Saturday, 14 May 2011

Where am I?

I'm not currently blogging about Canberra or cooking, because I'm not actually in Canberra at the moment. My friends and family know where I am, but for anyone else, here's a little guessing game. Based on the breakfast menu, where am I?

Breakfasts at various hotels have included:
* bread with fetta cheese, tomato, cucumber and olives
* olive stuffed pastries, and bread with butter and sour cherry jam
* bread with a boiled egg and olives, and yoghurt with peach preserves
* yoghurt with tahini and raisin syrup, and cheese pastries
* bread with butter and pine honey, and an orange
* bread with rose petal jam, and dried mulberries

They serve tea or nescafe, mostly. Although you can get very good coffee here, it's not usually served at breakfast. The bread is all lovely crusty white loaves, but by now I'm starting to crave a good chewy multigrain. Probably toasted, with vegemite. The bloke is very taken with the idea of olives for breakfast, so this may go onto the menu at home.

By the way, I'm reading a book published in 1950. It's an autobiographical memoir from this region, in which the author describes what this strange thing called "yogurt" is to his anglo readers. "A kind of sour junket", he says. These days, I'd bet that people are more familiar with yoghurt than junket.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

One new thing...

OK, so I have done one thing new in the last month, and that's this lovely recipe for dark greens. These bitter vegetables are terribly good for you, and I love the complexity of the huge flavours you get with the bitter greens, acid lemon, hot chilli and fruity oil. The bitterness is much mitigated by a bit of acid - unless you're a super-taster, in which case there's no chance.

I started with this recipe from Serious Eats. Basically, you pan fry your greens with olive oil, onion, garlic and chilli until they are well done. This takes a couple of minutes for spinach, a bit longer for silverbeet, maybe 10 minutes for Tuscan kale (cavolo nero) and 15 minutes for regular kale. When it's cooked, add a little acid - a tablespoon or so of lemon juice or cider vinegar for a regular bunch of greens.

And then it's ready - a good side dish. Or you can follow the Serious Eats idea and make quesadillas with it. I've done this using multigrain wraps, and it worked fine. You do need to include both mozzarella and fetta, though, or they won't stick together.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Tweaking recipes, Using Things Up

One reason for my fairly sparse blogging has been a dearth of new recipes. When I'm busy at work, and travelling, and eating out, home cooked food tends to resort to the staples.

Now that it's colder at night, a hearty soup is a fine thing. The most recent one I made was a variation on this chorizo and lentil soup. I had a tomato glut, and used B1's mouli to turn it into passata, so instead of a bit of tomato paste and a litre of chicken stock, I used half a litre of chicken stock and half a litre of passata. And I blended the soup before adding the chorizo; the bloke likes his soups smooth. (Except laksa. The rules are complicated.)

Another variation came because I was out of cumin. I decided to use a 1/2 teaspoon of ground wattleseed instead, having discovered quite some time ago that this goes surprisingly well with tomato. It adds a dark caramel roast savouriness - but do be careful not to overdo it. The half teaspoon was plenty.

So that was good.

I've also been cooking a lot of old standards. This week's muffin was apple and cinnamon, with some older apples from the fridge. We've been eating keema and spag bol with mince from the freezer. There's been a chicken noodle stirfry, and a lamb curry with paste from the market and the last of the beans from the garden. Homemade pizza is good for finishing the odds and ends of ham, salami, olive, artichokes, etc. I've been roasting tomatoes to use in soup and curry and pasta sauce, and roasting rhubarb from the garden - the latest time with some plums and rosewater.

I've also cooked and frozen a batch of figs, with the intent of making jam later in the year. We're off on a big holiday soon, and have our usual Easter houseguests before then, so I have no time to be fiddling with pectin and jars. I can't believe I never thought of doing this before. It's B1's idea.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

OMG, online at last!

The Canberra Times is finally posting selected food and wine content on line, including reviews. Here it is. I tremble in anticipation.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Sydney feature, with New in Town in Newtown

As I mentioned earlier, we recently had a weekend in Sydney. We stayed a night with some friends in Dee Why, who took us off to a Korean BBQ place up behinds the main street. It's called Let's Meat - and if you know Lizotte's, a kind of newish dinner-theatre style music venue, it's directly behind that. Lizotte's looks fabulous - they get some great shows through and have a classy sounding menu.

I can't (yet) vouch for Lizotte's menu, though I intend to try it sometime. But I can say that Let's Meat stands out above the usual Korean BBQ for their meat selection. The chef puts a lot of work into the marinades, including traditional Chinese herbal spiced pork and the classic beef bulgogi, as well as inventing his own. The plum sauce sirloin was terrific. It's a buffet style, with all the kimchi, salads and pickles you could want, and fried dumplings and spring rolls to start off with.

On our second night we stayed in a hotel in town, so we could easily walk home from the Tim Minchin concert - the main reason for this visit. Next morning we slept in until half an hour before checkout time, and went off to Newtown for breakfast. It's been ten years since we moved from there now, and North Newtown seems to have gone a step too far upmarket to be interesting. Enmore road and South Newtown is where the off-beat stuff happens now. As a rough generalisation, Enmore road is more goth and kink, while south Newtown is more retro and hippy.

We had breakfast at a place called "New in Town", located where the old Chocolate Dog cafe is no more. They did a decent coffee, and we ate fluffy ricotta pancakes (me, $11), and a lovely BLT in a crusty long roll (bloke, $7). They do Polish at night, says their sign, and there's Polish sausage options for breakfast if that's your thing. Then we went for a short stroll as the shop owners were blearily setting up for their 11am and noon opening hours. We browsed around some Turkish and Afghan importers shops, and picked up some amusing jewelry from Mink Schmink. There's a nice range there, mostly in the cheap and quirky vein. So, that was fun, and then it was time to go home.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Et tu, Flute?

I had to go out to Fyshwick to buy a new dishwasher hose, so of course I had to drop in at the Flute bakery. I got a lovely sourdough loaf, of course, and also picked up some of their Easter range - the hot cross brioche. This is cute, but I don't really recommend them. They're a nice enough little roll of rich dough, but sadly under-spiced to be a proper hot cross bun substitute. The fruit is just sultanas. No currants, and then there's the vexed issue of the mixed peel. Sadly, Flute have gone along with the recent trend to eliminate it. It's just not right having a hot cross bun without that little bitter citrus tang. For the first time, I am disappointed in Flute.

However, on a positive note, That Bagel Place is now making hot cross bagels! I queued up for them in the market this morning, and was not disappointed with them at all. Nicely spiced, and with the odd dot of peel. Yum! It was their "bagel of the week", so we can't count on a re-occurrence. But I do hope they continue baking these until Easter - that would make sense.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Grandma's Little Bakery

"Grandma's Little Bakery" looks like a misnomer to me. It should probably be called Ia-ia's or Nonna's or Siti's. This cafe, function centre and shop is located in the Fedra olive grove, just off the Federal Highway in the Collector region. They specialise in olives, of course, and other Mediterranean products, and they serve meals as well as selling foods. They seem to be doing pretty well - we dropped in on our way back from Sydney last week and the place was packed.

The shop is quite the treasure trove. You can find freshly made hummus, pestos, olive and ricotta dip, tapenade, and more. There's a range of home made nougats - the pistachio and apricot is great - and other confectionery. There's ingredients such as syrups of rose, date, and pomegranate, dry goods such as lentils and couscous, and a big range of spices, whole and ground including exotics like za'atar and baharat. But the spice tub sizes are a bit too large for me; they'd be stale by the time I finished. You can buy their specialty boreks packed frozen to take home. There's also fresh baked bread, bagels and pastries, and they stock the well-known Lynwood farm preserves.

We didn't actually stop for lunch or arvo tea, since we'd just had a big brunch in Sydney. But having checked the place out and enjoyed their produce, I hope to make it a destination sometime.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


"Slice" is a very useful generic concept for clearing out the fridge. It's so generic that it doesn't have a name besides just "slice". It could be spinach slice, or zucchini slice, or mixed veggie slice, or many other things.

The idea is that you locate all the non-watery veggies that need using up. Clean them and grate them or chop them or whatever. Spinach, chard, silverbeet etc should be lightly steamed, then squeezed and chopped. I find that zucchini can be grated then squeezed out to remove excess water. Some mashed pumpkin is good, or precooked cauliflower or broccoli. Defrosted frozen spinach can be used, too. But no tomatoes in the mix, they are too wet!

Anyway, you pop them in a big bowl. Add any odds and ends of cheese that you have, grated if it's firm. Cheddar, ricotta, and cottage cheese are good basics, but there's nothing to stop you using fancy bits of brie or gruyere. Then add some cooked rice - one of those sachets of precooked rice from the supermarket is handy here, if you don't have leftovers and don't have time to cook it. I like to make this with brown rice.

Chuck in some flavouring agents. I like to use plenty of dill and lemony herbs like sumac and lemon myrtle, and some chopped spring onions. But perhaps some fresh basil and garlic might suit your fancy better. I usually like to make it fairly mild, and then add some chutney or sauce to taste at serving time. You can add other little bits and pieces of stuff for an accent - leftover antipasti, a handful of pitted and halved olives, some chopped sun-dried tomatoes or roast capsicum. If you're not cooking for a vegetarian, some chopped ham or cooked bacon pieces could well go in.

Now have a closer look at your bowlful of stuff. Will it fit into your shallow casserole dish or pie plate for baking? If it looks like too much, then scoop some into a storage container to freeze for next time. If it's not enough, add another grated zucchini, or some frozen spinach or frozen peas or something.

To finish off, take 4-8 eggs, depending on the size of the dish. Break them in, and mix well. If they're a bit old, because this is also good to use up excess eggs, then break them into a cup first to check that there are no bad smells. Put all in your oven dish and top with sliced tomatoes if you want, maybe some breadcrumbs for crunch, and definitely some grated cheese - more cheddar, or some parmesan. Bake at 160C until the egg is set - 30-60 minutes depending on the depth of the baking dish. Don't rush it with a high temperature, or it will tend to separate and get watery.

Serve it in big slices, like a lasagne. This is a complete meal in itself, with veggies, protein and carbs all together. But it's good to have something else alongside for variety. That could be a nice crisp salad, or any side vegetable, or even a sausage for the meat-eaters, or a slice of smoked salmon - that's especially good if you've gone for lemon and dill as your flavours.

Saturday, 19 March 2011


Pretty colours!

Here's a sample from today's market. Early autumn produce - new season apples, plums, rainbow chard, a big fat leek, and more. Even bananas! These ladyfingers from Coff's Harbour were selling for only $7 a kilo, excellent value at the moment. This is actually a small collection I've put together for B1, who is back in Canberra at last but couldn't get to the market today. I've also got a couple of slices of very fine leg ham from Balzanelli - smallgoods people from Fyshwick. They specialise in Italian style pork products, from pork & fennel sausages to pancetta and coppa. They slice to order, so I have nice fat slices. Yum.

I didn't buy any tomatoes or beans or figs, because last week I picked a good kilo of beans and 2kg of tomatoes from my minuscule veggie garden. I can highly recommend these "purple king" beans to any neglectful gardener. All my peas and snowpeas died, but these beans just kept on going. I put in four seedlings on a wire obelisk, added a handful of fertiliser, a dash of snailbait. Helped along by plenty of rain, they are now producing about half to one kilo of beans a week. They're a pretty deep purple, but they turn green when they are cooked.

And while the figs on my tree aren't ripe yet, there are hundreds of them coming soon - if the birds don't get them first. So much as I love figs, I'm not paying $1.50 each at the market.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Spaghetti Squash!

It's always exciting to try something new. I'd heard of spaghetti squash before, but never actually seen one in real life until just now. I found one in Choku Bai Jo, and I'm told that they grow quite well in the Canberra region. Since it's such an oddity, I've taken lots of photos.

So here it is in its original state, looking a bit like an elongated honeydew melon. There's a nice big avocado next to it for scale. The first step is to cut it in half, where it now looks like a cross between a melon and a pumpkin.

Now you need to cook it, and this is where the advice I found differs. Either you can put it in a greased oven tray, or on one with a couple of centimetres of water in it. Place it cut side down, and bake at 180C for about 30 minutes, until it's quite easy to pierce the rind with a knife. Take it out and scrape out the seeds. You can leave it to cool first, but I found holding it with an oven mitt and scraping with a spoon was fine.

And now, take to it with a fork and scrape lengthwise along the squash, and you will end up with a lot of strands, like angelhair pasta - that's very thin spaghetti. Serve it how you will.

Don't expect it to taste like spaghetti, no matter what the low-carb diet books say! It's definitely a squash, more like zucchini. But the texture is fun, and it makes for a nice light meal. Good for summer, tossed with pesto, olives and fetta, perhaps. We actually ate it with a tomato, olive, bacon and chilli sauce. It seemed to need cheese quite a lot. I've also had some tossed with tuna, chilli, peas and corn. It seems to leave me a bit unsatisfied, like having a salad for dinner. A hunk of nice bread would help complete it. Or it could be a side dish - I think it would be good in a gratin.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Hot Hobart Berry Cake

A couple of weeks ago I was at a friend's place, and spent a little time browsing How to Cook a Galah by Laurel Evelyn Dyson. This is a fascinating book about Australian culinary history, with plenty of recipes. I copied down a couple of recipes to try out. This one is a sort of fruit sponge, originally titled Hot Hobart Mulberry Cake. Apparently the original cook had a friend with a mulberry tree.

The recipe is dead easy, with no fussy creaming of butter and sugar, just a simple stir through. I didn't have mulberries, but I did have some blackberries from the Borenore Hillside orchards and some boysenberries from my back garden, picked about a month ago and frozen. So here is my variant.

Recipe: Hot Hobart Berry Cake

450g berries
juice of one lemon
300ml light sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla brandy
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour

  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Beat together the sour cream, vanilla and eggs.
  • Sift the flour and sugar together
  • Wash berries and dry well, then coat with lemon juice.
  • Grease a round casserole dish.
  • Stir the sour cream mix through the flour and sugar.
  • Turn out into the greased dish.
  • Pour berries on top.
  • Bake for 45min-1 hour, until sponge is done in the centre when tested with a skewer.
  • Serve warm, with cream or icecream.

Notes: There was no vanilla in the original, and of course the sour cream was not light. I'm also guessing that they used butter to grease a dish, rather than a spray of rice bran oil.

Vanilla brandy is what I have on my shelf, it's a small bottle of brandy with vanilla pods in it. Use 1 tsp vanilla essence and 2-3 tsp brandy for the closest equivalent. It's quite a thick batter, and I think the extra dash of liquid is helpful. Possibly the original cook's sour cream was thinner, or her lemons juicier or eggs larger.

It came out very delicious when warm. It did take quite some time for the centre to set - 55 min even in my fan forced oven. By that time the outer part was a little crusty.

It went very well with a scoop of vanilla icecream, and I think pouring cream would be a good option, too. On the whole I think this is better warm than cold, and even better with more berries. Luckily it microwaves up alright with 30-60 seconds a serve.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

I have a problem with stone fruit

I buy too much of it.

The Bloke doesn't eat any stone fruit, except for dried apricots. And yes, I can easily get through a couple of kilos of cherries in a week all by myself when they're in season. But right now the markets are packed with plums and nectarines and peaches and plumcots and I wander around thinking "I'll just get half a dozen of these" and "ooh, those look nice, how about I just buy four" and somehow I come home with far too much for me to eat in a week. Especially if I've bought huge punnets of blackberries, strawberries and blueberries as well.

And I have another problem with stone fruit. These days most of them are sold rock hard. Even the peaches from the growers market are too firm to be edible immediately. Stone fruit don't really ripen off the tree, no extra sweetness develops, but they will soften. Pop them in the fruit bowl for two or three days, watch like a hawk, and eat them when they are just softened enough. But if you leave them for even 12 hours longer, they start getting a bit wrinkly and too soft to be nice. And if you then put them in the fridge and leave them for a few more days, some will go off entirely, and some will get a bit squishy in spots.

Here's what I did to salvage the old fruit when I got back from Goulburn.

Recipe: White Peaches in Blood Plum sauce

3 white peaches or nectarines
4 blood plums
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon rose water
2 tablespoons water

Wash the fruit well.
Chop the plums small, removing stones and any nasty dead bits.
Chuck them in a saucepan with the sugar, rosewater and the water.
Bring to a simmer.
Cut the peaches in large pieces - halves, or quarters.
Add them to the plums, and let simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly, then remove peach pieces.
Slip off the peach skins.
Mash the plum sauce, or if you feel energetic, sieve or puree it.
Return the peach pieces, mix well, and chill.

This was a really great outcome - the rose with the blood plum and hint of vanilla is a very good combination. It's obviously adaptable to other fruits; this is just what was in the fridge, but I think I lucked out here. The aromatic white peach holds up well against the sauce, and matches with the rose.

Peach skins are easy to slip off when the fruit is cooked. If you prefer, you can skin them like tomatoes, by standing then in a bowl of boiling water for a minute or two.

Eat these for breakfast - cold with Greek yoghurt and granola, or warm on porridge, depending on what the weather is doing.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Eating around the web

I'm very erratic with food reading on the web. There's a few blogs that I check regularly, but otherwise things just seem to turn up. From links friends post on facebook or message boards, mostly. Or sometimes I google an ingredient, and find something on some totally random site. I've had the chance to try quite a few things recently; with this crazy weather anything from salad to porridge is an option.

I googled quinoa a while ago and found a nice quinoa porridge. At the same site, a recipe for quinoa pilaf took my fancy. Now, as the bloke hates corn and walnuts, I had to make a variant. But the general idea is very adaptable. Quinoa cooked in stock, then fried up with onion, spices, and vegetables. It's good with that dark Tuscan kale, but you could try spinach or silverbeet. I served it as an accompaniment to some quick grilled lamb chops from that new Dickson butcher.

And 35C one day, 15C the next, it's still possible to have porridge. I was quite intrigued by this idea, cooking brown rice in a crockpot. I almost followed the recipe, except that I used low fat milk instead of full-fat, and coconut milk and a 1/4 cup of sugar instead of the sweetened condensed milk. And raspberries on top instead of cranberries or raisins cooked in. So, yeah, almost the same. The result is, well, OK. The bran separates off, while the inner rice goes squishy, which gives it more of a porridge texture than a rice pudding texture. Also I think it needed less sugar. I couldn't put maple syrup on top since it was already quite sweet enough for me.

Serious Eats crops up quite a lot, since I'm a facebook fan. This American site has some wonderful discussions. Check out this hilarious recipe for boiled water, and don't miss the reader comments. These chocolate chip cookies are from Serious Eats. I made them before Xmas, and have two sausages of dough still in the freezer waiting for the next cookie occasion.

And then there's this chocolate cake. I simply could not resist making this, as it is just so very weird. It's gluten-free - it uses not chickpea flour but actual chickpeas. I liked the flavour in the end. The chickpeas add some flavour, but it's quite neutral tending to nutty - a reasonable match to chocolate. The texture was less of a hit. It came out quite dry. I found that it was OK when tempered with a dollop of icecream, and B2 liked it, but B1 did not. So, variable.

I did edit the recipe slightly for Australian measures, so here you go.

Recipe: Chocolate Chickpea Cake

1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
150g dark cooking chocolate
2 x 420g tins of chickpeas
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt

  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Grease a small loaf tin with the butter, and "flour" it with the cocoa.
  • Drain the chickpeas and rinse them well.
  • Weigh out 2/3 of them, and set the rest aside for some other use.
  • Put them in a food processor, with the eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and baking powder.
  • Puree until very smooth.
  • Melt the chocolate, and blend it into the rest of the mix.
  • Pour the cake batter into the tin and smooth surface.
  • Bake at 180C for 45-60 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before inverting to cooling rack to cool completely.
  • Dust with icing sugar just before serving.

I used the extra chickpeas in a mixed veggie curry. You could also add them to a soup or a salad, or mash them up with garlic, lemon and tahini to make hommous.

I like to melt chocolate in the microwave - break it up into a glass bowl, zap it for 20 sec, stir well, and repeat until all is melted. Much easier than a double boiler, or the old bowl over boiling water technique.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Regional Goings On

We've just got back from Goulburn, where we saw some amazing acts at the annual Australian Blues Festival. Pugsley Buzzard is a fabulous pianist, with a voice of gravel. Sorta kinda like a cross between Louis Armstrong, Tom Waits, Fats Waller and Nick Cave; always worth seeing. And we saw the Lemon Squeezing Daddies with new front woman, Perle Noire, who looks and sounds like she's out of Chicago but is actually a Londoner. In the one paid show we went to, Doc Neeson (of the Angels) walked on stage looking oddly like Matt Preston, and delivered a solid blues-rock set, with guitarist Mal Eastwick. New finds from this time are the young Shaun Kirk, from Melbourne and Luna, who it turns out are from Canberra, even though I haven't seen them around here yet.

In food news, we ate at the Tatts one night, which is pretty standard pub grub. They do a decent burger and a cook your own steak; the scotch fillet I had was great, very tender. The salad bar was decent, with good fresh greens but I'd steer clear of the curry coleslaw if I were you. The other night we ate at the Goulburn Workers Club, which is pretty standard club grub. A decent salt and pepper squid, a slightly odd caesar salad with whole lettuce leaves and no egg, and a big slice of garlic bread instead of croutons. Also no anchovies, but I don't even expect anchovies in a Caesar these days.

Cafe Book is our first choice option for breakfast, with a fairly standard bacon and egg breakfast. The menu is nothing remarkable, but the food is all fresh and hot and well cooked. You get service with a smile, and a huge wall of second hand books for sale. And enormous smoothies. The bakery up the road near the Big Merino is not bad, either, and do a nice sourdough and a good cornbread. In both cases, it helps to order the coffee extra strong. What is it with country towns and weak coffee?

Meanwhile, back in Canberra, the Handmade Upmarket is back next weekend. This thing just keeps growing and growing. It's a market for regional craftspeople, and the goods for sale include a decent selection of food, as well as all the jewelery, clothes, bags and so on. It outgrew the Albert Hall, then the Yarralumla Woolshed and the Kamberra Wine centre, and have now moved to the National Convention Centre. Saturday 19th February, from 11am. They're also running a shop, on the Boulevard near the former Electric Shadows, but the range there is naturally much smaller. As well as the crafty stuff, they stock some good chockies from Lindsay & Edmunds and the Curious Chocolatier.

By the way, pARTy cakes will be there, and donating 25% of their profits to ovarian cancer research. So get in there and eat cake. I've bought cupcakes from them before; they are very good.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Developments, mostly in Dickson

The non-Dickson developments are that I've given the blog a super-quick facelift with a standard blogger template. And I've taken up twittering. You can follow me at @CathCanCook if you feel so inclined. I'm not tweeting a lot, since my phone doesn't currently support it, but definitely more than I'm blogging at the moment!

Here's the few new points of note around Dickson.

An Asian supermarket, Asian Quay, has opened on Challis St, where MalAdjusted used to be. If you're worried by this news, do not fear! Mal's lovely bicycle shop has just moved around the corner. It's now in the square behind Zeffirellis. You'll also find a new cafe/bar here, by the name of Dzire, where the much lamented TurkOz used to be. I haven't tried this one out yet, but I will try to get there soon. They have a website at but it's just a stub at the moment.

Asian Quay is a bit different from the other Asian grocers around the area. They seem to stock a lot more vegetarian ingredients than most - veggie versions of instant noodles, oyster sauce, and fake meats from TVP to soy "duck necks". There's also a wider range of sweets, especially icecreams and other frozen desserts. But the veggie section is very minimal; Saigon is still far and away the best for fruit and veg.

Finally, there is a new butcher, imaginatively titled "The Butcher Shop". It's near Woolworths, in the square in the corner. From Woollies, go past the chemist and jeweler, and look to the right, across from the Shiny Things Shop. (Not its real name.) They're in the new tradition of butchers, with house-made sausages and ready made kebabs and marinated ready-to-go roasts. They stock King Island beef. I haven't checked all the details about what's local and what's free range yet, but I can say that the sausages, silverside and lamb chops that I've had so far have all been top quality.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Coo, lumme!

Coo is a little Japanese restaurant on East Row, up the London Circuit end. It's run by the same people as Iori, and they seem to have maintained their tradition of hiring sweet, friendly but vaguely confused Japanese students as staff. They also share a website - here is Coo's section.

The routine here at lunchtime is that you rock up to the front counter, order and pay. The menu is posted all over the wall, and there's a lot more to choose than is shown on their website's lunch menu. You can have your lunch to take away, or eat in with no price difference. If you choose to eat in, you then go through the curtain, clutching a card with your table number, and also any bits of your lunch that have come out of the cold storage at the front. Behind the curtain there's a lot of small tables, a licensed bar with sake and Japanese beer and some odd fruity slushy mocktails. There's also more menu items on the wall, and a TV playing bizarre Japanese shows - while we were there it was Tokyo shock boys, pretty autumn travelogues, and sumo wrestling.

The sushi and sashimi plate ($8.50) is the normal variety you'd get from many a takeaway place. Tuna, salmon, some white fish, a couple of cucumber rolls, a cooked prawn, a piece of California roll. It was all good, and to my surprise a small cup of light green tea and a styrofoam cup of white miso soup turned up to accompany it. My friend had a white pork noodle soup - there are many to choose from, with ramen, udon or soba and a bewildering variety of stocks and accompaniments. To add to the difficulty of choice, you can have combos - a half serve of soup and something else like a tonkatsu, tempura, or sushi selection. Large bento boxes, whether eat in or take away, run at about $12.

The food is very good, and the lunchtime service very quick. We will definitely be back for more. I'm pleased about this, as I love Japanese food. Last year, when they had recently opened, we had a bad evening with ridiculously slow service. We tried to grab a quick bite of sushi before a show, but nothing arrived for 45 minutes! I can now hope that this was just teething pains - this lunch experience bodes very well.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Happy Easter!

No, seriously, WTF are you thinking, Woollies? Hot cross buns for sale already? I'm barely over Xmas, and even though I didn't do the big dinner thing, we still have leftovers to get through. And seriously, EPIC is currently full of Summernats, not folkies. Your timing is just way off.

My main Xmas food discovery this year has been the Delicious recipe for fruit mince scrolls. Valli Little titles it the "Christmas Morning Crown". I made, well, not exactly it, but a variation of it for Xmas breakfast a couple of weeks ago. And then I liked it so much I did it again to host an arvo tea for some friends. And then again just because I got into a YEAST FRENZY!!!! In just one day I made the scrolls, no-knead bread, and some pizza bases. And then I ran out of yeast, or who knows what else might have happened.

I'm back at work now, so a frenzy like that is unlikely to recur for a bit. But the cool thing about the scrolls is that you can make them the day before you bake them. A little easy prep on Saturday, and then fresh baked scrolls on Sunday morning, oh my yes! The dough is a rich one and quite tender, since it's not really kneaded. It's also not a sweet dough, so you could even try a savoury filling. Ham, cheese, pineapple & jalapeno pizza scrolls, perhaps? Probably not with the icing, in that case.

Recipe: Iced Fruit Mince Scrolls

225g bread flour
7g sachet yeast (1 teaspoon granules)
2 teaspoons sugar
a small pinch of salt
40g butter
1/2 cup warm milk

1/2 cup fruit mince
2 tsp grand marnier
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup mixed glace fruit (chopped to half cherry size)
3 tablespoons soft brown sugar
45g softened butter.

1/2 cup sifted icing sugar
1 - 2 tablespoons liquid (lemon juice, grand marnier, rosewater etc)

* Measure out the flour and add yeast, sugar and salt.
* Melt the butter, and mix in the warm milk, stirring well.
* Add the egg to the warm milk, and beat well.
* Make a well in the flour, and mix in the milk mixture, stirring flour in from the sides gradually to prevent lumps.
* Bring together in a rough soft ball, and cover with plastic wrap.
* Let rise in a warm place for about an hour. Or a not quite so warm place, for an hour and a half - until about doubled in size.

* While it's rising, prepare your chosen filling. For the fruit mince one, simply mix all ingredients together well, mashing the butter up with the fruit.

* Punch down, knead for half a minute, and turn out onto a floured surface.
* Roll or stretch it out to the size of a small oven tray.
* Spread filling out, leaving about 2cm space at the long edges.
* Roll up from the long edge so you have a filled sausage of dough.
* Grease and flour an oven tray, or line with silicone and flour lightly.
* Cut the sausage into 8-10 pieces, and arrange these in a ring on the tray. Keep cut side up, and let the sides just touch.
* Cover with a dampened teatowel or strong kitchen paper, and leave for another hour in the warm spot.
* Refrigerate overnight, if you want - bring back to room temperature before baking.
* Bake at 180C for 20 minutes, until golden.
* Cool for five to ten minutes before drizzling some icing over the top in swirls or zigzags.

To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, and add liquid by teaspoons, stirring well, until it is just liquid enough to drizzle.

Other filling options:
* 1/2 cup of your own fruit mix (currants, raisins and mixed peel), pre-soaked in tea or Grand Marnier, with 3 tablespoons soft brown sugar and 45g softened butter.

* Valli Little's original - 50g soft brown sugar and 85g softened butter, plus 1/3 cup sultanas, 1/3 cup mixed peel, 1/4 cup glace cherries, 2 tbsp chopped hazelnuts.

* Use your imagination. Jam, other dried fruits, chopped nuts, stewed apple or rhubarb, cinnamon sugar, spices etc.

The icing is also totally generic. Use a couple of drops of vanilla essence, plus water. Or Grand Marnier, lemon juice, lime juice, rosewater, or whatever you fancy. Spices can be added, too - I made one with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon mixed in with the icing sugar.