Breakfast, which is served till 11.30am, offers a good assortment of museli, fruit, eggs, pancakes. We try the buttermilk pancakes, with fruit, hive honey, goats curd; and the poached eggs, flaked smoked trout, green apple, capers, parsley on rye, and are very satisfied with both. The only let down (and this happens at so many breakfast places, a pet peeve of mine) is two eggs and one piece of toast (how much is an extra slice of bread folks?). It is a very pleasant breakfast in a great room. So Manu I might even come more than once, with the kids next time. A few friends have been for lunch and dinner and have had good things to say about the rest of the menu.

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Rushcutters, 10 Neild Ave, Rushcutters Bay, Ph (02) 9326 9348
http://rushcutters.com.au/

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Nomad, Surry Hills

Nomad: (Greek, νομάς, nomas, plural νομάδες, nomades; meaning one roaming about for pasture, pastoral tribe), is a member of a community of people who move from one place to another, either with their livestock (pastoral nomads) or subsisting on hunting and gathering.

Move from one place to another? I hope not, they’ve spent an awful lot on a terrific fit out, converting what was once a furniture shop into a welcoming, spacious restaurant – the cured meats hanging which you see as soon as you walk in, the bar seating around the kitchen, and various shaped and well spaced tables.  The name instead refers to the “hunting and gathering” food to table philosophy, with the kitchen run by a seasoned professional (Nathan Sasi) who has worked for big names Neil Perry and Heston Blumenthal.

The menu reflects Nathan’s travels and experience and you can see the global influence. Service was great, an extremely bubbly and friendly waitress (in fact I thought she was going to slip her phone number into the pocket of one of my dining companions) and the other staff that helped serve our group of 7 were also warm and professional.

We start with the Housemade Nomad Charcuterie – this was really quite outstanding, in particular the beef cheek (the dark red) and the jamon.  For something a bit out there, there is also wallaby salami

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I’m a sucker for anything with foie gras, so the Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Parfait with radish and Iranian plum is a no brainer. And it’s silky smooth and served with quality thick slices of toasted sourdough.  One of the best liver parfaits I’ve had in a while.

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Although the pastry was a little dry, the filling of the Smoked Pork Empanada was succulent and delicious.  I thought it was great as it was, but my dining crew preferred it with a splash of the house harissa hot sauce they bought to the table.

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Summer tomatoes with shanklish and sumac.  Shanklish, by the way, is a Syrian cheese (why is it that menus don’t come with a glossary?). A beautiful summer salad, can’t go too far wrong here. There was a bit of dissension in the ranks about ordering of carrots (“how hard can it be to barbecue some carrots?”) but I don’t make labna at home and that was a beautiful accompaniment to some very tasty root vegetables.

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Nomad Jersey Milk Haloumi with BBQ zucchini, pinenuts, raisins – simple and delicious.

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Squid, squid ink, sobrasada, coriander – this was a little disappointing, the squid wasn’t fall apart tender. I had envisaged something as good as the Hartsyard octopus dish when I saw it on the menu.

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BBQ Mulloway Tajine with green beans and read onion pilaf – I was disappointed that this wasn’t actually served in a tajine, as when I asked the waitress about it before ordering she mentioned it was cooked in one.  It was in the ‘nice’ category, nice being a word you use to describe food when there’s nothing unique about it, but nothing bad about it either.

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Wood Roasted Pork with romesco aioli and lemon.  Crunchy skin, fatty pork, great romesco.

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Pedro Ximenez Magnum – flavour 10/10, eating functionality 1/10.  They really needed to serve these with little individual bowls.  While they could easily give Streets a run for their money, they fell apart on the first bite and the ice cream melted almost instantly, with most of us holding the delicious mess in our hands.

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Buneuelos with rosewater and cardamom custard.  Anything doughnut-y goes in the lamington category with me (bleuh!) – so I didn’t try these, but the custard was great.  The feedback on the buneuelos – “not worth the calories”.

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There is also a $65 banquet menu for groups.

Nomad, 16 Foster St, Surry Hills, Ph (02) 9280 3395
http://restaurantnomad.com.au/

Nomad on Urbanspoon

Simple chocolate cookies

These very easy chocolate cookies, from Smitten Kitchen, are a great treat for the kids (and adults as well!). A lovely chewy texture, and perfect for dunking in milk. Makes 45-50 cookies depending on your chosen shape and size.

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Ingredients
375g plain flour
55g cocoa
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
225g unsalted butter at room temperature
300g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Making them
1. Combine flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder in a bowl.

2. Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and then vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients until a nice dough forms, wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour

3. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees. Remove dough from fridge and roll it out on a floured counter to about half a centimetre thick, cut into desired shapes, and place on trays lined with baking paper. Bake for 8 to 11 minutes until edges firm and centres slightly soft. Remove from oven, allow to cool and serve

Mercato e Cucina, Gladesville

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It was a bad day when Vanessa Martin closed the one hatted Il Piave on Darling Street – her pasta dishes were always right up there.  Its been a long time between drinks, but finally here she is again running the show at Mercato e Cucina, where one side operates as a “mercato” where you can buy fruit and vegetables, meat, charcuterie, pasta, olive oil, and the other side as the “cucina” where you can enjoy a quick pizza or a long and leisurely meal.  The wine list too is fairly impressive, and the cocktails were unexpectedly good though a little on the small side for the price.

We start with the salumi board, a very attractively presented board with some top quality prosciutto, ham and the like which you can buy to take home from the store.  The olives too were fat and delicious.  We also go for the pork belly, which is tender and juicy; it has an onion jam on top which has a tang and a cabbage and apple salad underneath.

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The calamari was beautifully cooked and the accompanying mint, caper and red onion aioli is bursting with flavour.  The scallops on the other hand, served with a sweet corn puree with basil oil and crispy herbs fall a little short, I find them bland despite all the surrounds, perhaps a touch underseasoned.

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The pizza gets approval from around the table, a good crust and quality toppings.  The buffalo mozzarella is generous, no skimping here, and the seafood pizza too is beautifully fresh.  But the menu doesn’t mention that it is also full of anchovies, and it should, since it is one of those polarising ingredients.  I find they overpower the delicate mussels and vongole.

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And then comes a bit of a showstopper and the dish of the day – a white mushroom risotto with burnt butter and truffle pecorino.  Seriously rich and seriously good. I think it will go on my list of Sydney’s must have pasta dishes.

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The other pasta dishes also shine – the squid ink fettucini, and then a succulent ragu, topped with ricotta salata (and be warned, it is salty, so just take it off if its not your thing).  They are generous, which is what Italian food is all about.

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We were too full for desert, so I’ll have to try that next time.

I’ve seen a lot of negative reviews on this place, mostly directed at service.  I couldn’t really fault the food and we were warmly welcomed and the waiter we had was very polite.  They do however need a few more floor staff, particularly on a busy Saturday night, to make sure everyone is attentively looked after – if there are any shortcomings, it was that a few extra hands on deck would have been useful.

There’s also a semi private dining room and some well priced banquet menus.

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Mercato e Cucina, 297-307 Victoria Road, Gladesville, ph (02) 9817 3457
http://www.mercatoecucina.com.au/

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Today’s cake – Orange and Olive Oil Cake

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I recently had an orange and olive oil cake that our in house kitchen made for a client lunch – it was fantastic. I must ask them for the recipe, as it had great texture, and they must have used semolina or almond meal.  In the meantime I modified a recipe by Mario Batali (who I think is great!). A delicate, lovely cake.

Ingredients
100ml extra virgin olive oil
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup caster sugar
1 1/4 cups 00 flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 orange
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making it
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees (fan forced)and grease 9-inch round cake pan and line the base with baking paper.

2. Zest and juice the orange, and combine in a bowl with the olive oil

3. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs and salt together until frothy. Slowly add sugar while continuing to mix (about 2 more minutes).

5. Combine the flour and baking soda and gradually add to egg mixture. Mix about 1 more minute.

6. Gently fold the orange and olive oil mixture into the batter

7. Pour batter into prepared pan and place in oven and bake 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in centre of cake comes out clean.

8. Turn onto a wire rack to cool, then dust with icing sugar and serve