Monthly Archives: August 2014

Today’s cake – classic tiramisu

Lots of people and restaurants claim to have ‘invented’ tiramisu, and who knows who is telling the truth.  What we do know is that it was an invention of the 60’s, along with audio cassettes, the beehive hairdo, and colour television.  Fast forward fifty odd years and we still predominantly use savoiardi, or lady finger biscuits, to make it but in the modern world there have been endless versions with berries, mango, yoghurt, and in the latest trend I’ve noticed in restaurants, “hot and cold tiramisu” (the last of which I recently had a delicious version of at Sarti in Melbourne).

The one below is classic in my mind.  My Mamma Rosa has always always made it with marsala, so that’s how I make it too. My cousin Concetta on the other hand uses Amaretto, and the method below is hers; Mamma Rosa has given me a couple of versions – one with a custard and cream (if you don’t like the thought of raw eggs, or are allergic, this is the way to go) and a ricotta one.  But whatever you use, like most Italian sweets, they are never complete without a splash of alcohol somewhere.  Tiramisu is great for a dinner party, because you can serve a crowd with it easily, but also you can make it the night before, or at least give it several hours before serving – many recipes say to leave it two or three hours, but I think you need at least twelve.

Once upon a time you could only get lady finger biscuits at Italian delis, but now the supermarkets stock them too. If you’re worried about the raw egg whites, use some cream instead. You can use a square, oval, or round dish, or you can even make it in individual glasses. So easy and so good!

Ingredients
6 eggs, separated
1 cup caster sugar
250 ml espresso coffee, chilled
150 ml marsala (or other preferred alcohol)
500g mascarpone
1 400g pack Saviordi biscuits
Cocoa or grated chocolate, for topping

Making it
1. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and caster sugar until thick and pale. Add the mascarpone, and beat till combined
2. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the yolk and mascarpone mixture
3. Combine the marsala and coffee in a small flat dish of a suitable size for dunking the savoiardi. Put each biscuit in the liquid mixture just for a few seconds so that only half the biscuit is dunked (if you put it in too long it will collapse). Place the biscuit in your serving dish with the “undunked” side on the bottom. Repeat until you have covered your serving dish.  You may need to cut your biscuits in order for the dish to be covered.

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4. Cover the layer of biscuits with half the mascarpone mixture. Then do another layer of dunked biscuits, then the other half of the cream. Refrigerate until ready to serve. You could also do it in individually served glasses or bowls.

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5. Just before serving, dust with the cocoa or grated chocolate.

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Toque Time (Melbourne) – The Age Good Food Guide 2015 Awards

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And yes, here we are again at Award time. Restaurant “Award Season” is in full swing, with Gourmet Traveller releasing its 2015 Restaurant Awards last week, and The Australian coming out with its Hot 50 list.

 

Lest you think these awards don’t actually matter, this is what happened to Saint Crispin in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood last year after it won New Restaurant of the Year:

‘Scott Pickett, the chef and co-owner,…….arrived at the restaurant on Tuesday (the day it’s closed) at noon to find 198 voicemails and 78 emails inquiring about bookings. ”By the time we got through them all at 3pm, we had another 138 messages to address,” he says. By Wednesday, Pickett had employed a second staff member ”to manage calls and bookings”. Other winners on the night also saw a peak in phone and email activity when they arrived for work on Tuesday’ (Good Food, 3 September 2013). 

Extraordinary, no?  But at the end of the day for everyone who lovesloveslovesloves restaurant x, there will be someone who can’t stand it, because that is what makes the world go round. One can’t help but wonder though, if The Age has struck a deal with Tourism Victoria – most of the new hats are to regional restaurants, which will see foodies (did I mention I hate that word?) around the country piling into their cars driving around the state and throwing around superlatives.

And the winners are…..

Restaurant of the Year – Brae, Birregurra (watch the population of this town go up in coming months. Does anyone actually know where it is?)

New Restaurant of the YearSupernormal (really?)

City

Three Hats
Attica, Flower Drum, Vue de Monde
Two Hats
Cafe Di Stasio, Cutler & Co, Ezard, Grossi Florentino, Matteo’s, MoVida, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Rosetta, Saint Crispin (up a hat), Spice Temple
One Hat
Bacash, Becco, Bistro Guillaume, Bistro Vue, Cecconi’s Flinders Lane, Centonove, Circa, Coda, Cumulus Inc, Da Noi, Dandelion, Donovans, Easy Tiger, Epocha, Estelle, The European, The Grand, Hare & Grace, Huxtable, Il Bacaro, Kenzan, Longrain, Maha, Merricote, Moon Under Water, MoVida Aqui, No. 8 by John Lawson (new hatter), Noir (new hatter), 
Pei Modern, The Point Albert Park, The Press Club, Pure South, Sarti, Shoya (new hatter), Stokehouse City, Supernormal (new hatter), Tempura Hajime, Tonka, Town Hall Hotel, The Town Mouse (new hatter), Union Dining (new hatter), 
Woodland House (new hatter), Yu-u
Regional

Three Hats
Brae (new hatter)
Two Hats
Gladioli (up a hat), Jim McDougall in Stefano’s Cellar, Lake House, Provenance, Royal Mail Hotel, 
Ten Minutes by Tractor
One Hat
A La Grecque, Annie Smithers Bistrot (new hatter), The Argus Dining Room (new hatter), Chris’s Beacon Point, Du Fermier (new hatter), Eleonore’s, Healesville Hotel, Kazuki’s, Montalto, Paringa Estate, Port Phillip Estate (new hatter), Simone’s Restaurant, Tani Eat & Drink (new hatter), Terminus at Flinders Hotel, Terrace Restaurant, Tulip (new hatter)
Lost Hats
Albert St Food & Win, Bella Vedere, Brooks, Grossi Florentino Grill, Nellsons

 

Yum Cha @ Spice Temple, Sydney

Spice Temple recently introduced yum cha style options for lunch – which is great because down that end of town there is very little of it other than Mr Wong. And yes I know people will say ‘you could get that for half the price in China Town blah blah blah’ but this isn’t mass-produced-sitting-around-in-a-trolley type yum cha – it is Neil Perry yum cha, made to order and using some great ingredients.  I’ve been to Spice Temple a la carte several times, so was keen to try the dumplings.  The optimal group size though, seems to be 3 people, as that is the serving size of most of the dumplings. They won’t up it to four, so if everyone wants to try one and you’re a foursome, you’ll need to order two serves.  Tasting it, it is obvious that this is premium stuff, you just need to get your head around the association of yum cha = cheap.

The standouts for me were: Gua bao with roast pork belly and chilli paste ($9 each), which you order individually (spice, texture and flavour), the lobster siu mai – $12 for two – (such luxury! And just devine), the Wagyu beef and chestnut siu mai (not too often you get beef in dumplings, and these were delicious), and the Pork balls with XO sauce (oh that sauce! Give me a bowl of it with some steamed rice). Excuse the pics – Spice Temple lighting is not conducive to good photos!

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We also tried the Har Gow steamed prawn dumplings (these were probably the only ones we tried which didn’t stand out in particularly versus say Palace or other yum cha), the Prawn and scallop spring roll, and the Lamb and cumin pancake

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To finish, we had the three milk cake (normal, condensed and cream I think) with raspberry, pistachio and almond, with meringue on top. It had a slightly Middle Eastern bent with the rosewater and pistachio, and the milk was just delicious. I could happily skip the meringue and just have that gorgeous cake with lashings of the milk mixture. Any chance of a recipe, Neil?

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Spice Temple, 10 Bligh Street, Sydney ph (02) 8078 1888
http://www.rockpool.com/spicetemplesydney/

Dimitris’ baked eggplant

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While we were in Greece, staying in a magnificent house in Paros, a local cook Dimitris made some delicious dishes for us. One that was a hit was this baked eggplant, which I was keen to try myself when we returned home. The challenge is sourcing the same ingredients. I noticed Dimitris always used red onions for example – but the red onions there were much sweeter and more delicate than those we get in Australia. So for this dish I opted for some French eschallots, which were probably the closest thing. It also looked like he had used a different variety of eggplant – here we either get tiny Lebanese eggplants (which are too small for this recipe) or massive “standard” ones. Today I found some standard eggplants but of a petite size at an Italian grocer, and as soon as I saw them I knew they were perfect for this dish. There is a lot of oil so it is not a dish you’d have every day, but gosh it was delicious, and bought back memories of a wonderful holiday.  We had some left over and heated them up the next day, I think they were even better.  You could also do these Italian style with ricotta on top and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Ingredients
6 small eggplants
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup continental parsley, finely chopped
180g haloumi, sliced into 12 slices
Olive oil for frying
Salt for seasoning

For the sauce
4 eschallots, finely sliced lengthways
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon raw sugar
1 can peeled tomatoes, pureed
2 tbsp olive oil

Making it
1. For the sauce, place the olive oil and eschallots in small pot and saute on medium heat until softened. Add the tomatoes, 1 cup water, salt, sugar, allow it to come to a bubble then simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. Set aside

2. Cut each of the eggplants in half longways, then score in a criss cross fashion. Take a large heavy based frypan (mine could fit 6 halves), add olive oil such that the base of the frypan is generously covered. Place the eggplants flesh side down and cook on low to medium heat till golden, then turn and cook on skin side until softened but not collapsing. Drain on paper towels.

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3. Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Place the eggplant in an oven dish, season with salt, then sprinkle the parmesan on top. Spoon some sauce onto each of the eggplants and bake for about 20 minutes
4. Remove from oven, place one slice of haloumi on each eggplant, then return to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle over chopped parsley and serve.

The hunt for Sydney’s best cannoli – part II

After sharing my post on Sydney’s best cannoli to an “Italians in Sydney” group, there was a bit of an outcry that I didn’t include Mezzapica.  It was not intentional, I just forgot about them (my brother-in-law too shook his head in disbelief).  Which is a bit odd, considering that at the two hundred or so Italian weddings I went to at the Mediterranean House and Festival House growing up, everyone got their wedding cake and other sweets from Mezzapica.  And we also used to buy cakes, cannoli and biscuits from there for family occasions.  But somewhere along the way my mother became a devotee of Blue Star, and this became the default cannoli location.  My first test included Blue Star, Marineve, Tamborrino and Dolcetti.  It was time for round two.

So one sunny morning, off I went to Leicchardt to Mezzapica.    I also recently tried some great cannoli at a friend’s birthday party, and she told me they were from Cavalicious, so I decided to stop in there on the way home, and a little further up the road at newcomer Mercato e Cucina.   Once again, traditional ricotta flavour had to be the benchmark.

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And yes, the masses were right.  The Mezzapica cannoli were fantastic, crunchy shell, creamy not-too-sweet ricotta.  But I have to say, Cavalicious, while a slightly different flavour to its shell, were excellent too, will definitely be buying both of these again. Mercato e Cucina’s version was probably my least preferred of all seven (gosh I am glad I did this in two parts, imagine eating seven at once) – loved the pistachio topping, but the filling and the casing, while good, just weren’t to the standard of all the others.

A good bit of time after this, I tried the cannoli from Dolcettini.  I’ve been wanting to get there for an age, but I don’t find myself in Dural often as its quite a hike.  But wow, I think the drive is worth it! Crunchy case, gorgeous filling, an all round excellent package. Right up there!

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You’ve got to admit, regardless of your cannoli preference, that it is great to be this spoilt for choice.

Mezzapica Cakes, 130 Norton Street Leichhardt, ph (02) 9569 8387
http://www.mezzapica.com.au

Cavalicious Patisserie Cafe, 213 Victoria Road, Gladesville, ph (02) 9879 7378
http://www.cavalicious.com.au

Mercato e Cucina, 297 Victoria Road, Gladesville, ph (02) 9817 9457
http://www.mercatoecucina.com.au

Dolcettini Patisserie, 829 Old Northern Road, Dural ph (02) 9653 9610
http://www.dolcettini.com.au

Mezzapica on Urbanspoon

Cavalicious Patisserie Cafe on Urbanspoon

Paris, France

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Don’t believe what they tell you about the French. Rude and cold – non! In my five visits to Paris, I’ve found the contrary. Like people who saw our bewildered faces staring at a map, and asked if we needed help; or those who kindly offered to take photos, so that I could actually be
in a few rather than always the person behind the camera. Regardless of what you think of the people, Paris is a magnificent city – so much history, art, sugar, bread, and fashion. But be warned it is expensive, and after such great affordable food in Florence, Milan, and Greece there was certainly a bit of price shock. And the coffee was on balance sub standard (and overpriced) – stick to hot chocolate!

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There is endless sightseeing to do in Paris – the Eiffel Tower of course, the Louvre, the Orsay, Montmarte, Versaille, Notre Dame, Champs Elysee, the list goes on and on. The Metro is an easy and quick way to get around the city if you are pushed for time and don’t have the luxury of walking, which is the best way to do Paris.

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Of course, everywhere you go in Paris you will find patisseries – and all so pretty.

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If you don’t want to go traipsing around the city, many of the “big name” ones – Angelina, Pierre Hermes, Sadaharu Aoki, Lauderee, and others – you will find in the department stores Lafayette and Printemps.

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In regards to presentation, I thought Sadaharu Aoki was outstanding – everything was picture perfect. But it doesn’t have to be a “big name” to be good – I bought a fabulous Paris Brest from some random patisserie on Rue Monge. And Eric Kayser’s simple almond croissant is to die for.

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Special mentions also go to Sadaharu’s choux pastry, and to Jacque Genin’s millefeuille – talk about flaky pastry.

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If you want to do a picnic lunch, there are endless specialty food stores. But do check out the foodhalls at the department stores – Le Bon Marche’s Grande Epicerie – and Lafayette’s Lafeyette Gourmand – they have almost everything you could think of for the perfect picnic. They make our Sydney David Jones Foodhall look like a hole in the wall.

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Other notable mentions – we enjoyed Market by Jean Georges (Avenue Matignon), an upmarket, buzzing, modern French bistro with a hint of Asian

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Cafe Sud (Rue de Castellane) had some good food going on (sorry my savoury photos went AWOL) – the cured salmon was just lovely, as was the salted caramel ice cream that came with dessert.

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Claus (Rue Jean Jacques Rosseau) is a delightful breakfast spot near the Louvre which we also enjoyed. Do book as it only seats twenty or so.

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If you don’t actually want to see any of the major tourist attractions and stand in queues, you’ll have an equally lovely time in Paris just walking the streets, getting lost, and taking it all in.

Leek, Zucchini and Pea Soup

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I rarely buy cookbooks these days.  There are so many great recipes available in newspapers, magazines, and online that I’m less inclined to.  At one point my stash of cookbooks got unwieldy, so I went through them all and marked with post-its how many recipes in each book I would actually make. Anything with a handful or less went to charity.

SMH’s Good Food on Tuesdays (it is the only reason I buy the paper on Tuesdays) is always a good source of inspiration.  When I saw this recipe from Pete Evans, I knew it would be the perfect winter warmer. I doubt he’d serve it with bread, given he’s gone all Paleo these days, but I couldn’t resist putting a few crunch toasted bits in it.   He also used coconut oil, but I used my regular extra virgin olive oil.  Speaking of which, I’m really loving Australian oil Cobram these days; I usually buy imported Italian or Spanish, but I’ve discovered the fragrant fruitiness of Cobram, though it does come with a higher price tag.

Serves 4

Ingredients
2 tbps extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced
4 large zucchini, diced
200g fresh or frozen peas
1.3 litres chicken stock
4 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and finely chopped
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

Making it
1. Place the oil in a large saucepan and saute the leek over a medium heat for a few minutes.
2. Add the zucchini and cook for about five minutes. Add the peas and half the stock and bring to the boil.
3. Reduce the heat, add the thyme, nutmeg, bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another five minutes, or until fragrant, then add the remaining stock and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Remove the bay leaves and blend until smooth.

Easy and delicious!