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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Garagistes and Josef Cromy: Fine Dining in Tasmania

Tasmania is renowned for its wonderful local food and wine and boasts a number of high end dining experiences.

I spent a few days eating and drinking at some fabulous – and would be fabulous – restaurants in Hobart and Launceston.

Smolt http://www.smolt.com.au/ and Garagistes http://www.garagistes.com.au/ in Hobart; Mud http://www.mudbar.com.au/, Stillwater http://www.stillwater.com.au/, Josef Cromy http://www.josefchromy.com.au/ and Black Cow http://blackcowbistro.com.au/ in Launceston.

Garagistes and Josef Cromy provided some “food” for thought on gastronomic pleasure, food ethics and hype versus substance.

There was a certain je ne sais quoi as we entered the converted garage in Hobart to dine at Garagistes. The minamlist decor, the open kitchen and the communal tables were inviting. The high tables with high chairs to match were not…

The je ne sais quoi for me was never resolved. I found it hard to get a handle on the raison d’etre behind the dining experience. While advocating locally sourced produce (food) the wines were predominantly European and American – fine in itself – but incongruous for me in terms of the restaurant’s vision.

The food was… intriguing. Not always to my taste.

The menu was in the form of a degustation. While the opportunity to slowly work your way through an evolving number of courses is sophisticated and has a certain mathematical satisfaction, timing, as in theatre and in life, is everything. Twenty minutes between courses was frustrating and made more so when late arrival diners were pushed through their dining experience with expediency.

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The open kitchen looked well organized and the food service seemed very professional. The dishes, too were immaculately executed. But as a diner I felt the colour and display of the food lacked vibrancy. Some dishes were rewarding in terms of taste, while others lacked satisfaction.

The best dish was the vegetarian option given to me in place of scampi as I have a shellfish allergy. Home made curd – a kind of soft haloumi – was utterly delicious.IMG_4155

The wagyu bavette take on “steak diane” was also good, if a little difficult for me to associate with the flambeed steak of another era.

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The most disappointing was the dessert – this quirky writer loves sweet things to which this blog attests. A poached quince with some honey cream was miniscule and indistinct in flavours.

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Je ne sais quoi kind of sums up the experience. I still don’t really know what the impact of the meal was supposed to be.

The restaurant associated with the Josef Cromy winery in Launceston was another sensory experience altogether. A beautiful dining space, warm and inviting, a menu that ate as well as it read. No hype here – beautiful produce, well cooked, presented on the plate with colour and panache, and flavours that were distinct, well articulated and just made you want to eat more.

The presentation and cooking were sophisticated, with dishes with a simple but unifying  integrity.

Here are two dishes that I loved:

Free Range Chicken Breast – Black pudding and almond crumble, grilled peach, petite garden leaves, apple and olive oil emulsionIMG_4210

Assiette Glacée – A selection of ice cream, sorbet or gelato. Crumble short bread, little meringues, Glendale olive oil, natural pop corn

Yum! The addition of olive oil was intriguing and really worked. The selection was mango sorbet, chocolate and tiramisu ice creams.

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This was my fellow diner’s choice: Pineapple Tart Tatin –  Pineapple and brown sugar tart, Lime and chili syrup, candied ginger,
 Coconut sorbet

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Of course these impressions of two very different dining experiences are highly subjective. Tasmania is a wonderful place to eat – I would suggest go eat and see what you think.

A final image – the mural at Black Cow in Launcseton. Best steak ever!

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Crumble and Conserves

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This is a quick fix dessert which utilizes home made – or store bought – preserves and a crumble topping.

Create a simple deconstruction by scattering baked crumble on a plate with a few tablespoons of conserves and some double cream or thick yoghurt.

Crumble recipe:

Ingredients
100 gms plain flour
75 gms  butter at room temperature
Pinch of salt
50 gms dark brown sugar
25 gms golden syrup
50 gms rolled oats
20 gms chopped macadamias and almonds

Method

Preheat oven  to 175 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place the flour, butter, salt and sugar into a bowl, and rub the butter into the other ingredients until the mixture forms coarse breadcrumbs.
Place mixture into the bowl of a food processor, add golden syrup, oats and chopped nuts, and pulse gently to combine.
Turn out the crumble mixture onto the lined baking tray, spread the mixture evenly and bake the crumble for 15-20 minutes, stirring once during the cooking time, until the crumble is toasted.
Remove from oven, and when cool, break up any large pieces. It’s important to have a combination of small and large crumble pieces. You can use the crumble as is or freeze it and it keeps for ages!

Conserves: Strawberry, apricot, plum and cumquat are pictured here. Here are a few recipes:

https://thequirkandthecool.com/2013/09/15/jams-marmalades-and-conserves-2013/

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Viv’s Baby Meringues

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These meringues were created for a friend soon to have her first baby. A book of advice, wise sayings and best wishes was presented to the mother-to-be at her baby shower.

I thought the recipe for some “baby” meringues would be appropriate for my contribution to the book!

I made a basic meringue recipe, and coloured and flavoured four different kinds of meringues.

Rose water meringues: a drop of rose water and a couple of drops of red food colouring

Orange meringues: a drop of orange flower water and one drop of orange food colouring

Pear meringues: a drop of pear essence and a couple of drops of green food colouring

Almond meringues: a drop of almond essence and one drop of blue food colouring

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Ingredients

3 egg free range whites
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup caster sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to very slow – 135 degrees C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Beat egg whites at low speed with an electric mixer until frothy, add cream of tartar and beat on highest speed until peaks hold their shape. Gradually beat in 2 tablespoons of the measured sugar and continue beating for 2-3 minutes. Add all the remaining sugar at once, fold in quickly and lightly with a metal spoon.

Add your flavouring at this point or food colour. Spoon or pipe onto prepared trays. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Leave in oven for a further 1/2 hour or until dry – longer is better. When cool, store in an airtight container.

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Easter Sunday Pastries

 

IMG_0754Easter Sunday 2014 and another beautiful balmy day in the Easter holiday break. Lunch in the garden again, this time lamb to mark the special day.

I barbecued a butterflied leg of lamb, served it with baby new potatoes, Bill Granger’s Asparagus, Pea and Feta Salad (again) and a green salad.

Dessert was the star today – two different pastries focusing on seasonal fruit.

Fig and Raspberry Mille Feuille

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Not really a recipe, more an assembly.

Roll out a quantity of store-bought puff pastry (I buy Careme brand as it’s a butter puff and is very light).  The amount you use is entirely dependent on how many mille feuilles you want to end up with.

Cut into long rectangles. Bake according to the directions on the packet, usually about 10-15 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Remove from the oven and cut rectangles into individual pastry lengths. Whiles still warm flatten gently if the pieces are too”puffed”. You can also split the pastry in half to make it easier to fill, and also so that each half of the pastry is not too hard to eat.

When cool, fill with whipped cream flavoured with a little vanilla paste and fresh fruit. I used figs and raspberries as both are delicious and good value at the moment in April in Sydney.IMG_0739

Bill Granger’s Pear Shortcake

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I made a strawberry version of this cake last week and it was so more-ish I had to do it again! This recipe is closer to Bill’s but I included plums as well as a good dollop of my plum and raisin jam.

Ingredients

Filling
30 g unsalted butter, softened

40 g caster sugar

2 small pears and 4 plums

1 tsp vanilla paste

2 tbsp plum jam*

Milk, to brush the pastry

1 tbsp demerara sugar

2 tbsp flaked almonds

Shortcake pastry


125 g unsalted butter

125 g castor sugar

1 egg, lightly beaten

175 plain flour

50 g ground almonds

1 tsp baking powder

Method
Place the butter, caster sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes until the butter melts and sugar dissolves.

Add the chopped pears and plums and cook over low heat for 8 minutes or until the fruit is soft. Remove from the heat and stir through the plum jam, being careful not to break up the fruit. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

For the shortcake, beat the butter and castor sugar until thick and creamy. Add the egg and mix well. Add the flour, almond meal and baking powder, then stir until combined. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to just bring the mixture together. Divide the dough in half, pat in to discs, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C. Grease and line a 24cm springform cake tin. On a lightly floured surface, roll each dough portion into a round about the size of the tin, then press one round into tin. Spoon the pear and plum mixture and any juices over the dough, leaving a small border around the edge.

Top with the remaining dough round and press the edges together to seal. Brush with milk and sprinkle with demerara sugar and flaked almonds.

Bake for 30 minutes or until until golden (cover loosely with foil if browning too quickly). Cool in tin for 20 minutes before carefully removing from the tin.

*The recipe for plum and raisin jam: https://thequirkandthecool.com/2013/04/28/autumn-jams/

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Easter Friday Lunch

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On Good Friday 2014 we enjoyed the warm Sydney autumn weather with a fish lunch out in the garden. It was a chance to revisit some recipes  – with varying degrees of success!

Hot smoking salmon is really easy and I have now almost perfected the technique. Coconut rice is great with fish, and I added in Bill Granger’s  Asparagus, Pea and Feta Salad, minus the broad beans, of which I’m not overly fond.

Dessert was another attempt at cooking soufflés, this time a mixed berry soufflé. They looked cooked – but unfortunately erupted in a meringue Vesuvius when a spoon was plunged into the centre!

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So it’s back to the drawing board as far as soufflés go…

Hot Smoked Salmon with Coconut Rice:  https://thequirkandthecool.com/2014/03/26/hot-smoked-chili-salmon/

Asparagus, Pea and Feta Salad

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Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, roughly chopped
250 g asparagus, halved lengthways and widthways
A handful of fresh or frozen peas
75 ml vegetable stock
100 g feta cheese, crumbled
A few mint leaves, torn
½ lemon, zested

Method

Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the leek and asparagus, season with sea salt and cook for 5 minutes to soften.
Add the broad beans and peas, pour in the stock and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the vegetables are just tender and the stock has reduced. Serve topped with the feta, mint and lemon zest.

Berry Soufflé:  https://thequirkandthecool.com/2014/04/05/passionfruit-souffle/

I substituted a cooked berry, almost jam like mixture for the passionfruit.IMG_0670

Berry Mixture

Put 150 g mixed berries and 3  tbsp caster sugar in a saucepan and cook  gently until liquid is reduced and the fruit is of a jam-like consistency.

The prescribed 8 minute cooking time gave me soufflés that were cooked on top and runny in the middle. So longer cooking at a slightly lower temperature??

 

 

 

Fig and Apple Tarte Tatin

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Tarte tatin is one of my favourite tarts to make because it’s so easy.

I bought some lovely fruit on the weekend from the Orange Grove Markets in Lilyfield.There is a particular fruit and veg stall that stocks some varieties of fruit not commonly available. Intrigued, I bought some apples and pears on spec just to taste and to assess their “cookability”.

The apples, pictured below are “Belle de Boskoop” and, as the sign said, they are good for cooking, so I included them in my tarte tatin. IMG_4010Figs are still plentiful and relatively cheap in the autumn months, so they went in the tart too.

I made this tarte tatin without a recipe, so here is a guide to concocting the delicious tart.

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Ingredients

A couple of tbls butter

A couple of tbls brown sugar

1/4 cup liqueur muscat or tokay or botrytis dessert wine

3-4 figs quartered

1-2 cooking apples sliced

Store bought puff pastry (must be butter) to cover the tart

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C fan forced.

Melt the butter in heavy bottomed frying pan or tarte tatin pan*. Add the brown sugar and cook gently till butter and sugar are amalgamated. Add the muscat or other alcohol and cook till the liquid has reduced slightly and thickened. Place the fruit in the syrup and cook gently till the fruit is softened but still holds it shape.

Place a disc of puff pastry over the top of the tarte tatin pan if using, or transfer the fruit and syrup to a shallow cake tin and place the puff pastry on top.  Cook for 10 minutes at 200 degrees C then turn oven down to 160 degrees C and cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes or until the pastry is browned and puffed on top.

Remove from oven, leave for 5 minutes. Carefully turn out onto a serving plate. Serve warm with thick cream or ice cream. Also great cold as the juices thicken and the flavours meld.

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*Tarte tatin pans are specifically designed to cook the fruit on the stove top and then can be transferred to the oven for baking. Available from cookware shops.

 

 

Jamie Oliver’s Hot Cross Buns

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I am very excited to have – almost – mastered hot cross buns! In previous years when Easter approached I have sought out hot cross bun recipes looking for the “perfect” bun. Spiced, fruity and not too difficult to achieve. I have ended up with clunky door stops or miserable shriveled little balls. I even tried using a bread machine with little success…the machine is safely stowed away, gathering dust, in the back of a cupboard now.

So I thought I would give Mr Oliver a go and see what he came up with. This is from Jamie Magazine Issue 18:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/magazine/recipes-view.php?title=hot-cross-buns

I am very happy with the result! They taste good and even look like hot cross buns!

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I tweaked a little: the 220 degrees C temperature seemed very hot, so I took it down to 200 degrees C.

Also, I halved the “cross” ingredients : 50g instead of 100g flour and 25 ml water rather than 50. You can make plenty of crosses from the smaller quantities.

After tasting, I think that the fruit quantities need increasing and the spice quantity definitely needs to be more. I used cinnamon and nutmeg instead of mixed spice, too.

These latter comments are a matter of taste  – I have left Jamie’s fruit and spice quantities as is in this version, but I will be putting more of each in next time I bake hot cross buns.

Ingredients

Dough
50g sugar
7g sachet dried yeast
450g flour
2 tsp mixed spice or 1 tsp each cinnamon and nutmeg.
100g mixed dried fruit
25g chopped mixed peel
Zest of 1 orange
1 egg, beaten
50g butter, melted
50ml milk, warmed

Decoration
50g flour mixed with about 25 ml water to make a dough  + 1 beaten egg for brushing

Sticky glaze
2 tbsp sugar
Juice of 1 orange

Method

Mix 1 teaspoon of the sugar with the yeast and 150ml tepid water in a jug until frothy.

Sift the flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and the mixed spice into a large bowl, then add the dried fruit, peel, orange zest and remaining sugar.

Make a well in the middle and pour in the yeast mixture, then add the beaten egg, melted butter and 40ml warmed milk. Using a fork or wooden spoon, stir in a circular motion until you have a dough. Add a little more milk if the dough is too dry.

Place the dough on a clean surface dusted with flour and knead until it is smooth and glossy, about 5 minutes. Place the dough in a large mixing bowl and cover with a clean, damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place to prove until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

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Knock the dough back and knead again to its original size. Divide the dough into 12 evenly sized pieces and shape into round buns. Place on a lightly greased baking tray, spaced well apart. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave to rise again until doubled in size, about 35–40 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.  For the decoration, place the dough or shortcrust pastry on a clean surface dusted with flour and roll into a sausage about 1cm thick. Cut the sausage in half, and cut each half into 6 pieces. Roll out each piece again to make 2 thinner, 5mm strips of about 8cm long. You should have 24 strips in total. Brush the risen buns with some of the beaten egg and lay the dough strips on top in the shape of a cross.

Brush with the rest of the beaten egg and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden.

Meanwhile for the glaze, place the sugar and juice in a pan and gently heat until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is bubbling. Brush the buns with the glaze.

Eat immediately with lashings of butter, or serve toasted the next day.

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