Thursday, December 17, 2009

Summer festivities

So many food experiences and so little time to blog – stay turned for great outdoor eating, harvesting the fruits of summer to make jam; relish and other preserves, new brunch delights and so much more…….

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pub Grub

Such an unattractive term for food which can be so honest, predictable and at times downright comforting. Unfortunately finding such fare at the ‘local’ can be a little difficult as Melbourne’s hotels are ‘done up’ and ‘gentrified’. A trip to more rural settings (the country) might be needed. The menu mainstays are often the surest bets, Chicken Parma (Parmigianino), big juicy steaks, crispy beer battered ‘fish’ or a mixed grill all served with chips and salad or vegetables cooked just like my grandmother used to – soft and with plenty of butter and salt! Of course sharing these homely meals is at its best with family – whatever that ‘family’ might look like – sometimes this is the people we spend so much time with… our work mates. The Toolangi Tavern between Yarra Glen and Healesville has $15.00 ‘Pub Classics’ and a pretty-as-a-picture backdrop to the outdoor deck or a cosy log fire in winter and the steak sandwich or Toolangi burgers are not bad either! Good Aussie tucker.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Tried & true or bold & new......

Eating out in Melbourne offers the diner anything from cheap and cheerful comforting classics to awesome offerings which have the potential to make you and your wallet twitch. Whatever you decide there is little doubt that Melbournians are spoilt for choice – a week of outs rather than ins has included:
Day 1 - Vietnamese pork and prawn rice paper rolls

Day 2 - Steamed Chinese custard buns - and a few custard bun converts

Day 3 - Taxi's "Stockyards Wagyu porterhouse marble score 7+ with horseradish cream & yakiniku"

Day 4 - A colourful Korean Bibimbap Hotpot

Day 5 - Embrasse's "Meli melo of vegetables, sprouts, herbs and flowers"

My dining companions as diverse as the culinary adventures - thanks one and all! Keep up the gastronomic exploration and don't forget to share the gems!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Preserved........for today and tomorrow

So often my mantra is 'fresh is best' but climate, economics and traditions provide the foodie world with flora and fauna preserved for another day. No better example than cheese, found in the cuisines of so many regions and such a diverse array. From the soft moist fresh curd to the aged pressed cooked curd varieties, cheese  = preserved milk.

A global platter of spicy pickled cucumbers, juicy salty olives, chewy chorizo, sweet pariser, garlicky Polish sausage, tangy tomato relish, crisp grissini and sour sourdough can be achieved from the archives of the pantry or fridge no need to venture out.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eggplants, aubergine & brinjal....

Does eggplant belong in Laksa? - two trusty Malay foodies say no, but is seems to be used by all my favourite Laksa makers! Laksa King includes eggplant in its beautifully balanced chicken incantation.

As the season for this fabulously versatile vegetable approaches my list of loved eggplant dishes is ever expanding.......
11 eggplant dishes to cook or seek out!
1. Fried as a garnish in Laksa
2. Braised in Thai green chicken curry (purple striped or small green Thai variety)
3. Smoked over the open flame for Baba Ganoush
4. Spiced with pea’s in Baingan bharta
5. Fried in olive oil and layered between rich passatta and stracchino cheese in Eggplant Melazani
6. Yaki nasu - baked eggplant with miso
7. Marinated olive oil fried slices as part of an Antipasto
8. Whole marinated baby eggplants filled with walnuts on a Mezze
9. Layered with potatoes and minced lamb in Moussaka
10. Sautéed with onions, garlic, zucchini, capsicum, & tomatoes in Ratatouille
11. Bouranee Baunjan - Afghani eggplant with yogurt sauce
 Laksa King 320 Racecourse Rd, Flemington.
 Happy Eggplanting!!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tofu lovers rejoice!

The elegant simplicity of Japanese cuisine brings us Agedashi tofu (or agedashi dofu) – generous cubes of firm cotton tofu ever so lightly dusted with potato or corn starch before being deep fried to golden then served in a steaming tentsuyu broth (dashi, mirin & Japanese soy sauce), the finishing flavours a topping of grated ginger, shredded spring onion and dancing bonito flakes, pure delight! (No time for pics or my cube will disappear.) Longrain has a cracker tofu dish too - Salt and pepper silken tofu with stir fried Chinese broccoli and snow peas (also in a fabulous broth).

Hidden in Glen Waverley, Shira Nui is a gem for Japanese cuisine. You'll have to book in advance but the 8pm sitting will keep you entertained if at the bar as chef Hiro Nishikura prepares 'Omakase' - stunning sushi - the grilled eel a must (even my non-foodie dad loves this one!). Shira Nui 247 Springvale Rd Glen Waverley, Longrain 44 Little Bourke St, Melbourne or if heading to Phillip Island take a detour to Tomo 23 A’Beckett St Inverloch - Tomo's miso braised duck pictured.

Shira Nui @  Shiranui on Urbanspoon 

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pizza, cake and mozzarella!

Q. What takes 2 dinners, 1 lunch, 2 cakes and 10 pizza's? A. A 17th birthday celebration so it seems!The pizza's are the local takeaway variety - not my preferred of course! And in fact when I go to my fav pizza establishment its not actually the pizza I order first, its the velvety Italian buffalo mozzarella served simply with a few slices of sweet and salty capocollo (or prosciutto) and thin crispy grissini. The pizza’s at D.O.C. are also good – thin crispy base and chewy crust with a few but simply combined toppings. For supplies to make your own or anything else Italian, a trip to Mediterranean Wholesalers or a recent discovery Roma Deli will have you leaving with shopping bags of E.V.O (extra virgin olive oil for the uninitiated) Mazzetti balsamic, Gragnano pasta, pecorino cheese, olives and tomatoes and and and ....... D.O.C. 295 Drummond Street, Carlton South, Mediterranean Wholesalers 482 Sydney Road Brunswick, Roma Deli 32 Gladestone Road Dandenong. Bellissimo

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dumplings, dumplings, dumplings

I never can decide which ones to have, the vegetable or the pork, steamed or fried but I do know what sauce I want and its not soy. Its Chinese black vinegar for sure - the sourness a perfect contrast with the doughiness! Take care when you bite into one of these packets of bliss - besides being chokka's with filling they have the tendency to squirt steaming liquid at either you or your dinning companion!!! A trusted foodie friend tells me Camy Shanghai Dumpling House, 25 Tattersall’s Lane Melbourne (off Lt Bourke St) is the go! I have a few favourites in Box Hill for the eastsiders including Tempura & Dumpling House, Centro Box Hill 17 Market Street Box Hill.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Sydney Road Shimmy.

Sydney Road, Brunswick - yes home to my favourite haunt Tom Phat - but heading further north one can find a plethora of business's devoted to Middle Eastern delights. Pistachio nuts and spiced broad beans to greet friends; garlic laden dips of eggplant, chickpea or beetroot for a mezze; delicate Iraqi breads filled with cheese and spinach or Lebanese topped pizza of minced lamb & tomatoes and to finish sweet syrupy nutty baklava or even better Zanoud! One might head home with a bucket load of sumac or za’tar (spices to use on everything especially lamb!) or even some Syrian sugar lumps to soothe a sore throat or a giant Tagine to make Moroccan stew. But best to taste your way along as you shop and even better bring along some like-minded foodies to share the fun! Amir Bakery 819, Balha's Pastry 761, Phonecian Bakery & Cafe 774, A1 Bakery 643 - Sydney Road Brunswick. Enjoy

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Scones, jam and cream!

That's it really - sometimes one just needs a little comfort food. The best scone recipe is not my grandmother's, though - she would have gently rubbed butter into the flour. I use this one: 1 cup of SR flour, 100 mls cream and enough milk to make a soft dough (slightly soured milk is great or add a squeeze of lemon juice - this changes the chemical reaction with the baking powder which can cause the soapy taste). Don't be too gentle with this mix it needs to be well worked - my scone cutter IS what my grandmother used, a small can with top and bottom removed! Bake at approx. 180 C until golden.

I’m sure there’s no need to tell you that scones must be eaten warm!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

French Toast

As a child French Toast was a treat when the chooks had been laying well and sometimes it was a two course affair. First course a savoury version served with Grandma's homemade tomato sauce followed by 'sweets' the same soft delicious eggy bread topped with whatever berries had been turned into sugary jam that year. Alas both versions were of the sliced white bread variety. Modern versions made with sour dough, French stick or even croissants are so much better. The red door corner store has a luscious one of brioche topped with passionfruit curd and banana – shame the banana wasn’t grilled like the one I had in the Cook Islands (mmmm tropical banana’s!) – but still excellent. The red door corner store, 70 Mitchell St, Northcote. (A little birdie told me I might find a good breakfast here - thanks for the tip Michelle!)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Vietnamese Pho

The freshness of Vietnamese cuisine fits perfectly with spring in Melbourne - and its hard to beat a bowl a Pho with its fragrant broth infused with star anise and coriander, the slippery rice noodle, crispy beanshoots, peppery herbs and tang of lemon juice and fresh chilli.
Even better when shared with a diverse group all bought together by the love of exploring food. Where's the best pho in Melbourne????? or is just ducking into the local the best because you might get special congealed ox blood(oops perhaps shouldn't have mentioned that) For generally good Vietnamese Thanh Hga nine 160 Victoria St Richmond is reliable. On a hot day order a glass of refreshing lemon soda - transports me instantly to Ho Chi Min City!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Brunch is the best!

I love brunch - I can catch up with friends who have been up since the 'crack of dawn' when I have just slothed out of bed and we can savour breakfast or lunch together. Rather than one of my favourite haunts today we tried Snow Pony. The baked beans were yum! - nearly as good as the ones at Babka (don’t forget to buy a loaf of the vegetable bread to take home) and A Minor Place. The bread at Dench’s makes it a great choice for breakfast (and a loaf or two to takeaway) but my all time fav is Tom Phat for anytime of the day, fantastic breakfast dishes, great juice combinations, a glass of wine/ale, light lunches, rich mains, fabulous desserts (Roti pancake, wow!)- an interesting (good interesting) Asian/European mix (an article in The Age Newspaper recently labelled the flavours as Thai but thats way to restrictive Malay, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese) and mostly friendly'ish' & efficient service. Try everything its all great!! Snow Pony, 95 Whitehorse Road Balwyn; Babka Bakery Café, 358 Brunswick St Fitzroy; Dench Bakers, 109 Scotchmer St Fitzroy North; Tom Phat, 184 Sydney Road Brunswick; A Minor Place, 103 Albion St Brunswick.
Tom Phat on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Drinking and 'eating' tea

Yum cha - drinking tea - Catching up with fellow tea connoisseurs to drink tea at Oriental Tea House was an eclectic experience of traditional and modern. The trad - White tea, green tea, black tea, oolong tea & Shanghai dumplings. The mod – happy tea, relaxing tea, tea cocktails, chilled Japanese plum wine and chocolate dumplings. The loudish music fitting with the cool Chapel Street location but not the Zen of the tea ceremony. So go for the tea’s or the vibe but for excellent yum cha try Shark Fin House, 131 Little Bourke Street Melbourne or Tai Pan in 237 Blackburn Road, Doncaster East, for fabulous tea try and if you want to ‘eat’ tea try this recipe: Combine 4 tsp of your favourite tea, 300g brown sugar, 300ml water, 200ml of red wine, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, 4 whole allspice, 5 black peppercorns and the zest of I orange – bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes, strain then add 250g of pitted prunes to the syrup and simmer for another 10 minutes, remove prunes and reduce the syrup until thick and sticky. Serve prunes and syrup on ‘caramel’ yoghurt – lightly whisk enough brown sugar into creamy Greek style yoghurt to taste. Or alternatively use tea and rice as a medium for smoking some chicken.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spring is here!

The nights and mornings are crisp but the days often bathed in bright sunshine, its time to start making salads. Our family favourite is just called the 'big salad' and features something smokey - often chicken breast or trout, something preserved - roasted red casicums (again!) or marinated eggplant together with the freshness of spring - leafy greens, crispy vegetables and fresh curd cheeses topped with crunchy wholemeal croutons.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The love of Laksa

Curry Laksa the traditional Nonya style soup from Malaysia is my idea of takeaway. Its luscious creamy richness and spicy red chilli oil slick on top so inviting, brimming with hokkein and vermicilli noodles, beancurd puffs, fishcake, prawns and beanshoots. One version I love includes silky fried eggplant and a few slices of char sui pork.
Head to Laksa King in Racecourse Road, Flemington they have a number of varieties.
Laksa King on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cheese on toast

Growing up in an era where mums didn't work but rather cooked and cleaned for the family, Sunday was the cooks night off - probably because they had already made a laborious Sunday roast! In our house that meant GYO (Get your own) on Sunday night and for me that was cheese on toast - simply a few slices of tasty sandwiched between two slices of tip top white! Now I can spend eons debating with foodie friends about what type of bread, cheese variety, condiments and even whether it should be dripping with butter 'pan toastie style' or squished in a sandwich press. But what I most prefer is a slice of sour dough drizzled with olive oil, slow toasted in the oven until just crisp then spread with Meredith Dairy marinated feta and topped with roasted red capsicum - now that's cheese on toast!!! Roast red capsicums whole in hot oven 200 Celsius (no need to coat in oil) until they start to darken, cool until you can handle, peel, remove seeds, slice - a little salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil is also nice especially if you plan to keep for a few days.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Left overs"

Today was one for relaxation after yesterdays festivities and of course the best bit is the 'left overs' which actually started late last night sneaking Gulab Jamin from the sweet sticky cardamon scented syrup without leaving a tell tale trail. The chilli, garlic and ginger marinated lamb and pork and tandoori chicken are even better today enjoyed in the peaceful sunshine of the backyard with a refreshing ale. And not forgetting the magnificent chutneys, date, coconut and coriander & mint - no not all together, each with its own unique flavours and zing, so so good. Sorry no restaurants to direct you to today - you'll have to find your own 'special' Indian friend (and family) for these delights.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Magical Mystery Tour - Indian style

The afternoon begins as a shopping trip to Jaipur Curry Club in Clayton to buy mountains of brightly coloured 'quality' Indian sweets to celebrate Diwali (Hindu festival of lights) tomorrow. We duck across to Clayton Road to a grocery that's full of neatly stacked Indian goodies but the rice and spices are the feature and the basmati is in big bags and bigger bags and even bigger bags! And a few doors up a non-descript cafe yields such a treat, Samosa Chaat - crunchy, tangy, hot and sweet flavors combined - wow! Why have I never had one of these before? Jaipur Curry Club, Carinish Rd, Clayton and Sarawan Spices, 335 Clayton Road Clayton.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Afghan Kebabs

Morsels of lamb, chicken or minced lamb marinated for ages in onion and garlic juices then speared onto threateningly large metal skewers and grilled over molten charcoal. Melt in your mouth deliciousness. Not just for the carnivores - with flat bread and salad for nutritional balance of course! Try Kabul Village, Douglas St, Noble Park or Pamir Restaurant in Thomas Street, Dandenong.