Monday, August 31, 2009

Eat it by the sea

Admittedly it has been a while since my last post. This has been as a result of:
a) buying the wrong cable for my camera
b) being busy
c) making some seriously average meals (think bland beetroot tart and crappy pasta - sigh!)

BUT a weekend on the surf-coast with the family for birthday celebrations has changed all that! It was a weekend of rain, roaring fires, trivial pursuit, snoozes on the couch and, of course, eating obscene amounts of food.

Due to a cold and a willing family of cooks I didn't actually cook anything over the weekend (except for a couple of flat loaves of bread - what's up with me at the moment!?) but I did eat! Apart from the home cook feasts of fresh pasta, cheese, salads, crumpets etc etc etc I also had the pleasure of eating at two wonderful surf coast restaurants - one an old favourite and the other a new revelation.

With the help of my mum's iphone I even managed to get some semi-decent pictures of the food - yay!

On Friday night we headed to our old favourite at Airey's Inlet - a la greque. It's a gorgeous, casual place run by Kosta Talimanidis (of Kosta's in Lorne fame) and his family.

The menu is simple and tasty but not very veggie friendly - although they do have some wonderful sustainable fish options like local flathead and whiting.

My family tends to order mains and lots of sides - so I ordered myself an eggplant pizza with mint, chili and kasseri and ate my fair share of silverbeet with gorgonzola and walnuts, green salad, lemon potatoes and fennel gratin.

The pizza was nice, but a tad dry and there was no sign of the aforementioned chili which probably would've probably given it the kick it needed to go from so-so to quite delicious.

The silverbeet was the highlight side. And not just because I think anything with gorgonzola is fabulous but because it was perfectly cooked so it still had a little bite, there were plenty of walnuts and just enough cheese to be a bit smelly and rich without killing the healthy taste of the silverbeet. Truly yumo!

The other sides were also very good but more unremarkable and the photos I have of the fennel in particular doesn't do it any justice.

So, with full bellies we trundled home for chocolate truffles, present opening, nougat, trivial pursuit and peppermint tea. Blissful.

When Sunday lunchtime rolled around we realised that, shock - horror, the cupboard was bare. Luckily for us, we had spotted a new little cafe in Jan Juc (kinda on the way home) that everyone wanted to try.

And wowee was it lucky for us - what a find!

Swell is a little cafe in the carpark of the Jan Juc shops but it serves up some seriously good quality, veggie friendly cafe food.

I realise that this post is getting entirely too long so I will just say one thing... Get the South Indian Veggie Burger.

Yes, it was as big as it looks and no you cannot eat it as a conventional hand-held burger and oh my was it delicious. The waitress couldn't tell us what the patty was made of but I guess it was a mixture of mashed chickpeas and veggies. There were lots of yummy Indian spices, some chutney, loads of salad and a splosh of tzaziki for good measure. One of the best veg burgers in memory.

Everyone else thoroughly enjoyed some wraps, mexican roti and one of the most impressive looking veggie breakfasts I've seen which included some scrumptious spinach and feta piklets! Everything was rounded out with a deliciously spicey chai, milkshakes, some coffees and then we all rolled home to Melbourne.

Overall a highly successful eating weekend.

I'm also back on the cooking bandwagon - so expect some pumpkin ravioli and apple cake to come your way later this week.

a la greque
60 Great Ocean Rd
Aireys Inlet

16 Princess Tce
Jan Juc

Monday, August 17, 2009

All things green and leafy

At school I was the kid who had hummus and carrot sticks instead of BBQ shapes, unsweetened muesli biscuits instead of Tim Tams and cottage cheese with mung-bean sprouts instead of, well, I don’t think there’s a junk food equivalent to that.

Even now, though I have a full-time job, live by myself and cook for myself most nights, every now and then I still catch my mother nodding encouragingly as I eat salad, exclaiming “Oh, delicious veggies, yummy healthy veggies” while my dad chimes in how eating healthy food makes your eyes sparkle – and who doesn’t want sparkly eyes!?

So, needless to say, I have been successfully brainwashed into healthy eating, so much so that when August at the market keeps presenting me with enormous bunches of dark green leafy kale, I can’t help but buy it and grin to myself knowing how sparkly my eyes will be when I’m done eating it.

I absolutely adore bitter dark green cabbage type veggies and when I read about Molly from Orangette serving them on garlicky toast with a fried egg on top, I couldn’t resist. So, this week as I walked home with a huge bunch of cavolo nero poking out of my back-pack I knew exactly how I wanted to cook it.

It’s really barely a recipe and, once again I must apologise for lack of photos. This time not for lack of trying but just because it was a very ugly dinner – ugly and delicious!

Oh, and don’t be put off by the fact that it’s boiled rather than briefly sautéed like greens are usually served – cavolo nero can stand up to and even benefits from a bit of boiling.

Cavolo Nero and Googy Eggs

1 big bunch of kale, trimmed, chopped into approx 1cm ribbons and washed well*

1 medium onion finely chopped

1 big clove garlic (or 2 little)chopped

Pinch chilli powder or flakes

1 litre of veg stock (I used homemade and I think it’s probably a good idea to use homemade or really super good stock because it flavours the kale)

2 free range egg

4 slices bread

Olive Oil


Grana padano

Gently fry off the onion in some olive oil, once it’s translucent but not brown, add the garlic and chilli and cook for a minute or two.

Throw in the kale and cook, giving it a good stir until it’s a bit wilted. It will seem like a lot of kale to handle in the beginning but it’ll shrink pretty quickly.

Pour in the stock so the kale is just covered, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer – cook until the kale is nice and soft, but not disintegrating into green mush – probably about 30 mins. When it’s a couple of minutes off being done add salt to taste – it’ll need a fair whack of salt, so don’t be shy!

While you’re waiting for the kale to cook, toast 2 pieces of bread per person, while still hot rub them with a cut clove of garlic and brush on some olive oil. Also, fry the eggs as you usually like eggs (in butter or oil, sunny side up or down) just make sure the yolk stays nice and googy.

Place the toast in a wide shallow bowl and when the kale is ready pile it, along with some of the juicy, kaley, oniony stock onto the toast and top with the fried egg.

Grate some Grana Padano (or equivalent) over the whole mess and enjoy sparkly eyes for at least the next 48 hours.

Serves 2 – or one hungry person plus left over boiled kale

*Once the kale is chopped and washed, if you dry it well you can pop it in the freezer where it will happily live for a week or so and come out ready to be popped straight in the pan!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yabbies and truffles and caramel, oh my!

When it comes to celebrating, my family likes to eat. In fact, every occasion from birthdays and anniversaries to exam results and home comings are honoured with a meal - preferably at a great Melbourne restaurant - although sometimes around the kitchen table at home.

So last night we set out to celebrate my brother's 21st birthday at Cutler and Co.

This is no longer the "awesome new" restaurant in Melbourne, and most of my family members had already been without me :( but it was my first time, and based on the number of positive blog reviews I've read about it here, here and here, I was expecting a lot... and I wasn't disappointed.

My sister and I (and possibly someone else on the table but I was too busy inhaling food to take too much notice) both ordered the entree special: Yabbies with potato and truffle remoulade and shaved Yarra Valley truffles. It was in a word, exquisite. The julienne potatoes were al dente - even slightly crunchy, like a more traditional celeriac remoulade but with a milder flavour. The yabbies were just barely cooked and fantastically sweet - offset perfectly by the deep earthy rich truffle. One of those dishes you have to keep reminding yourself to eat slower and savour.

Mains took a really long time to get to the table, but we were placated with some delicious seedy bread and butter and another bottle of beautiful pinot noir - The Acre something from Mornington Peninsula.

I ordered the silver beet, pine nut and potato pastry which was satisfying but not as mind blowing as the entree. The pastry was perfect, not too buttery yet not dry, but the flavours of the filling were just a little bit ordinary - not bad, just not spectacular. The dish was served with a cute little "private" salad of (we think) fennel, mint, cabbage, dill and some orange juice, I was glad of the personal salad because the one on the menu that we ordered for the table was little more than some chopped up lettuce with vinaigrette - not very impressive.

Again there was a fairly long wait for desserts - I ordered the now famous chocolate ice cream sandwich with salty caramel. I must admit, as a kid I was never a fan of the much loved Monaco bar, it was just crappy vanilla ice cream between two soggy biscuits and so I was a little nervous but a single mouthful induced lots of hand clapping and squealing and then, reverential silence as I diligently scraped the bowl clean.

Overall, everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meal and the service was lovely, very attentive, friendly and warm which is always a pleasant surprise in uber-cool places.

I have to apologise for the lack of photos - I'm not yet in the habit of lugging my camera around with me everywhere... I'll get better though, I promise.

Alright, I think I'm going to go cook myself some kale, a underated humble vegetable that is the perfect antidote to too much salty caramel.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In the beginning...

Wow, this post has been a long time coming!

There have been numerous scraps of paper with witty opening lines and killer first recipes - but each time I've been, well, blog shy.

Sometimes it's best just to write and not to plan... so here I am.

Not that I'm here empty handed though - without further ado I present to you my first two recipes... a tart which calls for almond meal and vanilla beans in a perfect combination and a chocolate "cake" requiring a scant 1 tablespoon of flour!

Pear and Almond Tart - adapted from several blog and cook book recipes


200g plain flour
100g cold unsalted butter
pinch of salt
3 tsp white sugar
1 egg

If you have a food processor just whizz everything together for 30 seconds. Or, if you're old school like me, mix all the dry ingredients together then rub the butter in till it's like bread crumbs. Mix in the egg and knead it for a minute - then wrap it up and pop it in the fridge for 30 mins.

While you make the filling, blind bake the pastry in a tart tin (or springform round cake tin) at 170c for 30 mins.


2 pears halved, cored and thinly sliced (I used bosc but anything firm should do the trick)
250ml milk
1 vanilla bean or sprinkle of pure vanilla essence
1 cinnamon stick or shake of ground cinnamon
3 eggs separated
125g sugar
250g almond meal
1/2 tsp baking powder

Gently heat the milk with vanilla and cinnamon. Beat the egg yolks with 25g of sugar and slowly add to the warm milk, keep whisking and heating till it gets a bit thick and custardy - mine didn't get as thick as I would've liked but it worked out in the end.

Meanwhile, mix the almond meal, baking powder, remaining sugar and egg whites in a bowl.

When the custard is ready, remove the vanilla and cinnamon and pour into the almond mixture.

Smooth the almond paste mixture into the tart crust and neatly (or as neatly as possible) arrange the slices of pear.

Bake at 170c for another 30 mins.

Viola - pear tart

*I'd never actually made pastry before this, so if you have a tried and true recipe/method then by all means!

World's richest chocolate cake - adapted from Orangette

200g good cooking chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)
200g good unsalted butter
250g white sugar
5 large free range eggs
1 tbs flour

Preheat the oven to 190c and butter a round 8-inch cake tin

Gently melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler or in the microwave (if the latter, make sure you pull it out and stir frequently!)

Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture and set it aside to cool a little.

One by one add the eggs and whisk vigorously - it should look lucious and shiny.

Stir in the single tablespoon of flour and pour into the greased tin.

The original recipe calls for baking for 20-25 minutes. I found that the edges of the cake started to burn after 20 but the middle wasn't set enough. So, if this happens to you, just tent it with a little foil and give it a jiggle every couple of minutes. When it moves a bit but doesn't look like jelly, it's ready.

Let it cool in the tin - it will sink considerable - never fear, it's meant to!

Turn out and cool completely on a rack.

And ta daaa... chocolate cake!

Oh, did I mention that they should each be served with cream?! I think clotted for the tart and gently whipped for the cake. Yay!

Why oh why did it take me so long to start something that lets me recommend two different sorts of cream!

Off to Cutler and Co tomorrow night for dinner, so should be reporting back soon.