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Monthly Archives: April 2017

Dinner by Heston, Melbourne, and other Melbourne Food Delights

I recently visited Melbourne, Australia’s southern foodie destination. It’s fair to say that in 48 hours my travel companion Ms D and I sampled quite a few notable Melbourne food institutions.

The Cellar Bar, the late night wine bar of its big sister Grossi Florentino next door, was a brilliant spot to eat in the city, on the pavement, after a show. Their spaghetti cacio e pepe was outstanding!

The next morning we lined up at Lune Croissanterie in Fitzroy, for their famous croissants. I had also wanted to try their kouign amann pastries, and cruffins, the first of which was created by Lune Croissanterie in 2013. I was disappointed that neither was available on that day, as I would have liked to taste as a comparison, as I have tried my hand at making my own kouign amann and cruffins, see my post. The croissant was very good, with excellent lamination, but worth traveling from Sydney for? Hmmm.

Croissant making on the premises.

The second breakfast that morning was at East Elevation, in Brunswick, a warm, rustic cafe in a huge open warehouse type space. The food was good! And they make chocolates too!

Some breakfast offerings at East Elevation.  Me – Ricotta Pancakes with Peaches and Berries; Ms D – Coconut and Lemon Tapioca

One of the main events of the trip was to dine at Maha, a sophisticated take on Middle Eastern cuisine in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. Ms D is a huge fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, even more so than me, so we were both looking forward to the experience. While really enjoying the banquet style dishes, the lighting was so dim you couldn’t really appreciate the visuals of the food properly. I would be keen to visit again, to see more! So no photos for this post.

Sunday lunch was the much anticipated visit to Dinner by Heston, one of Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants that is inspired by historic British gastronomy. Dinner, as defined on the Dinner website, is “the main meal of the day, taken either around midday or in the evening. A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event”.

Located at the Crown Towers in Melbourne, one could be forgiven for being turned off dinner or even lunch, on arrival, as the garish surrounds of a casino are not conducive to refined dining. However, once in the restaurant itself, calm and dignity prevailed,  as we were ushered to a large and comfortable table window-side, with a view over the river to the city.

I have photographed the menu for the day and the dishes we ate. The dishes are so intricate, clever and multi faceted, that describing them in any detail in this post would be a poor substitute to actually enjoying them. Which I did. Absolutely. While there are photos of Ms D’s courses, I only sampled a little of her dishes, being too intent on eating my own. However I believe she enjoyed her courses too.

First course for both of us – Salamagundy

Second course. Me – Chicken Cooked with Lettuces; Ms D – Slow Cooked Pork Belly

Third course. Me – Cherry Isle Bar; Ms D – Tipsy Cake

For me, ice cream is the Queen of Desserts, so the highlight of Dinner By Heston was the “extra” dessert, nitrogen ice cream made at the table Heston style! Our waiter explained that the custard base was given texture by the addition of sour cream, and the Madagascan vanilla really gave a rich, vanilla hit. We could choose from a variety of toppings – I chose freeze dried raspberries, which I use a lot in my own cooking, and popping candy.

The visual spectacular with clouds of nitrogen, as the waiter deftly poured the flasks of custard and nitrogen was amazing, but the taste of the ice cream was even better. Rich and velvety, with a soft texture, the ice cream had a proper consistency, and made for a heavenly eating experience. A fantastic way to end the “dinner” and our Melbourne food excursion.

 

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Jamie Oliver’s Moroccan Fish – Revisited

 

I was going over some recipes from posts from the past. Here’s a great Jamie Oliver recipe from his 15 Minute Meals. I thought I’d blog it again as it’s fairly easy to prepare. The fish is served with couscous and a lovely Middle Eastern style salsa, and a pungent sauce of yogurt with harissa on the side. Although it’s a simple dish, it does take a little longer than 15 minutes to prepare…

Some wonderful Middle Eastern flavours, with a heady mix of fiery hot harissa, sweet pomegranate and apricot, tart preserved lemon and cool yoghurt.
Jamie uses bream. I’m not sure if bream in the UK is the same fish as in Australia. I used yellow tail bream which looked perfect for the recipe. Jamie’s recipe calls for whole fish, heads and tails removed, but obviously still on the bone. I would recommend fish fillets, preferably with the skin on, if you don’t like picking out the bones.

Ingredients
Salsa
1/2-1 preserved lemon (be careful that the brand you choose isn’t too bitter – if possible make your own)
A handful of dried apricots
A couple of strips of preserved red pepper
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
1 pomegranate
Fish
2 whole bream, heads and tails removed, scaled and gutted OR 4 fish fillets of choice, preferably skin on
Rock salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 spring onions
A few sprigs of thyme
1 teaspoon or to taste of harissa
3-6 saffron threads covered with 100 mls boiling water and left to infuse for a couple of minutes
Couscous
1 cup couscous
2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon butter
Salt to taste
To serve
1/2 cup fat free yoghurt
A  handful of pistachios

Method
To make the salsa, blitz the lemon, apricots, peppers and the parsley in a food processor until well blended. Transfer to a bowl and squeeze in the juice of half the pomegranate. Mix, season to taste.
For the fish: score the the fish in a crisscross fashion on both sides, down to the bone if using whole fish rather than fillets. Season all over with rock salt and black pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan and add the fish, cook over medium high heat for 3 minutes each side for whole fish, 2 minutes for fillets.
Add finely sliced spring onions, thyme sprigs, harissa to taste and saffron threads and their soaking water. Scrunch up and wet a sheet of greaseproof paper and tuck it around the fish. Cook on low heat for the time it takes to prepare the couscous or until the liquid is half evaporated from the frying pan.
To make the couscous, add couscous to the boiling water in a small saucepan. Add salt, cover and stand for about 3 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the butter, fluffing up the couscous as you stir.

To serve:
Pile the couscous onto a serving platter and spoon the salsa over the couscous. Lay the fish on top, spoon over some of the pan juices, and scatter over the pistachios. Hold the other pomegranate half in your hand and bash it with a spoon to release the seeds and juice. Serve with a bowl of yoghurt on the side with a little harissa swirled through for a pretty colour.

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Ottolenghi’s Rosemary, Olive Oil and Orange Cake

 

This is a lovely cake from the wonderful Middle Eastern inspired food impresario Yotam Ottolenghi.

It’s fragrant with rosemary inside the cake, and the orange and lemon icing gives the cake a great citrus tang.

Although there are few steps to the recipe, it’s actually quite easy. You could leave out crystallising the rosemary sprigs to save time, but the sprigs are a nice aromatic touch plus they look great on the cake!

You could bake the cake in an ordinary tin, but if you have a bundt tin, make it in that, so the icing can drip down the centre of the cake.

I made the recipe with unusually, no tweaks of my own, so here is Yotam’s recipe largely unaltered.

Ingredients

FOR THE CRYSTALLIZED ROSEMARY:
10 small rosemary sprigs, no more than 3 cms each in size (see note)
1 egg white, lightly whisked
2 teaspoons caster sugar
FOR THE CAKE:
About 30 grams unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the tin
240 grams plain flour plus more to flour the tin
160 mls extra-virgin olive oil
120 grams caster sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from about 1 1/2 oranges)
1 ½ tablespoons/7 grams packed finely chopped rosemary leaves
2 large free-range eggs
130 grams sour cream
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
FOR THE ORANGE ICING:
1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
150 grams sifted icing sugar

Method

At least six hours before you plan to ice the cake, prepare the crystallised rosemary: Brush rosemary on all sides with a little of the egg white and then dip it in the sugar, so the needles are lightly coated on all sides. Set aside on a wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining rosemary. *Note: You want small, decorative clusters of needles. The simplest way to do this is to pull the smaller, bottom-most clumps off of large sprigs, or trim off the very tops of several sprigs.

Make the cake: Heat oven to 160 degree C. Generously grease a 9 inch/23 cm Bundt tin with half the butter and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Butter again, generously, and then flour it, tapping away the excess.

Put olive oil, superfine sugar, orange zest and chopped rosemary leaves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until combined, then add eggs, one at a time. Whisk for another minute, until thick, then add sour cream and mix until combined on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the olive oil mixture and mix until combined. Increase speed to high and whisk for 1 minute.

Scrape batter into the Bundt pan and smooth the top with a small spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. (You may want to trim the cake at this stage, if it rises unevenly, to allow it to sit flat on the plate.)

Prepare the icing: In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. When the cake has cooled, drizzle icing on top, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake, then top with the crystallized rosemary and serve.

PS Spot the Quirky Cat!

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Hot Cross Buns: Three Great Recipes!

I’m in the throes of making hot cross buns today, Good Friday, 2017. My buns are at the moment in the fridge having their overnight first prove. If you’ve not done this before, a slow fridge prove creates a flavour superior to a short warm prove.

But more of these buns anon when they’re out of the oven!

Here are my three favourite hot cross buns so far in my Easter baking journey, two Jamie Oliver recipes and a Paul Hollywood recipe. I have shown photos of each, with a link to my recipes in previous posts.

Making your own hot cross buns is fun, seasonal and very very satisfying!

No 1. Jamie Oliver Hot Cross Buns from the Jamie Oliver website
https://thequirkandthecool.com/2016/03/26/hot-cross-buns-jamie-oliver-inspired/

No 2. Jamie Oliver Hot Cross Buns from Jamie Magazine
https://thequirkandthecool.com/2014/04/13/jamie-olivers-hot-cross-buns/

No 3. Paul Hollywood’s book “How to Bake” and it’s on his website too.
https://thequirkandthecool.com/2015/04/03/paul-hollywoods-hot-cross-buns/

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Fig and Frangipane Tart

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I made this tart a couple of weeks ago when figs were plentiful, cheap and very luscious. Even now, on April 1st, they can still be got at farmers’ markets, the very last of the bounty of a long Indian summer.

Figs and frangipane go well together, the lovely almond cream complementing the juicy sweetness of the figs. A few posts go I made fig and frangipane muffins – here is the link – and this is the same combination in a more refined tart form.

The shortcrust pastry is based on the great Maggie Beer’s recipe using sour cream.

Ingredients

For the shortcrust pastry base:

200gm chilled unsalted butter

250gm plain flour

1 tsp caster sugar

135gm sour cream

For the Frangipane:

100gm butter

100gm caster sugar

100gm ground almonds

1 free-range egg

10 fresh figs, quartered

Method

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C fan forced, (180 degrees C non fan forced).

Butter a 23cm (9 inch) fluted flan tin with a removable bottom.

To make the pastry, pulse butter, flour and caster sugar in a food processor until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball. Using your hands, shape pastry into a ball. Wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
 Roll the pastry out and place into the buttered flan tin.

To make the frangipane, cream the butter and sugar in a food processor or you can use an electric mixer. Add the ground almonds and egg and mix well.

Spoon the frangipane over the tart base.  You may not need all the mixture – the idea is to have a base on which to sit the figs. Arrange the fig quarters in a circular pattern over the frangipane. You needn’t be too precise. The figs should be sitting on top of the frangipane. If they sink in, you probably have too much frangipane and may need to take some out.

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Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the frangipane is set and the pastry looks cooked round the edges. Don’t overcook so that the pastry edge burns.

Remove from the oven, and after 10 minutes, when the tart has cooled slightly, carefully remove the outer ring of the flan tin.

Serve at room temperature on its own, or with cream or yoghurt.

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