Saturday, December 8, 2007

DOC Pizza and Mozarella

295 Drummond Street, Carlton South

A couple of Fridays ago we decided to go to La Mamas in Carlton after work. La Mamas is a fantastic theatre in carlton which stages smaller and often more experimental theatre compared to something like the MTC - Melbourne Theatre Company (which a girlfriend and I are subscribers to), and also a lot more intimate as it is a lot smaller, so the actors usually make eye contact with you during the performance (which can be a little unsettling at first). The play we saw had one actor, some dolls, a pianist/ violinist and someone doing the lights, but I enjoyed it much more than the latest play from MTC... enough about that! After making plans to see a play, i deviously suggested that we try DOC, as i had read about it on other blogs and was rather interested in trying some fresh mozzarella and some reportedly good pizza...

So after our play we walked into DOC and asked for a table. After seating us, and giving us the menus, they then decided to tell us that we had to be out of there by 830pm. We are fast eaters so this was not a problem but I thought it was a bit strange to tell us after seating us. In the entry there was an old retro ham slicer with a massive ham on it that looked totally edible, and the room is one of those bare concrete walls and floors which while looking nice is not good for sound levels... as the night went on it got louder and louder, especially due to a table of very loud Italians near us.

The menu is printed on a large sheet of paper which on the back has a large map of Italy that points out where different food products in italy come from regionally. We are going to italy next year for our honeymoon so we spent some time planning our trip based on this information...

'ok, first we go to prociutto, followed by mozzarella and oooh, the anchovies and then maybe some parmagianna regiano...'

ok maybe not. Apparently the place is named after the DOC in italy- the Denominazione d'Origin Controliata which is the the Department responsible for setting the standards and controls for the control of cheese and wine and other food products, which is why the menu was focused on where each ingredient was sourced, which was a nice touch.

SO in true me style, we overordered in an attempt to try as many things as possible, seeing as they do not do half and half pizzas or change any toppings. For starters we got a lovely ball of Italian fresh mozarella, and chose as its accompaniment a shaved fennel, blood orange and anchovy salad. There was also the option of cured meats, salads and antipesto type sides but the fennel and anchovies where a perfect match to each other, and the cheese. They were also served with grissini sticks. This was a perfect starter, it was quite large and full of different flavours so it got us ready for the next course. It was also nice to see nathan enjoying the anchovies which he normally steers well clear of. The cheese was lovely, it would have been interesting to try the Aussie version, I guess it will be next time...

For pizzas we ordered a wild mushroom and truffle oil pizza, and a capricossa which had ham, artichokes, olives and capsicum as well as a salad of rocket, pear and pecorino. This was probably too much food for two but Nath always finishes everything up so i never feel too bad about over-ordering. The pizzas are fantastic - thin crisp base the way it should be and the toppings were not sparce but not over the top, allowing you to taste the flavours. Nathan found the truffle oil a bit too strong on the mushroom pizza but to be honest I didnt really notice it. The artichokes on the capricossa was a great touch, reminded me of an awesome pizza i ate in Rome about 5 years ago. Oh god i really want pizza now! The salad was a very large serve and had a lovely honey based dressing which paired well with the cheese. I had a glass of Red wine which I am so sorry to say i cannot rememeber what it was but it was Italian and was a very good match for the food... the waiter recommended it.

The service was swift if not maybe a little abrupt and the room was pumping when we left. The pizzas are a great alternative for i carusi and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all! Hopefully they buy some nice carpets or wall hanging to soften the sound a little but I must say, it is nice to finally have somewhere I want to eat in the Lygon street vicinity...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stuffed Vine leaves. Dolmades. 'Warrah'

Since I left home 6 years ago, there is one thing that i always ask for when I go home. 'Warrah' the arabic version of the well known Greek 'dolmades'. I think these are infinitely better than the dolmades that I have had at Greek restaurants (though I may be biased). And when we make them we make HEAPS, and usually with stuffed white zucchinis, and stuffed long eggplants. A few weeks ago my mother was in town and she brought with her some vineleaves from a friends vine.It is difficult to give an exact recipe for this as my mothers ideas of quantities is 'by eye' which really is a very individual thing. I finally know how to make this, but I will warn you, it takes time and is best done with other people to make the time go by quicker. My other dilemna, being in Melbourne is where to get fresh vineleaves as my source in Sydney was my relatives backyards. I will have to go scouting around Richmond for some old Greek vineleaves (if anyone can point me in the right direction i will be grateful ;)

Firstly, get a big dish to hold all the stuffing together. it is best to get a deep pyrex so you can mix the ingredients with your hands. Finely chop a big bunch of parsley (flat leaf), about 5-6 tomatoes and 2-3 onions. Add some crushed garlic (about 5-6 cloves but to taste), salt, black pepper, mixed spice. Oh and 2 cupes of long rain rice, thoroughly washed. Add some olive oil (I told you the quantities are a bit off). You dont want the mixture to be too wet as it will make stuffing it hard.

Now to the vineleaves. wash them very well. Soak them for about a minute in hot water and then squeeze the water out carefully without tearing them. At this stage it is best to get a big glass chopping board. Lay out a vineleaf, dull side up. Carefully cut out any stem left. Put a small amount of the rice mixture (be careful not to overstuff as they will open up during cooking) at the bottom of the vineleaf in a horizontal log, fold up sides and bottom and then roll up. Make them as tight as possible. Arrange in a pot that is large enough to fit all the vineleaves but not too large so the lid is close to the top layer of vineleaves. if this is too hard, it is common to put a plate over the top to keep in the moisture.

Make a sauce out of 2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste, the juice of about 2-3 lemons, hot water and some more oil. You want the sauce to be thin but bright red. Pour over vineleaves, the liquid should just come to the top layer of vineleaves. Bring the pot to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer and leave for about an hour, it shouldnt take more than an hour and a half, the best way to tell if it is done is to taste it and then you can change the seasoning.

Serve with raita (yoghurt, salt, mint and garlic) and a fresh salad.


Monday, November 19, 2007

The strangest felafel in Australia?

Obviously I forgot to take a photo until I was a quarter of the way through. Mum and I were shopping on Sydney road, Brunswick, when the lunch grumbles started. Mum suggested we get a felafel seeing as there were a few arabic shops in the area (in brunswick? no!!). I have to admit I dont normally buy felafels as my mums are so good that everything else is a dissapointment. Would you believe we couldnt find a felafel inside pita bread anywhere??? I mean seriously of all the places in Melbourne to satisfy a felafel craving you would think it would be here right?
In dispair we were about to give up when we passed an arabic grocer store that also had a cafe. But felafel in pita?
'Oh no it comes on pita fresh baked in the oven. Very nice'
So shrugging our shoulders and thinking how untraditional it was we took his advice. We watched hungrily as he rolled out some dough, crumbled felafel mix - unfried! onto the dough and added tomato, olives, capsicum and olives. Into a woodfired oven it went. To finish it off he sprinkled pickled turnip and a yoghurt sauce.
And the result? OhmygodsogoodIcantpossiblyfinishitohonemorebiteohitsallgone!
Its nice when arabic cuisine can suprise you in a good way!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ripe, Sassafras

I love living in the foothills. As we speak I am sitting on my deck looking out across the suburbs of Melbourne from my elevated position and listening to the birds sing to each other. Our regular birds include king parrots, lorikeets, rosellas, cockatoos (and unfortunately magpies and carrawongs).
One of the advantages of living here is that on a weekend if I dont feel like making breakfast, a short drive up the hills through the mountain oaks and the filtered light on the curving roads brings us to the little township of Sassafras. I have to confess though that we usually continue up to olinda or mt dandenong (and one fateful Sunday when on the motorbike continued all the way up to Donabuyang, dont ask me how that happened!).
So last weekend, with my mother visiting us and me feeling like a lazy brunch, decided to take a risk and visit Sassafras, seeing as it was so close. I had also heard very good things about Ripe. There have been mixed reviews from the breakfast blog and others on the net, but I was determined to give them a go.
Two doors down from the famed Miss Marples, the little cafe is almost unnoticeable if you aren't looking for it. At the front there are tables outside for those with dogs, and there is also a deck area out the back. Originally we sat out the front but decided to go inside as it was a bit cool, which was a good decision as we got a better feel from the place inside. Inside there is a little deli with delicacies iincluding olives, anchovies, fresh pasta and other delights. I was shoo'd away from buying anchovies as only i like them in this family ;( but I did buy some masorpone filled figs for later (which I love love love). The tables are dark wood and there are interesting relics of old kitchens dotted around the cafe, as well as newspapers and magazines.
Onto the food. i ordered a pea and sweet potato pukara with goats cheese and relish. A little unusual for breakfast but the pukara and cheese were a winning combination and the dish was filling yet not overly so. Nathan had the salmon eggs which were nice but nothing new (and not as nice as mine see previous post). Mum had the poached rubarb with oats, nuts, honey and yoghurt served with fig bread. I think hers was the best breakfast of us all and she enjoyed it (and from the taste i got it was good!). Around us there were some amazing looking pancakes and the cakes looked delish. I am definitely going back!
Many of the tables were reserved and we were fairly early (1030) so found a table ok but for those thinking of going for lunch i recommend booking ahead. There was an interesting menu of baguettes for lunch and they are also quite reasonably priced compared to many places in Richmond! SO if you are looking for a place to eat in the hills, think about coming here...

The Bread Adventures continued...

Nathan has been baking again. I cant complain, the results are fantastic (even though fresh bread to me means butter, and butter is not really so good for my diet...). These are his latest creations, taken again from Richard Bertinet's bread book. The loaf on the left is a pain de campagne, a sourdough-esque bread that we left for 2 days in its dough form to develop the flavours. The loaf on the right is a rye, caraway and raisin bread. This bread we have been eating like raisin toast - with a nice cuppa tea and lots of butter... yummmm

The breads were made with a mixture of rye, spelt and white flour. The rye and spelt we got from a friend who grinds his own grains for bread making. It has proved very hard to buy bakers four! Apparently most bakeries these days buy their doughs premixed with the yeast, improvers etc already in the mix. A kind of 'add water and mix' thing. I think we have found an internet supplier who delivers flour who we might try. It is amazing to think that something we eat so much of is so processed and is so different to the bread we used to eat 100 years ago. I am not sure I really like the thought of all those chemicals in my bread, even from so called fresh bakeries.
We have tried partially baking and then freezing loafs as suggested in the comments in my last post about bread, and then rebaking them when we want fresh bread. This worked ok, though I think we need to tweak the initial baking time (to make it longer). Making 4 loaves of bread at once is the easiest way to do things and if we manage to control ourselves and not eat it all at once, it can last us for a week . Below is a photo of an asparagus and pea soup (for recipe see my post in October) which the pain de campagne was a perfect friend to...

Morroccan Chicken

Another weeknight BBQ recipe. Basically, marinate some chicken breast pieces in olive oil, garlic, chilli, cayene pepper, cumin, corriander, ground ginger, salt, pepper and lemon for as long as you can. Then BBQ!
I served it with a morrocan inspired couscous which included star anise, cardoman, cayene, cumin, corriander, sulatnas and dates, finshed with chopped almonds. A garden salad dressed with red wine vinegar and some yoghurt dip made from yoghurt, garlic, mint and salt.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The evil possums of the dandenongs

Ok, so maybe some of you might think this is cute, having mum and bub hanging out on our deck. Let me tell you, these possums are evil! They seem to be getting worse too. First we evicted them from our roof, then they crawled all over our roof and deck all night, and now they have moved onto something entirely worse...

My herbs! I decided to grow some of the essentials in pots until we sort out a proper garden. The very first night they ate my parsley. The next night they started on the basil. It took them a few days to finish off the mint. I have decided they didnt even like the mint, they are just paying us back for evicting them from the roof.

There are two more incidents that go on my list of grievances. They jump on my deck chairs, which i store on their sides so the possums cant pee on them. There is no reason to jump on my brand new deck chairs, they are just having fun. They have also started jumping on the car we park outside and peeing all over it. I am sure there is no food on the car, so why are they on it? A neighbour of ours has his lemon tree decimated by the possums - they eat the rind and leave the insides hanging of the trees!

So we have decided that the only option is to put up an electric fence around the deck. Sounds a bit extreme but that is the point we are currently at. And then we are going to have to fence around a vegie patch. I love the mountains, but i do NOT like the possums. This is some of the wildlife I do like...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Me and my BBQ

I love my BBQ. It is so simple to make dinner and there is very little cleaning up. Growing up in an arabic family with a mother who was scared of gas (?!) we only ever had charcoal bbq's which are so so nice as the meat gets that charcoal wood taste, but is more of a hassle to use and so we didnt have bbqs as often as I would have liked!

The first night we got our BBQ, I BBQ's some king prawns and made them into a thai-style salad as inspired by Jack from the blog 'eating with jack', and also made a bbqed whole barramundi stuffed with ginger, garlic, chilli, lemongrass and lemon. Such a simple dinner and so so good. Fresh flavours, a good mix of salt, sweet, spice and sour, and did I mention minimal cleaning up?

The next day I marinaded some lamb backstraps overnight in olive oil, garlic, lemon, cumin, corriander, a squiz of tomato sauce and some lemon myrtle for that Aussie touch. I served it with a couscous salad, and some BBQ'd eggplant, fennel and corn. To top it off I made a yoghurt dip with mint, cucumber and garlic. Very similar to the BBQ's of my childhood, though a lot simpler...

What I like about this new BBQ is that I have somehow roped Nathan into being the cooker of meat, so all I do is marinade the meat, make a quick salad, and then sit on our new deck chairs and wait for dinner!

The Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld

The first time we went to the Royal Mail Hotel, we were on the way home from nathan's parents place past Hamilton and wanted a quick bite to eat. All we got was the soup of the day with some fantastic bread but we liked the place. The architecture is modern but suits its surrounds, a suprisingly bright space in a very small town, a town which boasts its own lawn bowls which elevates it above some of the nearby towns, but still is a very small town.
So after hearing that it had won the best wine list in the Age good food guide, and then seeing the favourable review in Ed's Blog at I became very interested in going back and having dinner at the restaurant. Chef Dan Hunter comes from being head chef in Mugaritz in Spain, and is known for using edible flowers in his dishes.
So finally this weekend my chance to go to dinner came up as we were headed to the in-laws place for the weekend. It started well, we had a 730pm reservation, and after leaving work at 3pm (yes it took that long on a Friday night), we got there just in time. Having to still drive another 90 minutes after dinner, we opted not to go for the full degustation, and chose entrees and mains to start.
I got a Spanish tempranillo which was so fruity that if I closed my eyes, I could imagine I was drinking a white wine. it went well with the food though. First a complimentary fennel salad was brought out which was dressed with flowers and what I think was sumac. It was a good way to ignite my hunger, which I must admitt, was already making itself known in the car trip. We also got a choice of 4 lovely breads, all of which were really lovely, particularly the sourdough and olive.
This is where things went a bit weird. We waited a LONG time for our entrees. In fact we didnt get them till 845pm. That is a long wait when you are me (ie, my favourite style of dining is yumcha, no wait, lots of little dishes). When they finally arrived they were small, but really good. I had the yabbie, artichoke and pork dish, which again was dressed with small artichoke flowers and was in a pork reduction. This was really tasty, the first time I have had yabbies I am embarrassed to admitt, and the pork reduction was incredible, as Nath put it, like liquid crackling. mmmm, I would like some now... nath had the smoked tuna broth with shitake mushrooms which was also really really good.
So then, at 930, after a lot of moaning from me, our mains appeared. I had ordered the snapper, and Nath the lamb. Nathan was presented with the pork though. We mentioned it to the waiter who was very apologetic, and after consultation with the kitchen asked if it was ok if he had the pork cutlet, and then afterward we would both get a 'taste of lamb'. This was quite gracious of them I think and so we agreed to this. I also got a free top up of my wine which was nice. The mains were served with brocollini which was refreshing. The snapper was served with a hazelnut sauce, some flowers which tasted like onion, and jeruselum artichoke. It was a nice piece of fish and the sauce worked well. The pork was served with apples and potato I think, and a chocolate sauce, which though a little strange, worked pretty well. The lamb then appeared and this was quite nice, I particularly liked the baby carrots which were served with it. So, we ended up leaving the restaurant at 1040pm, a 3 hour meal for 2 courses. The desserts looked interesting but there was no way we were waiting for it!
Being the snoop I am, I observed that the tables around us were also having to wait very long times. The table next to us had some issue with their beer arriving warm and so got some on the house, but they didnt look too happy. I also noticed that the guy didnt seem to like his beef. Further away, I noticed a table where the fella was taking notes before eating anything. He looked like a reviewer, which was confirmed as Stephen Downes from the Herald Sun later by Ed from tomatom. He didnt look particularly impressed though, but I think they knew it was him as he got walked out the door (which they didnt do for us!), so maybe his wait for food wasnt as long as ours!
SO... a very long winded way to say nice food, but very long service. I understand that it must be hard to get wait staff in the country, but it looked like the folks at the cafe which ajoined the restaurant were getting their food faster. It also looked quite nice (which i snooped on when I went to the ladies). Next time we are passing through, i think we might just go there instead!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Last weekend Melbouorne was hot. Really hot. So our thoughts turned into outdoor life and in this case, our deck which was empty and beckoning to us to fill it with tables and barbeques. So of we went to BBQ's Galore, managed to get very confused with all the different models, but somehow emerged with a Cordon Blue, with wok burner and nice looking trolley. Don't you think it looks nice?

We also got some gorgeous deck chairs, but I am afraid the torment of trying to work out which table would fit best was too much for us in the heat and so we still have to get that. Still we have our bbq so I cant complain.

This weekend we went to nath's parents place for the weekend and for lunch we had a BBQ. But not on your average BBQ...
Aint it great? It was made by Nath's dad by welding two old plough discs and a wok together. Perfect for camping and perfect for home when you dont want to stink the house out with dinner.

Anyway, as you would have guessed, more BBQ recipes to come...

Monday, October 22, 2007

The French Corner Restaurant

493a Highett Rd, Highett VIC 3190

I admit I work in highett, otherwise I probably wouldnt have heard of the French Corner. Last year chef Daniel Airoldi (formerly a chef at Jaques Reymond) took over a corner shop site that has been doomed for the last 4 years, with a change of management every year or so. He had a little deli with french cheese and small goods, homemade jams and chutneys and at Christmas time he made the nicest puddings. They did lunch with baguettes and croque mounsiers and madams, and had dinner some nights of the week with a fairly traditional menu of favourites. He also baked his own bread and pastries which were absolutely devine, apparently his original training was as a pastry chef. Oh and he made the best coffee on the strip.
So I was pretty excited to hear he had expanded his business to include a proper restaurant just down the road (at another doomed site which has held a tapas bar and a moroccan restaraunt in the last few years). On Friday I finally got a chance to go for dinner. There is a degustation menu at $99 but we ordered from the menu. Admittedly we went the fairly traditional ordering route at a frnech restaurant, but that didnt mean it was a boring meal. For entrees we shared some garlic snails and steak tartare, both fresh and flavourful. A house made bread was used to mop up the garlicy sauces and I must admitt we ate a little too much of the bread (it was just so good!). At the waiters recomendation we ordered a french red wine which was similar to a Pinot in colour and taste and which the name of unfortunately I have forgotten.
For mains we ordered a cassoulet which is the specialty of the restaurant, and a mussel dish. The mussels were served with a buttery white wine sauce, pomme frittes and a delightful aoli. The serving size was HUGE, probably the amount I normally make for the two of us. They were tender and sweet. The highlight was the cassoulet, which apparently takes 3 days to make. It consists of pork belly, a duck sausage and a duck leg in a harricot bean stew. The long cooking time gives the stew time for all the flavours to meld and the meats were tender and buttery.
We rolled out of the restaurant a little too full for our own good. It was a great meal, at a good price. By the time we left, the place was full, maybe the curse of the doomed restaurant site is over?!

Hangover cure

I may or may not have been hungover this weekend... After a late night, there is nothing I like better than to have a fry up. This weekend I found some smoked salmon in the fridge and had some cream, so decided to make salmon eggs. This non-healthy breakfast consists of beating eggs lightly with as much cream as you can get away with, seasoning with nutmeg and pepper (not salt till its cooked) and then cooking on low heat to make buttery scrambled eggs. I sprinkled some gruyere cheese on the eggs after turing of the heat and allowed it to melt from the residual heat. Serve on toasted sourdough spread with avocado. I also fried some mushrooms in some soysauce just because.

Winter Stew

This post is a few weeks too late. Two weekends ago it was cold and rainy and all I felt like was a warming winter stew. This weekend reached 33C and all I wanted to eat was salad! Anyway I want to post the blog anway as I really do enjoy lamb shanks and that was probably the last time I will for the year...
Lamb Shanks

The recipe is simple. Preheat oven to 200C. Dust four lamb shanks in flour and brown on all sides in a frying pan or the casserole dish to be used in the oven. Remove shanks and in the same pot fry up some diced onion, carrot, celery and garlic until soft. Add half a bottle of red, a bay leaf, some fresh thyme and parsley. Return the shanks, add some stock, season, bring to a simmer and then transfer, covered to an oven. Bake for 30 min at 200C then reduce the heat to 160C. bake for another 90 min, turning the shanks once.

The first night I served this with mashed potatoes, buttery peas and silverbeet braised in lemon. The next day was a school night and I heated the leftovers and served with brown rice. Next time I make this dish I might spend the extra 4 dollars and get the shanks pre-trimmed of fat, as this can be quite a fatty dish otherwise. Still, in a cold night, nothing beats a bit of fat!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Asparagus anonymous

I should change the name of my blog to "I love Asparagus". It seems that ever since spring started, i have had asapargus in the fridge, and have been thinking about what to do next with it. I have even been putting it into curries and stirfries, and made the most beautiful omlette on the weekend which I stupidly didnt take a photo of. I will put a brief description in here anyway as it was just so so so good and will definetly be making more appearances on my brakfast repetoire.

This soup is probably the easiest soup I have ever made. i made it slightly more difficult by shelling my own peas, as they are in season and so so beautiful straight from the pod...

Ok this photo does NOT do this soup justice. We had guests over for dinner and i didnt feel comfortable taking photos of my own soup (it somehow seems a bit insane really). It is actaully really green in colour.

Asparagues and Pea Soup

300g Asparagus sliced finely, tips reserved

300g peas

bunch of parsley

1.2L stock or water

Bring stock to the boil. Add asparagus and peas and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend the soup until creamy. At this point, add the parsley and reblend. Season, add a dollop of cream if you want (it doesnt need it) and add the reserved tips and gently reheat for 5 minutes. Serve with olive baguettes (see previous posts)

Asparagus and Gruyere Omelette

serves 2

5 free range eggs

milk or cream

bunch of asparagus, blanched and sliced into 4 cm lengths

grated gruyere

50g Smoked salmon

Beat eggs and milk/ cream until light. Melt butter in a pan on medium heat. Add a pinch of nutmeg to the eggs and some pepper (no salt until cooked as this shrinks the eggs). Carefully pour egg mixture into hot pan and cook on low heat until the top is still wet but the bottom is beginning to turn golden. On one half of the omelette, add the asparagus and gruyere, fold the omelette over and heat very very gently until the cheese melts. Open the omelette carefully, insert the smoked salmon inside the fold, and plate. Serve with toasted sourdough.

Home baked bread

Nathan working the dough

Nathan has dabbled in the world of bread making, and not without some yummy success. Earlier this year driving up the coast we came upon one of those really cute, small coastal bookshops that had really select books, one of them being 'Dough, simple contemporary bread' by Richard Bertinet, a Frenchman, which included a DVD of him making bread. I originally wanted to make the bread, but after seeing just how much kneading was needed, I admitt I was quite happy to let Nath do it. The first bread he made was a classic white loaf, which he fashioned into baguettes and a fougasse. We ate it all straight out of the oven, with butter, in what I should confess was a bit of a overdose, but it was soso good. The really good thing about this bread was that it only contained 4 ingredients - flour, yeast, water and a pinch of salt. No preservatives, no improvers, just real bread. ANd being hot out of the oven helped too.

Last week Nathan decided to try an olive oil bread. The basic recipe was 500g strong flour, 20 g course semolina, 15g yeast, 10g salt, 50g extravirgin olive oil and 320g water. The bread flour, semolina and yeast were rubbed together to make a crumble. The salt, olive oil and water were added. The dough was 'worked' until it came together from the bench without leaving any part of it behind. The dough is then rested for an hour until it is roughly doubled in volume. the dough is then fashioned into whatever shape is desired, and then left to prove for 30 minutes before baking.

The unrested dough

The rested dugh doubled in size

Nathan then did two things with the dough. He made olive and parmasen sticks with half the batch, and olive baguettes with the other half. We ate them with a pea and asaparagus soup (will blog the recipe to this later...) and was just perfect.

The final product. I want some more now!

I wont lie to you. Making bread in this way is time consuming and it isnt something we can do every day at the moment. It is however such a natural, healthy way to eat bread, I have really found myself not enjoying commercially bought bread (especially presliced) recently, and hope that one day when we gat more time we can start making this an everyday thing. Till that day, once in a blue moon will have to do!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Broad beans the Arabic Way...

I love fresh broadbeans. They remind me of my childhood. In spring my aunt would invite us all over for 'fool' the arabic word for broadbeans. It was cooked with the pod and all, with garlic, onions and lots of lemon. Served with flat bread, raw onion, a chilli and parsley oil and usually a salad or two. Lots of relatives, noise, and eating till ones belly was so full breathing becamea problem.

And that was breakfast!

I dont eat broadbeans for breakfast anymore, but when they are in season, I do buy them and cook them the traditional way. I never understood all those recipes that double pod the beans - the pod is so delicious, all it needs is a bit longer to cook through. Basically, striing the beans and cut off the top and bottom ends, cut into pieces, and fry in olive oil with onions and garlic for a few minutes. Add some lemon juice, a little water, salt, pepper, cumin and corriander and leave to bubble away for around 20 minutes. These days I serve it more in bruschetta style - piled onto sourdough or rye bread (toasted) some parmasen on top, and with a dressed salad, it makes the prefect spring lunch...

Guilty Pleasures

We have been eating a lot of this. It is so so creamy and better than icecream. We have been eating it with strawberries for dessert. There is really no justification for this, it is just nice. Curses to my friend who put me on to it

King Island Yoghurt

Spring time is here...

There are several things that signify the beginning of spring and the end of a bitter and cold winter. Firstly the flowers and birds that have been hiding somewhere for months all come out and give our sense of sight and smell a little nudge. More importantly, the appearance of broadbeans and asparagus at the green grocer, is THE definitive sign that spring is finally with us. And when asaparagus hits a dollar a bunch, I know it is time to cook some sweet, in-season asparagus.

During the week it is just too hard to try anything too complicated and sometimes, the only thing I can make myself whip up is a simple pasta. Luckily asparagus doesnt need a long time to cook and really shines in pasta dishes. Coupled with in-season peas, preferably from the pod if you can find it, this pasta is quick and satisfying...
Pasta with Asparagus, pancetta and peas

1 pack of fettucini (next time i think i would use a smaller pasta like orriechette or spirals)

300g mushrooms, sliced

2 bunches asaparagus, washed, woody end snapped off, and cut into 2 cm pieces

250g peas

8 rashers of pancetta, sliced finiely

white wine

thin cream (I used low fat but I dont like overly creamy pastas)

1 red onion, sliced


pouring cream

Cook the pasta in lots of boiling water until cooked. Drain.

Meanwhile, fry garlic, red onion, and chopped pancetta in olive oil for a few minutes until fragrant. Add mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Add white wine, turn up heat and let sizzle for a minute. Add asparagus, peas and cream, bring to a simmer, and cook until asparagus is cooked, only a few minutes. Season, add to drained pasta, mix well and serve with parmasen cheese.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fennel - how I will miss you in summer!

I have a confession to make. I didnt know what a fennel looked like until 2 years ago! How i had never managed to eat this amazing vegetable for so long I do not know! I fell in love one Saturday morning wandering around the Richmond markets when i noticed a strange white vegetable with green frilly tops.

'Whats that?' ,I asked Nathan

'I dont know', said Nath

Enter old italian guy who laughs at us and tells us it is fennel. What do you do with it we ask. Salads, roast, pasta, everything! Feeling a bit silly we take it home, consult a few recipe books and enter into the wonderful world that is fennel. Since then we have used it salads, and pastas (especially combined with chorizo, mmmmm!) but by far our favourite recipe so far is the fennel bake which is especially lovely coupled with fish. And best of all, it is ridiculuously easy. I can't remember where I got this recipe for the bake from so sorry to the author...
Fennel Bake

2 bulbs of fennel

1 tin of tomatoes


1 large onion

3 gloves garlic

Parmasen cheese

bread crumbs

Cut the fennel into thin slices and fry in olive oil with the onion and garlic until soft. Add the tinned tomotoes, season and let simmer for around 10 minutes. Meanwhile grease a baking tray and preheat the oven to 200C. Add the fennel mixture to the tray with some chopped parsley, top with cheese and then breadcrumbs, and then bake for around 15-20 minutes until golden.

Oven baked red snapper in foil

1 red snapper cleaned and scaled

1 spring onion, slice thinly

garlic, ginger, chilli sliced thinly

fresh corriander

soy sauce


Wash and dry fish with paper towell. Make 4 cuts on each side of the fish in the fattest part of the flesh. Fill with sliced ginger, garlic, corriander, chilli and spring onion. In the cavity of the fish put in exra herbs as well as thinly sliced lemon slices. Pour soy sauce over fish and season well. Wrap the fish in 2 layers of foil to potect leakage, and bake in a hot oven (200C) for 20 minutes or until cooked.

Sorry about the terrible photos!

We ate these two dishes with steamed rice. The perfect meal!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wild Mushroom Risotto

I love risotto. Its buttery ozziness, its cheese undertones and the creamy rice. I do always find it takes me longer than the 20 minutes that most recipe books claim it takes, maybe I just have very absorbant arborio rice? This is not a recipe for a diet, but I think once in a while it is pretty spot on.

When I lived in Richmond I used to buy my wild mushrooms from a stall where I never knew which mushrooms would be for sale, but they were always brilliant. One week the trader had some interesting mushrooms which were hollow in the middle (I can't remeber what they were called) and he suggested I stuff them with blue cheese and cook them in butter with onions and garlic. Yum! Anyway now i live in the burbs so on a weeknight when I decide I need a mushroom risotto, I am at the mercy of Coles. This time I bought some shitake and oyster mushrooms which turned out ok, but I would have preffered swiss brown or chesnut.

The dried porcini mushrooms are an absolute must. I must admit I am not a fan of what they smell like out of the pack but after soaking for 20 minutes they are so earthy and warming.

Wild Mushroom Risotto

300g arborio or other short grain rice

1L chicken stock, hot

10g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes

5 spring onions sliced

2 cloves garlic

300g mixed fresh mushrooms, sliced

150ml white wine

30 g parmesan cheese, grated and extra for serving

Soak the porcini mushrooms and drain the liquid into the boiling stock. Chop the mushrooms.

Fry the onions, garlic and mushrooms in butter until the mushrooms have reabsorbed the liquid they released. Add the rice and fry on high heat for around 3 minutes, until coated in the mixture and starting to go clear on the edges.

Add the white wine and stir until absorbed. Turn the heat down and start adding the stock, one ladel at a time, stirring continuously until liquid absorbed before adding more stock. This usually takes me around 20-30 minutes. The rice is ready when it is still firm, but creamy.

Add a knob of butter and the parmesan, turn of the heat, mix well and leave to sit for 2 minutes.

Serve on warmed plates with extra parmesan if desired. You can see I like my cheese ;)


P.S. Sorry about the photos, I need to learn how to take nice food photos...

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Supper Inn

Supper Inn
15 Celestial Ave

The first time I went to Supper inn was about 4 years ago. A friend and i had gone to see a band at Ding Dong on a Friday night and had somehow thought beer was a good substitute for food. When it got to about 1am we were starving but really didnt feel like souvlaki. Walking down little bourke, we saw people walking into an alley and dissapearing into what looked like a Chinese restaraunt. Following them we found ourselves walking up some narrow stairs with decor of a sauna room and when we got to the top were suprised to find a very busy dining room and the most delcious smells two slightly tipsy and very hungry girls could smell...

I have been back there over the years many times, and not just at 1am. Last night i went there with some girlfriends for dinner who had never been there before and while moaning in delight over the pork ribs in mandarin sauce and peking duck, thanked me for finding it and taking them.

For you see, even though i have been there many times, i still dont always find it. There is something about Melbourne laneways that confuse me and make it very hard for me to retrace my steps. All i ever remember about the lane Supper Inn is on is that it has bluestone on the road. Not very helpful?!

The food is what people go for, definitely not the ambience or the customer service. And who cares about that stuff anyway, when you are eating the best congee in Melbourne, or the spare ribs, or the schezeun beef or mmmmmm, its all good. Last night we also got the deepfried eggplant, tofu and green beans which was so so good. I love what the Chinese do to eggplant. There is a wine list which is expensive but it is BYO too and there is some rather good Chinese Beer.

So if you havent tried this place yet, hurry! I am hungry just thinking about it. Just be prepared for a queue and some rather rude service.

My mothers chicken soup

I am not feeling well.

A cold has been creeping up on me since Monday night when I went to see Tori Amos at Hamer Hall. I then sent it into overdrive by going out last night and drinking a little too much red wine. Today i was meant to play soccer, but all I have done so far is read recipe books and eat some chicken soup which was in the freezer from one of my big batches I made a couple of months ago. mmmmm

I think most people have a chicken soup recipe that they think is the best and make in winter when the dreaded cold has taken hold. But this really is the best chicken soup recipe ever. My mum made it for me as a child, and over the years I have altered it to include ginger and lemongrass, but the basic recipe is the same. Even fiancee Nathan now calls it the best chicken soup, though maybe the fact someone else makes it for him when he feels crook is why he likes it so much...

The best ever chicken soup recipe

Makes enough for about 6 serves, I usually freeze most of it

6-8 chicken drumsticks, excess fat removed

bay leaf

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

lemongrass stalk finely chopped

ginger finely sliced

cinnamon and nutmeg

2 onions, coarsely chopped

2 carrots, coarsley chopped

celery pieces

handful of basmatti rice

large bunch of parsley (flat leaf)

lemon to serve

Combine chicken, bay leaf, carrots, celery, cinnamon, nutmeg and onion in a large pot and cover with water. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for at least one hour

Strain stock through a seive, removing the chicken pieces to a plate and discarding everything else. Add the garlic, ginger and lemongrass to the stock and simmer 20 minutes. At this point I usually refrigerate the stock overnight and the next day remove the layer of fat that floats to the top. The next day, remove the chicken from the bones, add to the stock and bring to the boil.

Add the rice after washing it thoroughly and boil 15 minutes. Chop the parsley and add to the soup and allow to cook for at least 5 minutes. Serve with a good squeeze of lemon.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How one chicken can feed two people for a week

A couple of months ago, i read an article in The Age by Brigette Hafner describing a 'pot au poulet'; a one pot chicken meal, which I saved to my files thinking it would be a great winter warmer, and then promptly forgot about it. There is nothing I like more in winter than chucking a few things into a pot and letting it simmer for a couple of hours, warming the house with heavenly smells and allowing all the flavours to meld together. Last weekend, after running myself ragged around town doing errands, I started craving a hearty warming meal, and as the cold winter weather reappeared (as it likes to do of and on again in Melbourne until November), my thoughts turned to this recipe. So of I went to the grocery store on Sunday afternoon in search of a large organic chook. As I had missed all the markets I found myself in a shopping centre and NOT ONE SHOP had an organic chicken. After cutting my losses and buying the best looking chook I could i returned home to start my pot.

This recipe was as simple as it gets. Chuck a chicken, some herbs, leeks, celery, carrots and garlic into a pot with wine, stock, spices and some kipfler potatoes and turnips (though I accidentally bought parsnips instead... ) and simmer for 2 hours.

The uncooked pot

After 2 hours the chook was removed to a serving platter with the potatoes and parsnip and served with grilled sourdough rye bread and creme fraich mixed with horseradish. I also steamed some silverbeet and doused it in lemon.

Notice there is no photo of the finished product? That is becasue it didnt look so good with everything a bit mushy and the chicken falling to pieces. The chicken was nice, but most of the flavour had gone into the stock, and if it wasnt for the creme fraich, the dinner would have been a bit plain. Thank god for creme fraich, it makes everything better.

So, the left over chicken breast was used to make sandwhiches for work the next day ( a whole chicken for 2 people is way too much, even if you do live with a bottomless pitt called nathan). By Tuesday I was starting to feel the ill effects of the weather and had a bad cold coming on. All i wanted was soup, made using the stock from the pot au poulet, and at Brigette's advise, i was planning on making an onion soup, as I had never made one before, and it sounded like something that would be good for a cold.

Of course I was feeling rubbish so Nathan offered to make it for me. It is nice to have boys around sometimes.

After consulting my trusty Cooks Companion and finding Stephanie Alexanders version way too lenthy, I gave Nathan the recipe from Leane Kitchen's cookbook. Recipe follows, with slight modifications...

French onion Soup

650g small brown onions

flour, butter

2 cloves garlic

sprigs of thyme, rosemary, a bay leaf

1 cup white wine

2L stock

baguette (day old)

gruyere cheese

Slice the onion into thin slices and fry in 60g butter at low heat for around 30 minutes until starting to caramelise and smells good, stirring frequently. Add the finely chopped garlic with 2 tablespoons of flour and fryfor 2 minutes at low heat. Add the herbs, stock, wine and salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Leave for 25 minutes until the onions have resorbed the moisture.

To serve, cut baguette into slices and grill on the both sides, then add shredded gruyere and grill until melted. Put cheesy bread into soup bowls and ladel soup over the top.

This soup was really really good. And I think that was becasue of the stock. Nathan you did a great job though, thankyou! We ate this for 2 nights and I am starting to feel much better. Making stock with a whole chook and lots of vegies seems to be a brilliant way to do things, as the stock was much more flavoured than my usual stock made from chicken drumsticks, and so I just might start doing this more often...

So that was 4 meals for 2 from one chook. Pretty good I think!


this is just a test as I have never done this before. Soon I will start posting photos and comments of my eating adventures