Author Archives: Napoli Restaurant Alert

Neil’s Three Milk Cake

A dessert I’ve been unable to resist at visits to Spice Temple is the three milk cake.  So I was excited to see that it was included in Neil Perry’s Spice Temple Cookbook.  I tried to make it and my first attempt was pretty good.  You’ll feed a big crowd with this, at least a dozen.  The cake needs to be made the night before so there’s less prep to do on the day of serving.  If you’re not a fan of meringue or don’t have time to make it I think it is still a really lovely dessert without it.  Here’s the end result

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And here’s the restaurant original – I didn’t do too bad for a first go, though I didn’t quite have enough of the garnishes on hand as no quantities were specified.

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Three-milk cake (make day ahead)
300 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of fine salt
6 eggs, separated
275 g caster sugar
125 ml milk
30 ml rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
375 ml pouring cream
550 ml evaporated milk
500 ml condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C and butter and flour a 30 cm × 20 cm Pyrex dish or cake tin.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then whisk in the sugar. Add the egg yolks one at a time, ensuring each is well incorporated before adding the next. Alternately fold in spoonfuls of the milk and the flour mixture, mixing to a smooth batter. Finally, fold in the rum and vanilla. Pour into the prepared dish or tin and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven, but leave it in the dish. Use a skewer to prick the cake all over.

Mix together the pouring cream, evaporated milk and condensed milk, then gradually pour over the cake, letting it gradually absorb before pouring on more (if you just try and pour it all at once it will go everywhere!). Leave the cake to cool, then cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.

Meringue (make when ready to serve)
100 ml water
2 tsp lemon juice
300 g caster sugar
180 g egg whites (from about 4–5 eggs)
3/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp rose water

Place the water, lemon juice and all but 3 tbs of the sugar in a small non- reactive saucepan. Place over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook the syrup without stirring until it reaches 120°C on a sugar thermometer.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then whisk in the remaining sugar and the cream of tartar to make a meringue. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in a quarter of the sugar syrup and whisk to combine.

Continue adding the syrup in this way, whisking well each time, until it is all incorporated, then add the rose water and whisk on medium speed for a few minutes until smooth and glossy.

Three-milk sauce (for serving)
280 ml evaporated milk
240 ml condensed milk
140 ml pouring cream

Combine all three ingredients in a jug

To serve
Finely grated lime zest
Roasted flaked almonds
Roasted unsalted pistachios
Freeze-dried raspberries

Cut the cake into squares and place a square on each plate, then pour some three milk sauce around the cake. Scoop a large spoonful of the meringue onto the top of each cake square and garnish with grated lime zest, flaked almonds, pistachios and raspberries.

Keeping backyard chooks

A lot of people ask me if it is hard keeping chooks in the suburban backyard –  it’s not at all, and really no different to any other pet.  It has also been very good for the Small People to see that produce doesn’t come in a box or bag in the supermarket.  And of course there is the added benefit of the fresh eggs, with an obvious taste difference.  I particularly also notice the difference in the thickness of the egg whites, they whip like a dream when I am making a cake or biscuits.

I’m by no means a chicken expert, but I’ve learnt quite a lot in the months we’ve had our girls and also done a good bit of reading, so here’s a bit of a guide.

Buying chickens and different breeds

You usually either buy baby chicks (under six weeks old or so), or “pullets” (under a year old, they officially become “hens” after their first birthday).  If you buy a baby chick note that you need to keep them indoors and with a heat lamp, they can move outside to a coop after they are six weeks old.   If you want to buy a number of chooks, try make sure they are all similar ages, because older ones bully younger ones, sometimes quite severely. Even with a similar aged group, you really do see the phrase pecking order in action, as they establish who is in charge.  At first it seemed that Rosie, our Rhode Island Red, was making a play for dominance but one of our ISA’s, Boken, seems to rule the roost.

In Australia, the most popular backyard breeds are ISA Browns and Australorps.  Both of these breeds were developed specifically for optimum egg laying.  Once they start laying, typically around 22-24 weeks of age, during the warmer months they lay almost every day.  Hence these breeds often don’t have a long life span, typically three to four years.

Then there are what are called “pure breeds” – Bantams, Wyandottes, Plymouth Rocks, Speckled Sussexes, and Araucanas to name a few.  Araucanas are known for laying eggs with blue shells which are very pretty so this breed is often in high demand and very hard to get, if anything you’ll get them as day old chicks.  Similarly the other pure breeds you’re unlikely to buy any older than about twelve weeks, so you’ll need to be patient waiting for them to lay eggs.  Some of the pure breeds are very pretty and very friendly so great pets, though they are often not as good layers so there is a bit of a trade off.  They may also go “broody” every spring – that is, think they are going be mothers and sit in one spot for a few weeks on their eggs waiting for chicks to hatch.   Pure breeds can live up to ten years, though they won’t lay for that whole time.

Make sure you buy from reputable breeders who vaccinate. In Sydney City Chicks (who are also in Brisbane and Melbourne) and Leah’s Chook Shed are great for younger ones and pure breeds. Enfield Produce sell mostly ISA’s and Australorps that are close to point of lay.  All of them stock supplies you’ll need.

What are the rules for keeping backyard chickens?

You’ll need to check rules with your local council but in Sydney there are NSW Local Government Regulations for Backyard Poultry.  Specifics may vary from council to council but for the most part, you are allowed up to ten chooks enclosed in an appropriately dimensioned coop, and they must be kept at least 4.5 metres from residential dwellings.  You’ll also need to regularly clean your coop. Roosters are not allowed.  I’ve been surprised at how many coops I’ve seen whilst wandering around our neighbourhood, which is only a few kilometres from the Sydney CBD.

What you’ll need:

Shelter
You’ll need some kind of coop to house your girls.  We started off with a small one from Bunnings which housed three just to see how we liked it, then upgraded to a much bigger coop which we can walk into, making things much easier.  The big one houses ten chooks but six is a comfortable number of chooks for us so the girls have plenty of room.  You’ll need to make sure the coop is safe from predators – namely foxes and possums.  People are surprised to hear there are foxes roaming in suburban Sydney, but yes there are.  Foxes can dig down 30cm or so and some possums can open basic latches so make sure you have secured the perimeter of your coop well and put very secure latches on the doors.  Coops also need to have an area that provides shade for hot days and pouring rain.

When we are at home we let the girls roam freely around the yard.  But don’t do this immediately when you bring them home – keep them in the coop for the first week so they familiarise themselves with their environment and don’t do a runner!  Some breeds don’t do well if they are permanently confined and really need the opportunity to roam.  Our girls love to explore and scratch around the garden and often traipse through our recently planted camellia hedge.

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Grace (silver laced Wyandotte) and Maddie (Plymouth Rock)

A nesting box
Chooks need a nesting box to lay their eggs.  One box per three chooks works.  Though I have seen two of the girls get into the box at once. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. This was the box we first bought, but our new large coop has three built in nesting boxes.

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Hay
Hay is great for the nesting box and for the floor of the coop.  A bale of hay is about $20-$25 and will last you quite a while.  I clean the coop weekly and replace all the hay.

A feeder and a drinker
A feeder is to dispense their food and a drinker is for fresh water. Under sixteen weeks you’ll need to feed the chooks what is called a “crumb”, specific to younger pullets.  After that you can buy them laying pellets.  The feeds have protein and calcium and other goodies the girls need to grow and thrive.  However you can of course give them kitchen scraps but not when they are too young; I started at around 16 weeks.  Lettuce and watermelon are always a big hit, spaghetti and rice are popular, bacon scraps send them wild, and mine turn their nose up at zucchini.   Avoid avocado, onion and chocolate – it makes them sick.   While they need protein, don’t overload them with meat, it apparently strains their kidneys.   Every few weeks or so I give them some sardines in spring water as a treat, they adore it.   The girls know me as Chief Bringer of Goodies so all I have to do is yell out “Girls!’ from across the yard and there’s a bee line for the coop door in anticipation.

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Once they start laying, you may also wish to give them a little “grit” or crushed oyster shells, which are good for calcium, and very cheap to buy.  If you notice they are laying eggs with soft shells, its likely they may be a little calcium deficient, which can sometimes happen with prolific layers like ISAs.  I just mix a little of the grit in with their regular feed.

A perch
Chooks not only love to perch, they physically need to.  It is how they sleep. Yes, they sleep standing up.

For good health
Like other pets chooks are prone to lice and mites so you’ll need to sprinkle poultry dust every now and again.  I put it on the bottom of the nesting box under the hay and also on the floor of the coop.  I add a little apple cider vinegar to their water every now and again for good gut health. Every three months you’ll need to add an anti-worm solution to their water.

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Chooks can be prone to viruses which can be treated with antibiotics, but you cannot eat the eggs while they are being treated.  If one of your girls get sick if possible isolate her before she infects the whole flock. Lethargy, lack of appetite, and strange poop can be signs of illness.

Extreme heat
Like humans and many other animals, chickens struggle with extreme heat and can die of heat stress, so this scorcher of a Sydney summer has been a real struggle.  You’ll see that they are getting stressed because their beaks will be open and they will be panting.  They’ll also fan their wings.   On hot days vigilance is required with their water as they will not drink warm water; if the forecast is for hot weather I prepare large blocks of ice in the freezer and put it in their drinker to help keep the water cool.  On the severe days when I saw they were really struggling, I put cold water and ice cubes in a shallow tub and stood them in it (just 10cm or so) and dripped cold water on their feathers.  They generally hate this but it can be necessary for survival. I also pop wedges of watermelon in the freezer which they peck on and it helps keep them hydrated.

So there you have it, this is the crux of what you’ll need to know.  It really is fun and I’m so glad that we finally have the space to do it!

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In my kitchen, March 2017

Summer is technically over but the days are still lovely. I’m not looking forward to daylight savings ending, though the mornings are getting noticeably dark.  Meanwhile, there’s been plenty happening in the kitchen.

In my kitchen are dragon fruit (also known as pitaya).  I love them but don’t buy them often as they are usually quite expensive.  But I think there were a lot around for Chinese New Year so quite a few grocers had them on special.  I used them in a fruit salad for breakfast, but I also love to eat them as is.

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I read that you can germinate them from the seeds, so I extracted a few, washed and dried them and put them in some seed raising mix, and voila!  After just a few days little green shoots started appearing.  They also grow from cuttings, and a dear friend gave me some cuttings for red and yellow dragon fruit, but I adore the white ones as well, and thought I may as well have all three colours.

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I am steeping some vanilla beans in vodka for some new vanilla extract.  The last bottle I made (pictured right) was in mid 2014, and I’ll probably use what is left in the next couple of months.  Given that it needs at least 3 months to steep, I’ve started a new bottle.  It is so much more fragrant doing it this way rather than the commercial varieties available at the supermarket. It is also more convenient than having to regularly buy the small bottles.

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Our tomato plants are dying off, so its time for new autumn crops.  I bought some broadbeans to plant, the Marito loves them.

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In my kitchen are some fresh tagliatelle, courtesy of Mamma Rosa.  Her tagliatelle rock.

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I stocked up on Callipo Tuna when it was on special at Coles recently.  The Callipo factory is actually 20 minutes or so from Mamma Rosa’s village in Italy.  It is my favourite tinned tuna.

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In my kitchen is a sign for our new coop, to be varnished and hung. It’s from Castle and Cottage Signs; she made a custom sized sign for me it so it will fit neatly above the door.  Our new coop is walk in which is fabulous, makes things so much easier.

The girls had a very tough time of it during the Sydney heat wave last month, I wasn’t sure they were all going to make it. Operation Chicken Watch was in full swing. Blocks of ice in the water, hosing down the roof to keep it cool, and standing them in ice baths when I saw they were really struggling, were needed. Oh, you’re probably wondering about the name. “Bokens” is a nickname for chickens that the Small People came up with when they were Really Small People.  It was courtesy of an old Lilydale ad which had chickens running around going bok-bok-bok.

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In my kitchen is this sauce that a lovely friend got me from this year’s Tomato Festival by Italian chef Luca Ciano.  Look forward to road testing it!

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And finally in my kitchen are some Sydney grown Kensington Pride mangoes, from my parents’ backyard tree.  The skin doesn’t colour like those from the Northern Territory or Queensland, but they  ripen inside and taste just amazing.  What I love is that their tree becomes abundant just when all the Kensington Prides disappear from stores.

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I hope all is well in your kitchen. Thanks to Liz from Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things for hosting this month’s IMK link up.

Today’s cake – Italian apple cake

The Marito is a big apple dessert fan, and I used to make this cake for him regularly when we first got married.  But somehow I forgot about it, and recently finding myself with excess apples, made it and remembered how good it was.  It’s almost custard like in the centre.  I have used Granny Smith and Golden Delicious for this, but you could also use a mixture of varieties depending what you have in the fridge.   Strega is an Italian liquor (and a favourite of Mamma Rosa) the addition of which is optional.

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Ingredients
5 medium apples
Juice of 1 large lemon
Grated rind of 1 large lemon
4 eggs
150g plain flour
150g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt.
20ml Strega liquor
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Icing sugar for dusting

Making it
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan forced. Grease a 20cm cake tine and line the base with baking paper.

2. Core and peel the apples, halve and slice thinly. Place in a bowl and cover with the lemon juice.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer until thick and fluffy. Add the lemon rind and Strega and combine.

4. Gently fold in the flour, baking powder and sale. Carefully drizzle in the melted butter and gently combine, then finally add the apples and gently fold in.

5. Place the mixture in the prepared tin and level it out. Bake four about 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the cake is browning too much on the top and not cooked in centre, cover with foil. Remove from oven, rest in tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Encasa, Lane Cove

Encasa in the CBD has long been a popular place for Spanish tapas and cured meats. Over the last year, owners Maria Barona and Francisco Rodriguez have expanded, opening two more city venues including an “express” takeaway in Chifley Plaza, and this cosy restaurant in their home turf of Lane Cove.  A couple of friends and I checked it out the other night, and were pleasantly surprised by the tasty, well priced food, and the added benefit of being able to BYO.  The staff were also very attentive and friendly.

There’s lots to tempt on the largely meat and seafood menu, though there are not too many options for vegetarians.  I’d love to see something like a ceviche or fresh fish dish added to the menu. Here’s what we tried

The jamon Iberico croquettes were delicious – crispy coating and gooey cheesey centre

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Scallops with a saffron cream sauce – a tasty smooth sauce and plump fresh scallops

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The tortilla de patata, a potato and onion omelette, didn’t look terribly exciting on the plate but delivered on flavour

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Sizzling prawns had a delicate hit of chilli and were also enjoyable

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I was looking forward to the beef cheek, and it was tender, but it didn’t pack the flavour punch of a similar dish I’ve had a few times at MoVida, and it could have used a bit more cauliflower puree.

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I really wanted to try the crema catalana for dessert but clearly so did everyone else as it was sold out! Next time.  I’m not big on churros as they remind me of donuts which I don’t like at all, but the girls were keen for a serve and I had a nibble – they were light and crispy.

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Banquet menus are available for groups of 8 or more priced between $42 and $55, and there’s a nice range of Spanish goodies you can buy to take home.  There’s a short kiddie menu too.

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Encasa Lane Cove, 132 Longueville Road, ph 02 9418 8577
https://encasa.com.au/landing-page/home-lane-cove-restaurant/

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

Today’s cake – tomato cake

The Marito was fairly zealous with his tomato planting this year, and we had tomatoes everywhere.  Some months before I had filed away this recipe from Rosa’s Farm, it intrigued me, and finding myself with more summer tomatoes that I knew what to do with, it seemed the perfect time to try it.  The scent of chopping up the peeled tomatoes threw me straight back to childhood  – sitting in a garage with nonna, Mamma Rosa, zia, cousins and siblings, cutting tomatoes bobbing in enormous containers of water, ready to be pureed for passata before being bottled  with some basil, the bottle carefully wrapped in newspaper and boiled in a large vat.

The recipe didn’t specify  whether or not to remove the tomato seeds, so I did.  I also reduced the quantity of sultanas as it is not an ingredient I’m enamoured with.  I’d throw in some walnuts next time, they would work really well.   I almost dropped the darn thing flipping it so you’ll notice it’s a bit cracked at the top.

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The end result? I quite liked it, texturally soft and similar to eating other vegetable based cakes like a carrot cake or zucchini cake.

Ingredients
450g firm but ripe tomatoes
115g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
165g caster sugar
2 eggs
225g self raising flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
50g sultanas

Making it

  1. Use a sharp knife to score a cross in the bottom of each tomato, place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour over some boiling water, enough to cover them, and leave for 1 minute.  Drain and then peel off the skin, remove the seeds and finely chop the remaining flesh.  Set aside in a bowl to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 170 degrees C fan forced and grease a 20cm tin, lining the base with baking paper.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.  Gently fold in the flour, mixed spice and sultanas.  Strain the tomatoes gently then fold in to the batter.  Spoon into a prepared tin and cook for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

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Burnt Orange, Mosman

You’ll find Burnt Orange in a pretty cottage amongst the trees at Middle Head in Mosman looking out over the water, so it is understandably very popular for breakfast and brunch.

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They have four morning sittings on a weekend for breakfast at staggered half our intervals starting from 8.30am with an hour and a half per sitting. We and our friends opted for the first one. The breakfast menu is pretty standard – eggs, bacon, pancakes and the like, and all quite well executed. The sourdough bread is delicious. Though we do ask for a fried egg for one of our Small People and are told “ah no, we can’t do that, it requires a different griddle and it’s too difficult”. Um, didn’t think a small fry pan would be all that hard really, or maybe fried eggs are taboo in Mosman, not sure which. And although we are the first sitting and it is not busy we need to chase our drinks, which arrive after our meals.

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I go for the breakfast board, which has a very nicely done confit of trout. But I find the Avoca brown bread extremely dry and dense so don’t eat it, and pinch some sourdough instead.

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Attached to the café is a retail shop with a variety of treasures. I raise my camera to take some snaps. “Oh, no, you’re not allowed to take photos here”. Ok. I’ll take them in the Louvre or the Vatican instead, they don’t seem to mind.

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Burnt Orange, 1109 Middle Head Road, Mosman, Ph 02 9969 1020
http://www.burntorange.com.au

Burnt Orange Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato