Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin

'No more pumpkin', pleads the child after I serve up pumpkin gnocchi, a creamy pumpkin sauce and roasted pumpkin with crispy pancetta & parsley. 'Actually this is really good she contends after tasting'. I think she's lucky because, despite my obsession with pumpkin of late, at least I vary the offerings. Unlike my mother who dealt with a bumper crop of self seeded pumpkins by serving the family pumpkin pancakes - over and over. In fact thinking about it it's rather surprising pumpkin has become one of my favourite vegetables, along with cauliflower, eggplant, beans - okay truth be told I just love vegies! So the pumpkin trilogy was just one incantation, a few weeks back I included a similar dish of roasted pumpkin seved with soft polenta.
Bubble and Squeak - Red Cup Cafe

Recently I've had a very tasty pumpkin/potato bubble and squeak with sauteed spinach, poached egg and hollandaise at Red Cup Cafe (see earlier post for details) and a great Pumpkin Masala at a new find for wonderful Indian cuisine.  
Kerala fish curry, lamb saag & pumpkin masala

Ragam,  841 Doncaster Road Doncaster. The decor at Ragam is elegant, service delightful and curries are fragrant and flavoursome without being too oily from excess ghee.
Ragam on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Eating in the burbs...

Whilst there are many little gems tucked away in shopping centres, next to community libraries and other out of way places these are more often than not Asian, Middle Eastern and the like. Finding good 'modern Australian cuisine' in the suburbs has been a tough call so it's lovely to see a few more slowly making it up the list of places worthy of a visit.

Establishments that use good quality ingredients, cooked well and  with balanced accompaniments. Cooks who know that more is not always better, that flavours need to be carefully matched and combining unusual ingredients requires more than just 'creativity'. Service staff who know not to clear plates before the table have finished and don't just pay lip service to ' how was your meal'? When visiting family in rural Victoria our dining experiences are still often peppered with, '"How's ya dinna luv?". Thats not to say that fabulous food cannot be found in the country but while I know where to travel for culinary treats or where to find a decent parma  its high time for the average to step it up a notch .
Here's two that are a cut above the average:
Tender Trap 2/266 Blackburn Rd, Doncaster East
Worth pacing oneself to include the sweet Loukoumathes (Greek donuts) with baklava ice-cream. 
Tender Trap on Urbanspoon 
Barrio 77 Upper Heidelberg Rd, Ivanhoe
Great bastilla and falafel even if they are a slightly  unusual inclusion on a 'Mediterranean' tasting platter .
Barrio on Urbanspoon 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Subcontinent Delights!

It is one year ago today that I began my Northern Indian culinary discovery. Soupy curries of lentils, black beans and chickpeas are the mainstays - the base for many, a braised onion & tomato 'gravy'. This gravy underpins a diverse array of curries from heady goat to the more delicate fish as well as the vegetable and legume versions. And being northern, roti is the staple accompaniment rather than rice, although for guests a caramelised onion basmati pilau is often added to the menu. No point including a recipe for the roti as it is just atta (wholemeal flour) and water, the magic is in the method - something learnt through years of daily practise I feel. But one of my favourite dishes is Aloo Gobi - like all curries many versions exist but I just love this one:
  • 1 tbl  oil (ghee for the purists)
  • 1 tsp crushed ginger/garlic
  • 1/2 cauliflower cut into medium flowerettes
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and diced approx. 3 cm
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • roughly chopped fresh coriander
  • optional - chopped fresh chilli
Heat the oil in a high sided pan, add the ginger/garlic and saute lightly. Add the cauliflower, potato, turmeric and salt and continue to saute a few minutes. Turn down the heat and cover with a lid. Allow to cook slowly until the vegetables are cooked, not too soft -you may need to add a small sprinkle of water to stop it from sticking. Stir in garam masala and serve with fresh coriander and chilli if you like a little heat. This makes enough for 6 as part of a meal with a meat and/or legume curry, bread and raita. So unpretentious, even simple yet so delicious especially if you are a cauliflower fan as I am  - I've even been caught snacking on it cold for breakfast!

I'm still the apprentice but am allowed to make the raita unsupervised and have replaced the pre-prepared garam masala in my pantry with the family’s own freshly ground version. Thank you Jas for inviting me into your kitchen and sharing the richness of your culinary culture!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

It's Sunday evening so what shall I cook?

Its raining and very wet outside and the Italian parsley is almost flattened with the weight of precipitation and whilst the little I added to this dish did not do much to lighten the burden it did provide the flavour and texture contrast this dish needed.

A few simple components on creamy soft polenta - that’s 5 parts chicken stock to 1 part polenta stirred for about 20 minutes topped with a little sugo (or Italian passatta), roasted seasoned pumpkin, fresh curd cheese, crispy grilled prosciutto, a little grated pecorino and the parsley.

A glass of Pinot Grigio and Bob’s your uncle (and Betty’s your aunt!). Cheers and Bon Appetit!