October 21, 2009

Fifteen - Melbourne

Fifteen Melbourne
Basement, 115 – 117 Collins Street, Melbourne
(Enter through George Parade)

fiffteen door

I know I'm a little late with this review, but I've never been one to be trendy. Fifteen's 15 minutes of fame has come and gone, but until recently I had never dined in the underground establishment. When the dynamic V duo suggested Fifteen for a mid week dinner, Daz and I were there in a flash!


I like the idea of Fifteen and to be honest, I wish I could be as productive to the community. They take young adults, who have little other options and transform them in to trained and talented chefs. Some are homeless, drug addicted or even just unemployed. Its good to see that a foundation such as fifteen is offering an opportunity to people and really helping out the community. But ultimately we're here for the food right??

pepper salt oil

I'm always a little nervous when taking my camera out at fancy restaurants to take pictures. And I make a habit of asking if it is ok to take a couple of happy snaps during the meal. AtFifteen when I asked the question I got the most interesting answer so far. The waiter said it was no problem, as long as I don't go up to the chefs and blind them with my flash. Instantly I had images of paparazzi giving chefs seizures by taking multiple photos, did that happen regularly around this place? I had no intention of photographing the chefs, so it was all good!

We ordered quite quickly because we were all a little hungry. We could only get an 8.00pm reservation, which is kinda late for a weekday. Surprising, the restaurant wasn't as full as I had expected. There was a pretty loud table of Americans, so they provided the atmosphere. WE had a little bread and dipped it in Oliveria’s new season Fifteen olive oil. It was actually quite nice, fruity and definitely fresh!

nails in oil

V1 : "I've run out of bread! But look at my perfectly manicured fingernails!"

So what did we order? We decided to go for entree and mains, with an option of dessert if we weren't too full. The dynamic V duo had an House smoked Tasmanian salmon with grilled asparagus, lemon and Oliveria’s new season Fifteen olive oil. They both reported that it tasted like smoked salmon, hence nothing overwhelming.

salmon cappacio

Daz had the 'Tagliatelle with a rich beef shin ragout, rosemary and orange gremolate and parmigiano reggiano'. After taking 3-4 bites of his dish be was a little freaked out. He said that half of the tagliatelle were overdone and half were underdone! Weird. The texture sensation was a little off putting, but he reported that the flavours were quite good, its a real shame that the pasta wasn't up to scratch.

tiagialtelle beef ragout

I had 'The lightest Toolangipotato gnocchi with hot smoked ocean trout, creme fraiche, grilled fennel and pangrattato'. I had a very similar problem to Daz, although all my pasta was over cooked. Not to the point where it was unpleasant, the dish was actually quite nice, but I wish that the gnocchi were a little firmer. I especially enjoyed that creaminess of the cream fraiche and the chunky pieces of trout.


For Mains the V1 and V2 decided to be different and order something they usually would. V2 is a avid meat eater. So much so that I think he could tackle and eat and entire cow in one week! But tonight....he's decided to forgo the moo and have 'Pan seared fillet of Blue-eye cod with cavalo nero and lemon'. As far as I could tell the dish was quite nice, no complaints from V2, other than the lack of red meat!

blue-eyed cod

Up until our visit to Fifteen V1 had never eaten polenta! Shock huh??!!?? So she decided to order 'slow roasted, crispy berkshire pork bely with oozy parmesan polenta, jus and salsa verdi'. I was actually going to order this dish for myself, but something else caught my attention. I felt for V1, while the polenta was piping hot it was creamy and delicious, but as soon as it started to lose temperature it resembled wall paper glue, polenta will do that to you though. She also isn't a huge fan of Parmesan, and the polenta had a pretty decent whack of it. It just wasn't here dish. We did a plate swap after a while and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The crackling was crispy and dry...yum! And the pork was tender. The salsa verdi was a little strange, it tasted exactly like pesto which wasn't a bad thing, but polenta and pesto together is something I've never even thought about before!

pork belly

The only other man at the table, Daz, decided to go for meat. 'Grilled Gippsland porterhouse (served MR) with roasted new potatoes in a rosemary and anchovy dressing'. I'm sure 90% of the attraction to ordering meat is getting a big fat juicy steak in front of you that you can hack into with and over sized razor sharp knife. I felt so sorry for poor little Daz. His steak can sliced! You should have seen his face, I swear I almost saw a tear roll out of his eye. Once he got over the fact that he couldn't butcher his own steak, he thoroughly enjoyed it, I even got a bite! It was tender and pretty tasty!


I ordered the 'Pan roasted free range and organic chicken 'con pepperonchini' with dressed rocket and lemon'. There was a flavour party in my mouth and everyone was invited! The chicken marinade was a real fire cracker! It was spicy, witch I love, and flavoursome! I really wasn't expecting something that hot, but it was delicious. V1 LOVE's chilli and anything hot, so I gave her some of my dish and even she loved it. The generous amount of lemon on the salad was great to cut through the spiciness. I would go back just for this chicken!

pepperoni chicken

As a side we got Roasted new potatoes and Fried polenta with aioli. They weren't anything special, but they were enough to fill us and miss out of dessert.....NOOOOO!!! I tried convincing the Dynamic V's to reconsider, but I went to bed with no dessert that night, and I wasn't even bad!

rosemary potatoes

crispy polenta




crispy polenta with aoili


Other than the few mishaps with undercooked/overcooked pasta, Fifteen was a pretty enjoyable meal. Before I go, I have to say one thing, fifteen had my most favourite thing of all......HOT PLATES!! As a food blogger we all know that taking that perfect shot takes time and sometimes the dish doesn't end up being as hot as you'd like. No such problems here, every dish was piping hot, even AFTER I took my photos. Great work!

October 17, 2009

School Girl Giggling Within...

V1 from the dynamic V duo has been attending a few hens nights lately. At the first hen night she was in charge of the entertainment, so asked me to help with the catering. After a few hilarious phone calls we decided to make a cake fashioned in the shape of a love tool. We settled on red velvet with cream cheese frosting, the red velvet is perfect for that dramatic effect after cutting into it. After the success of the first cake, she was asked to make another for an upcoming hen night. So we got busy again making the love trungeon cake.

The first cake was for Arlene. On this particular night my hand held mixer finally died during the frosting making. I was both a little sad and overjoyed. I finally had an excuse to get myself a brand new kitchenaid....woot!

So here are a couple of happy snaps of the first love wand.

A top view

A front view

A balls view

V1 sculpted the love stick from a picture we found on the net. Before this whole novelty cake thing I had no idea there were so many pictures of that nature on the Internet........did you buy that lie? For the hair we used chocolate flavored Persian fairy floss. It did an awesome job, and really looked authentic. Unfortunately overnight the fairy floss collapsed quite alot from the moister in the air. But I was told that it had the desired effect despite the flaccidness.

The second love tickler was for Thuy. On this occasion we decided to buy a cake tin and hopefully make our lives a little easier. By now we were total sculpting pros and had the easiest time putting it together, well it was easier, but with more skill comes more ambition right? So we decided to add a hand and some arty but descriptive bodily fluid.....eeewwww! We actually made the hand first, and didn't realise until later that it was a tad too small for the love muscle. V1 was on the ball and just said that the hand belonged to a petite Asian lady. hehehehehe.

So here are some happy snaps of the second love organ

T top view 1

T side view

T top view

I had so much fun making these two cakes. I don't think I've giggled so much in such a short period of time. So many obvious jokes, oh so many...uncountable. My absolute favourite was from V2 who suggested we should go on Masterchef as contestants and present every dish we cook in the shape of a trouser snake. I'd love to see Matt Preston dig into that while wearing his cravats!

Congratulations to Arlene & Anh, and Thuy & Cuong, may you're wedded life be long and joyful....a bit like a love flute...sorry I had to do it! And as a visual parting gift, I give you Romeo and a paper cutout.....I hope you can put two and two together.

pussy eating cock

October 14, 2009

Results - Oysters in Tempura with Ponzu Sauce

Close up Esposito Tempura Oysters 2

At this very moment I'm sitting at home feeling a little sorry for myself. My head is a walking, talking case of pus. I have sinusitis, a throat infection, the biggest coldsores you have ever seen, yes more than one coldsore! and swollen infected neck glands to boot. My head literally feels like a truck parked on top of it. I usually post results to restaurant recipes pretty quickly, I do like to keep my audience in suspense but I like to think I'm not cruel, but the acute elephantiasis that I've been experiencing in the right side of my face has kinda gotten in the way. I'm feeling a little better today, I can actually feel confident enough to venture outside without having small children run in fear from the sight of me, so I thought I would post this while the going is good.

Esposito Tempura Oysters 2

Just a note to start with, the recipe called for St Helen oysters, I couldn't get my hands on any so instead went for Coffin bay oysters. I bought them already shucked, I know not the best, but I'm not confident enough to shuck my own oysters yet. I have visions of knives going through my hand and bright red blood spurting everywhere!

Coffin Bay Oysters

I'll start with the bad, I felt that the tempura batter was a little thick for the oysters. I'm used to very light crunchy batter and this was a fair bit thicker and more chewy. I didn't use a thermometer on my oil, so if I had it at the perfect temperature it may have resulted in a much fluffier and lighter texture.

Esposito Tempura Oysters 1

I really enjoyed the oysters in the batter. It was a novelty for me. I've never had deep fried oysters before. I enjoy them au natural or lightly grilled with a nice sauce, so having the little ones encased in a skin made out of batter was totally new.

Close up Esposito Tempura Oysters

The oysters on the inside were perfectly cooked. Really juicy and smooth, not even a hint of rubberiness, frankly - a fear that I had. The ponzu sauce was interesting. It was tangy and went perfectly with the fishiness of the oysters. I didn't have any konbu, so I substituted with nori. It worked quite well.

Close up of insides of Esposito Tempura Oysters 1

I really liked this recipe, and I'll definitely make it again however I would use a different recipe for the tempura batter or at least get a proper thermometer to keep the oil at the right temperature.

Esposito Tempura Oysters

October 11, 2009

Oysters in Tempura with Ponzu Sauce

Restaurant: Esposito (VIC)
Recipe from Chef Maurice Esposito (The Esposito Recipe cards, from the Esposito newsletter)
2010 Rating: Not rated, 1 Star

The hot weather is coming, which means I'm craving cold beers and bar snack food. When those warm days come I love nothing more than sitting in the warm sun with a cold one and some food to snack on. By the end of the day I'm slightly boozed up, possibly a little red from sun burn and a satisfied belly. A couple of weeks ago I got a newsletter from Esposito Seafood dining which showcased St Helen Oysters prepared tempura style....perfect beer food! So here is the recipe, and you know what comes next....the results!

St Helen’s Oysters in Tempura with Ponzu Sauce

serves 4 - 3 oysters each

12 St Helen’s Oysters, freshly shucked and removed from their shell

Tempura Batter

2 egg yolks
2 cups iced water
2 cups sifted plain flour
oil for deep-frying - canola, rice bran or grapeseed

Make the batter in 2 batches. It’s very important to prepare the tempura batter as close to cooking time as possible - this ensures it doesn’t get heavy or become too combined. Prepare the first batch just before you are ready to begin deep-frying. As you are waiting for the oil to heat, in a mixing bowl, lightly beat 1 egg yolk, then pour in 1 cup of ice water and give this a few stirs (chopsticks or a fork are good to use here as a mixing tool). Add 1 cup of the sifted flour all at once. Stir through a few times, just until the ingredients are loosely combined. The batter should be very lumpy.

Have a plate lined with a paper towel and a slotted spoon at the ready and once the oil is hot lightly coat each oyster in the tempura batter and gently place in the hot oil with a slotted spoon. Don’t walk away from the oil at any time while you’re cooking these.
As soon as the batter becomes golden, take the oyster out with the spoon and put on the paper towel. Continue to do this until all the oysters are cooked and serve immediately next to Ponzu sauce (recipe follows).

Once the first batch of batter is used up, take the oil off the heat and make the second batch of batter and continue to cook the oysters.

Ponzu dressing

makes about 1 cup

2 tbsp lemon juice
8 tbsps rice vinegar
4 tbsps soy sauce
2cm square konbu (kelp)

Mix together the juice, vinegar and soy sauce, wipe the konbu gently with a cloth and then add to the combined liquid. Leave in the fridge overnight or longer if possible.

October 8, 2009

Moon Festival

On the weekend Daz and I went down to Queen Victoria Market to celebrate Moon Festival. I love me a festival, especially when there is food involved. And since its spring, the festivals seem to be popping up quicker than the weeds in my garden!

I have a feeling that this was the first year that it was hosted at Queen Victoria Market, there didn't seem to be alot of stalls, and when we turned up it was a little light on people. But towards the afternoon it started to get quite crowded. There were heaps of activity planned, some singing, an impressive sword dance, and my favourite of all - a Lion dance. Oh those lions are so cute with their huge fluffy eyebrows!

So onto the food right?, that's why you're all here! We decided to buy one dish at a time and share it between the two of us, somehow in my mind that equaled more dishes to try. While walking back from the awesome display of sword dancing I spotted a stall deep frying squid. Crispy fried things taste better straight out of the oil so I snapped some up straight away. They were crispy, hot and delicious!

deep fried squid

Next I followed my nose. *sniff* *sniff* I can smell something bbqing *sniff* *sniff* I can smell charcoal and satay and so my nose lead me straight to the satay stick man. The best thing about being at a festival when there isn't a big crowd is getting piping hot food. We ordered 4 sticks and watched as they were grilled for us right before our eyes. Things always taste better when you have to wait a little for them. I was standing right in front of the charcoal, so my clothes got a good dose of meat perfume, so I could savour it later in the day.

satay sticks

We walked past the dumpling place a couple of times, and thought that the line was too long to bother. But then I thought, if there are so many people lining up, its gotta be good right? We ordered a serve of pork dumplings. Sadly they weren't so good. I was pretty disappointed. The skin was really rubbery and the insides was a little dry and not very tasty. I felt a bit ripped of. So I needed something else to quench my rumbling belly.

pork dumplings

inside pork dumplings

Japanese octopus balls (takoyaki)?? What in the world are they?? We stood around and watched the lovely young ladies cooking these. They look so similar to dutch poffertjes!!

batter goes in

The batter goes in

salad goes on

Then a little lettuce

octopus goes in

Then a little octopus

fliping the balls

You gotta flip the little buggers so they get nice and round

balls come out

Then pull them out so they can get into my belly!

Oh man these were delicious! So the balls are covered in Japanese mayo, tonkatsu sauce, nori and Benito shavings. Oh man so mouth watering.

takoyaki japanese octopus balls

I only got a small serve, oh I wish I had gotten the larger serve. I love Daz, but I'm sure he ate more than his share! grrrrr! How will we ever get married if we cant learn to share??

takoyaki japanese octopus balls 2

And of course I had to get the obligatory inside shot. Look at those cute little tentacles resting inside there batter cocoon!

insides of takoyaki japanese octopus balls

Before we left we hang around for the lion dance. We were treated to not one lion, but TWO! Even though I've seen the dance so many times, I still giggle like a little school girl when ever I see them.

After a great day out, with lots of good food and interesting entertainment it was time to go home. Daz HAD to have some beef jerky before we left, so $2.50 and 3 bites later we were ready to leave. Sadly I have no photo, I now know that my reaction time is about 4 bites long....nuts!

October 5, 2009

Results - Slow-cooked ocean trout with Israeli couscous, zucchini, and sadly WITHOUT any chilli or bottarga

ocean trout and pearl couscous 1

*Drool* *slobber* *groan* *hmmmm ummm hmmm*

So good, oh so so good. I've wanted to cook with the sous vide method for a while now. A couple of things have been stopping me, firstly I don't have a vacuum sealer, and secondly I don't own a water bath. Double nuts! So when I saw this recipe which took into account that the everyday cook lacks both of these implements, I jumped at the chance to try it. Yes, sous vide is a method of cooking something for an extremely long time, so this recipe doesn't quite cut it, but for my purposes, its close enough! Baby steps right?

ocean trout and pearl couscous

I was really impressed at how moreish this dish really was. The fish was so juicy and packed full of flavor and the way the fish was cooked meant that the flesh kept all of its original colour. The pearl couscous, oh my god that couscous. I want to make it every night of my life. I LOVED it. I never thought I could cook something in my own home that tasted of that caliber. The creamy gooey texture of the cheese, the slightly crunchiness of the zucchini and the popping like texture of the couscous, this dish was MADE for me. Its so simple, but yet so delicious.

ocean trout and pearl couscous 3

Only one little problem with it, IT STINKS!! yep it smells like rotten old feet. If you have an issue with smelly cheese, substitute the fontina, but if you're like me and think the smellier the cheese the better, stack in extra!!

fontina cheese
The smelly culprit!

There were a couple of errors that I made which I think worked out for the best. First of all. I forgot the chilli. Yep, how freakin stupid am I! I had already decided that I would leave out the bottarga, I'm a little poor at the moment and couldn't bring myself to buy this stuff for one dish. And the last and most fatal error, I used non-salt reduced chicken stock, so my couscous come out on the salty side. Well probably not so salty to a normal person, but I tend to not eat that much salt (something to do with Daz dying before I have a good go at torturing him with my stupid jokes). It was perfect with the fish, and the extra flavour from the stock was well worth the increased salt level. I could imagine that the bottarga would add a fair amount of salt to the dish anyway, so I'm extra glad I left it out.

couscous dance
Size really does matter right? especially when your sitting next to your pewny competitor!

pearl couscous in pan
Hey, it is exactly like a risotto, in it goes with a little oil to toast....ahh so easy!

Its actually really simple to cook this entire dish. As long as you have everything prepared and ready to go. The couscous is extremely straight forward, really no more difficult than a simple risotto. The tricky part was keeping the temperature of the water for the fish bang on 48C.

ingredients laid out

I had my trusty candy thermometer, I was fresh out of "ocean trout poaching thermometers" so resorted to what I had handy. I decided that 50C was close enough to 48C and if I could keep it there I would be pretty happy with myself.

trusty candy thermometer

It was a bit of juggling. I heated my water to 50C, dropped my fish in...trying to keep it as flat as possible (its all about presentation!) and watched the thermometer. As soon as it started to drop I would put the pan on the gas for a few seconds. I continued to do that for the entire cooking time. I actually poached it for longer than the recommended 15 minutes, closer to 20 actually. It resulted in fish that was a little rarer than my liking, but I've always been a fan of sashimi. Daz on the other hand was feeling a little sick after eating some half cooked fish fat, so decided to microwave his for 20 seconds and ended up with PERFECT fish. Who would have thought. So I would recommend either having smaller portions or cooking it for a little longer.

trout in the pan

Overall, this dish was STELLA! Daz doesn't really like fish (poor boy is stuck with a seafood lover) and after eating this dish he suggested we should start buying more fish. Hallelujah! I knew if I persisted I would make him turn! Now, if only I could convince him on black pudding.

ocean trout and pearl couscous 2