Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Christmas Dinner

It's been a long time since we've had Christmas Dinner or Lunch in our family, opting instead to gatecrash the lunchtime festivities at my Aunt and Uncle's. However this year my brother is home from London for Christmas, the first time since 2000, so Mum thought a special meal was in order. Dinner was scheduled for Christmas Eve, which I think is not so unusual in Australia; turkey and other hot foods in the evening and seafood, salads and cold meats on Christmas Day.

Mum decided on the menu; Roast macadamia pork with pickled cherries and roast turkey breast, served with potato bugs (see below), roast pumpkin and baby peas.

For the pork, we stuffed a boned loin with a yummy mixture of macadamia nuts, fresh breadcrumbs, pancetta, parsley and horseradish cream. The end result was a nutty stuffing with a tangy kick from the horseradish cream. Mum has recently renovated her kitchen, so she was very excited to put the new oven to the test, cranking it up to 220 degrees for maximum crackling. You would appreciate her excitement if you knew that our old oven was so useless that roasts were done in the microwave.

(No kidding, and not really as bad as it sounds...a bit of garlic and basil and roast lamb used to turn out pretty good, all things considered.)

The cherries were a great touch with the pork as well. Family friends of ours often give us a box of cherries and sometimes it's hard for the 3 of us (4 this year, although brother doesn't eat cherries) to get through them all. Last year I pickled them, according to a recipe from Stephanie Alexander, and we cracked them open this year for Christmas. They were lovely and sweet with a hint of cloves infused in the vinegar, making them perfect with the roast meat. Other cherry recipes have not gone so well, such as 2 years ago, when I soaked cherries in vodka and sugar. We opened those this year as well and boy, there was a whole lot of alcohol and not a lot of edible. If anyone has any recipes for cherries, I'd love to hear about them in the next few days.

Our turkey was roast turkey breast. Again, being only small in number it's hard for us to get through a whole bird. The sides were nice and simple, roasted alongside the meat. Mum cooked hasselback potatoes - desiree potatoes cut in half and then scored at 5 mm intervals. I called them potato bugs earlier because I think they look like little seafood bugs once they've been roasted. They were very crispy and great drizzled with the pork gravy.

Finally, after main we had ice cream instead of pudding. Brother doesn't like plum pudding so instead we had malteasers and hazelnut icecream. The malteasers were all crushed up in the 2 layers of vanilla, with the chopped hazelnuts in the chocolate. The malt made the vanilla layer nice and chewy, a new texture as far as icecream is concerned.

So all up, a pretty good Christmas Dinner I'd say. Of course on Christmas Day we headed down to gatecrash the seafood and beer at my aunt and uncle's.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

My poor abandoned blog...

It's official, I have now abandoned my blog for over a month. Four postings and then.....nothing.

Unfortunately the move to Melbourne has involved less food and more stress than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, I'm back. I haven't failed to take photos of some of my eats, I've just failed to post them. So hopefully over the next few weeks I can start putting up some of those photos as well as food goodies that I'm sure to eat over Christmas. Lets just hope that I can remember exactly what the photos tasted like.

AO'B, a good friend of mine from Sydney, gave me the Entertainment book for Melbourne which I hope to put to good use. Combined with The Age Good Food Guide, given to me by my colleagues in Canberra, I think there's some serious eating to be done.

Already I've dined at EQ Cafe Bar at the Arts Centre, Mr Wolf in St Kilda and stacks of cafes along the way. I've also had my share of cooking disasters whilst trying to self-cater in my little serviced apartment, with only one frying pan and one saucepan.

Hopefully I can post all about my first few weeks shortly...Thanks for not losing faith.
Happy Christmas eating!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

As my moving plans get started, I've had less and less time for cooking. Lemon Meringue Cakes are the latest thing that I've cooked in my Canberra kitchen and they'll probably be the last.

I made the recipe, from Women's Weekly cupcakes, for friend BA, who is obsessed with citrus based cakes and desserts. Spoonfuls of tangy lemon curd sit in the top of the cake, before being covered by meringue. Whilst B liked the curd best (of course), I liked the coconut, which gives the cake lightness and is also in the meringue.

I've previously mentioned baking disasters (An Unglamorous Beginning) and this attempt was no exception. I started with the curd, but trying to cook an evening meal and the cupcakes concurrently quickly led to problems; the curd went lumpy and there was no saving it. I try and have double the eggs I need for instances just like this one, so I was able to start again. However this time I used Stephanie Alexander's lemon curd recipe and it was much simpler. She makes some interesting points about lemon curd, having debunked the theories that unless you make it in a double saucepan it will curdle and if you leave it uncovered it will form a skin. Apparently not true!

So here is the recipe:

Coconut lemon curd cake
125 g butter
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 1/4 cups self raising flour

Beat butter, rind, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, stir in milk and coconut then sifted flour and divide between 12 standard muffin cases. Smooth surface and bake for 20 minutes in 180°.

I mentioned earlier that the coconut in the recipe is great. I think if you substituted the lemon rind for vanilla essence, this cake recipe would work well for cupcakes with any toppings.

Lemon Curd, from Cook's Companion
4 egg yolks
2/3 cup castor sugar
60 g unsalted butter
2 tsp grated lemon zest
100 ml lemon juice

Whisk egg yolks and sugar until well combined but not frothy. Tip into a saucepan and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer point over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. As soon as bubbles appear remove from heat, still stirring. Allow to cool.

Coconut Meringue
4 egg whites
1 cup castor sugar
1 1/3 cups shredded coconut, chopped finely (I used desiccated)

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and beat till dissolved, fold in coconut.

To assemble the cakes, cut a 2cm deep hole in the centre of each cake and fill with the curd.. Pipe meringue onto the top of each cake and bake in a hot oven for 5 minutes, or until meringue is browned lightly.

I made little nests with the leftover meringue, filled them with the leftover curd and served them with coffee after dinner. Yum!

Tagged with: , ,

Friday, November 03, 2006

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant, Canberra

Tuesday night brought new experiences for my workmates and I, in the form of a staff dinner at Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant. With the exception of Badde Manors Cafe in Glebe I don't think I've been to a wholly vegetarian restaurant. It's not that I'm anti-vegetarian food, I just don't have many vegetarian friends to lead me there.

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant takes things one step further and sells mock meat. Mock meat is an ancient Chinese-Buddhist tradition, constructing faux-flesh from soy and gluten.

The menu reads like a conventional chinese restaraunt, categorized according to appetizers, soups and vegetables, tofu, seafood, chicken/duck, beef/lamb/pork and curry dishes.

We started at the top and ordered entrees of spring rolls, rice paper rolls and vegetarian drumsticks. Unfortunately I didnt get a picture of the drumsticks but they really were shaped like chicken drumsticks, with wooden sticks instead of bones. The spring rolls and rice paper rolls were fairly standard Chinese restaurant fare.

Next to hit our lazy susan was the Ginger Chicken, and I was quite impressed. It really did taste like chicken. The texture was a little off but the taste was right on the mark. The dish as a whole came together well with a good helping of ginger in the sauce and a bit of a crunch to the veges.

After the Ginger chicken, we were presented with Sizzling Mongolian Lamb on Hot Plate (top) and Roast Duck (bottom).

The texture of the lamb actually was like the texture of meat, but the taste was something else. Both the lamb and the duck had an aftertaste that reminded me of burnt sugar. Initially I thought it was the sauce, but both dishes had the same characteristic. Strange.

I thought the texture of the duck was quite like eggplant. We had ordered Pan Fried Eggplant cooked in delicious spicy sauce and I had to clarify if we actually were eating the duck, or the eggplant. We also ordered two other vegetable dishes, Mixed Vegetables with Satay Sauce and The Bird's Nest. I only tasted the bird's nest, and it was great. Capsicum, corn, broccoli, cauliflour, cashews and minted peas were served inside a shredded potato basket. The minted peas really added extra flavour to the dish, it was definitely my pick of all that we ate.

My least favourite dish was the Crispy Honey Fish. Seaweed paper was used to simulate that fishy taste, but it was a little over the top for me, I didn't even bite enough to comment on the texture. The crispy honey part was good though, so sticky and sweet that it stuck to my teeth.

And then somewhere in the middle was Crispy Spare Ribs in sweet and sour sauce. I was disappointed that this dish didn't come out on little wooden bones, like the chicken drumsticks, but otherwise it was fairly stock standard sweet and sour pork; a nice tang in the sauce and not a whole lot of (mock) meat inside the batter.

Would I go back? Probably not, the food and service weren't any better than what you'd find in a standard Chinese takeaway, so I'd probably stick to meat-based meals. But I could be tempted to try mock meat again (maybe not mock fish).

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant
Shop 5, Dickson Plaza
28 Challis Street
(02) 6262 9350

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sydney Food and Wine Fair

Having been in Canberra for most of the month, I've missed out on the majority of Sydney Good Food Month happenings, relying instead on the drool-worthy descriptions of other bloggers to keep me informed (see Cucina Rebecca for a wrap up).

I was lucky enough to be in town this weekend and I felt blessed that, out of all events, the one that I could go to was the Sydney Food and Wine Fair. Having Sydney's great food in one location was just too good to pass up. So on sunny Saturday, vouchers in hand, we wandered the stalls, doing a quick reconnaissance before settling on our mains. Having never been to Sydney Food and Wine Fair before I was overwhelmed by the smells and sounds of yummy food cooking. Drawing huge crowds were the berry and mascarpone tarts from bills, which I vowed to come back to after mains, barbecued quails with chilli and lemon from Lucio's, and high tea from The Tearoom, QVB.

Finally I settled on the Baluchi Lamb Salad from Oh Calcutta....

This was another popular stall and I had to wait in line for a little while. I can't tell you exactly how long as I was too busy munching on the complimentary sweets. So busy that I can't remember what the sweets were actually called. Payasa springs to mind, although a quick wikipedia search tells me payasa is an Indian sweet made from rice. These sweets were like little cubes of turkish delight, complete with rosewater.

Having eaten sweets before my main meal, I was keen to sit down and devour my salad of spring lamb, preserved lemons, paneer, chickpeas, tomato, baby spinach, rocket and sumac, all topped off with mint chutney. The lamb was cooked a little too much for my personal liking but was tender enough to still be delicious. The sumac was very subtle and I only came across 2 specks of preserved lemon, leaving the mint chutney solely responsible for bringing out some interesting flavours. Luckily, it did. I've never eaten paneer before and, combined with the chickpeas, it added quite a bit of bulk to my salad, by the end of my meal I was feeling rather full and satisfied.

Two more diners from my picnic rug, S'bo (the boyfriend) and N (from the 'worth) both settled on the nicoise salad with herb crusted salmon carpaccio from Scolarest.

From the little nibbles that I stole and the comments made by S'bo and N, this was a very refreshing salad, although S'bo believed the salmon had been frozen and wasnt entirely happy about it. Being on the eating side of caterers and rarely the preparation side, I'm not sure if this is standard practice, but we both decided it was a consequence of such a large scale picnic. S'bo did concede that it made the salad beautifully cold and he enjoyed it nevertheless.

By the time we had eaten we were too full to think about dessert, meaning we missed the 2 o'clock deadline, preferring to lie in the sun rather than deal with the crowds. The berry and mascarpone tarts looked so good, I'm sure someone out there can testify that they tasted good too!

Whilst I wasn't prepared for the crowds, I had a great time choosing my lunch from some of Sydney's best restaurants, supporting The AIDS Trust of Australia at the same time. Thumbs down to the passer-by who we overheard say "puh-lease...seafood risotto, I can make that at home" and thumbs up to the Queens who performed crowd control. It was such classy way to keep everyone moving in the right direction with smiles on their faces.

With less than a month before the Melbourne move, Sydney put on a pretty good farewell picnic....

tagged with:

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

An Unglamorous Beginning

I've been talking about starting a food blog for nearly 3 months now, which is a long time to be all talk and no action. So when I created my blog yesterday my first instinct was to wait until I actually moved to Melbourne before posting, especially considering my idea was for a kind of new - to - Melbourne food guide. But that's still more talk and still no action isn't it? Like saying you'll start going to the gym next week. So here it is, the first posting.

It was my turn to cook in the share house last night and to be thrifty I used up some sausages left over from the weekend's party. This is where the unglamorous part comes in. There were no gourmet sausages, no lamb and rosemary or tomato and garlic, just humble coles BBQ sausages. I often tell my workmates what meals I have planned and yesterday many turned up their noses at curried sausages. But these were Thai curried sausages.

What made them Thai was some red curry paste and coconut milk. I wont include the recipe, but imagine you're cooking a humble red curry with sausage chunks instead of chicken or beef strips. Stir in a little powdered french onion soup and follow with the standard red capsicum and coriander and you're done! (And yes, I admit it, that's parsely not coriander in the picture and I did serve it with some pasta floating around the cupboard instead of something a little more Thai. As I said, it was a meal of resourcefulness.)

I feel like my first posting should be short and snappy so people don't get bored by this new kid on the block, but the dubious beginning doesn't stop there. Last night I also tried to finish making some brownies that I had begun on Sunday. I'd mixed the dry ingredients but stopped when I realised I had no eggs. I resumed last night by adding the wet ingredients to the dry and it was only as I was scraping the mixture into the tin that I realised this brownie had left behind it's sugar. It was a very close call and I spent the next 5 minutes kneading the sugar into the mixture. I do like baking, but I'm quite prone to baking disasters.

I'm sure I will blog about many more in the future!