Thursday, December 20, 2012

Holiday Time!!

Today we are packing the car and our swimsuits and heading down to the beautiful South Coast to enjoy the holidays. Thank you to everyone who supports Gourmet Goddess by visiting the site, commenting and cooking the recipes. There will be lots more in 2013.
Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season - hope you get to have some fun, relax -
and to enjoy some delicious food along the way!
See you all in about a week's time!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Christmas Choc-Berry Bonanaza!

Every year, my work colleagues and I get together for a big Christmas morning tea. A lot of us really enjoy cooking, so people tend to bake up a storm with all sorts of tasty delights to share (and we always over cater, so we inevitably end up inviting everyone in the building to come down and join us so nothing goes to waste) Usually I make something savoury - a vegetable tart, savoury muffins, little meatballs and dipping sauce - stuff like that.

This year I looked in the fridge and realised I had lots of beautiful seasonal fruit and thought I would base my dish around that and do something sweet. I also wanted something that looked a bit festive, so my first thought was a traditional trifle, made with jelly and custard - just like we always seemed to have at Christmas when I was a kid. Then I was thinking that a rich berry mousse might be nice. In the end I came up with my version of a trifle that merged both ideas - a white chocolate and berry mousse trifle. I was really happy with how it turned it, and it tasted really delicious. It is pretty rich, and you would serve smallish portions, so you could feed quite a big group of people with a trifle the size of mine - not that big.

Although it was really easy to put together, ideally you need to start the recipe a day ahead. This means that everything can set properly. This is important, as the mousse is not one of those super firm style mixtures. It does not contain gelatin, so although the mousse does firm up enough to hold together nicely, it has a fairly soft texture that requires chilling overnight.

So, what did I do? First, I used a couple of packets of good old fashioned Aeroplane Port Wine Jelly and made it according to the instructions. I poured this into a trifle dish and added a handful of berries over the bottom. Then, I let the jelly set until firm.

Next, I made up a big batch of white chocolate mousse. (You will find the recipe below) When it was done, I divided the mixture in half, and to one of the bowls of mixture I added just under a cup of fresh, pureed raspberries. You could probably use frozen ones, but I would drain them really well before pureeing them, as all of the extra moisture may cause issues with the mousse setting. The next step was to cut 2 pieces of sponge cake to the size of the trifle bowl, and gently push it down onto the jelly layer, brushing it with some strawberry liqueur when I was finished.

After the first sponge layer was in place, I poured the raspberry mousse into the bowl - then the second layer of sponge, a brush with the liqueur again, and then the plain white chocolate mousse over that. The trifle then went in to the fridge overnight to set, covered in plastic wrap. I decorated the trifle just prior to serving with fresh strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.

 White Chocolate and Berry Mousse Trifle
This would be a really nice do-ahead Christmas dessert - either as a large dish, or in small individual serves. I was thinking of lots of summery variations to this - passionfruit and mango, coconut and lime, peach and raspberry. Alternatively, you could ditch the fruit focus and make it with dark chocolate, kirsch liqueur and cherries, to make a sort of black forest trifle. All of that would be easy to adapt.

Here is my basic white chocolate mousse recipe to get you started. You could easily serve it as a mousse on it's own - or do what I did and make it the basis for another dessert.

White Chocolate Mousse

You will need: 350g White Chocolate, 1/3 cup milk, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (the good stuff - not the faux "essence"), 3 large eggs separated, 375ml Cream.

Method: Melt the chocolate, milk and vanilla in a double boiler (or do what I do and use a small metal mixing bowl sitting over a pan of boiling water. Make sure the water isn't touching the bowl, or it will be too hot and the mixture may go too far and harden) Allow the chocolate mixture to cool for about 10-15 minutes.

While the chocolate is cooling, whip the cream until firm. Set aside.

Add the egg yolks to the chocolate mixture and whisk together well - the warmth of the mixture will gently cook the eggs to form a sort of custard like consistency.

Take a very clean and dry metal bowl and beat the egg whites until firm. Remember that egg whites will not firm up when beaten if there is even a tiny amount of oil/butter or other fat in the bowl - even some residue in a plastic bowl will ruin them - which is why we never whip our egg whites in plastic. It doesn't hurt to be a bit OCD with your metal bowl either and give it a couple of good washes to make sure it is super clean.

Now fold the cream and the chocolate mixture together until combined.

Next, gently fold through the egg whites through the cream/chocolate mixture. Spoon into dessert cups or use as part of a trifle or gateaux like I did.

Variations: You could of course use dark chocolate or any other kind that takes your fancy for this mousse. You can also turn this in to a fruit flavoured mousse by making up the white chocolate version, but adding about a cup of fruit puree to the mixture. I used just under a cup of fresh pureed raspberries for the raspberry mousse in my trifle. Mango or passionfruit would be a lovely alternative.

This recipe serves 6 people as individual servings. Double the recipe if you are using the mousse for a trifle or dessert like mine, and you want a couple of layers.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Summer on a Plate

Today's dish was inspired by some of the delicious green Summer vegetables that have just come in to season and are really fabulous right now - asparagus, green beans, peas and zucchini. This salad would work plated up individually as a light entree or lunch - or on a generous sharing platter as a change from your usual repertoire of Summer salads, to go with grilled meat or seafood. It would also be a beautiful vegetarian option for a BBQ or the Christmas dinner table. It is really easy to put together and tastes as good as it looks.

This salad has a great balance of flavours and textures - the crisp, light texture of the vegetables, the rich creaminess of the goat cheese, the tang of the simple chive vinaigrette dressing and the delightful freshness of the mint. Just perfect for a Summer menu.

I really adore Chevre (soft, creamy style goat cheese) but if you wanted to use the firmer aged goat cheese this would work just as well. I do think though that the younger, creamier style has a freshness that works particularly well with the lightness of the vegetables and the aromatics of the mint leaves. Of course if you detest goat cheese, feta would be a fine substitute.

We are heading to the South Coast for Christmas this year and this salad will definitely be on the menu while we are away. The vegetables will be easy to cook on the BBQ and it will be perfect as a light lunch by itself, or as an accompaniment to some fresh local seafood or a char grilled piece of lamb. It would also be great as a topping on some thickly cut, rustic sourdough toast.

I love the transition of the seasons when all the new produce starts to appear - out with the old and in with the new. It's easy to get in a bit of a rut - cooking the same stuff, but these new season ingredients always inspire me to try something new. To see what else is in season right now, check out the list on the right hand side of this page and get some inspiration too. In the meantime, here is my "Summer on a plate" salad to get you going.

Asparagus, Zucchini and Green Bean Salad
With Mint and Goat's Cheese

You will need:
For the salad - 1 bunch asparagus, 1 finely sliced spring onion, 2 smallish green zucchini, a generous handful or two of green beans, 1 cup fresh or frozen peas, About 60g Chevre (goat cheese), a handful of fresh mint leaves, a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper.

For the dressing - 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil, 1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar, 2 teaspoons honey,  2 teaspoons finely chopped chives, 1 clove minced or super finely cut garlic (I do mine on a Microplane), salt and pepper. 

Method: First, make the dressing. Simply combine all of the ingredients and whisk together thoroughly until all combined. Put aside while you prepare the salad.

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the beans for about a minute until they start to soften. Drain them and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Cook the peas until tender (I just do these in the microwave - quick and easy) Set aside to cool.

Cut the woody, hard ends off the asparagus and then chop the asparagus in half. Slice the zucchini in diagonal slices.

Heat a grill or fry pan and add a small splash of olive oil and cook the the zucchini and asparagus in batches, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. They should just colour up a little and not be overcooked. You want them to retain a little firmness. Set aside.

Chop or crumble the goat cheese.

Assemble the asparagus, zucchini, onion, beans, mint and peas on a serving dish, then add the goat cheese. Drizzle over the dressing, top with a few extra mint leaves and serve.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Review - Garagistes, Hobart

Hi everyone - things have been pretty quiet here over on the Gourmet Goddess page I know - mainly because I have been everything but! I have been cooking pretty simple meals due to being busy, and nothing particularly blog-worthy I'm afraid. In the last two weeks though, I was lucky enough to take two weeks off work and head off with my lovely husband on one of our favourite pastimes - a roadtrip. Well it ended up being two road trips actually - spanning 3 states - NSW, ACT and Tasmania. The first week was spent with a few days in Canberra, and then the Southern Highlands, including the gorgeous Kangaroo Valley. Wow - what a gorgeous part of the world that is.

Week two was a road trip around Tasmania, starting in Hobart, down to Bruny Island - where we indulged in their famous oysters and stunning cheese from The Bruny Island Cheese Company - including the fabulous C2 raw milk cheese that I can't get enough of - across to Strahan on the West Coast, then up to Cradle Mountain, across to St Helens and down the east coast back to Hobart. It was my first visit to Tassie and it won't be the last. From the pristine wilderness to the magnificent wildlife, beautiful seafood from the crystal clean water and unstaffed roadside farm stalls where you choose what you like and put the money in the tin to pay - it is my kind of place. We noticed lots of folks seemed to have solar panels and water tanks and a real focus on sustainability, handmade, local goods (not just food) and awareness of the environment. It was very inspiring to say the least.

One of the major items on my "To Do" list whilst in Tasmania was to pay a visit to a restaurant that I had been reading and hearing a lot about - Garagistes - named after a group of trailblazing winemakers from Bordeaux in France in the 1990's, who created "Vins de Garage" (Garage wine) a new way of producing the traditional Bordeaux wine style. Needless to say, this place has a pretty damned impressive wine list - 42 pages long and beautifully laid out and categorised. As well as great wine options, they also boast an excellent selection of Sake (my favourite) I just loved the Ota Shuzo that I enjoyed with my meal - a fresh, slight aniseed character to it, dry on the palate and served ice cold on what was an unseasonally hot day. Perfect.

The Front Door
Garagistes - Hobart

Garagistes Chef Luke Burgess comes with an excellent pedigree -  including working at Tetsuya’s in Sydney and at Noma in Copenhagen (currently rated the best restaurant in the world) The small, always changing menu is comprised of dishes designed for sharing, using local ingredients and presented in some really inspired and unusual combinations. The restaurant itself is designed around a large warehouse space with an open kitchen and communal dining area. And it's popular. Garagistes does not take reservations, so a sensible option is to do what we did and be there waiting at the door when they open at 5pm (yes, I know that is a time that your Nanna would eat dinner, but we were only in town for a short time and I wasn't going to miss out) Good thing we did, as by about 5.30 the place was packed.

Dining Room - Garagistes

Although the menu is pretty small, it was really, really hard to choose what dishes to have. We did eventually decide on a selection of seven - starting with a swoon worthy trio of steamed Bruny Island oysters that made my eyes roll back in my head they were so salty, creamy and delicious.

Steamed Bruny Island Oyster
Vinegar Emulsion & Bay Oil

We stuck with seafood for the next dish - beautifully poached spanner crab that tasted sweet and succulent, teamed with slightly astringent braised artichoke and almonds. The addition of fenugreek and buttermilk made it aromatic and almost herbal. And as you can see, the presentation made it look like Spring on a plate. A wonderful dish.

Poached Spanner Crab, Fenugreek and Buttermilk
Braised Artichoke and Almond

Fresh young broad beans are one of my favourite vegetables in the world, and the next dish of baby broad beans, pea custard, asparagus and delicate herbs was clean, green and delicious. The super velvety pea custard was such a great contrast to the crunch of the lightly cooked broad beans.

Baby Broad Beans, Pea Custard, Asparagus
Mixed Herbs

After 3 light courses, it was time to move to a couple of more substantial ones - starting with roasted local pinkeye potatoes, served with a super rich and creamy duck egg, creme fraiche and crispy leaves of native saltbush. The addition of a light shaving of Bottarga (salted, cured fish roe) made this one of my favourite dishes of the evening. When you broke the yolk of the duck egg, the soft buttery yolk mixed with all the other ingredients to create a sauce with a knockout flavour and texture. I seriously wanted to lick the plate afterwards!

Roasted New Season Pinkeye Potatoes, Duck Egg
Creme Fraiche, Saltbush and Bottarga

Next came a succulent, juicy piece of slow cooked pork neck - complimented beautifully by braised lettuce stems (a very French way to cook lettuce) and a tangy, zingy mustard emulsion.

Slow Cooked Pork Neck
 Lettuce Stems, Mustard Emulsion

There were two dessert courses listed on the menu and we decided to try both - starting with a cool and very refreshing dish using cucumber, avocado and sorrel. The addition of a creamy fig leaf icecream and a cool granita of cucumber gave this dessert really interesting contrasting textures and flavours - and made it a great palate cleanser after the richness of the pork neck. The dessert was not really sweet - in fact it could easily have fitted in anywhere else in the sequence of dishes.

Fig Leaf Icecream, Sorrel and Angelica Jelly
Avocado Cream & Cucumber

Then it was time for something sweet - wonderful, sticky frozen yoghurt meringue, rhubarb and chewy preserved and dried berries. Add to this a berry granita and fresh young wood sorrel leaves and you have a dessert to die for. The flavours were all so clean and well balanced - and what a luscious looking plate huh?

Frozen Yoghurt Meringue, Rhubarb
Preserved and Dried Berries, Wood Sorrel

I really enjoyed our visit to Garagistes - it was easy to see why there has been such a buzz about it. (Although be warned - it is like a hipster bomb went off in there! Obviously where all the Hobart "edgy-earnest-young-things" in skinny jeans and "ironic" t-shirts get nourishment) But go anyway. The service was low key but professional and the dining room has a nice, relaxed vibe. I would be keen to go back at different times of the year to see what they do with the local seasonal produce, as the menu is always evolving. Really worth checking out if you ever find yourself in Hobart.

Dining Room - Garagistes

To learn more about Garagistes, check out there website.

103 Murray Street Hobart, Tasmania
Ph: (03) 6231 0558
Opening Hours:
Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm
Friday and Saturday from 5pm
No Reservations