Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Win Indira's 'Celebrity MasterChef' Apron by following Saucy Onion

I know. Not much of a prize.
This is the apron I wore while competing on Celebrity MasterChef  Heat One 2009 which airs tonight at 7.30pm on Channel 10.
It's been freshly laundered - so no meatball stains. I'll even sign it for you!
All you have to do for your chance to win is sign up to follow the Saucy Onion food blog and post a comment about any blog entry on Saucy.
If you're already a follower you just have to post a new comment. Best comment - as judged by Saucy's resident food and literary critic ( i.e. moi) - will win.
The winner will be announced on Friday October 9th at 0900 EST on Saucy Onion. The apron will be posted to you wherever you are in Australia.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fratelli's is Paradise

Nominative determinism refers to the theory that a person's name influences their job or profession.
If this is the case the Paradiso brothers and Co. who run Fratelli Paradiso, in Sydney's Potts Point, never had a chance.
It's one thing to expect your child to grow up to be a doctor or lawyer. It's quite another to expect them to recreate paradise!
But in terms of food and service that's what Johnny, Enrico and Marco have come close to doing - a slab of Nona's hospitality and fine Northern Italian cooking mixed with ample slabs of sexy professionalism.
The main long cosy dining room is a lunching hot spot but to see how your food is really prepared slip into a booth in the adjoining bakery/pasta area for a lesson in passion, authenticity and pure food porn!
12pm is when the pizza comes out of the oven piping hot with the mozzarella still stringy, sweet and salty.
It's my secret hideaway when I need to cocoon.

Vegetable blooms

Just because you're growing edible plants it doesn't mean your garden will miss out on colour or gorgeous flowers. Here are a few delights from my balcony.

sunflower-yellow tomato blossoms

Delicate white four-petalled flowers from the rocket

Bushy white clusters on the Curry Leaf Tree

The candy-coloured stalks of the rainbow silverbeet

White slipper-like flowers on the sugarsnap pea vines

Monday, September 28, 2009

Blackwattle Deli, Sydney Fish Markets

Clockwise from top left : aged Greek fetta, translucent slices of Serrano Jamon, marinated Fremantle sardines, Sicilian olives, mild chorizo, beetroot dip. I served this with some garlic bread and champagne.

We all have our favourite delis. Every deli has its specialty - whether its their cheeses, dips, or that elusive spice. But when you need a one-stop deli that carries stock from all four corners of the globe, it would be hard to find a better providore than the Blackwattle Deli at the Sydney Fish Markets.

I popped in there yesterday morning to source ingredients for this mezze plate. Textures, flavours and colours of the Mediterranean......

We were entertaining our friends Xannon and Verity who are off tomorrow on a Vegas adventure. Bon voyage guys and say 'Hi' to Elvis for me!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Edible balcony update - First tomato

Well in only five weeks my first little green tomato on the 'Pot Tom' has appeared from its flower bud. I think it's going to be a whopper!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making Pasta in a Dust Storm

What a day! Today Sydney was blanketed by a red dust storm of  biblical proportions. Gale force winds picked up thousands of tonnes of red topsoil from the Northern Territory and dumped it across the state.

There is a fine powdery film of dust on literally everything! Trapped indoors I sort refuge in the kitchen, and  in between writing made some egg pasta - this time flavoured with a little saffron (and red dust!).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Recipe: Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Pancetta

My elderly mother-in-law Gwen is a real character. Even though she is 83 years old she still has an eye out for an attractive young man. Usually its unsuspecting waiters she flirts outrageously with - batting her eyelashes or making a saucy comment about how good-looking they are. It makes dining out with her a sometimes embarrassing but highly entertaining experience. Sadly she doesn't get out as much as she would like to so she looks forward to our weekly 'food drops'. These usually consist of her favourites - Indian dry mince curry and saffron rice, a 'baked dinner' or crumbed chicken breasts which she adores.
Today I hope she's willing to try something a little different - chicken with preserved lemon. Not too exotic but redolent of the flavours of the Mediterranean - rosemary, preserved lemon, olives, fetta and olive oil.
It's loosely based on a Maggie Beer recipe so how can she resist!

Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Pancetta

10 x free-range maryland chicken pieces
8 quarters preserved lemon
1/2 cup black kalamata olives
1/3 cup finely chopped rosemary
100g Greek fetta cheese
125ml exttra virgin olice oil
freshly ground black pepper
12 thin slices of pancetta

Cut the drumsticks away from the thighs. Remove the pulp from the preserved lemons, then rinse and cut into thin strips. Toss the chicken pieces in a shallow baking dish and with the presrved lemon, the rosemary, the olive oil and the black pepper. Allow the chicken to sit for an hour for the flavours to infuse.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 230 degrees celsisus. Make sure the chicken pieces are lying skin-side up, then bake for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken over and turn the tray around so all the chicken cooks evenly. Scatter around the olives and cook for another ten minutes, then test for doneness ( The chicken will contiunue cooking while it rests, but if juices run very pink when you prick the thickess part of the thigh, you may want to return the meat to the oven for a few more minutes)Turn the chicken to the skin-side up again, scatter with fetta cheese and rest covered in foil for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile crisp the pancetta on a baking tray for ten minutes then add to the resting chicken. Serve with a salad and crusty bread.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Edible Balcony Update - September 2009

Well it's been four weeks since the new herbs and vegetables went in. Thanks to record warm weather in Sydney they look like I've been feeding them steroids! We're already using the basil, rocket and young rainbow silverbeet shoots in salads. I've used the rosemary for my Roman baked lamb dish, curry leaves in a yellow lamb curry with fragrant basmati rice and mint in a refreshing mojito cocktail!

The baby carrots and mini-beetroots are doing well although as they grow I regret not putting them in a larger pot. They are not going to have the space to develop fully I fear.

This soft leaf rocket is absolutely moorish with a mild peppery taste. I think I may put some more in since we're eating it faster than it can grow.

The rainbow silverbeet is going off. I'm harvesting the leaves while they are youngish so we can eat them raw in salads. The multi-coloured stalks look like pieces of candy stick.

My two tomato varieties are flowering now. The bushy Tub Toms on the right are throwing off more flowers in a compact shrub. The cherry tomato variety on the left, the Tom Thumb variety, is sprouting wide leaves with only a few flower stems but still seems to be doing well.

The Curry Leaf tree has been lapping up the warm weather and has about 8 new branches of sprouts with many ornamental berry clusters just showing.
The parsley and mint are enjoying their little corner

Stay tuned for your next report from Farmer Naidoo in October.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Recipe: Roman Baked Lamb

Travel isn't only a way of broadening your horizons. It's a way of broadening your palate. I especially love discovering an old favourite slightly tweaked in a different way.
I came across this Italian version of slow-baked lamb in a little non-descript trattoria in Rome called La Boticella during a visit to Italy about four years ago. La Boticella is well worth a detour if you're ever in Rome although be prepared to navigate a labyrinth of cobblestone alleys before finding it.Lines of washing flapping above the entrance will tell you you're at the right place! Nothing fancy here!
My Italian wasn't good enough to ask for the recipe but I think I've found it in the Italian food bible 'The Silver Spoon' under the title 'Roman Spring Lamb' on page 742 of the English-translated edition.
This version was not as dense in flavour as La Boticella's but pretty darned close! The lamb is tender with a lovely salty crust, the potatoes absorb all the lamby juices, the sharpness of the vinegar cuts through the fatty sweetness of the lamb and the rosemary adds a mellow earthy note.
With spring lamb at its best right now this is a must-do dish.

Roman Spring Lamb ( serves 4)

1 kg leg of lamb
plain flour for dusting
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 fresh sage leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
175 ml white wine
5 tablespoons white wine vinegar
4 potatoes sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the lamb into pieces or ask your butcher to do this for you ( My friendly butcher at Hudson meats in Surry Hills did this in a flash). Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Dust the pieces of lamb in flour. Heat the oil in a wide roasting pan, add the lamb and cook over high heat, turning frequently for about ten minutes until browned all over. Generously season with salt and pepper, add the rosemary sprigs and garlic. Turn the pieces over several times so they soak up the flvour. Mix together the wine and the vinegar, add to the roasting pan and cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Add 150 ml of boiling water and the potatoes, cover and roast for 30 minutes or until tender (my lamb needed 50 minutes). If the gravy seems to be drying out add a little hot water with a little vinegar mixed with it. Transfer the lamb to a warm serving dish and serve while still hot. For an even tastier alternative (which I did) when the lamb is nearly ready transfer two to three tablespoons of the gravy to a small pan, add three anchovies and cook over low heat ( I just put in into the microwave). Mash the anchovies until almost disintegrated and spoon over the lamb and bake for a further 5 minutes.
It really is a heavenly recipe.........

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Awards

On Monday night Sydney's Fooderati gathered at Carriageworks, Redfern, to hear who was in and who was out.
I have wanted to host The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Awards for as long as I have known they have existed. To be in the same room as all my food heroes - both chefs and reviewers - and to get to announce the year's winners and losers is a true foodie's secret fantasy.

So being asked to MC the 25th Anniversary celebrations on Monday night sent me into dizzying convulsive raptures!
The highlight of the evening for me was Beppi Polese and his family winning the Silver Anniversary Stayer Award. Running a restaurant is such a fickle business blighted by trends and fashions, tax changes and recessions. But Beppis Restaurant has weathered all these storms and is still going strong after 53 years. My favourite dish at Beppis is the very simply done angel hair pasta with blue swimmer crab and chilli. Can life get any better?

My other favourite moment from the evening was the shuttle bus trip back into the city. The mood was tipsy and celebratory even though the coach was packed with both losers and winners. Sydney ABC radio host extrordinaire Simon Marnie grabbed the coach microphone and started giving us an impromptu running commentary about the deserted, poorly-lit road the driver was taking through the Carriageworks complex. ''This, Ladies and Gentlemen, is what's known as the 'Ivan Milat Route','' Simon declared to raucous laughter. You're a funny man Mr Marnie.

Click on this link for all the night's highlights. frocked up: Checking my notes during interval.(Hair and Make-up by Clark Sheedy of Polished Appearance

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Celebrity Masterchef

Well, it's official folks. I'm going to be one of the 18 contestants in the first Australian 'Celebrity Masterchef' series. Channel 10 has released the names of six of my fellow competitors. They are Olympic swimmer Eamon Sullivan, fashion designer Alex Perry, Fairfax journalist and ex-Wallaby Peter Fitzsimmons, The Biggest Loser trainer Michelle Bridges, children’s programme Hi-5 founder Kathleen de Leon and Queensland premier Anna Bligh. What an eclectic mix! Somehow I don't think I'll be looking this calm and relaxed when I'm in the Masterchef kitchen! The show goes to air from September 30. Watch and weep!!!!!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Vegies With a View

A happier balcony for vegetables to thrive on I cannot imagine. Warm north-facing sunlight all day, cool harbour breezes and a view (if they could see) to die for.
With the unseasonally warm weather continuing in Sydney I've potted some more vegetables and herbs.
There are some wonderful new varieties of miniature vegetables available at nurseries these days. These are a perfect solution for small-space gardening. The purple leafed seedlings are baby beetroot and the green fern-like leaves are baby carrots.

I've used some traditional terracotta pots to plant some garden staples - continental parsley and common mint. It's important to keep mint in a separate pot as it can run riot.