Tag Archives: Food

Dinner Club ~ Retro French Style

3 Dec

A dinner prepared by Michele is always certain to be a very stylish affair….

The Menu

Gougeres with French Champagne
Ham hock terrine with herbs and cornichons
BBQ prawn, chorizo & potato bowls
Free range d
uck confit, quatre epices, creamed puy lentils, pickled pear
Bombe Alaska with cherry sorbet, cherry ripple ice-cream

Michele and Jon run a biodynamic farm Main Ridge Olives, producing amazing table olives. Michele comes from a food focussed family with a German background and has worked as a cook in Europe as well as on the Mornington Peninsula. She always puts so much thought into every small detail… a meal prepared by Michele is always stunning, thoughtful and delicious.

The inspiration for the menu was the Bombe Alaska dessert that Michele had her heart set on making. It took many nights of prep in advance, making 2 types of iccream and sponge cakes. It set the theme for the evening. Retro French.

A special guest for this dinner club was Michele’s sister, Brigitte. They seemed to have had a lovely experience planning and cooking together for this dinner.

There were so many highlights. One of them for me were the Gougeres, based on a Phillipe Mouchel recipe, they were the most divine puffs of air, matched to Egly-Ouriet champagne, which I believe was also from a bio-dynamic French vineyard. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then my whipping up many a batch since to much acclaim, then Michele & Brigitte & Phillipe… you should be flattered!

The confit duck was also very special, a rare breed, free range duck, c’est incredible! A lovely fresh salad of bitter leaves with a chervil and mustard dressing was the accompaniment.

My wine contribution, one of my most favourite wines from the Peninsula ever and one of the reasons we moved here. Nat and Rosalie White’s Main Ridge Estate Half Acre Pinot Noir. I wish I had a couple in my cellar to be able to pull out one slightly older! What a wine.

And now, for the Piece de Resistance! La Bombe. The Inspiration. Icecream centre and sponge in tact and perfectly turned out, plates at the ready.

Italian meringue whipped perfectly

Applied expertly

Michele really enjoyed wielding the blow torch, pretty impressive & dramatic results…

The anticipation…

The first cut

Perfection

Michele just raised the bar totally out of sight. This meal will be in memory as one of the truly great ones forever.

Damn. My turn next.

Dinner Club ~ Autumn

14 May

Autumn, a beautiful, rustic display of autumn’s colours & flavours set the scene

This balmy Autumn evening was our 7th dinner club, spread across 2 years, and it was Fi & Reid’s 2nd time hosting.  Fi is our resident food stylist, recipe developer and tester.  Superb presentation and a thoughtfully designed theme is a highlight of dinner at Fi & Reid’s . Fi also has a passion for homegrown, organic, seasonal & local produce which features in this menu. We are delighted to be her guinea pigs for her experiments.


The Menu

Quail eggs with dukkah
Local wild mushroom bruschetta w herbs & cheese
Rabbit broth
Slow cooked lamb w pickled quince & kale
White polenta
Roast baby vegetables
Poached pear with olive oil icecream

The secret ingredient for the night was verjuice. All dishes except the quail eggs used it. Fi was working on a project for recipes including verjuice, although she was very secretive about it, and I don’t think she even told us that on the night.

One thing Fi loves about Dinner Club is the shared appreciation of what it takes to plan, prepare and create a meal for a group of friends. I have peeled a few quails eggs in my day, and trust me Fi, I know how long it takes and how hard it is to not only peel them, but to peel them perfectly. Appreciated.

Wild mushroom bruschetta, topped with a mix of piquant blue cheese and marscapone.

Take one rustic platter… they looked beautiful. There was something very ‘fresh’ about the taste, not as oily maybe? Slight zing to them? Yep, it’s the secret ingredient of the night… verjuice, it really lightens it up, or a splash of lemon juice for a similar effect.

Rabbit broth. Fi had sourced an array of quaint vintage teacups to serve this flavoursome broth into, the slithers of rabbit could be prised out daintily with the wee forks.

Any Italians in the house? We need to stir the white polenta for 20 minutes.

Lucky we have Joe, the Italian wine guy, he stepped up to the plate.

Roasted baby beets and mixed heirloom varieties of small tomatoes with herbs

Piled onto the perfect polenta

The main course featured a long slow roasted shoulder of lamb, accompanied by Fi’s homegrown pickled quince.  A fresh handful of sauteed kale with red onion and a hint of chilli. Superb. Our contribution, this amazing bottle of Barbera from a special release range of wines from Dalzotto Wines.

For me, dessert was the dish of the night…. everyone was floored by this dish. Homegrown pears poached in verjuice, then roasted, served with olive oil icecream. The icecream was completely dairy free and amazing. Olive oil, egg & sugar. Maybe some other stuff too, but that’s the main part. So delicious.

Thank you Fiona & Reid for sharing the bounty of the seasons harvest with us.

How to bake the winning chocolate cake

29 Mar

It was with great interest on 29th March I read the article in Epicure A Slice of Heaven, the quest to bake the perfect chocolate cake.  I think my cake story, culminating in a blue ribbon winning cake on 27th March, could have challenged their results!!!

I have been on a similar quest myself.  To bake the blue ribbon winning ‘Cake made with Almond Meal’ at the Red Hill Show.  For the past 2 years I have come 2nd, with my gorgeous apple, ginger & almond meal cake.  But the winner was always a chocolate one.

This year I needed a new recipe to really have a red hot chance at the prize. So I called on my friend Fi, food stylist & recipe writer, she came through with the goods.  I have practiced it once, and it worked.  It’s pretty simple.  This kind of flourless chocolate cake, often sinks a bit when removed from the oven, however this one doesn’t. Really important for show baking.

So if you want to really bake the “winning chocolate cake” this IS the recipe, as it won the blue ribbon on the day.  And yes, I was excited.  Here’s the recipe, and below are the pics with some of my methods also. Have a go, it’s a great cake.

Almond & Chocolate Cake

25cm (10in) round tin

250gm (90z) unsalted butter, chopped, plus extra for greasing
250gm (90z) quality dark chocolate
8 eggs, separated
250gm (90z) caster (superfine) sugar
250gm (90z) ground almonds (almond meal)
Dutch cocoa for dusting
Berries & thick cream for serving

Preheat oven to 180deg (360F).  Grease a 25cm (10in) spring form cake tin with butter and line the base with baking paper.

Place a saucepan half filled with water over a low heat.  Place the chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl and site over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the base of the bowl.  Melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally.  Remove the bowl from the heat and cool for 5 minutes (you don’t want to put it in too hot & cook the eggs)

Using electric beaters whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl until thick, pale and creamy.  Stir in the ground almonds to combine well.  Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine.

Using electric beaters, whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl until firm peaks form.  Lightly fold half of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until just incorporated and then add the remaining whites and continue folding gently to combine well.  Pour mixture into the lined tin and spread evenly.  Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted (My skewer did not come out clean, I added at least another 15min cooking and still it didn’t come out clean, this is such a moist dense cake, it is unlikely to ever come out clean, so don’t panic about this).  Cool completely in tin on a wire rack.

Remove spring form sides of tin. Dust cake with cocoa and slice into thin wedges to serve.  Thick cream or icecream and berries are nice accompaniments to it.

It may still sink a little in the middle when cooling, that is OK, and it looks beautiful piled with fresh raspberries and dusted with icing sugar.

The cake can be made a few days ahead, it keeps well.

All ingredients out, measured, pans greased.

Using the ‘double boiler’ method melt the chocolate and butter together

My 3 bowl method of separating eggs.  I always separate an egg into two bowls, then if successful, I put the whites in one bowl, and for this recipe, the yolks went straight into the mixing bowl.  Too many times have I got to the 7th egg and smashed the yolk up into the whites and lost the lot! This way is foolproof.

Yolk/sugar/almond mix on the left, cooled butter/chocolate mix on the right, ready for combining.  Greased pan at the ready.

After whites folded in, the batter is in the pan.  I dropped the tin a couple of times on the bench to knock some air bubbles out of it.  I didn’t want it too light and cracky for the show.  If you don’t do this, your cake will probably drop a little in the middle and have more of a crust that may crack a little, which all looks gorgeous on your table at home.

A bit of damage with the skewer testing, easily covered by cocoa powder, probably didn’t need to worry too much about doing this.  The outsides of the cake did have a crust to it, as the cake cooled and shrank a little, the crust cracked, but it was still pretty good.

The winning entry.

And what did I do with it you ask?  Well I wasn’t going to eat it all myself, so at 4.30pm when you were allowed to collect your entries, I took it back to the beer tent, sliced it up into about 50 squares with my swiss army knife, and shared it around with my friends and admirers 🙂

And for anyone who wonders… Why?  I believe that a proper country agricultural show provides opportunities to nuture and encourages skills that are slowly disappearing and not being handed down through families.

Whether it’s the wood chop, biggest pumpkin, best eggs, kids pikelets, quince paste, decorated cake or cake made with almond meal, there is something for everyone to have a go at.

My kids were interested and inspired and we had a lovely time making biscuits together.  A lot of my local friends all entered something, or their kids did, and the result is a fun competition, a hugely successful event for our region, and the fostering of agricultural based skills.  Seeing so many kids taking an interest in growing and making things was just inspirational.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition, and I like to make my contribution to the show staying getting enough entries to stay such a vibrant and significant event in our community.

Farewell lunch ~ Icebergs Dining Room & Bar

28 Mar

Whilst I love the way Melbourne looks inwardly at it’s beautiful buildings, secret laneways and shopping strips, Sydney just flings her arms out wide toward the sea and says “look at me”. How can we not.

Icebergs Dining Room & Bar was the special “Sydney-style” restaurant we chose to share our last meal in Sydney with good friends. It made us happy being there, everything is so sparkly and bright, the prosecco, the beautiful people, especially our prosecco.

First up we shared the antipasti with buffalo mozzarella, artichoke hearts, anchovies and Ligurian olives. The little bottle of oil with a rosemary brush was a nice idea.

Also shared was the Carne Cruda Battuta di Vitello, a dice of raw milk fed veal, beaten until tender, pickled mushrooms, chives, truffled pecorino, toasted crostini with truffle butter.  This dish was one of our favourites. Delicious.

Both ‘fish’ and ‘beef’ had a separate, extensive menu page dedicated to them, highlighting where they are sourced, cooking method, range of sauces, ageing and who their parents were! Impressive.

Given the setting, we indulged in the extensive seafood options. Harvey Bay ‘hand dived’ scallops on the half shell with tomato, green chilli, garlic, radish salad. Simple, fresh, glorious.

The Brewer selected the special, tuna tartare (poor memory for the details) tasted as incredible as it looked.

Service was excellent. The waiters were like elegant ballerinas, gliding around the floor silently in their black dresses, and setting up a table to mix our salad next to us. Theatrical!

This trip really highlighted the things I love about Melbourne.  I wish our city hadn’t quite turned it’s back so much on our amazing beaches, but I do love how everything in Melbourne feels like you are ‘discovering’ it.

Thus ends the series of posts on Sydney. My blog will now resume it’s regular Mornington Peninsula oriented programming.

Hope all my Melbourne readers got a little ‘taste’ of the great things Sydney has.

Kx

Icebergs Dining Room and Bar on Urbanspoon

Four In Hand – A fleeting fling in Sin City

25 Feb

6 years is all it took to get away from the kids for a weekend.  The Brewer & I flitted up to Sydney, travelling oh so light.  We had a packed agenda and absolutely loved every second of it. So much so we were really quite seduced by Sydney and felt as though we were cheating on our beloved hometown.

First destination was the Four in Hand, it has 2 Chefs Hats.  It is in a beautiful old corner pub in Paddington, my kind of place.  A very steep corner…. from inside, the cars strangley look like they are driving vertically.

The front bar is a real ‘pub’ pub. Rowdy, crowded and beery with patrons noshing on burgers & chips. The dining room on the other hand, is cosy, intimate, quiet, elegant and classy.  We were seated right next to the glass separating the two, and I loved the background vibe of the pub.

It was impossible to choose between the dishes on the menu, so we both had the degustation, I got one amendment to mine so as to try a pork dish on the menu which looked irresistible.  The Chef, Colin Fassnidge, really seems to like his pork.  I had been following him on Twitter for awhile and there was a LOT of twalk about pork. I had high expectations.

We chose the matched wines, as there was an eclectic selection of wines offered by the glass with each course, and there just wouldn’t have been 1, or even 2 wines to go across this whole experience.

First up was the lime cured kingfish with avocado snow and vanilla matched to 2008 Quinta Do Ameal Loureiro from Portugal.

Did I say it was dim? Pics do not do food justice, but this dish was beautifully presented, and the flavours very fresh and delicate, it was also very textural with the avocado snow.  If I remember, the cucumber was slightly pickly too.

So, to pig. First up, Braised pigs talk with corn and lobster chowder matched to a 2008 Denis Pommier Petit Chablis, Burgundy, France.

This dish was the main reason we had to have the the degustation, as it wasn’t on the regular menu.  This little piggies tail was deboned and caramelised, a succulent, sticky little sliver in the most intensely flavoured broth.

Next up, lamb; two ways with baby fennel, courgette puree, pickled vegetables with a 2005 Pegasus By Merlot Cabernet, Waipara, NZ

This was in fact lamb 3 ways, in addition to the cutlet and the sticky square of shoulder (I think) there was a slice of tongue. The presentation of this dish was deliciously artistic. OK, I am kinda getting full now. Everything tastes so good, trust me, these plates were pretty well white when they cleared them.

The Brewer had the next course which was the orange braised beef brisket with poached veal and pearl barley with a 2008 Michael Hall Syrah, Eden Vally, SA. I remember it was incredibly tender. This was where I deviated. The roast suckling pig was on the regular menu and I had asked if I could swap the beef brisket for a taste of this dish……

but wait, there’s more, it came in 2 parts…..

This little piggy…. who me? Yes me. Another tail, plus 3 other cuts, all incredible, plus celeriac remoulade and colcannan (I think – food coma descending), I also had a lovely glass of sangiovese with this course. Seriously, just this dish alone could have fed both us little piggies.  It was amazing. Totally indulgent.

Whilst our main courses were happening, the background entertainment was the whole roast suckling pig, carted out to a nearby table, where the waitress adroitly dismembered it and served it to the table of 10 nearby. More pork!

So at this point you think I probably called it quits and rolled out into a cab and passed out. But no. Still to come, the ‘4s’ chocolate snickers, which I believe they are quite well known for.  Matched to a Pedro Ximinez. I ate it all.

There was only one thing left to do. Have a soothing whisky, they had an impressive array of single malt whiskies, four from Islay.  We indulged in the Ardberg Supernova, which we had never seen before and is apparently quite rare, also the Cadenhead.

I thought everything was pretty great value, 5 courses, $85, matched wines, $50 / $135 each. The mains alone were $36.  That represents pretty good value these days.  For this standard of food, service and included wines, it was exceptional. The service was outstanding. They had a lot of guests in rooms upstairs, so were running up and down these stairs all night.  It was busy. We were never forgotten nor were they ever flustered. If the measure of service is how many times they fold your linen napkin when you step away from the table, then they get 10/10 because they did not miss a single opportunity.

Thank god for these stairs, there are long, narrow staircases everywhere in Sydney. This one at the Four In Hand was treacherous for me as the steps were made for people who had smaller feet 150 years ago, my whole foot didn’t fit on them, so every trip to the toilet was pretty precarious, but maybe the trip worked off one morsel of pork.

If gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, then I have been a very bad girl, I blame Sydney, the city of seduction which will forever be known to me as Sin City.

A comment on the beer list.  Overall, Sydney was pretty devoid of great beer. It is a long way behind Melbourne. From what we could see, in the bar at the Four In Hand, were taps of pretty generic beers. Coopers or Carlsberg the highlight.  There were more options in bottles, the pick of which was a Lord Nelson 3 sheets (local), then the no-so-crafties from the big boys, Little Creatures, Squires, White Rabbit plus they had most of the fake imported lagers. Which is good for a Sydney pub.  The dining room sets a high benchmark for the gastropub in every other way, it would be great if there were some genuine craft beers on tap and a wider variety in the styles of beers on offer.  As it does with it’s wine list.

Four in Hand on Urbanspoon

Dish of my Year – Bentley Bar

25 Feb

Smoked eel parfait with white soy, kombu & seaweed at the Bentley Bar.  Like some kind of exotic underwater sea creature with delicate, fluttering, diaphanous wings. How beautiful. Just on visual appeal, this is my dish of the year.

The eating did not disappoint. The eel parfait inside was soft and light.  Around the outside, (kombu I presume) had a slippery savouriness, the white soy presented as mayonnaise on the plate and the seaweeds were the most incredible edibles worthy of a spot in Mrs Pamplemousse’s shop.  A most amazing combination of flavour, texture and visual appeal. I am still dreaming of it.

This Kingfish ceviche was also incredible, not at all what I was expecting.  It was in thin ribbons, like tagliatelli, as was the pickled diakon with the artistic little dollops of yuzu mayonnaise on the side.

It sounded pretty simple, poached egg with chickpea, preserved lemon and harissa, but once again, amazingly textural. We grilled our waiter on the suitability of this dish for sharing, he explained the egg was cooked at 60deg for 110 minutes. Pushing the boundaries of the slow cooked egg! But it mixed in with the chickpeas and made a lovely gooey dip that we piled onto crusty bread and it was outstanding.

Our final dish was this soft shell crab with green chilli salsa. Perfect, and the intensity of the green sauce… you can tell by its colour, which I thought used a lot of parsley, not completely chilli thank god, it was a cracker condiment for  the crunchy crab.

There is a lot more to love about Bentley Bar.  Dee & I had spent the morning at Paddington markets, we were exhausted and in need of major refreshment. The boys were drinking in a German bar somewhere, we hightailed it to the nearest & best bar we could find to wedgie in some sustenance.

The beverages list (not just “wine” list) were amazingly curated. Pretty much everything on their lists I had rarely, if ever seen.

The staff were very polished and knowledgeable, they didn’t hold back from suggestions by the glass for lunch. They are very passionate about their Rieslings, and despite my dislike of the variety, they were able to persuade me into enjoying a few different glasses, also, quite generously, providing me with multiple tastings of various styles and types in their attempts to get me under their sway. Worked.  Dee also experienced some unique sake until she drank it all and they ran out!

But this is what really got my attention. Have you ever seen a whisky list like this one. I guess there is a special person in Sydney (;-)) who assists with their selections and sourcing, but wow.

Us two girls were pretty well done, and as The Brewer is a HUGE single malt lover, after our dinner at MsGs we cabbed it back to Bentley Bar to have our digestif. Again, ably assisted by an expert waiter, we tried the Bunnahabhain and Ardberg, both incredibly different. Discussing our love of the peat, he also gave a little try of a tequila that was so peaty it tasted like whisky.

Unfortunately a drunk mob staggered through the door looking for drinks or a nightclub or sex, who knows. Idiots. Bar. Closed. Ruined our chances of trying the Springbank 1998 Cask Strength which is what I was working up to all day.

My little note on the beerlist, like all their other beverages, exceptionally thoughtful. Probably one of the best I’ve seen in a restaurant. Some interesting craft beers from around Australia including our own Mountain Goat, McLaren Vale Ave and White Rabbit, plus Trumer Pils on tap. Nice.

(02) 9332 2344
320 Crown St
Surry Hills

Bentley Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Dinner Club ~ A Middle Eastern Feast

27 Nov

The conveners and inaugural hosts of our dinner club… Joe and Dee, have a deep passion for authentic food and superb wines. We have been delighted many times by the smallgoods & pickles Joe brings home from his Italian family, and gorged on Dee’s abundant Middle Eastern feasts. Their combined Israeli – Italian backgrounds mean that even the smallest catchup revolves around a banquet.

So Dinner Club with Joe & Dee is a guaranteed feast of food and wine. It all started beautifully on a balmy night overlooking the hill & the bay at sunset.

The Menu
Beef Carpaccio & radish remoulade
Ravioli w spiced lamb mince caramelised onions & pinenuts
18hour Goat, flame roasted eggplant, cardamon & honey yoghurt
Pomegranate & snake bean freekah salad
Main Ridge Dairy goats curd tarlet w cardomon & vanilla apricot icecream

Joe is also our inhouse wine guy. Some superb wines were selected to accompany this feast, Pizzini Nebbiolo, Vajra Langhe Rosso and Crianza Rioja.

This Dinner Club was so beautiful and abundant, but I was really disappointed in my ability to get nice photos. It inspired me to think a little more about the way I take photos, in the hope I could do the people and food justice.