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 http://thebreakfastblog.blogspot.com/2005/12/ripe-sassafras.html 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...