Sunday, January 31, 2010
My friend John believes that there's nothing a cup of tea can't fix. I feel the same way about roasts. There's something so soothing and satisfying about a good roast, especially for Sunday lunch or dinner. It's one of the easiest meals to put together - throw your meat and vegetables into the oven to roast, cook some carrots and greens separately, and you have a wonderful meal with a minimum of effort.
So you might think that a recipe for a roast is not necessary - and normally I would agree. But the Dec/Jan issue of delicious magazine included an intriguing recipe for shortcut roast lamb with watercress and hazelnut salad and I had to try it. It wasn't just the idea of a salad with a roast that attracted me (although it's the perfect way to enjoy a roast in summer) - the actual salad attracted me first, and the roast was a useful addition.
I urge you to try this recipe, even if you don't normally make roast. The salad is absolutely delicious on its own but it partners so well with the lamb - the soft cheese, toasted nuts and Dijon and balsamic dressing seem to pick up and highlight the crispiness of the lamb.
This recipe is another one in the "We Made It" challenge that Suzie from Munch+Nibble and I are conducting, where we aim to actually use our food magazines rather than just bookmarking them.
Shortcrust roast lamb with watercress and hazelnut salad
Recipe from December 2009/January 2010 delicious magazine
1 ficelle (half-baguette), thinly sliced
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil, plus extra to rub
1.5kg easy-carve leg of lamb
1 red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tb balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup (80ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch watercress, sprigs picked
150g soft goat's cheese, crumbled (I used marinated fetta and it was an excellent substitute)
75g hazelnuts, lightly toasted
Preheat oven to 170 degrees. Brush bread with oil, then bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove and cool.
Increase oven to 190. Rub lamb with extra olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast lamb for 45 minutes, then add the onion to the pan and roast for a further 15 minutes. Remove lamb from the oven, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk mustard with vinegar, then gradually whisk in the oil to make a dressing, and season with salt and pepper.
Place the watercress in a bowl and toss with half the dressing. Add the roast onion, croutons, cheese and nuts and toss together.
Carve the lamb, then divide among the plates. Serve with salad and remaining dressing on side.
Saturday, January 30, 2010
There's something incredibly tempting and moreish about fried chicken. We know it's not healthy for us, but a crispy fried chicken, lightly spiced, is a thing of beauty. But it should be home-made and as light and drained of fat as you can make it (and not resembling the chicken served up from corporate food chains).
Jill Dupleix's buttermilk fried chicken in the Dec/Jan issue of delicious magazine caught my eye for this reason. Her feature was about simple summer food, good for a picnic, and this dish looked just the ticket to be the next dish in the "We Made It" challenge that Suzie from Munch+Nibble and I are running in a quest to actually use our food magazines, rather than just bookmarking them. Suzie had also made this dish and raved about it, so I took the plunge and made it as well.
The end result was mixed. The buttermilk does tenderise the chicken and the baking does dry it out so that the fried crust is not too fatty. But perhaps I skimped on the spices a little (not wanting to scare the children) and Adam and I both found the end result a little bland. Next time I would add more spice - I think it perhaps loses some sizzle in the frying process.
Jill Dupleix's buttermilk fried chicken
Recipe from December 2009/January 2010 issue of delicious
4 chicken marylands
1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
1 3/4 cups (265g) plain flour
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
Sunflower oil, to shallow-fry
Cut the chicken marylands through the joint to separate the drumsticks and the thighs.
Wash the chicken pieces, then dry well with paper towel. Toss in buttermilk, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the flour, cayenne, paprika, cumin and 1 tsp salt into a plastic bag (or zip-lock bag). Add drained chicken, 2 pieces at a time, shaking well to coat in the spice mixture. Remove and shake off any excess, then repeat with remaining chicken pieces until all coated.
Heat 1 cm oil in a large heavy-based fry-pan over medium-high heat to 180 degrees (a cube of bread will turn golden in 30 seconds when the oil is hot enough). Cook the chicken pieces, in batches of 4, for 4-5 minutes until well-browned. Turn and cook on the other side for 1 minute, until golden, then transfer chicken to the baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through, then remove and allow to cool. Serve at room temperature.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
There is something quintessentially English about crumpets. To me, they evoke images of lazy breakfasts in summer, taken at a little table on the terrace overlooking sweeping gardens brimming with the colours and scents of masses of flowers.
Of course, the supermarket variety aren't that glamorous and I'm more likely to eat them in winter slathered with melted butter and honey.
But Jamie Oliver's recipe for homemade cinnamon and lemon crumpets with raspberries and honey in the Dec/Jan issue of delicious magazine sounded heavenly and perfect for a summery morning, especially with berries from our recent berry picking expedition in the Otways.
I've made Bill Granger's homemade crumpets before, which are absolutely divine but a little fiddly, requiring a long proving time for the yeast to activate (not the thing you can whip up for a hungry tummy after a sleep in). The beauty of this Jamie Oliver version is that the yeast requires only 10 minutes and the crumpets can be cooked. The drawback is that they take up to 25 minutes to cook, so you might want to have several fry-pans on the go at once or you will be spending a long time at the stove while everyone else is tucking in! Aside from this minor qualification, these crumpets were delicious - heavier and more bun-like than the supermarket variety but more hearty and delicious because of that - and the honeyed ricotta and raspberries are a perfect combination - all the flavours of summer packed into one small dish.
This recipe is part of the "We Made It" challenge that Suzie from Munch+Nibble and I are giving ourselves: the challenge is to actually use our food magazines rather than just bookmarking them.
Jamie Oliver's homemade cinnamon and lemon crumpets with raspberries and honey
Recipe from December 2009/January 2010 issue of delicious
250g fresh ricotta
Zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbs honey, plus extra to drizzle
3 large handfuls fresh raspberries
Sunflower oil, to grease
500g strong (baker's) flour
1 tsp caster sugar
7g sachet dried instant yeast
A pinch of bicarb soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Place all the crumpet ingredients into a food processor with 2 tsp of salt. Pour in 600ml tepid water. The water needs to be warm enough to activate the yeast but not so hot that it kills it. Blitz all the crumpet ingredients together until you've got a loose batter. Leave to stand for 10 minutes to let the yeast develop. The mixture should be quite wet, just about dropping consistency.
While the yeast develops, make the topping by putting the ricotta, lemon zest and honey into a bowl and beating together until light and fluffy. Place half of the raspberries into another little bowl and mash up with a fork. Fold the mashed raspberries into the ricotta - don't be tempted to over-mix it, as you're looking for a beautiful pink rippled effect.
You may need to cook the crumpets in batches. First, grease the inside of metal crumpet rings (I used egg rings) with some sunflower oil. Place a non-stick fry-pan on medium heat, and put the rings into the pan. When it's nice and hot, spoon some mixture into each ring, to about 1cm deep. Turn the heat to low and leave for 15 minutes to cook through. Check the pan is not getting too hot and burning the bottom of the crumpets. After about 15 minutes - once the bubbles on top have formed into crumpet-like dimples - turn them over, using tongs to lift away the rings. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, until cooked right through.
Serve the crumpets with a generous spoonful of ricotta, an extra drizzle of honey and some lovely raspberries.
Monday, January 11, 2010
Melburnians are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to coffee. Baristas take pride in their product and the use of freshly roasted beans, whether secret house blends or single-origin beans, is expected. New places, some in little more than shopfronts, open all the time and it becomes a game to see who knows the newest, secret venue that caffeine fiends are chatting about.
One venue that has received widespread coverage for its excellent coffee, and is no longer a secret, is Seven Seeds in Carlton. It's been on my list to visit for quite a while now and I was pleased to finally make it there. Seven Seeds gets my vote for the best coffee in Melbourne right now. I'm not the first person to nominate them for this honour, and I certainly won't be the last, as the baristas there are churning out a quality brew.
Seven Seeds is inside a converted old warehouse, situated off the main drag in nondescript Berkeley St, Carlton - but still close to Queen Victoria Market and Melbourne University - and surrounded by other old warehouses and new high-rise apartments. Inside, the atmosphere is industrial chic. The high ceilings and large interior lend an air of spaciousness and there is certainly plenty of room to fit in a pram for caffeine addicts with littlies in tow (the only downside is that most of the tables are high, with stools, so toddlers may need to stay strapped in the pram).
A Synesso machine takes pride of place in the spacious serving area. There is an extensive coffee menu, with different blends noted, and a basic breakfast and lunch menu.
Coffee of the day when we visited was 'black cult'. It is syrupy and thick in the mouth, with spicy fruit building to a rich chocolate finish. It is a smooth and mellow coffee that rewards sipping. Adam's cafe latte, decorated with a textbook-perfect rosetta, is smooth and creamy and he votes it as one of the best lattes he's ever had.
It was a rushed visit but we vow to return as soon as we can to try more of the excellent coffee here. This is a venue that takes pride in its coffee, from the sourcing of beans to the serving of the finished product. If you live in the area - lucky you! If you don't - make the visit; Seven Seeds is definitely worth it.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
This month's highlighted magazine is the December/January issue of delicious magazine, which is packed full of recipes to help celebrate the festive season and the summer holidays. I adore delicious magazine. I love the mix of easy and challenging recipes, some that are easy to whip up on a weeknight after work, and others that are more elegant and suitable for a dinner party. I don't think I've ever had a failure from a delicious recipe yet.
The first dish I cooked this month was a sublime Tobie Puttock recipe, maltagliata di pollo con limone (pan-fried chicken with lemon). It's a recipe that was a huge seller when he was an apprentice at Melbourne culinary institution Caffe e Cucina and I can see why. It is supremely easy to cook and tastes wonderful. It's a great dish for weeknights.
But I neglected to take a photo of that masterpiece, so the first "official" dish I have to present in the We Made It challenge is seared beef with sweet chilli caramel sauce. The mix of sweet chilli and caramel sounded intriguingly delicious to me and it was one of the first dishes I marked to try. Not having the audience for a 1kg beef fillet, I decided to improvise and use the sauce with seared steaks instead. I can report that this was a huge success. The sauce is very easy to make and extremely tasty. I made a half-serve and still had plenty left over to freeze for another night. This recipe is highly recommended.
Seared beef with sweet chilli caramel sauce
Thursday, January 7, 2010
One of the most enjoyable places in Melbourne is the Collingwood Children's Farm. A peaceful slice of rural life just five kilometres from the city, its paddocks, orchards, gardens and animals feel a world away from the skyscrapers of the CBD. Children can see the cow being milked, feed chooks, or pat goats and guineapigs.
An additional bonus is the well-patronised Farm Cafe, which forms an integral part of the site. Fresh farm produce is a major staple of the menu, which offers breakfast favourites such as farmers' breakfast, granola, eggs and bacon and zucchini fritters. On a warm, sunny morning, with our trolley waiting to be filled with goodies from the Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers' Market, I can think of no better place to be.
We arrived early, in order to secure a table before the mid-morning rush of Farmers' Market shoppers. Our coffees, sweet and nutty lattes, are served quickly and our meals arrive shortly after that, which is always a welcome bonus when dining with small children. We both order the
'green stack': two softly poached free-range eggs with sunshine-yellow yolks, served with roasted tomatoes, pesto, avocado, baby spinach and parmesan on sourdough toast. It is an excellent and fortifying combination.
The children are particularly taken by a cupcake decorated with soft icing and lollies. I'm always dubious about bought cakes, which are often dry and crumbly, but this cake has a buttery and moist textured crumb and we eagerly eat the leftovers.
Breakfast is served and devoured quickly and we head off to stock up with supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables and to wander around the farm. A visit to Collingwood Children's Farm is one of Melbourne's best weekend treats.
Collingwood Children's Farm,, St Heliers St, Abbotsford
The Farm Cafe is open Monday to Friday 9am-4pm and Saturday and Sunday 8am-5pm
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
The early morning rush to get four adults and two children ready and on the road for our day of berry picking at Pennyroyal, nearly two hours' drive away, meant that there was no time for a heart-starting shot of caffeine before we headed out the door.
By the time we arrived at 10.30am at Deans Marsh, a little town of nearly 700 people between Lorne and Winchelsea, our caffeine-deprived brains were screaming for a fix, and we pulled over when I spotted the words "take away cappuccinos" on the wall of the Deans Marsh General Store.
My mum grew up in Deans Marsh, so this town was like a second home to me when I was growing up, as we spent most school holidays here visiting our grandparents. Back then, it was a general store in the old-fashioned sense of the word. It sold newspapers, milk, butter, ice-creams, pies, lollies, tinned food and other grocery items - in short, everything you would need to pick up if you didn't have time to go into Birregurra or Colac to do your big weekly shop, or you ran out of an item mid-week. One thing it certainly did not sell was take-away cappuccinos.
But times have changed. Deans Marsh is no longer predominantly a farming community. Olives, grapes and llamas are some of the new local industries and artists and "tree-changers" have moved in from the city. The old Presbyterian church is now adorned with artistic rainbow-coloured ribbons and the garage has a cafe attached. And the Deans Marsh General Store makes coffee using Jasper Coffee, an Australian-owned company based in Collingwood.
The take-away cafe lattes were excellent: smooth with an aroma and flavour of caramel and a soft, mellow aftertaste. Deans Marsh has certainly changed but I'm thrilled that good coffee is now available there.
My second rural coffee of the week came during a day trip to Torquay on the Bellarine Peninsula. After a picnic lunch in the sun with friends, a dip in the ocean for the kids and an ice-cream to round things off, we farewelled our friends and went for a stroll and then a drive around town as we searched for a caffeine hit. There were several open-fronted cafes on the Esplanade but they looked upmarket and more for meals than a casual coffee with two rapidly tiring children in tow.
As we drove down Gilbert St in the town centre, I spied a cafe that looked like it might be OK and Adam miraculously found a carpark in the main street. As I opened the door, I found myself face to face with a Jasper Coffee - Caffeine Dealers banner and so I headed instead into Farm Foods, a butcher shop cum deli. I was a little sceptical when I first entered the shop: there was one person at the butcher's counter at the back of the shop and a man totting up the till at the front. I hesitantly asked if he served take-away coffees, which he did, and he turned to the large red Wega machine behind the counter. He made the coffee slowly but seemed to know what he was doing.
My first surprise came when he charged me $5 for two take-away lattes. I haven't paid $2.50 for a coffee for years! And certainly not in a beachside tourist town where coffee is usually more expensive than in Melbourne. The second surprise came when I took my first sip: this was, quite simply, one of the best coffees I've ever had. A nutty aroma, followed by a smooth-as-silk sensation on the palate with a lingering caramel aftertaste. It was such a drinkable coffee that I wished for a never-ending cup. Farm Foods will be my first stop next time I'm in Torquay.
Deans Marsh General Store, 1419 Birregurra Road, Deans Marsh
Farm Foods, 4a Gilbert Street, Torquay
Sunday, January 3, 2010
The sky above the green hills was bruised with rainclouds and the cool rainy weather was a shock after several days of heat. But the Otway region of Victoria always seems cool and green to me. Although it was five hours' drive from my home, it was where my mother grew up and we spent most school holidays here visiting my grandparents. I know we visited Lorne in summer, so there must have been hot days, but my memories are mostly of cool, rainy weather or rambles over green hills under grey skies.
My grandparents died many years ago, so it's been a long time since I stayed at Deans Marsh, a little town of nearly 700 people midway between Winchelsea and Lorne. But now a new tradition has begun, as we visit once a year to go berry picking at the Pennyroyal Raspberry Farm, a five-minute drive from Deans Marsh.
I don't think the berry farm existed when I was a child, although I remember visiting the Pennyroyal Tea Rooms on this site (and eating some of the best scones I can ever remember eating). Thankfully scones, freshly made, are still available at the farm now, served with homemade raspberry or blackberry jam - or pickles, if you choose the cheese scones.
The blackberries, brambleberries and boysenberries were abundant and we quickly filled our containers with ripe, juicy fruit. One for me, one for the container...
The raspberries had been heavily picked, so we had to hunt among the leaves to find ripe berries and it took longer to fill our punnets.
I find berry picking relaxing and fun and it's great fun with kids. Daniel quickly learned the colour of ripe berries and which ones he should pick.
It's also very economical - we paid $16 a kilo for our berries. I've seen 125g punnets of raspberries in the shops for $5, which works out to be about $40 a kilo.
The first thing I did when I got home was to make a batch of raspberry jam. This is one of the easiest jams to make, as raspberries are high in pectin and you don't have to worry about adding lemon juice or commercial pectin. If you are new to jam-making, I suggest that you try raspberry jam as your first - it will give you confidence.
The raspberry jam recipe I use is extremely easy and is from Cookery the Australian Way, the textbook I used in my year eight home economics class. This classic book is still an essential reference and provides simple, clear instructions for many basic dishes (eg jams, sponges, scones), as well as advice on why dishes may fail (eg undercooked sponges that flop).
Put 500g of raspberries into a heavy-based saucepan and mash with a wooden spoon. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups of sugar (if you wish, you can warm the sugar before you add it). Bring back to the boil, boil for six minutes and then test* to see if it's cooked. Once cooked, pour into hot sterilised jams, let cool a little and then seal.
* I do the saucer test to test if my jam is cooked: place a saucer in the freezer for a few minutes. Remove from freezer, place a little jam on the saucer and return to freezer for a few more minutes. Remove from freezer and push the jam with your finger. It should wrinkle as you push it - this means the jam is cooked. If it doesn't, cook jam a little longer and then repeat the test.
Pennyroyal Raspberry Farm, Division Road, Murroon (between Birregurra and Barwon Downs), phone 5236 3238
Saturday, January 2, 2010
The magazine spotlight that Suzie from Munch+Nibble and I are shining in our We Made It challenge has moved this month from Gourmet Traveller to delicious magazine. But I am making a belated last effort to make a few more dishes from GT before I move onto delicious.
One of the first dishes that Suzie made from GT was the fried quail with cucumber and lettuce wedges in the "Gourmet Fast" section. Her description of the meal inspired me to try it myself. But I wasn't very organised and didn't have any quail on hand so decided to try the marinade with chicken to see how that would turn out.
I'm pleased to report that it was a success. The salty soy-based sauce was sweetened with caster sugar and spiced with star anise and ginger, with a citrus scent provided by orange rind. The salty/sweet mix was very pleasing on the palate and the lettuce and cucumber were the perfect off-set dishes. I think this dish would be better with crispy quail but the substitute chicken breasts also worked well, although they didn't crisp up as much as quail would.
I've given the original recipe below; I just substituted two chicken breasts for the four quail and halved the marinade ingredients.
This is probably the final dish I'll make from the December 2009 issue of Gourmet Traveller (although I do still have a few of the salads bookmarked...) I enjoyed the challenge of actually forcing myself to make dishes that I liked the look of, rather than just bookmarking them and then putting away the magazine. I don't think I cooked enough dishes this month to choose a favourite, although the dark berry trifle was an absolute winner and was worth the magazine price alone.
If you'd like to join in with our We Made It challenge, just drop Suzie or myself a line.
Fried quail with cucumber and lettuce wedges
Recipe from Gourmet Traveller, December 2009
4 jumbo quail, butterflied and halved lengthways
200ml light soy sauce
100ml chicken stock
40gm caster sugar
2 pieces orange rind, removed with a peeler
10gm (2cm piece) ginger, thinly sliced
1 star anise, coarsely crushed
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1 tsp each Chinese five-spice and dried chilli flakes
1/4 iceberg lettuce, cut into thin wedges
1/2 telegraph cucumber, cut into 4cm batons
Lime wedges and coriander sprigs, to serve
Place quail in a single layer in a non-reactive dish and set aside. Combine soy sauce, stock, sugar, orange peel, ginger and star anise in a small saucepan, stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Cool, pour half over quail and set aside to marinate for 10 minutes. Return remaining mixture to heat and cook until syrupy (5-7 minutes), strain through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, preheat oil in a deep-fryer or deep-sided frying pan to 180 degrees. Combine five-spice, chilli and 2 Tb sea salt flakes in a small bowl and set aside. Drain quail (discard marinade) and pat dry with absorbent paper. Deep-fry in batches until golden and crisp (3-4 minutes). Toss through reduced marinade, season with five-spice salt and serve with lettuce, cucumber, lime and coriander.
Friday, January 1, 2010
I admit that I bought the December 2009 issue of Gourmet Traveller based on the front-cover picture of dark berry trifle alone. A stunning mix of dark berry jelly, layered with sponge and creme fraiche, it beckoned like a siren from the newsstands.
Suzie from Munch+Nibble and I had set ourselves the We Made It challenge, where we select a food magazine each month and try to cook as many dishes from it as we can, rather than just bookmarking it and relegating it to the cupboard.
If it wasn't for the challenge, I think this trifle would have been one of the many recipes that I bookmark and then put away. We are big trifle fans in my household, but I've never attempted a trifle as elaborate as this. Fortunately, I had family to stay, a bottle of pink moscato donated by my father and dark berries in the freezer to use up, so these were also good incentives to make this dessert.
Before I talk about the recipe, I would like to state that this is quite simply one of the best dessert recipes I've ever made. It is the perfect showstopper dessert to bring to the table to show off the prettily coloured layers before you cut it up and serve. The seductive dark berry jelly mingles with the light-as-air sponge and the cream layers, all softly scented with vanilla and an alcoholic tinge.
As the recipe is for 15-20 people, it is the perfect party dish. As I didn't have that many people to serve, I halved the recipe with no problems. It still makes a very large dessert and if you have a small household, you'll be eating this for days.
Some notes on the recipe: I didn't have creme de mure or creme de cassis, so I substituted brandy and a tawny port. I'm sure the special blackberry liqueurs give it an extra dimension, but I found that the brandy and port provided a hint of alcohol, which I presumed was all that was needed. I also substituted whipped cream as I didn't have access to creme fraiche. I didn't need the milk to thin the cream but I did include the lemon rind and icing sugar to flavour it.
I made my sponge in a 20cm round cake tin and was lucky enough to have a glass bowl in which the sponge round fitted perfectly, so I didn't need to do any trimming of the sponge to make it fit. I'm not sure how a square cake, which is specified by the recipe, would work, but the layers should meld together anyway.
And please take note of the infusing and setting time - although each individual step is easy, it will take you all afternoon to make this dessert, once you allow for this time. The trifle should also sit overnight in the fridge so that the flavours can mingle and settle.
But these are all minor qualifications. Make this trifle: you won't be sorry!
Dark berry trifle
Recipe from Gourmet Traveller, December 2009
For sponge, preheat oven to 175 degrees. Whisk eggs and sugar in an electric mixer until tripled in volume (7 minutes). Fold through flour in batches, fold in butter, pour into a 28cm-square cake tin lined with baking paper. Bake until golden and centre springs back when pressed (20-25 minutes). Cool in tin, turn out, halve sponge horizontally, trim each half to fit a 6-litre capacity glass bowl, then remove from bowl and set aside, reserving trimmings.