Sunday, March 29, 2015

Raspberry and White Chocolate Scones

White chocolate and raspberry scones

The other day, my team at work had a catch-up at The Tea Salon in Emporium. I purposely didn't bring my wallet so I wouldn't be tempted to indulge in scones. But then I watched my team eat scones, and couldn't stop thinking about scones all day. So, when I got home that evening, I whipped up a batch of raspberry and white chocolate scones. Then I spent all week eating the scones. Scones scones scones. Oops.

So, these are more of an American-style scone than the ones I normally make. Being full of tart juicy raspberries and buttery rich white chocolate, they're great on their own, with no need for cream or jam. (Although I snuck a little butter onto mine - yum). I chose to make raspberry and white chocolate because it is one of my favourite flavour combos, and I happened to have two punnets of awesome raspberries in the fridge. I totally love raspberries, and am so happy that they're abundant (and reasonably cheap) right now!

Raspberries

I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart's recipe for Fast Raspberry Scones, with the main changes being that I added white chocolate chips, and that I made the dough by hand rather than using mechanical assistance. (I often find that dragging out the food processor - and then cleaning it, ugh - is more hard work than just getting stuck in with my hands, especially if I'm not working with big quantities).

The dough for these scones is a standard one - rub butter into dry ingredients, then pour in liquid ingredients and stir to a form a dough. In this case, tangy buttermilk for a tender dough and an egg yolk for extra richness. Boom.

Flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, butter

After you've added the liquid ingredients, the dough is quite shaggy, but don't be tempted to add more liquid. The dough comes together as you press it out, and it gets extra moisture from the raspberries.

Dough

I found the easiest way to incorporate the white chocolate chips and fragile raspberries was to scatter half of them on top of the dough, fold the dough in half and then gently press it out, then repeat. This stopped the dough from being overworked (important when making scones!), and prevents the raspberries from getting too squished.

Dough, berries, white chocolate

I used fresh raspberries this time, but frozen raspberries would work too. Come to think of it, frozen raspberries might be even better, as they wouldn't squish as much. As you can see, I got a couple of super moist areas on the dough from the squashed raspberries, which were messy and a little tricky to slice (but still delicious).

Ready to be cut

Scone squares!

Raspberry and White Chocolate Scones

I was sooooo pleased with these scones - fluffy middles, crunchy top (best), loads of juicy raspberries and sweet, sweet white chocolate chips. These were fantastic fresh out of the oven, but they also kept quite well. I put leftovers in an airtight container and kept going back to them over the next four days for snacks and breakfasts. They didn't dry out too much and were still nice at room temperature, but even better microwaved with a little butter. 

Enjoy!

White Chocolate and Raspberry Scones
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart

Ingredients
2.5 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoons coarse salt
112.5 grams cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg yolk
1.5 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Method
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Place flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
Rub the butter into the dry ingredients using your fingertips, until the butter is evenly distributed and the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Whisk together the buttermilk and egg yolk. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir gently until just combined.
Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and press out into a large rectangle. Scatter half the raspberries and chocolate chips over, then fold in half and gently press out into a large rectangle. Top with the remaining raspberries and chocolate chips, fold in half again and gently press out into a rectangle approximately 4 cm thick.
Cut into roughly evenly sized squares and place on a lined baking tray. Sprinkle over the extra tablespoon of sugar.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, until golden brown and cooked through.
Allow to cool slightly, then eat.
Makes 15 scones, depending on how big you cut them.

More scone goodness:

Raspberry and white chocolate deliciousness:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Eggplant Parmigiana Dinner Party!

Sandwich!

So last weekend, I made this awesome eggplant parmigiana sandwich. You make an eggplant parmigiana, you make a focaccia, you put the eggplant parmigiana IN the focaccia and then shove it in your face. Amaze! I saw the recipe in Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food (which is a fantastic book, by the way!) and knew I just had to have it! The only problem was that Jamie's recipe serves sixteen people (ahem), and even using all of my amazing mathematical prowess, I could only scale it down enough to make it a four-person parmigiana... so there was nothing else to do but throw an eggplant parmigiana-themed dinner party!


An Eggplant Parmigiana-Dinner for Four
Cheese, Salami, Olives and other Deliciousness
Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwich
Tiramisu
Espresso Martinis


We invited fellow eggplant-enthusiasts (yes, it's a thing) Jenni and Jimbo, and I decided to make tiramisu for dessert, because it fit in with the Italian theme and JJ both love coffee. As a bonus, I'd been looking for an excuse to formalise my mum's old tiramisu recipe which a friend scribbled on a piece of scrap paper for her 20 years ago. It essentially says: "6 egg yolks, 500 grams mascarpone, coffee, alcohol and sugar to taste, savoiardi biscuits, cocoa on top". (Spoiler alert: the tiramisu worked, hooray! I wrote down all the quantities I used and I'll publish the recipe here soon!) The espresso martinis were added to the menu because, espresso martinis.

When friends ask what they can bring, my habitual answer is: "alcohol", so that it doesn't mess with my menu (heh), but I have to stop saying that, as we have way too much booze at home! Over the years we've amassed dozens of bottles of wine and spirits, but we almost never drink at home, especially throughout the week, and only if it's a special occasion or if we've got friends over. Our wine racks and liquor cabinet have literally run out of room!

So this time I asked JJ to bring snacks, "like chips and dip or something". They brought this...

Cheeeeeeese

Gah! So much cheesy deliciousness! The cheeses were Frico Chevrette Dutch goats gouda, Tarago River Shadows of Blue and Le Marquis Chevre du Pelussin (my favourite of the three). Plus olives, spicy salami, mascarpone-stuffed figs, date and walnut log. And strawberries! And crackers! And potato chips!

Speaking of alcohol, Sandra was on cocktail duty, making Pimm's Cups with freshly muddled strawberries, citrus and cucumber. Soooo tasty.

Cocktail Station!

I was super organised and had done all the cooking and preparation in the afternoon, so I was free to get stuck into the cheese and cocktails until it was time for dinner. Here's the focaccia! (Confession time: I also bought a back-up focaccia, just in case mine didn't turn out right. But mine did. Phew!)

Focaccia dough

Homemade Foccacia

Also, how good is grilled eggplant? Scroll down for the full recipe, but basically it is layers of grilled eggplant, basily tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese. Boom.

Eggplant!

Here it is, all topped with melty mozzarella and baked.

Eggplant Parm

Focaccia

Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwich

It was super yum. I was actually impressed that the eggplant parm sandwich managed to sustain structural integrity as I was eating it - much less messy than anticipated! Although having said that, everyone else ate very daintily with a fork and knife on their plates.

Then it was time for dessert! Plus cheesy 90s music because, well, why not! The espresso martini was perfect with the tiramisu (good job, mixologist-Sandra!) So much caffeinated alcoholic goodness.

Tiramisu & Espresso Martini

Delicious food, awesome friends, super fun night. Recipes for the tiramisu and espresso martini to come!

Eggplant Parmigiana Sandwich
Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver's Comfort Food

For the Focaccia
3.5 grams dried yeast (half a sachet)
500 grams strong bread flour
Extra virgin olive oil
For the Eggplant Parmigiana
2 medium eggplants
Olive oil, for frying (you will need lots)
2 cloves garlic
4 sprigs of basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
75 millilitres red wine
800 grams tinned crushed tomatoes
200 grams mozzarella cheese, torn up or finely sliced
50 grams breadcrumbs
50 grams Parmesan cheese, grated
50 grams rocket leaves

Method
For the Focaccia
Whisk the yeast into 300 millilitres warm water and set aside for 5 minutes. Place the flour and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and knead slowly using the bread hook until the dough comes together. Turn the mixer up to medium and keep kneading for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size.
Knock back the dough to de-gas it (heh), then push it out into a large rectangular shape on a baking tray. Poke it all over with your fingertips, to make dents all over the dough. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper. Set aside in a warm place to prove for an hour, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Bake the focaccia for 30-40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the Eggplant Parmigiana
Slice the eggplant crosswise into half-centimetre thick rounds. Brush with olive oil and grill or pan-fry until cooked through and softened. Set aside.
Finely slice the garlic and basil stalks (reserve the leaves for later). Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan, and add the garlic, basil stalks and oregano. Cook for a few minutes or until lightly golden. Pour in the red wine and allow to bubble away. Add the crushed tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Lightly oil a 20 x 30cm roasting tray with high sides.
Cover the base with a third of the eggplant slices, followed by a third of the tomato sauce, basil leaves, mozzarella, breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make three layers in total. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and piping hot all the way through. Allow to stand for 30 minutes before cutting into portions and stuffing into the focaccia, adding rocket leaves.
Serves 4-6

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Arbory Bar and Eatery

Fun times!

Arbory Bar and Eatery
Flinders Walk
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9621-2260
Website
Arbory Bar and Eatery on Urbanspoon

In an uncharacteristic display of fabulousness, I spent two nights out last week. Both evenings were for events at Arbory Bar and Eatery - one was a Menu Preview and the other was their Launch Party. Twice out in a week is a lot for this Grandma, but the venue looked great, they kindly said I could bring a plus-one to each event, and I knew that my friend Kimba would really enjoy the Menu Preview (a sit-down meal where you get to meet the chef), and that my buddy Jimbo would enjoy the Launch Party (Drinks! And tasty morsels of food being brought to you on platters!) Yesss! I win all of the friendship points!

So, here's the deal with Arbory: it is a new restaurant / bar located on a decommissioned platform at Flinders Street station. It is built along the entire length of the platform, and overlooks the Yarra River. What a perfect spot!

The Arbory

Looking onto the River. Melbourne, you so pretty!

Looking onto Flinders Street Station

Let's start with the Menu Preview evening. Executive Chef Nick Bennett (ex-Cecconi's and ex-Trocadero/Fatto) put together a selection of items from the menu, which were matched with some lovely Spanish wines. The items below were my favourites from what we tried, and are the ones I would recommend you order if you visit yourself.

Pea and herb arancini

Yes to crunchy balls (heh) of pea risotto, yes to a blanket of grated pecorino cheese.

Mushroom and cheese croquettes

The mushroom croquettes were super crunchy and full of gooey, oozy, cheesy goodness.

Buffalo mozzarella, fried artichoke, green sauce, raisins and almonds

The buffalo mozzarella was a nice dish, with mild flavours and a great texture contrast between the soft mozzarella and crunchy fried artichoke.

Steak tartare, cheese, toast, sauce Béarnaise 

The highlight of the evening, for me, was the steak tartare, which was served on a little toasted cheese sandwich, and drenched in Béarnaise sauce. So good!

Roast onion, silverbeet and cauliflower pie, leek salad & truffle pecorino

Yay for pies. The pie was nice and hearty, with the onion, silverbeet and cauliflower being an unusual, but very tasty, combination of flavours.

Peppered steak, kohlrabi remoulade, onion rings

The steak, sauce and kohlrabi remoulade were good; the onion rings were amazing. I don't think they sell the onion rings separately as a side - they really should.

Popcorn and salted caramel sundae

The dessert we tried looked deceptively plain, but packed loads of flavour - ice-cream and salted caramel, blanketed in a dusting of popcorn powder.

Executive Chef Nick Bennett

So let's have a look at the Launch Party! Whilst the Menu Preview was more of an intimate event, the Launch Party was basically a really big party! Loads of people, lots of food, lots of drink, music, and a lot of fun.

Bar

The Arbory offers a red and a white wine on tap (and a rosé too, the night we were there!), as well as a wide selection of beers and ciders.

Wine!

I was very excited about this table of different cured meats, and the gigantic wheel of cheese - delicious.

Meeeeeats

Meats and buns

I believe oysters were around, but I was too busy hoeing into the cured meats to find them! The other foods passed around were miniature versions of menu items - the arancini and the steak tartare, which you've seen above, as well as a fish burger, cheeseburger, and crinkle cut fries with truffled pecorino.

Top left: Pea and herb arancini, Top right: Stake tartare, cheese, toast and sauce Béarnaise
Bottom left: Fish burger; Bottom centre: Double cheeseburger; Bottom right: Crinkle-cut chips, truffle salt and pecorino 

I had a super fun time at both events, and think The Arbory is a great venue - fantastic location, good food, relaxed atmosphere. Jimbo has already been back once, on his own coin, and said the mushroom croquettes and calamari were really good. I'll be interested to see how it does over Winter, especially considering that the venue is entirely outdoors. They have umbrellas and gas heaters, so hopefully they'll be able to cope with Melbourne's ever-changing weather!

Wine

Sarah, Kimba, and Jimbo attended The Arbory Menu Preview and Launch Party as guests.