Thursday, March 31, 2005
David Rocco, an Italian-Canadian, and his wife Nina live in Florence. In the show, David (a self-proclaimed non-chef) goes around Florence, visiting food stores, markets, and shops, and makes some absolutely delicious food at his house. Today I saw "The Party" episode, and he made this fabulous fried eggs and cheese in tomato sauce dish called Fried eggs con Scamorza which looked insanely delicious. He also bought a 36kg wheel of grana padano cheese, and went to buy clothes at these amazing Italian boutiques. And incidentally, his wife is really cute and has great hair and clothes.
Drool for the clothes, drool for the locations, drool for the food!
God I miss Florence! And I was only there for one night!
What I particularly like about Rocco is that he speaks Italian and is really respectful of the culture. He seems to really be enjoying his dolce vita in Italy, and being a part of the society. Which is totally unlike, for instance, Tyler Florence, American chef and star of Food 911 and Tyler's Ultimate. Even though I am a fan of Tyler, he basically just barks in American at people when he does shows overseas, and this gets kinda grating.
Anyway, David Rocco's really cool. Watch this show. It's fantastic. His website's great too - all the recipes from the show, hotspots in Florence and much much more.
Monday, March 28, 2005
This is the Roast Chicken Salad from the “Déjeuner sur L’herbe for Eight” menu from the "Kitchen Feasts" chapter in Nigella’s Feast. Chicken breasts, marinated in Marsala and oil, are roasted in the oven, then shredded and served on cos lettuce with soaked sultanas and toasted pinenuts. I wasn’t sure if my family would go for it, but they loved it! The recipe serves 8 as part of a larger meal, and we wolfed the lot down alongside some leftover rice and noodles.
Roast Chicken Salad
The St. Tropez Chicken comes from the "Wedding Feast" chapter in Feast, so named for its crispy brown skin. The chicken is marinated in a mixture of honey, herbes à la Provence, lemon juice, oil and rosé (I used white wine instead). The recipe asks for a whole chicken, but also says you can substitute chicken breasts. On Saturday, we ended up with two sets of chicken breasts because, in our enthusiasm, Dad and I had both bought the chicken breasts for the Roast Chicken Salad. So, I decided to use the extra ones on Sunday night in this recipe. I served it with the good old Petit Pois à la Francaise ("Valentine’s Day" chapter in Feast), which we’ve had many times before, and will definitely be having again. In fact, mum liked them so much that the next day, she came home from the supermarket with three kilos of frozen peas.
St. Tropez Chicken (Petit pois down the bottom)
These recipes are again Nigella’s (surprise surprise), the Mellow Lamb Steaks from the March issue of Delicious, and the Green bean and Lemon Casserole from the "Thanksgiving & Christmas" chapter in Feast. The lamb was a bit tough (cheap supermarket stuff), but the sauce was absolutely delicious. I am very keen to try Nigella’s suggestion of substituting duck breasts for the lamb steaks. The sauce is 10 whole garlic cloves, simmered in water and orange zest, to which Marsala, orange juice and thyme is added. This is poured over frying lamb steaks, and simmered down. It is so, so incredibly tasty!
Nigella's Mellow Lamb Steaks
The beans, also delicious, are cooked very simply: “just plenty of butter, plenty of pepper, and vicious amounts of lemon”. I took Jamie Oliver’s advice, and cooked them till quite soft – he’s right, a soft bean is so much nicer than a squeaky one!
Green Bean & Lemon Casserole
With recipes like this... low carb is not so hard!
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this diet, I think I should tell you why I'm doing this, and what it is I want to achieve.
I want to...
- Lose 12.5 kilos - random amount I know, but get over it
- Fit into my old clothes - I suppose that means becoming a size 10...? I'm not really fussed about specific numbers, as Australian clothes sizes are all over the place anyway
- Get a body worthy of a Brazilian Bikini (right, DG?) - I'm hoping to travel through South America after I graduate (right, An?), and I plan to marry, or at least seduce, a handsome, rich, old, and leathery man on the Copacabana beach, preferably with the LV logo emblazoned on his leathery skin (right, Adri?) Hahaha. But I suppose this aim is more dependent on exercise than diet...
Consequently, I'm on what I call the "Smoothie-Salad-Soup and sometimes sushi, sandwich and cereal (if I'm desperate) diet". This basically involves drastically decreasing my fat & carbohydrate intake - aiming for only one carb-based meal a day.
- Fruit smoothie - banana or strawberry, with yogurt and soymilk OR
- Fruit salad with yogurt and toasted nuts/seeds OR
- Cereal (low sugar, low fat - so no granola, unfortunately) with yogurt, fruit and soymilk
- Salad (with chicken, tuna, low fat cheese etc)
- Soup (the low fat, vegie filled variety - tinned Baxter's for preference)
- Roast meat with vegies
- Vegie-based stir fries
- Sushi or Sandwiches if I'm out and can't find a decent alternative - don't forget, I'm also broke, and steaks are expensive
- Fruit (you know, 6 raisins or a banana LOL)
- Yogurt (low fat, low sugar)
- Diet Coke
Stuff that I won't be consuming
- Cakes, biscuits, muffins etc
- ALCOHOL (and cigarettes too)
- Bread or other carbohydrates (except at meal times)
- Soft drink, juice
I've already started compiling a list of suitably healthy recipes, from my Bill Granger and Nigella books (no surprise, I found a lot more healthy stuff from Bill Granger), and to get us in the diet mood, we had Nigella's fabulous Roast Chicken Salad for dinner last night. Tonight it's her St. Tropez Chicken (haha more dark and crispy skin) with Petits Pois a la Francaise (pictures coming).
I also already know when I'm taking breaks from this diet - my birthday, my bro's birthday, parents' birthdays and anniversaries, best friends' birthdays. These dates are all spread throughout the year, so hopefully knowing that these rest days are around will keep me motivated on normal days.
Gym 3-5 times a week.Pilates - 1-2 times a week, depending on what I'm doing that week
Yoga - Once a week, well at least until Spanish classes start again (Spanish clashes with yoga, dammit!)
Cardio + weights work - 3 times a week
I know this sounds ambitious, but I've done it before, and I know I can do it. Just right now, I'm so congested and sore throaty that I can't even contemplate exercise. As soon as I'm better I'll be off like a speed demon.
Wish me luck!
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Check out his menu for a "Crustacean Orgasm" date... heaven!
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
The determinations mentioned above are based in the context of theWouldn’t it do the same to you? So at about 3 in the afternoon, I said, “Stop the madness!” and retreated to the kitchen to bake a batch of chocolate chip muffins, from the “Kiddiefeast” chapter in Feast. As Nigella says, “Look, I’m not claiming this is the healthiest breakfast in the world, but I think you can let them try their hand at these once in a while at the weekend, don’t you?”
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They’re just a chocolate muffin batter with chocolate chips stirred in. I added white chocolate chips because we had them and I was trying to get rid of them.
Muffins cooling on a rack. Some are upside down – can you see the white chocolate in there?
But you know what, despite all my recent muffin baking, I still haven’t gotten around to buying proper muffin papers. So, I just supergreased and sugared the tins, to make sure I could get the little muffins out once baked. What happened though, which was funny, was that because of the buttery and sugary tins, the muffins rose up out of the tins, soufflé style, hence their funny shape. On the upside, however, they do have a delicious sugary crust. Tradeoffs… I think sugary crust wins!
Muffins on plate
Of course, I’m not eating muffins at the moment (but with the amount of carbohydrate I seem to have been eating recently, I may as well be), so for the past two days I’ve been the little muffin fairy, spreading my muffiny goodness all over Melbourne. Oh wait a minute… Did that last sentence sound a bit wrong?
Eden: to Liam Is that a muffin in a bag?
An: They’re really nice! Can you make some more? They have this really nice caramel taste inside! (He was referring to the white chocolate).
Um who else had them...? Paul, my family, Robbie... the response has been positive. They smell great, are very easy, and most of the ingredients are storecupboard ingredients (except for maybe the chocolate chips I guess... but we usually have some form of chocolate bits stashed away somewhere).
Go for it!
Thursday, March 17, 2005
I was in a rush baking them, because I wanted to watch Dirty Harry with my dad on DVD. They smelled great, and according to the family, they tasted good too. I asked my brother which version was better though, and he preferred the almond one!
I think next time I make these I’ll keep the cinnamon in, but use almonds. Walnuts are too soft and waxy, and basically disintegrate into the topping, so aren’t very crunchy.
Mum: This version doesn’t look as nice as the first time, but they still taste good.
Daniel: Oooh... she made more muffins!
Dad: I really shouldn't be eating so much.
Sarah: That's OK, I'll take some to uni tomorrow to share with...
Dad: NO! WE'LL EAT THEM!
This makes a tasty, easy and healthy midweek meal because most of the ingredients (except the zucchini) are pantry standbys and most of the cooking is done in the oven, instead of the more laborious traditional method of stove-top stirring.
The recipe only calls for 1 cup of rice, which I was a bit concerned about at first… but it expanded to be large enough to feed 3 of us (large appetites) with some leftovers.
In the pot – looks kinda messy but tastes smells great!
Go Bill Granger!
Oh and I just realised that for my posts about Bill's recipes, I've entitled them "Bill Granger's... something or other", whereas I never use "Nigella Lawson's..." to precede a Nigella recipe. Well, she is my favourite author, so it's pretty safe to assume that whatever I cook will be from her. But if Bill Granger's recipes continue to have such great results I think I'll be cooking his stuff a lot more often!
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Bill has about a million grilled / fried chicken recipes, which I am hoping to work my way through eventually. This one was yummy, tender and brown and reminiscent of my favourite Hong Kong BBQ meat – siew kai (roast chicken, duh!) , but less fatty and carby.
For this dish, you take 1 chicken maryland per person, cut into 2 pieces between the drumstick and the thigh, marinate it in a soy-ginger-garlic-sake-honey-chilli mix and bake it in a moderate oven, basting every 15 minutes or so. Then you cleaver it up and have it with cucumber and rice (no rice for me)... I made my mum do the final stage of cleavering - I am so dangerously unwieldy with a cleaver! It was a struggle for me just to separate the drumstick from the thigh before cooking.
My brother’s portion, which is why there’s rice!
You see, my supposed post-Sydney detox has not been really very detoxifying lately, so I’m making a concerted effort from now until my birthday (6 weeks, wahoo!) to eat right. As least I’ve been exercising a lot. And with that, I’m off to the gym.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
These Baklava Muffins from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess are an ordinary buttermilk-lightened muffin batter, layered with a sugary-buttery-cinnamon-walnut filling, and soused with honey after baking. I didn’t have any cinnamon at home – it’s all been used up on copious amounts of granola, so I just left it out. Also, we didn’t have walnuts, so I used almonds.
So there’s the muffin mixture. It’s really light and springy, thanks to the buttermilk. What was strange though, was that the mixture didn’t fill 12 muffin tins. I used a regular sized 6-hole muffin tin, and a larger one (that is, a 6-hole muffin tin with larger holes) but only got 8 muffins! I’ve found out since, though, that usually this mixture only makes about 10 regular-sized muffins anyway.
I was almost going to skip the honey-drenching stage, as I was afraid they’d be too sweet. Real baklava is tooth-rottingly sweet, you see. But when I took them out of the oven, I suddenly panicked, recalling the dry, bland muffins that aunties used to give us as ‘treats’… and drizzled them generously with honey whilst they were still warm.
Now, of course, following my Sydney weekend, I am detoxing – so no muffins for me! I wasn’t sure if they’d be any good, in fact, I was afraid they’d suck… but my bro had one for dessert that night...
Daniel: takes one bite Awesome... absolutely fucking awesome!
Mum: Ooh Sarah, these are nice muffins! I wanted another one, but I’ll wait until Dad gets home.
I went out after dinner, which was before my dad came home, and when I woke up, he'd already left for work so I didn’t get his reaction to the muffins. But when I got up this morning (afternoon), there were only two muffins left... which can only be a good sign.
I’ll definitely make these again, with cinnamon and possibly the walnuts. I’m not too fussed about the choice between walnuts and almonds, but I really want to try them with cinnamon – I love the way that baking anything with cinnamon in it fills the kitchen with a warm golden fug of inviting aromas. Baking with cinnamon also makes my hair smell nice - very domestic goddessey, no? Whereas now it just smells like cigarettes...
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
Restaurant woman: I can do 7:30 or 8:30.
See, it fills up quick.
Me outside Rockpool
The waiters were very efficient and friendly, and not at all intimidating. (I had been worried that they'd be terribly posh and snooty). Our main waitress was so gorgeous and sweet that we wanted to take her home and put her on our shelf!
And on to the food...
Drinks and Bread
Fruit punch (left), house-made bread roll, Campari & Orange (right)
The bread is free. And it’s really good quality.
Tortellino with goat's cheese, sultanas and pine nuts. (Pink Murray River Salt in the background)
The canapé is also included. I love goat’s cheese, and the pine nut sultana combination is always a winner (remember the pappardelle?)
Stir Fried Lobster and Kangaroo Island Chicken with Water Chestnuts, Shiitake Mushrooms, Hand Cut Noodles and Red Curry Sauce
Spring Bay Scallops with Sweet Corn Crepe, Fragrant Lemongrass and Mussel Butter
These scallops were amazing – so fresh and perfectly cooked, the crepe had a wonderfully grainy sweet corn filling, and the butter really was fragrant. An tried one scallop, and he loved it too.
Pan Fried Snapper with Pici Noodles, Hand Pounded Pesto and Sweet Cherry Tomatoes
I didn't try any of this, but apparently it was quite good. I’ve actually got a recipe for it in a magazine somewhere… I might post it up later if anyone wants it.
And my main... the famous $60 seafood stew. How lovely is the presentation? The scallops in there were fantastic, as were the prawns, clams, the yabbie and fish. Unfortunately, a couple of the mussels were a bit iffy. They were fused shut, and when I finally managed to prise them open, of course they were off. Neil Perry what are you doing?! However, the two yukky mussels didn’t detract from the fabulousness of the dish overall. The broth was salty and warmly infused with the heady aroma of saffron. And the crostini were beautiful - crunchy but not hard, as some crostini tend to be.
Stew of Scampi, Kingfish, Whiting, Spring Bay Scallops, Squid and Prawn with Mussel and Saffron Sauce, Aioli
The empty plate
The salad is included in the meal as well. I can’t remember exactly what was in it, but I know there was chicory and radicchio, which were lovely and crunchy and bitter, which contrasted well against the dressing. I used some of the leaves to scoop up the remaining garlicky aioli.
With the dessert, mine actually came first and I finished it before An’s arrived. The waitress made a mistake – An had asked for “Mousse Cake” and she’d heard “Muscat”. Whoops! But not a problem at all; as I said, we had already fallen in love with her and wanted to take her home.
'Summer Berries and Cream'
I was having a tough time deciding between the desserts, so I asked our waitress what this ‘Summer Berries and Cream’ thing was.
Waitress: It’s strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, with a cream cheese ice cream, house-made shortbread and a mascarpone sauce.
Me: Did you say cream cheese ice cream?
Me: I’ll take it.
It was absolutely divine. That’s all I have to say about it.
An’s dessert... “Orgasmic!”
Chocolate Mousse Cake with Four Tastes (chocolate covered coffee beans, caramelised hazelnuts, candied orange and chocolate honeycomb)
Coffee & Petits Fours
It’s $8.50 for coffee, but you get a little cake with it. One small, sweet mouthful to perfectly round off a lovely meal.
Cafe Latte, Espresso
Raspberry and Mascarpone Cake
What more can I say? A wonderful meal, lovely ambience and fantastic waiters. The whole time I was there I kept thinking "Wow, I have to come back here! And bring my family!" Rockpool's many awards are displayed on a wall, and are very well deserved.
And on a completely random note... I saw a huge cockroach swimming in the toilet. It didn't bother me, but I thought it would be funny to share.
Following our meal, An & I took a cab back to the hotel, got changed and went out with the crew for a night of fun...
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
And guess what restaurant is just two doors down from bills 2?? Kylie Kwong’s restaurant, Billy Kwong!!
Look, it's Kylie Kwong at billy kwong!
Whilst I was forcing An to take that photo of me, an employee walked into the restaurant, and looked at us like we were weird.
Anyway, on to bills 2. I have recently become a Bill Granger fan on the recommendation of some fellow forum members at Nigella.com. I’ve bought one of his books, bills food, and seen his program on Lifestyle. They’re both great.
The café itself is a relatively small area, with large windows, a stainless steel bar, wooden seats, round and square tables and a padded bank of seats along the windows. One wall is entirely filled with a huge blackboard upon which the menu is written.
And the food! An had a perfect latte, followed by Bill's famous ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter. I only had a bite of them, but they were beautiful. There’s a recipe for them in one of his books…
Bill's famous ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter
I wasn’t in the mood for anything sweet, so I chose a Softshell Crab Sandwich with Cucumber, Watercress and Remoulade, on wholemeal baguette with dressed baby cos lettuce on the side. The bread was chewy, the crab was crunchy, quite salty, juicy and oily. Highly delicious and substantial! And totally worth the $19.50 that it cost.
Me and my sandwich
Bill’s hot chocolate is beautiful! They warm the glass, chuck some chocolate chips around the side, let them melt and pour steamed milk over. Warm and sweet and comforting…
bill’s hot chocolate and An’s 2nd latte
Here's the menu! I took it at super-high quality so that you can download it and zoom in and read it in all its glory!
Monday, March 07, 2005
You can always make a few puddings and cakes and dot them on the table… or just make one magisterial great bowl of something so fabulous that no one will be looking around for alternatives. Surely this is the best option. Indeed, I know it is.
It’s kinda similar to black forest cake… chocolate cake, cherry jam, Morello cherries, cherry liquor, chocolate custard and whipped cream. You’re supposed to grate dark chocolate over the top, but by the end of the gay dinner party I was so pooped that I just sprinkled dark chocolate chips over it.
Cake covered with cherry jam, cherry wine and Morello Cherries
I used a Safeway mud cake, which has icing on it – it was the most suitable cake I could find at the supermarket. Technically you’re not supposed to use an iced one, but too bad. Anyways, I started on it the night before, and it was super fun making it. You know I enjoy cooking at any rate, but the process of making the trifle was especially enjoyable. Safeway mud cake is moist and squishy, and I was getting in a big mess slicing it up and smearing it thickly with cherry jam, then squishing it into the bottom of my most beautiful glass bowl. Then I added the cherry brandy (I used a Polish cherry wine, over 20 years old…) and cherries and made a chocolate custard to pour over. Left it in the fridge overnight, then covered with whipped cream and grated chocolate just before serving. Bliss! And everyone loved it. It’s extremely rich, but dangerously easy to eat.
Mum: I don’t like these hard things. (Referring to the chocolate chips)
Georgina: Oh my God… There’s an orgy in my mouth!
Jay: takes one bite Does this have alcohol in it?
Sarah: Yeah, sorry! You don’t like the cake?
Jay: Yes, it’s good cake! I want to eat it! But I can’t! I’m driving!
Sarah: Ok, I’ll pack some in a container for you to eat at home.
I pack some into a container
Jay: Little more...
I pack some more into the container
Jay: Can I have more?
Matt: Look, just take that glass bowl, cover it with glad wrap and give it to him.
The completed trifle
It's the perfect dessert to make for a large group of people - easy, fun and delicious.
“Let people fall upon it with greed and gratitude. They will go home happy.”
Thursday, March 03, 2005
After dinner, we sat around telling jokes… or more to the point, we sat around listening to Uncle Cheok tell jokes. We watched some ‘special’ scenes from the Scissor Sisters DVD, and at about 10:20 Jay & Matt arrived so we all shared the chocolate cherry trifle. DELICIOUS.
Here’s the menu...
Union Square Café Bar Nuts - I wasn’t so impressed with these at first, but they ended up being absolutely compulsive, especially wolfed down later in the evening with dark chocolate chips in a salty-sweet taste sensation. Giselle loved these too.
Aubergine, Mint and Yogurt Dip - I’ve made this before. It’s great. I love the way the dip turns an incredible warm golden hue when you mix in the saffron water.
Cacik - Turkish Tzatziki
Hummous – Chickpeas, oil, lemon juice, salt and chilli flakes. Food processor. Whizz. Done.
Tunisian Lamb Ball Stew with Couscous – This was incredible! I will definitely be making it again.
Herbed Bulgar Wheat and Nut Salad – Much better the next day. I ate it for breakfast stuffed into a pita with leftover Cacik.
Watermelon, Black Olive and Feta Salad – Beautiful. Giselle loved the watermelon too.
Chocolate Cherry Trifle – so incredibly beautiful to make and eat that it will get its own post...
Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts
Uncle Cheok slicing Pita... Aubergine Mint and Yogurt Dip on the left, Cacik on the right
People hovering around dips
Herbed Bulgar Wheat and Nut Salad
Watermelon, Feta and Black Olive Salad
Tunisian Lamball Stew with Couscous