August 25, 2010

2011 Australian Restaurant Guide

This is both my favourite part of the year and my most hated. The 2011 Gourmet Traveller Restaurant awards have just been announced. I get to see the list that I will hungrily chase for the next year, see just how many restaurants I can cross off the and can cry over how many I’ve already eaten at that didn’t make the cut. Last year I started my count at 14. Despite all the excessive eating I’ve been doing, I can only manage to cross off 17. That’s a measly addition of 3 more top 100 restaurants!! Sadly, quite a few have dropped off the scale. I guess I will just have to do a lot more eating over the next 12 months. Or concentrate on the top 20, surely they’re less likely to be toppled in next years awards? At least this year I can say I’ve eaten at the nations’ best restaurant....a big woo hoo for Cutler and Co.!

On the recipe side of the equation I’ve managed to knock off 15 top 100 recipes, not a bad feat...however I need to pull out my A game if I’m ever going to manage to cross off all 100.

So at the moment I’m only at 17% of my goal. I’ve updated the top 100 list on the left bar.

How many have you eaten at and are there any that have been left out that you really love?

August 20, 2010

Results - White bean velouté with salsa verde and candied pancetta


I like beans in dip, I like beans on toast and now I've discovered I like beans in soup. Who would have ever thought! Overall I was pretty pleased with my attempt at the Comme Kitchen recipe. The leek soup was sweet and extremely filling with all the extra fiber coming from the beans. Overall it was extremely healthy too, if you chose to ignore the fact that there was about a bucket load of cream added to the finished product.


I really enjoyed the crispy pancetta ontop, giving the otherwise vegetarian soup of bit of flavour twist. Although I've had sweetened pancetta before, it was still a little strange for my taste buds. You would take a mouthful of the soup, taste the minty freshness from the salsa, creamy buttery-ness from the soup and then the sweet candy element from the pancetta. All a little strange, but oddly pleasing. It was a wintry cold when we had this, so curling up with a hot bowl of soup, some crusty bread and a warm heater was the order of the day.


I do have a couple of bones to pick though. Whenever I chose a recipe to tackle, I'm usually lured in by the pretty pictures. I had grand fantasies of my dish turning out as spectacular as the original. In this case I was hoping for a pristine white soup accented with the vivid green salsa. Somehow my soup ended up yellow with splodges of green glop.

I know what happened to the salsa verde. I had a pretty hopeless food processor. The minimum amount of liquid require to get a good result is about 1L, so my chopping and emulsifying didnt quite turn out the way I had imagines, in fact it turned out more like a pesto than an actual sauce. The salsa was also slightly bitter, which I attribute to the whole making process, rather than cleanly chopping alot of the herbs ended up bruised. It tasted quite nice when mixed into the soup, but was a little unpleasant when eaten in a large blob.


My next issue was with the candied pancetta, well more an issue with me really. I dusted the pancetta shoved it in the oven and waited a little while. I tested the pancetta and it was still overly soft, not to the crispy result I had desired. So I shoved it back in and waited a little while longer, by the time I thought it was time to pull it out, it was too late. The sugar had began to caramelise and turned the pancetta into a dark mess. And after all that the pancetta was still not as crispy as I had expected. oh well.

panchetta icing sugar

panchetta icing sugar 2

This recipe is pretty easy, it can be put together in under 45 minutes, especially if you use canned beans which have already been soften. Although, the next time I make this I might pay a little more attention to my pancetta. If you would like to see the recipe again, go here.

August 17, 2010

White bean velouté with salsa verde and candied pancetta

Restaurant: Comme Kitchen (VIC)
Recipe from Chef Daniel Southern (recipe from Gourmet Traveller website)
2010 Rating: Number 93, 1 Star

Its funny how sometimes you come across recipes. On this occasion the thinking process went a little something like this;

I have a leek and a can of beans, I wonder what I can make with them? Google my old friend, bingo....leek and bean soup.

So simple, and the recipe looks pretty darn simple too. So heres the recipe with the results to follow soon.

White bean velouté with salsa verde and candied pancetta
Serves 4

Cooking Time Prep time 20 mins, cook 1 hr 25 mins(plus resting, proving)

100 gm unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, white part only, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 thyme sprigs
1 fresh bay leaf
2.2 litres chicken stock
110 gm dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight in cold water, drained
200 ml thickened cream
120 gm round mild pancetta, thinly sliced (about 8 slices)
For dusting: pure icing sugar
Salsa verde
1 cup (loosely packed) flat-leaf parsley
½ cup (loosely packed) mint
¼ cup (loosely packed) basil
3 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp small capers in salt, rinsed
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
175 ml extra-virgin olive oil

1 Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat, add vegetables, garlic, thyme and bay leaf and stir occasionally until tender (7-10 minutes). Add stock and beans, bring to a gentle simmer and cook until beans are very soft (1-1¼ hours). Discard herbs, process mixture in a blender until smooth, pass through a fine sieve, stir through cream, season to taste and keep warm.

2 Meanwhile, preheat oven to 160C. Place pancetta on a baking-paper-lined oven tray, sift icing sugar over in a thin, even layer, top with baking paper and weight with another oven tray. Bake until crisp (10-12 minutes), set aside.

3 Meanwhile, for salsa verde, process herbs, anchovies, garlic, capers and mustard in a food processor until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil in a continuous stream until emulsified and set aside. Makes 270ml.

4 To serve, divide white bean velouté between bowls, drizzle with salsa verde and crumble over candied pancetta.

August 12, 2010

Campari House

I am so behind with my blogging!! I wont even tell you when we went to Campari House for their Toast to the Campari house Roast as part of the put Victoria on Your table by Melbourne Food and Wine. Lets just say it was in the first half of the year, and now we’re in the second half. That should do. We went along with the ever delightful Agnes from Off the Spork and her hilarious hubby and brother, Alastair and Pat.

To say we had a good night would be an understatement. Imagine this....and entire restaurant to yourself with seemingly bottomless glasses of wine. Thankfully the restaurant was a little light on people, because we have a habit of being a little too loud and sometimes obnoxious. Ok, I’ll confess it’s usually me who is obnoxious. We were greeted at our tables with all the glasses laid out and told that all the wine on offer for the night would be served at the first course. That way you could match your own wine to the dish. Considering I’m pretty ignorant about wine, my choices were well off the mark, I thought that the bubbles went really well with EVERYTHING. I’m not exactly sure anyone else got a winner on the night, but it was very fun trying to be a sommelier for the night.

So onto the food. And to be honest I had no expectations about Campari House, but by the end of the night I was very impressed. We started with Braised black travelly on wild mushroom rissoni, pistachio dust. I’m pretty sure this was a big hit with everyone at the table. The fish had such a crispy skin, exactly how I like it, with a sharp and refreshing lemon hit. The pasta was creamy with meaty mushrooms throughout. I did however miss the pistachio dust. I was pretty hungry so I may have wolfed it down before I noticed anything. Daz was really taken with it, but somehow my mum can't get him to eat her rissoni with broccoli, I suspect the broccoli has something to do with it.

Campari House rissioni

Next we had Rabbit ballontine, caramelised pearl onion, game jus. The Rabbit loin was wrapped in bacon, topped with crispy sage, thyme and barely cooked pearl onions. The bacon gave a smoky quality, and the pearl onions were nice and crunchy but with caramelised edges. The jus was lovely, silky, gamy and perfect to tie all the elements on the dish together. We had a mini debate about what was actually in the game jus, and of course I just had to know. I guessed that there would be rabbit in it, but was well off on the quail....I thought it was venison. How many glasses of wine had I had?


Next we had Cauliflower gratin, truffled white polenta. Another winner! At first I was thinking, this isn’t that's just cauliflower in cheesy glop. It wasn’t until you dug a little further and unveiled the fluffy and creamy polenta that you understood why this dish was good. I could have eaten a massive serve of this. If you ignore the amount of butter, cream and cheese in this, it could be extremely healthy. It does have cauliflower in it! There was only one real disappointment....I wanted MORE TRUFFLE. But isn’t that always the way?


Next was the Slow roasted mustard beef, sticky winter mushrooms. Sadly my beef was a little cold, which made it a little had to chew when it was this rare. Otherwise I thought it was great. Nice and filling with beautiful meaty mushrooms. Once again being the strange and curious types we are we wanted to know how the mushrooms were made sticky. And I guess when you ask a stupid question, you get a stupid answer. The sticky jus was made from wine and honey. BIG SURPRISE!!


To finish we had Chilled strawberry soup, basil foam, shortbread straw. Daz was taking the photos for the night, so by this stage he had enough to drink to transform him into a teenage Japanese girl...hence the angled photo with bunny ears in the back. Hey wait....didnt we already eat the rabbit? Anyway back to the food, as soon as I read the menu I was excited. By now you know that I have a very unhealthy obsession with basil. FYI I’ve already planted my basil for the season....I know its too early but I’m hoping for an unusually warm late winter allowing my basil to shoot up so I can indulge in my true love....sorry Daz....basil always wins over you. Back to the dessert....hmmmm basil foam, it was all I could think about the entire night. The soup was the true essence of strawberries, and the basil foam did not disappoint. The only disappointment was the shortbread straw that didn’t even work as a straw. False advertising!!! Pat and I both tried to suck through the straw before we discovered that it was a lie!! It was like finding out the tooth fairy was just your parents leaving money in exchange for teeth. It was horrible!! We had a cry and then moved on.


Overall the food was well thought out and exceptionally put together. Not one dish was a knockout compared to the others, but together the whole meal was pretty memorable. I’ll definitely go back and see what else Campari House has to offer.

For Agnes' version of events, go here

August 2, 2010

Results - Guava and Custard Apple Snow Egg

snow egg

And now for some very very sweet results.....literally!! After reading possibly the longest recipe I've ever seen, and been challenged by my un-believing brother, I gave the almighty Snow egg from Masterchef a try. I'm happy to say that I succeeded and my brother ate his words! HA! I finally got you back for making me eat dirt when I was a kid......revenge is sweet.......just like dessert.

snow egg from above

I'm glad that I wasnt on Masterchef with only a limited time to complete this recipe. It took me nearly 4 hours to finish it. Most of it was waiting around, trying to get custards to set, ice creams to cream and water to freeze. When I first read the recipe I thought it was going to be a breeze, and to be honest there wasnt any particular part which was difficult. The only problem was that it was 8 separate desserts crammed into one almighty uber dessert. So by the end of it I was well and truly over the snow egg. So much so that I didnt really like it. I thought it was way to sweet and a little un-impressive. Daz, my borther, sister-in law and my 1 and a half year old niece disagreed, saying that the dessert was VERY delicious. I guess I'll just have to agree to disagree.

snow egg cracked open

What I absolutely loved about the recipe was the custard apple ice cream and the custard cream. These were so fantastic. I'm glad I had plenty of left overs, I've been making left over bonus desserts with the custard cream, I truly recommend trying it with some fresh strawberries. A thousand times better than ordinary strawberries and cream. Yes, simple strawberries and cream are now ordinary to me.

I did come across a couple of tricky issues when attempting this dessert. Firstly, I couldnt find strawberry guavas. Guava season in Australia ended in June, so I was hoping for a miracle to find strawberry guavas. On my hunt I actually come across ordinary guavas but decided not to buy them because I thought I'd hold out. Big mistake. I searched high and low, I even went to Coles where apparently Masterchef's shop....but still no luck. In the end I opted for rhubarb as a replacement. It was a great substitute, rhubarb and strawberry as a combination is a favourite of mine. I later found out that at Quay they often have the dessert as white peach instead of guava, so my artist licence has not been revoked.

strawberry and rhubarb granita

Next was finding liquid maltose. After a chance discovery, I was in an asian grocery looking for beef jerky - as one does, I found the maltose staring at me begging me to buy it. So that was alot easier than I thought.

liquid maltose29

My next issue was finding a silicone dome tray for the meringues. I remember seeing one during my quest to find the perfect tart pan for my French party, but considering that an 101 year old Alzheimer suffer has a better memory than me, I couldnt remember where I saw it. So instead I used the tiny little glass bowls I use to put sauces in. Worked a treat. I even put baking paper inside them, just in case the meringues got stuck, but there was no need.....they slid out like a weekend at wet-n-wild.

glass dishes

poached meringues

Even though this recipe was pretty straight forward I did make one fatal error. My maltose tuiles were a little under done. They produced the perfect crack (see the below video), but unfortunately I didnt quite caramelize the sugar enough, giving the snow eggs a very pale appearance. I also had difficulty with the tuile melting onto the eggs. I'm not quite sure if that was due to a thickness issue, the sugar being too pale hence under done or the fact that I was trying to melt them with possibly the most pathetic torch imaginable. I've never had a size issue before, but yesterday I just wished for something bigger and hotter. *giggles*

egg covered in maltose teuil

The most important question, would I make these again? Probably not. The effort clearly outweighs the rewards. I'm all for complicated dishes, in fact I love a challenge....but even this was too much for me. I will certainly be making parts of this dish again, but will be paring them with less diabetic inducing elements. Still, I have admire Peter Gilmore for even contemplating a dessert o this caliber.

snow egg 2