Get your hooks into Brooks

Brooks 3Have you ever dated a “foodie” or dare I say it a dreaded “food blogger” and agonised over where to take them out to dinner? Look no further my friends I have the answer, Brooks. I would go as far as to say this is my current favourite Melbourne restaurant (next to Cumulus Inc. but that is a different dining experience altogether, which makes it difficult to compare the two).

Brooks is located in the Basement of the heritage listed Austral House at 115-117 Collins Street, Melbourne. I recommend you use a trusted google map to find it as my darling D and I wandered around in circles for a good 15 minutes before we located it. I do admit I claimed to know how to get there but D claims to be a navigator by trade so try and figure that one out. The site most recently housed Tobie Puttock’s Kitchen Cat and prior to that Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Restaurant. The fit out is stunning with exposed brick, eclectic art work and spectacular lighting. A very romantic spot indeed.

The owners are Gerald Diffey and Mario Di lenno and the Chef behind the establishment is Nic Poelaert. Nic hails from France and has an impressive resume but most recently he was the chef and owner of Embrasse (a renowned restaurant that I never had the experience of attending).

The menu uses seasonal ingredients and while it sounds quite simple it is nothing short of mind blowing. The ingredients are fresh and the flavours complex and tantalising to the taste buds. The service we received was faultless. A special mention must go to the sommelier who was perhaps one of the most helpful and knowledgeable people I have come across in that space in recent times. Perhaps it was because he sat down next to me when he assisted with the divine French pinot noir we ordered or perhaps it was because he agreed with me that I would opt for French wine any day of the week over any other (sorry to be controversial). All that aside the wine stood out as one of the best bottles I have had the pleasure of indulging in.

We chose Chef’s 5 course tasting menu and added the foie gras (once again sorry to be controversial) and of course a selection of cheeses. All of the dishes were spectacular but the stand out dishes were the “potato and cream, potato broth”, which was a divine little concoction of potato soup. The stock had been made out of potato skins and it tasted like you were eating a hot salty baked potato fresh out of the oven. The “foie gras, gingerbread, carrot and buttermilk” was sublime. The foie gras melted in the mouth. The “beef, burnt carrot, mimolette, ginger wine and charred potato” was to die for. The beef was succulent and well seasoned and one of the most memorable beef dishes I have had. My absolute favourite of the night, which is pictured above and below, is the “Forest floor” a dessert consisting of hazelnut parfait, pork crackling, sorrell and mint granita. Pork crackling on a dessert you say how is that possible? While it sounds outrageous it really does work. I felt terrible eating the dish because it really was a piece of art work on a plate and just as beautiful as the eclectic art work hanging on the walls. So my friends please hurry along and get your good selves down to Brooks as it truly is a stand out.

Brooks on UrbanspoonBrooks

Brooks 2

I am going to share two dishes that are very simple and inspired by seasonal produce. The produce was sourced from the Flemington Farmer’s Market. The first is a deconstructed apple crumble and the second is baked carrots with honey, thyme and goats cheese.

Deconstructed apple crumble

Ingredients

For the apples

8 apples(use whatever apples are in season but at the time I made this dish Royal Gala was the go);
1 tablespoon caster sugar;
1 tablespoon honey;
1 cinnamon stick;
4 cloves;
Water (enough to cover the apples).

For the cinnamon crumb

Half a cup of rolled oats;
50 grams of plain flour;
50 grams of butter;
50 grams of brown sugar;
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon.

For the lime ice-cream;

1 and a half cups of full cream milk;
1 and a half cups of heavy cream;
1 whole vanilla bean;
2 large eggs;
3 large egg yolks;
Three quarters of a cup of sugar;
Zest of three limes (make sure the zest is very fine).

Method

For the apples

Peel the apples and cut each apple into eights. Remove the core from the apples.

Pour the water into a heavy based pan and turn on the gas to a medium heat. Add the apples, caster sugar, honey, cinnamon stick and cloves.

Cook the apples until they are soft but not too mushy (the apples should keep their form). You need to continuously check the apples to ensure they don’t burn. You can add more water if needed.

For the cinnamon crumb

Set your conventional oven to 180 degrees.

Place the rolled oats, plain flour, butter, brown sugar and ground cinnamon in a bowl and mix with your hands. You want to ensure that the ingredients are combined well and the butter is mixed through well (you should use your fingertips to get the right consistency).

Scatter the ingredients on a non-stick baking tray and bake for 15 minutes. Please check the ingredients regularly to ensure you do not burn it. When ready remove from the oven and set aside to cool. If you don’t use all of the mixture you can place it in a jar with a seal and keep for next time.

For the lime ice-cream

Combine the milk and cream in a medium sized saucepan. Use a sharp knife to split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Use the blunt edge of the knife to scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds and the bean pod into the milk and cream mixture. Add the zest of the limes to that mixture and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a slow boil over a medium head, reduce the heat to low as soon as it starts to boil and simmer for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.

While you are cooking the milk and cream mixture combine the eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Use a hand mixer on medium speed to beat the mixture until it is thick, smooth and pale yellow in colour (this should take around 2 minutes).

When the milk and cream mixture is ready remove the vanilla pod from the mixture. Pour out 1 cup of the hot liquid into a jug. With the hand mixer on low speed add the 1 cup of hot milk and cream mixture to the egg mixture in a slow steady stream. When that is thoroughly combined pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan (that contains the remainder of the milk and cream mixture) and stir to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over a medium to low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. When ready transfer to a bowl and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly on the custard, and chill completely in the fridge.

Pour the chilled custard into the chilled freezer bowl of an ice-cream maker. Turn the machine on and let it mix until thickened (this will take around 25 to 30 minutes). When the mix is thickened you need to transfer it to your freezer and let it chill. I usually make the ice-cream first to give it maximum time in the freezer but you really need only 2 hours for it to freeze.

Put it all together

Place a portion of the apples on each serving place. Add a generous scoop of ice-cream. Scatter the cinnamon crumb over the plate. Be as creative or as un-creative with the presentation as you like. The finished product is delicious.
Apples

Apples 2

Apples 3

Baked carrots with honey, thyme and goats cheese

Ingredients

1 bunch of baby carrots;
2 tablespoons of olive oil;
1 tablespoon of pine nuts;
5 sprigs of thyme;
3 cloves of garlic with the skin on (simply bruise it with the back of a knife);
1 tablespoon of honey;
60 grams of goats cheese (the marinated Meredith Goats cheese is my preference);
1 avocado chopped into pieces (optional).

Method

Set your conventional oven to 180 degrees.

Bring water to the boil in a large pot. Once the water boils add the carrots and cook them for 5 minutes. When preparing the carrots for par-boiling you don’t need to peel them and you can trim the tops of the carrots but it is nice to leave some of the leaves on for the presentation.

Get an oven tray (preferably non-stick) and pour in one tablespoon of the olive oil.

Separate the carrots and scatter them on the oven tray.
Add the thyme and garlic and give the ingredients a mix around to ensure they are all coated in the olive oil.

Bake the ingredients in the oven until the carrots are tanned but not burnt.

Scatter the pine nuts over the carrots during the last 5 minutes of cooking. This is so as to avoid burning the pine nuts as they don’t take long to cook.

Place the ingredients on a large serving platter and drizzle the honey and additional tablespoon of oil over. Finally, break the goats cheese up and scatter it over the carrots. It is nice to add some additional fresh thyme (remove it from the sprigs) over the finished product. If I am going to eat this on its own rather than an accompaniment I like to add the avocado but I will leave that decision to you.

You can enjoy this as an accompaniment to any meat dish or simply eat it on its own.

IMG_1638

IMG_1644

IMG_1679

Concrete jungle where food dreams are made of…

Miss Lily's

It’s 9am on a Saturday morning and I am at the hairdresser sipping on a latte, flipping through the pages of 10 Magazine Australia and it suddenly strikes me that this is the first moment of peace I have had all week. I am reading an article about travel and the peace travel can bring and it reminds me of the last time I travelled alone to New York City.

A great many of us (me included) spend our days running from one meeting to the next or one social engagement to the next and we don’t get a lot of time to simply just “be” anymore. Some people find the thought of travelling alone confronting, as for me, I embrace it. Instead of constantly planning and using head space on where I have to be and by what time I wander, alone, lost in the vast spaciousness of my own thoughts. Self indulgent as it might sound it is pure bliss and anyway we all deserve to be a little self indulgent from time to time.

You are not doubt asking yourself what does this have to do with food? Allow me to explain…being in New York City alone with a great deal of spare time on one’s hands what else does one do but induldge in the fantastic food the City has to offer. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked for my restaurant recommendations in New York City I would be a wealthy woman and most likely typing this from a coffee shop in the Lower East Side rather than my dining room table in Kensington.

I am going to tell you about a few of my favourite eateries in NYC. These are not just any eateries but places that I felt very comfortable dining alone. Don’t get me wrong these are great places to share with your significant other, friends and family but for me I had a great time being in these places on my own. Just me, my thoughts and great food. I am dedicating this post to my dear friend Jen, not just because I want to sleep on your couch when you live in NYC and not just because you asked me to dedicate it to you but because you are an inspiration to me, you are a success and should be proud of what you have accomplished. Don’t ever stop “checking-in” on Facebook either (just saying).
The Melpaired corn recipe I am going to share was inspired by an outstanding yet very simple dish that I ate at Miss Lily’s.

Wd-50

When I mentioned Wd-50 to my friend Ron he rolled his eyes and told me that the correct name is Wd-40. Let’s not get confused here people, I am not talking about a lubricant, penetrating oil and water-displacing spray (thanks Wikipedia), I am in fact talking of my favorite restaurant in New York City (Eleven Madison Park follows a close second but I am not going to discuss that sublime restaurant in this particular post as it is a place best shared with a loved one). Wd-50 stands for “Wylie Dufresne” (the magnificant Chef behind the outfit) and “50” refers to the location, 50 Clinton Street in the Lower East Side. I had read about Wd-50 prior to my departure but had not booked the Restaurant the required one month in advance. I walked past it many a time without realising that it was around the corner from the Apartment I stayed in. One evening I put on my finest and on my way out of the Apartment Building I excitedly told Charles (the wonderful Building Manager) “I am going to Wd-50 tonight and I am going to get in without a booking”. He was very encouraging but I saw the “don’t hold your breath look in his eyes”. I am happy to say I proved him wrong as a stroke of luck saw a spare seat at the Bar at which you can indulge in the full menu. I sat myself down next to a friendly looking gentleman and was greeted by the genius Bar Manager, Kevin. I really mean this, Kevin is a genius when it comes to mixing a drink. I had the option of the 12 course tasting menu, the 5 course tasting menu or selecting any 2 dishes from either tasting menu to which you can add more dishes if you are so inclined. I opted for the 5 course tasting menu but two nights later when I went back again I did the brave thing and went for the 12 course tasting menu (and I don’t regret a second of it). As far as drinks go I asked Kevin to make the decisions for me and that really is the only way to go in my opinion. Not only was the food phenomenal but I was made to feel very welcome sitting at the Bar. I quickly got talking to Kevin and Dan (a regular patron) and Dan was even kind enough to share some of his dishes with me. Two nights later when I dined there again Kevin kept me entertained and went to the trouble of reserving my seat at the Bar for my last meal and night in New York City. The menu utilises elements and techniques from a wide range of cuisines. Boasting 1 Michelin Star this is a must visit restaurant. One of the stand-out dishes for me was the “s’mores, bitter cocoa, meringue, blackberrry” (a sublime marriage of sweet and sour). The menu is eclectic but it works. I liken the experience to a vist to Vue De Monde Restaurant in Melbourne. Very exciting, very different, very delicious.
wd-50 on Urbanspoon
Wd-50
Wd-50 2
Spotted Pig

You can dine here at 2am or 2pm (I’ve done both) and no matter what time of day or night you can enjoy the ridiculous chargrilled burger with roquefort cheese and shoe string fries. Really what else do I need to say but thick chargrilled beef on a brioche bun with crumbly roquefort cheese and to top it off shoestring fries that are served with a delicious tangled mess of fried rosemary. The Spotted Pig is located at 314 W 11th Street at Greenwich Street. If you are really hungry please also try the chicken liver toast. This is the best chicken liver parfait I have ever eaten and I implore you to try it. This is what you would call a gastropub (or hipster-ville as I like to refer to it). It is considered the first gastropub in NYC. The gastropub originated in the UK and it really just describes a bar that serves high end beer and food. The walls are adorned with strange paraphernalia and I felt very at home in my leopard print jeans and red, black, grey and white woolen poncho (in fact I was one of the more mainstream looking amongst the staff and clientele). The Chef, April Bloomfield, worked at the renowned London’s River Cafe. I like to have a pint of the Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA to accompany my burger (perfect way to cure a sore head or to find yourself with a sore head if you drink too many). The catch is you can’t book and as with most places belonging in the hipster-ville category every hipster and his or her dog wants to be there, which is why I chose to go at random hours to ensure I didn’t have to play the hipster-matic waiting game.
The Spotted Pig on Urbanspoon
Spotted Pig
Manzo at Eataly

I encourage everyone who visits New York City to go to Eataly. It is hard to put into words just how fantastic this place is. It is a market of sorts selling all things Italian. You can purchase anything from fresh fish to Italian cook books and you can also indulge in a meal at one of the many restaurants while you are there. Responsible for the concept of Eataly is Oscar Farinetti, the founder and creator, the B&B Hospitality Group (a force to be reckoned with that includes Mario Batali, Joe and Lidia Bastianich) and Adam and Alex Saper. Located at 200 5th Avenue what I like to do is have a spot of lunch at Manzo to prepare myself for the difficult task of shopping on 5th Avenue (it is a workout my friends, I assure you). Manzo translates literally to “beef” and provides one of the more formal dining experiences at Eataly. I like to sit at the bar (can you see a common trend emerging here people) and chat to the friendly and knowledgable staff. My favourite dish on the menu is the linguine with lobster, tomato and basil. I recommend you wash this down with a glass of the barolo. I really can’t think of a better way to build shopping stammener, can you (rhetorical, didn’t think so).
Manzo Ristorante @ Eataly on Urbanspoon
Eataly
Ushiwakamaru

What I am about to say is going to come as a shock to those who know me well and know about my unrequited love of Japanese food but this is undoubtably my favourite Japanese Restaurant. Let me qualify this by saying I have not visited Japan and from what I have been told I need to get there quick smart and my mind may be changed. It was a stroke of luck that saw me find this little beauty. It had been a tiring day that had seen me walk from Greenwich Village to Central Park and back. I returned to the Apartment I was staying at around 9pm and realised that the last meal I had consumed was at Manzo at 12noon (apologies metabolism). I immediately hit up Google and searched something along the lines of “best Japanese West Village”. There were a few on the list and after around half an hour of searching, by which time my stomach was screaming “feed me”, I called Ushiwakamaru quite simply because it was one of the closest and I knew the way without the risk of getting lost. I made a reservation for 10pm (thank-you New York for never sleeping) put on my finest and away I went. It was fortunate I had hit up Google as this literally is a below street level hole in the wall that you wouldn’t find any other way but Google or word of mouth. Located at 136 West Houston Street between Macdougal and Sullivan Streets this pearl is the stand-out Japanese restaurant in the neighbourhood, in my humble opinion. I was greeted by a friendly hostess and seated at the long bar. The restaurant is very small and consists of one long bar and a few tables and chairs. Behind the bar were 6 chefs going about their business of preparing sushi and sashimi platters. It didn’t take me long to decide on the chef’s sushi and sashimi assortment, a miso soup and the savoury egg custard. To wash it all down I had a sake and a Japanese beer. I found it fascinating watching the precise and quick knife skills of the chef who prepared my platter. The fish was fresh and in some cases more unique than the standard run of the mill sashimi served at Japanese restaurants. The miso was warm and salty and the savoury egg custard was perfectly cooked with pieces of succlient fish hiding in the glorious depths of the wobbily texture. I left feeling very satisfied and very “in the know”.
Ushiwakamaru on Urbanspoon
Japanese
Miss Lily’s

They call themselves a Caribbean oasis in the middle of Manhattan and they aren’t wrong. Located at 132 West Houston at Sullivan Street in the West Village I’ve eaten at the Restaurant and also at the connecting eatery, Miss Lily’s Bake Shop and Melvin’s Juice Box (the latter being a more casual take-out eatery). One of the most memorable dishes I have eaten in recent times was the curried shrimp served with bok choy and brown rice (this is served in the Restaurant). While I enjoyed eating at the Restaurant I preferred dining alone at the Bake Shop. I went there on my way to a party one evening and decided to grab a quick bite and prepare myself before I indulged in my first negroni (my then favorite cocktail). I was the only person in the Bake Shop but was assured by the Chef that I didn’t have to dine alone as he would be more than happy to dine with me. It was quite a treat, he cooked and then watched me eat while I rambled on and on about my love of New York City. He was very impressed when I ordered the jerk chicken and the jerk corn but I feel that I let him down when I couldn’t finish the meal. When I placed my order he asked me if I was hungry with an amused look on his face. I had no idea what he was talking about as to my mind I was simply ordering a little helping of chicken and a piece of corn on the side. I had a “light bulb” moment when the feast was laid out before me as there was the equivalent of half a chicken on my plate (yes Nick Amore I acknowledge that I smash no less at Prime House over lunch) but this was served with a mound of rice, peas, chutney and two large pieces of jerk corn. The chicken was succulent with just the right amount of spice and the sweet chutney provided a great balance of flavour. Wash it down with a “tingaling” a popular beer based cocktail that you just need to try for yourself (thanks for the recommendation on the “tingaling” Remziye) and you have it made.
Miss Lily's on Urbanspoon

Melpaired Corn

Ingredients

Corn on the cob (as many as you like but the sauce will cover 4 adequately)
1tsp sweet paprika
2tsp butter (plus a little extra but don’t use unsalted please)
1 cup pure cream
50gms manchego cheese (plus addational 10gms for sprinkling on top of finished product)
Pinch of salt

Method

Remove the husk from the corn. To do this I simply pull the husk down and away from the corn and then give it a rinse under cold water to remove any of the stubborn silk (the white hairy threads just under the husk) that has not come away from the corn. I then cut the tough bottom of the corn off.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the corn to the boiling water and then wait for the water to come back to the boil after you have added the corn. This should take around 4 minutes and it will help if the lid is on to bring the water back to the boil quicker. Once the water comes back to the boil turn the heat off and leave the corn in the water for around 8 minutes. After that time remove the corn and rinse under cold water.

Place a griddle pan on the stove on high heat and once the griddle pan is hot smear the corn with some butter and put the corn in the pan. The corn is cooked and at this stage all you are looking to do is to give the corn some nice charred marks for the look and the texture.

While you are charring your corn place the cream, butter, sweet paprika and salt in a small pan on the stove on a low heat. You are looking to warm the cream mixture but not bring it to the boil. When the cream mixture starts to slightly bubble turn the heat to low and simmer the cream mixture for around 5 minutes or until the cream mixture thickens. Then remove it from the heat and stir in the manchego cheese.

Place the corn on a plate and spoon over the sauce. Sprinkle the additional manchego cheese on top of the finished product and enjoy. This is a very simple yet rich and decadent dish.
xoxo
Corn
Corn 2

Doin’ it Greek Style

Greek Style

Last Friday I was lucky enough to secure one of the first tables served at George Calombaris’ newest addition, Gazi.

George, well known for his bouncing toes and fist pumping on MasterChef, has had quite a dramatic impact on Melbourne’s food scene. I feel that I have, quite unfairly, spent a lot of time defending this incredibly passionate Melbourne chef. It is unfortunate that with great success comes great criticism.
Before Gary, George and Matt graced our screens in all their gluttonous glory, I doubt very much that many households around Australia even knew what a crocqumbuche was, the term ‘Celebrity Chef’ was rarely used and waiters were considered ‘second class’ rather than the consummate professionals we now look to for advice while we are constructing the perfect food/wine combination in our favourite local haunt that more than likely didn’t exist 5 years ago.
We are now spoilt for choice when it comes to dining around Australia and I believe that to some extent, we have MasterChef, its judges and its contestants to thank for raising the profile of the quality of our produce, the excellence of our chefs and the promotion of quality cooking.

George’s first restaurant, The Press Club, was opened in 2006 with accolades soon following including The Age Good Food Guide “Best New Restaurant 2008″ and “Chef of the Year 2008″. From there his restaurant banner expanded to include Melbourne’s Maha, Hellenic Republic, St Katherine’s, PM 24, Little Press and Cellar and Mama Baba.

More recently however, George’s flagship restaurant The Press Club has undergone a complete transformation and has emerged as Gazi – An alternative Greek style taverna complete with terracotta pot ceiling, a game of backgammon set up at the entrance and the wait staff yelling ‘Kalispera’ or ‘welcome’ in Greek. (I Google translated that so I apologise to any of our Greek readers if this is incorrect!). Yes, the welcome shout can get a bit tedious, especially if your waiter pauses every time a new diner walks through the door and shouts at your table in between describing the menu, however the enthusiasm and ambiance created by the floor staff is almost palpable throughout the entire restaurant.
The entrance is now located on Exhibition Street, for all you old Press Club clientele, and the room opens up with intimate booths, interactive bar seats and classroom tables through out the rest of the space. Gazi has thankfully shunned the most recent ‘no bookings’ trend and has allowed this ancient tradition to continue whilst keeping the last minute crowd happy with a walk ins section.

Given my excitement to check out George’s latest restaurant, my expectations were high on entering Gazi. However I left feeling that while everything was good, nothing was exceptional.
My partner John and I chose to ‘Do it Greek Style’ as the menu suggests, Greek Style is a 10 dish sharing menu for $69. (Minds out of the gutter please!).
The dips were good, the saganaki was good, the prawns were good. Nothing bad, yet nothing spectacular either. Everything came in very quick succession with the table loaded with food immediately. Our attentive waitress Anna helped in every way she could to make some space and was quick off the mark to replace our empty pita bread plate.

IMG_2124

After a short break came the salmon, the chicken, the pork belly, the chips and the salad. Here their game lifted. The salmon was cooked to perfection and melted in our mouth. The pork, soft and juicy with brilliant crackle and the flavours in the chicken on the spit were completely Mediterranean. The chips were deliciously crunchy and salty with a herby zing, yet the salad was simple, iceberg lettuce with lemon and oregano dressing.
Like Maha and Hellenic Republic the doughnuts are a highlight on the dessert menu that was delivered with a meringue, lemon curd and pomegranate seeds.
Love the plates, love the ambiance, love the space yet with Mo Vida, Mamasita, Cumulus, Chin Chin and Coda all located within a block it was always going to be a tough act to jump up and be compared with the big guns of Melbourne’s tapas/food sharing scene.

I therefore once again find myself patiently waiting to find out what George can come up with next… Hopefully it won’t be too long!

Inspired by the pork we ate at Gazi, I have decided to share with you a recent pork belly recipe that has quickly become a favourite. For years I was always scared of cooking pork belly as I had the misconception that it would be a long and tedious affair with a very tricky end result to get just right!

Last winter John and I were sitting having brunch on a lazy Sunday morning, discussing what we were going to have for dinner. As you do.
Our inspiration was the latest Gourmet Traveller that was filled with numerous dishes of slow roasted meats and vegetables. We had some time throughout the day so we thought we would tackle the daunting Pork Belly. We researched quite a few recipes and came across one that we thought was simple enough for us to do. The result was incredible. Here is the amended version I plan to cook this Friday night for a cafe full of lucky diners… That is you Jen, Mel and John!

Ingredients

1 kilo piece of pork belly
6 pieces of star anise
1 tbs juniper berries
1 whole sprig rosemary
2 onions peeled and sliced
2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp sea salt

Sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
Juice and zest of one orange

Method

Pre heat oven to 250 degrees
Score the skin of the pork belly. I like to do this in serving sizes – one vertical line 1.5 inches thick
Rub oil over the pork then sprinkle salt all over – more on the top of the skin. Set pork aside
In a large, deep roasting tray place the sliced onion, star anise, juniper berries and rosemary sprig with 2 cups of water
Place pork on a wire rack that fits in your roasting tray and place over onion mixture
Cook pork at 250 degrees for 30 minutes
Reduce the oven temperature to 150 degrees and slow cook the pork for a further 2 hours, keeping an eye on the tray juices. If the liquid gets low top up with some more water
After the 2 hours remove the pork form the oven and separate the wire rack from the tray
Remove the rosemary sprig from the reserved tray juices
Pour juices into a medium saucepan
One hour prior to serving turn oven to 160 degrees and cook pork for a further 60 minutes
In the last 10 minutes increase the oven to 220 and place the pork on the top shelf of the oven. This will crispen the skin
Remove from oven and slice off portion slices. Pour sauce over the top and serve

Sauce
In the medium saucepan with the tray juices add brown sugar, vinegar and cinnamon
Bring mixture to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes or until mixture is syrupy
Add chicken stock and simmer for a further 5 minutes
Add orange juice and zest and simmer sauce on low until it once again becomes syrupy
Prior to serving remove star anise, cinnamon stick and juniper berries

We served our pork belly with roast potatoes and a broad bean, baby pea, mozzarella and mint salad. A delicious winter meal!

Pork belly
Gazi on Urbanspoon

Nothing rusty about this local fox

Cheese

Macaulay Road and Bellair Road in Kensington are both well known for housing numerous cafes that serve good coffee and good food. The Kensington scene heaves early on a Saturday and Sunday with locals spilling out onto the streets waiting for a well sought after table at a favourite local cafe.

Enter The Rusty Fox a deli and food store located at 501 Macaulay Road, Kensington. The most fabulous of all of the eateries in the area in my opinion. The concept is beautiful and unique to the area as not only do they sell delicatessen products, cheeses, house made cakes, jams, relishes and condiments but they offer a seasonal menu incorporating the produce that they sell. The coffee is sublime and from Five Senses. They are open Tuesday through Saturday and my only complaint is that they are not open seven days a week twenty four hours a day (perhaps a little bit much for me to ask).

The owners all live locally and saw a need for such an offering and all I can say is thank-you. I have met the very talented Chef Rebecca Creighton who worked as head pastry chef at Rockpool Bar & Grill and Coda (to name a couple) and the delightful and engaging Kim Scott who worked front of house at Pei Modern. I understand the third partner in the equation is Jennifer Galea, a florist by trade.

I am ashamed to say I have only been there three times since it opened but each time has really hit the mark for me. I spent a leisurely hour and a half there recently sitting at the bar, eating, sipping a latte, flipping through a copy of Gourmet Traveller and chatting to Rebecca and Kim. I had to force myself to leave exclaiming as I went “I need to leave before I eat everything on your menu in the one sitting”.

The atmosphere is relaxing and unpretentious. This afternoon my very dear friend Kristy and I (another local) sat in the window seat with the sun streaming in on our faces as we feasted on some seasonal tasty delights. There is also a small courtyard at the back.

I am working my way slowly through the menu and so far have thoroughly enjoyed the banh mi (a crunchy bread roll with succulent pork belly that literally melts in your mouth coupled with a tangy coleslaw that cuts through the richness of the pork very nicely), the avocado and blackened corn salsa on toast (Kristy’s favourite and which is so tangy and tasty it brought tears to my eyes), the heavenly corned beef sandwich(with house made pickles, salad and a buttermilk dressing) and wait for it the tarte tatin (that was warmed and served with cold clotted cream and all I can say is wow wow wow crispy pastry with soft sticky apples what a joyous combination). I took a chocolate brownie home for Tanya (my house mate and self confessed chocoholic) and she was delighted.

The experience of watching Rebecca cut figs up on a recent visit for her fig and ginger jam inspired me to share my rhubarb and strawberry compote with you (I acknowledge figs and rhubarb are not identical but it was the idea of the jam/compote my friends that inspired me).

I have also included a picture below of a charcuterie platter that Mel, Jen and I feasted on recently just to give you an idea of what you can do with some of the wonderful products you can purchase from The Rusty Fox.

So please do two things for me, visit The Rusty Fox and support a fantastic local establishment supporting our local producers that serves great quality food and make my rhubarb and strawberry compote. Can I add a third? Please keep reading our blog. It brings us such joy sharing our food adventures and recipes with you.

Rhubarb and strawberry compote

Ingredients

1 bunch of rhubarb
1 punnet of strawberries
20 grams (or around 1 tablespoon) chia seeds (available from any good health food shop and the purpose of these little beauties is that they thicken the mixture)
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean (slice it down the centre and scrape the seeds out with the blunt part of the knife)
Quarter of a cup of water (or a little less as you just need enough to cover the bottom of your saucepan)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Zest of half an orange

Method

With a sharp knife cut the top and bottom of the rhubarb off. Wash each rhubarb stick but do not peel the rhubarb. Cut each stick of rhubarb into 7 centimetre pieces. Set aside.

Wash the strawberries and slice the top of the leaves off of each strawberry. Slice each strawberry in half. Set aside.

Place the prepared rhubarb, strawberries, chia seeds, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean (use the seeds you have scraped out and the bean), brown sugar, orange zest and water in a medium sized pot with a heavy base.

Place the pot on the stove and bring the ingredients to the slow boil by setting the heat at medium (leave the lid of the pot off). Occasionally stir the ingredients to ensure they do not stick to the pot.

When the mixture boils turn it right down and simmer gently for around 10 minutes or until the mixture is soft. Again you should occasionally stir the ingredients to ensure they do not stick to the pot. Ideally you want some of the rhubarb to retain its shape and not cook down completely (this is to add to the look and texture of the finished product).

When the mixture is ready turn the heat off and leave it in the pot to cool. Remove the cinnamon stick and vanilla bean and the rhubarb is ready to serve.

You can serve it with vanilla and lime ice-cream (recipe to come) or do as Tanya and I do and put it on top of our muesli or porridge for breakfast (stay tuned as those recipes are also to come). I keep the mixture in a container in the fridge but it doesn’t last long in our house as it is so delicious.

xoxo
Platter
Apples

Brownie

The Rusty Fox on Urbanspoon

Not mushroom in the kitchen on our first cooking day

Parcels two
We are pleased to report our first cooking day was a huge success. We agreed we would cook from 9am to 5pm and our friends were due to arrive at 6pm for the post cooking feast.

Things didn’t go quite to plan. Mel arrived at 10:30am and at my suggestion we headed down to Macaulay Road for brunch. Needless to say it didn’t take much to convince Mel that this was the right course of action. We had a leisurely brunch at Spinifex on Bellair Street, Kensington and then headed to my “local” to purchase supplies. Much to our delight we came across Provata an Urban Larder & Cafe. If you live in Kensington or surrounding areas you must head there as soon as possible. All things European are available for purchase including a great selection of cheeses, breads and the like. The staff are friendly and well informed. The coffee is also some of the best on offer in the area in my opinion. Check them out at http://www.provata.com.au. I already had a number of seasonal treats I had purchased the day before at the Kensington Farmers Market.

Cooking commenced at around 1pm (a mere 4 hours after the agreed commencement time). We agreed we would aim to finish cooking at 3pm so we could spend two hours prior to our guests arriving watching Breaking Dawn Part 2 (don’t judge). This wasn’t to be as we cooked right up until our guests arrived.
We divided the tasks and spent a harmonious afternoon together in the kitchen. We listened to Nicolas Jaar on repeat, which is my current cooking music of choice. We spoke few words as we found that we worked so well together there was little to say other than “does this look right” and “try this for me”. We cooked seven dishes in total and the response from our guests was positive. To me a quiet dinner table is a good dinner table as it indicates your guests would rather concentrate on eating your food than talking to you (insert contented sigh here). Thanks to John, Jen, Tan and James for sharing the feast with us (and most importantly for helping with the washing up).

The focus of this post is mushrooms. We are going to share one recipe that we made on the cooking day and another that showcases mushrooms, which is a personal favourite of mine. The first dish is inspired by Gok Wan an English fashion consultant and celebrity television chef. Really it doesn’t get much better than that in my humble opinion. Someone who can balance two of my passions (cooking and fashion in case there is any confusion) is well worth following. I saw him cook a similar dish on his television show and have adapted it to make it our own. The second dish was inspired by a favourite dish of mine that I have eaten at Gingerboy. I have never seen the Gingerboy recipe but have drawn on my outrageously knowledgeable tastebuds (that’s what Mum tells me because I am constantly picking obscure ingredients in her cooking) in an effort to recreate the flavours. I think I have done pretty well but you be the judge.

Sticky mushroom parcels

Ingredients

4 dry shitake mushrooms (soak in boiling water for 20 minutes then remove the woody stem with a small knife and slice – don’t discard the shitake broth as you will use some of this later in the cooking process)
3 fresh shitake mushrooms (sliced)
handful of enoki mushrooms (no need to cut just separate)
8 oyster mushrooms (sliced in half)
3 cloves of garlic crushed
1 red chilli sliced thinly
1 thumb sized piece of ginger (skin removed) crushed
1 spring onion sliced finely
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 cups glutinous or sticky rice (we used arborio as this was what I had in the pantry and it worked really well but you can buy glutinous or sticky rice at an Asian grocer)
pinch of white pepper
1 tbl shaoxing wine
1 tbl oyster sauce
Half tbl fish sauce
1 tbl light soy sauce
Half tbl ketchup manis
Lotus flower (soaked in cold water) or baking paper (the latter is far easier to acquire and this is what I use and it works just as well as the lotus flower)

Method

Cook the glutinous or sticky rice (reminder we used arborio) in a rice cooker. For 2 cups of arborio rice I added 2.5 cups of cold water. Don’t rinse your rice before you cook it as you are looking for a sticky rice mix to hold the parcels together.

In a small bowl add and mix the shaoxing wine, oyster sauce, fish sauce, light soy sauce and ketchup manis and set aside.

Place the vegetable oil in a wok and turn the heat to high. When the oil is smoking add the garlic, spring onion, chilli, ginger and dry shitake mushrooms (add these after they have been soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes and sliced). Toss these ingredients for a few seconds. You need to make sure the garlic does not burn as it will become bitter if it does burn.

Add the fresh shitake, enoki and oyster mushrooms, white pepper and 2 tbl of the dry shitake mushroom broth and again toss for a few minutes until the mushrooms cook down slightly (you don’t need to cook the mushrooms too much as they are going to steam in the parcels post stir-fry).

Add the cooked rice to the mushroom mixture and stir making sure that the rice is coated with the mushroom mixture. Add the sauce to the mixture and again make sure you stir so that the rice and mushroom mixture is evenly coated with the sauce.

Take four sheets of baking paper and lay them out on the bench. You need decent sized sheets so that you can wrap your parcels. Place equal amounts of the mixture in the centre of each sheet of baking paper. These parcels are quite large. Fold the baking paper so that you end up with an square shape.

Place the parcels folded edges down in a bamboo steamer or double boiler. Steam the parcels for 15 minutes.

Unwrap each parcel and enjoy with perhaps a nice sneaky glass of crisp white wine. If you are an amateur when it comes to chilli then leave it out. This was at Jen’s suggestion as she is a bit of a light weight in the chilli department.

Steamed silken tofu with mushrooms

Ingredients

300gms silken tofu (one packet of silken tofu is generally 300gms)
4 dry shitake mushrooms (soak in boiling water for 20 minutes then remove the woody stem with a small knife and slice – don’t discard the shitake broth as you will use some of this later in the cooking process)
3 fresh shitake mushrooms sliced
Handful enoki mushrooms separated
10 oyster mushrooms (don’t slice just separate them)
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 thumb sized piece of ginger crushed (skin removed)
1 red chilli chopped
10g palm sugar grated
1.5 tbl shaoxin wine
1.5 tbl light soy sauce
1.5 tbl dark soy sauce
1 tbl oyster sauce
Half tbl fish sauce
Handful bean sprouts

Method

Remove the silken tofu from the packet trying to ensure that you remove it in one piece without damaging it. Place the silken tofu on a plate (small enough to fit into your bamboo steamer).

In a small bowl place and mix the garlic, ginger, chilli, palm sugar, shaoxin wine, light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce and set aside.
Place the dry shitake, fresh shitake, enoki, oyster mushrooms and bean sprouts on top of the silken tofu and around the silken tofu on the plate (be careful that you don’t stack it too high as you need to be able to close the bamboo steamer lid).

Pour the sauce mixture on top of the silken tofu and mushrooms (try to coat all of the ingredients).

Place the plate in the bamboo steamer and steam for approximately 15 minutes.

Serve the tofu with steamed brown or white rice (we are very much into brown rice at the moment).

These recipes are a celebration of mushrooms and quick easy mid-week dishes to create in your own home. The parcels are also very impressive for a dinner party. You could serve these as an entree as part of an Asian feast or mid-week as a stand alone meal with some steamed chinese broccoli that you have drizzled in oyster, light soy and a couple of drops of sesame oil. I don’t know about you but I’m hungry!

Enjoy and let me take this opportunity once again to thank-you for your support.

<img ParcelsMushrooms

Mushrooms

Mushrooms (rice)

Mushrooms (stir fry)
Mel

What a Guy

Guy Grossi

Raise your hand if you spent your Saturday morning cooking with Guy Grossi. I am raisng a hand right now. Yes you heard, I spent my morning cooking with one of my favourite chefs.

Guy or “Chef” as I now refer to him has built an Italian cooking empire in Melbourne (which he has also extended to Thailand). I have dined at Grossi Florentino Restaurant, Grossi Florentino Grill, The Merchant and most recently at Ombra. Each dining experience has been utterly divine. The other Mel (Russo) in the pair and I were the first guests to sit at table 99 (the small bar directly in front of the Kitchen that is usually used as a pass) at Ombra where we were treated to a feast of cured meats and cheeses under the attentive eye of the delightful Carlo Grossi (Guy’s son). Guy also owns Mirka at Tolarno Hotel in St Kilda and Grossi Trattoria in Bangkok, Thailand. I am yet to visit either but each has now climbed to the top of my bucket list.

How on earth did I manage to cook with Guy you ask. It was simple, I paid for the privilege. This morning I attended Guy’s cooking workshop at the Learning Centre in the grounds of Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Program’s first school, Collingwood College with my very dear friend Michelle and her friend Pearly.

Various cooking and gardening workshops run all year round and I encourage you to check the program out at kitchengardenfoundation.org.au. The proceeds from the workshops go to further the work of the not-for-profit Kitchen Garden Foundation in bringing food education to Australian children. A worthy cause indeed.

We had a wonderful day of cooking under the skilled instruction of Guy and Chef Matteo (Chef Matteo works at Grossi Florentino and has done so for 9 years). Guy and Matteo were extremely humble, patient and giving. I liken the experience of meeting Guy to that of a 12 year old school girl meeting Justin Bieber (I was completely star struck). When I introduced myself I said “I am a big fan of yours Guy Grossi” to which he replied “I am a big fan of yours Melissa”. What a Guy!

At the end of the workshop we all enjoyed the fruits of our labour and let me tell you the food was sublime. I left the class very contented and I haven’t stopped saying “what a Guy” all day.
We cooked insalata di cavolo nero (a beautiful dish consisting of kale, breadcrumbs, lemon, parmesan and Grossi olive oil), orecchiette broccoli (my favourite dish of the day consisting of chilli, garlic, broccoli, potatoes, pancetta and pecorino), tagliarini con sugo di calamari (tagliarini is a thin, flat, ribbon style of pasta, a little like fettuccine but not as wide served with a delicious calamari sauce – for the tripe fans out there including my dear Dad Ross this sauce would work very well by substituting the calamari for tripe in my opinion), tagliarini matriciana (there are many regional variations of this dish and I am going to share mine with you today together with the tagliarini pasta recipe provided by Guy).

Guy tells me he has a new cookbook coming out in November 2013 and there is a recipe for lamb (Jen I am sure you will be the first to rush out and buy that one) in the book that was given to him by a Shepherd he met on the side of a road in Italy on a recent visit by Guy. It doesn’t get much better than that in my humble opinion.

Guy and Matteo the offer I made to have you both over for dinner at my house still stands if you are so inclined. In any event I will give you a shout out when I am next at Grossi Florentino.

Tagliarini Matriciana

Ingredients for the pasta dough (this will make approximately 800grams of dough)
115grams whole eggs (don’t roll your eyes it is important to measure the eggs as precise measurement is key)
225grams egg yolks
500grams durum semolina
pinch of salt (for the dough and another pinch for the water you boil to cook the pasta in)
handful of plain flour

Instructions for the pasta dough
Place all of the ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook attachment and on a slow speed mix until the dough has formed into a ball and is smooth. Cling wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour to rest the dough.

Cut the pasta dough in half and dust with some plain flour roll. Roll the pasta dough through the widest setting of a pasta making machine (you use one half of the dough first and then the second half of the dough). Fold the dough and roll through again on the same setting and repeat this until the dough is silky smooth in texture. Drop the setting on the pasta making machine and fold the dough in half and roll the pasta through. Each time you fold the pasta and roll it through the machine you drop the setting by one to two settings until you have thickness of 2mm.

Cut the past sheet into 20 cm length pieces and roll each sheet through the tagliarini cutter on the pasta making machine. If you don’t have a tagliarini cutter flour the sheets thoroughly and stack them together and then cut with a sharp knife into taglierini 5mm wide pasta strips. You need to set your pasta aside until you are ready to cook it but dust it with some plain flour so that it does not stick together.

Place water and a pinch of salt in a large pot and bring the water to the boil with the lid on the pot. When the water is boiling remove the lid and add the pasta (leave the lid off at this stage). Stir the pasta to avoid it sticking together. Cook the pasta until it is aldente (this should take around 8 minutes but you will need to taste your pasta to check that it is ready). When the pasta is cooked drain it in a colander and add it to your pot of matriciana sauce (don’t start cooking the pasta until your matriciana sauce is just about ready).

Ingredients for the matriciana sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion diced finely
2 cloves of garlic crushed
1 red chilli chopped finely (remove the seeds if you don’t like it hot)
150grams pancetta
50grams hot salami
1 anchovy
Half a cup of green olives (halved with the pip removed)
4 large bottles of passata (tomato pasta sauce)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
80mls white wine
1 dried bay leave
Third of a cup of fresh basil leaves chopped
Finely grated parmesan cheese to serve on top of the pasta

Instructions for the matriciana sauce
Add the olive oil to a large pot and turn the heat to high. When the olive oil is hot add the onion. Stir with a wooden spoon. When the onion is translucent (not brown and most definitely not burnt) add the garlic and chilli and continue stirring until the mixture starts to cook down and caramelise.

Add the pancetta, hot salami, anchovy and green olives and continue stirring. You need to be very attentive at this stage to ensure that the mixture does not burn. Don’t fear if the bottom of the pot starts to turn brown as this adds flavour to the sauce.
Add the tomato paste and stir until well combined.

Add the white wine and cook until the wine has evaporated. The pot will sizzle when you add the wine so stand back.

Add the passata, dried bay leave and fresh basil. Bring the sauce to the boil and then turn it down and simmer for at least half an hour (you can simmer it for longer and the longer you simmer it the greater the depth of flavour in the finished dish).

Put it all together
Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and stir until the pasta is coated with the thick, rich sauce. Divide the pasta into bowls and top with the finely grated parmesan cheese.

Serve with hot crusty bread and a glass of red wine and experience heaven on Earth.

By way of update we have 101 followers. Thanks to all of you who have subscribed to and are regular readers of our little blog. We adore sharing our food adventures and passion with you. Keep reading and sharing.
xoxo
Matriciana sauce
Insalata di cavolo nero<Orecchiette broccoliMichelle and Pearly

The battle of the biscotti

For many years I always wondered why some Nonna’s would always think that their dishes of delicious foods are the best.

I never understood why, whenever there was a table full of different desserts, cakes and biscuits – they would only ever eat their own.

Why some deliberately leave out key ingredients or processes when passing on their recipe to ensure that no one else can ever make their biscotti like they make their biscotti.

Until now… As I think I make the best biscotti, I will only ever eat my own and I may or may not have left out a key ingredient or process below…(?)

No… Not true. But these are damn good biscotti. Even my Dad, who was traumatized as a child with marzipan fruits and amaretto, thinks these are alright.

Many years ago I was given this recipe on a torn up piece of card that belonged to a distant relative of the owner of the cafe that I work in. I have played with that recipe and added a few tricks of my own to make a really good biscotti. There are many of you that have requested this recipe so here it is!

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
300g almond meal
270g castor sugar
1 cap full of almond essence
Zest of 2 oranges
2 cups Icing sugar
20 almond kernels or 20 glace cherries (your choice!)

In a large mixing bowl lightly beat the egg whites with a fork. Just until they are combined and frothy on the top.
Add to that almond meal, castor sugar, almond essence and orange zest.
Using the fork mix all the ingredients together. The mixture should now resemble a crumbly mess.
Discard the fork and using your hands work the mixture like dough until it is well combined and come together in a ball.
Place icing sugar in a separate bowl.
Again, using your hands roll golf ball size balls of the dough and drop into icing sugar.
Roll each ball in icing sugar and place on a large baking tray lined with baking paper.
Continue to roll the balls, coating them in icing sugar until the mixture is finished. The mixture makes about 20 biscotti.
On the top of each ball press an almond kernel or glace cherry with your thumb. Each ball should crack on the sides as you press down. This is supposed to happen. It creates a great effect once cooked.
Place the tray of biscotti into a pre heated 180 degree oven for 20 minutes. To check if the biscotti are done carefully lift one and if the bottom is golden brown they are ready.

Another option for decoration is to roll the balls in flaked almonds instead of the icing sugar and almond kernel.

You may even like to add lemon zest instead of orange for a different flavour!

These really are delicious biscotti, easy to make and perfect to take to a friend’s place when visiting.
IMG_0701

Biscotti