July 31, 2010

Guava and Custard Apple Snow Egg

Restaurant: Quay (NSW)
Recipe from Chef Peter Gilmore (recipe from Masterchef website)
2010 Rating: Number 1, 3 Stars

Yep, you read right, I'm going to attempt to make the snow egg dish from the finale of Masterchef. It will be my first attempt at any of the recipes featured on the show. I'm attempting this recipe for two reasons really. Firstly, the recipe comes from Peter Gilmore from the famed Quay restaurant (which means I can tick off Quay from my list) and secondly, my brother said I couldn't do it. If that isn't incentive enough, I dont know what ever will!!

I'm not going to be crazy enough to put a time limit on the whole exercise, I get enough of an adrenaline rush from washing all the dishes. So here is the recipe, and stay tuned for the results and hopefully some impressive word eating from my brother.

Guava and Custard Apple Snow Egg


Custard apple ice cream
100ml milk
3 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
3 soft ripe custard apples
50ml pouring cream

Vanilla custard base
400ml pouring cream
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
80g caster sugar

Guava granita
100g caster sugar
500ml water
400g strawberry guavas, peeled and diced
100g fresh strawberries, hulled and halved

Poached meringue
Canola oil spray
150g egg white
150g caster sugar

Guava puree
175g caster sugar
250ml water
½ vanilla bean
375g strawberry guavas, peeled and roughly diced

Maltose tuiles
200g liquid maltose
100g caster sugar
20g flaked almonds

Vanilla cream
100g vanilla custard base
100g double cream

Guava fool
100g of guava puree
200g vanilla cream

1 cup icing sugar, to serve


1. Preheat oven to 150ºC and turn on ice cream machine to chill.

2. For the custard apple ice cream, bring milk to the boil in a small saucepan. Whisk egg yolks and sugar together by hand, then pour boiling milk onto the egg yolk mixture while whisking. Pour into a stainless steel bowl and cook while whisking over a pot of simmering water for about 10 minutes or until it is thickened. Whisk sabayon until cool over ice. Set aside. Scoop the flesh of one custard apple at a time into a double muslin lined chinois sitting over a measuring jug. Gather the muslin cloth at the top and squeeze tightly to obtain a clear juice. When you have 150ml, whisk it into the sabayon with the cream. Place the mixture into an ice cream machine and churn for about 40 minutes. Place in the freezer until set.

3. For the vanilla custard base, heat cream and vanilla seeds together in a small saucepan until it just begins to boil, and then remove from the heat. Whisk by hand the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together in a stainless steel bowl until combined. While whisking the eggs, slowly pour on the hot vanilla cream. Mix well and remove the vanilla pods. Pour this mixture into 4 dariole moulds to a depth of 5 cm, place the dariole moulds into a small baking dish with boiling water around the dariole moulds up to halfway to form a water bath. Place the water bath into a 150ºC oven and cook the custard 25 minutes or until the custard is just set. If the centre is still runny place in the freezer until set then place in refrigerator until needed.

4. For the granita, combine sugar and water in a large saucepan; bring to the boil then lower heat. Add diced fruit and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Take off the heat and infuse at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pass the liquid through a muslin cloth and discard the solids. Pour the syrup into a lamington or slice tin to a depth of 5cm. Place in the freezer until solid. Scrape with a fork into crystals and then transfer to the freezer until required.

5. For the poached meringue, whisk the egg whites in an electric mixer until they form soft peaks and then slowly add the sugar bit by bit. Keep whisking until the meringue forms firm peaks and the sugar has dissolved. Spray hemisphere moulds lightly with canola oil spray. Spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm nozzle. Pipe mixture into moulds so it sits above the surface. Place the filled moulds into a large baking dish and pour boiling water into the baking dish to a depth of about 3cm. Bake at 150ºC for 15 minutes until just. Allow to cool for 2 minutes, then trim off tops so they are perfect hemispheres. Gently un-mould and place cut side up on a baking paper lined tray in the fridge until needed. Increase oven temperature to 180ºC.

6. For the guava puree, combine sugar, water and scraped vanilla bean in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower heat to a gentle simmer, add guava and simmer 10 minutes. Take off the heat, remove the vanilla pods, drain the flesh from the liquid, place the flesh in a blender and add just enough of the cooking liquid to process into a thick guava puree. Pass the puree through a fine sieve and set aside, covered, in the fridge until needed.

7. To make the maltose tuiles, stir maltose and sugar together in a small saucepan then bring to the boil until it reaches hard crack stage (until it caramelises). Take care to brush down the sides with a pastry brush dipped in water so it doesn't crystallise. Once golden add the flaked almonds and immediately pour the mixture onto a silicon mat, allow to cool completely. Process the cooled praline in the bowl of a hand blender to form a fine powder. Next sift a fine layer of the praline mixture through a drum sieve, over an acetate stencil with 11cm circles cut out of it onto a silicon mat on a baking sheet. Melt this mixture in a 180ºC oven for a few minutes until it forms a clear liquid paste. Cool tuiles slightly and peel off silicon sheet while still flexible. Store flat between sheets of baking paper until ready to use.

8. For the vanilla cream, whisk the cream and custard together to form soft peaks. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

9. For the guava fool, place the guava puree in a small bowl and fold through the vanilla cream gently to form a rippled effect. Do this just before you are ready to assemble the dessert.

10. To assemble, take 8 of the half hemisphere poached meringues. Using a teaspoon or half teaspoon measure remove a small scoop from the centre of each half hemisphere being careful not to break through the outer edge. Then place a teaspoon or half teaspoon measure scoop of custard apple ice cream in four of the hemispheres. Invert the other four hemispheres over the ice cream filled meringues to form a complete sphere. Use wet fingers to stick the two halves together. Place a tuile on top of each sphere and using a blow torch and an even motion, melt it over the sphere, patting it down if necessary. Dust spheres liberally with icing sugar. Next add a generous spoonful of the guava fool in the bottom of each serving glass. Top the fool with the guava granita. Use two teaspoons to place the snow egg on top of the granita and serve.

July 25, 2010

Bastille Day 2010

french party menu

Every year I host a French Party in celebration of Bastille Day, and this year was no different. Loads of French inspired food, and a few corny French accents to boot. It usually involves alot of preparation, followed by even more drinking, which usually ends in a massive hangover. I’m proud to report that 2010 was no different to any other year....except this year I let Daz help with the dishing process. He did an awesome job at handing out the plates to everyone, but when I asked him to help with the actual food to plate process he didn’t quite listen to me as closely as I had hoped, so some of the dishes looked a bit wonky. Not to worry, they tasted pretty darn fine in the end.

tale setting french party

Since this may possibly be the longest post I’ve ever written, I’ll keep my intro short. I prepared a 4 course meal with petite fours to end. I’ll explain the dish with the recipe to follow straight afterwards.


First we had Coquilles Saint-Jacques saisies et purée de petit pois (Pan seared scallops, pea puree, beetroot slices and crispy pancetta). I had a little issue with presentation on this one. I trial the dish 2 times before hand and each time the presentation was different. In the end I went with simply stacked together. In this photo you can’t quite see the pea puree in the background and the crispy pancetta.



Serves 8 entree size portions
16 scallops
200 gram baby peas
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
3 shallots, finely diced
1 tbsp cream
1 tsp butter
4 thick slices of pancetta
1 beetroot
1 Star anise
1 cinnamon quill
2 tbsp white vinegar
2 tbsp white sugar
Olive oil


1. Start by poaching the beetroot. In a small pot place the beetroot, star anise, cinnamon quill, sugar and vinegar and fill with enough cold water to just cover the beetroot. Place over medium heat and simmer until the beetroot is tender. Cool under running water. Gently peel the beetroot and thinly slice it.

2. To make the pea puree, boil the peas in some salted water until the peas are just cooked. Drain and keep to a side. In a frying pan melt butter and sauté garlic and shallots. Add peas and then transfer to a food processor. Add the cream and process until a smooth puree forms. You may need to add a little more cream to achieve the right consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. For crispy pancetta, preheat oven to 180C. Slice pancetta into small triangles and place on a baking paper lined tray. Cook in the oven until the pancetta is crispy. 10-15 minutes. Remove form tray and drain on a paper towel.

4. For scallops, season the scallops with salt and pepper, drizzle a little olive oil over the scallops – just enough to coat the scallops. Heat a frying pan until very hot, then add the scallops. A very hot pan is important to get nice caramelisation on the surface of the scallop without overcooking it. Cook for 1 minutes or so on each side, depending on the size of the scallop.

To assemble dish, on a small plate place a quenelle of pea puree, then in front place one scallop followed by a slice of beetroot and then another scallop. Place a piece of pancetta to the side of the scallop.

leek and gruyere tart

Next we had Tarte de poireau et Gruyere, Salade de fenouil à l’orange (Leek and Gruyere tart, with a fennel, walnut, curly endive and orange salad). To make my life alot easier I served this course cold. Except I think it would have tasted a little better slightly warmed, just so the cheese was a little softer. Despite my criticism, this was one of my favourite dishes or the night. My pastry was so crumbly and short I was really impressed with myself. There were 3 portions of this tart left over. Daz made short work of them and polished them off while I was preparing for the next course. At least he helped with the shortage on bench space!



For Shortcrust pastry (From Gourmet Traveller)

250 gm (2/3 cups) plain flour
190 gm unsalted butter, coarsely chopped, chilled
1 egg yolk

For Tart

3 medium sized leeks
50 grams Gruyere, grated
50 grams Parmesan, grated
20 grams butter
2 shortcrust lined tart tins, blind baked

For Fennel and Walnut salad

1 fennel bulb, thinly shaved
50 gram walnuts, shelled roasted and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 orange
Yellow leaves of 1 bunch of curly endive
Oliver oil
Salt and pepper


For Short crust Pastry
Cooking Time Prep time 10 mins, cook 25 mins (plus chilling, resting)
Makes 2 x 12 cm rectangular tarts

1. Process flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor until fine crumbs form.

2. Add egg yolk and enough chilled water (about 3-4 tsp) and process until mixture just forms a dough (2-4 seconds).

3. Turn pastry onto a floured surface and lightly knead with the heel of your hand until the pastry comes together.

4. Form pastry into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled (2-3 hours).

5. Roll pastry, using a rolling pin, on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick.

6. Brush excess flour from pastry with a pastry brush, then use pastry cutters to cut lining for individual cases or roll pastry backwards over rolling pin to lift pastry and line large tart case. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to rest.

7. Preheat oven to 200C. Blind bake pastry until golden (15-25 minutes), then cool on a wire rack.

For Tart

1. Preheat oven to 170C.

2. Slice leeks into long batons, making sure to only use the white flesh of the leek. In a small frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook until leeks have completely softened. Approximately 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Sprinkle the parmesan over the base of the two blind baked tart shells. Layer the leeks over the cheese. Sprinkle the Gruyere cheese over the leeks. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has become golden.

4. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes. Then remove from the tin and allow to cool on a cooling rack. This will ensure that the pastry will not sweat and that it will be very crisp and crumbly.

For Fennel and Walnut Salad

1. In a large bowl add, walnuts, fennel, endive. In a separate small bowl add orange juice, olive oil and salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil/orange juice to get a nice vinaigrette. Add to the fennel/ endive and toast until all components are covered in the dressing.

To assemble the dish, slice the tart into individual portions. Add to the plate with a little Salad to accompany.

roast pork

For main we had Rôtir du porc et Puy lentilles a la françaises (Roast pork belly, Puy lentils with a rich red wine and beef sauce, cavolo nero (black kale)). This dish tastes almost a life time to prepare, but I swear every last moment of it is worth the result. The pork becomes so tender with the long cooking time, especially decadent with the really crispy crackling. And the rich puy lentils are a thing to be marveled over. I actually tried to recreate the puy lentils I had a Bistro Vue, I got close – but I don’t care, my version is different but just as nice. I do have one bone to pick though. Everyone at the table got such crispy crackling, mine wasn’t quite as crispy throughout the whole piece. I didn’t need praise at the end of the meal, all I need to do is remember the lack of talking and crunching sounds coming from everyone’s smiling faces.


Will make 8 serves
This recipe needs to be started 24 hours in advance


2 kg pork belly
1 tbsp fennel seed
1 tbsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp rock slat
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 garlic head cut in half
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 brown onions, quartered
300 mL white wine
150 mL water


1. Wash and thoroughly dry the pork belly. With a sharp knife cut diamond shape cuts roughly 2mm into the pork skin. In a mortar and pestle, add salt, fennel seeds and chili flakes, crush until a coarse powder is formed. Rub this mixture into the skin of the pork belly, making sure to get into the cuts on the skin. Place in the fridge over night uncovered. This process will both flavour and dry out the skin, so it will result in a super crisp pork crackling.

2. Pre-heat the oven to the highest temperature it can go. Season the flesh part of the pork with freshly ground pepper and salt. Transfer to the very hot oven and sear for roughly 1 hr. In this time, you should notice that the pork will take on a very golden colour and the crackling will begin to form.

3. Remove pork from the oven and decrease the temperature to 160C. Transfer pork to a plate and add vegetables to the roasting pan. Add the water and white wine, this will work as a humidifier for the meat while it cooks in the oven, keeping the meat moist. Return the pork to the roasting pan, placing it on top of the chopped vegetables. Wrap the outside of the pork with aluminium foil, leaving the crackling exposed.

4. Cook for 3 hours at this very low heat. At the very end, if the crackling is still not to your liking, turn the grill portion of your oven on for 5 minutes, this will crisp up the remaining moist parts of the skin. The pork will now be very tender, moist with the crackling super crispy.


Serves 8 small sized portions


2 bunches of black kale
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper


1. Rinse kale, remove the end 3 cm of the stalk. The stalk can be pretty tough and horrible to eat. Chop into 5 cm long pieces.

2. Heat a shallow frying pan and add olive oil. Throw in kale and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add small splashed of water at a time while flipping the leaves. This will act as a steamer and slowly cook the kale. Since kale is a tougher green vegetable compared to normal cabbage, it may take a little while for it to cook. Continue to cook in this way until the steam part of the leaf has begun soften, about 5 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper.


Serves 8 small sized portions


For Beef /Pork Stock, makes roughly 2 litres – this can be prepared well in advance and frozen if necessary

1 kilo beef bones
1 kilo pork bones
2 brown onions, quarters
1 garlic head, halved
2 carrots, roughly chopped
half a cup of dried mushrooms
half a bunch of fresh thyme
half a bunch of sage
2 leeks, cut into 3 pieces each
3-4 sprigs of rosemary
5-6 bay leaves
5 white pepper corns
5 black pepper corns
Olive oil

For Puy lentils

200 gram puy lentils, rinsed under cold water
1 carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, finely diced
2 shallots, finely diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp bi-carb soda
300 mL red wine
400 mL beef/pork stock


For Beef/Pork Stock

1. Pre-heat the over to 230C.

2. Rinse bones under cold running water. Alot of butchers cut their bones with blade saws, so it is very important to remove as much of the bone dust as possible. Place on a baking tray with onions, garlic and carrots. Add a little olive oil and mix bones and vegetables together until they are lightly covered in the oil. Place in the oven and bake until the bones have taken a deep golden colour, roughly an hour.

3. Transfer bones/vegetables to a large pot. Add a little boiling water to the roasting tray and remove as much of the baked on particles on the baking tray. The caramelized flavours of the stock will come from this process. Add the liquid to the stock pot. Add the herbs, peppercorns, leek, and mushrooms to the pot. Cover with plenty of cold water.

4. Place pot over low-medium heat, gently simmer for 6-7 hours. During the cooking process remove as much of the scum that comes to the surface as possible. Continually top the pot up with fresh cold water.

5. Once all the vegetables have almost disintegrated, and the bones have all fallen apart, strain thorough a fine sieve and place in a container. Transfer to the fridge and allow to completely cool. Roughly 2 hours. Once all the fat has settled on the top, remove and discard. The stock can now be used.

For Puy Lentils

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add the lentils and the bi-carb soda. The bi-carb soda will lock in the green and speckled colour of the lentils. Make sure not to add any salt during this cooking process, as the salt will make the lentil skin tough and unpleasant to eat. Cook the lentils until they are tender. Puy lentils remain firm after cooking, they do not become soft like other varieties of lentils. Once they are cooked, drain and keep in an bowl covered with cling wrap. This process can be done well in advance.

2. In a large frying pan over medium heat add olive oil, garlic and shallots. Saute for 2-3 minutes until the garlic/shallots have become soft. Add the carrots and celery and sauté for 2-3 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the wine and reduce by half. Add the beef/pork stock and reduce to a 1/3 of the original volume.

3. Add the lentils and lightly season with a little salt and pepper. Continue to cook until the sauce become very thick and sticky. You can wish to stop the coking process earlier and have a much thinner sauce. At the very end season to taste with salt and pepper.

To assemble dish, place a slice of pork, a little lentils and some cavolo nero on a plate

french party dessert

For dessert we had Crème caramel et poires deux voies (Crème caramel and Pear two ways – poached pear and pear sorbet on a burnt butter shortbread crumb). Apologies for the half eaten dessert, by this stage the wine had taken over and I forgot that I was taking photos. I had quite a bit of trouble coming up with something for dessert. I wanted something that I could prepare in advance, but still looked lovely. In the end I went we a dessert that can almost be called two desserts on one plate. The shortbread crumbs and sorbet was inspired by the awesome pear dessert we had a Cummulus Inc.

CREME CARAMEL RECIPE from Taste.com.au

Preparation Time

30 minutes
Cooking Time

60 minutes

INGREDIENTS (serves 8)

270g (1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
80ml (1/3 cup) water
375ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
250ml (1 cup) thickened cream
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
55g (1/4 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
2 tbs golden syrup


1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Place the caster sugar and water in a saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil, without stirring, occasionally brushing down side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water, for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Pour sugar mixture evenly among eight 125ml (1/2-cup) capacity ovenproof ramekins. Set aside for 5 minutes or until set.

2. Combine the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Remove from heat.

3. Place the eggs, egg yolks, brown sugar and golden syrup in a large heatproof bowl. Use a fork to whisk until well combined. Gradually whisk the milk mixture into the egg mixture. Transfer the mixture to a large jug, then carefully pour over the caramel in the ramekins.

4. Line the base of a large roasting pan with a tea towel and fold to fit. Place the ramekins on the tea towel in the roasting pan. Pour enough boiling water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the roasting pan with foil. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or until custards are just set. Remove from oven.

5. Transfer the ramekins to a baking tray and set aside for 2 hours to cool. Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight to chill.

6. To serve, run a flat-bladed knife around the inside edge of the ramekins and carefully turn onto serving plates.



60 grams castor sugar
100 grams butter, cut into small cubes
170 grams plain flour


1. Make a caramel first. Add castor sugar to a small pan and add a few tablespoon of water, just enough to wet the sugar. Heat sugar over medium heat until a dark caramel develops. Make sure not to stir the sugar as it will crystallize. Brush down the sides of the pan during the cooking process with a pastry brush dipped in water, this will stop any sugar stuck to the sides from burning.

2. Add the butter and stir until the butter and caramel form something similar to a butterscotch sauce. Continue to cook until the butter and caramel take on a dark golden colour. This wont take very long at all because the sugar is already extremely hot. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

3. Add flour to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are combined. Turn out onto a clean surface and gently work the dough and form a flat disc. If the butter begins to bleed out too much you can add a little extra flour to soak it up. Wrap tightly with cling film and refrigerate for an hour. Preheat oven to 170C.

4. Crumble the dough into crumbs. Chunky pieces are fine, as they will add texture. Scatter on a lined baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until the crumbs take on a very golden colour. Make sure to mix the crumbs once or twice during the cooking process as the crumbs on the outer edge will cook quicker.

5. Allow to cool complete and store in an airtight container. Will last about a week. These can also be frozen.


Makes roughly 500mL of sorbet and 24 cubes (depending on size)


100 g castor sugar
1 vanilla pod - cut lenthways with beans scrapped or 1 tsp vanilla paste
4 medium sized pears, peeled and cored
1/4 cup honey
150 mL water
1 cinnamon quill


1. Place water, sugar, honey, vanilla bean and cinnamon quill into a medium sized pan. Place over low heat and slowly begin to heat.

2. Place a small ceramic bowl or plate in the freezer. This plate will be used to place the poached pear on, the coldness of the plate will quickly cool the pear after the cooking process, prevent it from cooking any longer.

3. In the mean time, cut as many equally sized cubes from the pear as possible. It doesnt matter if you get alot of thin or oddly shaped pieces of pear left over, as these will all be put in the pot to create the sorbet.

4. Poach the pear cubes in the sugar and honey mixture. The cooking time will depend on the ripeness of the pear. The pear should be soft but still firm in the center. Usually 3-5 minutes should be enough. Sample cubes during the cooking time to achieve the perfect texture. Once the cubes are cooked, place on frozen dish and place in the fridge.

5. Roughly chop the remaining pear and place in the sugar and honey mixture. Cook on low to medium heat until the mixture is reduce by half and the pears are soft but not falling apart. Place on a small baking tray and place in the freezer for 1 hr

6. Once the pears have cooled in the freezer for an hour and the syrup is very thick but not frozen, place the whole lot in a food process and process until a very pale and fluffy mixture forms. This will instantly give you a sorbet mixture. Place the sorbet in an airtight container and return to the freezer until it is required.

To assemble dish. Turn out the crème caramel onto a plate. Directly next to the crème caramel, place a long line of burnt butter crumbs. Place three poached pear cubes next to the crumbs and finally top the crumbs with a quenelle of pear sorbet. Serve immediately.

white chocolate champagne truffles

And to end the meal we had Truffes de champagne et chocolat blanches (White chocolate Champagne truffles, with a crushed pistachio coating). I made so many of these, over 30. I was certain that I would have some left over. I remember only eating one on the night. The next morning in my groggy state I went in search for a sweet fix, the truffles would be perfect. I stumbled into the kitchen to find that one mere truffle was left. I sobbed gently before shoving in my mouth and quickly forgetting my troubles.


Makes roughly 30 truffles


200 grams white chocolate
3 tbsp of cream (45% fat)
1 tbsp butter
50mL champagne
150 grams white chocolate to coat
80 grams pistachios, toasted and crushed


1. In a duble boiler, melt 200 gram of white chocolate, cream and butter. Once the chocolate had completely melted, add the champagne and stir until thoroughly combined. Place cling wrap over the surface of the melted mixture and place in the fridge for 1 hr

2. Roll the chocolate ganache into small 2 cm balls and place on a baking paper lined tray. Place in the fridge to harden.

3. Melt remaining white chocolate, then individually roll the ganache balls in the melted chocolate followed by rolling them in the crushed pistachios. Store in an airtight contain and keep in the fridge. Allow to come to room temperature before eating. Will last for 1 week.

There’s only one thing I truly hate about having dinner parties. And that's dirty glasses. I hate not just washing them, but having to put them away. There’s no wonder I don’t own a complete set of matching glasses, I’m more likely to break them before washing them and putting them away safely.

July 13, 2010

Jumbo Couscous with Moroccan Lamb

jumbo couscous with roast morrocan lamb close up

Last year, I had a my first attempt at recreating a dish I had eaten at a restaurant purely and utterly from taste bud memory. The results were actually quite surprising, surprising in that it actually tasted quite good and didn't end up as a pile of mashed flavours. The snazzy dessert from Cafe Vue did wonders to boost my confidence, and thought me a valuable lesson on portion control, a full bowl of white chocolate mousse does not equal one serve. Recently, I tempted fate and had another go at recreating a dish I had tried at Bar Lourinha. And interestingly, the results were even better than my Cafe Vue attempt!

I really enjoyed the jumbo couscous with Moroccan lamb on the night. The flavours were intense, the dish was satisfying and definitely left me wanting more. Since I’m currently trying to avoid my McConnel curse, going back to Bar Lourinha just to have a bowl of this couscous is not ideal. Surely it can’t be that hard right, I’ll just try to make it myself at home.
I’m glad to report that the results were fantastic. No, the flavours weren’t quite the same, but the backbones were all there. It’s extremely hard to recreate the exact same spices as the original dish, to be honest I think mine is a little too simple. But in the end, the home version won a lot of fans - Daz and I!! It was warm and comforting. So creamy with the addition of sour cream, those little morsels of Moroccan flavoured lamb just popped in your mouth and my favourite of all was the texture component from the crushed pistachios, just down right delicious. Once again I failed to learn my lesson regarding portion control, I cooked enough to serve 4, between Daz and I the whole lot was gone before 10pm. Sigh.

jumbo couscous with roast morrocan lamb

One thing that certainly caught my eye when the jumbo couscous came to our table was the sheer size of the couscous. I know the menu said jumbo, but I wasn’t quite expecting it to be that big! And sadly that is the first point of difference between my couscous and Bar Lourinha’s. Mine isn’t quite as big, and on this occasion - to me size really does matter! I cooked the couscous al dente, perhaps if I had cooked the couscous a little longer it would have fluffed up more, but it definitely wouldn’t have become jumbo, extra large maybe.....certainly not jumbo.

bar lourinha giant couscous salad

The original Bar Lourinha dish

To me, the key step in this entire dish is the chicken stock. It must be full of flavour, and properly reduced to get all that gelatinous texture from the bird into the soup. Its so crucial as the stock is what gives the couscous its flavour and some of its creamy buttery texture. I know this make the recipe extremely long and lets face it troublesome, but there are places that sell good quality chicken stock already made. Well worth the time and effort.

By the way, you're probably wondering where I got my jumbo couscous from. There are plenty of pearl couscous products in the supermarkets at the moment, but this recipe calls for something grander! On a lazy afternoon while chomping on a South Melbourne Market dim sum, I stumbled across a packet of giant Couscous in front of the nut shop, so naturally I bought it. Later while at the other nut, I think it was Rita's, I noticed they sold the same Couscous by the kilo. Giant Couscous everywhere!

jumbo cous cous

There’s a couple of things I would have done differently, I would cook the lamb slower and for longer. I found the lamb in my dish a little chewy compared to the original. I think it needs to completely melt in your mouth without the need to chew, chewing is over rated! I also think I need to tweak the spices, I suspect Bar Lourinha probably uses a multitude of other spices I haven’t considered. And I would cook the couscous for a lot longer. I was growing extremely impatient with the whole dish, ok I lie....I was hungry so as soon as the couscous was cooked I plated up. Once again, I really think it needs to be very soft and fluffy.

roasted morrocan lamb

I’ve included the recipe the way I made it on the day, without my recommended changes. So in the end, the dish doesn’t taste exactly like the original although it does come pretty close. Regardless, I will be making it again and again and probably again.

Jumbo Couscous with Moroccan Lamb
Serves 4


Chicken Stock (this can be prepared in advance and frozen)

1 medium sized boiler hen, rinsed and cut into quarters
2 onions, cut into quarters
2 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
2 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 leek, white part only, coarsely chopped
1 garlic head, broken into individual cloves
half a bunch of thyme
a few sprigs of rosemary
10-15 sage leaves
5 or 6 bay leaves
1 tsp white peppercorns
1 tsp black peppercorns

Moroccan Spiced Lamb

Small leg of lamb (under 1kg)
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp black Pepper
1 tsp Ginger powder
1 tsp ground Turmeric
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp ground Cumin
1 tsp chili powder
3 cloves of garlic, mashed into a paste
4 tbs olive oil

Jumbo Couscous

2 cups of giant couscous
3 shallots, diced very finely
3 cloves of garlic, diced very thinly
2 tbsp olive oil
1-1.5liters of chicken stock
Diced Moroccan spiced lamb
100g of sour cream
a few springs of flat leaf parsley
2-3 tsp paprika
50 grams of toasted and crushed pistachios


For Chicken Stock

1. Place all ingredients in a large pot. Cover with plenty of cold water. 4-5 liters. Place over medium high heat and bring to the boil, once boiling reduce heat and allow it to gently simmer. Simmer for 3-4 hours. During the cooking time, skim as much as the sum and impurities from the stock. Allow to cook until the stock becomes well flavoured with the chicken and vegetables and reduced by half. Remove the chicken carcass and as much of the vegetables and herbs as possible, then strain to remove any small portions. Place in a suitably sized container and allow to cool with the lid off. Once the stock has cooled, place in the fridge and allow the fat that has settled on the top to solidify, this step my take a couple of hours. Once the fat has solidified, skim it off and your stock is ready to be used, this recipe makes 2-3 liters, depending on how much the stock is reduced. I divide my stock into small portions and place in the freezer. That way I will only defrost as much as I really require.

For Moroccan Spiced Lamb

1. Pre-heat oven to the highest temperature it will go. The oven needs to be really hot so the meat will quickly sear when its placed in the oven, this will lock in the juices and forming a spice crust.

2. Place all herbs and spices in a bowl, I use a mortar and pestle because I tend to buy whole spices, but mixing the ground spices together is just as effective. Add the garlic paste and olive oil and combine to make a spice paste. Cover the entire lamb leg with the spice rub and place on a baking tray.

3. Place lamb into hot over for 15-20 minutes, make sure to keep an eye on it as it can quickly begin to brown. We want it to brown, but not burn. Reduce temperature to 180-190C and cook for a further 45 min-1hr, cook until the meat is still pink in the middle. As I mentioned earlier, next time I would reduce the temperature to 150-160C and cook for much longer.

4. Allow the meat to rest for 15-20 minutes and then cut into small bite size chunks. The lamb can be prepared well in advance as it will be re-warm when the couscous is cooked.

For Couscous

1. Place chicken stock in a sauce pan and bring to the boil, reduce heat and allow to stay hot.

2. In the large frying pan, over medium heat add olive oil add garlic and shallots and saute until tender and fragrant. Add the couscous and lightly toast for until all the couscous has become covered in the oil, similar to risotto.

3. Add half the hot chicken stock and cook, while occasionally stirring, until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add a few ladle's worth of stock to the pan and allow the stock to be absorbed, repeat until the couscous is cooked and fluffy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add lamb and cook until all ingredients have warmed.

4. To serve, place couscous on a dish, add a dollop of sour cream, sprinkle with a little paprika and pistachios and garnish with parsley.


I dare you to only eat one serve!!

July 5, 2010

Cumulus Inc.

Dining Date: May 2010 2010
Rating: 57th, 1 Star
Chef: Andrew McConnell and Josh Murphy
Location: 45 Flinders La, Melbourne, VIC (03) 9650 1445

It seems that every time we go to a McConnell restaurant we’re doomed to showing up late. When we ventured along to Bar Lourinha we showed up more than 45 minutes late due to traffic. Meeting up for dinner at Cumulus Inc with Agnes, Alastair and Pat from Off the Spork was a little better with us showing up about 30 minutes late. I’m starting to think I have some sort of McConnell curse. Luckily, while patiently waiting for us to show up the guys had decided on what to order. So the food arrived shortly afterwards.

Just a word of warning, actually a big word of warning. I was rushed, flustered and my camera lens was on a very quick trip to dying, so my photos are INCREDIBLY bad. I seriously contemplated not posting about Cumulus, but the meal was so good that I hope my description will over shadow the very blurry photos. By the way, my lens finally packed it in while on holiday not long ago.

We ordered a couple of dishes to share, Slow cooked octopus with aioli, dehydrated olive. The octopus was so tender, it simply dissolved away in your mouth. I particularly remember the pungent olive oil. Wish we had ordered 2 serves of this dish.


Crispy school prawns sautéed with chilli and garlic. I promise you that the prawns did not look so blurry in real life. They were crispy and full of prawn flavour. The chilli offered no heat, only a subtle flavour and the whole lot had an underlying lemon flavour which refreshed the dish and lifted it to another dimension. I could imagine eating a massive serve of these and washing them down with ice cold beer. Once again, I wish we had ordered 2 serves of this. On a side note, one great thing about misdirected focal points, check out Alastair’s t-shirt! I didn’t notice it on the night, but he has one awesome milk t-shirt!

school prawns

Foie gras parfait with toasted brioche. The parfait was fluffy, silky and slightly salty. It was just perfect matched with the sweet raisins. A bit of a failure for me was the brioche, firstly the brioche was not buttery enough for me. If I’m going to eat it, I want to at least feel the arteries in my heart hardening, instead it tasted like regular toast. Secondly, there wasn’t enough bread to parfait ratio. I’m so sick of this happening, there always seems to be a miscalculation when bread/crackers/crisps are concerned. I think I’m going to write to our new prime minister and see if she can address the problem, she looks like she enjoys her crackers and cheese.

foie gras parfait2

Grass fed steak tartare. This was just awesome! The ingredient list was like any other steak tartare - capers, gherkins, onions, chives and an egg yolk, but some how it was completely different. The meat was low on fat, a real bonus when eating it raw, and it was served with traditional sauces and anchovy oil (see Agnes’ post for a photo). I felt a bit like Doctor Zoidberg for minute, totally imagining sucking the entire bottle down in a split second, until I realised the tartare tasted better without the oil. It added a salty dimension without the fishy aftertaste, but the original dish, with no condiments was best.

steak tartare

For the main we decided to order the Whole slow roast lamb shoulder to share. The lamb was so tender and juicy, I still have dreams about it to this day. Most people dream about winning lotto or running away with Fabio, not me.....unless Fabio is holding a massive tray of this slow cooked lamb. The outer fat was crispy, the whole shoulder was covered in a generous helping of salt, when you got a mouthful of that salt it was just delicious. The lamb came with a red onion salad and some lemon. I strongly recommend ordering the lamb and squeezing a generous amount of lemon on top....just perfection!!

lamb shoulder

lamb sides

As a side we ordered Cracked wheat & freekeh salad, preserved lemon, blueberries. This salad was perfect to go with the meaty and rich lamb. I enjoyed the dried blueberries throughout the salad, but especially loved the generous amount of sour cream on top.

cumulus salad

For dessert I ordered the Pear sorbet, burnt butter shortbread & almond milk. I sadly forgot to take a photo of it. But once again, Agnes was on the ball and has a great photo of the stunning dessert. This has to be one of the better desserts I’ve had in a long time. The pear sorbet was so fluffy, not an icicle in sight! Perfectly cut pear pieces. Who would have thought that the combination of burnt butter shortbread biscuits and almond milk custard or panacotta or whatever it was would go together so well. Everyone always talks about texture in dishes, and this totally delivered on texture. The crunchy biscuit, the soft and melting sorbet, the slightly crunchy pear cubes and the pudding like almond milk. I would love to make this very dish at home!

Pat ordered the Steamed chocolate pudding with hazelnut toffee & crème fraiche ice cream. I managed to sneak a tiny bit of this one, so chocolaty and totally sexy with its oozing centre. Pat seemed to really enjoy it!

chocolate fondant

Daz ordered a selection of petit fours, Rose Jelly, Chocolate caramel truffle and Chocolate fudge. Sadly they weren’t that impressive, just you’re regular everyday petit fours. I tried to convince Daz not to order them, but he has a habit of being bitterly disappointed at the end of a meal, case in point - ordering a cheese platter at Cutler and Co expecting a cheese cake to arrive instead.

petit fours

To finish the meal we ordered Madeleine filled with lemon curd each. How does an entire meal get wiped from your memory? Ordering one of these. By far my favourite thing on the night, but I’ve always had a sweet tooth. These are specially cooked to order, they arrive at the table piping hot. Since the cake is fresh out of the oven the lemon curd quickly warms up, so your mouth is bombarded with zesty warm goodness. My fantasy, order a dozen of these and suck the warm curd out of them. Creepy huh?

lemon curd filled madaleins

Cumulus was a real highlight. I really enjoyed all the dishes. I had little to no expectations of the place, and I think that helped. When we went to Cutler and Co I had high expectations and sadly the experience just did not live up to them. I’ll definitely be returning to Cumulus Inc.

July 1, 2010

Leek and Broccoli Soup

leek and broccoli soup 2

Recently Bakers Delight sent me a couple of complimentary samples of their new sourdough. They have two varieties, fruit and olive. So once I received the bread I thought I might make something to go with it. Considering the recent cold snap we’ve experienced, I thought there’s no better way to warm up then by eating a big hot bowl of steaming soup. Not to mention soup is a great way to up your veggie consumption.

bakers delight bread

I often make a broccoli soup with crisp chorizo sausage on top. But I thought I might try something a little different and added leek to the mix. The leek adds a sweetness to the finished soup. I usually blend my soup up and make a thick puree, but because I felt especially lazy that night I decided to skip that step and kept the soup chunky. Eating the chunky soup actually makes you feel fuller, and not feel like a baby eating soft mushy food. I had my tonsils out a couple of year ago and for two weeks I survived on mashed peas, chicken soup (just the liquid) and KFC mash potatoes and gravy. I lost quite a bit of weight, but gained an unusual anxiety about mushy food.

leek and broccoli soup 5

I cut a couple of thick slices of olive bread and dunked it into the soup. The saltiness of the sourdough went really well with the smoky oily sausage. Daz and I went a little bread mad that night and managed to polish off the entire loaf. Well bread is best at its freshes, so we had no choice but to eat the entire thing.

bakers delight olive bread

This is a really easy and quick recipe. In fact its all cooked and served within 30min, great for a work night.

Leek and Broccoli Soup

Makes 3 big serves


1 leek, sliced
2 heads of broccoli, stalk chopped into small pieces and florets chopped roughly
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1.5 litres of chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 chorizo sausages, sliced


1. In a large saucepan add a little olive oil over medium heat, add the leek and sauté. Allow it to soften, but not colour. This will take around 5 minutes. Add the garlic and allow to soften.


2. Add the stalk of the broccoli and cook until slightly softened. Add the stock and the remaining broccoli. Cook on medium-high until all veggies are soft and the liquid has reduced slightly. You can add other veggies to the mix if you wish, potatoes are a really good addition – making the soup very thick and hearty. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can leave the soup chunky or blitz it in a food processor to get a smooth soup.

3. Just before serving fry the chorizo sausage in a fry pan with a little extra olive oil. Allow the fat from the sausage to slightly render out.


4. Serve the soup with a few pieces of sausage on top and a teaspoon or two of the oil from the fry pan. This will add a real smoky flavour to the soup.

leek and broccoli soup