Tuesday, July 26, 2011

30 minute lunch - Tomato, parsley & bread soup

Winter lunches are all about soup for me. I don't like eating salads when it's cold, I need that warm & full in the tummy feeling. Since making my own soups I'm more and more disappointed with the range in supermarkets here, and miss the delicious Covent Garden soups from the UK. Don't think Coles will be stocking them anytime soon though.

I modified this recipe from Marion Grasby's stunning new book, Recipes and stories from a hungry cook.  The layout is so enticing, and I'm enjoying reading about the thai recipes, and where they come from. She's incredibly talented, and I hope she is able to outgrow the Masterchef label that is placed on her.

Thanks Warringah library - I would be bankrupt without you supplying me with new cookbooks!

Surprisingly enough, I didn't have tinned tomatoes in my pantry today, so I used fresh.  I love that Marion suggests using tinned, this makes it a soup that would easily come from ingredients already in the kitchen, rather than needing to make a trip to the shops.


1kg fresh tomatoes or 3 tins of tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 handful of basil or other fresh herbs (I used parsley)
2 slices stale bread
2 teaspoons white sugar
Parmesan to serve
Salt & pepper to taste


Heat the garlic in the olive for about a minute in a saucepan.  Then add the tomatoes and leave to simmer for half an hour or so to develop their flavour.
After this time, taste and add sugar and salt as necessary.  Then tear the bread and add it to the soup, then finally adding fresh herbs.
Can be served immediately with parmesan and fresh herbs to garnish.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Baked rhubarb with orange & vanilla

I'm a bit rhubarb obsessed. 
Yes, really. My husband really doesn't get it, and won't go near the stuff. I'm getting through a bunch a week on my own. I'll happily eat it with yogurt for breakfast, as a sweet fix after lunch and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in the evening.
I love the flavour - so complex, and not too sweet. And so versatile.
Mostly I poach it until it becomes a bit pinky mess, but recently I've been admiring more delicate rhubarb based desserts on blogs and on Australian Masterchef. Michael made a beautiful rhubarb based dessert last night. The shards of rhubarb were pretty and even, keeping their shape, and made his overall plate look so pretty. (Apologies for no link - the Masterchef website hasn't posted it as yet)

So last night was time to trial baked rhubarb. It was so simple and so tasty.


1 bunch rhubarb, cleaned and chopped into even lengths (removing any coarser skin)
2 tablespoons demarara sugar (or any other sugar)
1 orange - use all the rind and the juice also
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (includes the seeds)


Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees celsius.
Place all the ingredients in a baking pan and make sure the juice is mixed through evenly.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

Here I've served it with Yalna vanilla yogurt from breakfast. What a lovely way to start a Monday morning. It would also be a lovely side to a pannacotta or just serve with crème fraîche.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A visit to Quarter Twenty One, Westfield - Sydney

I was totally amazed to hear that there was a new foodie floor at the new Westfield in Pitt St Mall. Previously this would have been a food court with slices of pizza and cheap chinese food in a bain marie. Uninspired food to keep shoppers tummies' full, and not much more. Westfield have really stepped up. The mall is full of the world's most luxurious shops (Chanel, Bottega Veneta, Mulberry, Paul & Joe, Prada and Miu Miu, to name just a few!) and the foodie floor matches this.

The food blogger coverage of this place has been a PR dream, and I've been reading with great interest.  Justin North's Bécasse & Quarter 21 has got the lion share of this - it's a veritable centre of excellence, with 2 restaurants, a pâtisserie and a burger bar (Charlie & Co) So when I knew that I was owed a day of babysitting by Mr Heavenly for my birthday, I called Quarter 21 (with my fingers crossed) and managed to get a table.

Quarter 21 sits at one end on the fifth floor, alongside the Bécasse pâtisserie, the Quarter 21 providore and the cooking school. Lessons were taking place as we arrived, and looked like a lot of fun, and the set up for the classes in a U-shape almost meant that everyone looked really close to the teacher.  Entering the restaurant itself you feel the space and lack of people - it's the scene of calm with a simple but beautiful interior.

Slow-cooked Glenloth chicken with brussels sprouts, chestnuts, swede 
& smoked potato purée

Katie, Rosanna and I were instantly excited. We chatted to our really knowledgeable waiter who clearly samples the meals regularly. He told us all about where the chicken and pheasants were bred, and that the pheasants they buy are not incredibly 'gamey' to cater for the Australian pallet. Unfortunately these very special pheasants were all sold out on this particular day. Katie chose the chicken (that replaced the pheasant in the same dish) and Rosanna and I went with the 24 hour veal cheek.

24-hour veal cheek, sweetbread 
& scallop, cep potato purée, 
butternut squash & lemon thyme

The veal was very tender, but still pink, but had formed a slight crust on the outside. The cep potato puree and butternut squash added a very wintery feel to the dish, but the lemon thyme left it still feeling light.  Wow. I'm not a big fan of sweetbreads, but totally understood what both this and the lightly fried scallops added to the dish. Stunning.

The lovely Katie

I could have tried at least 3 of the desserts, and was quite tempted, but remembered that we had already broken our morning shopping with a stop at the pâtisserie bakery for an almond croissant. So good and yet so evil at the same time.

Soufflé du jour

Rosanna and I shared the soufflé of the day - which I recall, but did not write down, was a carrot soufflé with walnuts and a caramel sauce. Our waiter spent a long time justifying carrot in dessert - but it made instant sense to both of us, as carrot cake does from the first time you taste it. We weren't disappointed. The soufflé was light and perfect, with a touch of cinnamon. The caramel sauce and ice cream brought decadence to the plate.

Katie tried one of the smaller dessert plates - a great way to tempt girls to have an extra course! Rhubarb granita with pickled ginger  & Sheep’s milk yoghurt. I've never come across rhubarb used like this, and it was clean and refreshing. A beautiful ending to the meal.
We were also served madeleines, a current favourite of mine (see this post). I was one very happy lady. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Things I'm loving - July edition

Sorry for being blog-absent recently. I have been under the weather for about 3 weeks now - which has lead to not getting much done, and definitely not feeling creative. Hopefully the clouds of sickness will lift in the next few days.

I thought I would list all the things that are making the difference to me right now, those everyday luxuries that put the shine on your day:

T2 teas

I'm an avid coffee drinker,  but have become a little caffeine sensitive in my old age. So I have a 'real' tea (English breakfast or similar) first thing in the morning, then a coffee when I'm out an about, but go herbal in the afternoon.  My current fave is the Lemongrass & Ginger (thanks to Sydney Shop Girl for introducing me) with a dollop of raw organic honey. Served in a bodum pavina glass.  The lemongrass and ginger give it a zing, and it feels oh so good for you.  The cupboard also contains T2 Blue Mountain and Organic Chai, for those 'other' tea occasions.

How gorgeous are their matt black tins too!

Gourmet Traveller

Not sure how I have only just discovered this magazine! I think I thought it was more travel oriented, and all the sorts of hotels and trips that end up costing $30k or so for a few weeks holiday. This isn't necessarily false, but some destinations are definitely more accessible for those of us who still have bills and mortgages to worry about.

The food photography is stunning and very modern, but at the same time quite homey and not over styled. The meal settings are much more about cooking for family & friends, despite how time consuming many of the recipes can be.
I was given a subscription by my lovely parents for my birthday - this really will inspire me for the year to come. My bonus annual recipe book also arrived this week - I'm in love already!
The website is very comprehensive too - especially if you're looking for variations on the most traditional recipes. I made their shepherd's pie last weekend, so yummy. Which leads me to...

Potato ricer

Want the perfect mash? Look no further. The potato ricer makes the job so easy, and the results are so much better than a hand held masher. I could eat creamy mash every night at the moment, maybe only alternating with pasta. During winter, carbs are where it's at.
I bought mine at Essential Ingredient - it's solid steel, with three different plates, in case you wanted more lumpy mash I guess????

Kitchen by Nigella Lawson

I could watch Nigella re-runs all day. I know so many people criticise her for being overtly sexy, but this goes over my head because she makes the food so appealing. She is so literate too, using the most wonderful expressions to describe food.  There is no doubt she wrote this book, her voice comes through loud and clear.
Kitchen is almost like a basic food encyclopedia, providing info on the things that you really need in to invest in to set up your kitchen. It also divides the book into sections around key ingredients, or types of cooking (ie cooking with bones).

Kikki-k recipe adhesive notes

So useful for a recipe book fanatic like me! They are $6.95, and contain hundreds of little stickers to help you mark out your favourite recipes, or the ones you intend to try.  With so many cook books at my disposal, menu planning can become really complicated and long winded - this is a great little helper.

Flowers & birthday cakes

Need I say more?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chicken soup for the soul

I've always muttered away to myself when Americans rave about chicken soup. I've seen more than a few self-help books with 'chicken soup' in the title too, it all seemed to take the idea of a healing soup a bit too far.

But having been under the weather for about 2 weeks now, with the slow coughs and colds, headaches and general tiredness I have been craving chicken soup.  In whatever format was available, and wishing there was a Vietnamese place for Pho a little close by.  The thing is with chicken soup, when you're feeling sick it's a little bit too involved to be making yourself, especially if you make the stock from scratch too.  If only my mum lived around the corner.

As the clouds of sickness were lifting at the weekend, I decided it was time to itch that craving. Not only was it my first batch of chicken noodle soup, but also, quite embarrassingly, my first chicken stock. The smell of stock through the house was wonderful, rich but soothing, I'll definitely be making it again.

I used a recipe from an old Sunday Life magazine, one of my many recipe clippings. Unfortunately there is no author.

Chicken stock - makes about 2 litres

1 chicken carcass (use after the meal)
2 carrots, chopped
1 stick celery, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp mixed herbs

Place the chicken carcass, carrots, celery, garlic, peppercorns and herbs in a large pot. Cover with 2 litres of cold water, then bring to a simmer over a low heat for 30 mins. Then strain.

Chicken noodle soup

50ml olive oil
1 brown onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
3 sprigs thyme
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1 carrot, chopped
80g butter
1.5L chicken stock (see above)
1/2 long-grain white rice
200g fine egg noodles (I used soba this time)
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced

In a large pan over a medium heat, add the oil, onion, garlic and thyme and cook for 3 minutes, then reduce to low and add the celery, carrot and butter and cook for 20 minutes, and caramelised.
Then add the stock and rice, increasing the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the noodles and cook for 10 minutes, finally adding the chicken meat to warm though.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lindt chocolate ganache tarts

The boy is not a fan of fruit desserts. At all. He would forgo crumble, tarts, pies and the rest for fruit salad, every time.   I need a bit of crumble in my life, so continue to make them regardless. Especially during winter.  But this time I thought I would make him a dessert that he would truly love. It was spot on.

These tarts are not sweet, they are 70% dark chocolate Lindt bittersweet. The punch of the chocolate was intense, but the crumbly pastry made for a lovely addition in texture to the dark ganache. We ate them with cream and vanilla ice cream.

I always forget how long it takes to make pastry. All that waiting and bind baking make it a full afternoon activity. Not sure how those Masterchef folk make one in under an hour!

Recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller, July issue
Serves 4


160ml pouring cream
125g dark chocolate, 70%

100g plain flour
30g pure icing sugar
1 pinch salt
60g cold butter coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk, plus eggwash for brushing


For the pâte sucrée (pastry) process flour, icing sugar and pinch salt in a food processor to combine. then add the butter and a tablespoon of iced water until the mixture is fine yet crumbly.  Add the yolk and tip onto a work surface, pressing the pastry a little. Wrap in cling film in a disc shape place in the fridge for 2 hours.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees, then roughly divide the pastry into 4 and roll out on a floured surface. The pastry should be around 2mm thick before laying into the tart tins. Trim the edges and chill for another 30 minutes.
Blind bake for 15-20 minutes, then remove the paper and weights and brush with eggwash. Pop back in the oven another 5 minutes, until golden and crisp. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
For the ganache, bring the cream to a simmer, then add in the shards of chocolate. Stir until the mixture is even, with no specs of chocolate anywhere. Place in the fridge to cool for 30 minutes.
Place the ganache in the tart tins and cool until totally set.