Tag Archives: Greek

1821, Sydney

I’m not going to talk about the significance of 1821 in Greek history, sorry.  It’s on a plaque on a wall in the restaurant if you want to read it.  I am going to talk about the great food David Tsirekas and his team are producing in the kitchen.

Some of the menu at 1821 has carried through from his days many years ago at rustic Perama in Petersham (which I visited quite a few times), where getting a table became difficult once the world spread; it then appeared at fine-dining-doesn’t-work-in-Australian-shopping-centres Xanthi.  He’s had various pop ups and gigs after that, but is now hopefully permanently housed in the somewhat in your face on Pitt St frontage at 1821.   Do take some friends because there is a lot you’ll want to try and the larger plate sizes are quite generous, and so are the desserts.

There was for me just one miss on the menu, which was the Greek San Choy Bow we started with – smashed roasted tomato with herb and vegetable rice in iceberg lettuce.  It was a bit messy and sloppy to eat, missing that distinctive SCB lettuce crunch.  All I could think of was the  Katering Show’s “hot wet rice” (if you haven’t seen this, you must, its bloody hilarious).  But it was onwards and upwards from here.

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The wild greens and leek pie  in filo pastry on a bed  eggplant purée reminded me of his Perama triangle but even better – the lightest, flakiest filo and a delicious greens filing.

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In my view the Greeks are the kings of cooking octopus, and this bbq octopus dish was no exception.  Beautifully tender and served with pickled cucumber & cauliflower and some taramasalata

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I absolutely adored the prawn manti (egg pasta dumplings, carrot purée, feta, candied  walnuts, burnt butter currant dressing, fried mint  leaves) and would gladly eat a dish or two of these on my own.  So much flavour!  As my Greek friend with us said, “I have no idea what is Greek about this dish, but it’s damn good”.

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The sweet and savoury combination in the pork belly baklava is pulled off, and the crackling is extra crunchy

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As well as octopus, lamb is another protein where Greeks show culinary skill.  The bbq lamb shoulder is tender and tasty; it is generous enough for four to share if you are trying a few other dishes.

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The baklava ice cream I remembered well from Xanthi and we had to order it. Yum.  It is not as sweet as actual baklava and I love the crunch of the pistachio.

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The garden of aphrodite – a sheep yoghurt panna cotta with seasonal fruit – is pretty but I don’t love it.  It is served with pieces of walnut cake which I find a little dry.

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The real surprise comes with the custard filo pie.  It is to die for, I would love the recipe for this. I gather its a take on the Greek bougatsa.  Once again, incredible flaky filo and filled with a luscious creamy vanilla semolina.

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There is also a banquet menu available for groups.

1821, 122 Pitt St, Sydney, Ph +61 2 8080 7070
http://www.universalhotels.com.au/1821restaurant/

1821 Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

George’s Cabbage Salad

After a recent great evening with George Calombaris, I received a copy of his new cook book, Greek.  It is a truly stunning book visually, with some great recipes. I love the line in the introduction: “if you’re not in the mood to cook, if you’re just not feeling it, don’t do it.  Just read the book and enjoy the pictures, then come back when you’re ready.”

This recipe is the cabbage salad he serves at Jimmy Grants. If you can’t find the Greek cheese, pecorino (which is more readily available) is a possible substitute. It is a lovely fresh crisp salad, though next time I will use my mandolin rather than a knife to get the cabbage finer.

cabbage salad

Ingredients
1/4 red cabbage, very finely shredded
1/4 drumhead cabbage, very finely shredded
2 tablespoons dill springs
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
2 French eschallots, finely sliced
100g kefalograviera cheese

Dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
185ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

To make the dressing, whisk the balsamic and honey until the honey has dissolved, then whisk in the mustard and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper

Toss together the cabbage, eschallots, herbs and dressing. Season and transfer to a serving dish. Grate the cheese over the top and serve

An evening with George Calombaris

He’s a pretty chirpy bloke, our George. And what’s not to be happy about, with a string of hit restaurants, a hugely popular TV show, and getting to do what he loves every day. “I’m pretty lucky” he tells us, standing in his Projects Kitchen, a small experimental space where he and his team combine science with creativity and the whimsical. And indeed it does look like a bit of a science lab with centrifuges and distillers, and a couple of oversized operating table type lights he tells us he got from a hospital in Brisbane.pressclub (12)

He’s hanging on to fine dining –the decline is a global trend not just an Australian one in his view – loving that it enables him to test the boundaries of what is possible with food, to take simple childhood memories and turn them into something new and inspired. He tells us of one afternoon when he walks into the Projects Kitchen and finds Luke Croston, his head chef, trying to make a cocktail that comes down a long string.

While he and Luke are chatting to us, along with one of his waitstaff from Press Club – who incidentally, are an impressive and incredibly professional lot – they whip up some goodies. Luke comes up with a meringue (created using dry ice) rolled in beetroot then puffed wild rice on the outside, while George gives us these delicious little lollipops of chicken liver mousse, which he pipes onto another piece of heavy duty science equipment which freezes them almost immediately. If only Chupa Chups were like this.

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After having a chat and a bit of a laugh, we move next door into the Press Club. He renovated in late 2013, with a bit of musical chairs – putting Gazi in the large space where Press Club used to be, and turning what was a bar into the intimate fine dining space which became Press Club mark two, a degustation only 38 seater.

We start off with the “Hills Hoist” series of snacks – George tells us it is a throwback to his childhood, when he used to get in trouble from his mother for running around pulling the clothes line. Working our way along the pegs we find a sweet potato crisp, puffed black rice puff with miso melitzanosalata (my favourite), kolrahbi, pear and walnut cone, sesame pastelaki with fennel seed fetta, and finally a saganaki crisppressclub (1)

Of course one of our group (not naming any names Ed) can’t resist doing this…..pressclub (2)

We then move to one of my favourite dishes of the night, a crunchy black taramosalata with fine ribbons of cuttlefish.  I love the contrast in texture and the flavour combination.pressclub (4)

The vegetarian option is eggplant done with sagepressclub (3)

Meanwhile, through a small window we see the kitchen is running like clockwork. From the outside, it seems intense yet calm and measured, everyone knows exactly what they are doing and does it with precision.pressclub (13)

Our next course is prawn with almond milk and strips of whitebait.  The mosaic type layer on the plate looks like octopus but is in fact finely sliced prawn.  It gives the previous dish a run for its money.pressclub (5)

Then we have the Greek Green Salad that appeared in Masterchef. A few of the table proclaim this their favourite, saying that they’d never had good tasting Brussel sprouts before, but for me it had pretty steep competition from the dishes above.pressclub (6)

Our last course at Press Club is the Winter Greek Salad (Horiatiki) with some wagyu braesola. George tells us that his traditional Greek customers that come in often give him a hard time. Where’s the tomato, they ask him, Greek salad must have tomato. Like most chefs George runs with seasonal produce, and you won’t find good tomatoes in Winter. “But Coles has them”, his cheeky Greek clients quip.pressclub (7)

Our final stop that night is Gazi, his thumping Greek street food venue; it is constantly busy, and it is most likely this that funds the fine diner and the Projects. We are all really full by now and can’t imagine eating the nicely sized soft shell crab souvlaki that is placed before us. But then we all take a bite and realise how delicious it is, and proceed to polish it off. Such feather light pita, crispy crab and a great sauce, I love it.pressclub (8)

We are seriously bursting now, but there’s a grain salad, some tuna done on the woodfire gril, some chicken done on the spit and chips sprinkled with feta.pressclub (10)

And finally a Bombe Metaxa, theatrically set alight at the table.pressclub (11)

…with an Espressotini to wash it all down. It’s a great night of Greek hospitality, which is what fundamentally George wants to share with his guests, whether its street food or high end. We look forward to seeing what he comes up with in Sydney at his Surry Hills venue mid next year.pressclub (9)

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http://www.thepressclub.com.au
http://www.gazirestaurant.com.au

Click to add a blog post for The Press Club on Zomato

Ironwood Coffee Company and Cafe, Woolwich

ironwood (10)It was time for a another Girl Crew & Mamma Rosa gathering, so we decided to check out the new kid on the Woolwich peninsula. Ironwood has moved into the space where Koi used to be, and by the looks of it, the new kid is pretty popular. We visited two weeks after opening and it was full and buzzing, a happy, relaxed casual place where you’d be happy to sit and read the paper on a lazy Sunday. It’s a bit of a “something for everyone” café menu, with burgers, salads, pasta and pizzas, going on, but there is a big Greek influence with haloumi, spanakopita, prawns saganaki and the like on offer. Most places don’t pull it off with such a broad spectrum of dishes, but they do a pretty solid job of it. Kids meals are $12 and include a drink and a scoop of ice cream which is great value. Service was a little haphazard that day but I figure they are still finding their feet in the first fortnight so will cut them some slack. Will certainly be back to try their breakfast menu (and the coffee!).

Some of what we tried that day:

Stuffed zucchini flowersironwood (4)

Haloumi with dried figironwood (5)

Slow braised octopus – meltingly tender but a little saltyironwood (6)

Beetroot and goat’s cheese saladironwood (7)

Mixed seafood plate. The soft shell crab was a bit oily and soggy, but the other components were goodironwood (8)

Mixed meat plate with some nice lambironwood (9)

Kids fish and chipsironwood (3)ironwood (2)ironwood (1)

Ironwood Coffee Company and Café, 102 Woolwich Rd Woolwich, Ph 02 9879 7770
http://www.ironwoodcoffee.com.au/

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The Apollo, Potts Point

When The Apollo opened three odd years ago, it was hot hot hot. And it still is – totally buzzing on a weeknight, with most tables booked for two seatings. Jonathan Barthelmess continues to put some great modern Greek on the table, that a Yia-Yia would concede is worthy, even if it’s not the way her mother taught her in the village. I’m here with the gal pals from work, and we opt for the $55 banquet menu which leaves us rolling out of there, and the staff have kindly packed up the extras for us to take home.

We start with some fat, juicy olives, tangy taramasalata dip, and some delicious pita.The Apollo (1)

Then comes the sizzling saganaki cheese with oregano and honeyThe Apollo (2)

No Greek banquet is complete without a classic Greek saladThe Apollo (3)

Next is one of the stars of the night, a melt in your mouth delicious lamb shoulderThe Apollo (4)

Followed by some of the best roast potatoes I’ve ever hadThe Apollo (5)

And their roast chicken, deliciously flavoured but a little drier than the last time I had itThe Apollo (6)

We finish with a desert of walnuts, filo pastry and coffee cream, a bit of a modern spin on baklava. I find it slightly on the dry side but love the coffee cream.The Apollo (7)

The Apollo, 44 Macleay St Potts Point, Ph 02 8354 0888
http://www.theapollo.com.au

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Dimitris’ Moussaka

With this run of dismal wet weather in Sydney, our idyllic blue sky days on the island of Paros in Greece only a couple of months ago feel like a bit of a dream. While we were there we had some great food, some of it prepared by a local cook Dimitris at our villa. A few weeks ago I tried his baked eggplant recipe, which my husband loved. This time I tried his version of moussaka – there must be endless versions, every yiayia must pass down her own to her family, and it is a labour of love. If you have a mandolin (one of my kitchen essentials), you’ll make light work of the slicing. I used a 7mm slice for the eggplant and a 5mm slice for the potatoes and zucchini. If you have nice ripe Summer tomatoes, you can use fresh instead of canned. You could also use Pecorino or Parmeggiano instead of gruyere. My baking dish was approximately 20cm x 34cm and about 6cm deep.  Dimitris if you’re reading this, I hope I did an ok job!

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Ingredients
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced
4 medium zucchini, sliced lengthways
4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
Olive oil for brushing and frying
100g of Gruyere, grated
50g of Gruyere, extra (for topping)
1/3 cup fine breadcrumbs

Meat sauce
1 large onion, finely diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1kg beef mince
½ cup white wine
1 can peeled tomatoes, pureed
2 bay leaves
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of raw sugar
Salt and pepper for seasoning

For the béchamel
100g butter
3/4 cup plain flour, sifted
1 litre milk
100g Gruyere, grated
Salt for seasoning
Pinch of nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten

Making it

1. For the meat, sauce, put the olive oil in a pan, add the onion, and saute until softened. Add the mince and cook until browned, add the wine and cook down. Add the tomato, sugar, bay leaves, nutmeg, season with salt and pepper and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes. It should not be too wet as you don’t want your moussaka to be runny

2. Fry the sliced potatoes in olive oil, season and set aside; fry the zucchini slices in olive oil and set aside

3. Heat the oven to 180 degrees. Brush the eggplant with olive oil, season, and bake until softened, 20-30 minutes

4. Meanwhile make the béchamel. Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour and whisk, and cook for a few minutes. Add the milk, whisking constantly; the mixture will thicken and begin to bubble. Season, add the nutmeg, remove from heat and whisk in the cheese. Finally whisk in the egg.

Assembly
Place a layer of potato on the bottom of your baking dish, covering as best possible. Follow with a layer of eggplant, the half the grated cheese. Then add the meat, make sure it is a nice smooth layer. Follow with a layer of zucchini, the rest of the cheese, another layer of eggplant, then finally top with the béchamel. Sprinkle the extra cheese on top and the breadcrumbs, bake in a 180 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a few minutes before serving.

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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.