Saturday, October 28, 2006

Bill Granger's Crab & Asparagus Risotto

In my attempt to try and eat healthier food (takeaway pizza and Nando's every day does not a healthy girl make!), I've been looking through my Bill Granger books. Last night, we had crab and asparagus risotto, from bills food. It is an ordinary risotto, with finely sliced asparagus, crab meat, lemon juice and lemon zest added at the end. I used twice the amount of asparagus that the recipe asks for, because I wanted to use it all up. I also used tinned crab (terrible, I know), which tasted fine, but broke down in the risotto, so you couldn’t see any pieces of crab. Next time, I’d probably try firm fresh crab, lobster, scallops or prawns – so that you’d be able to see in the finished dish.

It tasted great! It was so easy, but very luxurious at the same time. Definitely a keeper.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ice-cream! Just in time for summer

I wandered into Borders yesterday, (heading straight to the cookbook section, as usual) and picked up a couple of books.

The first was Iced, which is a big book full of delicious looking ice-cream recipes, and great photos.

There are lots of exotic and classy flavours in here too - think black sesame, wasabi, sour cream and so on - things you could make for a posh dinner party.

The second book was Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. Interestingly, it seems that their ice-creams aren't based on a cooked crème anglaise, but just whipped eggs, sugar and cream, which you flavour and then freeze. At any rate, I'm sure the recipes will be good; I absolutely love Ben & Jerry's!

We don't have Ben & Jerry's ice-cream parlours in Australia, but you can get it in tubs at specialty stores. I have very fond memories, however, of Ben & Jerry's parlours in London, the US, and especially Amsterdam (on the Leidsestraat, a 5 minute walk from Leidseplein). Dozens of flavours, awesome cookies, and big soft cushions to sit on. Just a tip - when you hit a Ben & Jerry's yourself, I recommend that you skip all the fruity flavours and go straight for the creamy, chocolate, caramel, nut-filled, brownie, cookie-dough, crunchy ones. They are the shiz!

As for trying to recreate the Ben & Jerry experience at home, I'm looking forward to trying New York super fudge chunk, butter pecan, cherry Garcia, chocolate chip cookie dough, banana peanut buter, peanut butter fudge swirl, vanilla superfudge brownie...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nigel Slater's Very Good Chocolate Brownies

I made Nigel Slater's Very Good chocolate brownies yesterday. I think the recipe appears in his book, The Kitchen Diaries, and is also available online, here. The words "Nigel Slater" preceding a recipe already indicate that it will be good; a recipe entitled "Nigel Slater's Very Good" recipe would, logically, be extremely good - somewhere in the realm of doubleplusextragood. I honestly think it would be impossible to be disappointed by any recipe from Nigel.

Now, back to the brownies. These are simple, plain, and incredibly decadent. A pure, "24-carat" brownie. They are also quite easy to make.

Firstly, cream 250g butter and 300g golden caster sugar until supersmooth, white and fluffy. Lightly beat 3 eggs and an egg yolk, and slowly add to the creamed mixture. Then add 50g chopped dark chocolate...

...and 200g melted dark chocolate, and fold in with a large metal spoon.

Lastly, you fold in 60g plain flour, 60g cocoa and 1 tsp baking powder, gently but firmly.

Spread the (very thick, dark and rich) mixture into a 23cm x 23cm greased and lined tin...

mixture in tin

... and bake for 30 minutes until just set, but still gooey and soft. It's important not to overcook it, and it gets firmer as it cools. (I think this is because all the chocolate in there solidifies as the brownie gets colder). It smells absolutely amazing in the oven; if you bake these (and I insist that you give them a try!), your kitchen will smell just as good as you'd imagine Willy Wonka's factory to be.


Once it's cool enough, you can flip it out and cut it up.

I dusted them with icing sugar to make them look pretty, but this is hardly necessary.

Stack of brownies - check out the amazing contrast between crusty exterior and dense, "peat-bog" interior.

pyramid thereof

These brownies are brilliant! I was afraid they might be a bit boring, what with having no nuts inside, but they are perfect just as they are. They would be perfect for a gift, but only if you don't eat them all yourself first.

Nigel Slater rocks.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Walter's Wine Bar

On Saturday morning, some friends and I went to see Alva Noto and Ryuchi Sakamoto perform in Insen as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival. It was amazing! And as a bonus, seeing this performance left us in Southbank on a Saturday afternoon. Southbank is a really nice area, with loads of good restaurants. I keep meaning to go there, but as it's a bit out of the way, (yes, an entire 10 minute walk from the centre of the city), I never seem to get around to it.

On this particular afternoon, we stumbled into Walters Wine Bar, and got a fabulous table on the balcony.

View from Walters

We weren't super-hungry, so the 2 of us ordered 2 entrées to share. This also worked out well for our poor student budgets! We had a serve of fried whitebait with garlic aioli...

and a lovely pear, leek and rocket risotto. I'm a big fan of the salty-sweet combination, and it worked really well in this risotto, especially with the peppery rocket.

The tables on the balcony are a little small, so as you can see, you get this metal stand-deely that allows you to stack the plates one above the other. It was quite precarious, but luckily our food came to no harm.

The bill came to about $50, including drinks, which I think was quite reasonable, especially considering the quality of the food.

Walter's Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 16, 2006

Retroactive chocolate cake

You may remember that whilst I was in London, my friend Clarice and I made Nigella's Storecupboard Chocolate Cake, with cherry jam in place of the marmalade. Clarice then told me, very enthusiastically, that I should try it with sweetened chestnut puree sometime after I got home to Melbourne.

That 'sometime' arose about 2 seconds after my short-lived detox.

Nigella suggests dusting it with sieved icing sugar, but I was out of icing sugar. I thought it looked quite smart as it was though, honest and austere.

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

It tasted good too - sweet and crusty outside, soft and dense centre. It's a plain, simple, chocolate cake, which only takes 10 minutes to prepare, and an hour to cook. Try it for tea-time, or anytime when your friends rock up at the last minute. They'll be impressed.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Week of Healthy-(ish) Home Food

I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to try and eat some proper meals to fuel my studying. Most of the things I made this week came from the October Delicious, whose theme this month is "Feel-Good Food: Low fat, low carb and gluten free". Perfect!

Bill Granger's Pearl barley, broccoli & cashew salad with tamari dressing

Bill Granger's Miso-Glazed Fish, served with the barley salad

Nigella's Spatchcocked Chicken (From Nigella Bites - marinated for 24 hours in lime juice, vegetable oil and coriander seeds, then baked at 230C for 45 minutes). It was absolutely brilliant, and deliciously tender! I didn't even have to cut it; just picking it up with tongs made it fall into 4 servable pieces.

Silla Bjerrum's Miso & Poppyseed Salmon with Rustic Kumara

Spag Bol with leftover steak from BBQ. I made this without a recipe. It went watery for some reason but still tasted good.

Homespun beef and beans with pasta in super-retro pot. The next day, I took the leftover spag bol sauce, added a few handfuls of macaroni and let it cook, then added some beans. (Kind of like Nigella's "Beef and Beans with Pasta" from How to Eat.) Delicious.

Salad with shaved asparagus in it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Great Aussie Tradition

I do love barbecues, but rarely do them. They take a lot of effort, what with having to drag our Beefmaster 2000 out of the garage, and they're really messy, creating lots of smoke and spitting fat. However, today there were a few factors which meant that only a real barbecue would do. Firstly, the weather was totally ace - clear skies as far as the eye can see. Secondly, I need energy for my studies. Exams are coming up, and my recent diet of "bread, cheese and chocolate" has left me feeling a bit lethargic lately. I wanted to kick-start a month of proper food with a serious dosage of red meat. Thirdly, last Saturday was Grand Final Weekend, the weekend when most normal Australians are at home having rad barbecues, downing cans of VB or Crownies and watching the footy match. I, on the other hand, was at work all day. Now, I don't even like football (gasp!), but I did feel a massive pang of regret at missing out on a snag that day.

Dad & I did a massive shop this morning - stocking up on fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit, grains, salad and so on. And of course, we stopped in at our favourite buctcher, Rendinas, for the indespensible meat for our BBQ.

We bought:
- 1 T-bone steak
- 2 sirloin steaks
- 2 northern Italian hot pork sausages
- 2 beef BBQ sausages
- 2 bratwurst

My brother and his girlfriend did the salads, whilst I worked the Beefmaster. I do love a bit of delegation.

Cooking meat - there's asparagus in the blue jug, and fennel cooking on the grill behind the steaks. Asparagus hardly take any time to cook, so I did them last.

Jar of Asparagus

Plate of meat.... drool.


Plate - that be some good meat. Now if that doesn't give me energy to study, I don't know what will!

Friday, October 06, 2006

L'Shanah Tovah!

During Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish bakeries around town make these awesome big challah. Usually they're long and plaited, but they make big round ones for the new year. My dad came home last night with one such challah...

Giant challah - Check out the "timtam to challah size ratio".

He also got a poppyseed pastry thingo...

And I had these for breakfast this morning!

My b'fast - grilled mozzarella cheese on challah. Sounds weird, but is DELICIOUS.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Pasta Con Acciughe e Pomodoro

Tonight's dinner was yet another recipe from Jamie's Italy. I was knackered after a hard day at uni, (seriously, does anyone wake up at 8 in the morning anymore?), but managed to knock this up after coming home.

Pasta Con Acciughe e Pomodoro

Jamie says to use margherita pasta if you can find it - kind of like fettucine with one curly side, or just spaghetti or tagliatelle. I found some unusual pasta at the deli the other day, curly down both edges, so I decided to use that.

To make the scanty sauce (it just coats the pasta - no drowning the pasta in sauce, 1980's Aussie bistro stylie), you heat oil in a pan, then add garlic, pine nuts, raisins and anchovies, cooking until the anchovies melt. Then you add some tomato puree and a glass of red wine, and cook until thickened and reduced. You serve it with fried breadcrumbs over the top, which I guess is kinda a poor-man's version of parmesan cheese. I really liked the interest which it added to the dish.

The sauce is unusual, and I was a bit hesitant about serving this to my bro and my dad, but they loved it. I should have realised this though; the pine-nut-raisin-anchovy combo always works well in my household! My hero Nigella would probably use marsala in place of the red wine, and I would not be adverse to trying that next time.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Steve, Don't Eat It!

My cousin put me onto this hilarious site today. Apparently she stumbled across it at work one day and was in tears laughing for hours.

Basically this dude eats really digusting food and then writes about it. He's really, really funny. My favourite quote is from the entry where he eats natto (Japanese fermented soybeans).

The entire experience is difficult to describe, but if you can remember back to the very first time you made out with a hobo's ass, it's a lot like that.

Check it out here: Steve, Don't Eat It!

Another Springtime Lunch...

The warmer weather always makes me feel like sitting outside with a bowl of pasta, soaking up the deligtful sunshine. For lunch on Thursday last week, I made Nigella's tagliolini al pesto amaro (which I actually made with casarece) from Forever Summer, as well as a batch of her rhubarb muffins from Feast.

The pesto is different from ordinary pesto in that it uses rocket as its base, instead of basil. It's just a case of mixing up rocket, garlic, pine nuts, anchovies and parmesan cheese in a blender, and then slowly adding olive oil as well as a spoonful of ricotta. Then you can toss it through the pasta. I used casarece because I heard that it goes well with pesto, and so bought a packet after returning home from Italy the first time. That was 2 years ago. Whoops.


Anyway, the pesto and pasta tasted great, and is definitely a contender for a regular family meal.

The rhubarb muffins are just ordinary muffins made with a buttermilk batter, with the addition of wheatgerm (I used rolled oats, which didn't have a detrimental effect) and some chopped up rhubarb. Easy peasy.

Rhubarb Muffins

Having made many of Nigella's muffin recipes before, I knew beforehand that I would have to cut down on the sugar content, even with the sour rhubarb in the mixture. The recipe stipulated 250g brown sugar, I only used 200g. They're fantastic - soft and warm inside, with a delectably crunchy and fragrant top. The sour rhubarb against the sweet cakey mixture is just lovely.

Muffin inside

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Alumbra's Gourmet BBQ or "Happy Birthday Mark!"

On Friday night, I went to Alumbra to celebrate my good friend Mark's birthday. Alumbra is a wicked-cool bar in the Docklands. Note - it is in the Docklands. This means you will get lost trying to find it. I'd reccommend giving yourself an extra 30 minutes. They have a gourmet BBQ menu there, which was pretty cool.

Mark, myself, and a lamb bone. We so bond over food.

Basically, you buy a $15 ticket at the bar, and take it outside to the BBQ man, who will cook you up 3 pieces of meat. He had beef patties, lamb and sausages. Now that I'm looking at their online menu, it seems that they're supposed to have a wider range of meats, with more exotic flavouring and accompaniments. Oh well, it tasted good anyway. And the BBQ man rocks!


Barbecue Man! He was so nice!

You can also get salads, bread and dips...

Potato salad, regular salad, dips

Plate of Bread & Meat - mmm.... delicious.

And once your plate is loaded up, you can take it back inside (or stay at the outdoor tables) and eat!

Time to eat

Eating barbecue is serious business.

Happy Birthday Mark!!