Monthly Archives: November 2009

Edible Balcony – Brekkie on the Run

This is my idea of a fast food breakfast.
A bunch of balcony Tub Toms were ripe for the picking this morning.

They were so incredibly fragrant and perfumed – even the stalks were aromatic.

It was just a case of a quick snip, a wash under the tap and a few basil leaves to make some fresh pesto…. et voila!
… fresh sliced tomatoes with pesto on toasted turkish bread with some freshly cracked pepper and a drizzle of olive oil
The tomatoes were incredibly sweet and luscious. I don’t think I’ll ever eat a supermarket tomato again.
At least I know now what a REAL tomato should taste like!

Cook’s Garden, North Turramurra

A belated birthday lunch for my step-son Tim at the Cook’s Garden in North Turramurra yesterday was a crowd pleaser. When palates range in age from 31 to 83 the chef’s brief must be to keep dishes simple yet fresh and interesting. Gwen couldn’t get enough of the sweet salty bacon and the colefax chocolates – as always – were feverishly consumed.
corn cakes with tomato relish crispy bacon and asparagus spears
crispy prawns on a chilli guacamole
battered fish and chips with aioli
Thai beef salad
dig in, don’t wait
colefax chocolates

View Larger Map

Glebe Point Diner

The danger of living in cosmopolitan Potts Point is that rarely do you feel the need to ever venture out. When you’re surrounded by some of the best Thai, Italian and seafood restaurants, food stores, delis, wine merchants and farmers markets it takes something pretty exceptional to prise you away.
Last night that ‘something exceptional’ was the 50th birthday celebrations in Glebe of our dear friend George.
George has accompanied us on many of our eating adventures across the country and across the globe – and may there many more!
George’s dos are always big drinking occasions so we fuelled up beforehand at the nearby Glebe Point Diner. This neighbourhood gem has style and quirk in equal doses. The staff could all be extras in a David Lynch film. But the real stars come out on the plates – dishes that explode with freshness and unexpected matchings. This is a good reason to leave Potts Point more regularly.
crispy battered zucchini flowers stuffed with three cheeses
crunch and ooze
hand-churned butter with housemade bread with caramel crust
herb-crumbed Crystal Bay prawns
 
roast pork with creamy mashed potato and rhubarb
crackling to die for
this free-range biodynamic piggy tastes like it had a happy life
Humptydoo barramundi with clams and peas

couldn’t have been fresher if you had plucked it from the sea yourself

View Larger Map

Rise and Shine

I’ve been on the Gold Coast in Queensland this week to co-host the Asia Pacific Screen Awards televised internationally on CNN. Some terrific films were in contention including Australian Warwick Thornton’s Samson and Delilah (which won Best Film) and About Elly which won Best Screenplay for Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. I have seen them both and urge you to seek them out at your nearest arthouse cinemas or DVD stores.
While the surrounds were magnificent there was sadly no time for a daily blog – and even more tragically no time to eat properly. A few mints and some cold party pies backstage were my main sustenance.
At least the room service continental breakfast at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa was worth capturing… cereal, tea, fruit juice, tropical fruit plate,and pastries
fruit always tastes sweeter in the tropics
the grapes had cold crispy skins and luscious juicy insides
the passionfruit was a balance of tang and crunch
a danish pastry filled with stewed rhubarb, flakey croissant and blueberry muffin
little jars of jams and honey if you didn’t find the pastries sweet enough!

View Larger Map

Recipe: Bolognaise Sauce

two characterful baby round carrots
Phew!… How did everyone survive yesterday? The mercury soared to just above 40 degrees celsius in Sydney. Quite unprecedented for November. Doesn’t augur well for summer does it?
Surprisingly the balcony plants didn’t seem to fair too badly. I gave them a good soaking early in the morning and other than a few yellow leaves no signs of heat distress or sunburn (unlike a few Syndey-siders who crazily spent the day at the beach!)
Looking at the ripening herbs and vegies I thought I’d throw together a bolognaise sauce. I’m working interstate this week so at least the hubby will be well-fed while I’m away. Feed the man meat I say!
Scanning the edible balcony garden I realised I had most of the fresh ingredients for a bolognaise sauce
carrots, tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, parsley and basil
Tomato envy: Don’t worry Mr Carrot it’s how you taste that counts
The rest of the ingredients came fom the pantry and butcher – pork and veal mince, some smoked speck, tomato passata, tinned tomatoes, onions, garlic and some olive oil
Recipe:
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
50g of smoked speck or bacon, chopped into lardons
3 large cloves of organic garlic, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 tin of tomatoes or two chopped fresh tomatoes
2 bottles of tomato passata
1/4 cup chopped thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil
500g pork mince
500g veal mince
5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper and a little sugar to taste
Directions:
Pour olive oil into a casserole pot and put on medium to low heat. Add onions, carrots and speck and fry for about 5 minutes until onion is translucent and speck is crispy. Add chopped garlic and fry until fragrant. Add mince meats and turn up the heat to brown well all over. Add tinned tomato, passata and herbs and bring to a boil. Add salt and pepper and maybe some pepperoncini if you like a bit of a chilli hit. Turn the heat down to a gentle bubble and leave for two hours to gently transform into a thick, rich meaty sauce.
Into the casserole pot and two hours later an alchemist’s dream
Some egg pasta and some parmesan shavings….
…… and one very happy husband….

Recipe: Pesto Sauce

If your’re a tentative gardener one of the easiest edibles to attempt growing yourself is basil. Providing you get at least six to seven hours of sunlight a day, basil will grow very happily in a garden bed, a balcony pot or even a kitchen window sill. It loves regular watering and a fortnightly seaweed liquid fertiliser will ensure big juicy leaves. Pick your basil regularly and it will grow bushy rather than tall and straggly. Pick leaves from just above where new leaves are sprouting on the plant.
A week ago I sowed a gourmet basil seed selection from Yates which contains exotic sounding cinnamon basil, lemon basil, purple basil and Thai basil.
As they mature I’ll select the more robust seedlings and thin out the weaker ones.
I love the contrast of green and purple
My existing sweet basil crop is ready to go into a homemade pesto sauce.
 
Recipe :
1 large handful of freshly picked basil leaves
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons of pine nuts
1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
Place the basil leaves, the garlic clove, the salt and pepper  in a mortar and pestle and pound the leaves until you have a smooth green paste. Add the pine nuts and pound. Then stir in the grated cheese. Pour the olive oil into mixture in a steady stream and stir to emulsify. Adjust seasoning. This will make about 1/2 cup of sauce. Keep in the fridge in  a sealed container under a thin layer of olive oil . Will keep for about a week.
I prefer using a mortar and pestle because a food processor tends to bruise the leaves and affect the aromatic oils that are released from the basil leaves.
Most supermarkets sell tasteless bleached garlic from China. Look for Australian-grown organic garlic for a wonderful heady pungent hit.
You can dry roast your pine nuts before you add them to the sauce. I experiment with substituting walnuts or almonds as well.
Authentic pesto sauce recipes call for a combination of parmigiano and pecorino cheese. If you can get a good fresh pecorino it does add another earthy note to the sauce.
A great extra virgin olive oil can turn an ordinary pesto sauce into a gastronomic experience. Source the best one you can afford and enjoy the difference.
I still use my mum’s 30 year old pepper grinder that has a blade adjustment for when I want a finer or coarser result.
I use Maldon Sea Salt or those wonderful pink Murray River salt flakes
put in a bit of elbow grease….
add the parmesan….
stir in the olive oil…
I like spreading my fresh pesto on toast and then squishing a just-runny soft boiled organic egg on top
look at those colours…
Why go out for Sunday brekkie when you can stay home and dine at Cafe Edible Balcony?… (just need to get some chickens now…..)

Foodophobes

I find food to be such an interesting anthropological study. What you eat, I believe, reveals so much more about you than what you wear or what job you do. And what you don’t or won’t eat says even more. Over the years I’ve discovered what my friends and family like to eat and what they don’t – my stepson doesn’t eat seafood, my step-daughter is a vegetarian, my mother-in-law won’t eat offal, my husband won’t touch quiche, one of my girlfriends dry retches at the thought of goat, my mum can’t eat prawns, my sister has to lather her food with chilli  – and I don’t like cream! Believe me, preparing a family meal that pleases everyone can be nightmarish for the home-cook.
Which is why there is no greater pleasure than when someone else cooks for me. They can run the diplomatic gauntlet thank you very much!

The hardest trying-to-please-everyone meal must be the convention meal when the food has to please everyone and offend no-one. Impossible. That’s why I always find the old-fashioned alternating plates on a table at a function such straightforward common sense. Don’t like your chicken? Then swap it for my lamb. Easy. That’s what they did at the Bus Victoria ‘Women on the Move’ lunch at the Windsor Hotel in Melbourne on Wednesday. The result? No tantis.

Braised lamb shank with creamy rosemary polenta and natural jus
Grilled five-spice chicken breast with wild mushroom and tomato ragout
chocolate and pear buche with vanila bean sauce
Michelle’s iced strawberry souffle glace with manjari sorbet and strawberry sauce
Is it too rude to lick my plate?