Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cookbook Challenge, Week 4, Stephanie Alexander's Baked Beans from The Cook's Companion

I'm a bit of a homemade Baked Beans fan, in case you couldn't already tell. I think this is about my fifth baked beans post!
Recently, I've eaten some bloody amazing baked beans out and about. The two most memorable were at The Little Ox in Brighton and at the Wye River General Store. Ever since then, I've wanted to attempt to recreate some beans as good as I'd had there. I knew that was going to take some slow cooking and patience. It turns out that Stephanie Alexander's Book, The Cook's Companion calls for both of those. I'd heard good things about her baked beans recipe, so I thought I'd give it a go.

The beans turned out sensationally. I think the two things that really help this dish along are making sure that you use the best bacon you can find. I honestly believe that free range bacon tastes bettter. If you don't believe me, give it a go - you'll smell the difference when you're cooking it. The other thing is to use REAL Maple Syrup. However, if you can't get a hold of real maple syrup or just don't want to spend the money on a bottle, you could really just use honey, golden syrup or treacle. All will produce a slightly different final result, but just experiment, I say. Just be warned that you need to be patient when making these beans. Best to make them the day before you want to eat them, then slowly reheat them in the morning for breakfast.
Here I've attempted to copy the Little Ox's poached egg on top. Give it a go, it's delicious to have the runny yolk mix in with the tomato sauce. Wow!

375g dried Borlotti or Red Kidney beans - soaked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion - diced
3 cloves garlic - chopped
2 carrots - diced
2 rashers thick, streaky bacon - cut into 1cm wide strips
2 red peppers - cut into 2cm squares
1 green pepper - cut into 2cm squares
1 400g can peeled tomatoes - don't drain
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons maple syrup, treacle, golden syrup or honey


Preheat oven to 160 degreesC.
Rinse soaked beans, then put into saucepan & cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil, then strain & rinse with cold water.
Heat oil in a large enameled cast-iron casserole & saute onion, garlic, carrot & bacon. After 5 minutes, when onion has softened & bacon is sizzling, add red & green peppers.
Puree tomatoes & juice in a food processor & add to casserole with beans (I just used passata here) & remaining ingredients, except maple syrup.
Mix well. Add sufficient cold water to cover beans by 4 cm.
Transfer casserole, tightly sealed, into oven & bake for at least 4 hours.
Stir well after 2 hours, checking that it is still reasonably sloppy ( if too dry, add a little water & reduce oven temp).
After 4 hours, stir in maple syrup, extra salt & plenty of freshly ground pepper.
The beans should now be in a rich sauce. If too thick, add a little water; if too runny & the beans are tender, increase oven temp & continue to cook.

Be careful not to allow the bottom of the beans to burn, especially when you're reheating them.

Cookbook Challenge, Week 3, Pork Sausages from A Little Taste Of Thailand

Ok, I'm still a few weeks behind in posting my dishes... but I'll get there, I promise!
I'm a big fan of the 'Little Taste' series. Lots of (to the best of my knowledge) authentic looking dishes and the recipes are always relatively easy, too. As much as I love this book, it's one I never seem to pick up because I usually go for my fancier Thai books like Longrain by Martin Boetz or Lotus by Teague Ezard. At a recent BBQ, we had a Thai theme, so I thought it was a good time to incorporate the cookbook challenge and also make something out of this little used book.

For week 3, the theme is Hor d'oeuvres. I thought these little sausages would make perfect 'little food' before we dig into the bigger salads and main courses. These are really simple to make, take little time and because of their size - they're fast to cook. No need for messy sausage casings here, you just shape them the same way you would a hamburger patty, only in a sausage shape.
They're slightly sweet and very moorish. Everyone was a big fan of these!

It's probably best to leave them in the fridge for a while once they are shaped, to help them hold their shape once their on the BBQ. If you're a fan of char-grilling, I'd recommend it for these sausages, as it adds to the flavour and I think the authenticity of them. I can imagine street vendors in Thailand selling these little beauties. However, they'd probably add a whole heap
more Chilli than I did!

Here's how you make them:

3 Coriander (Cilantro) Roots
1 Lemon Grass Stalk
4 Garlic Cloves
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 Small red chilli, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
2 teaspoons of sugar (I'd use brown or palm for a slightly more caramel sweetness)
300g Minced Pork

Using a Pestle and Mortar or food processor (easiest option), pound the coriander, lemon grass, garlic and pepper to a paste.

Add the chilli, fish sauce, sugar and pork to the paste mixture and combine well. Form into sausage shapes.

Heat a BBQ or grill and cook the sausages for 4 or 5 mins on each side until cooked through.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cookbook Challenge, Week 2 - Bill Granger's Fragrant Chicken and Spinach Curry

It's week 3 of the cookbook challenge and I'm only up to posting week 2. I'm trying to catch up, I promise!
This week is Indian week, so who else would you look to for Indian recipes? None other than the world famous Bill Granger, of course!
Indian food isn't something I've ever cooked a lot of and not something that excites me all that much. Maybe I've just never eaten really well cooked Indian food.
I thought that if anyone was going to make Indian Food accessible it would be Bill Granger or Jamie Oliver. I decided to go with Billy on this occasion.

This is a simple curry, which anybody could prepare. It's probably a really good curry for kids, as there is a distinct lack of spicyness and could be compared to something like Butter Chicken.
If you're not a fan of real curries, this is probably the curry for you.

Fragrant chicken and spinach curry (serves 4)

2tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp ground coriander
½tsp turmeric
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1tbsp freshly grated root ginger
750g (1lb 10oz) boneless chicken thighs, cubed
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
½tsp salt
2tsp soft brown sugar
1tbsp fresh lime juice
90g (3¾oz) baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
large handful fresh coriander, chopped
steamed rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 5 to 6 minutes until the onion is soft.

Add the spices, garlic, ginger and cook, stirring for 2 minutes more. Add the chicken and increase the heat to medium high. Cook stirring often until the chicken is browned – about 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and salt and bring to simmering point. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Add the brown sugar, lime juice and baby spinach and stir until the spinach has just wilted. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Maggie Beer's Moussaka - Cookbook Challenge Week 1 - Citrus

Like probably every other food blogger in the world, I love cook books. I own LOTS of cook books. If someone asks me what I want for my birthday or for Christmas, inevitably I always ask for a cook book. I sat down one day and added up how much my collection would be worth new. Let's just say that I probably should increase my contents insurance coverage! The problem with having all these amazing and expensive cook books is that, while they are all pretty to look at, some of them I have never cooked a single recipe out of them!
This is where the inspiring Rilsta from My Food Trail comes in. She has come up with the Cook book Challenge! 52 recipes in 52 weeks is the plan. Each week is a different theme. Last week's theme, which I am already late in posting is Citrus.
Ok, so you're wondering how Lamb Moussaka is going to be Citrus based? Well, firstly there's grated lemon zest in the actual filling. I know what you're thinking... that's not enough to call this a Citrus dish! Well, the reason I wanted to try this dish is because last month I got some amazing organic lemons, which I preserved in a jar with some cinammon, salt and cloves. They sat for a month and they were ready just in time for this week's recipe.
So, the other citrus in this recipe is actually preserved lemon. You only require a tablespoon, but it cuts through the richness of the lamb sauce and gives off a slightly 'lemonadey' aroma.
If you've never made your own Preserved Lemons before, definately give it a go. It's so easy, all it takes is patience.
This Moussaka recipe is the best I've ever had. Such depth of flavour and slightly different from the authentic one, which I like.
Remember how Donna Hay said on Masterchef that Brown food is hard to photograph and make look appetising? She was definately right!

This recipe is from Maggie Beer's book, Maggie's Kitchen. $59.95

Lamb Mince
3 medium eggplants
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
500g minced lamb
1/2 cup red wine
1 tbls tomato paste
1 cup tomato sugo
4 tbls freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbls lemon thyme
Zest of one lemon grated
1/2 inch piece of fresh cinnamon, pounded
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to roast eggplants

Cheese Sauce
50g unsalted butter
50g plain flour
1 1/4 cup full cream milk
1cup chicken stock
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tbls grated parmesan

1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 tbls chopped lemon thyme
1 tbls preserved lemon, skin only, finely chopped


Cut eggplant into thin 1cm slices. Brush slices with oil, season with salt and into the oven at 250C, or as hot as you can go, for 6 minutes until golden. I put mine on a griddle pan instead as I like the charcoal type flavour that you get from the bars.

Saute onion at moderate temperature for 5 minutes - add garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Put onion and garlic aside, salt and brown meat in batches at a high temperature - you don't want the mince to 'boil'. Put all meat back into the pan, add cinnamon then and onion and garlic, tomato paste, deglaze with wine at high temperature. Then add lemon zest, tomato sugo, the parsley, and lemon thyme and simmer for 20 minutes for flavours to combine.

To make the bechamel or cheese sauce, melt the butter in a pot and then sprinkle the flour over it, stirring well to combine. Continue to cook for a little while until the flour colours slightly and it loses that raw flavour. Remove from the heat and pour the milk first, then stock in slowly, at first, whisking continuously to avoid lumps. Return pot to the heat after every inclusion. Return to the stove and continue to cook until thickened - stirring often until thickly coats back of the spoon. Add the nutmeg and seasoning and lay a piece of plastic wrap or kitchen paper directly on top of the sauce so that it doesn't form a skin, set aside until needed.

To make the moussaka, spray an oven proof dish with non-stick cooking spray or a little evoo. Place a layer of eggplant on the bottom of the dish and then a layer of lamb mince over this. Continue to alternate between eggplant and lamb mince, finishing with a layer of eggplant. Pour the cheese sauce over the eggplant then mix the breadcrumbs with the grated Parmesan & preserved lemon & lemon thyme and generously sprinkle this over the top of the Bechamel. Bake in a pre-heated 200C oven for half an hour.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Chocolate and Raspberry Muffin Recipe - Bourke Street Bakery Book

Admittedly, most of the time I suck at baking. But when I suck at something, I'm always determined to better myself. That is where the Bourke Street Bakery book comes in. All the times I've been to Sydney, I'd never heard of BSB until the book was released and all of my Sydney based 'tweeps' were raving about the book. So, I made my way down to the books shop and checked out the book. Turns out it's the exact Baking cook book I've been looking for, for years!
The book is loaded with great recipes on how to make PROPER bread from scratch, with detailed instructions on how to make your own white and rye starters. This is artisan baking at it's best. So many times I've tried to make bread and it has never ever, not once, turned out well. I've never been happy with a single loaf. So, at the moment I'm day 4 (out of 4 weeks) of making my own bread starter. But that's another post for later.
Along with all the amazing breads in this book, there are also lots of great pastries and cakes to make. Since I had a kilo of delicious Yarra Valley Raspberries in my Freezer, I thought it would be great to try out this recipe. Who doesn't like Raspberries and Chocolate! The recipe is really easy and the only tip you need is to just be careful not to overmix the batter. Overmixing can make the finished product toughen up and become chewy. Not what you want.
These muffins turned out perfectly. So, it looks like I'm on the way to being a star baker!!

Dark Chocolate and Raspberry Muffins
Makes 12

• 400g (2 2/3 cups) plain flour
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 300g caster sugar
• 310g unsalted butter
• 480ml buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 3 eggs
• 225g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
• 225g raspberries, fresh or frozen
• 55g raw sugar
• Icing sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Lightly grease a 12-hole muffin tin and line with paper cases.
2. Sift the flour and baking paper into a bowl and add the sugar, mixing well to combine.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the buttermilk. Using a whisk stir in the eggs to combine. Pour over the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Use a large spoon to gently fold through the chocolate and raspberries.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops with raw sugar. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F) and bake for 20-25 minutes. It may be necessary to drop the temperature about 10 minutes before the end of baking time if the muffins are starting to brown on top.
5. To test if the muffins are done, push the top gently to feel that it is firm. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before eating. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Jam Shortbread Spirals

Whenever I visit the Yarra Valley, I pick up a jar of something made by Cunliffe & Waters. Whether it be a spicy relish, delicious real tomato sauce or one of their amazing jams. Their jam is my favourite by a mile. Better than I could ever hope to make. I especially love their Williamette Raspberry Jam, which is slightly tart, but perfectly sweet. I love this stuff on my Babka egg loaf in the mornings, I can eat the whole thing in one sitting! Ok, so Cunliffe and Waters haven't bribed me here - I just love their stuff. Just so you know, you don't have to travel all the way to the Yarra Valley to pick it up, there are a few other places you can pick up their wares.

These Jammy Shortbreads perfectly suit this raspberry jam. These are so easy to make, however the finished product looks like you put in so much more effort that what it actually takes to make these little beauties.

For mine, I chose to leave out the cinammon. You could of course choose whatever jam you like to put in here, you don't have to go with raspberry. Next time I make these I'd like to go with something like apricot, blueberry or maybe even the blood plum jam.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ cup caster (superfine) sugar
125g butter, softened
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup jam
2 tsps. ground cinnamon
icing sugar to dust.

Sift flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in 1 to 2 tbsps. of cold water to form a dough. Add egg and combine to form a stiff but workable dough. Roll out the dough on a sheet of greaseproog paper to form a 20-30cm. rectangle. Spread jam evenly on the dough and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Roll up the dough swiss-roll style, peeling away the greaseproof paper as you go. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins, Preheat oven to 180c. Remove dough from the refrigerator and cut into slices ½-in. thick. Place shortbreads on a lined baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 mins. or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Red Shed Cafe

Medhurst Rd, Gruyere,

Just like in inner city Melbourne, where if you get off the beaten track, you'll find some of the coolest and best cafes and restaurant's in the back streets and laneways, the Yarra Valley is no different. Get out of the main towns and off the main roads and you'll find some amazing little places, which are still kept reasonably secret. One of those places that I have heard whispers about was Red Shed Cafe, which is located the beautiful Medhurst winery in Gruyere, 10 minutes from Coldstream.

The cafe was started by two beautiful young ladies, -(well according to their photos on their website) best friends, Maggie and Frances. Frances' family actually own the winery, where the cafe is based.

The cafe isn't a 'shed' and the only Red Shed that we saw, was a little one along the driveway, on the way in. The cafe is almost completely glass on one side, which takes advantage of the amazing views across the paddocks in front of the building. On a nice day, you can sit out on the deck and eat your lunch on the colourful tolix stools and beach style chairs. On the day we visited, it was a beautiful day in Melbourne, but unfortunately, the weather was less than perfect in the Yarra Valley. We pulled up a stool at the bar against the window and watched the rain pour down.

The cafe has that slightly industrial feel with the Tolix stools and chairs, big long communal tables, wooden panelling, which comfortably suits the beautiful winery environment.

Since the weather was very ordinary, it was definately Hot Chocolate time! Big colourful mugs, rich, sweet chocolate taste, just the way I like it.

The menu is mostly sandwiches and very basic cooked lunches. We went with the Smoked Yarra Valley Trout Sandwich, with Dill, Radish Tomato and Rocket ($14.50), which was simply delicious. It was very, very rich, however and we did struggle to finish the whole thing - especially after our equally rich Hot Choccies. I have to admit that this is the most expensive sandwich I've ever eaten and as good as it was, I'm not sure it was worth the $14.50.

Red Shed apparently does amazing breakfasts also. Something I'll definately love to go back and try, especially on a beautiful spring morning - when it's not raining!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Merricks General Store

3458 Frankston Flinders Rd, Merricks VIC 3916, (03) 5989 8088

What does one do when they feel like they've been to almost every decent breakky spot in Melbourne? They drive to the country, of course! We set off early on a Saturday morning via the luxurious new Eastlink Freeway, to find a town called Merrick, down near Red Hill on the Mornington Penninsula.
The drive took about an hour and a half from Fitzroy, via Eastlink, which meant no stops until Frankston. Which is ironic really, because isn't Frankston the place where most people would prefer not to stop?
Merrick's General Store is situated on a nice little country road, just out of Red Hill and has views looking out the water. Spectacular spot. The General Store was of course once a General Store, but now has been transformed into an amazing country cafe / restaurant / cellar door.

The menu doesn't offer any particularly exciting options, or anything really out of the usual. The menu doesn't appear to be overly cheap, either. But, since we're in the country, they're probably using amazing, locally grown produce, or you would at least hope so.

After a long drive, I need sustainance, so I ordered the Merricks General Big Breakfast- two eggs, bacon, tomato, baked beans and little pork sausages ($19 - the most I've paid for breakfast in a long time). The poached eggs, were perfectly shaped little egg sacks- a shape I wish my poached eggs would turn out like. The bacon was delicious, the baked beans had potential with big chunks of what appeared to be ham hock in there. However the beans were a little watery and just may not have been cooked down quite enough. The roast tomatoes were ok, but the little sausages were nothing much different from your standard backyard BBQ snags. Nothing like the amazing Maple Sausages that you get from Harvest Cafe in Healesville.

Em' ordered the Eggs Benedict, toasted muffin, two poached eggs, hollandaise sauce & house cured ocean trout ($18). Em' was very happy with her breakky, apart from the fact that the hollandaise and poached eggs tasted quite 'vinegary'. Other than that, the House Cured Ocean Trout was particularly delicious!

Merrick's General Store is a beautiful room and would be great to check out this place for a proper lunch or dinner. However, the breakfast wasn't worth driving all that way for. Although, I would consider going back if we happened to be staying in the area.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Little Ox

452 New Street Brighton, Vic

Some friends of mine had a beautiful baby this year and their nickname for him before they he was born was "Little Ox." So, when I heard about a cafe of the same name in Brighton, I had to check it out. The cafe, is straight out of Real Living magazine. Whoever put this place together knows their stuff when it comes to interior design. Clean white walls, with a colourful country vibe. Just my cuppa tea. Bright yellow ladders, replica Eames chairs, amazing yellow rimmed Bribe glassware, bright orange tea pots and milk bottles with flowers in them. This place is farmhouse cool!

We arrived the day after the AFL Grand Final and unexpectedly the place was packed at 9.30am! I was sure everyone would be in bed, still nursing hangovers. This place is fairly new from my understanding, but when something is this good, word spreads fast!
Despite a bunch of people waiting at the door, the oh so beautiful staff are not only gorgeous, (apparently the guys aren't too bad either) they are good at their jobs, despite their post Grand Final Hangovers. Instead of keeping us waiting for a table, since it was raining outside, they bought in an extra table and chairs for us - happy days.

There were so many tasty choices on the menu which made it hard to decide, but since it was a freezing Melbourne morning, we decided to go with the Baked Beans $13 with poached egg $3. This isn't your typical Baked Beans as a side to some eggs. The Baked Beans are the hero here topped with a perfectly poached egg. The beans are big, smokey and delicious! Comfort food at it's best. They're served in a bowl, not on toast. You're not even served your standard sliced 'toast' here. You're giving a big chunk of delicious proper toasted bread, which is perfect for ripping apart and dipping into your beans and egg.

Drool.... drool... drool!

Bang! I have a new favourite cafe! If only it was closer to home. However, it's only a couple of blocks away from my girlfriend's house, so it looks like she might get her way and we'll be spending more nights at her house instead of mine. That way we can get up and have breakfast at the Little Ox.

I was however, a little disappointed by the lack of tea choices. They have your standard choices and nothing too exciting on there. Admittedly their English Breakfast was top notch, however, I'd love to see some Russian Caravan or French Earl Grey on their menu.
I'm predicting that you're going to be hearing a lot more about the Little Ox, it's a fantastic little place, the food is homely, produce driven and coffee is great (well, so Em' says - i don't drink the stuff). The staff are fantastic, friendly, fast, professional and of course beautiful.
So, not only do the people of Brighton get to drive fancy cars, live in big houses and have very healthy bank accounts, but they also get to enjoy one of the best cafes I've visited in Melbourne right around the corner from their house.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Angasi, Binalong Bay, Tasmania

The internet is a brilliant tool for lovers of good food, especially when on holidays. A recent holiday in Tasmania took us to a beautiful place called Binalong Bay on the North East coast. This is an area known for it's amazingly clear water and bright red/orange rocks in an area appropriately named Bay of Fires.
When searching the internet for somewhere to have dinner around Binalong Bay, the same name kept popping up, again and again- Angasi Restaurant.
Named after a type of oyster, Angasi is apparently one of the best places to eat in Tasmania. Well, so they say. A quick browse of their website, we noticed that they do breakfast as well as dinner. Considering it seemed quite pricey for dinner, we thought we'd check it out for breakfast and make sure it was up to scratch before lashing out the big bucks for dinner.

We sat out on the balcony, which has a simpy amazing view over Binalong Bay- probably one of the best views i've seen from a restaurant, ever! Even if the food is terrible, at least we had a nice view.

Em' and I both ordered the Angasi Breakky, which consists of eggs, bacon, tomato relish and sourdough - pretty standard breakfast fare. The meal itself was also very standard. The bread was toasted solid and difficult to chew, even with your back teeth! The poached eggs were stringy and average, the bacon was ok, but nothing special there. Nothing on the plate was inspiring me to come back for dinner, but we were still open minded about dinner.

That was until we heard a conversation between the waiter and a customer. There was a table of 3 girls and 3 guys, sitting just behind us. The guys all ordered fried eggs, the girls all ordered poached. The waiter served the 3 guys their scrambled eggs and 2 of the girls their poached eggs. He then spoke to the third girl who had not been served her breakfast - it went a little something like this:
Waiter: "Would you mind if your eggs were fried, instead of poached?"
Customer: "Why's that?"
Waiter: "The chef is just having trouble poaching your eggs, he keeps trying but they just won't poach. You know when the eggs JUST WON'T POACH? It's one of those days."
Customer: "Umm... Ok, I'll guess I'll just have fried eggs then.

The customer then waited another 10 minutes for her fried egg, while her other breakfast companions finished their meal. What the hell??? How can a chef not be able to poach an egg? Fair enough you might stuff up an egg or two, but you can get it right eventually. How can you just go back to a customer and tell them that the chef can't poach your eggs - yet he managed to poach the eggs for the other two customers on your table?? That is terrible!

Needless to say, after hearing that, we didn't go back for dinner. My recommendation- if you're in Binalong Bay, cook your own breakfast or head into St Helens to one of the cafes there.

Homemade Duck Bresaola

I've been getting into homemade cured meats and preserves of late. I was inspired by a Duck Prosciutto I had tried at Bottega in the city. I found a recipe by local chef Tobie Puttock online and thought I'd give it a go myself.

The whole process is really easy and just takes patience more than anything else.
If you're planning on following this recipe, I would recommend getting the meatiest duck breasts you can find, this will maximise the amount of finished product you get and it will also minimise the salt that the meat absorbs.

The recipe doesn't mention it, but when it comes time to hang the breasts, I would rinse off the mix and dry it with a paper towel, before hanging. Again, this is to minimise the salt absorbed by the meat.

As you may have worked out, my final product was quite salty, but still very edible. I would suggest maybe keeping them in the salt mix for a shorter amount of time. Maybe 2 or 3 days. However, my Duck Breasts were quite small, so if you get larger ones, it might be worth keeping them the full 4 days in the mix.

I served mine with some Blue Cheese, Sour Cherry Conserve, Crackers and Quince Paste. Yum!

Monday, August 31, 2009


24 Hall Street, Newport VIC 3015, (03) 9391 6404

Apparently cafe culture has moved to the Western suburbs. Yeh, yeh, I know that places like Yarraville, Seddon and Williamstown apparently have cool little cafe's that do really great food and have done for years. But this is the first I'd heard of in Newport.

I'd known about Nosh in Newport for quite sometime, since I grew up in Newport and my parents still live there. However, for some reason I'd chosen to avoid it, despite being in Newport most weekends. Something inside me was telling me to stay away. So I did. For many a year. Until I read recently that David Azzopardi from Ezard was doing Friday night dinners at Nosh. Now Ezard is by far my favourite restaurant, so in my eyes, the fact that David was cooking there, gave this place a hell of a lot of credibility. So, this weekend, I stopped listening to that little voice inside me and thought I'd give their breakfast a go. The place is regularly packed when I drive past on a weekend, so it can't be all that bad. That is unless the people of the west have a lower standard, than us 'trendy' inner city folk. I guess it was time to find out.

We arrived on a very rainy Saturday morning, to find the place very busy indeed. There were tables outside and undercover, but everyone had chosen to sit inside, which added to the hustle and bustle. The cafe is located on a corner building, which originally was the Newport TAB and then The Pepper Tree cafe. The Pepper Tree was one of the first of it's kind in Newport. Unfortunately, Newport wasn't ready for cafe culture back then, so it wasn't long before it closed down. Nosh took over the cafe and gave it a bit of a spruce up and it is what you see today.

The guy who seated us, looked very familiar. I believe he used to be a manager at Joe's Garage in Brunswick St and is now the manager at Nosh. (Correct me if I'm wrong).

Within seconds of being seated, a very young looking waiter appeared asking for our order. We hadn't even looked at the menu yet. It was so loud in there I could barely hear him and he couldn't hear me. So when I ordered an English Breakfast tea, he wondered where on the food menu I found an 'English Breakfast." Ummm, no....When my tea did arrive, I never got any milk to go with it. That was mistake number one.

For breakfast I ordered the poached eggs, with locally handmade chevaps and smoked ham hock baked beans. When the plate arrived I saw no chevaps. It appears they were so small they were hiding under my toast. Then I took one look at my eggs and they were very, very raw, you could see clear globules of uncooked egg white, without even breaking into the eggs. I very quickly sent them back. A few minutes later the eggs arrived back at my table, as the waiter placed them down mumbling something... but again - it was so noisy, I couldn't hear him. The 'locally made chevaps' were less than average. If locally made sausages are this bad, you should be importing them. Em' and I both agreed these tasted exactly like those standard pink sausages you would get from Coles or Safeway.
The baked beans were OK. Nothing like the delicious smoky baked beans I had at the Wye River General Store recently.
Worst of all, the butter was Western Star butter in a foil wrapper! Attention to detail my friends, is what makes or breaks a place. Butter is a detail and Nosh failed to pay attention to it. Nothing screams lazy to me like a foil wrapper of butter. There are so many better options than butter in foil, at least take the foil off!
We actually also noticed a table full of girls next to us also sent their eggs back as they were undercooked.

Em' ordered the Bacon and Egg roll, with onions and relish. These fried eggs were better, the yolk was runny, however, the bacon inside was like cardboard and it was that dry crumbly sort of bacon that nobody likes. The onion was pretty overpowering and quite similar to one of those Sausages with onion you get at Bunnings on a weekend. But overall, Em' was happy with the roll.

Overall a disappointing performance from Nosh. Nothing special here and this is exactly the sort of place I would expect to find in Newport. I'm suprised though that it's made such a name for itself in the area. Is that because there's nothing else around? Possibly. Raw poached eggs, dry bacon, LOUD atmosphere and wait staff that just look like they would rather be someplace else.

So despite the fact that David Azzopardi is cooking there on the occassional Friday night - he obviously isn't cooking breakfast there. I won't be returning in a hurry, if I want Ezard, I'll go to Ezard, thanks.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Taste Of Melbourne '09

Some people like the whole Taste of Melbourne concept, some don't. I'm one of the people that do. Compared to events like the Melbourne Food and Wine show, Taste is a million times better, in my opinion. The food and wine show is like a room full of those ladies that you see in the supermarket, offering you tastes of the latest Kan Tong Simmer Sauce, or Chicken Tonight.

Boring, if you ask me! And if you're against the whole mainstream foodie event, you could head to your local farmer's market or out of town to some of Melbourne's great producers.

I, however, don't mind a bit of a mainstream event like Taste. I think it's a really cool idea-being able to walk around and sample food from some of Melbourne's best restaurants. Sure there are quite a few missing and sure the quality and atmosphere is not going to be what it is in the real restaurant, but you get the idea. It can also help you decide whether or not you actually want to visit the real restaurant. Chances are, if they're going to give you a tiny, flavourless morsel at Taste, you're pretty likely going to get the same thing, when you visit in person.

I was lucky enough to get a couple of free passes from Spread My Butter (thanks!). We thought we would visit tonight (Thursday) as it was probably going to be the quietest session (well, tonight and Friday Lunch). We were right. While there was still quite a few people wandering around, it was by no means crowded and never any lines for any of the stalls (that we encountered, anyway).

You would think The Press Club if any of them would have had a queue, but the stands were well staffed and then only wait was a couple of minutes for your food, once you had ordered. Speaking of The Press Club, George Calmobares was on hand for photos and autograph signings. As was his Masterchef counterpart - Gary Mehigan. Most of the other chefs were there too, such as Frank Camora, Toby Puttock, Dallas Cuddy, etc. All of them were up the front and chatting to foodies, fans and whoever else wanted a chat.

The main difference I noticed from the last Taste of Melbourne I went to, were that the servings were much larger than before. Our first couple of plates were the Souvlaki and Saganaki dishes from The Hellenic Republic stand. After eating those, we were already half full!

Slow Roasted 'Berkshire' Pork belly, in the Style of Porchetta, with Lentil Du Puy & Salsa Verde - Fifteen
Lentils were VERY, VERY undercooked. I would have taken it back had I not have been talked out of it. The Pork was tasty, but nothing special there. No crispy crackling, which you'd expect at Fifteen, either.

Slow Cooked Cuttlefish with Chorizo and Chick Peas - Movida
I'd never had Cuttlefish before. It kind of has the texture of a thick piece of fat, except with a fishy taste. At first this dish was a bit weird on the palate, but I did warm to it. The chorizo was the highlight.

Seafood 'hotdog' with Corn Relish and Avocado - Oyster Little Bourke
This is one ugly dish! There was no recognisable fish in there, either. Based on this dish, I won't be going to Oyster in a hurry.

Lamb Souvlaki - Hellenic Republic
This was my favourite dish of the evening. Very slow cooked lamb with homemade chips in Souvlaki Bread. So nice to eat and I think there was a little horseradish in there, too. I can now never go back to the Souvlaki King.

Saganaki with Peppered Figs - Hellenic Republic
Another highlight of the evening. Stretchy, chewy Saganaki, with sweet figs, which were a little bit spicy from said Pepper. Delicious!

Pave' of Valhrona Chocolate with Burnt Orange Cream and Candied Cumquat - Botanical
This was very rich, nice Pave. The Orange Cream was so thick it wouldn't come off the plate. Stay away from that cumquat. No joy there.

Chocolate, Honeycomb & Salted Caramel Crunch, Circa- The Prince
Like a liquid cake with a weird textured chocolate at the base. Kind of a cross between a milkshake and a trifle. Worth a try.

One qualm that I did have, was that the whole night we were looking to buy a bottle of water, or some other non-alcoholic beverage. We couldn't find any at all. Might be an idea to have some soft drinks available for people that are driving or that don't drink.

Overall, we had an excellent night out - we spent $64 out of our $80 worth of crowns that we purchased. ($1 = 1 x crown). With our leftover crowns, we bought 2 cheeses from the Yarra Valley Cheese stall to take home. Thanks again to Spread My Butter for the tickets!