November 30, 2010

Results - Roasted Duck Breast, Braised Turnips, and a Mango and Lemon Sauce

roasted duck with mango and turnip

Sometimes I wonder how chef's come up with flavour combinations. Do they have the Issac Newton moment when an apple falls out of a tree smacking them plainly in the face?, or do they purposefully set out to challenge our traditional take on flavour unions? I'm not exactly sure how Jacques Reymond thought of putting mango and turnip together, but let me tell you it was a stroke of genius! I really didn't think that my favourite part of this dish would be the combination of the sweet juicy mango with the soft but tender turnip. And to be brutally honest, that is the only aspect of this entire dish that I will probably be making again. Before yesterday I had no idea that there was more than one use for a turnip, the first being a implement to throw at your partner when they eat the last piece of chocolate in the pantry.

turnip and mango

I totally failed with the pickeled wombok (aka a Chinese cabbage that sounds strangely like a small furry animal). I don't know if I read the recipe wrong, or I totally missed the point, but I followed every step and at the end of it I was left with slightly damp crisp cabbage. I stared at it for a little while, kinda hoping it would magically turn into the right thing, but 20 minutes later and nothing. So I got frustrated and just wilted the whole lot in a hot pan, I may have committed a culinary sin, but in the end I wasn't exactly overcome with a taste sensation, so I'm not too upset that I got it wrong.

roasted duck with mango and turnip above

The other thing that I really liked about this dish was the orange and lemon sauce. I really enjoyed the fragrant star anise and szechuan pepper in the sauce, and I thought that the whole thing came together really well, who would have thought that orange and duck were a match made in heaven!!! The French may be onto something here. Once again though, the big spoiler was the limp, drab tasting cabbage. I strongly recommend making the rest of the dish and leave out the accompanying pickled cabbage. Maybe just steam some crunchy string beans, or better yet just save your stomach for a huge serving of dessert. Speaking of dessert, onto my last challenge in the Jacques Reymond 3 course dinner. Stay tuned for the sugar high!

roasted duck with mango and turnip side

November 28, 2010

Roasted Duck Breast, Braised Turnips, and a Mango and Lemon Sauce

And now for the main course to the Jacques Reymond 3 course delight! So far the appetizer and the starter have gone well. I'm not so sure about the main course though. While flipping through the Cuisine du Temps book I had a real hard time settling on something. Nothing really caught my eye, other than the suckling pig. But that seemed a little indulgent considering normally you have to buy a whole suckling pig, a challenge even to the well seasoned gluttons that Daz and I are. So instead I'm going to attempt the roasted duck breast. I'm a fan of duck, so hopefully this will turn out well, however the mango and lemon sauce screams a little "sweet and sour" to me which apparently is the whole point to this dish, hopefully it will be a good combination.

After reading through the recipe, it also suggests to serve the dish with a side of pickled wombok. Now, if your a little ignorant like its not a small hairy Australian marsupial, its actually Chinese cabbage. So in fact this recipe includes a bonus side recipe, helping with the all important veggie count.

As always, here is the recipe and stay tuned for the happy ending.

Roasted Duck Breast, Braised Turnips, and a Mango and Lemon Sauce, Serves 4

This Dish is all about the four tastes, saltiness (duck), acidity (lemon), sourness (turnip) and sweetness (mango)

4 duck breasts, skin on
1/2 teaspoon flaked sea salt

Lemon Sauce

2 tablespoons palm sugar, grated
1/4 teaspoon Szechuan pepper
1/4 cinnamon stick
1/2 star-anise
3 cardamon pods
zest 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon julienned ginger
25 mL sherry vinegar
250mL orange juice
1 teaspoon custard powder
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ginger juice

Braised Turnips

2 small turnips, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
30g butter
100 mL chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 mango sliced

Clean the duck breast of excess sinew, score the skin and rub with salt. Place the duck skin side down in a heavy frying pan on low heat to render out the fat layer between the skin and the meat. It is not necessary to preheat the pan. Do not turn the breast until it has cooked three-quarters of the way through - approximately 15 minutes. Cook the other side for 30 seconds to a minute. Remove from pan and rest for approximately 5 minutes

Lemon Sauce

Caramelise the palm sugar in a small saucepan. Add the spices, lemon zest and ginger and cook until fragrant. Deglaze with sherry vinegar and orange juice and reduce by half to 125 mL. To finish the sauce add the lemon juice and ginger juice to taste. Adjust consistency with custard powder.

Braised turnips

Caramelise sugar in a frying pan until golden. Add a couple of small knobs of butter and the turnips. Once glazed lightly, add a little chicken stock and simmer gently until tender. You need just enough chicken stock so that by the time the liquid has evaporated, the turnips are cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To Serve

Put sliced mango in the center of the plate and place braised turnips on top, then duck breast, skin side up. Pour over lemon sauce. Pickled wombok is also and excellent accompaniment to this dish

Pickled Wombok

A fresher, more textured alternative to traditional sauerkraut.

1/2 wombok
1 salad onion, sliced
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon clarified butter
125 mL white vinegar
125mL white wine
1 bay leaf
2 stalks thyme
3 juniper berries
2 garlic cloves, crushed
75mL chicken stock
pinch of salt

Separate the leaves and stalks of the wombok. Slice the stalks thinly on an angle.

In a medium sized saucepan, sweat onion and pepper in a little clarified butter until soft. Add vinegar and reduce until almost evaporated. Add white wine, bay leaf, thyme, juniper berries and garlic and reduce by half. Add chicken stock to taste, season with a pinch of salt.

To cook wombok, bring pickling liquid to the boil and pour over the wombok. Remove from liquid to serve.

November 22, 2010


6 Russell Pl
Melbourne, 3000
(03) 9639 7822

sarti front door

Daz and I often perve on people…..of both sexes, I know its a little weird and slightly strange, but I'm not like most girls. I love checking out shoes and dresses and I often try to get Daz involved, but he’s just not that into females shoes. I must admit though, I'm the one who actively points candidates out to him. While we were dining at Sarti on a particular warm evening we spotted an attractive lady who had a stunning black dress on. As I was admiring her dress another woman walked in with the exact same black dress on. We all stared and were eager to find out what would happen when they both discovered they weren't the most original pair in the room. About a minute later our curiosity was satisfied when the original lady returned to her seat and noticed the other lady sitting at the next table. A few nervous laughs later and it was all sorted. It was such a fascinating incident, we all know how competitive women can get, especially when out on the town wearing your favourite little black dress. I don’t know what we were expecting, maybe some mid meal entertainment, nothing like a scrag fight!

Enough about the scenery, onto the food. We decided to share some of the stuzzichini to start. If you don’t already know stuzzichini are small share plates similar to tapas. So we had Tartare of wagyu beef, porcini acid, smoked tomato, pine nut oil. Big pieces of fleshy juicy wagyu, crunchy pieces of pine nut all topped with very smoky tiny tomatoes. The oil was quite smoky giving the meat a distinct bbq taste. I really enjoyed this dish, although I couldn’t help but want some nice pickled gherkins.


Next we had Zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and herbs, the zucchini was tender but still crunchy. The outer batter was really crispy and the filling was fluffy and pundgent from the mixed herbs and spices added to the mix.

zucchini flowers

There was no way that we weren’t going to order the ‘Neo Nati fritti’, soft shell crab, ‘peperoni’ and ‘n’ duja crumble’. If you didn’t already know, Daz is a soft shell crab enthusiast, in that he will chose that over any other dish available. So we were really pleased when it arrived and lived up to its name. Thick pieces of juicy crab, with a spicy pepper "stir fry" underneath. Once again the outer shell was slightly crunchy with the soft flesh inside still very juicy. The crab was extremely fresh which was a nice little bonus.

softshell crab

The stuzzichini were really good, sadly the rest of the meal was a little bit downhill. I’ll just warn you now.

I ordered the Spinach ‘tortelli’, filled with rabbit, jerusalem artichoke puree, roasted hazelnuts, and rabbit broth. The pasta was a little undercooked, it wasn’t al dente it was “al raw-o”. It was even more evident considering the rabbit filling was very delicate and moist. The puree was fantastic along with the addition of hazelnut and rabbit broth. I really enjoyed it, however the undercooked pasta was a bit of a let down for me.

rabbit tortelli

Miss Coco LV ordered the pasta of the day, Pasta with duck ragout. It was good to see big pieces of duck scattered throughout the pasta, but once again the same issue as above, the pasta was slightly undercooked, so that totally ruined it for me.

duck pasta

Daz being the big red blooded man that he is ordered the Chargrilled 1824 ribeye ‘con la vera caponata siciliana’. The opposite to above happened here. Daz asked for a medium rare steak an instead he got a medium almost medium/well steak. It was such a shame considering it would have been a beautiful piece of meat. The other draw back was that the caponata was really oily, not just a little bit, there was a puddle of oil left over on Daz's plate after he finished. The other weird thing was that the steak was served on such a small narrow plate, making it almost impossible for Daz to eat. At one point the steak almost ended up in his lap.


After the main meals we were really disappointed, not to mention the service was lacking. The were very few of the wait staff that actually smiled, and none of the dishes were explained to us. So as soon as the dish arrived it was plonkt on the table and then not a word was said. I’m one for detail, especially with food, so found it really impersonal. Hopefully the desserts would pick up our mood.

Daz ordered the Lemon tart. Poor Daz, he has such a bad record when desserts are concerned. He was expecting a nice slice of lemon tart, or an small individual lemon tart, instead he got three tiny cubes of lemon tart with a lovely display of fruit and crumble and cream. It was a little strange considering the rest of the meal was served in a very traditional sense, but his dessert had a very modern appearance. The tart was pretty good though, nice and tangy with a crispy caramelized top. However Daz’s disappointment was not overcome by flavour, I guess great expectations are easily shattered

lemon tart

I had the Pistachio ‘panna cotta’, caramel salted popcorn. Fail!!!! The pistachio panna cotta didnt taste like pistachio, it was a little stodgy and the caramel salted popcorn was neither caramel nor salted....but it did have popcorn in it though. I'm not exactly sure what happened here, but the whole thing was a massive failure.

salted caramel popcorn and pistachio pannacotta

Miss Coco LV had the Chocolate semi freddo, traces of pumpkin. Thankfully this saved the day as far as desserts are concerned. The ice cream was really chocolaty and the semi freddo itself was really nice. I didn’t get a chance to try the pumpkin puree though. Nice idea though, matching pumpkin and chocolate together. There were no complaints coming from Miss Coco LV and she managed to finish the whole thing.

semi freddo

From my perspective Sarti was a pretty big let down. The surroundings are modern and really well done, but the service and some of the food weren’t quite up to scratch. I do recommend to go for the stuzzichini, maybe order a couple of cocktails and sit in their court yard and enjoy a few share plates with a bunch of friends, and then go somewhere else for dinner.

*It looks like Sarti is no longer in the top 100 restaurants of Australia. They were ranked 84 when the guide was released earlier this year, but the Gourmet Traveller website only have 98 entrants in the top 100. So at the moment it looks like Sarti and Lucio's are off the list. Stay tuned for more information....if I get any.

Sarti on Urbanspoon

November 13, 2010

Results - Fresh tomato Broth with Saffron, Ricotta Fritter

tomato broth with ricotta fritters2

Has anyone else noticed that I seem to be cooking alot of "balls"? For some reason I seem to be attracted to spherical shaped food items, and you know what?.....I'm not complaining. How can you not love ball shaped food, they're easy to handle, are oh so cute and fit nicely in your mouth.....wait, am I still talking about food? Maybe I should get back on track.

tomato broth with ricotta fritters

First lets talk about the taste. I made the broth and decided to serve it at room temperature, not warmed or chilled like the recipe suggested. It was a pretty warm day when I made it so the soup temperature was just right. All of the flavors blended together reminded me of warm summer day, fresh coriander, tomato, a hint of chili and the freshness of lemongrass . My only problem is that for some reason tomato soups/broths always cling to the back of my throat and give me an unpleasant sharp feeling. I enjoyed the first 5 or 6 mouth fulls, but then I was over it. I did however love the ricotta balls, so cute and tasty. I will definitely be making the fritters again, but as small finger food to kick start a party.

tomato broth with ricotta fritters3

Onto the actual recipe, it could not have been easier. Put everything in a pot and let it reduce, you don't need any skill for that. I was a little concerned at the end of the cooking time when I noticed that the whole process only made about a cup full of broth. I only made a half serve, but that wasn't enough for one person let alone two. So I decided to deviate away from the recipe and crushed the veggies while they were still sitting in my strainer and that seemed to extract some extra juice. I managed to squeeze out more than a few extra serves, so that fixed my problem. I ended up with a lot more tomato pulp but the second straining took care of any extra tomato bits.

tomato consume before cooking

Before cooking

tomato consume after cooking

After cooking

The ricotta balls were even easier. The only difficult part was waiting for the batter to be ready, and that was only difficult because I've always had a issue with patience. At the end of all the frying I was left with a fair bit of batter, so I decided to whack in a heap of cracked pepper, a little extra slat and make little salt and pepper beignet...oh they were so yummy! Might throw in some cheese next time and make cheese and black pepper balls. I've decided that Jacques Reymond is the batter king, so far anything that I've cooked involving flour and liquid has turned out to be awesome. At the end of this, I might turn into a batter ball myself!

biegnet batter


ricotta balls


ricotta fritters

So, we've eaten the appetizers and now we've consumed the consommé, I guess next is the main attraction. And guess what? I haven't even worked out what its going to be!! I think I will have look through the book again........maybe after dinner though.

tomato broth with ricotta fritters4

November 10, 2010

Fresh tomato Broth with Saffron, Ricotta Fritter

My attempt at making the appetizers for my Jacques Reymond 3 course dinner went really well, and now for the starter course. I decided to choose something light and and refreshing, something that reminds me of summer - considering we have some nice warm weather coming our way. So here is the recipe for Fresh tomato Broth with Saffron and Ricotta Fritters. Of course photos and the full wrap up is on its way shortly.

Fresh tomato Broth with Saffron, Ricotta Fritter
Serves 4


1.5kg tomatoes, each cut into 6
1 celery stick, sliced
1 leek
3 shallots
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 red birdseye chillies, halved and deseeded
2 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 stick of lemon grass, crushed
400 ml of water
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1 teaspoon of sugar (or to taste)
1/4 bunch of coriander
1/4 bunch basil
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads


100g ricotta
1 teaspoon basil, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander, chopped
2 teaspoon of semi dried tomatoes, cut into small cubes
salt and pepper


50g plain/all purpose flour
1/3 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 egg
35 mL soda water
10g melted butter
Note: The Beignet batter needs to be made an hour before being used


In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except for herbs and saffron. Cook gently at a low simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, add basil and coriander and let herbs infuse for 5 minutes. Pass through a fine sieve and collect broth. Add saffron threads and let infuse for 5 minutes. Strain again and set aside until ready to serve.


In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, herbs and semi dried tomatoes and season. Roll into balls and set aside


In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the centre, add the egg and mix lightly. Add the soda water and gently whisk. Add the melted butter and mix

In a saucepan, heat the broth, but don't boil.

Heat a frying pan with enough oil to deep fry. Dip ricotta balls in the batter and coat well with a fork. Add to the pan and deep fry. Remove and place on a paper towel to absorb oil.

Pour broth in the bowl and place the ricotta fritter in the center.

NOTE: the broth is also delicious served cold as a very refreshing chilled summer soup

November 2, 2010

Results - Gougères

gougeres ready to be eaten

Gougères are French for yum!
* I thought I would do the smart thing and only make a half serve of the recipe. You know, there’s only Daz and I and I don’t want to be tempted with too many cheesy puffs lying around the house. I know that’s a common problem people could face, so I don’t want to subject myself to it. With these delicious puffy, cheesy clouds of joy Daz and I set a new record. They were all eaten before I even finished taking photos of them. Thats really impressive!! And then came the wave of more cheese puffs to snack on.

air pockets within the gougeres

This has got to be the easiest top 100 recipe I’ve tried so far. It seriously couldn’t be similar, prepare your ingredients, add them together in the assigned order, bake and eat. And yet I still managed to stuff it up!!

gougeres ingredients

The recipe calls for diced gruyere, so that’s what I did. But when I added it to the hot flour/butter/egg mixture the cubes of cheese weren’t melting like I had expected them to. Did I cut them too big? Did I fiddle and fumble too long and my mixture was now too cold for the cheese to melt? The recipe said nothing about chunky pieces of cheese in it. So I thought I would stir the mixture a little more. Still no difference. Ok, I’ll just spoon them onto the tray, cross my fingers and hope they’ll rise.....and thats what they did. But even better than that, the chunky pieces of cheese melted and then went all crispy and caramelised so in every gougère you would have a lovely big pieces of chruncy cheese...oh I’m in heaven. I totally understand now why Jacques said “Don't use other types of cheese or you won't get the right result”, its well worth the result. But I think my over mixing prevented my puffs from “cracking” like Jacques. A small price to pay, but I wont be making that mistake again!

cheesy gougeres bottoms

My other issue was that the puffs took alot longer than 25 minutes to cook. More like 35 minutes, in the end I took them out because I was frustrated by the wafting smell of cheese throughout my house making me extremely hungry, so they weren’t quite as dark as I would have liked. But that had absolutely no impact on the deliciousness of them!

What I really love about this recipe piping bag!!!! Usually with choux pastry you have to pull out the old bag and leave half of the mixture stuck to the side of your implement. Not in this case, all you need is a trusty spoon......oh oh....which means there are much more finger licking opportunities! Bonus score!

raw gougeres

Now I’m really looking forward to the next challenge of my three course Jacques Reymond meal. By the way I’m glad I’m having other meals in between the courses, that way there’s no chance of me starving, considering I’m only cooking one course every couple of days.

ready to be eaten

I’m definitely going to be making these again, although next time I’m going to fill them with crab!!!

*Not actually French for yum.....that's petit miam!