Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My kitchen really rules!

Saturday night A and I decided to get our chef on and cook up a feast for dinner.

Due to getting out of bed late, having much needed waffles and coffee at a nearby cafe prior to any preparation, we were making our shopping list for the market at 2:40pm. Markets close at 3pm. We still hadn't planned a dessert, but we had decided that mussels were essential to the meal, so getting to the market became essential as we weren't sure where else we would be able get them at 3pm on a Saturday. Well, that would be of any reasonable quality.

We jumped in the car and headed to the market, god bless the market that never closes on time. Got our ingredients, used A's trusty iphone to look up a dessert on the way to the supermarket and then headed home to begin preparations.

Our menu consisted of 4 courses, kinda French with a little Italian and a pudding for dessert.

Mussels Meuniere with Crusty Sourdough 
Cutting my finger on a broken shell while debearding the mussels was all worth it when we tucked into the mussels which we cooked in shallots, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, butter and lots of white wine. The crusty bread we bought was perfect for soaking up all the juice at the bottom of the bowl. Not exactly the same as the ones I love to order at FranceSoir (Toorak Road, South Yarra), but still pretty good if I do say so myself.

Homemade Smoked Trout and Goats Cheese Tortellini with
Burnt Butter and Sage Sauce
Since A has just recently returned from her European Adventure, she was keen to show me her pasta making skills that she learnt during some cooking classes in Italy. We had decided on smoked trout and goats cheese as the filling as we had tried something similar at Taste of Melbourne last year and we have both been keen to recreate it ever since. Knowing that the filling has quite a lot of flavour in itself we made a simple burnt butter and sage sauce to compliment it. As neither of us had cooked it before, we probably could have let the butter brown a little more but we were happy with crispness of the sage with the bite of the goats cheese and trout.

Slow Cooked (in the LeCreuset) Mustard Beef with baked potatoes and
green beans with lemon and almond dressing
We got this recipe from N's mum, who is French, a complete whiz in the kitchen and always lends me her Raclette whenever I ask! We took a shoulder of beef, seasoned it and smothered it in Dijon mustard. Sealed it on each side and then allowed it to cook for 3 hours on a low heat. We made our own little additions, a few glugs of white wine and some sprigs of fresh thyme. The outcome was this extremely tasty meat that just fell apart with a fork and melted in your mouth. We baked some dutch cream potatoes and steamed some green beans, tossed them in olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and some toasted slivered almonds. Although by this stage we were struggling to fit the food in!

Caramel Apple Pudding with Vanilla Custard
Quite a basic recipe really, sliced granny smiths covered in a pudding batter (we added some cinnamon and all spice as there was no flavour in the batter apart from sugar). Over the top of the batter a syrup of brown sugar, golden syrup and water. Into the oven until cooked through.
This was my first attempt to make custard from scratch, its always seemed so hard to me. I don't know what I was thinking. It was simple! No longer do I need to nag my nan to make me her famous custard because I can actually make it myself! The vanilla was quite strong as the bean had lots of seeds in it. It really complemented the pudding and was a nice way to finish off our meal.

We finished eating just in time to see Harry Kewell get a red card - yes it was extremely late by this time, wine had been consumed over the course of the night, so our efficiency went down as the hours went by. This may also be the reason for my lack of photos for this entry.

A is, and will always be my cooking (and hamper) partner in crime, and if we ever get the urge to be reality TV stars (doubtful), look out My Kitchen Rules!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Left Bank Melbourne

Prior to heading out to the movies a few Saturdays ago, J and I decided to have dinner at Left Bank.

The design and layout of this place is just beautiful! It's relatively new, its a bar as well as a restaurant and has been set up really well. There is a balcony area for alfresco dining, something I look forward to enjoying in the warmer months. The restaurant area is directly in front of you when you come through the main entrance and to your left is a stunning bar area. Along the window of the restaurant there are tables that can be separated by silver organza curtains, transparent but can still give you a feeling of privacy. We were seated along the other wall in a little couched area, low tables, and lots of cushions. It was so comfortable, and great for sitting around after if you just want to chill out, have some cheese, wine, or even cocktails (which also sounded fantastic). They have somewhat of a tapas menu too if you are just feeling a little snacky.

The menu looked great as well, with a 5 course degustation for $65 (excluding wine). The waitress basically told us that you let the chef know of any allergies and he will prepare a five course meal that explores the entire menu. Sounded so great, but I was feeling a little off that night so we decided on sharing an entree and a main each.

We decided on the mixed seafood wontons with XO sauce for entree. These were plated up so well, cute and very easy to eat with a little toothpick for each one. I found they tasted a little like Thai fish cakes in wonton wrappers, with some spicy dried chilli mix and spring onions on top.

For main I had the soy lacquered duck with asian greens and shitake mushrooms. There was so much duck on this plate! Which is unusual considering most places will just give you a small breast piece. The skin could have been a little more crispy, but the duck itself was flawless. I just wished I had felt better and been able to eat the whole dish, because I just love duck! The asian greens were cooked perfectly and were still crisp. The shitake mushrooms were maybe a little salty for my liking, however with the duck being soy lacquered, the whole dish had a certain degree of saltiness.

Overall, nice place, nice food and definitely would like to return when not feeling so under the weather.

Something I learnt...
My photography skills are not getting any better!!! However, I have begun teaching myself a few things using tutorials and tips from some great food photography blogs. Here's hoping my photos will only get better from here on in.

Left Bank Melbourne on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shadows of Blue - Gippsland Tarago River Cheese Company

The other night on way home from work I dropped into McCoppins Food & Wine on Queens Parade in Fitzroy North to pick up some cream. Walking past the deli my eyes fell upon the cheese section and I stopped dead in my tracks. The particular cheese that caught my eye was called Shadows of Blue from the Gippsland Tarago River Cheese Company. I was unable to leave without buying some, so at $59kg I bought a small wedge just to try.

It's a mild double cream blue. It's soft, very creamy and after its been out of the fridge for awhile,  it's spreadable. The Roqueforti mould cultures create this texture and a mild but full blue flavour. Good starting point for people new to blue cheese.

Eat with water crackers, wafers or plain crusty bread, anything else would take away from its flavour! Probably one of the most addictive cheeses I have had the pleasure of eating.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Eiffel Tower Cheese

A is currently in Europe on a 5 week adventure. She has been taking photos of the local produce just for me and I decided that I had to share this one picture... Eiffel Tower shaped cheese, oh mon dieu!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A few things I wish I had written about but didn't...

Taste of Melbourne 2009
A delectable journey through some of Melbourne's best restaurants all under one roof.

Best Bits?
Turkish Delight filled Doughnuts glazed with honey and crushed pistachios from Maha, I did not want to share! We also met George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan the second we walked in.

My friend A, George & Me outside the The Press Club & Maha Taste Kitchen.

Me, Gary & A outside The Boathouse Taste Kitchen.
How's your hip pocket?
EMPTY! It's an expensive day out, but worth every penny. Get a few friends together and share the dishes you purchase, you'll taste more and get better value!

Taste of Melbourne 2010
26-29 August 2010
Royal Exhibition Building

There's also one in Sydney, however its already done for 2010 - http://www.tastefestivals.com.au/australia/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=65&Itemid=83

King Valley Shed Wine Show 2008 & 2009
A small wine show for an amazing wine region where the public become the judges! 2008, held at Gracebrook Vineyards saw record attendance pushing 2009 to a new venue, the Swinburne Pavilion in Whitfield. The new venue was not ideal, however the event is always fantastic. For anyone who needs a helping hand, the King Valley Vignerons are there to teach you all about wine tasting and judging. With entertainment and food all day too, its a great day out!

Gracebrook Vineyards - 2008 Venue

Best Bits?
Making a full weekend out of it, camping with friends and visiting some wineries on the way home. The Whitfield Pub also gets a mention, always ready to serve up huge (and delicious) pizzas on a Friday night after the 3 hour drive up. We also witnessed a calf being born!

Little Calf just after it was born... Mumma was very cautious about us!

How's your hip pocket?
The show or weekend if you choose is cheap cheap cheap! $15 per head gets you entrance to the wine show, all the wine you can taste and a glass to drink from. If you don't mind roughing it, you can camp at Gentle Annie for approximately $10 per night (there are shower and toilet facilities too)

King Valley Shed Wine Show
First Saturday in October