Brown Rice sort-of Seafood Paella

ImageEven though I love baking sweet treats I do spend the most part of my week cooking and eating as healthily as I possibly can. I often try to use recipes that are not so healthy and modify them to make them even better. This can often be tricky as I’m still trying to convince my parents that dinner can still taste great without potato!! But for the most part, they are pretty willing to try whatever strange concoctions I come up with (their pretty great!). So a couple of weeks ago I decided to try a healthy spin on one of my family favourite dishes, Paella. Now Paella in and of itself is pretty good on the health-scale but I of course wanted to see if I could go one better and make it with brown rice instead of a short grain (dad wasn’t too keen and couldn’t understand why I yet again had to change something that I know works perfectly well!) So off to the shops we went, purchasing some beautiful prawns, mussels, squid tubes and choritzo sausage! And then the cooking began. In true Mia style, I’ve researched a whole lot of recipes, putting together all of the best bits and overall I’m really happy with the base recipe. It seems long and fiddly but in reality its just got a few (maybe more then a few) easy steps, that, when put together have a beautiful flavour true to Spanish food.

Normally, (when I use a short grain rice such as arborio) the dish takes about 35-40mins to make but knowing that I was using brown rice I allocated 45-50mins. Off I went, cooking away and the smells and flavours were fantastic (if I do say so myself). I added stock and stirred and tasted and still after almost 45mins the rice was no where near cooked. My family was getting hungry, moving closer and closer to the kitchen so I knew I had to hurry up but there was just no way to speed up the process! I knew that the seafood wouldn’t take very long at all to cook, so I didn’t want to add it until that rice was cooked through. So there I was faced with an ultimate dilemma, keep cooking the rice and have a hungry/angry family or just stick the seafood in and hope that it cooks at the same time as the seafood. I opted for the second option which in the end was not as bad as I had thought. The rice was just cooked through, with a slight firmness to it, while the seafood cooked through perfectly. I’d have to say that the flavours in this Paella were my best by far. Sadly though, (and probably because of the length of the grains of rice) the liquid did not absorb as should happen in a Paella and there was no crispy bottom. As opposed to a traditional Paella, the dish was more a Spanish rice with seafood and tomato sauce, maybe closer to a gumbo then a Paella. That being said, it was absolutely delicious and even my dad (whose not such a fan of brown rice) thought it was great!

So here’s my recipe, I’d recommend it for sure but just allow at least an hour for the rice to cook through and remember that it won’t be exactly like a traditional Paella. But that just goes to show that you can make Paella with brown rice! Alternatively, you can still use this recipe with arborio or spanish rice (I’ve even used sushi rice before and that works a treat!) and could make it with chicken instead of seafood. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

What you need:

500g Green prawns, peeled

1 Squid tube, cut into rings

1kg Mussels, de-bearded and cleaned

2 sticks of choritzo

1 cup brown jasmine rice

1 onion, diced

1 capsicum

1 tin chopped tomato

1L chicken stock

Smoked Paprika

pinch saffron threads

handful frozen peas

chopped parsley

What I did:

1. First off, chargrill your capsicum over an open flame on your stovetop. I literally leave it sitting on the flame, turning occasionally until the whole thing is black and charred. To remove the skin, pop it straight into a plastic bag and tie a knot in the top. The steam will help to remove the skin and then (while its still in the bag rub it all over to remove it. Take the capsicum out of the bag, rinse under cold water and remove the seeds inside.

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2. Using a food processor, blend your capsicum and diced tomato to make a saucy/liquid,

3. Heat a splash of extra virgin olive oil in your Paella pan and add your diced onion, cooking to translucent but not brown. Then add your diced choritzo sausages and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile heat up your stock in the microwave and add your saffron threads. leave them to “dissolve” and flavour. Add a good dash of paprika to your pan and cook out for 1-2mins, until it starts to give off a beautiful fragrant smell. Then add your brown rice, stirring to coat in the paprika. (I haven’t included a measurement here as its just to your taste).

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4. Finally, add the tomato/capsicum mixture from earlier and about half your stock, stirring it all to combine. Continue to stir your rice, adding more liquid as required for about 45mins (or until the rice is tender and just about cooked).

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5. At this stage, add half your seafood and stir it through, before adding the rest to decorate the top of the Paella. Once this is done, no more stirring, this will help to form a crisp bottom to the rice. Sprinkle with frozen peas and leave for 5 mins.

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6. Before serving, top the whole thing with lots of freshly chopped parsley and lemon wedges.

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Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Chur Burger

ImageIn honour of it being National Burger day here today I thought I’d do a little review on an awesome place I visited on the weekend, Sydney’s Chur Burger! I’ve wanted to visit Chur burger for ages and finally on Saturday night I got my chance. After we had driven around for what felt like forever to find parking we arrived at a small little restaurant/cafe space with a whole lot of people waiting outside! In my mind I was thinking “just great, every other Sydney-sider has also had the same idea as me and also come here tonight!” but luckily the friendly staff at the door took my details and ensured me it would only be a half hour wait. Thankfully, the Ridges was located across the road, so we just popped in there for drinks (I think that most of their customers, if not all, were doing exactly the same thing as us). While we waited, we got chatting with the bar staff who assured as that the wait was this long every night, even on weekdays, and then like clockwork, exactly half an hour later my phone rang with our table! Yay!

If you’ve not heard about Chur burger before (then your missing out!), but think of it as a trendy little burger bar located in Sydney’s Surrey Hills. The bar is owned and run by New Zealand chef Warren Turnbull, which gives some reasoning for the bar’s name (the word “Chur” apparently, is a slang New Zealand term meaning awesome, cool or thanks!). As we entered I found myself in a really cool, very laid back room, which, while small was filled with groups of people. The seating and decor was very eclectic, and I suddenly realised that I was actually sitting on a giant paint tin turned upside down with a cushion on top! It was all very Surrey Hills! Once you walk in you order your food from the bar to your right (they serve alcohol too) and then take your place at your table. The whole thing really reminded me of an old school milk bar with lots of shared tables and benches to sit at.

Between the three of us (myself, sister and boyfriend) we ordered two of the Pulled Pork Burgers ($10) and a Grilled Beef Burger($10)  as well as a bowl of chips with chilli salt ($5) and sweet potato fries with lime and garlic ($5). To drink, the three of us all got the salted caramel milkshake ($8) because, well lets be honest who wouldn’t want a salted caramel milkshake!

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The food arrived quickly but no so soon that you felt rushed. Often at “food bar” type establishments (particularly in Surrey Hills) I feel like I’ve got to eat quickly so that they can turn over the table but not here. We were presented with a beautiful big burger each and wow, just wow it was so good! Just as a burger should be, not showy or fancy but just a good old fashioned burger on a soft fresh bread bun. My Pulled Pork was for sure the winner, with tender pork meat, BBQ sauce, red cabbage and fennel mayo all served on a soft brioche style bun! Seriously so damn good, I couldn’t fault it! The Beef burger was also delish, and I was impressed that the patty was cooked perfectly medium rare! Wow! That one was served with tomato jam, pickle, cheese and mustard mayo, you can’t go wrong there! 

The chips were also amazing, with a crispy finish and light coating of chilli salt. i think my favourite though were the sweet potato fries where the combination of lime, garlic and cinnamon really got my taste buds going. And if your wondering, both styles of chip were the proper old fashioned fat cut! YUM!! I’d probably recommend sharing the chips as the serve is really big, even the three of us with our huge appetites couldn’t finish it all!

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The highlight for my taste buds though was the milkshake which, dare I say it, would have to be one of the best milkshakes I have ever tasted! I felt like I was drinking a salted caramel macaron. It was honestly everything a milkshake should be, served in a tall silver milkshake glass, thick and rich and full of flavour it did not disappoint! Almost a meal in itself.

I think that the only downside to this place was the noise/heat level that quickly built inside and I had to remove myself for a bit to get some fresh air. Aside from that though I can’t wait to go again! Get down there Sydney-siders, this place is sure to impress!

Enjoy and Happy Baking!!

Cheeky Tiramisu

ImageTiramisu is a classic Italian Dessert and one of my absolute favourites to make because it is just so damn easy! When it’s made properly, its a light creaming dessert that combines a subtle coffee flavour with soft, sponge-like biscotti! How can you go wrong with that!

Personally, I would really recommend this recipe for a dinner party where you want to impress your friends or family. The reason that I say this is because you can make the entire dessert the day before (it actually tastes better if you do this), meaning that you get to spend more time with your guests and less glued to the kitchen! Aside from that, most people tend to think that something that tastes as good as this does is really tricky to make! Thankfully for us home-cooks it is truly one of the simplest desserts to make. Now if that wasn’t enough to entice you, my recipe is kiddy friendly (I didn’t have any alcohol to add to the coffee mixture, but you of course could). PS Recipe serves 4

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What You Need:

1 Cup Cold Espresso Coffee (use better quality for a better taste and please avoid using instant coffee granules if you can!)

200 grams savoiardi biscuits

2 large eggs

75 grams caster sugar

500 grams mascarpone cheese

Cocoa powder (to dust)

What I Did:

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1. Break your eggs into a bowl, keeping only one of the whites. Add the sugar together and whisk together until thick and a paler yellow.

2. Fold in the mascarpone to make a moussy mixture.

3. Pour your cold coffee into a bowl (add alcohol here if you choose) and quickly dip one biscuit into the mixture at a time. Remember it should just be a quick dip on either side of the biscuit as they are very delicate and you don’t want the flavour to be overpowering. As you dip one biscuit into the coffee quickly transfer it to your serving dish (I’ve gone with individual wine glasses but anything with be fine. For my dish, I had to break the biscuit once soaked).

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4. Pour your cream/mousse mixture over the top and spread it smoothly using a spatula (or if presenting like me add some to your glass, continuing the layering process until you have enough). 

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5. Using a sieve, dust liberally with cocoa

6. Put into the fridge to set for at least 4 hours. Serve and enjoy!

Happy Baking!!

Japanese…Yes Please!!

ImageThe words ALL YOU CAN EAT tend to catch my eye any day of the week. Add to that Japanese and you’ve got yourself a winner! Recently, my sister discovered a beautiful little Japanese restaurant in Sydney’s Glebe which I just have to share with you all. Mori Sushi (175 Glebe Point Rd) offers one of the best all you can eat deals that I have ever seen. Last weekend my family and I went for dinner and opted for the $30 all you can eat menu (the restaurant offers 3 types all ranging in price). What’s great about this restaurant is that you can literally order any dish off the menu and stay and eat for as long as you like!! I’m not even exaggerating. The first time we ate there I was a bit sceptical because it all just seemed too good to be true but then our lovely waiter explained that you truly could order anything in as many quantities as you liked! There were no rules that stipulated you must finish a dish in full before you can order another or that you could only order one dish at a time, the waiter even encouraged us to eat as much as we possibly could! And after we had finished there, I’m not sure how they could possibly be making any money!

Throughout the evening we ordered an assortment of hot and cold dishes (probably a few too many to name them all) but one of my all time favourites were the Yakitori (chicken teriyaki skewers)! Moist pieces of chicken, floured and fried to give a crispy finish before being marinated in a rich, thick teriyaki sauce and served on skewers. Mmmm yum! I probably ate about 5 because it was just so delicious! Another surprisingly tasty dish (which I had no expected) was the Crunch sushi roll which was an inside out roll filled with crab meat and cucumber, deep fried to give a crispy outer shell to the rice. Wow! It was like a Japanese version of arancini!! Image

Other recommendations include the sashimi salad, which was beautifully light and fresh with a large portion of mixed sashimi on top and the seafood hotpot, a light miso broth filled with a whole assortment of mixed seafood (including a whole fish!) and served in a stone bowl and kitchen stove/oven! It was very very tasty and a perfect Winter warmer I would imagine. You can’t go past the prawn tempura which is one of the lightest tempura dishes I have ever tasted, and doesn’t leave you feeling overly greasy. 

Aside from all of the wonderful food (from which you really can not go wrong) the waitstaff are so friendly and welcoming, encouraging all of their patrons to eat until their hearts are content. Whilst the majority of people dining on Saturday night were doing the all you can eat deal, food was very fast to be served and of a beautiful, high quality. Everything was very fresh and beautifully presented, especially the mixed sashimi plate, which included a huge collection of fresh sashimi (prawn, salmon, tuna, kingfish and scallop).

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Finally, after almost 2 hours of eating and chatting we were finished and what a beautiful meal it was! Trust me, don’t have lunch before you go and be prepared to eat (maybe wear loose pants too!). Overall, I would highly highly recommend a visit to Mori Sushi. Even if your not interested in the all you can eat menu, the a la carte menu is very reasonably priced and includes a fantastic range of dishes. Hope you enjoy it as much as we all did! PS, I’ll be back for a third visit ASAP!

 

4Fourteen Reviewed

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This past weekend my boyfriend took me to a restaurant that I have wanted to go to ever since I saw it on My Kitchen Rules, Colin Fassnidge’s 4Fourteen! The first thing that I noticed (once I got over the initial shock of the surprise) was the trendy, laid-back decor which is very modern and simple. There are small touches of pot plants and animal “skeletons” which allude to the quirky menu that uses a lot of “less traditional” cuts of meat. As the night progressed, we also enjoyed the lower level of lighting and the open planning of the space, which is actually quite a lot smaller then I had anticipated. Overall, service was good, with waitstaff very on top of all of their tables and there was no feeling of being rushed or hurried out (this was perfect for us as we both wanted to take our time). The service of our meals was also quite perfectly timed, with a decent gap between each of our courses.

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Now to the best bit, the food!! So to start we shared the Ham Hock and Cheese Croquette with Mustard Crème Fraîche ($4.5ea). These tasty little morsels are presented in an egg cup which was very cute and the mustard creme fraiche packed a beautiful little punch of flavour. The Croquette’s themselves were light and airy, and were filled with the creamiest cheese and ham mixture before being coated in a crispy outer layer. Following this we each had our mains, Mussels with Salted Fish and Batlow Apple Cider Sauce  ($30) and the Smoked Beef Brisket served with Roast Potatoes and Onion Rings  ($36). Wow!! Again my palate was thrown into a taste sensation! The Mussels were juicy and plump, served in a creamy fish broth (a little like a chowder but much smoother) that had a light sweetness to it which I can only assume came from the Cider sauce. Toasted pieces of bread dropped throughout the dish ensured that not a drop of that beautiful rich sauce was wasted (thats very lucky because I was tempted to pick the plate upand lick it!) My only complaint was that I wasn’t given anything to put my shells into once I had eaten them, but I made do. 

The Smoked Beef Brisket however, was the winner dish. In all my life I have never seen or tasted a more tender piece of Brisket! You honestly could have eaten the dish with a spoon it was that well cooked. The whole thing had a lovely rich sauce (of which there was the perfect amount) that was filled with rich deep flavours. The roast potato was a bit more like a smashed potato which had then been fried lightly (a gourmet hash brown perhaps?) as opposed to your traditional roast potato while the onion rings added beautiful texture and acidity. I would highly recommend this dish!Image

To finish off the evening I ordered the Peanut Butter Popsicle with Honeycomb ($12) which was slightly reminiscent of a golden gaytime ice cream. A slab of creamy vanilla ice cream, rolled in peanut crumbs and served with a side of crunchy sweet honeycomb! Delicious! Again my boyfriend picked a winning dish (he had the brisket earlier), selecting the White Chocolate Sandwich with Dulce de Leche  ($14). 

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A beautiful creamy serve of vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between two thin wafers, underneath which was a smothering of rich caramel sauce. And in case you wanted more caramel (which by the way, you did because it was so tasty) there was a small blob for you on the side!

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Overall, we had a wonderful evening filled with fantastic food, lovely wine and great service. To my boyfriend’s dismay the waitstaff were even kind enough to take a picture of us when I asked (he hates photos)! Would highly recommend this one. Next time though I wouldn’t mind being a little more adventurous with my food choices and going for something a little more left of centre…the Ox Tongue Sandwich perhaps?

 

Risotto al Nero di Seppia…AKA Squid Ink Risotto

ImageOne of my most favourite dinner recipes to make in Summer is Squid Ink Risotto. While for some people, the thought of eating squid ink is a little odd, I absolutely love it! I’m not quite sure exactly how I would describe the flavour that Squid Ink adds to a dish other than that it is distinctly seafood-like without being overbearing or “fishy”. I think that part of the reason that I love this dish is because of the story behind the first time I ever encountered it. For me, this dish reminds me of my first time overseas when I travelled to Spain. Prior to this, I had never tried Squid Ink, come to think of it I don’t think I had even realised you could use it as an ingredient! But I saw it on a menu one night at dinner and thought “hey why not” after being told it was quite a traditional Spanish dish. When it came out to the table, I was presented with a beautiful white plate filled with plump little grains of black rice which was served with sweet juicy mango, fresh basil and ripe roasted tomatoes. I can honestly still taste the it! As I ate it all I could think of was “wow! I can’t wait to cook this for my family when I get home” and thats exactly what I did. Over the years I’ve found a few different recipes online which I’ve gradually adapted to match what I remember to be the flavours of what I tasted in Spain. So here it is, my recipe for Risotto al Nero di Seppia (aka Squid Ink Risotto).

 

 

What You’ll Need: (Serves 4)

1 TBS Squid Ink (you can buy this from some deli’s, the fish markets or your local fish shop might keep them when they clean the squid)Image

3 shallots or 1 red onion (finely diced)

1 bay leaf

250g Arborio Rice (traditionally Carnaroli Rice is used)

250ml white wine

1L chicken stock

70g butter

125ml Verjuice/lemon juice

Grilled baby Octopus or prawns to garnish

Basil leaves (garnish)

Cherry Tomatoes (spray lightly with olive oil and roast in the oven for 30mins)

1 Mango cheek, peeled and sliced

What I Did:

1. In a large saucepan, heat a small amount of olive oil and add your diced shallots or onion. Keep the heat low so that these soften without becoming browned or burnt. Heat your stock in a separate pan or in a container in the microwave.

2. Turn the heat up to a medium-high level and add your rice, stirring through the onion mixture. This is called toasting the rice and is important as it will help it to absorb all the liquid later. Keep stirring until the rice becomes slightly translucent in the centre. 

3. Add your wine, deglazing the pan and let this simmer for a couple of minutes or until it is mostly absorbed.Image

4. Now for the boring part! Add your stock, ladle by ladle until it is absorbed. You need to stir the rice continuously so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Also add your bay leaf at this stage. This process should continue for about 14mins or until the rice has just a slight bite to it.

5. Add your squid ink (from this point on use a plastic spatula to stir the mixture. A wooden spoon will stain and trust me, it NEVER comes out!). Continue stirring and adding stock for a further four minutes

6. At the end of this time, your rice should be cooked through but still have a very slight bite to it (so its not mushy). Turn the heat off and add your butter and verjuice, stirring the mixture. Pop a lid on top and leave to sit for five minutes. Now would be a good time to cook your seafood or set yourself up for plating. 

7. Give it a taste and see if it needs any extra salt or pepper. It generally should be fairly well salted already from the squid ink and stock so I don’t normally add any extra, but its completely up to your taste. 

8. If your adding seafood, stir it in and then serve in a nice bowl, topping with fresh mango, roasted tomato and basil. (Note, don’t use tinned mango. I’ve tried it once before and it was way too sweet and a little slimy from the sugar syrup it was tinned in. For this recipe, fresh is best wherever possible! Also please please give the mango a go! I know fruit in a savoury dish is a bit unusual but it completely makes it! I promise!) 

So there it is! my favourite Summer recipe! Hope your adventurous enough to give it a go! Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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Jamies Italian

ImageI have finally achieved one of my culinary dreams…dining at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant!! I have to admit that whilst Jamie Oliver himself wasn’t present, nor did he personally cook my meal I was so excited to finally dine at Jamie’s Italian in Sydney. Ever since I was a young kid watching The Naked Chef on TV I have dreamed of this moment (if you weren’t aware previously, I have a slight obsession with Mr Oliver and his cooking!) so needless to say I was like a little kid on Christmas when we arrived. 

I was having lunch with two friends from work and my sister and luckily you can make reservations for the lunch sittings for 2 or more people, whilst the dinner sitting requires a group of 8 to make a booking. That being said, you wouldn’t have a problem getting a table during lunchtime on a weekday because the table turnover is quite quick. Image

The four of us were seated downstairs, and I was very surprised at how long and narrow the restaurant was. All in all, it is actually quite a large space, which they have used very cleverly, including an upstairs dining area. The decor is very relaxed and rustic, with a collection of “mis-matched” chairs seated at wooden tables. The atmosphere is very welcoming and it’s really not that noisy (despite what other friends who have also dined there have said). The waitstaff are all very attentive and friendly, introducing themselves by first name when you are seated and continuously checking on you throughout. I have heard previously that the whole thing is a bit rushed, so as to turn over more tables and whilst this may be the case on a weekend or at dinner, my friends and I couldn’t have felt more different, sitting and chatting for almost four (yes four) hours! Another great thing about the staff here is that their knowledge of the menu is very thorough. They’ve all tried every dish on the menu and are more then confident to advise you on what’s great. 

ImageActually selecting what I wanted to eat though was a whole other kettle of fish! There were so many wonderful sounding, delicious dishes so it took me a little while and in the end my sister and I agreed to get two different dishes which we then shared (very clever if you ask me!) I also had to use a process of elimination, removing any dishes that I already have the recipe for at home! Personally, when I eat at an Italian restaurant I always order pasta! I really don’t know why but it’s the way I’ve always done it! For lunch I ordered the Prawn Linguini ($28 main) which was to die for. The Linguini was served in a rich tomato sauce with a slight hint of chilli and topped with big juicy Prawns and fresh rocket! What I loved most about this dish was the way the pasta tasted though. Perfectly al dente, with a nice bite to it and with that beautiful homemade taste and texture. The linguini was slightly thicker then your dried store bought pasta which i feel really added to the dish overall. My sister ordered the Wild Truffle Risotto ($25 main) which was again, just beautiful. Creamy, rich risotto that just melted in your mouth, topped with beautiful black truffles and strong parmesan cheese! MMMmmm yum!! Trust me, I had to resist the urge to lick my plate it was that good! I should also add that the serves were very big, and the two of us struggled to finish our meals together. Personally, I am not sure that I would be able to finish a whole main size of the Risotto, as the flavours were very strong and I tend to find truffle to be quite rich so it’s very filling.

That being said, we all had dessert (we had to!) and I wouldn’t regret it for a second. ImageThe four of us ordered the same thing; The epic Brownie ($10) (the name speaks for itself!). Oh wow! Even though I have the recipe for these exact brownies (best brownie you will ever taste) and have made them countless times before, this was a whole new level of yum! A rich, moist chocolate brownie topped with fudgy chocolate sauce, creamy amaretto ice cream and caramel popcorn! I could have eaten it all day long. Realistically, you could share this dish with two but hey, who would want to. You’d probably spend more time fighting over who got the next scoop so I’d recommend getting your own! 

Overall, a wonderful dining experience at my favourite chefs restaurant (I might be a bit biased but the rest of my party agree). I’m already planning my return for a couple of weeks time!! Highly recommended! 

Magical Middle Eastern

ImageLast Friday night (sounds like a pop song I know!) my family and I went to Kazbah Balmain to celebrate my mums birthday. I had never been previously but so many of my friends had recommended it so I was fairly excited! Personally, I don’t get the opportunity to eat a lot of Middle Eastern food which is such a shame because it would have to be one of the most interesting cuisines, flavour wise due to the fantastic combinations of diverse spices! One of my culinary resolutions for this year is to learn more Middle Eastern inspired recipes, although I’m not quite sure my versions will be as good as those I sampled on Friday. Nonetheless I will give it a red hot go. I think what draws me most to this cuisine (aside from my desire to travel to Morocco one day) are the perfectly balanced combinations of spices that create the most wonderful aromas. Add to that the use of vibrant and colourful ingredients that are jam packed with flavour and perfectly tender meats and I’m fairly certain you can’t be disappointed. Just thinking about it now is making me salivate! Unfortunately everything looked so good that as soon as it was put down in front of us we gobbled it up, so I have to apologise for the lack of pictures in this post (you’ll just have to trust my descriptive ways). 

Anyway, along we went to the Balmain restaurant, which is the original flagship restaurant. Once we arrived we entered into a beautifully modern, open planned space which was not what I had anticipated but worked perfectly. There was a sense of authenticity to the decor, which still maintained a sense of being deep within the Middle East but had a modern spin that was so appealing. 

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We decided to share all of our dishes because, well personally I feel that these foods were made for sharing. I should probably re-enforce that my family and I like to eat, a lot so we had a real feast. We started with the Kazbah Mezze Plate ($22 pp) which included an assortment of creamy dips (hummus, baba ghanoush & tziki), breads, halloumi cheese and these beautiful marinated chicken wings which were to die for. Following our entrée we shared the Chorizo & Haloumi Stuffed Calamari ($22), the Harissa Marmalade Beef ($33), the Chicken and Chermoula Tagine ($32) and the Beef Cheek Tagine ($33). Wow! I’m not even sure how to pick a favourite from any of these dishes. The meat in each one was soft and moist and literally falling off the bone. Each dish was accompanied by either fluffy CousCous or Rice Pilaf which was perfect to soak up the rich, fruity sauces that they were cooked in. I would definitely recommend the Harissa Marmalade Beef which was so tender and served with Sticky Pearl Couscous, Moroccan Eggplant, Tahini Sauce and Red Wine Onion Marmalade! Oh yum!

Of course a dinner out can not exclude dessert and for that we each got our own dishes. Our selection included the Kazbah Bomb for two, a turkish delight ice cream encased in a thin sponge layer with blueberries and flamed with kurrant Vodka ($28). We also had the Shukran Basket, a flakey pastry shell filled with frozen jaffa mousse, belgian chocolate bark and drizzled with candied orange syrup ($14). And finally, the Chocolate & Pistachio Bisteeya which is served in a raspberry & custard sauce and topped with pistachio coated halawa ice cream ($14). Mmmmmm!! I’m reminiscing about the flavours right now!

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Overall, we had a wonderful evening with lovely service (no-one was overly pushy or rushing us and all the staff had a very good knowledge of the menu, especially for those who, like us aren’t too sure what some of the dishes on the menu are!) Whilst the meal wasn’t cheap, the food was fantastically cooked and presented and we were all very full by the end of it. If I were to go again (which I plan to do) I would get a group of 8 of my friends together and try the set banquet menu ($45pp) where you get a taste of everything really. All in all a wonderful, modern yet authentic place to dine which I would highly recommend! Truly Magical Middle Eastern Cuisine at its very best!!

 

Peking Duck

On Friday night I roasted a duck for dinner and it came out a treat! I’ve tried to cook duck once before and ended up with a disappointing, dry, tasteless duck that took hours of cooking and preparation. After that experience I decided to hang up my duck cooking days and resign myself to the fact that roast duck was only for the professionals. Then mum came home with two frozen ducks from the supermarket because they were “on sale” so it was time to try my hand at it again. This time I did a bit more research and found a whole array of advice and recipes, some of which wanted you to dry the duck out for several hours or use very expensive ingredients in order to get the best results. Of course I knew in this situation that there was only one man I could trust, Jamie Oliver so I headed straight to his website to see how he would roast a duck. I found a fantastic recipe for peking duck pancakes which I altered slightly and it was honestly the yummiest duck I have ever tried. Perfectly cooked, crispy skin and a flavoursome plum sauce! On top of that, I was also left with a good cup of duck fat which I strained and have now frozen to use later to make duck fat roast potatoes!! Yum!Image

I’m attaching the link for Jamie’s recipe, because its obviously not my own although I did make a few variations on the plum sauce which I will include here. The recipe is so so simple to make though, so I would very much recommend it. My dad, who hates duck even went back for seconds!! I served my duck with brown rice fried rice and steamed asian vegetables! Next time I would like to give the pancake part a go! So here it is, my variations on Jamie’s plum sauce!!

What I used:

6 Fresh Plums (skin on)

Zest of 1 orange

4 tsp sugar

1 Cinnamon Quill

3 Star Anise

pinch of Chinese 5 spice

pinch of dried chilli (to taste)

3 tbs soy sauce

splash of water

What I did:

De-stone and dice your plums (keep them in fairly large chunks). Then put all the ingredients into a saucepan. Bring it to the boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Let the sauce cook away for about 15 minutes or until the plums soften and the sauce reduces down to make a nice shiny, sticky consistency. Make sure you taste it so that you’ve got a nice balance of flavours. If you need to, add more sugar or chilli. This will depend on how sweet your plums are. Pour into a serving dish and spoon generously over the cooked duck!

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Hope you enjoy this one as much as I did! Will certainly be making this one again!!

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/duck-recipes/crispy-peking-duck-in-pancakes

Pasticceria Papa & Pizzeria Locale Reviewed

ImageEarlier this week was my Dad’s birthday so I made a little trip over to his (and incidentally my) favourite Italian bakery, Haberfield’s Pasticceria Papa!! I’m going to make a fairly big call here and say that this place makes what has got to be the best baked ricotta cheesecake and Cannoli in all of Sydney (see told you it was big). I love everything about Papa’s so it’s pretty lucky I live far enough away to not make regular visits! Buyers beware, it doesn’t matter what day you go, or what time, there will always be a line out the door. But never fear, aside from this being a fantastic sign of good food that the locals love, the line moves fairly quickly and gives you an opportunity to peruse the delicious assortment of cakes, biscuits, gelato and pastries that are available. 

So before I went I made a promise to myself that no matter what I would only purchase what I came for, Cannoli, not matter what temptations there were and trust me, there were plenty. One of the best things about this place (apart from the food) is the warm chocolate smell that greets you as you walk in the front door. Never in my life have I smelt something as good as this! As I mentioned before, I was on a Cannoli mission and because I’m the most indecisive person in the history of the planet I opted for the mini cannoli in both chocolate and ricotta (they also come in vanilla).

ImagePersonally, I would recommend….getting both! because who wants to miss out on anything and at around  $1.60 each who cares! Secretly and in hindsight I could easily have eaten two large ones. Nothing beats the crisp, fried pastry which encases the rich, creamy centre of the cannoli! Whilst I was waiting in line I discovered that they also now sell their traditional baked ricotta cheesecakes (in small individual  serves or larger cakes) with a nutella stuffed centre!!! I promise you it took every part of my self control not to buy a few extras!
For dinner we headed to another of my Dad’s favourite places Pizzeria Locale at Meadowbank (sensing an Italian food trend here!). Even though I’ve only been here a couple of times I love the food, which is very traditional, fresh and most of all is great value. The restaurant itself is family owned and run and so has a really great family friendly vibe. For a Wednesday night it was also very busy which goes to show that I’m not the only one who enjoys it.

ImageFor an entre we all shared the proscuitto pizza ($19) which would have to be my favourite flavour and I was not disappointed. The base was slight and thinly rolled with a crisp outside and soft centre, topped with thin slices of fresh proscuitto, crisp green rocket and shaved parmesan cheese. Absolute perfection!

ImageFor my main I had the Spaghetti Locale (about $25) which had a rich tomato sauce, pippies and prawns. I opted to get fettucini because thats my favourite but my sister had the spaghetti and both looked equally as good. My serve was huge!! I actually couldn’t finish it so I had to give it to mum. The sauce was really lovely though and had a little hint of chilli that gave a great kick!

My parents both got the snapper special ($27) which they both really enjoyed, although I think they were still a little hungry afterwards. That being said, the fish was cooked perfectly, with moist flakes accompanied by a date, rocket and pear salad!

ImageBecause Dad didn’t know about the cannoli surprise at home he also had the Cassata Gelato which is basically three flavours (chocolate, nougat and zabaglione) of gelato together. This was on the specials board and normally i don’t like Cassata but the gelato was lovely and creamy and I liked that the three flavours were separate (i’m not sure if thats the usual way to serve it). If your after a great dessert though I’d very much recommend the locale mess which has honeycomb, meringue, macadamia and salted caramel and vanilla gelato! ($13) mmmm yum!!

Overall, I’d highly recommend a visit to either of this fine venues if your after a great family night out or good quality Italian produce at a decent price! You can’t go wrong!

Check out their websites for more details:

http://www.pizzerialocale.com.au/

ppapa.com.au/

Buon appatoto!!