Tuesday, July 27, 2010

First mushroom harvest

Tonight I harvested my first of my mushrooms that I planted a month ago - 9 gorgeous looking specimens! They are ready when the veil over the gills begins to tear, and you can leave them to fully open or pick them with closed caps as I did. The veil can be seen in the picture below:


The other 'ripe' mushrooms in the box (with my curious kitty Nutmeg in the background!):


All 9 mushrooms, which weighed in at 341g in total:


The next flush should be ready in about 10 days or so. Bring them on!

Cookbook challenge, week 37: Steak, Guinness and cheese pie with puff pastry lid

The theme for week 37 is hearty, and I found a recipe in Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home that sounded delicious and that I thought J would enjoy: a steak, Guinness and cheese pie.

olive oil
3 medium red onions, peeled and chopped (I used 3 small white onions)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
30g butter, plus extra for greasing
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
4 field mushrooms, sliced (I used 7 white mushrooms)
1kg beef, cut into 2cm cubes
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
440ml can of Guinness
2 heaped tbs plain flour
200g grated cheese (I used less)
puff pastry
1 egg

In a large ovenproof pan (I used an electric frypan) heat a glug of olive oil on a low heat.
Add the onions and fry gently for about 10 minutes.
Increase the heat and add the garlic, butter, carrots, celery and mushrooms, and mix everything together well.
Stir in the beef, rosemary, a pinch of salt and a level teaspoon of pepper.
Fry for 3-4 minutes then add Guinness, stir in the flour and add just enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in an oven at 190ºC for 2.5 hours (I used a slow cooker on high for 4 hours), stirring occasionally.
If it is too liquidy after cooking, reduce the liquid over heat or add some more flour.
Remove from the heat and stir in half of the cheese, then season.
Leave to cool slightly (you can do up until this step a day ahead).
Grease an appropriately sized pie dish, then line with a sheet of puff pastry, leaving the edges dangling over the side.
Tip pie mixture into the dish, then scatter with the rest of the cheese.
Brush the edge of the pastry with egg.
Cut out a lid-sized shape of puff pastry and place it over the top of the pie, folding the overhanging bottom pastry over it.
Brush the top with egg then bake in a preheated 190ºC oven for 45 minutes, until puffed and golden.

I used a smaller pie dish, around 7 inches in diameter, and this only used half the pie mixture. I've saved the rest to use another time - I think I will make individual mini pies with it (as it was still a little sloppy when serving as you can see below). The pie was great, with a beautiful and rich (and hearty!) filling. Served with some steamed broccoli and beans, it made a great meal.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Criterion Street Cafe

Criterion Street Cafe is a popular little spot. Their menu is quite short but the food has been wonderful every time I've eaten there.

Hot chocolate in the foreground and chai latte in the background (complete with gorgeous little honey bottle!)


Smoked salmon foccacia with red onion, cucumber, tomato and aioli ($12). The smoked salmon in this was really good.


A special: Warm salad of field mushrooms, crisp green beans, roast beetroot, rocket and fetta ($14). Delicious and filling, but I was imagining how divine this would be with the Meredith's marinated fetta that we had at Piccalilly...


Criterion Street Cafe website.

Criterion St Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mushrooms and greenhouse

They are getting bigger!



I bought a greenhouse for my herbs (less than $40 and it's huge, much bigger than I was expecting!). It will hopefully keep them nice and warm and happy in our north-facing sunroom, and also protect them from our cats, which are far too inquisitive. I've got the Italian parsley (which is doing well) and coriander (which is struggling) in there, and I've added some mint, thyme, marjoram and oregano, plus another house plant that has been a bit unwell. I've left my baby bay tree outside as it seems to be coping with the cold.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 36: Sausages and mash with red wine, cumin and onion gravy

The theme for week 36: comfort. The other half requested curried sausages and although I couldn't find a recipe for this in my cookbooks, I did find an interesting recipe in Nigella's How To Eat (this cookbook is getting a lot of use lately!). It's in the Weekend Lunch section of the book, and the recipe for the gravy is provided with suggestions to cook it with the sausages and mash.

30g oil (or beef dripping)
225g onions, very finely diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 scant tbs of sugar
2 scant tbs of flour
500mL beef stock
150mL red wine

Heat the oil in a thick-bottomed large saucepan and add the onions.
Cook on a low heat for 10 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the ground cumin and cook another 5 minutes or so.
Turn up the heat and add the sugar, and let the onions caramelise slightly for 3-4 minutes, then add the flour, stirring constantly.
Cook for another 2 minutes then add the stock and wine.
Mix well then simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

I cooked the sausages in the gravy, adding them when it had about 20 minutes to go - this works for devilled and curried sausages so I figured it would be ok with this recipe too. Served with mashed potatoes and some peas, it was very much comfort food. I think the gravy could do with another element, perhaps some fresh thyme to give it a boost, but it was still delicious as is.

Was it worth the 50+ minutes of cooking time? I'm undecided.

As you can see, I like my mashed potatoes lumpy, with skins still on!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 35: Spanish stew

The theme for week 35 (last week! I am a bit behind) was Spanish, and although I don't have any Spanish cookbooks (I plan to change this soon), I found a tasty-sounding recipe in Nigella Lawson's How To Eat.

1 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
400g chorizo sausages, sliced into fat coins
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
100mL dry sherry (I substituted some dry white wine)
1kg waxy potatoes, cut into halves or quarters
fresh coriander

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Put the oil into a wide oven-proof pan or dish (I used an electric frypan then transferred to an oven dish) on medium-low heat.
Add onion and cook for 5 minutes.
Add garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
Add the chorizo, bay leaf, sherry and stir.
Add the potatoes, stir, and then add boiled water to only just cover the potatoes.
Simmer for 10 minutes then check for seasoning.
Put the dish into the oven for 35-40 minutes.
Remove and serve with chopped coriander and bread.



It was rather tasty - my worry was that the liquid would seem too fatty from the chorizo juices but it was instead very moorish. It would make a lovely component for a tapas-type meal or as a side dish to a roast, served with some fresh green beans.

A few of the Melbourne-based bloggers in this challenge met up for a Spanish potluck - check out Agnes's post here. Yum!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Baby mushrooms

I have little baby mushrooms starting to appear!

About 3 weeks ago I planted some mushrooms and they are now just starting to poke their caps through the casing:




Thursday, July 15, 2010

Piccalilly, Battery Point

J & I recently celebrated our anniversary with an 8-course degustation at Piccalilly in Battery Point. They are offering a winter deal for this menu: only $86 on Tuesday and Wednesday nights (instead of the usual $122) - fantastic value.

Coconut and wasabi salad: this amuse dish was very mild, with slices of coconut meat plus a coconut jelly and wasabi sprinkles, I couldn't taste the wasabi in mine. I've read online of other wonderful amuse dishes at Piccalilly and I think we might have been a bit unlucky with the offering on the night we were there.

Bread: we were offered a choice of sourdough or linseed, and a choice of salted butter, olive oil or French butter. The sourdough was lovely and soft, with a deliciously salty crust and subtly sour interior.

Yellowtail kingfish ceviche with miso and pickled white radish: the radish and fish were draped with the miso jelly, and the end of a pipette peeks out. The pipette contained yuzu, chardonnay vinegar and olive oil and you squeeze it out to cure the fish. The presentation of the dish was just gorgeous, but it wasn't one of my favourites, as I think it was a little bit overwhelmed by the astringency of either the pickled radish or the vinegar in the pipette.
You can see a picture of this dish on the Piccalilly blog here.

Vegetable salad with Meredith's marinated fetta: this was completely and utterly amazing. The fetta was slightly warm and soft and melted on your tongue. The vegetables were mostly baby, and were cooked to perfection. From memory, there were carrots, beetroot, brussel sprouts, snow peas, and a couple of others that I have forgotten, all set on a bed of sliced fennel. Beautiful, and one of my favourite courses.

Fish with various onions and roasted onion essence: this dish can also be seen on the Piccalilly blog. We had latchet, and it was cooked perfectly with an terrifically crunchy batter considering how thin it was. I tend to avoid onions, but all components of this were lovely, particularly the caramelised and pureed brown onions - so sweet. The other onion preparations included crispy shallots, pickled white onions, confit garlic and glazed spring onions.

Mount Gnomon Farm Wessex Saddleback pork shoulder mornay with egg yolk pasta, crackling and sweet corn puree: this can be seen here. The pork was wonderfully tender. The bechamel sauce had me tempted to lick the plate, and the cracking was expectedly delicious with an unexpected (yet nice!) hint of a marzipan-like flavour.

Fizzy raspberry palate cleanser: a little shot glass of raspberry cordial was presented with two little white rocks that we were instructed to drop into the glass to dissolve for a minute. I tasted the cordial before and after adding the fizz, and interestingly although it added a tingle to the cordial, it also mellowed the pure and tart flavour of the raspberries.

Slow cooked goat shoulder with grains, chickpea puree and cucumber foam, which can be seen here. My other favourite course - the textures and flavours in this dish were divine. The combination of ingredients worked beautifully, and I loved the mixture of the grains, which included black rice, pearl barley, burghul, faro and quinoa. Stunning.

Dry-aged Longford eye fillet with piccalilly and cured red cabbage: this dish can be seen here. The beef cheek was beautifully rare and full of flavour, and I loved the crispiness of the edges (although J was less keen on this). The pastry on the miniature beef Wellington was melt-in-the-mouth.

Goat's cheese, bread and quince: definitely my least favourite course - I just can't handle the flavour of goat cheese no matter how much I try! The cheese was a soft style with a white mould rind, and had been warmed so that the insides were wonderfully gooey. It was served with a very thinly sliced fruit and nut bread and segments of poached quince.

Dark chocolate ice-cream with honey and 30 second hazelnut sponge: this is pictured here. It was fantastic - each component was very tasty on their own and when combined together... delicious! The ice-cream was deceptively rich and chocolatey despite the pale colour. The fizzy honey jelly balanced the richness perfectly.

What a meal!

We also decided to indulge in some wine for the occasion, and started with a bottle of 2008 Tiberio Pecorino ($55/bottle), and this sat very nicely against the first half of our meal. We then had some red wine for the red meat dishes, and the Storm Bay Merlot ($7.50/glass) and Turner's Crossing Shiraz Viognier ($8.50/glass) were both fantastic, I particularly enjoyed the shiraz. Finally, the Pirie Clark's Botrytis Riesling ($8.50/glass) was completely delicious with the chocolate dessert.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bits and pieces

J and I went to Bruny Island for some R&R last weekend, and stayed at a nice little holiday house called The Don in Allonah. Our booking included breakfast and we were presented with this wonderful assortment of food: bacon, fresh farm eggs, half-cooked croissants that were amazingly delicous when finished, breadmaker bread, fruit cups, muesli, tea, coffee, milo, local jams and other condiments. It was gorgeous.


We enjoyed some cheese - the green one is the vine-wrapped Oen from the Bruny Island Cheese Co., plus some raclette and a peppercorn-studded variety from the Italian Pantry. At the front are Bruny Island Cheese Co.'s spiced cherries in pinot noir. I think I'll try to have a go at pickling cherries when they are in season again.


An easy and delicious soup made from pumpkin, carrot, parsnip, leek, onion, garlic, cumin, peppercorns, chicken stock and a dash of cream:


A bay tree that I am going to plant in a pot:


My mushrooms haven't made much progress yet, but I hope to see them appearing soon, fingers crossed!

Finally, what we bought from the Hobart farmer's market today. Daikon ($1.50), gorgeous little Viking potatoes ($1.20), coriander ($3), spiced pumpkin dip ($2.20) and rocket and cashew dip ($2.50). I really wanted to get some goat meat to make a curry with, but unfortunately that stall wasn't there this week.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 34: The Astor Grill's seafood chowder

The theme for week 34 is soup, and I made a recipe from Tasmania's Table - seafood chowder from The Astor Grill here in Hobart.

50g softened butter
1 small brown onion, diced
3 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
1 leek, washed and chopped
225g pink eye potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled, quartered, sliced
15g plain flour
1.2L full cream milk
150mL white wine
450g cod or ling
200g scallops, roe on
8 mussels in shell, debearded
120mL King Island double cream
Salt and pepper
1/2c chopped parsley, for garnish

Heat butter in a large saucepan.
Add onions, garlic, potato, leek and carrots and fry until browned.
Add flour, cook for one minute while stirring constantly.
Add wine and milk slowly, stirring with a wooden spoon to ensure there are no lumps.
Add the fish, scallops and mussels.
Simmer for 10-15minutes or until the potato is soft.
Finish with cream.
Season with salt and pepper to taste (I found that quite a lot of each is needed)
Serve and garnish with parsley.

I have no words for this, other than: oh my gosh it is completely and utterly delicious!
I only had half the amounts of seafood specified as I was planning to make half the recipe until a friend of J's was a last minute dinner guest addition. I can only imagine how much more fantastic this would be with the full amount of seafood... ooh!


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 33: Scallops with a crisp crust

The theme for week 33 is seafood and I decided to use scallops as they are something I haven't really eaten much, or cooked with at all. The recipe comes from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion.

1 1/2 tbs plain flour
1 tbs polenta
1/2 tbs cornflour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
olive oil
8 scallops, cleaned (I left the roe on)
1/4 cup buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
Heat a frypan with 1cm oil
Dip the scallops in the milk then roll in the flour mixture.
Cook in the oil until lightly browned on each side.

The recipe serves them with a parsley and lemon butter and salad, but we just enjoyed them with some Japanese mayonnaise. It was a very easy recipe, and I am happy that my first foray into scallops worked! The only odd detail about this recipe is that because they are dipped into the liquid then flour the batter does not stick to the scallops very well at all, and I had to handle them quite gently to avoid the batter falling off. Usually when battering things like this, recipes specify to dip them in flour then liquid then flour/crumb again. If I make these again I'll think try it that way instead to compare the results.


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Trashy food: meatcake!

A friend recently hosted a bring-a-plate dinner, with the theme of sweets. I'll post more from this later, but I wanted to post the recipe for one of my contributions: meatcake! Vegetarians, avert your eyes.

I'm much more a savouries person than a sweets person, sweets become all a bit too much for me very quickly, so I thought I'd make this as a twist on the theme. I got a lot of tips from this site.

The meatcake in all its glory (thanks to Bec for this and the last picture)


Here's how I made it!

I mixed together the following ingredients to make a meatloaf mixture:
2kg mince, half beef and half pork
1 onion, finely diced
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp mixed herbs
1/2 tbs crushed garlic
2 tsp tomato paste
a good squirt of barbecue sauce
1 1/2 cups beadcrumbs
Salt and pepper

And then it looks like this:


I divided the mixture into two disposable foil pans, used because I didn't have two cake tins of the same size.


I put them in the oven at 190ºC and cooked them until their juices ran clear when cut into with a knife, which was about an hour and a quarter in my oven. They were then left them to drain on a cake rack (the meat leaks a lot of juices).


Once they had cooled and dried a bit, I put one on a cake stand and spread it with mashed potato. For convenience I used a packet of Deb potato - I didn't really have the time (or patience!) to cook and make a perfectly smooth mashed potato from scratch!


The final step is to ice the outside of the meat with mashed potato. I did a crumb layer first, by spreading a thin layer of potato over the cake. Next was the final layer using another packet of mash. It was actually quite hard to ice the cake as the potato prefers to stick to itself instead of the meat - I ended up finding that using the back of a very wet spoon resulted in the smoothest sides. I wasn't 100% happy with the result of the icing and would have loved to get it smoother and neater but I ran out of time - and mashed potato (I suggest using three packets of Deb instead of the two that I used).

I decorated the cake with bacon stars (lightly browned bacon, then shapes cut out using a biscuit cutter) and piped potato frosting, as shown in the first picture above.

It went down a treat!

Happy meatcake:


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thailand eating, part 2: Tenta Nakara

J and I spent two nights at Tenta Nakara. It was an amazing place to stay, and a big part of that was due to the food. It was some of the best of the whole trip! It was a little pricier than average though.

The ubiquitous Thai fruit shake, watermelon flavour:


Pina colada!


J enjoyed what we later realised was a bucket - a potent mix of red bull, coke and rum.


Pineapple fried rice ($6). The fluffy shrimpy stuff on top was fantastic.


The rice came with cucumber or egg soup, we chose the cucumber.


Pad Thai in omelette ($4)


Inside the omelette:


Squid stuffed with minced chicken and glass noodle ($8.50)


Chicken wings stuffed with vegetables and glass noodles ($8.50)


Breakfast - there were a few set options, I chose the chicken rice which was delicious with some chilli mixed in. It came with fruit, iced lemongrass tea and a choice of hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate - I had hot chocolate and it was incredibly bitter!


J went for the fruit option, and it came with what we first thought was yoghurt, but was actually mayonnaise!


Pad Thai


Shrimp paste fried rice, with omelette, beef and other bits and pieces ($8.50). This was fantastic, and the dried prawns on top of the rice were addictive.


It also came with a choice of soup, this time we went for the egg option.


Original fried rice ($5)


A very alcoholic margarita


Chicken satay


Betel leaf wraps. I loved these, but John wasn't so keen. You put whatever combination of fillings you like onto the leaf, then wrap it up and eat it all. Starting from the top-left and going clockwise, the fillings were roasted coconut, red onion, lime, chilli, ? (ginger, maybe?), dried prawns, peanuts and a fishy sauce in the middle.


A (very badly photographed) chilli chicken hotplate.


Another breakfast - this time chicken noodle soup.


Next up: Phuket Town