Thursday, December 31, 2009

Gourmet Goddess Awards 2009

As the year draws to a close, I thought I would look back on the last 12 months and share with you all some of the culinary highs and lows of the Gourmet Goddess year. Ladies and gentlemen, the inaugural Gourmet Goddess Awards for 2009......

 Best meal of 2009: This is a hard one because this year I have enjoyed some amazing food, including the delights of Singapore and all sorts of beautiful local produce, but I think that my evening of degustation delights at the amazing Oscillate Wildly in Newtown takes the award this year. Innovative, beautifully constructed and an education for the taste buds, this meal was as challenging as it was delicious. I was on a culinary high for days afterwards. For my full review of Oscillate Wildly, see my blog entries on 31 May 2009.

Best event of 2009: Chris and Michela's Wedding. I had the privilage of being asked to cater my friends wedding in November this year and what a wonderful event it was. Not a hint of the cliched formulaic vibe that seems to embody pretty much every wedding I have ever attended - no, this was a day of warmth, quirkiness, joy and  lots of laughter that had the personality of the bride and groom stamped all over it. Congratulations guys - it was a day we will all remember. To read more about the day, check out my blog entry for 15 November.


Best food market: Everleigh Farmer's Market. Look, it isn't the biggest market, but for us inner city dwellers it is a treasure trove of beautiful organic produce, artisan breads, locally sourced meat, wonderful cheeses and other delights - and you can browse the stalls whilst partaking of delicious coffee and the best organic bacon and egg breakfast rolls in town. You cannot help but be inspired to head to the kitchen with so much brilliant fresh produce to choose from. Visit the market at The Eveleigh Farmer's Market from 8am to 1pm on Saturdays and is located on the corner of Wilson and Codrington Streets, Eveleigh.


Cookbook of the Year: Her book, "The Cook's Companion" has become an icon, but this year Stephanie Alexander released "The Kitchen Garden Companion" - a guide not just for cooks but for gardeners too, which gives recipes, planting guides, information on sustainability and her own brand of common sense information on everthing to do with producing your own food. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this fabulous book from my friends Chris and Michela as a gift this year, and I love it. It will become another Australian classic, alongside "The Cook's Companion". It has made me decide that I will have a go at growing some of my own produce in 2010. Watch this space.



Funniest culinary moment of 2009: Now you could argue that this moment wasn't technically a culinary one, but it was certainly the most memorable and the funniest. The award goes to.........drumroll....... Copping a surreptitious feel of Gordon Ramsay's buttocks as he signed his book for me at the Sydney Food and Wine Show. Cheeky? Yes. Inappropriate? Certainly. But it had to be done :) He was absolutely delightful by the way and actually took the time to chat and share a laugh. Did it make me a better cook? No. Did I learn some new insight into food in any way? Nup. But I met GORDON RAMSAY!!!!!! I swear, I was more excited than a teenage girl at a Twilight premiere!



Best cooking show of 2009: Luke Nguyen's Vietnam (SBS).The son of Vietnamese refugees now living in Australia, award winning chef Luke Nguyen's food and his restaurant, Red Lantern are well known. But it is in this ten part series that saw Luke take us on an amazing culinary journey to the country of his ancestors, where we saw Luke in his element. Yes, he is a great chef, but he is also a natural storyteller, and this added a whole new dimension to what could could have been just another cooking show. Every episode was incredibly exciting and inspiring and the food looked amazing! I am off to Vietnam in February 2010 and I can't help but think that this program had a little something to do with that :)  You can read Luke's blog and also watch full episodes online if you head to the SBS website.
  
Purveyor of the year 2009: Based in Dulwich Hill in the Inner West of Sydney, Feather and Bone are meat suppliers who truly believe in the "paddock to plate" philosophy. They source their produce from a network of small local suppliers with the focus on sustainability and ethics as well as providing a high quality product - "We want everyone to take the step from awareness to action by choosing to eat food that improves our collective health at every step of the cycle." How it all works is that you sign up with them online and then each week you receive an email outlining what meat is available that week - the supply varies with the seasons and sometimes includes game, free range eggs and other products from the farms. You order online and it is all delivered. Easy! Feather and Bone supply some of the city's best restaurants, including Longrain, Red Lantern, Catalina, Rockpool and Sean's Panorama and it is easy to see why. They are a class act all the way. To find out more check out their website: http://www.featherandbone.com.au/delivery.html



Best kitchen gadget of 2009: The microplane. Seriously, if you don't already own one of these, get thee to a cookware shop! You may think that a microplane looks more like a woodworking tool than something that belongs in your kitchen, and you would be right. In 1994, Lorraine Lee, a housewife from Ottawa, Canada, was making an Armenian orange cake. Out of frustration with her old grater, she picked up a new tool her husband Leonard had brought home from their hardware store, Lee Valley Tools. She slid the orange across its blades and was amazed. Lacy shards of zest fell from its surface like snowflakes. The Lees marveled at the tool, ate the cake, then promptly changed the product description in their catalogue. The Microplane grater was born.


GG Man of the Year 2009: Food journalist, critic and cravat wearer, Matt Preston. He is smart, he is talented, he is funny and he is an internationally recognised autority on food. He also happens to have the best job in the world! Over the years I have always loved reading Matt's reviews and his insights into all things culinary, but this year he joined Masterchef as a judge, which meant liberal doses of Matt, several nights a week in my living room. Did I become all "Matted" out - not even close. It  just made me love him more. In 2009  Matt Preston made me understand the true importance of getting "a great lift in your puff".


GG Woman of the Year 2009: Stephanie Alexander. For decades the Melbourne restaurant that bore her name and the incredible food that she created, made her a legend in the Australian culinary landscape. She went on to become one of our best food writers, and her 1996 book "The Cook's Companion" is now considered the bible of Austrailan produce and cuisine. But it is her passionate committment to culinary diversity, sustainability and the education of a whole new generation that earns her this award. Through her Kitchen Garden Foundation, a program that is creating kitchen gardens in schools all around the country, kids not only learn about where their food comes from, but they actually grow it and then head to the kitchen to create with it. Children who are part of the program not only learn valuable life skills, but they enjoy the amazing gifts that a love of food can bring, as well as an environmental awareness. Stephanie Alexander's vision and committment is an inspiration. To find out more, or to donate to the foundation, go to:   http://www.kitchengardenfoundation.org.au/

But folks, 2009 was not all degustation and deliciousness here at Gourmet Goddess central. May I present the "Twhack them with a wooden spoon and not in a good way" category......

The "step AWAY from the sauce bottle" Award: This condiment wins the dubious title of being the most used and abused of any ingredient in 2009(even more than sundried tomatoes in the 80's!) It seemed that this year it was everywhere, and in places it should not be. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you.... sweet chilli sauce. Look people, it is designed to be served with certain Asian dishes, like fried chicken (in fact on some labels in my Asian grocer it is actually called "sauce for chicken") or noodles or spring rolls. It does not belong in pasta, on nachos, mixed into cabonara (no, seriously...) , or slathered over every single finger food known to humanity!!!I know it's tasty, but can we all just control ourselves and resist the urge for that touch of misplaced "Asian fusion". It isn't. It's con-fusion on a spectacular scale.


The "will the real chef please stand up" award: Was I the only person who felt utterly ripped off by the Masterchef Australia finale this year? I love a cooking show and I watched Masterchef obsessively every night. I planned my evening schedule around it and I also confess to turning down social engagements because it was on. At last! I thought - a reality show that actually had substance and about a subject that I could actually relate to. I loved the excitement of the invention tests and the challenges, the chef's masterclasses, the growing tension as contestants were eliminated and the dreaded "pressure test". I loved that households across the country were talking about food, even kids were cooking and there was a whole lot of "plating up" happening that wasn't happening before.  But alas, all of this came crashing down as we were subjected to a most underwhelming, cynical and disappointing finale.

Look, Julie Goodwin seemed like a really nice woman and her dishes looked tasty, but Australia's first Masterchef????? Bollocks. She was a slightly above average home cook, nothing more and nothing less. What Julie did have on her side and what I believe won her the title was the fact that she fitted the marketing profile to flog food products to a particular demographic. She wasn't about to challenge you or do anything too edgy. She was like a comfy pair of slippers or your nanna's lamb roast - homey, safe and familliar.  And as advertisers everywhere know, there is money to be made under the banner of homey, safe and familiar. Since winning the title, you can't turn on the TV or pick up a magazine without seeing Julie's beaming cherubic face grinning up at you, extolling the virtues of bottled marinade, selling homewares or recommending plastic wrap. The ad where she serves some pre mixed bottled crap to Margaret Fulton at a BBQ makes me want to hurl the entire contents of my pot cupboard at the television. I was so disappointed with the degree to which Masterchef descended into a cynical marketing excercise. I'm also not naive enough to think that marketing is not a huge part of the industry, but I think viewers were screwed by Channel Ten and the show lost a whole lot of credibility along the way. A big thumbs down.

The "I'm at a restaurant, not bookclub" award: I'm incredibly curious about my food. I like knowing where it has been sourced from and how it is to be served. I'm probably not alone in thinking that when I read a menu I like to at least have a bit of an idea about what I can expect from a particular dish. There is however a curious trend in restaurant menus where they seem to feel the need to describe every dish in agonising and pretentious detail. I came to eat, not to knock off a few chapters of War and Peace! I don't want my food to include any kind of description along the lines of "a melange of hand roasted, massaged and tumbled breast of squab, nestled in a cascade of baby herbs"  Nor do I care if my raspberries were gathered on the equinox by Druid priests just outside Byron. Too much information - enough already!

The "did you cart this from Lourdes?" award : We all know by now the advantages of buying locally produced food - the shorter distance it has travelled, the better for our environment. It also makes good economic sense to support local producers and our tastebuds enjoy the benefits too. Why then when we go to a restaurant, do we need to drink imported water that has travelled thousands and thousands of kilometres and also pay an exorbidant cost for the privilage when we have perfectly good water right here? It is wasteful, it is expensive and it is bad for the environment. I really don't require my drinking water to be blessed or carted from a little village in Tuscany, honest. Thankfully, a lot of switched on high end restaurants are actually starting to be more aware of this issue and offer either local bottled water or - prepare to clutch your pearls- buying their own filter and providing free, filtered tap water! Much more sensible. But a big thumbs down to those establishments still selling overpriced designer water. Booo!!!! And a thwack with the wooden spoon for them!

As we say farewell to 2009 and kiss the decade goodbye, I can't help but wonder what culinary adventures might be in store in the year ahead. What new tastes or ingredients will we discover? What new dishes will we cook? What new ingredients will inspire us? I can't wait to find out! Thank you to everyone who has read Gourmet Goddess this year and who have been so generous with their feedback. I have enjoyed hanging out in my kitchen with you all. All the very best for 2010 - may it bring plenty of delicious food, good company to share it with and lots of what we wish for. Happy New Year!!! See you in the new decade :)

***

Monday, December 28, 2009

Viva l'italia !

Spaghetti bolognaise would have to be one of my favourite comfort foods and it is a dish that most people really love. I have two distinct ways of making the bolognaise sauce for this - the first is the "I just got home from work and I'm starving and I want dinner asap" version which is pretty quick and basic, and the recipe I would like to share with you today, the "Lovingly simmered as if made by your own Italian Nonna" version. This version should be allowed to slow cook for at least a couple of hours. It takes its cue from the more traditional approach to bolognaise and contains two kinds of meat - beef and pork. The flavour is beautiful and that extra time makes all the difference!

Today I decided to go a step further and make a large tray of lasagne using the bolognaise sauce - I don't make it that often and usually cook it with the aim of freezing it in one serving portions for a quick and easy dinner. I have included my lasagne recipe too, if you are so inclined.

I have a real soft spot for Italian cuisine - I am not Italian (often people ask me if I am!) but when I was growing up, my parents had close friends from the north of Italy - the Bertollini's who ran an old school Italian family restaurant in the town of Seymour in country Victoria. They often took care of me and I remember playing in the kitchen of the restaurant where the old lady, Nonna would hand make pasta for the restaurant. She was always in the kitchen and I don't think I ever saw her without her apron on. Although I was very young, they made a huge impression on me. They were loud, loving and chaotic and food was always the centre of their world. I remember the incredible aromas from that kitchen, beautiful northern Italian dishes - I still remember the sublime smell of wild rabbit cooked with garlic and rosemary and slow cooked sauces and ragu. My most vivid childhood food memory is standing on a chair so that I could reach the table and Nonna showing me how to hand roll Gnocchi by rolling it off the fork, a skill I took into my adult life and into my own kitchen.

I spent so much time with them that I actually spoke Italian before I spoke English and would apparently speak Italian at lightening speed to my bemused non- Italian speaking Australian mother. I would also drink the Bertollini's homemade wine like a little Italian kid. My mother tells the story that I usually protested when they tried to top my glass up with water - the older you are, the more wine and the less water you are supposed to get. Bambinos only get a little splash of wine. I didn't like this at all and would tip the watered down wine into the sink and yell Vino! Vino! until I got a higher wine/water ratio. My love of wine clearly carried through to my adulthood. I blame the Bertollini's!!

Nonna's Slow Cooked Bolognaise Sauce

You will need: 500g minced beef, 500g minced pork, 2 medium carrots, 3 sticks celery, 2 large onions, 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley stalks (no leaves) , 3 large cloves finely chopped garlic, olive oil, 700ml Passata (or 2 x cans crushed tomatoes), 1 1/2 cups red wine (I use Shiraz), 1litre beef stock, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon mild paprika, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, 3 teaspoons sugar, salt, pepper.

Method: Chop the carrots, celery and onions into small cubes. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan and then add the carrot, celery, onion and parsley stalks. Cook on a medium/high heat for about 5-7 minutes, until the onion starts to turn transparent. Add the mince and garlic. Cook for another 5-7 minutes until the meat is all browned. Add the paprika, cayenne and nutmeg and combine well.

Turn up the heat and add the red wine. Combine well with the meat mixture and let it bubble vigorously for about 5 minutes. Add the Passata (or tomatoes), sugar and plenty of salt and pepper. Mix well and then add the stock. Bring the pot to the boil and then reduce the heat until bubbles are only just breaking the surface of the sauce. Simmer for 2 - 3 hours, stirring occasionally to ensure that the sauce does not stick on the bottom.

If the sauce becomes too dry, top up with a little bit of water as you go. When the sauce is cooked, taste it for seasoning and adjust if neccessary (this will usually depend on how salty - or not - your stock is) If your minced meat is not super lean, there may be a thin layer of oil on the top of the sauce when it cools. Simply spoon this off before serving, or dividing into containers for freezing.

This recipe will make enough for a large Lasagne, or 4-6 takeaway containers of sauce to freeze. Each container will serve 2-4 people if serving with spaghetti or other pasta.


 Lasagne al Forno (Baked Lasagne)



You will need: 1 quantity of slow cooked bolognaise sauce (see above), 4 cups milk (plus a little extra), 2 heaped tablespoons plain flour, 2 heaped tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup grated cheese (mozzerella is good), 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, Generous pinch cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, salt, pepper, 1 pack fresh lasagne sheets.

Method: In a saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Add the flour and using a whisk, combine well. Allow the flour and butter to cook for a few minutes, being careful not to brown or burn the mixture. The flour will take on a pale appearence as it cooks. This is what is called a white roux, and is the basis for your bechamel sauce.

Remove the pan from the heat and add about a quarter of the milk, whisking constantly until it is smooth. Keep adding the milk until it is all combined. Return the pan to the heat and cook on a medium heat until it starts to thicken. Add the cayenne, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. If the sauce becomes too thick, whisk in more milk. When it is the consistency of custard, remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 240C. Line a baking dish with baking paper. Put a few tablespoons of the bolognaise in the bottom of the dish, then a layer of pasta, another layer of bolognaise and another of pasta. Now add half of the bechamel sauce, and complete the layers of pasta and bolognaise until you are left with a pasta layer on top. Add the rest of the bechamel to the top and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with a piece of baking paper.

Cook for 45-50 minutes, until the pasta is tender and the lasagne is browned on the top. Allow to stand uncovered for at least 10-15 minutes before serving. Don't be tempted to try to cut it into portions the second it is out of the oven - it needs time to rest. It will be easier to handle and will look much better if you are patient. This dish is ideal for making the day before serving (just reheat) and is suitable for freezing. Serves 8-10 people.

****

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Gourmet Goddess Christmas

This year I hosted Christmas lunch for the first time in well over a decade and I really enjoyed putting together the menu. There were seven of us, including two vegetarians and I decided to not do the traditional thing (frankly, I would much rather eat roasted turkey, ham and pudding in winter than at the height of an Australian summer).  I also dumped the idea of a formal setting - I wanted the day to feel relaxed, so I served the starters and desserts in the living room, where everyone could just help themselves. I set up the main courses as a buffet in the dining room and we just moved there when we were ready. The menu has a distinct slant towards vegetarian dishes and I think this worked on two levels - one, that the vegos were well catered for and two, that the meal was a lot lighter than a traditional Christmas menu, so you didn't feel hideous and over fed afterwards. As my guests arrived they were served a cocktail based on the Lychee Blush (see recipe posted on 4 December)



The Christmas Menu

Starters
Potato pancakes with hollandaise and asparagus
Prawns with chive and garlic aoli



Shitake and swiss brown mushroom pies
Turkey, cranberry and mustard pies


Roasted tomato and red pepper gazpacho
with lemon and mint gelato



Mains
Boned, roasted free range chicken
with macadamia and lemon stuffing



Twice cooked spinach and leek roulade
with cauilflower and parmesan cream



Sumac roasted pumpkin salad
with spiced almonds and pomegranate



Salsa Verde
Roasted kipfler potatoes with fennel and red onion
Sauteed asparagus with garlic butter



Desserts
Balsamic strawberries with basil icecream
White chocolate, limoncello and passionfruit petit fours
Choc dipped strawberries with preserved orange rind



 I was very lucky to receive some beautiful food related gifts this year, which I thought I would share with you. Michael and I both received gift certificates for Aria Restaurant - I'm very excited about sitting in that beautiful dining room overlooking the Opera House and partaking of Matt Moran's gorgeous menu!  http://www.ariarestaurant.com/default.asp?action=article&ID=21609

I also scored the iconic Spanish cookbook by Simone & Ines Ortega - "1080 Recipes". This huge tome was translated into english and has been considered the authority on spanish home cooking for over 40 years. (I think of it as the equivalent to Australia's "Cooks Companion" by the brilliant Stephanie Alexander) I spent some of yesterday flicking through it and there are just so many fantastic recipes. I have already decided that my next dinner party is going to have a Spanish theme.

Now, some may think that I might be a little mad, getting excited about receiving three lumps of salt for Christmas. But I did, and I am!! "Diamond Salt" is pure, fossilised sea salt, formed over 260 million years ago. It looks like chunks of rose quartz and needs to be grated into food. (If you have it as a table salt, you provide a small grater, so that guests can grate their own) The flavour is sublime. My lovely friend Mark brought this back from France for me and it is a very welcome adittion to the Gourmet Goddess kitchen.


Foodie Gifts

I hope all of you got spend Christmas day the way you wanted to and that you got to share some delicious food with good company like I did. And yes, I'm keen to host Christmas lunch again next year :)

*

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas !

MERRY CHRISTMAS
and a delicious New Year



Thank you to everyone who has read my blog, commented and shared, cooked my recipes and offered so much support and encouragement during the year. I have been blown away by the wonderful response I have had since Gourmet Goddess began in May this year and look forward to bringing you more in 2010.

Have a wonderful Christmas.

Love
The Gourmet Goddess XXXXX

PS: Yes, I will be posting my Christmas Menu along along with pics from the day. Stay tuned......

***

Review - Restaurant Atelier

I am a longtime fan of Restaurant Atelier, a treasure that was previously located at the dodgy end of King Street in Newtown (next to a tattoo parlour) now located in a lovely sandstone cottage on Glebe Point Road in Glebe. It has been some time since I visited and decided that I would celebrate the end of my working year by indulging in Atelier's latest menu.

Chef Darren Templeman's classical french training under the tutelage of Michelin Star winning Bruno Loubet shines through in his beautifully executed dishes. Along with the discipline of classical training, I think Darren's real talent lies in not putting style over substance and ensuring that at the heart of every dish, produce, texture and flavour are everything. Yes, his dishes are gorgeous to look at but he never descends into wankery as so many chefs are wont to do these days. The same can be said of the restaurant itself. Yes, it is fine dining but it is fine dining with warmth and heart. From the moment you step into the burgandy walled dining room, you are at ease. The hustle and bustle of busy Glebe Point Road that you have just entered from seems a long way away.

We started our evening with a bottle of Torralto Prosseco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene a lovely dry sparkling wine from Italy. I had decided not to drink wine with the rest of the meal - with the amount of wine I have consumed in the name of the festive season lately, I thought a relatively "dry" evening was in order! I did, however want to toast the beginning of my Christmas holiday, so bubbles were in order. This Prosseco was the best I have ever tasted - highly reccommended. Atelier have a small but very well put together wine list so there are some great choices if you do want to wine match with your meal.

The chef's partner Bernadette, who also runs the floor and is a talented Somellier, presented us with an amuse bouche which comprised of a sphere of delicious fishcake - fluffy in the middle and crispy on the outside and a tangy lime aoili. It was delicious and a great start to the meal. I stuck with seafood for my starter - West Australian Marron Tail served with Foie Gras Mousse, Fresh Pea Salad & Pea & Ham Ice Cream. What an inspired combination. The marron tasted so fresh and clean, and teamed with the delirious richness of the foie gras mousse and the pea and ham icecream (swoon!) the dish was an absolute knockout. My pick for dish of the evening hands down.

My dining companion chose a starter of Chermola-Spiced Quail Supremes, Cauliflower Royale, Red Elk lettuce & a Golden Sultana Jus. I managed to snaffle a taste and the dish was lovely - not as adventurous with flavours as my dish, but delicious. My friend Mark felt that the chermoula coating on the quail was a tad salty and I can see how that could be the case, however whilst the salt was quite dominant, being a salt fiend I really liked the briny tang of the seasoning.

For main course, Mark chose the Poached Fillets of John Dory, Piquillo Pepper Puree, Confit Fennel & Black Olives - a fresh tasting lively dish with the delightful aniseed undertaste of fennel that lingered on the palate. The tiny black Ligurian olives were a nice touch - the dish had the feel of a peperonata, but refined and less rustic.

My main course selection was the Roasted Boned & Rolled White Rabbit, Snail & Broad Bean Ragout, Potato Gnocchi & Wilted Mache. Templeman loves cooking with game and I think when dealing any game meat, he is at his best. The rabbit was perfect with the snails and broad beans. You don't really see snails on menus very much in Australia, but I'm a fan. The flavours in the dish were perfectly balanced and the dish is a winner. I think rabbit is a hugely underrated and underused meat - it is so lean and lends itself to so many styles of dishes and flavours.

Mark's mum Jan who joined us for dinner chose  the main course special - a dish of pan roasted veal that was served quite rare and looked delicious. When dessert time came , she also chose the special of the night, a Summer Berry Souffle w Cassis Sorbet, Chocolate Mint Milkshake. From the the sighs of contentment across the table, this dessert got the tumbs up (in fact, when time came for a cheese course later, Jan declined - she said she wanted to keep the taste of the souffle in her mouth!)

My dessert selection allowed me to indulge my love of rhubarb, with Darren's Poached Rhubarb & Blood Orange Terrine with White Chocolate, Rhubarb Sorbet & Strawberry & Red Wine Consomme. Wow. What a beautiful combination. The richness of white chocolate, the tang of rhubarb and blood orange and the unexpected addition of the consomme that our waiter poured into the dish at the table made for a fabulous dessert.

Prior to our "real" desserts, we were served a complimentary pre dessert - an eggcup of impossibly creamy basil custard with marscapone, fresh raspberry and tiny, tiny puple basil leaves. To die for!

Mark chose to skip dessert and head right for the cheese course - a great selection of cheeses to choose from, from all around the world. I loved that Atelier did not offer the screamingly obvious choices that many restuarants do - the cheeses were obviously chosen with a lot of care and there is a really tempting selection on offer.

Atelier was completely packed out on the night we visited, and my one complaint was that we a waited a very long time for our dishes. (Something that has never been an issue all the times I have eaten there) I did notice that a number of large tables seemed to be having the degustation menu, so that may have been the cause of the slowness. The waitstaff, led by Bernadette were as attentive as ever though and sitting in a cosy environment chatting between courses wasn't exactly the end of the world!

A bonus of visiting Atelier during the week is that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday you can enjoy 3 courses of Darren Templeman's beautiful creations for $59 - that gets you a starter, a main and a dessert. You can substitute your dessert for a cheese selection too if you like. Exceptional value.

I really rate Atelier as one of Sydney's true gems and I think Templeman is one of our finest chefs - My only warning would be that it is not for people who struggle with the unfamiliar or who like their food very plain - he often pairs quite unusual combinations and some may find that there is not anything on the menu that appeals to them based on this. A trip to the website will show you the latest menu and you can make a decision from there as to whether it will be your cup of tea. http://www.restaurantatelier.com.au/

You will find Restaurant Atelier at 22 Glebe Point Rd (Near Parramatta Rd), Glebe.
They serve dinner from 6pm, Tuesday to Friday.
For bookings phone: (02) 9566 2112

Note: Bernadette told me that they will be having a well earned break from Christmas day to 15 January. So, check them out in the new year.
*

Monday, December 21, 2009

Quote of the day..... on sharing


~ Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly. ~
MFK Fisher

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gourmet Goddess goes festive!

I cook a lot, but baking has never really been my thing - possibly something to do with that fact that I would rather have cheese and olives than a piece of cake or a biscuit any day. Another factor could be my aversion to sticking to a recipe and measuring ingredients properly, something you need the discipline to do if you are a baker or pastrychef. I'm not very good at taking instructions :) But tonight I thought - what the hell! I felt like hitting the kitchen and doing something a bit festive (unusual for me, as I tend to give the whole Christmas thing a miss most of the time) I cranked up Duran Duran's Greatest Hits - I always cook better with Simon Le Bon -  donned the apron, headed to the kitchen and whipped up these very Christmassy biscuits, full of white chocolate, beautiful green pistachio nuts and garnet red cranberries.

These would be ideal as Christmas gifts - bake a batch, tizz them up with cellophane or some pretty boxes, tags and ribbons and voila! Instant gift. These biscuits will last for about a week in an airtight container (if you don't scoff them all before then) My recipe will make about 40 small biscuits.

The little pink baking cups in the picture are by Paper Eskimo, who specialise is quirky kids party products. You can actually bake cupcakes or muffins right in them and they keep their colour. I loved these when I saw them and bought them in green too, they cost around $5.00 for a pack of twenty.  I found them at Octopus gift store on King Street in Newtown, NSW. To find your nearest stockists and to check out other Paper Eskimo products go to their website :  http://papereskimo.com/theretailers.php




White Chocolate, Cranberry and Pistachio Biscuits

You will need: 250g butter (at room temperature), 1 tsp vanilla essence, 2 cups plain flour, 1/2 cup dried cranberries (sometimes called craisins), 200g white chocolate chopped quite finely, 2 tablespoons shelled, chopped and unsalted pistachios, 3/4 cup icing mixture.

Method: Preheat the oven to about 160C. Line baking trays with non stick paper.

Cream together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer until it turns pale and is very creamy. Stir in the flour, half of the chocolate, pistachios and cranberries. Mix until the dough comes together. If the dough is very sticky, or the weather is hot, put the mixture in the fridge to firm up a little for 20-30 mins.

Roll the dough into small balls the size of a walnut and place about 3cm apart on the baking tray. Flatten slighty with a fork.

Bake for 15-18 mins until lightly golden. Allow to cool on the trays for a few mintues before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

When your biscuits are cool, melt the remaining white chocolate and drizzle over the top. Allow to firm up before storing them in an airtight container.


*

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Luscious Louisiana

"There is no dish which at the same time so tickles the palate, satisfies the appetite, furnished the body with nutriment sufficient to carry on the physical requirements, and costs so little as a Creole Gumbo. It is a dinner in itself, being soup, piece de r√©sistance, entremet and vegetable in one.”

-William H. Coleman,
Historical Sketch Book and Guide to New Orleans and Environs


Gumbo originated in New Orleans, Louisiana and to me represents multiculturalism in a pot. It combines the flavours of Africa, Spain, Native America and France to produce a dish full of flavour, that owes its heritage to many people and many places. It is said that there are as many ways to cook Gumbo as there are cooks, so you will see many different versions. It is a thick soup/stew that contains rice (if there is no rice actually in it, it is always served with rice on the side) to this, broth and other ingredients are added. Some use pork, chicken, sausage and seafood, some use just vegetables. The Cajun folks tend to make a darker, heavier Gumbo that has a roux (flour and browned butter) as a base and does not use tomatoes. The Creole style uses tomatoes, and okra (which does the same job as the roux, binding the dish) The Native Americans use leaves from the Sassafrass tree to do the same.

My Gourmet Goddess version tonight borrows from the Creole tradition and uses purely seafood. I chose flathead fillets, clams, calamari and prawns. I also used chilli in the dish, which is not usually done - it is usually served seperately in the form of chilli sauce (like Tabasco) so people can add as little or as much as they like. I was just cooking for myself tonight, and I know what I like so I just put the chilli right in there! Feel free to use it or not.

Some notes about the ingredients....



Tabasco Smoked Chipotle Sauce - This particular Tabasco isn't that easy to find in Australia, although if you live in the city, the David Jones Foodhall does stock it in their "American" section. You can also buy it online. USA foods out of Melbourne is a good source if you live in Australia. http://www.usafoods.com.au/
 If you can't get it, don't worry - just use normal Tabasco from the supermarket. It will not the have the same slightly smoky undertaste, but it will still taste good.



Okra - If you are not familiar with this vegetable, it is a long green pod native to West Africa and is related to the Hibiscus plant. Although it originated in Africa, it spread with the slave trade and is now eaten all over the world, throughout Asia and the Middle East, America, Nepal and India. When you slice it, it releases a clear sap that helps to thicken any dish that contains it. The texture when cooked is pleasantly gelatinous and it soaks up flavours particularly well. I think that it is at its best in Gumbo.


So, to tonight's dish - this amount will serve 4 people and you can freeze it , but if you do be sure to remove the meat from the clams first and disgard the shells.




Gourmet Goddess Creole Gumbo

You will need: 1 large onion, 1 medium carrot, 1 stalk celery, 1 large potato, 1 tin diced/crushed tomatoes, a couple of handfuls of okra (chop them into three), 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon paprika, 4 cloves chopped garlic, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, 1 red chilli chopped finely, 2 white fish fillets chopped into chunky pieces (I used flathead this time), a couple of handfuls of clams in the shell, 6 shelled raw king prawns, 1 medium calamari/squid cut into rings, 1 litre fish or vegetable stock, 1 cup cooked white rice, Tabasco Sauce (the smoked chipotle version if you can get it, otherwise just use the normal one) salt and pepper, olive oil, fresh parsley to serve.

Method : Dice the onion, carrot, celery and potato into small cubes. Heat a splash of olive oil in a deep pan and add the chopped vegetables, along with the bay leaf, garlic and chilli. Cook on a medium heat until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the okra and combine well. Let it cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, tabasco, sugar and stock. Allow to simmer for 15minutes, then add the cooked rice. Simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the seafood, combine well season with salt and pepper. Put the lid on the pan and let the seafood cook for about 5 minutes, stirring once during the cooking. The dish is ready when the clams open up (disgard any that do not) Taste the dish and adjust the seasoning if you need to.

Serve in soup bowls with fresh parsley.

*


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Summer Sensation

I'm heading off to a BBQ this afternoon and when I asked my friend, the always delightful Jan-Jan (no, that's not her real name!) what I could bring, her request was this salad. It is probably the most popular salad I make and it always makes me think of Christmas, as I usually end up making it in December when the nectarines are in season. I have also served this dish as a beautiful summer entree and in a miniature form as a degustation course. It is very simple to put together and as well as tasting delicious, it looks lovely too.

This dish depends entirely on having good fresh ingredients - don't even consider making this dish if the nectarines are not great. This is a dish I only ever do at the height of the necatrine season when I know the flavour will be perfect. You can also substitute peaches if you like, and if watercress is tricky for you to buy where you live, then rocket is a good substitute. You want something a bit peppery to contrast with the sweetness of the nectarines and the saltiness of the proscuitto. Other forms of lettuces or greens with a milder flavour won't really do the dish justice, so it is really worth using either watercress or rocket.

This salad would be a really great addition to your Christmas table if you want something a bit out of the ordinary. It is fantastic served with chicken, turkey and all kinds of seafood.




You will need: For the salad 1 bunch watercress, 4 ripe nectarines sliced , 8 thin slices Prosciutto, 1/2 red (Spanish) onion sliced thinly, 1 lebanese cucumber (cut it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and then slice to form half moon shapes), 2 Bocconcini (or a handful of baby bocconcini)
For the dressing 3 tablespoons each of extra virgin olive oil and maple syrup. Juice of half a lime, 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (if you can't find this you can substitute white wine vinegar but only use 1 1/2 tablespoons of it), generous dash of tabasco sauce, generous pinch of salt, plenty of freshly ground pepper, 1 clove crushed garlic.

Method: Combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk together until it thickens (a fuss free way to make this is to throw it all into a jar and give it a good shake)
Arrange the watercress, then onion, cucumber, nectarine and bocconcini on a large, fairly flat serving platter. Tear up the prosciutto and arrange over the top of the salad. Just before serving, drzzle with the dressing.

Serves about 8 people.

*

Sunday, December 6, 2009

You say potato......

Everyone seems to love rosti/potato cakes and today's recipe uses them as the basis for a dish that can have many incarnations. In my version, I have included some lovely new season zucchini to add extra flavour and lovely flecks of green colour, as well as beautiful smoked trout that transforms the dish into something special.  It makes an indulgent breakfast or brunch, but is also suited as an entree or starter, or even finger food if you scale down the size. You can also omit the trout and substitute grilled vegetables such as asparagus or zucchini for a lovely vegetarian dish. Whilst the dish may look a bit fiddly, it is actually very quick and easy to put together. I really love smoked trout and that is what I have used today, but if you are a fan of smoked salmon then it is a good substitute.

A note about the rosti technique - to ensure that your rosti is cooked correctly, it is important to follow the technique in the recipe below for removing as much moisture out of the mixture as possible. Don't be tempted to omit this step, or your rosti could fall apart and be unpleasantly soggy, causing the cook to swear loudly and have to start over. We don't want that, so use the "teatowel technique" to avoid any problems.

Here it is......


Potato and Zucchini Rosti with smoked trout and minted yoghurt


You will need: (for the rosti) 2 raw whole potatoes, 2 small or 1 medium zucchini, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon plain flour, dash of tabasco sauce, salt, pepper. Oil for frying. 100g smoked trout or smoked salmon.
(for the dressing) 2 tablespoons thick continental style yoghurt, 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves, extra mint to serve.

Method: First, combine the yoghurt and mint for the dressing and set aside in the fridge.

Grate the potato and the zucchini and place in the middle of a clean cotton teatowel (you can also use clean muslin or cheesecloth too, but a teatowel works just as well) Twist the teatowel up so that the ingredients are contained in a tight bundle. Hold over the sink and squeeze really hard to get as much moisture out of the potato and zucchini as possible.

Place the potato and zucchini in a bowl with the egg, flour, tabasco, a generous pinch of salt and a good seasoning of pepper. Using a fork, mix until well combined. The mixture will be quite loose - don't be concerned, it is how it is meant to be.

Heat a frypan (non-stick is good) and add a shallow layer of oil. Add a soup spoon of the rosti mixture to the pan and gently shape/flatten them to form pikelet size fritters. Cook the rosti in batches of 3 or 4, keeping an eye on the heat and turning them a couple of times during cooking. Don't have it blistering hot, or the rosti will be burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. Medium/hot will give you a better result.

Arrange the rosti on the serving plates with a dollop of the yoghurt and a piece of the smoked trout/salmon in between. Finish with a final slice of the trout/salmon and some mint. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 serves

*

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cocktail Hour

Here at Gourmet Goddess central we love a cocktail. And being officially Christmas party season (and the fact that I have had a really shitty few days at work this week) I thought I would indulge in a sneaky bit of Friday afternoon cocktail action. So, here is a little Gourmet Goddess creation known as a Lychee Blush, made with my very own homemade musk vodka. (Recipe below) My musk vodka is a great addition to a whole range of cocktails - perfect with slightly tart juices such as cranberry and pomegranate. Tonight's cocktail combines lychee juice, lime and a decent slug of vodka and gin to make a gorgeous looking, delicious cocktail perfect for those Christmas drinks parties. Be warned though - easy to drink and yummy as it is, it packs a punch, so keep yourselves nice!



Lychee Blush
1 measure of Gin (I prefer Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire)
3 measures Musk Vodka*
4 measures lychee juice
A squeeze of lime
Lime slice to serve

Combine ingredients in a shaker with plenty of ice. Shake well and serve in a martini glass with a slice of lime.



To make Musk Vodka: Take a bottle of Vodka and decant about a fifth of it. (Preferably into a waiting ice filled glass with lime and soda, but that's just me!) then, take a couple of packets of musk sticks - yes, those lollies you used to eat as a child. Put the musk sticks in the bottle and put the lid back on. Shake well. Over the next couple of days, give the Vodka a shake. The musk sticks will dissolve and you will be left with pink, musk flavoured vodka. You will notice a little bit of pale coloured sediment as the vodka settles. Just strain it out when you come to use it.

*