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Archive for the ‘eating food’ Category

Stuffed Cabbage

 
и вуаля!

During one of the most humid spells I can remember in recent times, I decided to make Stuffed Cabbage  from the Sassy Radish blog. I am not sure why I did this, other than to make something new and a bit different- read Russian.

The recipe I followed was a little vague, so I steamed the cabbage leaves from the cabbage one by one – effective method. But then I realised the leaves were still not pliable enough to wrap the stuffing, so I had to do a little last-minute blanching.

Stacked leaves ready for blanching

The rolling of the stuffing in the leaves was pretty easy, then I just jammed them in the leaf lined pot and covered the lot with the tomato and cabbage water mix. Onto the stove for at least an hour.

Stuffed in the pot

There is no time given in the recipe as to how long it will take to pull together, I think it took me at least an hour(and a half!). And after 30mins on the stove, cumin4ya decided the oven was a better option at 130 celsius. The jury is still out on stove versus oven, as we cooked them 40mins past the original hour in the oven! 

I think this was more to do with the blanching – the cabbages leaves need a bloody good blanch and did not get enough.

Meat mix

All in all  a hearty outcome, albeit a little bland. But, that is to be expected when the stuffing comprises of mince, rice, onion, garlic, celery and dill – as above.

Would I make it again? Yes. In winter, when I reckon I would насмехаться!

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Insalata Caprese

Warm summer nights means SALADS!

The above was my take on the Italian dish, Insalata Caprese: cherry tomatoes, baby bocconcini, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic glaze.  The basil adds so much flavour.

And then, from the book Fresh by Michele Cranston, there was hot-smoked salmon on potatoes roasted in lemon zest, with spinach and a dill dressing.  The smokiness of the salmon offset by the gooeyness of the potatoes, cut through by the freshness of the spinach and the tang of the dressing – too good.

Everything was bought from a fruit and veg shop or the supermarket, which made me very happy.

And my god, did we scoff the lot.

Hot-smoked salmon with potatoes and spinach. Yum!

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"Beauty is only the promise of happiness." - Stendahl

It’s possible that I have a gluten intolerance — possible because nothing’s been proven yet and because I’m hopeful that it’s just a phase I’m going through (you know, like adolescence or the ‘flu, which you either grow out of in a few weeks or help pass with the assistance of a lot of codeine).

Because after cooking gluten-free blueberry muffins last night, it’s becoming clear to me that, quite frankly, gluten-free baking sux.

It all looked so promising: self-raising gluten-free flour that ‘bakes like regular flour’, eggs, oil, milk, sugar, blueberries and an endorsement by the Country Women’s Association of NSW.  What could go wrong?

The flour.

The flour.

The flour.

Did I mention the flour?

Gluten-free flour has a very different texture to normal wheat flour.  It’s very fine and light and has a slightly slimy chalky feel to it.  It flies everywhere as you tip it out of the packet and best not to lick your fingers to be rid of it because it tastes like a chemical.  It doesn’t mix particularly well with liquid and licking the bowl after the mixture has been poured into muffin tins is not an option because you will probably vomit.

Looking good enough to eat - if only that were true.

All of this would be forgiveable if the muffins had tasted any good.  They looked fantastic as they rose in the oven, as they were placed on a cooling tray and as we broke them open for viewing.  But put one in your mouth and begin to chew and hooley dooley, what a weird taste.

My first response was that they needed more sugar.  My second response was to wonder whether blueberries are chosen for their colour rather than flavour and are they a gelatinous fruit?  My third response was to do what adventurebiscuit was doing which was to slather them in butter and lashings of apricot jam and exclaim how awful the muffins were and how fantastic the jam was.

This solved the problem for a while but it left me with the longer term problem of how to cook decent cakes with gluten-free flour.

Who wants it?

In retrospect, the flour’s promise of baking like regular flour was in fact true — the muffins rose well and looked good.  What it didn’t account for was the myriad manifestations of hope that I attached to this claim — that the muffins would taste good, that they would taste the same as those cooked with wheat flour, and that my search for a decent gluten-free flour would have ended.

So the quest continues.  I’ll bake these muffins again but vary the recipe to include triple the amount of sugar and frozen raspberries instead of blueberries.  We’ll see how they go.

As of right now, though, I’m off to find the codeine!

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Scoffing for Australia - handfuls of kettle chips for dinner.

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For no other reason except that I thought I should contribute to Christmas lunch at adventurebiscuit’s mum’s house, I decided to make a terrine the day before.  My original plan was to go with a pork and bacon terrine of Rick Stein’s but it called for pork liver which I could not be bothered tracking down.

And then I remembered a recipe in an edition of delicious. magazine (Dec 2008/Jan 2009 – sensational double issue!).

After finding it and checking that all the ingredients could be bought at the supermarket – pork and chicken mince, proscuitto, dried cranberries, brandy, pistachios, thyme, parsley, garlic, eggs – I turned the kitchen heat up to max. — complementing the sultry heat outside and ensuring that I would be wearing a glossy coat of sweat for the duration of my terrine making.

(1) The black bits are dried cranberries. No insects in my cooking, nosirree.

As instructed by the recipe, I greased my loaf pan and lined it with proscuitto (I was supposed to use pancetta or bacon but I substituted proscuitto instead).

The rest of the ingredients were combined together by hand and placed on top of the pancetta in the loaf pan. (See picture 1.)

It cooked in a moderate oven while standing in a roasting pan full of water.

Overnight, it sat in the fridge with a brick on top of it to squash it flat.

(2.) A brick of meat.

It was tricky getting it on to a plate as it didn’t want to come out of the pan but eventually, success!

And some superb decorations. (Picture 2.)

Too easy.

The terrine had a very subtle meaty flavour, which I gather from fauxfoiegras’ mum is a characteristic of terrines.  It tasted best with a cranberry and onion marmalade that we found in the fridge, but it also worked well with pickle.

Meat cake, anyone?

Would I make it again? Depends how pressed for time I’d be.  I prefer the stronger, richer tastes of pate and that’s the kind of thing I’d be looking for next time.

However, at both Christmas and Boxing day lunches, everyone seemed to enjoy it and scoffed … virtually all of it!

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I had been waiting to find some figs in decent nick to make this recipe, as they are quite expensive and only available for such a short time. So, what better time to make this than for Christmas Day as a pre lunch snack- waiting for Cumin4ya to get his act together. 

Fresh Figs

Ooh yummy!

  

This recipe originated in the New York Times, however, I spied it on Sassy Radish and salivated as I read through the post and looked at the pictures. 

I struggled a little with the recipe as some of it was in Metric and some in Imperial, it really didn’t matter in the end as I disregarded most measurements and cheated by using a jar of bought caramelised onions. 

What a delicious combo!

  

Please note for the below recipe I skipped the honey completely and only lightly sautéed the bought onion with some rosemary in the hope of infusing some of the flavour into the onion- did not really notice a big rosemary presence apart from the fresh needles scattered on top after baking. As already mentioned, I did not follow this recipe, but the end result was a success! 

Adapted from Sassy Radish 

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions (1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 sprig rosemary, more for garnish
Pinch sugar
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
Flour for dusting
3/4 pound prepared puff pastry
1 pint fresh figs ( 3/4 pound), stemmed and cut in half lengthwise
1 1/2 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled (about 6 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Good-quality honey for drizzling, optional. 

Preparation: 

1. In a large skillet over low heat, melt butter with oil. Add onions, rosemary and sugar. Cook, tossing occasionally, until onions are limp and golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in the vinegar, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pan. 

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and egg until smooth. Stir in the onions. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line an 11 by 17-inch baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to a 9 by 12-inch rectangle. Transfer to baking sheet. 

3. Use a fork to spread onion mixture evenly over pastry (let excess egg mixture drip back into bowl), leaving a 1-inch border. Arrange figs, cut-side up, in even rows on onion mixture. Scatter cheese and pine nuts over figs. Use a pastry brush to dab edges of tart with egg mixture. Gently fold over edges of tart to form a lip and brush with more egg mixture. 

4. Bake until pastry is puffed and golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve, sprinkled with rosemary needles and drizzled with honey, if desired, warm or at room temperature. 

Yield: 8 servings 

All done.

 

Things I would do differently; 

  1. Buy caramelised onions not done in balsamic vinegar I think the balsamic was a bit strong
  2. Perhaps not be so lazy and cook onions from scratch next time(?)
  3. Not add all of the egg/ milk mix to the onion as the centre part of the tart was a little soggy
  4. Best served immediately, but was still a hit on Boxing Day when Adventure Biscuit scoffed the lot!

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Today Cumin4ya and I took a Gourmet Safari of the Middle Eastern flavour through the inner west of Sydney. The Gourmet Safari’s are the brainchild of Maeve O’Meara, well known as the host of Food Safari on SBS TV. To our pleasant surprise, Maeve was our guide for the day, along with Sharon Salloum(Head Chef) of Almond Bar in Darlinghurst.

     

Baalbek Bakery    

The day began visiting Baalbek Bakery in Canterbury where we chatted with the owner over a Lebanese coffee, much the same as Turkish- very strong ,very black, very chewy and you take sugar regardless of the fact you may normally not.    

Maeve showing proprietor a photo of herself in the newly published Food Safari Cookbook.

The real highlight of the visit was the walk through of the working bakery. From seeing a pile of kneaded dough ready to be placed on conveyor belts and trundle off to the 900C oven, to the delivery of the finished product through a hole in the wall where ‘the girls’ are ready to bag the bread for sale.    

Man Oosh
 
Next stop was Man Oosh in Enmore for fairly traditional Lebanese pizza in terms of flat base and some of the choices of topping. The group tasted the Za’atar (Za’atar is generally prepared using ground dried thyme, oregano, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt and is mixed with oil) pizza which is a breakfast staple of the Lebanese people, and a Meat pizza, which had spice and depth, but the Za’atar was the standout for me.
 
The plucky young owner has plans to expand into the Sydney CBD, and if he remains true to his traditional recipes, he will have a strong following in no time.

Mr Man Oosh

Can't remember the technical name for Meat Pizza?

 
The Nut Roaster
 
Right then, on we go to the star of the show, The Nut Roaster in Lakemba. This joint was established in the mid ’70s by Jimmy Afiouny who emigrated from Tripoli. Jimmy drew on his familial nut roasting techniques and The Nut Roaster is today, much more than that, it is a an Emporioum of all things Middle Eastern.  Great set up on arrival with a tasting table prepared for us and an informative run down by Jimmy’s son Tarek.
 

Who is that guy in the cap?

 
The Kri Kri nuts are a killer( I bought a kilo for six bucks!) peanuts dipped in a mildly spiced flour mix and then roasted- oh so good! And then there is the Za’atar mix, the Lebanese feta rolled in herbs, the imported fig jam, the fresh roasted cashews and pistachios…what else did I buy? That’s right, a tub of silky creamy Grandpa’s Dairy Labni(Dulwich Hill) and some fridge fresh pizza bases so I can attempt my own version of Mr Plucky’s Za’atar pizza for breakfast!
 
 
Abu Ahmad Halal Butcher
 
Hilarious! Ahmad thinks he is a bit of alright, and he is, as far as meat is concerned. The BBQ is set up outside  Abu Ahmad Halal Butcher on the busy Boulevarde in downtown Punchbowl. As Maeve mans the BBQ and introduces Ahmad and he talks about what Halal means, Cumin4ya bends Sharon Salloum’s ear before she departs the tour.
 
Schwarma and Sausages

Maeve and Ahmad cooking Schwarma and sausages

 
It goes something like this…
 
I just have one more question for you…when I was younger I used to go to my Leb mates house after school… his Mum always had a bowl of fresh herbs in oil on the table…was that Za’atar made with fresh herbs and not dried?
I then chat to Sharon and tell her Cumin4ya was itching to get that last Q in before she left. She’s says, “He’s so cute!” with a giggle! All I can say is Cumin4ya is in his element!
 
 
Getting back to the fare…
Rosewater and Pine nut sausages, yum, but not into cinnamon, and I could taste it.
Garlic and Vinegar sausages VV yum, we bought half a kilo.
Schwarma, marinated beef thinly sliced(not strips) and tasted both spicy and sweet- I suspect cinnamon was involved, but the balance was enough for me to tolerate. Bought a kilo!
 
 
A few passersby decided to help themselves to the BBQ which was entertaining, and an old bloke who must frequent the butchery just settled right in. And Cumin4ya scoffed the lot!
 
 
Steet party crasher.

The Local.

 
Al Aseel
 
And now for some 50/50 news on the next stop, lunch at Al Aseel in Greenacre. 
Cumin4ya left the camera on the bus, so no live snaps. So here is the doggy bag styling for you…

Doggy style...

The spread was traditional including hommous, babagnouj, falafel, tabouleh, pickled accompaniments of turnip, wild cucumber and green chillies. There was a dish I was unfamiliar with which was fishy- chilli fish with pinenuts and looked like it had tahini all over it. I don’t like fish if I can’t control ordering it myself, needless to say, I had more felafel instead. It was all very delicious and authentic as expected.    

The good news from Al Aseel, a few things really    

It was really, really good.    

I didn’t over do it, so did not feel too full for the next stop.    

I ran into a work colleague who is Lebanese- tick for a local dining here.    

Then who should walk in, but Mr Golden boot himself, Hasam El Masri- double tick for a local of noteriety dining here.    

     

Five Star Sweets    

Located opposite the lunch venue is Five Star Sweets, a curious place for the uninitiated. A spotless showcase of Lebanese indulgence.    

This is the place to come for celebratory baskets including;  first child born, first boy born, weddings, funerals, return from Mecca… The only way to explain this is like bonboniere for weddings, everyone who visits the house when the baby is born, or the wedding is announced, or the person has died…is offered a token(fancy wrapped chocs) from the basket.    

Weddings? Parties? Anything?

Weddings? Parties? Anything?

Its a...?

 And we had theeee most delicious selection of pastries, not just your average baklava either. I reckon Cumin4ya and I made right pigs of ourselves as we laughed with our fellow Safarians that this was death by dessert…then our informative host Muhammad brought out a plate of chocolate. I ate one and swooned, much to the amusement of my Safarians, I then went back for thirds as the centre of the choc was peanut brittle!    

Sorry, camera back on the bus!    

     

Sweet City    

Sorry to say, but pretty disappointed here. When the ice cream is described as thick and ‘stringy like’ I expect it to be so. Na! Waterey and lacking in depth of flavour.    

Cumin4ya chose Passionfruit and Boysenberry- raved about the Boysenberry, but thought the Passionfruit was so so. I tried the Pistachio(so predictable) and the Mango(and so predictable) and was left, well, speechless. Speechlessly disappointed. If the wrap was not so big, I might have been satisfied, but you know me- talk it up and I am thinking big!    

I could have done with ending the day at 5* myself.    

The Verdict    

It was great!   

I would recommend a Safari to anyone from my overall experience. A useful thing to note is the feedback form on the bus on the way back and also the very open nature of the tour guide- Maeve in this case, the business owner. 

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