A long weekend in Melbourne, in Winter. I couldn’t wait. I haven’t had a proper holiday for coming up to three years, so these short breaks are a welcome respite from the daily grind. The reason for our trip was to check out the Tutankhamun Exhibition, but also an opportunity to get away before the baby comes.
Last time we stayed in Melbourne we stayed in St Kilda: funky and full of fun but miles from the city. This time we elected stay at the Sofitel in the city which allowed up a bit more leeway in terms of exploring.
One place I didn’t have to go far to find was Cumulus Inc, one of the stable of Andrew McConnell’s trendy Melbourne restaurants. First we tried going for dinner, and we couldn’t get in, so I arranged to meet a couple of Melbourne based girlfriends for breakfast first thing on Saturday morning instead.
I got there first and was quickly seated. The space is really light and bright with an industrial edge. Very funky. Once the girls arrived, our coffee orders were taken promptly while we looked over the menu. I liked that the menu was fairly short. Some eggs a couple of different ways, granola and muesli, toast and jams, a reuben, and some delicious baked goods.
The girls both opted for the Grilled Lyonnaise sausage with smoked ham hock and beans and a 65/65 egg (an egg poached for 65 minutes at 65°C)
This delicious pile of beans and smoky ham topped off with this creamy egg was just divine. Very smoky, so be warned those that aren’t keen on that type of flavour/aroma. Comforting and rib sticking is what I call this breaky.
I couldn’t pass by the Shakshouka, baked eggs with roasted capsicum, tomato and fetta…
I had no trouble at all mopping up these eggs, and for those of you who know me, know that this is one of my favourite breaky dishes.
There were only two dud issues with this meal: first, my second coffee: it was a decaf and utterly undrinkable. It smelt like chemicals! Now, seriously, I know it’s my own fault for ordering a decaf, but why are they so horrendous???? The other issue was the placing of the bill on our table, indicating that they wanted us out!
The next morning, after having an enormous meal at the recently savaged Grossi Florentino , I wandered downstairs to breakfast on my own with the paper. I was again seated promptly, this time at the bar over looking the kitchen. A prime viewing spot for preparations. I decided on the lighter “cumulus inc breakfast” which is a boiled egg, toast, jams, coffee and orange juice and some yoghurt and poached fruit for $16. Lovely. I settled in and watched as my breaky was prepared:
Great coffee, lovely food. Lovely chefs in the kitchen! However, I was given a limited choice of cutlery and needed to ask for an additional knife so I didn’t contaminate my jam spreading knife with my egg knife. Maybe I’m just fussy? And even though I was sitting at the end of the bar, the bill was dropped in front of me mere moments after I had put the last bite in my mouth. This time it was far more obvious that they wanted me gone…no second juice or hot chocolate, no time to linger over the paper, lickety split, they wanted me out. I was there for a grand total of around 45 minutes from the time I walked in till I walked out.
So thanks Cumulus for your fab food and great fit out, and good caffeinated coffee, but I won’t recommend that anyone visit if they’re looking for a relaxed breakfast!
I love stock. It took me a long time to get to this point. I used to hate the smell of it simmering away at home as a child. I would demand my mum turn it off as it “stunk” up the house. I think it’s the elimination of waste. The thriftiness of it. It’s like making my own breadcrumbs and how much better my meatballs or mac’n’cheese are because of it.
I think my change of heart towards stock came about when I realised it was the main ingredient (after rice) that made risotto. This happened at university when my best mate Claire, used to make our favourite pumpkin and bacon risotto on the evenings I would go round to her place to watch Friends, Sex and the City and Buffy (if I managed to stay up late enough for Buffy’s late 10:30pm screening time). Claire’s recipe was a fabulously simple one, perfect university food. A tin of good pumpkin soup, onion, oil, bacon friend till crispy, arborio rice, stock or water depending on what was in the cupboard. All very straightforward and tasty.
Fast forward 10 years or so and I’m living in here in Sydney, and discovering the difference a really good stock can make to basics like soup and risotto and other dishes. I don’t always have time to make my own stock, but I’m glad when I do. I always find it homely, and such a reassuring task.
There is no real recipe to make stock, and I’ve always just chucked in what I have. This week it was inspired by a Thirlmere spatchcock I found buried in the freezer, then thawed, a brown onion, a tomato, a bayleaf or two, couple of stumpy carrots, whole peppercorns all chucked in and covered with fresh water, bought to the boil, scum scraped off, then simmered for a couple of hours. I then strain my stock through a chinoise (just a fancy sieve) lined with muslin. Other times I just use raw bones, sometimes I roast them first, other times I don’t. All depends on the day…I always try to freeze half of whatever I make in an ice cube tray for use later. I find it easy to melt that way and much easier to store.
However the way I make my pumpkin and bacon risotto has changed. These days I use real pumpkins, and just roast them, then mush them, then stir through the risotto. I also use the BEST bacon I can find, and am proud to obtain it from my mate Tim at Urban Food Market. It’s now very rare that I would have tinned pumpkin soup in my cupboard!
I’ve been sick for days. It’s all Stormie’s fault for bringing home a cold. In my pregnant state the realisation that I can’t take any drugs to relieve the symptoms is a blow that means rest, fluids, and more rest are the only solution. After two and a half days at home, I’m starting to feel better. So much better that I feel the urge to bake!
Empty cupboards, however, mean extremely limited choice. One of the changes in lifestyle we’ve experienced since we’ve moved is not having access to well stocked supermarkets in handy locations close to home, so we’ve come to rely on online shopping. This has two advantages: someone else has to carry the groceries up our five flights of stairs, and we actually save money cause I don’t pick up random stuff..but it also means I don’t restock my cupboards as often.
I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged biscotti (actually it appears I haven’t?) before, and raved about how much I love them, but just to remind you; I LOVE BISCOTTI. They’re easy, customisable and low fat to boot!
This recipe comes from the legend that is David Lebovitz. If you’ve not come across The esteemed Mr. Lebovitz before, he is a legendary baker, dessert maker and author, from the U.S. living in Paris. He is expert in all things dessert like, including ice cream and cookies. I bought his recent book “Ready for Dessert” as it’s a round up of his best and favorite recipes as well as giving a run down on some dessert basics. If you’re into baking and desserts it’s definitely a book you must get.
So I looked in the cupboard and saw that I had flour, some brown sugar, chocolate chips, eggs and cocoa, and a few dried cranberries…so I adapted the following recipe:
Peppery Chocolate- Cranberry (originally Cherry) Biscotti
- 3/4 cup dried cherries (I used dried cranberries)
- 2 tablespoons kirsch,grappa or rum ( I used brandy)
- 2 cups plain flour
- 3/4 cups good quality cocoa
- 1 teaspoon bicarb soda/baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 large eggs (it adds 1 egg for glaze but I left this out)
- 1 cup sugar ( is used a combo of caster and brown sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon almond essence ( I used vanilla)
- 1 cup almonds, toasted and chopped (I had no nuts)
- 3/4 cup chocolate chips ( I use dark choc chips)
- 2 tablespoons coarse crystal sugar for sprinkling (I left this out)
Pre heat the oven to 175° and line a baking tray with baking paper
In a small saucepan combine your dried fruit and chosen alcohol. Bring to boil, remove from heat, and let cool to room temperature
In a medium bowl sift together flour, cocoa, bicarb, salt and pepper
In a stand mixer, whisk together your eggs and sugar and vanilla/almond extract
Gradually add the flour, then add dried fruit and their soaking liquid, nuts and chocolate chips and mix just until dough comes together
On a lightly floured surface divide the dough in half. Using damp hands (I always have trouble with this step), shape each half into a log about 8cm in diameter. Pop the logs lengthwise on the baking tray. Use damp hands to flatten the tops of the logs.
Whisk remaining egg and generously brush the logs with the egg wash then give a second coat. Sprinkle each log with 1 tablespoon of the crystalised sugar.
Bake, rotating baking sheet half way through cooking, until logs feel firm, about 25 minutes (I forgot to rotate them). Remove from oven and leave to cool for about 15 minutes and reduce heat of oven to 150°
Transfer logs to chopping board, and using sharp serrated bread knife (this really does help) cut into 1.5cm slices (or do the best you can as the slices can crumble)
Spread the slices cut side up back on baking tray and pop back in oven for up to 30 minutes (closer to 30 if the slices are thicker), flip them mid way through baking (Now this one is important). Remove and cool. They’ll continue to firm up as they cool.
Try not to gobble too many before they cool completely
Note: You don’t have to add the pepper.
Also, I just realised that this is my 200th post!
First, apologies for my absence. I’ve been so busy at work, have been off here and there (including New Zealand) and have some other news which I’ll get to a bit later. But first, Logan Brown in beautiful Wellington, New Zealand.
I was over in Welly for the annual conference of my Kiwi work equivalents. My second year attending, this year I made sure that I had some extra time to go exploring this cool capital. I arrived on Friday evening, checked into my hotel and settled in for the Royal Wedding. Saturday, I set off exploring, hitting the Te Papa Museum, which included a spectacular exhibition of photography by Brian Brake. I ate a light lunch at Floridita’s, a well known and very popular cafe. I was lucky enough to his Floridita’s twice. Once for this light lunch and once for a DELICIOUS breakfast. Well worth a visit. For lunch I had this simple, and perfectly portioned linguine with lemon, artichoke and chilli, and the yummiest locally brewed ginger beer
On my final evening in Wellington, I was lucky enough to visit the renowned Logan Brown. This restaurant has won a gazillion awards over a few years and they’re all well deserved. We popped in for an early dinner (we had just finished up the conference and were all flying out at various civilised and not so civilised hours the next day) and got to try out their unbelievably good value “Bistro Menu”
To enjoy the Bistro Menu you have to book, and then be out by 7:30pm, there doesn’t appear to be the same restrictions on lunch. It’s available for lunch and dinner 7 days, at the grand total of NZ$39.50. This is about at today’s rate, AU$29.50 for a three course meal. STUPID.
The set menu changes frequently, and gives you a choice of two dishes per course, and all dietary requirements are treated with respect and good humour.
On this evening, for entree we had a choice of: Grilled haloumi with tomato bruschetta, chorizo & rocket or Spiced chickpea veloute with crispy lamb shoulder and harissa oil. Apologies for the dark pics. It was dark. I chose the veloute with the lamb as it was a chilly night and the perfect way to warm up.
We then moved onto mains: Pan roasted Tarakihi with calamari bhaji orange, I had the fish which was so fresh it was practically jumping!
Or watercress or braised pork belly with sage gnocchi, sweet and sour cabbage and caramelised apples:
We were pretty damn happy at this point. The service was impeccable, the ambience great, and the food and company wonderful.
Can you see why I was so excited about my $29.50 dinner??? Amazing.
Dessert, I wanted both, but could only have one….Poached tamarillos with warmed gingerbread and limoncello marscapone or, what I chose which was the Feijoa donuts with vanilla parfait and soft cream.
These donuts were HOT, and there was two filled with deliciously hot Feijoa pulpy jam, and one non filled donut. God it was good. Totally could’ve eaten it all over again.
This little jaunt across the ditch may be last for a while, and the lapse of blog posts, has been caused by the lovely news that my partner and I are having a baby. So I apologise in advance for future intermittent blogging, while I get busy at work, help organise the 2011 Australian Foodbloggers’ Conference and grow a baby.
192 Cuba St,
Wellington, New Zealand
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When I lived in Surry Hills a teeny tiny new cafe opened up just around the corner from my house. It’s called Remy and Lee’s. Remy and Lee are a lovely young couple from Perth. Remy is an old hand at cafe’s having worked at places like Bills. They opened this teeny cafe and serve delicious morsels like Black Star pastries and pies, Lee’s famous bircher muesli, and excellent coffee. I miss them a lot. It’s a friendly, neighbourhood joint where all sorts of people hang out, from hipsters to local mums and bubs.
A while back, Lee gave me her basic muffin recipe. I recently found it floating under my bed, and decided to whip up a batch to cheer up my other half who’s had a killer week at work.
This is a dairy heavy recipe, so if you’re not into dairy, don’t bother! You can also vary this recipe with whatever flavourings you want:
I made peanut butter and strawberry jam, you could do any kind of berry, or banana (of course when they are no longer $14.99 per kg!), ditch the sugar and add grated cheese and vegemite or simply keep an eye out on Remy and Lee’s twitter stream as Lee tweets the muffins she makes each day!
Lee’s Basic Muffin Recipe
- 2 – 4 eggs
- 1 cup natural yoghurt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup full cream milk
- 450g Self Raising Flour
- 250g Raw sugar
- 125g melted butter
Makes 6 massive muffins or many more normal sized ones
Mix wet ingredients into dry
Mix through peanut butter.
Place mix in tin, add dollop of jam, then add lid
Bake at around 180º for about 40 minutes or until golden and skewer comes out clean