Tuesday, 29 April 2008

I am Ch for Chuffed


Many thanks to mellie from the blog tummy rumbles for awarding me an E for Excellent Blog Award. I'm particularly chuffed to be receiving the award from mellie, as it was her blog that inspired me to start Melbourne Gastronome in the first place!

I would like to pass the award on to two of my favourite food blogs, Not Quite Nigella (the blog that actually got me baking again for the first time in ages, and my first port of call for Sydney eateries) and Off the Spork (one of my favourite Melbourne blends of restaurant reviews, recipes, gorgeous photography and entertaining writing).

Monday, 28 April 2008

Quick lunch at Journal

1/253 Flinders Lane, Melbourne (map)
9650 4399

Bar at Journal

Just a quick post about a great little lunch I had at Journal with best-friend-K a few weekends ago. Journal is a smallish cafe located next door to the CAE and City Library on Flinders Lane, down near uber-laneways Degraves and Centre Way. In keeping with the name of the place, the shelves suspended over the low communal tables are filled with encyclopaedias and back issues of National Geographic. The menu of soups, bruschette and salads is sparing but very good.

Prosciutto bruschetta at Journal

I wanted something quick and simple, so I got the prosciutto bruschetta - one of four or five bruschette that they had on offer that day. Prosciutto, ripe tasty tomato, Persian fetta, basil and olives made up this nifty combination - he looks a bit like a legless crab, doesn't he?

Tuna and bean salad at Journal

The tuna and bean salad that b-f-K got was even nicer. Tuna, cannellini beans, spring onion, avocado, celery, Spanish onion, a light vinaigrette and lashings of pepper and chopped parsley, accompanied by a few slices of toasted sourdough, made for a healthy and rather hearty lunch.

I haven't yet been to Journal Canteen, the rustic Italian lunch spot upstairs, but EG from tummy rumbles wrote very favourably about it, so will try it next time I'm in that neck of the woods at lunchtime...

Journal interior

Sunday, 27 April 2008

LiveSTRONG with a Taste of Yellow: Banana Bread with Passionfruit Curd

Banana bread

I may have just missed the (extended) deadline, but I wanted to post up a recipe for Barbara (winosandfoodies)'s LiveSTRONG Day event, a Taste of Yellow, which involved posting up a recipe and photo which includes a yellow ingredient. Last Saturday at the Prahran Market I spotted a bunch of ripe organic bananas, and was inspired from recent food blog perusal to try to bake banana bread for the first time.

Banana bread

I got home and examined the recipes I'd seen online at Not Quite Nigella and Sarah Cooks, and decided to go with Sarah's recipe (well, technically Sarah's recipe is bills "too cool to use an apostrophe" recipe) because I had all of those ingredients in my kitchen. Just for kicks, however, I did throw in about 60g of leftover shredded coconut which I had sitting in my pantry.

Bill Granger's Choc Banana Bread (recipe borrowed from Sarah Cooks)
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
125g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
(optional) 60g shredded coconut
4 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g good-quality dark or milk chocolate chips (nb I used little milk chocolate chips - next time I think I'll use darker chocolate buttons, like Sarah used)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.

Mix the butter, sugar, banana, eggs, vanilla extract and chocolate chips in a separate bowl. Add to the dry ingredients (including coconut) and stir to combine, being careful not to overmix.

Pour the batter into a non-stick, or lightly greased and floured, miniature loaf tray.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

Passionfruit curd

To make my dish even more yellow, I decided to try making passionfruit curd for the first time, this time pinching the recipe from Not Quite Nigella's Passionfruit Coconut Cupcake recipe. This passionfruit curd was surprisingly easy to make and sooooo yummy. On Monday I took the banana bread in to work and we toasted it in the cafe press until the chocolate was all melty, then spread the passionfruit curd on top - just like I'd had it at The Little Marionette in Sydney. So good!

Passionfruit curd (recipe borrowed from Not Quite Nigella)
2 eggs beaten lightly
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 cup passionfruit pulp
60g butter, chopped coarsely

Combine ingredients in a small heatproof bowl, place over a small saucepan of simmering water, stir constantly until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Cover tightly, refrigerate curd until cold.

Passionfruit curd

*** UPDATE ***
To see the other Yellow recipes submitted to the LiveSTRONG With A Taste Of Yellow 2008 thingy, click here.
This recipe was also featured in Not Quite Nigella's Ultimate Banana Bread Recipe Collection - Banana Bread Bake Off, in which a staggering 79 banana bread recipes were submitted!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Last chance to vote for favourite Women's Weekly Birthday Cake

As regular readers of Melbourne Gastronome will be aware, when I joined facebook last year I thought I'd start up a group dedicated to that childhood treasure, the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book. The facebook group "The Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Book is awesome" started as a bit of a joke with a handful of my friends because CJ had made me the piano cake for my 27th birthday - but then more and more people I didn't even know started joining. As at today's date the group has 3106 members! You can read more about the group here.

The reason I'm writing about it again is to enlist your participation in our group poll to determine Australia's favourite cake from the original book. Which was your favourite cake? Was it the Choo-Choo Train, the Piano, the Swimming Pool, the Rubber Ducky with the salty chip beak? The group has plenty of photos to help jog your memory, and it's lots of fun reading over the voters' comments - who would have thought that birthday cakes could arouse such passion! :)

If this link doesn't work, simply log on to facebook and search for "Women's Weekly" - you'll find us. Entries close very soon - on ANZAC Day. Please vote and encourage friends to vote too!!

King / Bourke Quest Part 17: Asian @ Healeys, Funky Curry 2

Asian @ Healeys
Shop H (Healeys La) 535 Lt Lonsdale Street, Melbourne (map)
9670 2466

Funky Curry 2
2/212 King Street, Melbourne (map)
9662 2299

My journo friend DZ checked out my blog a few months ago and wrote to me saying he liked the look of the food at Riks Maha in Healeys Lane and would head there soon, only to write back a week later saying that it seemed to be closed. SURELY not, I thought - Riks is always teeming with people at lunchtime - and I arranged to meet my friend A there for lunch that day as I was craving the wonderful thosai that I'd had there before.

We met at Healeys Lane and ALAS! Riks Maha was no more! It had been replaced by a restaurant with the accurate-but-bland-sounding name Asian @ Healeys! And there was NO thosai! I stamped my foot in disappointed frustration and we dined elsewhere.

And then a week later, after complaining to my colleague L about the death of Riks Maha, L sent me an email entitled "dreams come true..." (reprinted with kind permission):
from the ashes of riks maha arises a veritable roti chanai serving breakfast spot. savoury eats of the asian variety, before 9am, on the doorstep of bourke place, $5 for 2 roti chanai and 3 curry sauces. loud thai pop music and "asian milk tea". so good...If you'd care to sample this fine fare i'll be there every morning.

Asian @ Healeys

L being a man of impeccable taste and good judgement, I decided to take him up on his offer, and went along one morning with him to try this roti chanai.

Roti chanai

It was great! The roti was tasty and the coconut milk chicken curry was particularly good. Because it's a breakfast, the sauces are all quite mild. The satay sauce is perhaps a little on the creamy side, but I don't mind. Recommended if you like Eastern breakfasts! Asian @ Healeys also does lunches - lots of curries and stir fries sitting in the bain marie, plus they cook up some fresh Chilli Noodle Vegetables which L swears by.

And this tale of the Death of Riks Maha has not one but TWO happy endings - because the following week Funky Curry 2 added thosai to their menu, so I can still get my thosai fix! :)

Funky Curry

Funky Curry 2 is on King St near the corner of Lt Bourke, a few doors down from the Derro. It's part of the Funky Curry family of Indian restaurants, whose website rather enticingly promises "we beleive (sic) in fulfilling your faith...". Its decor consists of brightly coloured pieces of cardboard on the wall extolling the virtues of India and its people (there's one statistic about the number of Indians working at NASA, and another about how many tonnes of cement are produced in India each year - ???) and the chairs have corny jokes inscribed on them (on my last visit my one said "first engagement ring, then wedding ring, then suffering" - ZING.)

Lunch at Funky Curry

The curries are served outta the bain marie and onto metal plates - while it doesn't look particularly appealing, the food is cheap and very good. The Age Cheap Eats Guide also holds Funky Curry 2 in pretty high regard - the fact that it's a block from their HQ certainly helps!

Funky Curry dosa

Thosai at Funky Curry 2 is spelled "dosa", and a serve like this, containing masala vegetables, will cost a mere $4.50. And they all lived happily ever after!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Breakfast at Mart 130

Mart 130
107a Canterbury Rd, Middle Park (map)
9690 8831

Mart 130

On Saturday morning I was meeting Mum and Dad for breakfast, so I took them out to a place they hadn't been but I was pretty sure they'd like: Mart 130, a cute little cafe built inside the light rail tramstop #130 ('mart' being 'tram' backwards, geddit?) alongside Albert Park Lake.

Mart 130 interior

The old Station Master's house is airy and spick 'n span, and has a cosy ambiance. As it was a bright sunny morning, we opted to sit outside on the back verandah overlooking the lakeside tennis courts.

Mart 130 corn fritters

The dish I ordered won The Age Cheap Eats 2008 Breakfast of the Year award, and I think they may be on to something. Oven-roasted corn fritters stacked in a tower between slices of grilled bacon, and served with a drizzle of homemade relish, a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of coriander ($15.90). They were easily the best corn fritters I've had in years - the corn was so damn juicy and tasty, and the saltiness of the bacon went really well with the corn and the sour cream. A real highlight!

Mart 130 beans

Dad ordered the baked cannellini beans with Gruners' ham hock served on Dench's organic sourdough toast and crumbled with goat's cheese ($14.90 or you can get it vegetarian for $13.90 - but if you ask me the vegetarians are getting short-changed with that price!). This was also very good - an Italian variation on the usual baked beans on toast. The sharp goat's cheese on top was an inspired addition.

Mart 130 omelette

Mum loves salmon, so she couldn't resist the omelette special - free range omelette with smoked salmon, dill, capers, red onion, rocket and lemon on organic bread ($16.90). A very 'Mum' sort of dish. She liked it (didn't LOVE it as much and Dad and I loved our dishes, but as she said: "At the end of the day, an omelette is an omelette...") - though she commented that the salmon was of excellent quality, and not too salty.

So Mum and Dad have also fallen in love with Mart 130 and will be taking their friends there over the long weekend. Glad I was able to convert them. :)

Mart 130 interior

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Sangas at lb.

Shop 5, 566 Chapel St, South Yarra
(a few doors down on the side street, Oxford St) (map)
9826 1114


I'll admit it - I pretty much can't stand the South Yarra end of Chapel Street. During the French Film Festival, best-friend-K and I were seeing two films at the Como on the same day (the trashy-yet-sorta-enjoyable U.V., and the much better Un Secret), so we had four hours to kill between films. B-f-K and I invariably end up cranky if we spend too much time up the South Yarra end of Chapel Street, because we both dislike just about everything about it: the "classy" fashion boutiques, the stereotypes (the snooty society matrons AND the hot-headed wankers in big sunglasses and souped-up cars) and almost all of the restaurants - which is often a problem when we're looking for a bite to eat before or after a film at the Como.

So thank God for "lb." (aka Pound), a cafe near the Jam Factory but just off the beaten track, with a slick interior, excellent food and busy but friendly staff. If only it were open in the evenings too!

Steak sanga at Lb.

I had the Steak Sanga for $14 - it contained homemade pickled beetroot, caramelised onion, Swiss cheese, rocket and horseradish cream. It was PERFECT. The dream combination of ingredients in a steak sanga, if you ask me... :)

Chicken burger at Lb.

Kate had the Chicken Summer Burger for $12, which matched the chicken with tomato, cheese, pineapple, sweet chilli and rocket. I'm not a fan of pineapple in savoury dishes (with the exception of certain Thai curries), but b-f-K assured me that her burger tasted great.

Am I being too harsh on the South Yarra end of Chapel Street? What Chapel Street restaurants in your opinion serve good quality food at a good price?

Lb. interior

Free-form Cherry Cheesecake for the Bloggers Banquet #2

I feel bad about the delay in posting, but this week was once again very hectic at work and then over the last few days I've come down with a wretchedly heavy cold and have been feeling too feverish to write coherently. I'm spending the weekend confined to my bed recuperating, dosed up to the eyeballs on Codral (thank Christ it's still possible to buy the original formula with the good stuff in it, even if it means having to put on a bit of a song and dance for the pharmacist), listening to cheesy old showtunes and munching on baklava and other sweet sweet Middle Eastern pastries my delicious friend O bought in Sydney Road and gave me last night.

Mutemonkey cheesecake

Last Saturday I drove down to Dromana and attended the Bloggers Banquet #2, organised by PG. We each had to bring a dish - at the last Bloggers Banquet I made Coconut and Lime Syrup Muffins (recipe here), but this time I wanted to make my Free-form Cherry Cheesecake, topped with crushed up macadamia brittle.

Macadamia nutsSyrup for brittle

I made the macadamia brittle the night before, using Nigella's recipe.
- 1 cup macadamias
- 3/4 cup (175mL) water
- 1 cup (200gm) caster sugar
Chop up the macadamias into halves or quarters. In pan, place water and sugar on low heat and shake a little until sugar melts. Boil. Let syrup bubble gently until it thickens and goes a light caramel colour (about 10 mins). Add chopped nuts and then quickly turn out onto baking paper, making sure nuts are distributed evenly.

When cold, chop into bite sized pieces or, if you're using it like I was, crush in a blender to serve over a dessert or ice cream.

Macadamia brittle

Next, to make the Free-form Cheesecake. I normally make single quantities and divide it up into six individual little trifle dishes (aka stemmed water glasses). Using a tall spoon to make sure the layers don't smudge is fiddly, but worth it - especially seeing as the rest of the recipe is so easy to prepare. However, for this particular cheesecake I doubled the ingredients below and just made the one big dish.

Ingredients for layers

Free-form Cherry Cheesecake(s)
100-150g amaretti biscuits, crushed (a rolling pin or wine bottle over kitchen paper should do the trick)
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 lemon, zested and juiced
250g mascarpone
400g black cherries in syrup
1 tabsp cornflour dissolved in 1/4 cup water

Beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, then beat in lemon zest and juice, then beat in mascarpone.

To prepare the fruit, drain the cherries from the syrup and set the cherries aside. In a saucepan, combine the syrup with the cornflour mixture. Place over medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes until the liquid thickens considerably. Pour/spoon the mixture into a bowl, stir in cherries, then refrigerate. (Note: because I was making it at the last minute I didn't have a chance to refrigerate it. I also mixed in a portion of stewed rhubarb I had in the fridge, on a whim. Actually, stewed rhubarb in place of cherries makes for a really delicious variant of this recipe - ideally suited to colder weather...)

Cheesecake layerBiscuit layerFruit layerLayers finished

The layering begins! First a layer of cheesecake mixture, then sprinkle a layer of crushed amaretti biscuits, then spoon on a layer of fruit (taking care with each layer to not smudge the sides of the bowl so that the layered effect can be appreciated). Repeat the process, then (optional extra) sprinkle the crushed up Macadamia Brittle over the top - but, if I were to make this again in a bowl, I would leave sprinkling the brittle until just prior to serving, as it sort of melted into the cherry syrup on the drive down to Dromana and didn't look quite as pretty. Either that, or make greater quantities of cheesecake mixture, and add another cheesecake layer between the fruit and brittle.


The finished product! And the best part is, it can be prepared well in advance if you're having a dinner party - no last-minute stress... :)

Well, no last-minute stress unless, like me, you were running late in the first place! I blame my slow start on that Saturday morning on the fact that half of my electronic devices had already gone back an hour for daylight saving but half hadn't, so I didn't know what the hell time it was - hence I was in a bit of a flap by the time I bunged the finished cheesecake in the car and drove through traffic-choked suburbs to pick up Cindy and Michael. We were, ahem, rather late down to Dromana - entirely my fault. Sorry!

Bloggers Banquet spread

Bloggers Banquet spread

Others have already written up the Banquet, far more eloquently than I can in my currently fluey state, so please read all about it here, here, here, here, here and here. We had a jolly fun time but as you can see, were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of food! The cheesecake seemed to go down well - the portion we didn't eat was spooned into tupperware by PG and Vida for leftovers the morning after.

My favourite dishes at the Banquet were:
-PG's fig, blue cheese and caramelised onion tart;
-Cindy's oven-roasted soy bombs (with her equally sensational Chinese style barbeque sauce);
-Agnes' caramelised onion tarlets (that gal makes a mean pastry! Honourable mention to her homemade bagels); and
-Duncan's violet and rose/lemon macarons - even if he DID mock me when, given the success of his salted caramel macarons last November, I eagerly asked upon arrival whether he'd brought macarons again... hey Duncan, at least I don't call them macaroons! ;-)

Duncan's macarons

Many thanks to PG for her gracious hospitality, and to Cindy for giving me a delicious gift of coffee walnut splodges for chauffeuring her and Michael down to the Peninsula!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

(Very belated) pics from Easter lunch with nonni

Caprese salad

I meant to post these Easter pictures up a while ago, but better late than never...

Hot cross buns Good FridayHot cross buns Good Friday

Every Good Friday, the family tradition is that Mum and Dad have an open house, and friends are invited over for a morning tea of Mum's fresh home-made hot cross buns. This year they were even more luscious than usual - the glazing over the top was genius!

Easter lunch

On Easter Sunday it was back at Mum and Dad's again for family lunch. Friends from London R&S were there, as were my Nonna and Nonno, Zia P, her partner M and cousin T.

Caprese saladProsciutto platter

First course was insalata caprese, marinated olives and San Daniele prosciutto (from our part of Italy - a real cut above the Australian stuff!).

Olive Toscano

Phillippa's Olive Toscano heated slightly in the oven was the perfect accompaniment. Check out Mum's copper pepper grinder in the background (half hidden behind the pewter salt shaker) - it's one of the family possessions that I most covet...

Easter poussin

The main course was stuffed roasted poussin, following Nigella's recipe. So teeny tiny!

Nonno's salad

The salad, as always, featured leaves from Nonno's garden...

Easter Lunch

I wish I knew Mum's secret - her roast potatoes are sensational. The other vegetable was creamy roasted fennel, made according to S's trusted recipe.

Crostoli and lime tart from ChimmeysEaster dessert

For dessert Nonna had made another batch of the world's best crostoli, and zia P brought a delicious tangy lime tart which she'd bought at Chimmys. I only just realised that we had insalata caprese and crostoli at the last big family lunch I wrote about... next time I'll ask Nonna to make something different to mix it up! :)

LimoncelloBirdie's cocktail

If you've never tried Limoncello before, be bloody careful the first time you come across it: it packs a kick like a mule. When I lived in Siena and would go out with friends to dinner, the owner of whatever trattoria we were dining in would inevitably come over at the end of our meal with a bottle and insist on pouring us each a chilled glass to have as a digestivo. If we'd been knocking back carafes of Chianti with our food, the glass of Limoncello was always what tipped us over the edge into full-blown drunkenness.

The cocktail on the right is the yummy creation of my sister Birdie, who recently completed her RSA. I'll find out what the ingredients are and update this post accordingly...
**Updated** ...in Birdie's own words... :)
the drink has:
ice and strawberries mixed in a blender
then you pour it in a glass
then you get half a lime (or lemon) and squeeze that
then you pour a fair slosh of grenadine in
then you pour a double shot of vodka
then you put the magic ingredient - 4 or 5 drops of tabasco sauce
and there you have your strawberry slut

Carte italiane

After we finished eating we put on some old Italian records and sat around playing cards, using the 40-card Carte Italiane (we play with the Triestine cards made by Modiano). The games we like playing with carte are Scopa if there are two players, Machiavelli if there are more. There's another card game Nonna and Nonno like to play which they simply call "Trick" - I'll have to find out from Mum what it's called in English if there is an English equivalent.

Nonna playing cards

Nonna playing cards. :)