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