20 septiembre 2007

Winding Down...

Geez. I haven't written in this thing since the dead of winter! My food blog will continue to hybernate until I've finished with my studies and have done my time at my place of employment.

Winter-Spring update:

  1. I've got 8 weeks left of cookery school, then I'm out! I'm doing work experience right now at the Langham Hotel in Southbank.
  2. I've also got about 8 more weeks of working at the vegetarian restaurant. Thank goodness!
  3. In 10 weeks I jet off to Hawaii for a week, San Franscico for a week, St. Louis for a few days, Miami for a few days and will spend Christmas with the inlaws on the East Coast (of America, that is).
  4. My timetable is filled 7 days a week again, so I don't really spend as much time coming up with novel recipes, photographing the finished result and them blogging about them as I used to earlier in the year.
  5. I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of November.
The dirtiest flamingo of them all...

18 julio 2007

Cleaning out the Fridge: Eggs, Pasta and Soup

Today was one of those days where I was debating going out into the rain to pick up some ingredients at the supermarket or see what I could whip up with just what I had in my kitchen. I chose the latter. Carrots and macaroni left over from the cookery club meeting turned into Huevos a la Flamenca (Spanish baked eggs) with fresh goats' cheese over macaroni and Carrot, Onion, Potato and Sage soup -- both a success if I might say so myself.

I recently rediscovered some smoked paprika in my cupboard, so I thought that would give the baked dish a nice hint of smokiness to replace the chorizo that traditionally goes into it. It was also a perfect excuse to use some of my stark white bakeware I never seem to get around to using.
Huevos a la Flamenca with fresh goats' cheese over macaroni --serves 2--
200 g cooked macaroni shaped pasta (about 100g to 130 g uncooked)
200 g passata, Italian cooking tomato sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1/8 tsp of smoked paprika
1/4 tsp powdered cumin
1/4 tsp powdered coriander
2 eggs, Free Range
20 g soft goats' cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 220º C. Combine spices with passata then stir in pasta until thoroughly combined. Spoon pasta into two oven proof mini casseroles and make a well in the centre of each. Crack 1 egg into each well. Divide the goat's cheese into two portions, then break into smaller pieces and arrange around the egg yolk. Season, cover with baking paper followed by foil and place into your hot oven. Bake until the yolks are set, about 20-25 minutes. To serve use a knife to make a criss-cross on the yolk, crack some pepper over the top and enjoy!

06 julio 2007

My View: Bistro Vue

I thought that when I moved back to Melbourne I'd get to see my friends more often than I do, so we've set up a monthly meet up where one of us chooses a restaurant and we do the catch up thing. This month's choice: Shannon Bennet's Bistro Vue

We accidentally walked in the wrong way and consequently had to be lead through Vue du Monde to get to the cheaper, more affordable sister Bisro Vue. The inside of this little French -inspired treasure is exactly what I imagine a little countryside town bistro to look like. Antique wooden furniture and chairs to match, mismatched crockery, floral designs galore. The atmosphere was an experience in itself, all very perfectly planned. The toilets are reminiscent of what you'd find in a trendy, shabby chic Paris night spot.

I'll go ahead and say straight off that Bistro Vue is not very vegetarian-friendly (let alone vegan) and the only vegetarian entree available was lacking in the imagination department despite how tasty it is. You can never really go wrong with vegetables neatly tucked away in a crisp, flaky parcel of puff pastry, but really, how many restaurants do I have to go to and eat puff pastry with vegetables while my non-vego friends are chowing down amazing sounding things like braised, stuffed trotters or Dory "a la meuniere"? Call it what you like guys and gals, pithivier, gallette, tarte, parcel, stack, etc -- it's still essentially puff pastry with vegetables. I ordered the Provençal pithivier with tomato jus ($18), and it was tasty. One of the girls ordered a side of curried spinach and I'll be honest, I'm not sure I've ever had spinach that tasted so good (let's hope it wasn't made with chicken or beef stock). The pomme frites are cooked in goose fat, which is interesting, but from the one chip I sampled it didn't taste any different.

The sweet finale to the meal was definitely the highlight to the meal. We settled on the pear tarte tatin with creme anglais ($24 for 2 persons, it huge and could definitely be split with 5 or 6 persons) and the pistachio souffle with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce ($12). The July issue of the Australian Gourmet Traveller is dealing with all things French this month and the recipe for the tarte tatin is in it. Again, puff pastry. You can't go wrong with it, especially if you add butter, sugar and slow cooked fruit. Every bite of the tart tatin was rich with vanilla bean and clove flavours and worth every calorie in every bite. The souffle was also lovely, but the presentation far exceeded the actual taste satisfaction factor. The ice cream tasted like pistachios (yum), the souffle tasted like eggs, sugar and pistachios (interesting and delicate) and the chocolate sauce, well, it was chocolate sauce.

I'd go back just to have another bite of that tart tatin and a pot of tea served to me by the very attentive and knowledgeable staff. They make the tatin to order, so it's great to enjoy tea or coffee while you wait.

Even though the vegetarian entree was surprisingly good with each (and every) bite, the name of the dish was the only imaginative thing about it.

Bistro Vue
Normanby Chambers
430 Little Collins St (Entry via New Chancery Lane)

27 junio 2007

The Savoury Addition: Jamaican-style Lentils and Rice

I'm always dubious when I see things like "Mexican stew", "Cajun chicken", mostly because I always imagine people using their pair of kitchen scissors to snip the corner off of a spice packet, empty it into whatever they're cooking consequently allowing their taste buds to instantly be transported to the streets of New Orleans or the Mexican countryside. One of the specials at my restaurant this week is Jamaican stew, I haven't tasted it, but I have seen it. It looks a whole lot like a Thai curry -- light, creamy and delicious. That 2 second visual experience inspired tomorrow's lunch, Jamaican-style Lentils & Rice. I say Jamaican-style because I really couldn't be bothered with facing the drab weather outside today.

Jamaican-style Lentils & Rice - adapted from here - serves 4

200g dried lentils
15o g brown rice
2 cloves of garlic, bruised (mashed)
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 g fresh ginger
6 tsp powdered coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 litre + water

**Combine lentils, water, rice, garlic and ginger in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 45-60 minutes or until rice is tender and lentils have lost their bite. In final minutes of cooking remove garlic and ginger and add remaining spices. Season to taste and serve with fresh chopped parsley.

Vegan Sweets: Cooking with or without?

I went to bed last night determined to cook up a storm today. I regularly have Wednesdays off from work now so I like to use these free days to test whatever recipes have been floating around in my head for the past few days. I had some guava puree that was just screaming to have something done with it, Stephanie Alexander featured some sweet rhubarb recipes in this week's Epicure and I've had a few limes lingering around the depths of my fruit bowl, so I went ahead and tried to base today's cooking around those items. Alas, it has been raining all day, so I've been confined to using items I had on hand: limes and guava puree. I already knew I'd be satisfying my sweet tooth today so I also whipped up Espinacas con Garbanzos (spiced spinach and chickpeas), a typical dish from southern Spain, to counteract the massive amounts of sugar about to enter my body. I somehow ended up baking two vegan pastries: Citrus Tea Cake and Guava-Cinnamon Scrolls. Both taste nearly as good as heaven would taste if it were built from sugar, I reckon.

the fermentation batter

Rolling out the dough

Spreading the guava

Making the "sausage"

Resting scrolls

The finished product

Guava and Cinnamon Scrolls -- makes 8 scrolls

fermentation batter --
6 g active dry yeast
125 ml water at 38º C (it should feel slightly warmer than your body)
50 g plain white flour or bakers flour
10 g sugar
**Dissolve the yeast in the water, then add the sugar until dissolved. Sieve the flour over the mixture, cover and allow to ferment for 25-30 minutes until frothy and collapsed.

the scroll dough--
100 g plain white flour or bakers flour
100 g plain wholemeal flour (substitute white flour if preferred)
2 g salt
30 g Nuttelex or other vegan margarine
20 g sugar
the filling--
40 g raw sugar
30 g Nuttelex or other vegan margarine, melted
ground cinnamon
160 g guava puree (optional)
**Combine all dry ingredients and sieve into a bowl. Rub the butter into the mixture until it resembles grains of sand. Make a well in the centre and pour the fermentation batter in it. Using a spatula, carefully fold the dry ingredients into the fermentation batter until thoroughly mixed. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Allow to rise in a warm, draught free place covered with plastic wrap or a moist tea towel for 40 minutes. Knock the dough back to its original size after 40 minutes, then allow to rise for an additional 20. Preheat oven to 210º C.
** Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a rectangle until dough is 1cm in thickness. Brush melted butter on surface, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Using a circular motion, use the back of a spoon to spread the guava paste over the entire surface. Roll the rectangle into a sausage from the shortest side and press the edge closed. Cut the roll into 5 cm slices with a serrated knife or a sharp knife and place onto a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper leaving 1-2 cm between each slice. Set aside to rest for 15 minutes then back for 10-15 minutes until the surface in light golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before dusting with pure icing sugar.
**In place of pure icing sugar, mix 1/2 cup of pure icing sugar with 1 tbs of soy milk and drizzle over the scrolls. The scrolls are equally as tasty without the guava filling, just sprinkle slightly more sugar over the dough.

25 junio 2007

Off To Mecca We Went

Our 3 day hiatus from responsibility proved successful. Will and I took a mini holiday, rented a car and went (and ate and drank) where ever our hearts desired. We shopped 'til we dropped at Chadstone, boozed our way through the Mornington Peninsula, dined at the Docklands and nearly bought half of Dan Murphy's. I really feel rested enough to make it through to my next holiday from school in September, but not quite rested enough to download photos and such.

I was set of having Middle Eastern food for some reason so we headed off to Mecca Bah at Melbourne's up and coming boardwalk area, New Quay at Docklands. It'd been ages since I'd been down to the area to eat, but the yum cha places I ate at seems to have since closed...

Mecca Bah kind of lacks the individual character and personality that the majority of Melbourne restaurants seem to have, but the interior is sleek, trendy and popular with diners of all ages. You have a great view from anywhere you choose to sit, the waitstaff is attentive, the kitchen seems to run efficiently and the menu is comfortably 'arabesque'. The menu as a whole isn't that vegetarian friendly, but the silverbeet rolls (which were unavailable) and fatoush are well worth trying. For entrees we settled on the dips and Turkish bread, which included hummus, tatziki and babaganoush. Nothing spectacular, but the the smokiness and creaminess of the babaganoush was enough to keep me spreading lashings of it the Turkish bread until my main came. For vegetarians, there were only two options: tagine or Turkish pizza. I don't think the tagine at Mecca Bah could have topped what I had in Morocco, so I opted for the roast pumpkin, feta, chili and pomegranate jam pizza.

I still have visions of pomegranate dancing around in my head; the pizza was that good. It was shaped like a miniature gondola topped with a bit of rocket splashed with balsamic vinegar. The size of it just about sparked a conversation on the ever increasing portion sizes in contemporary eating establishments until I discovered that the base is nearly paper-thin. Every topping was just the right bite-size and eat mouthful was just as good as the last. The slight tartness of the pomegranate jam blew me away with the way it went so well with the saltiness of the feta and the sweetness of the roasted pumpkin. At $15 for the dish, I'd go back again just to have another bite of vegetarian deliciousness.

Thumbs for a fantastic vegetarian option that doesn't include mushrooms, risotto or a stack of vegetables.

Mecca Bah
55a Newquay Promenade
Docklands, Melbourne (next to Livebait)

21 junio 2007

Eating in the Underground

Over at Chocolate & Zucchini I read an interesting entry on underground dinning and the thought stayed with me throughout the night and it still pestering me as I write this. I did some research on the topic and apparently we have our own underground kitchen right in our very own backyard -- Zingara Cucina.

According to an article that was published in the Herald Sun last month, Zingara Cucina is the most difficult restaurant to get into. Supposedly it's in Melbourne and the only way to actually get in is by refferal. How cool is that?!

15 junio 2007

One Pot Wonder: Jambalaya

I just happened to pick up the July issue of Super Food Ideas today and found a recipe for Jambalaya. I've cooked Jambalaya only once in my life as a home cook and remember it being a rather satisfying dish. As soon as I flipped thought the magazine, I forgot about the Jambalaya and instead focused on what sort of sweets I should bake. I fiddle about the kitchen a bit and then found myself gathering ingredients for a Jambalaya inspired dish based on Spanish rice and Mexican rice. Jambalaya is typically cooked with different types of shellfish and meats, much like a paella, so I added some red beans as a protein substitute. The result was essentially a rather tasty Creole-style Jambalaya. A hearty dish like this one perfectly suits a day like today: cold, foggy and perfectly bleak.

Jambalaya -- adapted from Super Food Ideas, July Issue
100 g brown rice
200 g canned red beans, rinsed and drained
45 g onion, finely diced
1 garlic, minced
120 g red capsicum, cut into 4 cm strips
2 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 sweet paprika
1 Massel Chicken-style stock cube
500 ml water

1. Saute the onion and garlic over low heat in the olive oil until lightly browned. Add the rice and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add water, capsicum, beans, tomato puree and spices along with the stock cube and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook over low heat for 40 minutes.
2. Check water levels after 20 minutes and adjust accordingly. Stir infrequently. When the rice is cooked, adjust seasonings. The end result should be like a "dry" soup.
3. Garnish with parsley chiffonade and eat away!