Monday, November 30, 2009

Cook's Garden, North Turramurra

A belated birthday lunch for my step-son Tim at the Cook's Garden in North Turramurra yesterday was a crowd pleaser. When palates range in age from 31 to 83 the chef's brief must be to keep dishes simple yet fresh and interesting. Gwen couldn't get enough of the sweet salty bacon and the colefax chocolates - as always - were feverishly consumed.

corn cakes with tomato relish crispy bacon and asparagus spears

crispy prawns on a chilli guacamole

battered fish and chips with aioli

Thai beef salad

dig in, don't wait

colefax chocolates

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Glebe Point Diner

The danger of living in cosmopolitan Potts Point is that rarely do you feel the need to ever venture out. When you're surrounded by some of the best Thai, Italian and seafood restaurants, food stores, delis, wine merchants and farmers markets it takes something pretty exceptional to prise you away.
Last night that 'something exceptional' was the 50th birthday celebrations in Glebe of our dear friend George.
George has accompanied us on many of our eating adventures across the country and across the globe - and may there many more!
George's dos are always big drinking occasions so we fuelled up beforehand at the nearby Glebe Point Diner. This neighbourhood gem has style and quirk in equal doses. The staff could all be extras in a David Lynch film. But the real stars come out on the plates - dishes that explode with freshness and unexpected matchings. This is a good reason to leave Potts Point more regularly.

crispy battered zucchini flowers stuffed with three cheeses

crunch and ooze

hand-churned butter with housemade bread with caramel crust

herb-crumbed Crystal Bay prawns
roast pork with creamy mashed potato and rhubarb

crackling to die for

this free-range biodynamic piggy tastes like it had a happy life

Humptydoo barramundi with clams and peas

couldn't have been fresher if you had plucked it from the sea yourself

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rise and Shine

I've been on the Gold Coast in Queensland this week to co-host the Asia Pacific Screen Awards televised internationally on CNN. Some terrific films were in contention including Australian Warwick Thornton's Samson and Delilah (which won Best Film) and About Elly which won Best Screenplay for Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. I have seen them both and urge you to seek them out at your nearest arthouse cinemas or DVD stores.

While the surrounds were magnificent there was sadly no time for a daily blog - and even more tragically no time to eat properly. A few mints and some cold party pies backstage were my main sustenance.

At least the room service continental breakfast at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa was worth capturing... cereal, tea, fruit juice, tropical fruit plate,and pastries

fruit always tastes sweeter in the tropics

the grapes had cold crispy skins and luscious juicy insides

the passionfruit was a balance of tang and crunch

a danish pastry filled with stewed rhubarb, flakey croissant and blueberry muffin

little jars of jams and honey if you didn't find the pastries sweet enough!

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Recipe: Bolognaise Sauce

two characterful baby round carrots

Phew!... How did everyone survive yesterday? The mercury soared to just above 40 degrees celsius in Sydney. Quite unprecedented for November. Doesn't augur well for summer does it?
Surprisingly the balcony plants didn't seem to fair too badly. I gave them a good soaking early in the morning and other than a few yellow leaves no signs of heat distress or sunburn (unlike a few Syndey-siders who crazily spent the day at the beach!)
Looking at the ripening herbs and vegies I thought I'd throw together a bolognaise sauce. I'm working interstate this week so at least the hubby will be well-fed while I'm away. Feed the man meat I say!

Scanning the edible balcony garden I realised I had most of the fresh ingredients for a bolognaise sauce

carrots, tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, parsley and basil

Tomato envy: Don't worry Mr Carrot it's how you taste that counts

The rest of the ingredients came fom the pantry and butcher - pork and veal mince, some smoked speck, tomato passata, tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic and some olive oil

1 large brown onion, finely chopped
50g of smoked speck or bacon, chopped into lardons
3 large cloves of organic garlic, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 tin of tomatoes or two chopped fresh tomatoes
2 bottles of tomato passata
1/4 cup chopped thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil
500g pork mince
500g veal mince
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper and a little sugar to taste

Pour olive oil into a casserole pot and put on medium to low heat. Add onions, carrots and speck and fry for about 5 minutes until onion is translucent and speck is crispy. Add chopped garlic and fry until fragrant. Add mince meats and turn up the heat to brown well all over. Add tinned tomato, passata and herbs and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper and maybe some pepperoncini if you like a bit of a chilli hit. Turn the heat down to a gentle bubble and leave for two hours to gently transform into a thick, rich meaty sauce.

Into the casserole pot and two hours later an alchemist's dream

Some egg pasta and some parmesan shavings....

...... and one very happy husband....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Recipe: Pesto Sauce

If your're a tentative gardener one of the easiest edibles to attempt growing yourself is basil. Providing you get at least six to seven hours of sunlight a day, basil will grow very happily in a garden bed, a balcony pot or even a kitchen window sill. It loves regular watering and a fortnightly seaweed liquid fertiliser will ensure big juicy leaves. Pick your basil regularly and it will grow bushy rather than tall and straggly. Pick leaves from just above where new leaves are sprouting on the plant.

A week ago I sowed a gourmet basil seed selection from Yates which contains exotic sounding cinnamon basil, lemon basil, purple basil and Thai basil.

As they mature I'll select the more robust seedlings and thin out the weaker ones.

I love the contrast of green and purple

My existing sweet basil crop is ready to go into a homemade pesto sauce.
Recipe :
1 large handful of freshly picked basil leaves
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place the basil leaves, the garlic clove, the salt and pepper  in a mortar and pestle and pound the leaves until you have a smooth green paste. Add the pine nuts and pound. Then stir in the grated cheese. Pour the olive oil into mixture in a steady stream and stir to emulsify. Adjust seasoning. This will make about 1/2 cup of sauce. Keep in the fridge in  a sealed container under a thin layer of olive oil . Will keep for about a week.

I prefer using a mortar and pestle because a food processor tends to bruise the leaves and affect the aromatic oils that are released from the basil leaves.

Most supermarkets sell tasteless bleached garlic from China. Look for Australian-grown organic garlic for a wonderful heady pungent hit.

You can dry roast your pine nuts before you add them to the sauce. I experiment with substituting walnuts or almonds as well.

Authentic pesto sauce recipes call for a combination of parmigiano and pecorino cheese. If you can get a good fresh pecorino it does add another earthy note to the sauce.

A great extra virgin olive oil can turn an ordinary pesto sauce into a gastronomic experience. Source the best one you can afford and enjoy the difference.

I still use my mum's 30 year old pepper grinder that has a blade adjustment for when I want a finer or coarser result.

I use Maldon Sea Salt or those wonderful pink Murray River salt flakes

put in a bit of elbow grease....

add the parmesan....

stir in the olive oil...

I like spreading my fresh pesto on toast and then squishing a just-runny soft boiled organic egg on top

look at those colours...

Why go out for Sunday brekkie when you can stay home and dine at Cafe Edible Balcony?... (just need to get some chickens now.....)