Monthly Archives: December 2015

Food highlights, 2015

Aren’t we such lucky people to live in a country with fabulous produce and talented chefs that can show it off?  Our ingredients are so good that even Heston and Rene chose it to set up shop here for a while.  I’ve travelled overseas quite a bit and can easily say that our chefs and restaurants compete on a  global scale.  So as the year winds up I thought I’d recap a few of my favourite dishes of 2015.

I’ll take the opportunity to wish you all happy holidays and a wonderful 2016.  A big thanks to my little loyal band of readers and commenters, I’m truly chuffed that you’re here.   So signing off for a few weeks until January, and will make my usual new year’s resolution of doing more exercise (well, even some exercise would be good).

So here are some dishes I’ve eaten this year I would go back for.

The ravioli at LuMi in Pyrmont.  I’ve been a few times, and had a few different flavoured ravioli, and they are always superb.  LuMi is one of the Sydney dining stars of 2015, no wonder it had a two hat debut.

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The trofie cu sugu at Sud in Concord.  Another dish I’ve had a few times at this bustling Sicilian street food house.  A hearty meat sauce using Nonna’s recipe.

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The roast potatoes at Apollo in Surry Hills.  Seriously some of the best potatoes ever.

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The fish and pear salad at Khao Pla in Chatswood.  Some very clever Thai going on here.  Dodgy photo, great dish.


Another salad I really enjoyed was the duck salad with green beans and duck liver parfait at Bowery Lane in the CBD.  Hope they put  it back on the menu!

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The Bronx Burger at Five Points in North Sydney.  Its one of the better Sydney burgers, join the queue.


The rice noodles with braised beef brisket at Billy Kwong in Surry Hills, really tasty.

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The school prawns at Firedoor in Surry Hills.  Smoky and delicious.

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The miso cod at Tokonoma in Sydney.  Some very well executed modern, if somewhat expensive, Japanese going on at this place.

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The creamy Parisienne gnocchi at Missy French in Surry Hills

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And straying from Sydney…..

The coppa desserts at Delarosa in San Francisco.  You’ll find some lovely casual Italian at this popular neighbourhood eatery

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Also in San Francisco, the morning bun (top right) at the famed Tartine Bakery.  People queue for this and it wasn’t hard to figure out why.  I saw the recipe and thought I’d could make it, but it would literally be quicker to fly to San Fran instead.

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The octopus at Macchialina in Miami.  Loved this restaurant, everything here was great.

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The taramosalata with cuttlefish at Press Club in Melbourne.  Great combination of texture and flavour.  Good one, George.

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I also adored the soft shell crab souvlaki at street food serving Gazi

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Happy holidays!

Firedoor, Surry Hills

You’re in a bit of trouble at Firedoor if you don’t like a hint (or a whack) of smokiness in your food. In the electricity-less kitchen, everything is cooked on fire, and the taste is distinct.   One of the hot openings of 2015, in the early days it was near impossible to score a table, and we’re glad we finally get to road test it and see if it is worthy of its one hat. Our friendly waitress gives us the menus and suggests an appropriate number of dishes to order between four – the menu is designed to share – and leaves us to ponder.

We start off with some bread. Big, thick slabs of bread with butter. Sprinkled on top of the butter is smoked salt – the smoke journey begins – and I love it. They should sell jars of that salt. The bread also comes in handy for mopping up some of the lovely sauces and juices that come with subsequent dishes.

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The first handful of dishes arrive quickly, almost too quickly, and the table gets crowded.

A simple dish of asparagus comes with a delicious accompaniment of mussel sauce

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It’s followed by one of the table favourites, these little school prawns, done with a nice hint of chilli and garlic shoots. Loved this dish and would gladly have it again

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The ricotta is pretty to look at and yes, the smoke is there, but I think I’d rather have my regular serve of Paesanella.

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We move onto the strawberry clams. It’s a pretty small serve for $48, and I also find them a little overcooked and chewy

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The squid with ink and macadamia doesn’t blow me away either, but the celery is refreshing

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We’re back on track with this whiting with some chargrilled zucchini. Beautifully cooked, juicy fish with delicate vegetables.

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So too does the Jurassic quail get a big tick, served with toasted spelt with caper raisin.

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We have to wait a very long time for the lamb, and the waitress is apologetic, but it turns out to be worth the wait. This photo is of a half eaten dish, oops.   Like the whiting, it is expertly cooked and a definite crowd pleaser.

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But the one thing about Firedoor is that you will get sticker shock, the bill does add up very quickly, especially when drinks come into the equation. Steer clear of the steak – the 500g wagyu rib comes in at $89 and the 500g dray aged rib at $139. Now given how well they cooked our other meat dishes, I’m sure that these would be nicely done, but the prices seem a little excessive, even though they are designed to share. The chef’s menu $85 banquet may be the best way to go.

Firedoor, 1a/23-33 Mary St, Surry Hills, Ph (02) 8204 0800

Firedoor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Potato and Mozzarella croquettes

These simple croquettes make great finger food for a crowd.


1kg peeled potatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
100g breadcrumbs
1 cup grated Reggiano Parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
salt and pepper for seasoning
1/2cm cubes of mozzarella

For coating
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups breadcrumbs

Olive oil, for frying

Making them
1. Place the potatoes in a pot, cover with cold water and bring to the boil; cook the potatoes until tender. Remove from the heat once cooked, drain, and pass the potatoes through a potato ricer into a bowl. Allow to cool.
2. Season with salt and pepper, add the parsley and combine. Add the egg and combine, and finally add the breadcrumbs and combine
3. Divide the mixture into balls. An ice-cream scoop is great for this. A large scoop will give you about 18 larger croquettes, a medium one 30-ish smaller ones. I didn’t cut my mozzarella till I figured out what size I was going to do.
4. After the balls are formed, indent each one in the centre with your thumb, place a cube of mozzarella in the dent, and form into an oval croquette.
5. In a bowl, place beaten eggs and in a separate bowl place the breadcrumbs. Roll each croquette in the eggs then in the breadcrumbs to coat. You can prepare the croquettes ahead up to this point and then put them in the fridge until ready to fry.
6. Heat a heavy based pan with a generous amount of oil and fry the croquettes for 4-5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve.

J&M, Sydney

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Friday night. J&Friends head to J&M, a recently opened bar on level 2 of Angel Hotel. Head up some serious stairs, open a small door, and find yourself in Merivale’s suave new whisky themed bar. There’s an extensive list of whiskys to try neat, but the girlies and I head straight for the whisky cocktail list, all made with Chivas 18.

We start with a Rosetta Sour (Chivas 18, mandarin liqueur, honey syrup, preserved orange, lemon, egg white, fennel pollen), Highland Island Cooler (Chivas 18, pineapple and rhubarb shrub, fresh pineapple, young coconut water, citric solution) and a Modern Gentleman (Chivas 18, Antica Formula, burnt oak and apricot infused Campari, and a giant ice sphere of coffee). In the cocktails, the whisky flavour is notable but doesn’t overpower so the other flavours come through. The freshness of the pineapple with the whisky works well and this turns into a popular choice – “it contains coconut water, that means its healthy, right?” asks one of the group.

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From the food menu we nibble on some creamy chicken liver pâté, which I can never go past on a menu

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I have to try A Life Less Ordinary, a tribute to the late Mr John as the staff respectfully call him (Chivas 18, Aperol, apricot and saffron syrup, bitters, Pernod Absinthe, and atomised peated whisky, the last bit coming in this cool old fashioned perfume bottle and sprayed on). Each of these comes with a note from Mr John’s tribute page.   We obviously didn’t know him, but there’s no disagreement with what is written.

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This is accompanied by some smoked oysters, cutely presented in the tin, with crackers and cream cheese

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From the classic cocktail list we try the Moscow Mule (Absolut Elyx, ginger juice, lime, ginger ale) and this one is also a crowd favourite. We love love love the metal straws (I have gotta get me some of those) and the fine crystal glasses.

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We also share a cheese plate which comes with a tasty fig and walnut log. Meanwhile, a great selection of cool tunes has been playing in the background, the volume just right so that we can actually talk, and the room is full of a relaxed crowd enjoying this new intimate nightspot.

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J&M, 1 Angel Place, Sydney, Ph 02 9254 8088

Napoli Restaurant Alert was a guest of Merivale

J&M Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In My Kitchen, December 2015

After thirteen years, we’re moving. I’m sad to be leaving our peaceful street with our lovely kind neighbours. But it’s time for the next chapter. For some time now, the Marito and I have been after a little more land for the boys to run and play and have more outdoor freedom. We don’t need more house, just some space outside. So we’ve bought a bit of a tip which will take us a long time to fix, but it comes with plenty of grass. I’ll be able to have a proper vegetable patch and I’m pretty keen on a chicken coop. Our architect has been informed of key priorities – space for a nice big welcoming kitchen and a “kick ass pantry” (he’s quite a refined gentleman, I hope I didn’t offend him, but that pantry description summed it up perfectly). Somewhat eerily, the woman who lived there for nearly sixty years had the same first name as me and was also of Southern Italian origin – we knew it was a sign. I hope to spend my next sixty years there too.

So as we begin the arduous task of packing things in boxes I think back on all that has happened here. It is where we came as newlyweds, me a skinny twenty-something bride that the Marito carried over the threshold – how we laughed! It is where we sat in awe and shock and joy after the doctor told us we were expecting identical twins. It is where we bought them home after a long hospital stay, so so tiny that for the first few months they slept side by side in one cot; they’ve been joined at the hip ever since. It is where they said their first words and took their first steps. It is where we took on our first building project, knocking down the tiny crumbling old house to create a modern family home. It is where we got my husband back to health after a very long and very terrible illness. It is where I made decisions about managing my family and career, determined to do both. It is where I have written all these blog entries.

The kitchen, as is often the case, is the centre of the home. Creating meals, looking over homework, having a chat while standing at the stove. Flipping through cook books and magazines and figuring out what is on the family menu. Replicating things that Mamma Rosa made for me growing up, inching ever closer to getting them right. So many things in my kitchen over the years.

In my kitchen there has been food to share with friends, barbecues,

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….biscuits made for gifts…..

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…and for charity sales

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There have been birthday cakes. One year the theme was Angry Birds….

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…another it was Lego. I spent hours and hours creating different coloured chocolate Lego men

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Then it was onto the Star Wars era

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There have also been some spectacular fails. Back in 2010 I saw this recipe in Gourmet Traveller and thought I’d give it a go.

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It didn’t quite turn out as advertised (I’ve learned a lot in five years!)

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Nor did this ricotta layer cake, also from GT. But it tasted good.

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There’s been pizza and gnocchi, always popular.

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In my kitchen is where I started what has now become a weekly ritual – making bread, thanks to Celia of Fig Jam & Lime Cordial, who hosts these great monthly linkups.

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So my kitchen, I now hand you over to someone else, who I hope will enjoy you as much as I have. Farewell my kitchen!

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