Saturday, December 30, 2006


Last year, I started a tradition in my family of taking my parents and sister out to dinner to a nice restaurant, in place of buying them presents. It makes Christmas shopping much easier for me and my family gets to try some food that they wouldn’t get to try usually try anywhere else.
Last year I took them to Ezard’s and they loved it. So, this year, I decided to take them to another Asian inspired restaurant, Pearl.
I’ve been there for breakfast many times, but never for dinner. I’ve been wanting to go there for so long and even more so after seeing Geoff Lindsay (owner/chef of Pearl) do a demo at the Werribee Harvest Picnic.
The menu at Pearl is I guess what you would call ‘Modern Australian’, mostly influenced by Asian Cuisine, but there’s also an obvious hint of Middle East inspiration as well.
As you may have seen in one of my previous posts, I’ve been wanting to try Pearl’s Roast Red Duck Curry for quite a while now and even had my own attempt at it. Finally I was going to get to try the real thing!

The Pearl dining room is a light, bright, mostly white room with a black floor, with big windows looking out onto Church St, Richmond. You walk in through the automatic swing door at the front and enter into the foyer / main bar area and then step down into the main dining room.
Instead of having slices of bread on the table, Pearl gives you a largish roll, which has been cut into quarters from underneath – not quite all the way through, so when you look at it from the top, you can’t actually tell it has been cut. At first we thought maybe they’d only given us enough bread for one, but then discovered it was ready to tear. The bread was served with some lovely, bright yellow, zingy, lemon infused olive oil for dipping- very Italian.
I ordered the Red Roast Duck Curry (of course), while my Mum ordered Garfish with Nam Jim and Green Mango Salad. My Dad and sister both ordered the Morton Bay Big tails with Crab and Scallop Won Ton’s.

My Duck Curry comes served on a plate with 3 bowls. In the first bowl is the Duck pieces with the curry itself. The second bowl consists of a deep fried poached egg, sweet fish sauce, a chilli split in half, half a lime and some mint leaves. The third bowl is your rice. Sandwiched between the bowls is a long spiky piece of wom-bok. The waitress explained to me that there’s a recommended way to eat the curry, so I got her to show me how it was done. Basically she took the chilli and lime out of the second bowl and mashed up the poached egg (which still had a runny yolk, even after being poached AND deep fried) into the sweet fish sauce. She explained to me that then I take the duck pieces out of the first bowl and put them on my plate, then incorporate the mixture from the second bowl into the curry into the duck curry in the first bowl. Then you’re supposed to taste it for sourness and heat, if you think it needs more, you can add more lime or chilli. I added all of the lime, but could have done with some more. Once I had pieced all the pieces of the Duck Curry puzzle together, I was ready to eat! This duck curry was so rich in flavour, that literally from the first mouthful, I felt like I was already full! There was no way I wasn’t going to finish that delicious, tender duck though. It was everything I had imagined it to be, and for $40, there was no way I wasn’t going to finish it – I didn’t care if I self combusted right there at the table! I did in the end manage to finish it though, after two glasses of water and a bottle of Limonata. I can’t wait to go back again to have another one.
Although I didn’t try any of the other meals on the table, they did look sensational. Somehow, I managed to find some room in my tummy though for dessert! I ordered the Apricot SoufflĂ©, which came with a Raspberry Tart and Almond Ice Cream. The Souffle was perfectly risen and light and fluffy. However for an Apricot SoufflĂ©, it didn’t really taste all that much of Apricot, even though it had the slight Apricot colour to it. The tart that it came with was barely a raspberry tart, it was mainly a lemon tart with a few raspberries at the bottom of the tart. One thing I can’t stand is a lemon tart and this one was no exception. It may have been good for a lemon tart, but I wouldn’t know. The Almond Ice cream was delicious. It had that unmistakable texture of homemade ice-cream. Not quite as soft as the store bought stuff, but much more flavoursome.

My Mum ordered the Turkish Delight Ice-Cream with Pommegranite seeds, Persian Fairy Floss and Rose Petals.

My sister had Taro dumplings filled with Valhrona Chocolate- Dark, White and Milk, which were garnished with flecks of Gold Leafing. Very impressive!

Overall, we had a fantastic little Christmas dinner at Pearl, we will definitely be going back. The service was very attentive, even though at times they were very busy. Our water was always topped up, more bread offered, plates cleared when they needed to be and the service came with a smile, which was what made our night out a memorable one.
Ooooh, I want some more Duck Curry!!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Beechworth Bakery and Chandon Winery, Yarra Valley

I love the Yarra Valley, I’d move here if I could, but for the moment, I’m going to have to settle for the occasional day trip up there. After visiting the Werribee Harvest Picnic a few weeks ago, I noticed a sign that said there was a Farmers Market on in Yering this weekend, so I thought I’d drive up and check it out.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t bothered to actually check out where this farmers market exactly was and when we got there, I couldn’t actually find it. Oh well, I wasn’t too fussed, it was a great day, not a cloud in the sky (only smoke from the fires) so we thought we check out Healesville for a few hours.

Last time we were up here, we noticed that the Beechworth Bakery was building a branch of their famous Bakeries up here, so we thought we’d see if it was finished and that it was.
The bakery at the end of the main street is a country inspired building with a modern feel. It’s a huge place, which has both indoor and outdoor seating – even it’s own car park.
Since I was planning on having breakfast at the farmers market, I had an empty stomach, so I thought here was a good a place as any to fill up.
I had a Cheese and Spinach roll to start with. These can often be a bit hit and miss, often being dry and tasteless and all too often un-seasoned. Not this one though. This one was very moist, with perfect seasoning and soft crunchy pastry.

Being the ‘guts’ that I am, I then ordered a Chicken and Leek Pie. Unfortunately, unlike the Cheese and Spinach rolls, this pie was very, very dry. I needed to have a glass of water just to wash down each mouthful! However, apart from the lack of moisture, the taste was there and the pastry was nice too.

Now, even though it was mid-morning, I thought, after stuffing my face with pies and rolls, I would treat myself to dessert. I spotted something which looked so gorgeous and had a great name – the Snickerdoodles! I’m sure I’d heard of these before, I think Nigella has them in one of her books. Basically they are kind of Custard Tarts topped with super fresh raspberries and drizzles with sugar syrup. I absolutely LOVED these things. I wish I had of saved my money and bought another 5 of these instead of wasting precious tummy space on the pies and rolls!

I definitely recommend picking up one of these little gems if you’re anywhere near on of the Beechworth Bakeries around regional Victoria.
Next we dropped by K&B (Kitchen and Butcher), the new shop owned by the guys who own the Healesville Hotel. It’s a great little specialty food store with all your standard specialty cheeses, pantry products, kitchen tools, etc. It also literally doubles as a butcher shop, selling the best of local meats. While I was there I picked up some lovely fresh eggs from the Harvest Farm and also some Pomegranate Molasses, which will come in handy with my Ezard Challenge.

On our way home, we stopped off at Chandon Winery. This place is probably the most beautiful place I have ever visited in Victoria.

Everything is perfect, from the lush green grass to the hundreds of rows of the curly, whispy grape vines. They water their gardens with dam water from the property, so it’s one of the few places around where everything is still green.
We took a seat in the tasting room and Rach ordered the Sparkling Wine taster, which consisted of 4 half glasses of Chandon’s signature sparkling wines.

The colours reminded me of those old Crayola Crayons that you used to be able to get with the metallic colours of Metallic Silver, Copper and Gold. I don’t drink, so unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy the 4 pretty glasses of sparkling colours, but it did come with a small plate of bread, cheese and relish, which I did help myself to. The 4 half glasses of wine came to $15, which included the bread plate.

Like I said earlier, I love the Yarra Valley, if you’ve never been make sure you pay a visit- especially if you love your food!

Carrot and Coriander Salad

This is the easiest in the world to make, it takes no time to make and is so, so tasty!

1 Carrot
1 Bunch of Coriander
Juice of 1 Orange
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 Small Chilli
Black Sesame Seeds to garnish

Finely julienne your Carrot, I like to use a Julienne grater which I picked up down at Minh Phat in Victoria St for $7

Roughly chop your Coriander.

Vigorously mix your orange juice, chopped chilli, olive oil, salt and pepper (add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.)

Mix your Carrot and Coriander and add your dressing.
Plate up your salad and sprinkle over your sesame seeds to garnish.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Jamie Oliver's Chocolate Fridge Cake with Pecan and Meringues

While having a look at Jamie's website today, I came across this recipe for a Chocolate Fridge Cake. The colours of the cake in the photo looked simply fantastic, so I thought I would make the cake to share with my mates at work tomorrow. Considering how hit and miss I am when making cakes in the oven, I thought maybe I'd be better at making a cake in the fridge - the complete opposite of baking!

So I headed to Safeway on my way home tonight and picked up the ingredients. By the time I had everything in my basket, it came to a total of $23! This was one expensive cake!

Here is the ingredients and method from Jamie's website:
  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 110g whole pecans, roughly chopped
  • 110g pistachio nuts, peeled
  • 10 glace cherries
  • 2 ready-made meringue nests
  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 200g dark chocolate

Break the biscuits into small pieces directly into a large bowl.

Add the pecans, pistachio nuts and cherries and mix together.

Put the rest of the ingredients into a separate, heatproof bowl and put on a low heat over a pan of simmering water until the butter and chocolate have melted.

Combine the biscuit mix with the chocolate mixture. Line a plastic container with clingfilm, leaving plenty of extra film at the edges to help turn the cake out later.

Tip the everything into the container, place in the fridge to firm up then turn out, dust with icing sugar and cut into chunky slices.

When turned out and sliced, this cake looks awesome. With the green of the pistachios, the red of the cherries, the white of the meringues make this cake a great christmas treat. My cake though, seems very crumbly, maybe I used too many dry biscuits or not enough chocolate. When I slice it, it literally falls apart. As far as taste though, it tastes like a very expensive chocolate crackle! It's very, very rich and just tastes like nuts and biscuits that have been coated in chocolate. If I was going to make it again, I would use more chocolate or less dry biscuits, but I'm not sure if I would make it again- for the cost of it, I wouldn't say it's worth it. Oh well, if the worst comes to worst, I can do what one should do with all desserts that go wrong; crumble it up and have it with ice cream!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Breakfast Corncakes with Bacon and Tomato Chilli Jam

I love pancakes on a Saturday morning. Sweet ones, with ice cream and jam. This weekend I thought I would venture into the world of savoury pancakes and attempt making some Corncakes. These Corncakes are delicious, I'll definately be adding these to my weekend breakfast repitoire.

2.5 cups of fresh sweetcorn kernels
2 eggs
1 red onion red onion
1 cup of plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 handful of herbs (ie, mint, coriander, parsley)
2 rashers of bacon per person
Tomato Chilli Jam
Salt and Pepper

Put 2 cups of the corn kernels, onion, eggs, herbs, flour, salt and pepper and baking powder into a food processor. Blend until it all comes together into a nice batter.
Mix the rest of the kernels through by hand.

Fry a couple of tablespoons of batter per sweetcorn cake in a non stick frypan with some olive oil. Cook until golden and turn over and again cook until golden.
You can keep these warm in the oven while you're cooking the rest of the cakes.

While cooking the cakes, you can fry the bacon in a seperate pan and if it's ready before you finish cooking the cakes, you can also keep the rashers warm inside the oven.
To serve, place some cakes on a warm plate, top with some bacon and drizzle some tomato chilli jam over the top of the bacon.

Monday, December 04, 2006

My Own Chinese Five Spiced Duck and Noodle Soup

After my visit to Ezard's last week and the amazing dumplings in duck broth I had for an entree, I've been in the mood for duck - I think it's knocked yellow curry from the top spot on my favourite foods list. So, yesterday my Mum and I put together Peking Duck for dinner for my Dad's birthday. As good as the Peking duck was, I won't be blogging about it, as I forgot to take my camera over to my folk's house. But, with the left over carcass of barbeque duck, I decided to attempt my own little version of Ezard's duck broth.
I literally have just finished my second bowl of the soup that I made and I was so impressed with myself that I had to write a post about it right away. I'm sure there's probably many recipes out there similar to this, but this is one I made up on the spot.

2 tablespoons Chinese Five Spice Powder
1 Red Onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
1 knob Ginger, grated
2 Birds Eye chilies, finely chopped
1 Carrot roughly chopped
2 stalks of Celery roughly chopped
1 Duck carcass, most of meat removed
Handful of Thai Basil Leaves
2 bunches of Hakubaku Organic Udon Noodles (these are my favourite)
1 bunch of baby Bok Choi, stalks finely sliced, leaves kept whole
Light Soy sauce to season
Finely julienned snow peas to garnish

Gently sautee your carrots, celery and onion until soft in some olive oil.
Add garlic, chilli, ginger and lightly fry for a few seconds.
Add your Five Spice powder and fry for another few seconds, being careful not to burn the five spice
Add your duck carcass and cover with cold water.
Slowly bring to the boil and then turn heat down to a very gentle simmer, just so it's ticking over. Leave this to simmer for about 2 hours, making sure you remove any scum that may build up on the top of the liquid. You may also need to top up the water from time to time if it reduces.

After 2 hours have elapsed, you can drain the stock through a colander, sieve, etc, into a bowl, so you're left with the liquid. You don't need the bones, vegies, etc. However, you can pick the remaining meat from the bones, to add to your finished dish.
You can now taste your broth for seasoning and add some soy sauce as required.
Towards the end of the 2 hours, you can cook your noodles according to packet instructions and also steam your Baby Bok Choi above your noodles - the greens will only take a couple of minutes to steam.
Bring the drained soup back to the boil and add your picked meat and a handful of the basil leaves.
Place some cooked noodles in the bowl and ladle some of the meat, basil and broth, over the top.
Garnish with some of the chopped snow peas or spring onions.

You could could always add a few shitake mushrooms to the broth, but unfortunately I didn't have any on hand. Ok, so it's not quite an Ezard's dish, but hey, it's an Adski dish!

Sunday, December 03, 2006


As you've probably noticed in my previous posts, I'm a HUGE fan of Ezard's food. I love the flavour combo's, the textures, the use of asian inspired ingredients and most of all the amazing presentation. The other night, I was lucky enough to be shouted dinner at his restaurant at the Adelphi. Considering Teague is my Culinary Idol, I was absolutely rapt! I've been to Ezard's only once before, but have cooked recipes from his first cook book many times before.
We were greeted at the door below the Adelphi and shown to our table. Given that it's christmas party season, the restaurant appeared to be full of mostly business groups, also lucky enough to be treated to one of australia's best restaurants.
Ezard's restaurant is a long, dimly lit room, with white table-clothed tables set up down the length of the room. At the end of the room is a bar and behind that a kitchen, which (unfortunately) you can't really see into, unless you're seated down the back of the restaurant.

On each table is a small bowl of lovely green olive oil, which is infused with Parmesan Cheese (which is available for sale at $30 a bottle. There is also a small dish containing 3 types of flavoured 'salt'. From memory, our waiter explained that these were

  1. Sichzuan Pepper and Salt
  2. Icing sugar, chilli and Salt
  3. Bonito flakes, prickly ash and Salt

(I'm not sure if these are exactly correct as I didnt take a notebook!) My favourite was definately the icing sugar Salt. The slight hint of chilli in the sweet salt was amazing!

It's so difficult to choose something from the menu! Knowing that you don't get to come to restaurants like these all that often, you want to make sure that you make the right choices of what to eat when you do.

We started off with a taster each. Rach had Ezard's famous Japanese Inspired Oyster Shooter with a roll of noodles wrapped in Nori. ($4.50) The oyster was in a shotglass with what tasted like Sake. I had a little deep fried dumpling on a spoon of kind of Japanese Mayonaise ( sorry, can't remember what the little dumpling was, but it was kind of a deep fried mashed potato texture- fantastic!)

For a starter, I had the steamed shitake mushroom dumplings, roast duck, chinese spiced broth and spring onion ($21.50). The 3 dumplings came out on a plate and then the waiter poured the hot broth over them at the table. The broth was deliciously spicy and the dumplings were filled with Shitake goodness.

Rach had the rice crusted kurobuta pork cheek with yellow bean dressing, spiced apples and green mango ($22.50). This dish had all the presentation that I love about Ezard. The clean white plate, the shiny dressing, the almost caramelised apples and the high rise pile of finely cut vegetables on top of the deliciously tender pork cheek. Gimme, gimme, gimme!!

I should point out at this stage, that given the restaurant was full, the waiters were fantastic! They always kept our water topped up, kept the bread coming for our salt dipping, were brilliantly pleasant and explained each dish to us to perfect detail. You can tell that the waiters that work here, love to work here, love what they do and love to serve. They make you feel pleasantly at home, so to them, I thank you.

For mains, I chose Ezard's signature dish: fried pork hock, chilli caramel, spicy thai salad, fragrant jasmine rice ($39.50). Once again, the amazing presentation just screams Ezard! I've been tempted to make this recipe many times (I think I might make it for a Christmas dinner this year) but the recipe suggests that a great deal of work goes into it, so I wanted to taste it before I tried to do it myself. At least then I would have something to compare it to. The crispy skin of the hock was glistening in the dull light, the candied chillis were bright red and almost transparant, gorgeous. The meat itself was so soft - I'd never tasted pork of this texture before, it was delicious. My only criticism of this dish would be that the dressing in the asian salad was overly sweet, to the point that it was almost like eating a dessert. I don't know if it's like that every night or if that night it just happened to be a little too sweet. Apart from that, the dish was amazing!

Rachel had the roast duck, shaosang wine, roasted chilli and spring onion dressing, hand rolled sesame noodles ($42.50). The duck was glazed and crispy like a duck you'd get from Chinatown or Victoria St. The meat inside was so soft and tender. Who knew that ducks could be not only cute when alive, but so damn tasty afterwards! The duck was garnished with the signature thinly sliced and deep fried carrots and other vegetables, sprinkled with icing sugar.

We were unable to make a choice for dessert, so we decided to go for the dessert tasting plate $42.50. The waiter brought out the plate full of goodies for us to try and explained them one by one to us. There was calpico sorbet with fresh watermelon and vietnamese mint, honeycrunch icecream with toasted gingerbread and sugar swirls, bitter swiss chocolate tart, poached pineapple, rosemary icecream, (the rosemary ice-cream was definately a strange one, but after the first mouthful, I began to love the creaminess mixed with the fresh rosemary. Maybe this could go with something savoury too if you added less sugar?) amaretto stack, poached peach, crispy filo, hazelnut callebaut cheesecake, butternut crunch, passion fruit sorbet, mascarpone pannacotta, roasted rhubarb and strawberry soup. I would definately recommend the tasting plate over the individual desserts. Simply because you can taste everything on the menu and also the desserts aren't 'mini' sized. You get a a good taste of everything and there's easily enough for two people. Amazing food, I absolutely loved it!

Overall, I had a fantastic evening at Ezards. The quality of the food and the service speaks for itself as to why it's not only one of the best restaurants in Australia, but at the top of my list to visit at any possible chance. I highly recommend also, that for anyone that really wants to appreciate this food even more - pick up Ezard's cook book. Most of it can be time consuming to make, but how good is it to have restaurant quality food at home! I did want to pick up a signed copy of Teague's new book Lotus on the night, but it didnt appear to be for sale. Looks like there's my reason right there to visit Gingerboy to pick up the new book!