Monday, May 30, 2005

Some random photos

Some photos that were lying around my hard drive. I thought these looked pretty.

Pomegranate seeds

It's no longer pomegranate season, but I indulged and bought two whole pomegranates, juiced them and made some pomegranate agar with some grenadine. Bf said it was only just palatable with a large dollop of double cream. I tended to agree. But they do look pretty - like sticky jewels.

Roasting peppers

Apparently this is how Nadine Abensur first introduced the British public to roasted peppers. She describes their wide-eyed wonder when she put a whole pepper on top of a gas burner to roast. It works quite well, but I think next time I will just buy roasted peppers.

King Island Roquefort-style blue cheese

They've finally been approved to import the mould into Australia and this was on sale at the Blackwattle Deli. This is a very creamy and aromatic blue cheese. Quite sweet and not sharp at all. Best to cut this when chilled slightly otherwise the inside just looks like a rotten sweaty stinky mess.

Rempah for chicken curry

I made a rempah for chicken curry as I was feeling homesick. This recipe calls for several large onions blended with a small amount of water which is then fried till most of the water evaporates and the oil starts to show again. I then add curry powder (Bird brand from Malaysia), some roasted spices (in this case cardamon, fennelseed and cinnamon), squashed cloves of garlic and a fresh paste made from ginger and rehydrated dried chillies. The mixture is slowly fried over low-heat and oil added occassionally until it reaches this golden colour.

This paste is suitable for most meats except seafood. Seafood curry pastes need fenugreek and a slightly more aromatic lemony tang to them, e.g. from lemongrass or fresh curry leaves. All you need to do now is to add chicken and some water then simmer until cooked through. A can-ful of coconut milk or cream (depending on how rich you like your curry) stirred through at the last minute is everything else you need to add for a rich satisfying Malaysian-style curry like my mum makes. Sometimes people like to put some roasted belachan into the paste - it definitely makes it a lot more aromatic that way (I love belachan), but I didn't have any on hand, and I didn't want to stink up the house either.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Paper Chef #6

Sweet desserts, ah, sweet desserts; after an extended savoury Paper Chef repast we welcome a lovely sweet in-between.

There were some lovely ideas and everyone was so creative and took such great care in crafting their dish(es). Two themes emerged along the lines of: biscuity-brown thing with soft white cold dessert and sweet sauce, and cake-y thing with sweet topping. Decision, as always, was hard due to the high standard that all Paper Chef entrants continually exhibit.

So, without further ado, Paper Chef #6 (Ricotta cheese, Almond paste, White chocolate and Strawberry) goes to A Finger in Every Pie for her Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote with Ricotta-White Chocolate Gelato and Scented Madeleines. I was most impressed with how she made the most of the ingredients available. She knew how to handle less than perfect strawberries to heighten their flavour - something that a lot of entrants needed to do as only in Berkeley do strawberries seem to be at their best at the moment. Her madeleines look so beautiful, the delicate clamshells are so pretty. The gelato recipe, whilst being plain, would highlight the strawberries and delicate almond flavoured madeleines.

I also thought some entries were worth mentioning and so I've given out some extra awards:

Best Plating and Photography go to Belly-Timber for the Quinoa crusted prawns and associated ensemble. This would probably get most innovative use of the ingredients too; it also sounds delicious. You can really see the chef training coming through in this entire blog's writing.

Most Impressive Use of the Topical Ingredient goes to Delicious Life for her tiered White Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake. The strawberries look simply amazing - and I suggest throwing a Cheesecake Factory cake in the face of anyone that dare suggest it is better than your own handcrafted treat.

I bow down to everyone who made a tuile - they look difficult and impressive. Now I'm in such good company, I'm challenged to make one myself.

Congratulations to everyone for entering - this event is turning out to be such a joyful and fun celebration of quick-thinking food. Everyone that participated has invested so much care and thought into their entries. With such innovative and versatile recipes at our disposable, we're all going to make a splash at our next dinner party. I look forward to reading about it all!

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Union Square, Pyrmont

Friday night and some friends were coming over for dinner and a spa. The flatmates looked knowingly at me and repeated, "Coming over for a spa, eh?" when I told them. "Yes, just a spa!" I replied. Bf and I seem to have developed a bit of a reputation with friends "coming over for a spa" so now something so totally innocent and relaxing has such sexual overtones.

Anyway, it was a toss-up (ooh er) between the Taiwanese takeaway Grain, or Italian. I had originally planned to make spinach ricotta cannelloni but to my dismay, the ricotta had started to ferment, I ran out of unsalted butter and there was no whole milk to make the bechamel. This was almost enough to put a frazzled end-of-the-working-week me into tears. Well, mock tears with a fake temper tantrum on the bed before the bf told me to snap out of it and stop messing up the bedsheets.
Our friends arrived and we went to Café XXII a local joint that bf is quite fond of. They obviously plan to be there for a long time because they've engraved XXII into the step leading to their café.

The menu here is small, only about four entrées and six mains. But a nice number given the size of the establishment which seats about 20 people at full capacity.
There is a blackboard menu with a nice variety of pasta, meat, chicken, risotto dishes (one of each). We elected to share a plate of XXII calamari which was floured, deep fried and served with some spring onions. Lovely fresh seafood flavour but a little bland. They also weren't as crisp as I'd like them.

I elected to have a king prawn risotto with dolce latte (blue cheese). Bf had the chicken saltimbocca with steamed asparagus whilst N had rotelle pasta and his bf J had the kumera and provolone ravioli with sage butter.

The best executed dish I think would have been the ravioli. It was certainly the most interesting with the brown butter and sage sauce. Rotelle pasta turned out to be pinwheels which was very cute. This was served with a speck (german smoked ham) and tomato sauce. Bf's grilled chicken looked a little lonely on top of steamed asparagus spears. My risotto was perfectly cooked with even grains and a light creamy texture. The king prawns were fresh, flavoursome and delicious.

I can't fault the cooking but the menu was a little on the unimaginative side. They claim to be modern Italian food - this is correct. It's definitely not stick-to-your-ribs stuff; we were concerned at the small servings at first but we were comfortably full at the end.

I had a glass of chianti with the meal, which alleviated my traumatised state. My ricotta worries were well and gone by now.

Oh, and the spa was lovely innocent and NO naughty business eventuated, I'll have you know.

Entrées: $11 to $15
Mains: $15 to $21