Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Weekend Food Diary

This weekend I had an old friend from overseas staying with us, and because we wanted some quality catch up time, our plan was to stay pretty close to home, cooking, enjoying a few glasses of wine and taking the rare opportunity to spend time together. I thought that I would share what we have been enjoying over the last few days, all cooked at home with the exception of a Sunday morning brunch trip to nearby Addison Road Markets in Marrickville, where we ate a very eclectic breakfast and picked up a few fresh ingredients to bring home on the way. All of the dishes were quite simple and easy to put together, but they were big on flavour. Looking back on the weekend, we have certainly enjoyed a diverse menu!

My weekend food diary begins with a Japanese inspired Friday night dinner. A selection of shared dishes, served on some of the lovely Japanese ceramics we brought back from our recent trip. We began with crispy calamari and a creamy wasabi mayonnaise, and a dish of pickled radish, fennel and carrot for a tangy, crunchy contrast.

Crispy Calamari with Wasabi Mayonnaise
Radish, Fennel and Carrot Pickle

Next, a sticky, chilli coated stir fried tofu and snake bean dish, made extra delicious by the addition of dried shaved bonito. I love the very savoury dimension that dried bonito always adds to a dish - the ultimate seasoning I think! I used a medium firm tofu for this dish - it is quite forgiving as far as being handled goes and retains it's shape really well.

Chilli Tofu with Snakebeans and Bonito

For the final component of our meal, I took a beautiful smallish piece of beef fillet and coated it with a crushed mixture of fragrant black, white and red peppercorns. I seared it in a pan with a little oil, then transferred it to the oven for about 15 minutes to continue cooking. After resting it for another 15 minutes, I sliced it very thinly and served it drizzled with a simple teriaki sauce and topped it with sesame seeds. The texture of the meat was soft, moist and buttery - so tender you could pull it apart with your fingers. Washed down with a few glasses of Sake, our Japanese inspired dinner was a lovely way to kick off the weekend.

Fillet of Beef Teryaki with Sesame

It was a lovely sunny Saturday, so for lunch we decided to cook outside. We headed off to the fishmonger and bought some locally caught octopus as well as some fresh Australian prawns, which we brushed with a simple and very quickly thrown together olive oil, paprika and garlic marinade. We cooked the whole lot over coals in the back yard, and ate our seafood with crusty bread and a salad of mixed leaves which we drizzled with a small amount of fruity olive oil and some cherry balsamic. So simple, but a lovely lunch.

BBQ Prawns and Octopus with Mixed Leaf Salad

Now, there are unfortunately no pics of what we ate for dinner Saturday night - I got a bit trigger happy with delete function on my camera - so you will just have to imagine the twice cooked pork belly, served with a dollop of creamy mash and new seasons zucchini flowers, which I stuffed with a little feta cheese, parmesan and sorrel picked fresh from the garden. Rich, tasty and very delicious. I always get very excited when I start to see zucchini flowers appearing at the greengrocer - it means spring is on the way, and it is the perfect time to enjoy these delicate, beautiful vegetables.

Zucchini Flowers

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny - perfect for being out and about - so we headed off to Addison Road Market in Marrickville to do a little bit of produce shopping and to find our breakfast. Unable to make up our minds on what to choose, we ended up trying a selection of dishes. Of course we can't visit the market without tasting the delicious hawker style roti - this time served with a rich and flavoursome lamb curry sauce. Surely this has to be one of the best breakfasts on the planet - one of my all time favourites anyway!

Roti with Lamb Curry Sauce

Delicious rustic style corn fritters were next, served with crispy bacon, homemade tomato relish, a pile of fresh herbs and a dollop of creamy aoli - yummo!

Corn Fritters
with Bacon, Homemade Tomato Relish and Aoili

In a nod to yum cha, we also shared a plate of freshly steamed dumplings - prawn and vegetables wrapped in a sticky rice wrapper, a BBQ pork bun and plenty of hot chilli sauce. I love the clean taste of a steamed dumpling, teamed with that eye watering chilli kick - certainly enough to wake you up on a Sunday morning!

BBQ Pork Bun and Steamed Dumplings

Wandering around the market, I picked up a few produce items, including organic, picked-that-morning broccolini, freshly baked ciabatta bread, crisp red radishes, pumpkin, King Edward potatoes, yellow heirloom carrots, a rack of organic lamb (from a local producer who was trying his product at the market for the first time) and some super soft and rich flavoured white rind cheese.

From Addison Road Market -
Organic vegebtables, Lamb, Ciabatta and Soft White Rind Cheese
When we arrived home from the market, we were definitely too full to eat lunch, so we had a glass of wine sitting in garden instead. I did however make a start on Sunday night dinner. I had gotten my hands on some ox cheek from our local butcher, which I was keen to slowly braise, hoping to bring out some of the amazing rich flavour that this cut of meat can deliver. It's funny, I see this ingredient on menus quite regularly, but until this week had not seen the raw product for sale at the butcher. When I saw it, I grabbed a couple of kilos right away.

Ox cheek requires very long, slow cooking - and we certainly weren't going anywhere - so it was a great time to make this hearty, comforting dish. I cooked it super simply - just seasoned and seared the meat, cooked a pile of onions, chopped carrot, parsley stalk and garlic in a little good quality olive oil and topped the whole lot with some plain beef stock before putting it in the oven for 5 hours at 120C. The resulting meat was buttery and melt in your mouth, with a dark, rich gravy. I think the secret to getting a really rich sauce is using lots of onions - I used sweet Spanish onions, which broke down during the cooking process to give a rich, caramelised flavour and body to the sauce.

Slow Braised Ox Cheek
with King Edward Potato Mash and Buttered Peas

I served the Ox cheek with a creamy mash made from the King Edward potatoes I bought at the market, and buttered peas. Nothing fancy, but hearty and full of flavour. Because the meat is very rich, we only needed small portions, so the leftover meat will be frozen, to be topped with golden puff pastry sometime in the future and reinvented as a delicious pie. A great way to have something special after work that can be thrown together quickly - all the hard work is pretty much done. I was really pleased with my first attempt at Ox cheek and will definitely keep my eyes open for it at the butcher. It wasn't expensive either - although I'm wondering if it will go the way of lamb shanks - something that butchers would almost give away a few years ago, and that now commands a top price due to a sudden fashion for that particular cut of meat. Time will tell.

So, that was the weekend in food.

And then.....
Next weekend we are heading up to my lovely in laws on the Central Coast for a Sunday family lunch, and have decided to make a weekend of it - driving up on Saturday via the Hunter Valley Region. The plan is to explore and enjoy some of the culinary delights of the area on Saturday, spend the night at The Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and then drive across to the coast Sunday morning. The last time we were there, we discovered a farm that sold the most incredible tasting non homogenised milk, and we are taking an esky this time, so that we can stock up. We also purchased some gorgeous quality free range eggs (most turned out to have double yolks) from the same farmer, so we will be sure to pay him a visit again. Will have to do some research this week on what else we might want to check out - I hear there are cheese producers and all kinds of other food delights in the area, so there will be no shortage of things to do. Will be sure to pack my camera and my notebook, so I can share the highlights with you all.

Have a delicious week!

1 comment:

  1. I'm staying with you next time I come to Sydney...