Friday, January 25, 2008

Koukla Café, Daylesford

82 Vincent St, Daylesford VIC 3460
Last weekend we took a drive through the torrential rain towards Daylesford to visit some friends who had moved there. After a lazy afternoon of sausages and sitting on the front porch and enjoying the view, we decided to walk around the lake before heading back to Melbourne. I have been to Daylesford before, but all I have seen is the Hepburn springs and a highly recommended tarot reader with some girlfriends (and no, nothing she said came true). This afternoon in Daylesford was so peaceful- the weather had cleared a little but there were not too many people around, making the walk very quiet and private.

After the walk we decided to have dinner in Daylesford before the drive home. We debated trying the Lakehouse, a highly recommended restaurant that has consistently won accolades over the years as being the best country restaurant in Victoria. Realising that we were not in a mood for white tablecloths and formal service (and the distinct possibility we would not get a table), we decided to try something less formal. Strolling up and down Vincent St, the main street in Daylesford, we could not see too many places open. Considering what a roaring trade this town does from Melbourne weekenders, we were surprised. About to give up, we spied Frango and Frangos, a wine bar/ restaurant that looked promising. Walking closer to it I saw those damned white tablecloths and my heart dropped a little. On closer inspection, next door was a café/ pizza place called Koukla that looked more what I was craving – long wooden tables made from a dark rich wood, a wood fired pizza oven, and a comfortable atmosphere.

Settling in on a beautiful old table, amongst some mismatched furniture, we ordered food and some red wine. The night was cold for summer and the warmth from the wood fire was welcoming. The atmosphere was one not unlike something you would expect to see in the inner city of Melbourne, if a little quieter. In one corner was a group of girls on a hens night, but they were quietly enjoying their food.

We decided on a pizza to share, and a roast tomato and basil soup. I am not a big fan of tomato soups, but there was a basket of the most beautifully red ripe tomatoes on the front corner that made me want all things tomato. I asked Nathan to take the basket and run on the way out later that evening but he didn’t and my handbag was too small ;P I love the tomato season, it reminds me of my childhood when we grew tomatoes and would pick them off the vine and eat them, warm, sweet and juicy, with a smell that I never get from supermarket tomatoes.

I discovered that my phone takes photos and can end up on the computer. Bless technology; I think I am slowly getting it! Of course, I realised this halfway through the meal, so apologies for the half eaten photos but I have to share…

The soup was incredible. It had basil leaves scattered through it as well as some small potato chunks and was warm, sweet, and so so good. It was served with some good sourdough. I am inspired to try to replicate this at home, so hopefully will have something to show for this soon!
The pizza was a mushroom, caramelised onion and sage pizza. It possibly had some boccocini in it too. This pizza had a sourdough base according to the menu, and was just beautiful. Nath made the rather bold claim that this was better than the pizza at I carusi and D.O.C, and he might almost be right. The toppings were not too overpowering and the sage was a great flavour enhancer to the pizza.

After one glass of red and our mains I was feeling a little sleepy, but the dessert menu had caught my eye. Particularly the peach and mascarpone pizza. We ordered this to share, and by this time my phone had run out of battery so I have no photo to share. This was just beautiful. The sweetness and juice of the peaches cut through the heaviness of the mascarpone well. Oh god I want some now!

A perfect meal for a lazy cold summer day. The wine and food knocked me out as soon as I got in the car, and I slept like a baby until we got home. I am definitely coming back here next time I am in town.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Kangaroo Lasagne

As promised, here is the recipe for the kangaroo lasagne. Lower in fat than traditional lasagne, better for the environment than beef, pork and veal, and also a lot cheaper ($6/kg of kangaroo mince? You don’t get cheaper than that!).

The bolognaise sauce can be used for any minced meat. I have found over the years that everyone does something different to their bolognaise or ‘bog’ sauce. So I have slowly collected everyone’s ‘secret’ ingredient into my own until I have formed what I think is the best sauce ever (big call that one!). The most important thing is to have a good quality sugo (tomato puree), and use fresh herbs.

Serves 6 (or 2 all week! Freezes well)


1kg kangaroo mince
2 big brown onions, diced
As much garlic as you like, minced
Celery stalks and inner leaves, diced
2 carrots, diced
Red capsicum, diced
Zucchini, diced
Handful of diced mushrooms
1 cup of verjuice or wine
200g diced pancetta or bacon
Jar of good quality sugo
Tinned tomatoes
Handful of parsley and basil, finely chopped
Teaspoon curry powder
Tablespoon of vegemite
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

Béchamel Sauce

40g butter
40g flour
1 cup milk
Nutmeg, cheese

Fresh lasagne sheets
Grated light mozzarella if on a diet, otherwise I use a mixture of gruyere and parmasen.

For the bog, brown the mince in a large pot with some ground pepper and set aside. In the same pot, fry onion, celery, capsicum, pancetta and carrots for 10 minutes until cooked and starting to go sweet. Add the zucchini, mushroom and fry for a few minutes. Add the verjuice and cook on high heat until reduced by half. Add the sugo and tomatoes, curry, balsamic and vegemite, season well, and bring to a simmer. Add a bay leaf and a cinnamon stick if you want. Leave on a low simmer for at least an hour, but the longer the better. It is even better if you make this the day before eating, as the flavours really infuse. This can be frozen and heated later for spaghetti sauce or lasagne. Towards the last 20 minutes, add the fresh herbs and stir in. taste for seasoning. Sometimes I add a little sugar.

For the béchamel, melt the butter on low heat and then beat in the flour until well combined. Add the milk and slowly heat up while stirring all the time until the mixture thickens. At this point I add nutmeg and whatever cheese I am using.

To assemble lasagne, alternate layers of lasagne sheets, bog and béchamel in a deep lasagne dish. Finish with béchamel and then top with cheese. Bake at 180C for 40 minutes or until cheese is golden. Serve with a fresh salad, bread and preferably a big glass of red. Share with kookaburras if you dare!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Kangaroo Lasagne

In an attempt to lighten up my cooking, and to satisfy a lasagne craving, I made kangaroo mince lasagne. It turned out quite good, though I am a little dubious about the low fat claim due to still using bechamel and pancetta. it was yummy though! And apparently, the kookaburras liked it too - this is a photo of them this morning waiting for leftover lasagne, and then eating it out of Nathans hand!
I'll post the recipe tonight but loved the birds!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lemon Yoghurt Cake. Or what to bake when you have nothing in the cupboard

I love reading cookbooks. I can read them for hours dreaming about what I could make. I love the photos, the possibilities. What I don’t really do so much is bake desserts, though i like looking at photos of them. They seem fiddly, time consuming and then there is a cake and only 2 people to eat it. Which isn’t really a problem except Nath has no stop mechanism. Ok neither do I…Actually I think I have only made 3 cakes in my life and all in the last 12 months. A carrot cake for Naths birthday (after much begging), a chocolate flourless cake (so so good) and now a yoghurt cake. This was served with macerated fruit, and a dollop of icecream. And it fed us 3 times so that’s pretty decent for the amount of mess I made (whisking up eggs is not my forte)…

Taken from Neil Perry’s good food…

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 22cm spring form cake tin and line with baking paper. Beat 4 egg yolks with 100g sugar to a thick, pale cream. Beat in 3tbs plain flour until smooth, 400g of Greek style yoghurt, and then the zest and juice of a lemon. The 4 egg whites are then whisked until stiff and folded into the yoghurt mixture. The mixture is poured into the prepared tin and baked for 50 minutes. After cooling, dust the cake with icing sugar. This is a bit like a cheese cake, except lower in fat (I used fat free greek yoghurt and it worked fine)

To make a fruit salad, place fruit such as peaches, blueberries and mango into a bowl with lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. Split a vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds and combine with the fruit mixture. Cover and set aside for at least an hour at room temperature to macerate.

Hangover Breakfast Cure No. 2

It took me a while to face food this morning but when I did, I was craving two things, chorizo and baked beans. Ordinarily I would make my own baked beans, but due to my pounding headache, I used a can. Nothing wrong with that. Right? And you know what they say, if you are craving something, it means your body needs it…

Last week I had made Bill Grangers garlic Spanish style mushrooms which was great so today I tarted them up with some chorizo, and I have to say, it was just what I needed!

Basically, I fried some chorizo slices for about 5 minutes till crisp. I removed them from the pan, added some small button mushrooms (whole) and fried until golden (2-3 min). I then removed those from the pan, and fried a clove of finely chopped garlic and a chopped birds eye chilli until golden. The mushrooms and chorizo were returned to the pan and mixed until the garlic mixture coated the mushrooms. A big handful of finely chopped parsley was added to finish the dish. Yum! Served with toast, poached eggs and baked beans on the deck in the sun.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Easy Chicken Stirfry

Second recipe in my cookbook for my brother...

Chicken, Cashew and Basil Stir-fry
Serves 4
500g chicken breast sliced thinly (free range is better)
Spring onions, 2cm pieces
Red Capsicum sliced thinly
Other vegies such as celery, carrot, mushrooms, baby corn, zucchini, asparagus, snow peas - sliced thinly
Bok choy or bean sprouts or chinese cabbage
Marinade; 2 tbs White wine, sherry or rice wine, 2 tbs soy sauce, 1tsp sugar, Sesame oil, 1 tbs corn flour
2 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs sweet chilli sauce
Cashews (optional)
Basil or Thai basil

If you have time, the best thing to do is marinade the chicken for 30 minutes or for as long as you can. Combine ginger, garlic, white wine, soy, cornflour, sugar and sesame oil in a bowl with the chicken and refrigerate. In the meantime, chop and prepare all the other ingredients. When everything is chopped and ready, start to cook.
The cooking itself will take between 5 and 10 minutes so it is important to have everything ready. Heat a wok with peanut oil (much better for stir frying than olive oil) and fry the chicken for two minutes, until opaque. Add the capsicum and other vegetables (except bok choy) for two minutes only on high heat. Add the bok choy and if you have some white wine add a tbs now too and fry for 1 minute, until bok choy has wilted. Add sauces and stir through wok for 2 minutes until hot, and chicken is cooked through. Stir through spring onion. Add basil and cashews and serve over cooked brown or basmati rice. Some finely chopped red chilli is also good as a garnish.

Note: You can use other nuts such as almonds and as much or as little vegies as you like. The more vegies you have the longer they will take to cook so add the longest cooking vegies first such as carrots and capsicum. You can replace the basil with fresh coriander.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Couscous salad

Master Recipe for Couscous Salad

This recipe is a ‘master’ recipe which means I never make it the same way – use whatever vegies, cheeses or meats you have in the fridge, and any herbs you have too. It is great as a side dish to accompany meat such as lamb or chicken, or as a main meal if you jazz it up with say some grilled pumpkin. It takes about 10 minutes total to make and is very light on dirty dishes. I also sometimes add canned lentils for more legumes. You can make it more Italian with basil and boccocini, or Moroccan with cumin, coriander, turmeric, lemon and haloumi.

For two, with leftovers for lunch the next day. Makes enough for big meals.

1 cup couscous
1 cup boiling water
Red capsicum, diced
1 can chickpeas, drained and washed
Cucumber, diced
Celery, finely sliced
Carrot, diced
Tomato or cherry tomatoes, diced
Red onion, finely diced
Herbs such as parsley, basil, coriander or mint finely chopped
Cheese such as boccocini, haloumi (is great fried) or fetta
Olive oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Seasoning to taste

To prepare the couscous, bring 1 cup of water to the boil with some salt and if you like some seasonings such as cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon or anything! Garlic is good too. Add the couscous, turn of the heat and leave for 5 minutes. Add some oil, turn the heat onto high and fluff with a fork for about 1 minute before removing from heat.

Combine all ingredients into a large bowl, mix and add olive oil and balsamic, and lemon if you are using haloumi.

Happy New Year

Sorry about the lack of posts, life went crazy leading up to Xmas and the New Year! Hope everyone had a good holiday season and ate some interesting food. Many intended posts have been left by the wayside but to summarize what has been rocking my boat this month...
1) Marinated white anchovies bought from Ripe, Sassafras. Unbelievably good.
2) All fresh seafood.
3) Mascopone filled figs
4) Lots of salads
5) Tapas style dinner
My family and friends have obviously caught on to my food fetish and I have recently become the owner of
1) Maggie Beers massive cook book
2) 1080 - a collection of spanish recipes, sold in spain for 30 years and finally translated into english
3) Neil perry's Good Food
4) Bill Granger's Holiday
SO far I have tried almost all the tapas recipes in Bill Grangers book. The winner being the fennel and white anchovy salad. Maggie Beers book is so massive I am not sure where to start!
The other interesting thing that has happened to me lately is that 'someone' left my camera in Sydney so I havent been able to take photos of food lately. Luckily, it is on its way to melbourne via a cousin (I hope!)
For Christmas, I made my brother a little recipe book of my easiest and cheapest recipes. He is moving out of home next month and he had me worried during his last living away from home arrangement when he lived on eggs, potatos and cheese! So I think i will put these on eventually - stay tuned! I think i will start with my couscous salad as it is a summer staple here due to its ease and yumminess!