Thursday, 30 July 2009

Sausage, Egg & Chips - with TRUFFLES!!!

Because I can.

And because the bloke's resolution for more vegetables doesn't seem to have lasted. And because I really wanted to use up the eggs. I decided to bake them with silverbeet, as I'd originally planned, but instead of having the cauliflower side dish, we have little low fat chipolatas and oven chips. And HP sauce.

Recipe: Baked Eggs on Winter Greens

4 truffle-infused eggs
1 bunch silverbeet, leaf only
1 bunch beetroot, tops only
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup cream

Chop the greens coarsely, and wilt them down in a frypan with the olive oil.
Press out any extra water and place in a shallow baking dish.
Pour over most of the cream.
Make 4 hollows in the greens, and break an egg into each one.
Drizzle a little extra cream over the top, and dust with nutmeg.
Bake at 180C for 10-15 minutes, until egg is set to your liking.

OK, so this is quite a standard dish if you use normal eggs and less cream. You can use any greens you like - kale, spinach, whatever, but I prefer not to have large stalks mixing up the texture. (They can go in the soup!) I like using the beetroot greens: it makes things go a bit pink.

And honestly, it was a bit hard to tell if there was any truffle flavour. The eggs were 3 weeks old, but the whites still clung together like very fresh eggs. They were the last of my latest batch from Fi's chooks, which she gave me back at the truffle cooking demo in Bungendore. They were very tasty, very delicious - but was that truffle, or just the result of happy insect-scratching chooks? I'm a little disappointed in these, as I'd hoped the truffle would be more obvious.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Meals from the market

Monday dinner was the slow roast hoggett, with plenty of market veggies. The hoggett was beautiful - meltingly tender. As mint sauce is traditional with lamb, and red currant jelly with mutton, I offered both. Neither were made by me: the mint was from a market stall sometime, and the jelly made by B2 from her home grown currants. I made the gravy. B1 brought us a wonderful dried fruit & booze compote, heavy on the oranges, and some good vanilla icecream. Houseguests P&R bought a cherry pie from Kingston market. A good feed was had by all.

I did a tray of roast fennel and beetroot, another tray of roast pumpkin and potato, and I steamed some broccolini. It was a little tricky and the timing didn't quite work right for the potato/pumpkin tray. The pumpkin was a tad overdone and the spuds were a little underdone. I cut the pumpkin too small, and the start with the 125 degree slow roast, followed by half an hour on 180 wasn't quite enough for the spuds. Oh well. The smallest ones were OK and the rest have been cut up and tossed in the soup.

What soup? The leftover roast soup, of course. I used the shank to make stock for the gravy, and then topped it up with the bone - there wasn't much meat left on it after feeding six. I'm having it for lunch now, in between typing this. I also chucked in the leftover stock and the soaked porcinis from the risotto.

What risotto? Tuesday's dinner was a mushroom risotto using the truffle scented rice, with swiss brown mushrooms, and a stock made from Monday dinner's leftover white wine (thanks, M), some frozen homemade chicken stock and soakings from a few dried porcini. Mushrooms and the accompanying salad were from the market.

And tonight I've got a baked egg & silverbeet thingy in mind, perhaps with a side of baked cauliflower. I need to use up the last four truffled eggs ASAP, while they're still good.

Recipe: Slow roast hoggett
1 leg hoggett
500ml red wine
bay leaf
mixed herb/salt rub

Sprinkle the hoggett all over with the herb rub.
Put the hoggett on a rack over a baking pan, with the wine and bayleaf in the pan.
Cover well with foil.
Put into a 125 degree oven. Leave for 5 hours, removing foil and basting once an hour or so. Top up liquid with water if running dry.
Take foil off and return to oven for another hour.
Remove from oven and wrap well in foil to rest in a warm place for half an hour.

Notes: It will fall apart when carved; I prefer to present it in a bowl for people to serve themselves. No neat slices. For the herbs, I used a native herb & salt rub that I bought in Byron Bay. It has lemon myrtle and mountain pepperleaf, among other things. You could make up your own - I was thinking of a lemon zest, garlic & rosemary one, but I was out of garlic. The rich wine and meat juice mix makes excellent pan gravy.

Recipe: Mushroom risotto

180g truffle-infused arborio rice
1.5 litres liquid (see notes)
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
200g swiss brown mushrooms
75g grated parmesan

Heat the oil and butter in a large pan.
Saute the finely chopped onion gently until just barely golden.
Add the finely chopped garlic and sliced mushrooms.
Saute until mushrooms are wilted, then add the rice.
Stir around for a couple of minutes until it begins to look a little translucent around the edges.
Add a ladleful of warmed liquid, and stir well.
Continue to add the stock mix a ladle at a time until the risotto is done to your taste. This will take 20-25 minutes.
Turn off the heat, stir through the grated parmesan, and let it sit for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Notes: In this case I had 400ml white wine, 500ml chicken stock (at a guess, I had condensed it before freezing), and 600ml water in which I had soaked a handful of dried porcinis. For a veggie version, just use veggie stock. But it's best to taste it as you go, and if it seems too strong or salty at the 15 minute mark, add some water instead. You may not use all the liquids - I chucked my leftovers in the soup.

This was another stealth truffle dish. It's not strong, but it just makes everything that bit better. The Bloke loved it. There's more rice left, so I'll probably repeat this soonish.

Not Recipe:

A variation on leftover roast something soup.
This is a standard use-up, irreproducible, and this one came out brilliantly good. I must have another bowlful.

This variation:
* Stock made from the hoggett shank, leg bone and veggie trimmings, bayleaves and parsley stalks.
* Leftover gravy from the hoggett roast dinner. I couldn't deglaze the roasting tin into the stock, because I'd already used it to make the gravy.
* Stock made from a previous roast lamb dinner, from the freezer.
* Stock, wine and porcini left over from the risotto dinner
* a good handful of pearl barley
* a diced carrot, some frozen green beans, and diced leftover roast potatoes
* the few shards of meat from the shank and bone.

So simple: simmer the barley & carrot in the mixed stocks for half an hour, add the other veggies and meat, simmer until veg all cooked. Eat. Yum. Tragically I have to eat it all myself since the Bloke objects to soup with bits in. But he got the leftover risotto, so he's not suffering.

Monday, 27 July 2009

More on Byron

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been in Byron Bay recently. Sunshine, water views, long walks, blobbing around reading, blues bands in the pub, a couple of fancypants meals, and no computers. Excellent. I had a hot stone massage, which was lovely, but I resisted the temptation to get my chakras rebalanced, auras rotated, meridians rewired, inner fairy photographed and all that.

We had a small apartment to stay in, and we knew it was the right place for us immediately we arrived. The entry way looked like this! Byron Central Apartments are, well, central. And the place was comfortable without being ridiculously luxurious, and the management were lovely. We had a late flight out on Thursday and they let us use a spare room for the day. Our "studio loft apartment" had a small but complete kitchen equipped with a coffee plunger. It was good to have this - we could make coffee and have a cereal and fruit breakfast without having to get dressed and showered to go out.

And now I'm home, and sadly the kitchen had not magically tidied and restocked itself while I was away. Half the pantry supplies were still in boxes in the bar. And after our indulgent week, we both want to eat a bit more fibre and vegetables and fruit and all that sort of healthy stuff. A market trip on Saturday morning helped. And I defrosted the tomatoes that I roasted before we left, to make a roast tomato and red lentil soup, so that's a good start.

Some of the things we did in Byron... included a walk to the famous lighthouse, which was lovely, but featured a bit more uphill and stairs than my calves were prepared for. The icecream seller at the top of the hill is onto a good thing: I really felt as if I'd earned it! And we blobbed around our "studio loft apartment" sleeping late and reading books. We also walked out to the Arts & Industry Estate, which is an odd sort of place - art galleries and craft shops interspersed in the more usual light industry. We got to sample Byron Gourmet pies at the factory, and buy jewelry from the Hammer and Hand collective, and flourless pistachio and orange cake at Luscious. And we are considering buying some engraved glass art to renovate our front entry way.

We spent several evenings at "The Rails", aka the Railway Friendly Bar. It's a pub next door to the station with a bit of a train theme, and live music most nights. We saw four different blues acts there, and ate several meals. If the seats had been more comfortable I would have been happier - sadly, over-tall wooden benches made it a bit uncomfortable for a long haul. The food wasn't bad - I had a large chicken salad with cranberries and rocket and almonds, a decent burger, and a rather good rare tuna pasta dish which would have been terrific in different weather. Tossing hot pasta with cold salad ingredients to get a lukewarm dish is nice in summer, but it was a bit too cool for the winter evening. Yes, it does get cold overnight in Byron. I was forced to buy a nice warm shawl and some red velour trousers just to cope. Forced, I tell you!

We had a lovely lunch at Fishheads, which in an odd freak of planning overlooks the carpark adjacent to the beach. It's the closest you can get to the water without buying takeaway and sitting on the beach. I'd class it as casual fine dining. It's BYO and they have takeaway at the city end of the building, but the restaurant is quite nicely decked out, with wicker chairs and Aboriginal art on the walls. I had a delicious mixed seafood pasta dish ($29) with chilli, garlic and preserved lemon. The seafood was top notch, fresh and buttery, though it was rather light on the chilli. And I followed it with a rather swish chamomile poached pineapple with macadamia icecream and honeycomb toffee shards ($13).

Orient Express sounds like a cheap takeaway in a mall, but it absolutely isn't. It serves mixed Asian and Asian-inspired dishes, in a setting with a big buddha, red walls and funky wooden furniture that like the menu is an eclectic assortment of Indonesian, Japanese, Chinese and more. We had peking duck pancakes ($16.90) and Vietnamese crabcakes on sugar cane sticks ($12.90) for entrees, and a gado gado salad ($8.90) and "tuna two ways" (illustrated, $28.90) for mains. The tuna was fantastic - the sashimi in the salad was good, but the char grill rare fish was out of this world. I would have loved to try a dessert - pannacotta with red date and goji berry compote, perhaps, or the classic black rice pudding, but I was too full.

We also went to the Balcony, and had a spiffy cheese plate. And O-sushi, which was very good indeed despite its unpromising location. Next to a supermarket in the strip mall, you'd expect some ordinary sushi chain, but this was top class. We had a mixed sashimi and salad plate and some fried chicken dumplings. And sake and genmai cha. I loved the sesame dressing on the salad, and the fish was exceptionally good. And one night we went off to the Buddha bar for a Dr Sketchy's anti-art night! I practiced my appalling life drawing skills on the burlesque models, and we ate the very reasonable pub grub.

We had a great time, and we want to go back. There are several reputedly good restaurants that I missed out on (Olivo, Whynot, Dish) and it's just a very relaxing place. I'd like to do some beach walking, and try another of the many different styles of massage and spa, and sample the organic doughnuts and the Earth & Sea pizza. Byron is not a high pressure, high activity kind of place, as long as you avoid the schoolies and the music festivals. The Splendour in the Grass crowd was just starting to arrive as we left, and I'm told it gets very hectic and crowded as the town population quadruples overnight. We got an upgrade on our transfer service on the way home - all the minibusses were booked so we had to have the limo. The low end limo with no bar, but big comfy seats for the 3/4 hour drive to Coolangatta airport was no hardship.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Marketing, twice

In case you were wondering, I've been in Byron Bay. And of course I went to the Farmers' Market, which is on Thursday mornings from 8am-11am. Since we flew out on Thursday night, I couldn't buy very much there, but I did have a lovely time wandering around and chatting to the stall holders. (More photos below the fold.)

I made up for it this morning with this glamorous array of winter produce, as depicted against the new tiles and benchtop. OK, OK, so it would have been a lot more glamorous if I'd taken them out of the plastic bags. We have beetroot, silverbeet, pumpkin, cauli, carrots, apples, and a few hothouse tomatoes and salad mix. And also a leg of hoggett, which is something I haven't seen in decades. A slow roast on Monday seems just the ticket to farewell our guests who arrive this arvo.

I was tempted by some Robyn Rowe chocolates, but it was one of those post-indulgence days when vegetables seem more interesting than choccie. Robyn is from Murrumbatemam, which brings our local chocolatier count back up to four. Her chocs are all mixed boxed sets, in varying sizes, but you can pre-order specific ones if you like. Her dark is a 52% cocoa, not too sweet. I rather fancy the Clonakilla muscat and the cherry port - next time, perhaps. No website, but she does take telephone orders (62275064).

Byron was quite the contrast, though of course it's winter there too so there are some commonalities. There were masses of citrus fruits - limes and lemons and oranges of many varieties, including this Buddha's Hand citron. There were tropical flowers, avocados, custard apples and pawpaws, and fresh ginger, galangal and turmeric. There was a man pressing fresh sugar cane juice, and several stalls with locally grown coffee. There was even locally grown rice - brown, of course, a dry highland variety that doesn't need paddies. And it's not all for vegetarians: there's several local meat growers with organic and free range pork and lamb.

They also had a few bakeries, including some with sprouted seed breads and spelt breads. The woodfired Heart Breads chocolate brioche was very delicious, as was the apple. There was quite a lot more of the "biodynamic" stuff than we have in Canberra. And there was wheatgrass and energetic sprouts, and a weird raw foods place, and guitar playing aged hippie buskers singing about peace and rainbows with dolphin stickers. The pixie moondust does come on a bit strong at times, as in the rest of the town, but mostly it's your regular organic and local produce market.

I bought just a few items to take home. Some of the rice, and some coffee, and also some honey roast macadamias and a jar of Davidson plum jam from the native produce specialists. Their wild lime marmalade and lillipilli jam were also fabulous. Rainforest Foods is their name and they do mail-order. I kept purchases to a minimum since it had to go in the suitcase. And much as I might like a dragonfruit tree, I'm sure it would not have liked this morning's frost!

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Last Resort

How to get a stuck jar open:
a) use a cloth, grip mat or similar. I used to wrap a rubber band around, but the tupperware mat is more convenient. This simply allows you to use more force on the jar, by increasing the friction so you don't slip.
b) run metal lid under hot water for a minute. It should expand, making it easier to remove.
c) both a. and b.
d) ask handy bloke to open it, enhancing his chances with a, b, and c as required, or any other set of grips from his shed.
e) whack jar lid edge firmly against benchtop (potentially breaking an airlock).
f) poke a hole in the jar lid (definitely breaking any airlock).
g) buy a special jar opening tool with a handle - this adds leverage.
h) see picture.

I got up to f, then skipped on to h. The ingredients are
* 1 recalcitrant jar
* 1 sharp pointed knife
* 1 meat mallet
* 1 spare, clean jar
* 1 clean spoon
* 1 knife sharpener

Method: hold knife point down on jar lid. Whack with meat mallet. Keeping knife in the hole so created, use it to cut a line. Repeat a couple of times, creating a rough N shape. Use the knife to lever back sections of the lid - caution, edges will be sharp. Use the spoon to extract the contents of the jar to the spare jar.

This is not good for your knife. Resharpen afterwards. And do look out for any metal shavings from the edge: they are not good to eat.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Of Fungi and Sherry

I had a fabulous truffled mushroom dish at Rubicon recently, which gave the illusion of not containing truffles. The truffle is a fellow fungus, and the flavour blends exceptionally well. It doesn't shout "HELLO LOOK TRUFFLES HERE!"; rather it seemed as if the mushrooms were somehow transmogrified into super-mushrooms, powerfully flavourful, more mushroomy than ever before, capable of leaping tall buildings with a single bound and all that.

So with that in mind, the last 7g of truffle went into a creamy mushroom sauce for pasta. Mushroom, sherry, truffle, cream, garlic, egg, parmesan - brilliant. Do use good sherry, though. I'm a fan of a good sherry. You don't have to get the original from Jerez, though it's good if you can. There are several decent Australian ones for around $15-30 a bottle. If you haven't tried it before, do give it a go. This is not your Nanna's sweet cooking sherry, nor the wino's nail-polish remover-y stuff. Fino and Manzanilla are the dryest styles, Amontillado is a touch sweeter. And there are some good sweet ones, too, though the restaurant industry seems to have snapped up all the Pedro Ximénez supplies.

If you haven't any sherry, a splash of cognac will be fine instead. And while I'm at it, this is a time for proper Italian parmigiano reggiano, too. No skimping on anything. I did think of adding some Bundewarra free range ham, as this is kind of a carbonara-inspired dish, but I decided not. It would have been gilding the lily. I had a nommy ham and tomato sandwich for lunch instead.

Recipe: Truffled Mushroom Fettucine
200g small swiss brown mushrooms
5-10g black truffle
2 cloves garlic
1 tblsp butter
1 tblsp good olive oil
50 ml sherry
100 ml pouring cream
pinch salt
black pepper to taste
2 truffle-infused eggs
200g fettucine
parmesan to taste

Melt the butter with the olive oil.
Add the sliced mushrooms and finely chopped truffle.
Saute for a couple of minutes, then add the crushed garlic.
Saute for another couple of minutes, then add the sherry.
Simmer down for 5 minutes, or until almost gone, then add the cream.
Simmer down to about half volume.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, cook the fettucine, then drain it and return it to the pan.
Add the mushroom sauce on top of the pasta.
Beat the egg in a cup.
Working quickly, toss the egg over the mushroom sauce and pasta, and mix well.
Add parmesan to individual serves at table.

Notes: Serve with real parmesan to top, and a simple green salad. You can mix the fettucini, egg and sauce in a large pre-warmed serving bowl if you want to take it to table, but we tend to serve from the pan unless there's a dinner party.

The Bloke was enthusiastic: "That's good pasta", he said, "No, that's really good pasta. Luxurious." And it was.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Allons, Enfants!

Omelette aux truffes, salade verte, fromage de chèvre, tarte au citron.

Well, it was 14th July, so it seemed appropriate. The omelette recipe was a minor variant on the one handed out by the truffle sellers; the salad simple mixed leaves with an olive oil and lemon dressing. We followed it with a small cheese course of Hobbit Farm ashed chèvre with oatcakes and quince paste. Dessert was a lemon tart from the Jamison sourdough bakery - it was pretty good, a crisp sweet shortcrust and a fluffy mousse filling. I think this is a very honorable meal to restart the cooking with.

Yes, I used the stove! The tiles behind it are dry; there's not much left to do except painting. Since I won't be cooking much with drop sheets and paint fumes everywhere, this is an interlude. But normal service isn't far off now.

Recipe: Omelette aux Truffes
6 free-range truffle infused eggs
15g truffle
2 tablespoons butter
2 tsp cognac
75ml sherry
a pinch of salt

Shave the truffle and chop finely.

Put one tablespoon of butter, the truffle, the cognac and sherry in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer then cover and let reduce slowly until just a tablespoon of liquid remains.

Beat the eggs well with the salt.

Heat up the other tablespoon of butter in a frypan until sizzling. Pour in eggs and stir a little, lifting the edges to allow uncooked egg to run down.

Mix in the truffles while egg is still quite liquid so it can spread evenly.

Fold over while centre is still moist, and serve immediately.

the original recipe has more truffles, but this was plenty. The sherry was a very nice Hanwood Amontillado style, and the cognac Remy Martin - this is no time to use the cheap stuff. And the eggs were from Fi's chooks, which is why they're such a stunning rich yellow.

I don't think $50 omelettes are going to be regular fare around here, but it was very good. And I still have some truffle-infused eggs and rice, and another 5g of truffle. I plan to use the truffle in a pasta tomorrow.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

My very own truffle

Even though there will still not be very much cooking going on, I made it to the EPIC growers' market at the unusually early time for me of 8am. These truffle sellers were out there with their stock sitting under glass. I tried to take a picture of the huge one that would sell for over $1000, but my crappy phone camera didn't do so well at that. They are happy to cut the truffles up for you, though - they didn't think anyone would actually buy the big one. I've got a 22g piece at $66; friend Fi has twice that much.

I thought it might be a little bit frustrating wandering round the market and not being able to buy much. But actually it was rather fun. We have a short trip planned, and we still need to paint the kitchen and clean up the problems, so I'm only buying the most immediate things. I haven't been out there for a while, but there haven't been very many changes since my last time. Poachers Pantry have a van there now, and I think the gentleman selling Tsakiris Greek sweets is quite new. He has proper baklava with walnuts, and wonderful honey fritters. Yum!

I bought just a few things - half a dozen bagels, a jar of stringybark honey, a punnet of swiss brown mushrooms, four quinces, a bunch of tatsoi, and some slices of Bundewarra ham. We'll use all these very soon. I'm putting the quinces in to bake now - they are perfuming the kitchen wonderfully.

And here is the truffle back home in action. I've put it in a box with a dozen week-old free-range eggs from Fi's chooks, and a packet of arborio rice. Now it can sit for a few days in the fridge just doing its scent thing. The rice will keep for some time, but the eggs and the truffle itself will need using sooner. I'm thinking of making simple omelettes for Bastille Day, perhaps.

This piccie also provides a very tiny sneak preview of the kitchen. The white sparkly benchtop is just visible in front between the fabric sample bundles. And there's some of the teal and white mosaic splashback tiles in shot, too. Hmmm... Purple cushions for the built in seat, perhaps?

Thursday, 9 July 2009


I'm on a roll with these short excitable titles.

Anyway, I am feeling rather pissed off with Perfect Italiano cheese for their new (to me) and repulsive "perfect man" ad. That slimy git who practises his "listening face" needs a good kick up the arse. Or more specifically, since the git is imaginary, the advertising agency that thought of that sexist bullshit and the executives that approved it need a good arse-kicking. I wish I hadn't taken their free cheese the other month. I shall now buy Millel instead.

And while on the topic of cheesiness, the kitchen renovations have dragged on a lot longer than planned. And so the takeaway and microwave have been in more use than I had hoped. TurkOz pide is a very fine thing, especially the spinach and cheese, which is brilliantly cheesy in exactly the right way. And I have discovered that a sandwich press is very good at reheating pide slices.

Also, I have recently eaten Weight Watchers frozen cannelloni and Healthy Choice lasagna. (They were on special, OK?). The weight watchers one is bland and curiously empty-tasting. It's much improved by a lot of extra grated cheese and a splash of chilli sauce. The Healthy Choice lasagne is a bit better - still bland, but more creamy and mouth-filling, somehow. It's probably all gums and flavourings, since it's 3% fat. I'm just not going to read the label.

I'm having vague fancies of what to do when I get the kitchen up and running again. Truffle risotto, duck cassoulet, truffled eggs...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009


Saturday lunch was in Bungendore, at Le Tres Bon. We had a hands-on demonstration of truffle preparation, and put together a lunch of truffled chicken with Périgueux sauce and mash, followed by a truffled crème brûlée. It was a sweet deal - $100 for a two hour demonstration and talk, the amazing meal and a couple of glasses of rather good wine.

Mostly chef Christophe did the cooking while we watched, but we did get to bone the chicken and help with peeling potatoes and separating eggs and such. And he shared his crème brûlée recipe with us. I asked permission to pass it on here, and Josephine said yes as long as I gave him full credit. It's not his bitter almond one, though. You will have to go there to eat that. And I'd encourage you to do that, the food is great and they are lovely people.

The truffle came from Braidwood. Yes - this is true local food! In case you missed seeing all the ads recently, the Truffle Festival is on. The local climate is perfect for truffles, and there are now around 30 growers in the region. Aussie farmers are using dogs to scent out the truffles, rather than the traditional French pigs.

We actually started with the brulee, since it needed to bake and cool. A few of us separated eggs, and then Christophe whisked the yolks up with cream, vanilla and sugar. He put a couple of julienne slices of shaved truffle in each ramekin before pouring on the custard mix. And then it was off to oven in the bain-marie.

The main was chicken and the lightest, fluffiest mash I can ever recall. There's no formal recipe for the mash. Basically all you do is boil the potatoes, then pass it through a veggie mouli - this lightens it a lot, compared with the old potato masher. Then beat in some milk, melted butter and a smidge of nutmeg and salt. And pipe it out onto the plate with a cunning swirly action.

The chickens were local free range organic birds. We split them into four quarters, saving the frames for stock, and boned the thighs. Each quarter was folded around a truffle shaving, sprinkled with salt and white pepper, then tied up with string into a neat bundle. They were pan-fried in a mix of olive oil and butter until pale golden, and then Christophe dredged a little flour over them before adding chicken stock, white wine, chopped onion and carrot, a bay leaf, rosemary sprig and parsley stalks. And so they were left to simmer gently for an hour. Check occasionally to see if the stock needs topping up.

The sauce - well, it was amazing. I've seen Iron Chef French Hiroyuki Sakai, the Delacroix of French Cuisine, do the "perry-goo" on telly, but I've never had it in real life. To make this, we used the pan juices from the chicken. These were brilliant to start with, and when strained into a pot and enriched with cream and duck foie gras and butter and a goodly amount of truffle - well, it's heaven. Time didn't actually permit a proper reduction, so Christophe showed us his sneaky trick of thickening it up with - bog standard cornflour and water! So in theory his sauce should be even better, but that is very hard to imagine.

And here's dessert.

Recipe: Christophe's Truffled Crème Brûlée

15 egg yolks
1 litre cream
a splash of vanilla
200g caster sugar
30g fresh truffle shavings
white sugar to sprinkle

Whisk up the eggs yolks with the sugar, then whisk in the cream and vanilla.
Make sure you have a slice of truffle per serve set aside. Julienne the rest of the shavings and add a couple to each of 12 small ramekins.
Line a deep baking tray with paper, then add the ramekins, then pour water around them.
Bake at 130C for 30 minutes, until just set.
When cool to room temperature, sprinkle each with sugar (a scant teaspoon per serve).
Caramelise it with a kitchen blowtorch and while the sugar is still bubbling, add on the reserved truffle shaving.
Serve immediately.

Notes: Christophe actually made twice this quantity. He notes that if you are not using truffle, then brown sugar is better for the caramelising. The paper in the baking is to stop the water bubbling if it boils - splashes of water could spoil the smoothness.

This sounds a bit gimmicky, and reminiscent again of Iron Chef - an eggplant dessert! A fish icecream! But really, the truffle works surprisingly well in this. There is a mushroomy flavour, but it does not clash. It's a complex flavour, highly aromatic, and plays well with the egg and caramel.

I'm quite tempted to go look for a truffle now. They can be bought at EPIC markets if you get in early enough, and while it may be around $3 per gram, you don't actually need a lot. You can perfume rice or eggs with it, just by leaving the truffle with them in a sealed container for three or four days. Don't try making truffle oil, though - one thing we learned is that the Perigord style black truffles will not flavour oil in any lasting manner. Truffle oil as sold in gourmet shops is either artificially flavoured, or made with Italian white truffle.

A truffle should be kept wrapped in a damp cloth in a sealed jar. It will last up to two weeks, but remember that it is a fresh product. You should have enough time to scent your eggs, rice or cheese, but basically it's just a mushroom, with high water content. It will go off if left too long.

The Credits

Recipe: Christophe Gregoire
Photos: Fred Harden from the Australian Capital Country Truffle Festival. The first one depicts a truffle being shaved, but it's not Christophe. It's Jan Gundlach from SENSO, aka Flavours in Fyshwick. The second is an actual dessert from this demonstration: Fred was there with camera.

Friday, 3 July 2009

The Onion!

OMG, the Onion is having a special food issue. It is hilarious! (BTW, link is to front page, I can't find a permalink but it's the July 2 edition.)

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Chocolate in Canberra

With the kitchen renovation dragging slowly on, here's another post that's not about cooking or food shopping. On that front, we do hope to have tiles by Saturday. At that point we can move most of our stuff back to the work area. Though I still want to keep things fairly clear for painting, so refilling the cookbook shelf still isn't on for a week or so. And the pantry shelves need extra reinforcement, so I'm not filling that yet either. Well. Anyway. Chocolate.

I finished my Easter box of Haigh's choccies about a month ago, and am considering buying some more on a Sydney trip. I especially love their strong fragrant cream fillings - rose, violet, lemon myrtle. And the shiraz truffles. B1 wants to go for a short trip, and I'll go along if the dates suit. I'm wondering if we can get to the Lindt cafe as well as Haigh's. Meanwhile, obviously I must restock in Canberra.

Now that's not such a terrible thing. We have four three local chocolatiers, as well as all the major brands in specialty sweet shops and supermarkets, and the fair trade varieties at Oxfam and other locations. This is even spreading to supermarkets, especially since Green & Black were bought out by Cadbury-Schweppes. And none of our chocolatiers are outrageous marketing ripoff artists like the infamous Noka. You can expect to pay in the general vicinity of $100 per kilo for locally made chocolates - not cheap, to be sure, but there is a fair amount of work in it. If you do feel like making your own, you can get quality couverture from Essential Ingredient, and probably elsewhere.

Koko Black only just counts as local. This is a small chain, with several branches in Melbourne. Canberra is their first interstate location. But they do make their chocolates on site - you can look in the kitchen window and see it happening. They make good filled chocolates, but I find their bars too waxy in texture for my taste. I prefer a bit more melt-in-the-mouth texture to my choccie.

Bruno's Truffels is the oldest. First opened in Narrabundah in the 1980s, the shop is now run as a cafe in Mawson. Bruno is Swiss, and he makes the chocolates as well as doing the baking of a number of Swiss and German specialty breads, biscuits and pastry. Or possible supervising this - I do hope he's trained up a few good apprentices! His chocolates are excellently smooth in texture, though the base dark is a little bit too sweet for my ideal.

All Things Chocolate in Kingston is my current favourite. The selection varies with chocolatier Lindy Butcher's whim, but she does have a list of regulars. Fig & muscat pyramids are on that list, but two other favourites of mine aren't - the star anise licorice and the orange, pistachio & cardamom cream. The base chocolate is Belgian, and although it's not fair trade, she does support the RSPCA with a portion of sales.

UPDATE: Bad News.
All Things Chocolate closed down last week. The lady in the bookshop across the way tells me Lindy Butcher has gone back to teaching for the moment. We can only hope that she goes back to doing market sales soon. I am very disappointed. No more orange, pistachio & cardamom creams for me.

Lindsay and Edmunds do not have a shopfront at Fairbairn, where they make their chocolates. You can buy these ones at Kingston markets, EPIC markets and a few other spots.

Their base chocolate is Belgian Belcolade, and for everything else they try to buy Australian and organic. The chocolate is an excellent bittersweet, strong and dark, and my only quibble is that all of their fillings are solid. Ginger, orange, dates and other dried fruit and nuts - it's all good, but there are no creams. I've had a prowl on the Belcolade website and I think it's the organic 72.5% variety. Probably not the fairtrade or rainforest alliance, which I'd like to see.