El Bulli Spanish Tapas

Earlier this week my family and I celebrated my graduation from Uni at Randwick’s El Bulli Spanish Tapas! I was really excited as I’ve wanted to dine here for ages but, because of its location (which is a bit far from where I live) its often been forgotten! Luckily though, mum suggested it and I am so glad that she did!

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When we arrived we walked into a dimly lit room, furnished with wooden style benches and a quaint little bar. It was warm and cosy (totally the opposite of the weather outside!) and the staff were very friendly and welcoming. The seated us at a window table, sort of like a nook, where one side of the seating was a long bench filled with comfortable cushions and furnishings. Right from the outset, the restaurant smelt fantastic so I couldn’t wait to start eating! My family and I have been to a couple of Spanish Tapas style restaurants, so our rule is always to try to order a couple of different dishes each time that we go and with the menu presented to us we were spoilt for choice. Personally, I love Spanish tapas style food, in fact I would love to cook it one night for my family, although I’m not quite sure about the logistics of it for five people, but still, that would be a great night! So as a result we’ve only ever really eaten Tapas at a restaurant, which is a shame because it can be quite expensive. I will say that while the meals at El Bulli weren’t cheap, the food was fantastic!

We started off with some Sangria (of course!) and then ordered a selection of tapas dishes to share. Our first dish to arrive was the Pinchitos de Pollo ($16.50) which are essentially chicken skewers. These were beautiful though, moist perfectly cooked chicken skewered and marinated in chimichurri (a herby, green marinade common in Spanish cooking) before being grilled and drizzled with lemon and a light mayonnaise. Perfect little portions of tasty-ness!

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Following this, the Patatas Bravas ($12.50) arrived, with soft, pillowy potato quarters fried to give them a crispy outside, before being cooked in a rich and spicy tomato sauce. Yum Yum! We also shared the Empanadillas ($17.50)  (a personal favourite of mine) which are a deep fried puff pastry filled with mince, herbs and egg! Seriously crispy pastry filled with the most beautifully seasoned and flavoured mince, I could have eaten these all day!

One of the evenings specials was the Zucchini Flowers which were stuffed with a ricotta filling before being lightly battered and deep fried! I love zucchini flowers, and my boyfriend (whose never tried them before) devoured these ones! So crispy on the outside and stuffed to the brim with rich, creamy ricotta. The flowers were plump and fresh and had so much beautiful flavour to them!

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Now if that wasn’t enough, we then ordered a seafood Paella ($29.50) for one to share, which was divine! Perfectly cooked rice with a rich tomato and saffron flavour topped with flavoursome choritzo, chicken and fresh seafood including huge King Prawns, Octopus, Mussels and Clams! It never ceases to amaze me with just how much flavour some people can pack into such a little rice dish! Seriously good and highly highly recommended!

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The highlight dish for me though was one that I had almost told mum not to bother with; Zarzuela ($33.50) a dish I don’t think I’ve ever seen at a Spanish restaurant before, but have heard of in cooking shows. Essentially, it is a seafood soup or broth but wow, I really don’t think I have ever tasted something so unbelievably flavoursome before. There were so many layers of flavours, salty, sweet, spicy and of course seafoody. It was all perfectly balanced and a perfect dish for such cold cold weather. I would highly highly recommend this dish, plus it was huge!! Even my dad loved this one, and he hates spicy food! The broth itself also had a light tomato flavour and just the right amount of spice to hit the back of your throat, but not overpower the soft flavours of the seafood. Now thats a dish I would love to learn how to make.

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We had hoped to order dessert (Churros) but at almost $17 per serve we decided to go to the Italian restaurant around the corner instead, which was a shame as churros would have been delish! Overall, we had a wonderful evening and the food was fantastic! It’s a shame they don’t have a set menu so that you could try more options (for a slightly cheaper price) but hey I’m not complaining, the food was phenomenal! If your ever in Randwick (or Surry Hills as theres another one there) then make sure you stop by!! You won’t regret it! Yum!!

Check out their website here….

 

Mediterranean Stuffed Squid with Tomato Salsa

ImageCooking with seafood is often quite daunting for me, particularly because I’m not overly experienced with it. That being said, my family and I have always loved our Seafood and after a trip to Greece last year I reaffirmed my desire to try my hand at cooking stuffed squid tubes. The only thing I was missing was a great recipe (squid tubes are a tad expensive so I was keen to have a recipe that was tried and tested and that I’d know would be a big hit with my family) and luckily, after watching an episode of My Kitchen Rules I felt inspired. Two of the shows contestants cooked a beautiful Mediterranean style stuffed squid, serving it on a rich tomato salsa and a crisp salad. I knew this would be a great dish to cook for lunch for my mum this past weekend (here in Aus it was Mothers Day!). I did have a few variations on the original recipe which can be found here, so here is my take on the girls recipe! Originally I wasn’t going to make the salsa but in the end i am so glad that i did! It really lifts the dish and looks fantastic for presentation!

Hope you enjoy and happy baking!

What you’ll need:

  1. 5 whole baby squid, cleaned
  2. 1 tbs olive oil

Squid Stuffing:

  1. 120g medium grain rice
  2. 6 Green Prawns, peeled
  3. 2 tsp olive oil
  4. 250g chorizo, chopped
  5. 1 onion, finely chopped
  6. 30g chopped pine nuts, toasted
  7. 30g sultanas
  8. ¼ cup finely chopped parsley

Tomato Salsa

  1. 3 tomatoes diced into large chunks
  2. 2 tsp olive oil
  3. 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  4. 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  5. 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  6. ¼ cup pitted black olives, chopped (I used mixed Olives)

What I did:

To make stuffing:

1. Cook rice in a saucepan of boiling until tender (about 10 mins). Drain and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add chorizo and onion. Fry until onion is soft and brown and then add your peeled prawns (cut into smaller chunks). Cook until prawn is cooked through before adding your cooked rice, pine nuts, sultanas and parsley.

3. Leave to cool completely.

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4. Once cool, spoon mixture into squid tubes, firmly compacting it and then seal the end with a toothpick.

For Salsa:

1. Preheat your oven to 200C. Place your diced tomatoes onto a tray, drizzle with a little oil and roast until tender and slightly collapsing.

2. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook your onion, garlic and chilli until soft. Stir in tomatoes and olives. Season. I also added a little parsley and lemon juice for flavour but thats up to your tastes.

Cooking the Squid:
1. Rub squid all over with oil and season. Meanwhile heat your pan to a very high heat. Add the squid and cook for about 5 minutes, turning so that all sides are cooked through (you can tell that its cooked when it turns from translucent to a white colour). Ensure that you don’t overcook the squid. I found it hard to get the ends to cook as they couldn’t touch the pan due to the toothpicks. To overcome this, remove the toothpicks right at the end of cooking (by now the rice should be cooked and hold in place) and then tilt the ends so that they touch the pan and cook.
2. When serving, make thick cuts in each squid tube so that you can see stuffing, without cutting all the way through. Lay onto plate on top of the salsa

Enjoy!!Image

 

 

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!!

 

An Aussie spin on an English Classic

ImageIts Summer where I live, so it’s the perfect time to entertain outdoors in the sunshine. And because it’s so hot, nothing beats ice-cream for dessert!! I recently made this recipe for Christmas lunch but I know that it would be perfect for a weekend BBQ with friends. What’s great about this one is that you make everything in advance and then literarily pop it onto a plate and serve. There’s no time spent in the kitchen prepping anything while your guests are over. Its kid-friendly (they could even help you do it) and suitable for gluten-free diets. On top of that its actually the easiest thing I think I have ever made and tastes delish!

Now you can make this recipe in two ways; the first of which I will give the ingredients for (where you buy everything ready to go and put it altogether), or if your feeling adventurous you can make the individual ingredients yourself and then follow my instructions. Either way you’re in for a treat! So here it is, my version of a class Eton Mess! Enjoy!!

What you’ll need:

2L Good quality Vanilla Ice Cream, softened

1 cup Frozen Raspberries

1/2 cup Raspberry jam

2/3 cup pistachio nuts (roughly chopped)

6 meringue nests (crushed with your hands)

Freezer tin/mould

Cling Wrap

Extra Raspberries to serve

What I did:

Line your freezer mould with cling wrap, this will make it super easy to get out when its time to serve. I’ve used a “bunt tin” which has a hole in the middle but you can use whatever shape you like. For a slightly more gourmet option, make individual serves using a muffin pan. Give your jam a good mix so its a runny consistency and spread along the bottom of your freezer mould. 

Put all your ingredients into a separate bowl and give it a good mix together. Spoon it into your freezer mould and make sure the top surface is nice and smooth. Cover with cling wrap and put it in the freezer overnight if possible or for at least 3 hours.

To serve:

Turn the whole cake out onto a serving plate and remove the cling wrap. Top with some more frozen berries and eat immediately!

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