Monthly Archives: January 2015

Sud, Concord

It’s no secret that Italy has been in some fairly dire economic circumstances in recent years. This has meant there has been an exodus of its young, highly educated workforce. I was surprised to find on a trip to our Hong Kong office last year a cluster of people from Milan and Rome – extremely talented, they couldn’t be in an environment more different from home (“have you seen the price of prosciutto here!” one of them said to me), but necessity has meant they had to leave it behind and find employment elsewhere.

Australia has also been the beneficiary of this exodus, particularly in hospitality and food. Attracted by our climate – which is not that dissimilar to Southern Italy – our great produce, and an existing large Italian population (they’re bound to find a long lost relative or a cousin somewhere), we’ve seen some very talented Italian chefs, pizzaioli and gelato makers arrive on our shores. Paolo Gatto is one of those. He and his wife Rita arrived in Australia in 2008, and opened Gatto Matto in 2011. It has gotten better and better since my first visit, driven by Paolo’s passion (the name Crazy Cat is no coincidence) and Rita’s warmth. They have now opened a second venue, Sud, which simply means South. Southern Italian street food is the order of the day – it is where they are from, and it is the food close to their heart.

We arrive relatively early but within half an hour the place is buzzing, pretty good just one week after opening. While I sip my Bellini we peruse the menu, which is charmingly smattered with Sicilian dialect, and debate what to order – over-ordering would be very easy here because there is plenty to tempt. Fortunately most dishes are for sharing so we get to try quite a bit, though I see plenty of other dishes emerging from the kitchen, including a fabulous large antipasto platter for a big group, that we will have to try next time. The pizza bases are excellent and so are the toppings. But one of the favourites of the night is the baby octopus that comes with the spiedinu. I find out that it has undergone six hours of confit – if that’s Sicilian street food, unemployment be damned, I’m moving there; the rosemary flavoured wedges that accompany it are delicious too. The trofie cu sugu is also another winner (if it is nonna’s recipe as it says on the menu then to be expected), a fragrant, rich, robust meat sauce.

We are wondering what to order for dessert and aren’t convinced when the raviolo di ricotta is suggested to us, but decide to give it a whirl and we love it. It is a giant raviolio which can easily serve 4, and I’m glad the honey is on the side because I don’t think this light dough with a gorgeous creamy filling needs any further embellishment. The cuzzoli, light ribbons of dough to be dipped in the accompanying Nutella, are a crowd pleaser, but anything with Nutella always will be.

With generous serves, great flavour, and an attractive price point – the most expensive menu item is $28 – you’ll find a great little slice of Southern Italy in downtown Concord.

Arancini – deep fried rice balls filled with ragu and peas
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Panzerotti fritti – fried calzone filled with mozzarella and ham
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Calamari and chips
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Pizza Margherita
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Pizza vegeteriana – fiordilatte mozzarella, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini and truffle oil
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Pizza Italiana – fiordilatter mozzarella, prosciutto, rocket, cherry tomatoes, parmesan
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Trofie cu sugu
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Spiedinu di pisci – prawn and swordfish skewer with baby octopus, salad and potato wedges
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Raviolo di ricotta – sweet ravioli stuffed with candied fruits
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Cuzzoli
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Sud, 10 Cabarita Road, Concord Ph (02) 9739 6120
http://www.sudfood.com.au

Sud on Urbanspoon

Coogee Pavilion, Coogee

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The Merivale group should offer marketing or business courses, or something.  Like them or loathe them, you’ve got to hand it to them – their ability to take a space, transform it, attract good chefs and instantly draw a huge crowd – and sustain it long term – is enviable.  I’ve been to plenty of their venues – sushi e, Felix, Papi Chulo, Lorraine’s, Palings, Mr Wong just to name a few, and have, for the most part, had great experiences.

Coogee Pavilion is a relatively recent addition to the family.  Like its older siblings it has been transformed into a wonderful space – this time the approach is bright and breezy, perfect for a beachside venue. There is plenty to catch your attention, various counters everywhere, and I love the fact that the tables are nice and spaced out and you don’t have to sit on top of your dining neighbour.

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And the food? Its pretty solid. There’s fresh seafood, pizza, steaks, salads, burgers. If you go all fresh seafood it can be quite expensive, but for a low key pizza and burger its not too bad at all. Its not food that is going to blow your mind, but accessible, pleasant fare for a relaxed meal. Note that it does come from each individual counter so can arrive very quickly – if you want them to space it out let them know.  Otherwise you’ll find your oysters arriving with your pizza and fish and chips.

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And the place is incredibly family friendly. There are high chairs, so cute small people like this one can be comfortable.
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Kids meals are $12.50 and under; the only annoyance of the day was that we had to chase down our kids’ steak repeatedly – it took 45 minutes – but given that the kids were thoroughly entertained they didn’t drive us mad. There is an awesome sizeable room at the back with table tennis, climbing walls, scrabble and a giant connect four among other things. The kids were very happy to run off and play while we sat and chatted and enjoyed our meal. If you want to avoid all that, head up to the rooftop bar which is over 18’s only.

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Coogee Pavilion, 169 Dolphin St, Coogee, Ph 02 9240 3000
http://merivale.com.au/coogeepavilion
Coogee Pavilion on Urbanspoon

Zucchini Frittelle

With the bounty of Summer gardens, it was the perfect time to make zucchini frittelle (zucchini fritters). Like crostoli and tiramisu, there are a thousand different versions of these, depending which Nonna you talk to. My Mamma Rosa always uses tomato in hers, and so did my mother-in-law, but a lot of versions you see don’t. Given the season for zucchini flowers is short, you can make these just with zucchini the rest of the year.  I used a 200g zucchini and 100g of flowers; if you don’t have flowers just use 300g of zucchini instead. Or, if you have an abundance of flowers like I did in my kitchen this month, you could use entirely flowers and no grated zucchini, but you will need to add some water to the mixture. You can also use plain or self raising flour (though plain is more typical) – in the ones pictured here I used self raising because when I looked in the cupboard I was out of plain (rookie mistake), and they just come out a little thicker if you do. Replace the eggs with water if you have an egg allergy. (Have I covered every possible permutation yet?).

They are a great snack, or can be part of a selection of antipasto dishes.

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Ingredientsimkjan (8)
1 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
100g zucchini flowers, stamen removed, coarsely torn
1 ripe tomato, seeds removed, finely diced
Handful of basil, chopped
1/3 cup grated Parmeggiano
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup plain flour
salt and pepper
Canola oil, for frying

Making them
1. Using a wooden spoon, gently combine the zucchini, flowers, tomato, basil and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the egg and combine, then add the flour and gently mix until well combined

3. Heat some canola oil in a frypan, then place a heaped tablespoon in the pan, flattening slightly (or use less to make mini bite sized ones). Once golden on the bottom flip over. You should only need to turn them once. Eat warm or at room temperature (if they last long enough to get to room temperature, they never do at my place).

Chiosco by Ormeggio, Mosman

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Alessandro Pavoni seems to be a man on a mission – a mission to deliver high quality Italian food to Sydney’s North Shore, where dining choices can be somewhat, ah, limited. Ormeggio was his first baby, now all grown up and crowned with two hats, followed earlier this year by Via Alta, and just before Christmas, Chiosco (Italian for kiosk).  A compact but open space, Chiosco is appropriately nautically themed and with a casual vibe. Kids are always welcome in any Pavoni establishment (which I love), and in this case, so are boats, as boat catering is available, and you can rock up in your boardies with a bit of sand if you so desire. They do breakfast too.

Our friendly waiter hands us menus and tells us dishes are designed for sharing, which is just as well as I pretty much want to try everything on it. And it is all delicious – Pavoni and Chef Victor Moya’s version of Italian “street food” – is simple, well executed and well priced food. As my husband said, “there is nothing here that we wouldn’t order again” (and again). I didn’t photograph everything we ate (do try the ragu, its excellent), and we over-ordered, and the food came to $38 per head, which I thought was great value. Plus it is currently BYO.

We tried suppli – crumbed risotto balls with peas, oxtail ragu on fontina cheese. Absolutely cracking!

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Burrata (a devine creamy mozzarella if you haven’t tried it before, I love it) with basil oil and beetroot. There were also some sourdough crumbs which added texture

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Fritto misto – a mix of Hawkesbury school prawns and baby calamari. Loved the boxed presentation.

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Corn on the cob. The smoky paprika and pecorino cheese take it to another level

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Baby octopus skewers with a salmoriglio dressing

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Charcoal gamberoni – huge prawns with a tangy chilli dressing

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Our ravenous kids also wanted burgers along with the ragu, they were massive.

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I can’t think of an appropriate Italian translation of the phrase “mate, love your work” (ben fatto doesn’t quite cut it), but that about sums it up.

Chiosco by Ormeggio, D’Albora Marinas The Spit Spit Rd Mosman, Ph 02 9046 7333
http://www.chiosco.com.au/

Chiosco By Ormeggio on Urbanspoon

In My Kitchen, January 2015

I’m joining Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s In My Kitchen series again this month as the kitchen seems to be overflowing.  Although I really should call this “In My (or Someone Else’s) Garden” this time.   Visit any Italian nonna, comare, cugina right now and you’ll be handed (rather forcefully) their current pickings – so awesome.  So here is what you’ll find in my kitchen this January.

Figs, from a family friend.  I have a great dessert I make with figs, will post it soon.

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Cucumbers, from my aunty, and tomatoes, from a family friend

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Beans and zucchini, from my father-in-law.  There is no need to tamper much with produce like this, simply boil or steam it, season,  toss with extra virgin olive oil and some torn basil, delicious.

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More zucchini flowers – a mountain of them! Lovely tossed through a pasta dish with olive oil, ricotta, basil and parmesan, or in a frittata.

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I picked some basil from my garden, grated some Parmesan cheese and had the makings of zucchini fritters which Il Marito loves.

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Cherries, fresh picked, a lovely gift.  Best fresh, but a cherry tart is good too.

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Lettuce, from our own garden.  One of the trade offs of living close to the city and hence a very quick trip to work is that we don’t have a lot of land, but I do have room for 8-10 herbs, some spring onions and lettuce right now.

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Cookbooks, borrowed from my local library (looking for some new family meal ideas).  I discovered recently that my local library in Lane Cove has an unbelievable cookbook section, better than most bookstores!

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I also did a little bit of shopping at the post Christmas sales.  Next month is our 13 year wedding anniversary, and I’m finding a lot of our kitchenware and tableware we got as gifts back then is needing replacing – though I suppose they have had a good innings!  So there are a few new things in my kitchen.

Two baking dishes.  I was on the hunt for really deep ones.  For things like moussaka and this baked pasta I really needed those couple of extra centimetres (a raft of things I could say on that note, but I won’t).

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Pizza trays.  I needed a some more – they boys appetites are growing and greater pizza quantities seem to be required these days, they will be eating us out of house and home soon.  When they spotted these ones with Napoli on them, they had to be bought.  Pizza dough is so easy to make and the boys can then do their own toppings. And of course there is nutella pizza for dessert.

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This lovely bread basket, that was half price.

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Some thermoses for the kids lunch box.  They were wanting hot lunches last year, some spaghetti Bolognese or some pasta e broccoli, so I went in search of thermoses. I liked these Contigo ones because they had a handle, found them on the new Your Home Depot site that I saw advertised – but beware if you look at it – you will find more things you will want to buy!

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So lots of fun In My Kitchen this January, all the best to my fellow IMK posters for the year ahead!

Johnny Lobster, Crows Nest

When I heard about a place serving Maine style lobster rolls in nearby Crows Nest, I had to check it out.  Johnny Lobster is its name – its a cute, fun, casual eatery with an appealing menu.  You can eat in or takeaway, and I thought the prices were very good.

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The lobster roll at $20 is the most expensive item on the menu.  It is bigger than I expected, with an excellent brioche bun and fresh, succulent lobster.  People will even cross the bridge for this.

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The other dishes are good too, served with a very fresh, crisp salad.  The salad dressing needs a little work (just tastes like oil has been squirted on it) but its a minor thing in the scheme of it, considering the place has only been open a week. I note on the menu it says all the seafood is from sustainable sources.

Grilled fish with salad – you’d have to be pretty happy with this for lunch or dinner at $10.80

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Chilli octopus and salt and pepper squid

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Soft shell crab

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Thrice cooked hand cut chips – forget your new year’s resolutions and diet, and grab a bowl.  Seriously good.

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I’d say its going to be a hit.

Johnny Lobster, 48 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest
http://johnnylobster.com.au/

Johnny Lobster on Urbanspoon

Caramelised Panettone with Grilled Peaches

A few years back, I received a special edition panettone from Ferrero made at Christmas time and shipped from Italy. It is probably one of the few things they made that didn’t have any chocolate or hazelnuts! And it was one of the best panettone I’ve ever eaten in my life, pity they don’t sell them in Australia anymore. Anyway this Tobie Puttock recipe came with it; if you find yourself with excess panettone and too much Summer fruit after Christmas, this recipe is great. If you don’t have Vin Santo other dessert wine will be fine. Serves 4

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Ingredients
4 ripe peaches
80 ml Vin Santo
4 eggs
seeds from 1 vanilla pod (or teaspoon of vanilla bean paste)
pinch of each of ground cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cardamom
good pinch of brown sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar, extra
4 large thick slices of panettone
80 g butter
icing sugar, for dusting
crème fraiche or vanilla ice cream to serve

Making it
1. Preheat the grill to high. Cut the peaches in half and remove the stones. Grill the peaches until they start to colour, then flip and cook for another minute.

2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Transfer the peaches to a baking dish that will snugly fit them side by side. Pour over the vin santo and add a few tablespoons of water. Bake for about 10 minutes or until the peaches are just cooked all the way through and the skin is pulling away from the flesh. Cool for a few minutes before removing and discarding the skin. There should be a nice syrup in the bottom of the baking dish. Lay the skinned peaches flat side down in the syrup and set aside.

3. Using a fork, combine the eggs with the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and a good pinch of brown sugar. Lay the panettone slices in a baking dish and pour the egg mixture over the top and allow to sit for a few minutes.

4. Melt the butter in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. When the butter starts to sizzle, lift the panettone slices out of the egg mixture, holding them up to drain off any excess. Cook in the hot butter until the egg has set and the panettone is golden brown. Remove from the pan.

5. Wipe out the pan with paper towel and place it back on the heat with 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 tablespoons water. As soon as the sugar starts to caramelise, return the panettone slices to the pan. When the first side of the panettone is covered in toffee and becoming crunchy, carefully flip and repeat for the other side.

6. Arrange the caramelised panettone on serving plates with the peaches. Pour over any peach juices, dust with icing sugar and serve immediately with a dollop of crème fraiche or ice cream.

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