Thursday, December 18, 2008


Well, it's been a long time between posts, nearly a month, so I thought a brief explanation was required. I've not been well and, as things are not on the improve, have decided to call it a day with my food blog. I hope to return later in 2009.

Wishing you all a wonderful food & fun-filled Christmas and a safe & healthy New Yearr. It's been a blast.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Golden Ravioli

I'm still on my home-made traditional cuisine-finding jaunt, so if anyone knows of a find they don't want to keep to themselves, then drop me a line.

I was put onto Golden Ravioli by good Italian girl Dee as the "place where Italians buy their pasta when they can't be bothered making it themselves". That's a ringing endorsement if ever I heard one, so we bundled into the car and headed up to North Perth to their wholesale outlet (where they also sell to the public). There were kilo bags of fresh fettucine ($5), tubs of sauce ($8) and huge trays of ravioli bolognese ($12 for two trays). I tell you, this stuff is top drawer as well as cheap as chips and me & my sad wallet were well impressed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Recipe: Emu Goulash

I don't think there's an awful lot of meat on an emu. I can't be entirely sure of this, but by the look of their tatty feathered frames and long appendages there doesn't seem to be too much that's edible. I don't particularly like emus.They're grumpy and snatchy and I got more than my fair share of nips as a child at local wildlife sanctuaries. So I was happy to get my own back and eat this one, which was gamey and strong.

Thanks again to Sue from
Mates Meats for thinking outside the chicken/lamb/pork/beef box.

1 stick butter
3 onions sliced
1-1/2 tablespoons paprika
6 oz. can tomato puree
1-1/2 oz. vinegar
1 can beef stock
2 lbs. emu meat cut into cubes
dash sugar and garlic

Melt butter in a large pot with a cover. Add all of the ingredients and give it a bit of a stir. Cover and cook for 3 to 3 1/2 hours until tender and thick. Serve over noodles with a dollop of sour cream on top.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Star Anise has a New Venture

*Hot off the press*

It's now, well, semi-official: Star Anise's David Coomer will be opening his new restaurant, tentatively named Pata Negra, in Nedlands next February.

"It will be Moorish-inspired, so will have a tapas focus," David told me today. "But it won't be exclusively tapas. There'll also be quail, octopus, tajines and vegetables roasted in the massive wood-fired oven. Most of the influences will be coming from Spain, Morocco and the Middle East. Our sous chef, Matt Stone, will be heading over there to run it and will be joined by Kurt Sampson. It will have a more casual, user-friendly feel than Star Anise".

Stay tuned..

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Your Restaurants: October Profiles

Doughnuts filled with Callabeau chocolate, Meeka

My October profiles for ninemsn's Your Restaurants included:

Highly recommend those doughnuts..

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Spanish Flavours, Wembley

Ay carumba, the price of a good paella these days.

After speaking with a Venezuelan friend who recommended this place for their authentic paellas ("It's good, but not as good as my mother's"), we just knew we had to give Spanish Flavours a go. So we call the proprietress, an energetic Spanish cook named Rosa, and ordered the paella the required two days beforehand. But man, is Rosa hard to snare. "Too busy cooking to answer the phone", she declares later. "Let them wait".
So we wait.

We arrive at the appointed time just as Rosa finishes decorating our paella with King prawns, red capsicum and lemon wedges.
The wait is indeed worth it. Rosa uses imported medium-grain Spanish rice for her delicious paellas, which is then reduced, risotto-style, with a secret stock. Saffron, squid, mussels, broad beans, peas, capsicum and runner beans are then added. Choices are either meat or seafood and when Rosa says it will serve four, she really means six as the portions are vast.

Oh, and it's $80 for 4 people, plus a refundable $50 deposit upon return of Rosa's Spanish flat-bottom paella dish which, she insists, the paella should be served directly from.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Gold Plate Awards Winners 2008

At their recent night-of-nights at the Perth Convention Centre, the Catering Institute of Australia announced the winners of the annual Gold Plate Awards. Zafferano (food) & Voyager Estate (wine) took out the gong for the Prix D'honneur award, while White Salt won top prize of the night from a field of 151 finalists.

Other winners included:

Licensed Casual Dining – City / Metro

Red Cabbage Food & Wine

Restaurant/Cafe within a winery – Perth & Surrounds

Sandalford Estate - Caversham

Licensed Chinese and other Asian

Yu - Burswood

Seafood Casual Dining

Maretti Caffe Cucina

New Restaurant

Bistro Felix

Fine Dining

Julio's Restaurant

Wine List of the Year

(A)lure - Burswood

Big congrats to all the winners.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Day at elBulli - Ferran Adria

Image by Maribel Ruiz de Erenchun, from 'A Day at elBulli'.
Spherical-1 green olives

I've become rather slack with my blog postings..sorry. Will endeavour to Try Harder in future.

I received a copy of Ferran Adria's new book 'A Day at elBulli' in the mail the other day, and what a tome it is. Six hundred pages of gastronomic eye candy by the master himself, including recipes that you'll never try (sourcing dehydrated lemon verbena powder and freeze-dried passion fruit at Coles could pose a problem), the current el Bulli menu and lots and lots of gorgeous photographs.

For the uninitiated, el Bulli is a non-descript little restaurant situated on a remote part of the north-east coast of Spain that has been voted the best restaurant in the world four times in succession. Its maestro, Ferran Adria, has been voted best chef in the world. Ferran invented foam, and his culinary work lies somewhere between Willy Wonka and Alice in Wonderland when she bit into the magic mushroom. Nothing is what it seems at el Bulli (pronounced, apparently, 'el Bui'), with olives not just tasting like olives but the essence of olives and dishes resembling landscapes and artworks. I won't go into the statistics as I'm sick of reading about them, suffice to say he gets an awful lot of reservation queries and accepts very few. Yes, it's very very exclusive. And hence the reason for the book. Despite el Bulli being every die-hard foodie's Israel, at least for the next few years, most of us will (a) never get there or (b) never get a reservation. It is a day-in-the-life of one of the most extraordinary restaurants the world has ever seen.

Image by Maribel Ruiz de Erenchun, from 'A Day at elBulli'.
Earthy (incl Summer truffle, rice stock jelly, liquorice infusion, peanut oil marshmallow, freeze-dried cold white miso foam & beetroot shoot juice)

Ferran is part scientist, part chef and part artisan. A sample of his current 30 course menu goes something like this:
  • Spherical green olives
  • Pine nut marshmallow
  • Carrot foam with hazelnut foam air and Cordoba spices
  • Monk fish liver fondue with white sesame-flavoured kumquat
  • Chocolate air with crispy raspberry sorbet and eucalyptus water ice
Madness, I tell you. But a madness I would give my spleen to try.

My Q&A with Ferran to follow in the next few weeks.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Review: Maretti Caffe Cucina

I have wanted to get to Maretti for months and months, ever since I interviewed the owner and learnt he wakes before the crows every morning to make his own desserts and pasta. Now that's a dedication I wanted to taste.

We arrived at the restaurant amid the usual Continental kerfuffle, eventually got weeded out from the departing crowd and shown to our seats. It was warm and loud, with a pleasant contemporary design fit-out, well-spaced tables and an all-Italian waitstaff. While we waited for our meals, we did a little Botox-watching among the well-heeled crowd. The only measure of age of some of the grand dames was their wizened husbands.

After having watched Matteo make some of his pasta - he must get through hundreds of eggs per week - I was desperate to try it. Sadly - and surprisingly - it was not offered as a primi piatti for dinner. No matter, we shared. Holy heck, if I'm ever offered a last meal I think this might be it. The spaghetti was al dente and - unlike
Viva - held its shape beautifully. Generous chunks of lobster and shredded crab were tossed through it and enhanced by a fantastically light tomato sauce. It's so rare these days to find a light pasta dish that is refreshing and doesn't leave you wishing you'd worn your elasticated pants. Between you and me, I so wish I hadn't shared.

For main, we went with a special of chargrilled squid and a panzanella salad. The squid was attractively served whole with sections of sundried tomatoes. It had the trademark smokey flavours throughout and was only slightly rubbery. The panzanella salad of sundried tomatoes, capers, capsicum, olives, bread and oil was a perfect foil, other than there being a slight sundried tomato overkill. The bread had been cut into squares and soaked in olive oil, giving the dish a little more depth than you would usually get with a salad. Again, both dishes were light and refreshing, and didn't leave us groaning.

However, they did leave us keen for the desserts, which seem to be practically all made with mountains of cream. By the time we got to the dessert case the chocolate mousse, pannacotta, creme brulee and nougat mousse had all been demolished and we were left with caramel mousse. No matter, it was a sensation of caramel folded into mountains of - you guessed it - cream and topped with crunchy toffee pieces. We offset this gluttony with a selection of home-made pastries that were excellent.

Well worth the trek to the Mosman Park burbs.

What we shared: spaghetti ai crostaci; chargrilled squid; panzanella salad; caramel mousse; selection of amaretti & pastries.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Loose Produce, Como

Today I felt like I'd stepped back in time when I stumbled into a little grocer's shop in Como called Loose Produce that I'd never seen before. Everything from flour to coffee beans to spices were neatly labelled in cannisters and, through a viewing window, a young girl poured flour into hessian sacks. Except for the eye-watering prices of some of the items ($7.50 for a litre of OJ), it was all very Little House on the Prairie.

The proprieters are clearly passionate about high-quality, organic produce, with most items being gluten and/or wheat-free. There are numerous classes conducted in-store (gluten-free cooking; how to use your Thermomix; skincare and reflexology, amongst others). There's even a kids' cooking class in the school holidays. I don't know if I'll ever be a regular, but I know where to go if I ever get the urge for real drinking chocolate. And that reflexology looks damn tempting.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Review: Viva

I never wanted to go to Viva. I wanted to go to Maretti Caffe Cucina, where we were originally booked, but chef/owner Matteo closed the restaurant for the long weekend because his wife had just had a baby. So, in search of a replacement that would serve us trad Italian home-made cuisine, we found ourselves at Viva in Applecross. Perhaps this, then, was what made me so grouchy.

But first, the good bits. The service was right on the money. Despite the place heaving with revellers and the floor looking slightly understaffed, we never wanted for anything. The staff knew their menu, and that always makes me smile. The largely Italian crowd too was convivial, jovial, pick a happy word. Long tables of rollicking celebrations abounded with family, friends and kids all running around the place. It was a lovely vibe. The decor was that of a rustic Italian trattoria, with the warm glowing coals of an open pizza oven welcoming guests at the front door. My husband's osso bucco with risotto was a hearty country dish of voluminous proportions; my MIL's stuffed mushroom was also a winner. The chilli mussels we all shared as a starter were great, with not a New Zealand green lip in sight.

Which leads me to my meal. I'd had my heart set on the goat, but apparently so had everyone else that night and hence all other hearts were sated but mine. A quick scramble over the menu ensued and I opted for the calabrese with home-made fettucine. I say quick because the kitchen, on a busy Saturday night, makes it a policy to close by 9pm. I also say quick because by the time we were sat and ready to order, it was 8:50pm. What would the motherland say? Our meals were fast-tracked to warp speed, the kitchen closed and chef Joseph Parlapiano was free to saunter among his patrons looking for accolade. Joseph prides himself on serving home-made pasta, and the boast is plastered all over the restaurant. I wanted to call him over and talk about home-made fettucine. Because the enormous pile of mush in front of me didn't seem to fit the boast. There was no bite to the pasta, no al dente feel to it, no texture. I wanted my Re Store pasta, and this wasn't it. Granted, perhaps it was something I was missing in the process, such as the pasta was rolled extra-thin, but overcooked mush is overcooked mush.

Secondly, did I mention the size? It was, literally, around a kilo's worth. I weighed the leftovers when I got home out of sheer morbid curiousity and it was over 600gm. Ridiculous. What's the point of a
Stop Food Waste Campaign if this kind of excess is going on in the hospitality industry? What about pasta being a traditional primi piatti? Sure, I could take it home but, except for the calabrese salami, it was tasteless and it would be piffed.

Viva is a great place for a knees-up with loved ones, or for those who equate massive servings with good value-for-money. Just don't get there too late, or order the fettucine.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Your Restaurants: September Profiles

Okay, blatant plug coming up.

As some of you may or may not know, among other things I'm a food journo for ninemsn's Your Restaurants. Here's some quick links to my profiles & pics for September..

Lamont's Cottesloe

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Brittania, Bentley

Faggot, haggis & pork pie

It must be in the blood, or maybe it's because my Dad spent an awful lot of my childhood hunting down pork pies that reminded him of Yorkshire. Whatever it is, these days I can't go past a good pork pie. And when the chef's from that neck of the woods too, you know you're on track to getting something halfway authentic.

Brittania is a little shop on Albany Highway, hidden away between tyre repair workshops and cheap rug outlets. It's actually a coffee lounge and lunch bar, but they also have a great deli selection of delicacies from the motherland. And it's all made in-house. There's pork pies, white pudding, black pudding, faggots ($2), haggis ($14.95), mushy peas, steak pies ($1.30 each) and Scotch eggs.

Now I just have to try and figure out how to send it over to my dear old da in Melbourne.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cooking for Blokes @ Wyening Mission Farm

What do you do when you're a wheat farmer and there's no rain? Cook, I guess.

I was commissioned to head North to wheatbelt country on Sunday and cover a cooking class for blokes. Hosted by the very able team of Ruth & John Young at the historic Wyening Mission Farm, it was such a massive hit last year with the local farmers that the Youngs decided to make it an annual event. Cook extraordinaire & radio jock Ann Meyer ran the day beautifully and brought butcher Joe Princi along with her to handle all the blokey meaty bits of the class. Getting a room full of farmers gazing at their Blunnies geed up over smoked quail is a big ask, but after a few bevvies and remonstrations from Ann they were out of their seats and huddled over the serving counters faster than you could say brisket, musing over the finer points of de-boning rabbit.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed with their food knowledge. When one bloke lumbered up to the front to explain how to make gremolata, my jaw about hit the sandstone-clad floor. More than a few not only knew what couscous was, but had cooked it as well. But for me, the highlight of the day had to be the sausage-making. The guys got right in there, first mincing, then stuffing and finally twisting their pork-and-fennel sausage creations. Naturally, along with sausage-making comes much guffawing, ribbing and general hilarity (the booze was really kicking in by this stage), and I was awed at what many could get done with only one hand, the other one being pretty much glued to a stubby for the duration of the day.

By the end of the class, it was all chalked up as another big success. Ann was an absolute trouper, handling her team, the lads and the rustic conditions - the class was moved into the heritage barn due to poor weather - with aplomb, and somehow managing to turn out massive amounts of delicious food along the way. There was brisket with potato, lemon & saffron couscous, smoked quail with chocolate dipping sauce, rabbit and goat. And, of course, lots and lots of Joe's excellent sausages.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pasta @ The Re Store

Having owned an Italian restaurant in a former life, I find I now can't go past homemade pasta. I still miss my nightly fix of Mrs Q's fettucine with salami, zucchini & olives in a tomato sauce with a smidge of cream. Considering I don't make my own pasta, sugo di pomodoro or salami I've never even come close to replicating it. But at least I can buy fresh pasta. It has so much more bite than the pre-packaged variety and takes far less time to cook. We bought this bundle of fresh fettucine from the Re Store in Leederville today for $4.50 for around 500gm, and I plan to do as little to it as possible. It'll get a dunk in boiling water, a dollop of good sugo (from the nice Italian couple who bottle their own at the Victoria Park markets), some fresh basil and a bit of grated cheese on top. Can't wait.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Jaylea's Patisserie

A couple of people now have told me about how good the pies are at Jaylea's Patisserie, so I thought it time I checked them out. With the whispered promise of pastries, I bribed the little one into the car and we headed out to Willagee. On first impressions, Jaylea's appears to be a typical bakery in a typical non-descript local shopping strip, until you venture inside and check out the rows and rows of Show certificates and blue ribbons festooning the walls, and realise these guys are pretty serious about pies. They've been plied with awards from everyone from the Royal Agricultural Society of WA and the Baking Industry Employers of WA to the Great Aussie Meat Pie Competition.

After much hemming and hawwing and mucking about, we chose two multi-award winning pies, the mince and the steak and cheese. Now there's no way that I'm a meat pie aficionado or anything like that, but anyone with a mouth could tell that these pies are very, very good. Firstly, there's no watery gravy overflow when you bite into them. Secondly, they hold their shape (and content) beautifully, from the very first to the very last mouthful, thanks to a solid casing of buttery, flaky pastry. No spillage, which is, for me, a minor miracle. Thirdly, the fillings are top notch. No tell-tale aftertaste of preservatives and great quality ingredients. The mince was fine, tasty and lump-free, with a thick sauce and no dodgy gristle. The steak in the steak and cheese pie was tender and delicate. At $4 a pop on average they're pretty pricey, but they certainly fill a hole. Oh, and they're available cold so you can freeze them. Cool.

Jaylea's are at 76 Archibald Street, Willagee.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Coffee Conundrum

After interviewing the lovely boys at Zekka today, I couldn't help but feeling a little out-of-sorts. Coffee is not a friend of mine. Don't get me wrong. I love the heady aroma of roasting beans, the happy sound of percolators percing and creamy foam lapping at my upper lip. It's just that coffee and my digestive tract do not get along. And it's left me with a bit of barista envy.

So, to alleviate my funk, I thought I'd seek out all the good stuff I was doing for my body while abstaining from all that caffeine. And found these little nuggets, pilfered from a recent article in The New York Times:

Health Concerns:
  • Heart disease. Heart patients, especially those with high blood pressure, are often told to avoid caffeine, a known stimulant. But an analysis of 10 studies of more than 400,000 people found no increase in heart disease among daily coffee drinkers, whether their coffee came with caffeine or not.
  • Cancer. Panic swept the US in 1981 when a Harvard study tied the drink to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Coffee consumption temporarily plummeted, and the researchers later concluded that perhaps smoking, not coffee, was the culprit.
  • Bone loss. Though some observational studies have linked caffeinated beverages to bone loss and fractures, human physiological studies have found only a slight reduction in calcium absorption and no effect on calcium excretion, suggesting the observations may reflect a diminished intake of milk-based beverages among coffee and tea drinkers.
  • Weight loss. Here’s a bummer. Although caffeine speeds up metabolism, with 100 milligrams burning an extra 75 to 100 calories a day, no long-term benefit to weight control has been demonstrated. In fact, in a study of more than 58,000 health professionals followed for 12 years, both men and women who increased their caffeine consumption gained more weight than those who didn’t.

Health Benefits:

  • Probably the most important effects of caffeine are its ability to enhance mood and mental and physical performance. At consumption levels up to 200 milligrams (the amount in about 16 ounces of ordinary brewed coffee), consumers report an improved sense of well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability, although higher amounts sometimes cause anxiety and stomach upset (yep, that's me).
  • Millions of sleep-deprived Americans depend on caffeine to help them make it through their day and drive safely. The drug improves alertness and reaction time. In the sleep-deprived, it improves memory and the ability to perform complex tasks.
  • Recent disease-related findings can only add to coffee’s popularity. A review of 13 studies found that people who drank caffeinated coffee, but not decaf, had a 30 percent lower risk of Parkinson's disease.
  • Another review found that compared with noncoffee drinkers, people who drank four to six cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, had a 28 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. This benefit probably comes from coffee’s antioxidants and chlorogenic acid.

Damn, so much for feeling better. For the rest of the article, go here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Stop Food Waste! Campaign

When I was growing up, Mum would bung a roast in the oven every Sunday and serve it with all the trimmings. Which meant one potato for each person, a small spoonful of tinned peas, about five pieces of carrot and, if we nagged for long enough, a couple of Yorkshire puddings. Nevertheless, being a family of four there was still going to be meat left over. But could we nibble on it over the ensuing day or two? Could we hell. Mum would guard it savagely and turn it into Monday's dinner, which was casserole. She'd use the leftover gravy, too. In our house, the words 'food' and 'waste' didn't appear in the same sentence.

In a survey conducted by Planet Ark last year, homes in the ACT were chucking out 4.2 kilos of food per week. In Victoria and SA, 40% of what people bin is food, and in Sydney, around 50%. Personally, I find it hard to believe, yet the same stats are coming out of most affluent Western countries. In the UK, Brits piff five million spuds, four million apples & seven million slices of bread every day. That's an awful lot of wasted bread & butter pud. In the US, it's estimated 14% of purchased food is thrown out. The stats go on and on. It's depressing.

When I try and think of solutions, my thoughts return to Mum and how she ran her tight ship. Just a few of her food habits included:
  • as mentioned, using left-over roast meat for dinner the following day. Or for sandwiches, if we were lucky.
  • still on roasts, pouring the leftover pan juices into a bowl and putting it in the fridge. It would harden into lard, which you could slather onto crusty bread later on. My Dad was a happy man.
  • writing up a list of all the dinners for the week so she could shop for exactly what would be used.
  • not bothering with use-by dates on eggs. She'd just bung them in a bowl of cold water - if they sank, she knew they were okay.
I love my freezer and don't understand why more people don't use theirs. And in these days of abundance, a small chest freezer in the garage isn't going to break the bank. Freezing ideas include:
  • freeze your bread, muffins, rolls, scrolls, pikelets and crumpets
  • when cream or yoghurt is on the turn, cook up & freeze a batch of muffins, substituting the milk for the cream/yoghurt.
  • go to the market and buy your meat and fish in bulk (see earlier post on markets). Freeze it in serving portions. Some meat lasts for up to 18 months in the freezer. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than the supermarket, too.
  • Freeze your fruit & veg! Berries, stone fruit, blanched asparagus, blanched green beans, corn cobs, herbs..they all freeze really well.
Gosh, I'm feeling all Martha Stewart now. For more information or to share your own ideas (and possibly win some booty), go to . Or you can share your ideas/viewpoints here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Review: Star Anise

It's really lovely when the stars of an establishment - in this case, owner/chef David Coomer and his sous chef protegee, Matt Stone - are so accessible to the hoi-polloi. When I first rang the restaurant to make a booking, it was an affable Matt who answered the telephone. And on the night, it was David who made a point of approaching every table for a bit of cheerful meet & greet.

We decided to visit on a Saturday night, which meant the only fare available to us was the seven-course tasting menu. Oh well, one does what one must. Perhaps this was designed so that David could extract himself from the kitchen and mix it out the front? Either way, it certainly says a lot for the trust he must have in his young offsider, and fair enough too. The kitchen didn't miss a beat all night.

The first course arrived, and I was well chuffed to discover a bit of molecular gastronomy at play. The glistening horseradish foam balanced on a sliver of kingfish tartare was hot and excellent. David is renowned for his wonderful aromatic duck and (dare I say it) his fearlessness in the kitchen, but my money was on the third course, a generous slab of deep orange smoked ocean trout cooked at 45 degrees. It was briney and flavoursome, and went perfectly with the brown rice tea broth spooned over it. The cheese course of occelli di barolo and Valdeon blue cheese were both first-rate, but what really transported me was the soft, creamy brilliance of the French triple brie, brillat-savarin. I could eat this any place, any time, and it must surely be listed as a comfort food somewhere. Our sweet dessert was all whimsy and folly, with a tall hat of glittering fairy floss perched atop a crunchy head of pavlova, and a boiled lolly jar full of colourfrul fruit salad served as a side.

There were a few minor hiccups during the course of the evening. The music was variously on, off or skipping to its own beat. The service too was a little hit-and-miss. There was an increasing chill-factor in the ambient room temperature as the evening progressed, and I found myself nursing a cold the following morning. None, though, marred our overall experience of the evening. In fact, little glitches such as these can be almost conducive to the bonhomie of an establishment that, despite its highbrow clientele and intimate surrounds, doesn't take itself too seriously. Nor should it, either. It will be interesting to see if their second eatery, rumoured to be a tapas bar in North Perth, will follow along the same path.

And yes, David, that chandelier looks as though it's been constructed from lasagne sheets.

What we ate:
Two spoons of Virgin oyster & hiramasa kingfish tartare with horseradish foam; jamon iberico gran reserva, octopus, confit tomato, piquillo peppers, fans of fennel, olives; ocean trout, enoki mushrooms, seaweed, endamame (soy beans); crispy aromatic duck, braised Chinese cabbage, sweet & sour mandarin & ginger sauce; cheese; raspberry & blood orange spider; pavlova with fairy floss & fruit salad.

What we drank: Picardy Pinot Noir; O:TU Sauvignon Blanc

Friday, August 22, 2008

Canning Vale Markets

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig. Home again, home again, jig-a-de-jig.

So goes the nursery rhyme that invades my head every time we make the family pilgrimage to the
Canning Vale Markets at Market City each weekend. I'm having a bit of a love affair with them at the moment. Not only for their unparalleled freshness when compared to supermarket-bought produce, but for their gob smacking value (read: cheapness), too.

This morning, for instance, we visited the butcher's. Not your normal butcher, mind, but cases and cases of fresh meat with every conceivable cut prepared in every conceivable fashion. Ten frantic staff ran up and down the aisle serving a crowd that was permanently three-deep. With all that selection, it was difficult for a carnivore to decide. In the end we were overwhelmed and bought 500gm of fresh lamb mince for $2.00, and a blade of sirloin for $26 that had a deep, almost purplish hue when sliced into and enough marbling to rival Wagyu. We got ten rich, tender steaks out of it - that's $2.60 per steak! We passed on the stash of whole giant hog's heads sheathed in tight clingfilm. I could not even begin to fathom the prep it would take (remove eyes, eyelashes, ears and brains. Machete into four equal pieces..). Nope.

The fish market is also excellent. There's nothing like fresh whole fish packed in ice to swell a crowd and expand the cooking repertoire. Last week we bought two red perch for $7.00 (but ask for it to be scaled and gutted or, like me, you too will have a job on your hands) which tasted so sweet it reminded us of fresh marron. This week we bought four garfish for $9.00. If anyone knows of any good recipes, do let me know.

Oh, and give the bakery a miss. It's crap.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Recipe: Stock

Alright, so call me a numbskull but I never knew that when you made your own stock, you were meant to roast the bones first. Now, thanks to Anthony Bourdain, I do, so all is as it should be. I made some lamb stock this week, reducing it down and down until it became a thick, caramelised condensation of demi-glace goodness that I socked straight into the freezer for future sauces.

Buy 2-3kgs of roasting lamb bones from the butcher. Smother with tomato paste, dust some plain flour over the top and bung them in a 180 degree oven in an oiled tray to roast. Turn a couple of times. Add some onion and carrots to the roasting pan, top with oil and turn frequently until caramelised.

Throw the lot into a big pot and fill to the top with cold water. In his book 'Les Halles Cookbook', Bourdain commands "DO NOT EVER BOIL YOUR STOCK!" but I did, briefly, and the world didn't stop. Let it simmer for 6-8 hours. Strain until there's nothing more to strain. That's the basic stock. Some can be stored, or you can go for broke and use it all for your demi. It's a long, long process and you don't want to go through the whole palaver again any time soon. At least I didn't, anyway.

For the demi, add red wine to a pot that's about one quarter the volume of stock you're going to use. Simmer, and reduce to around half the wine. Add your stock and simmer and reduce it for 3-4 hours until all you have is a few inches at the bottom of the pot of fairly thick, strong, dark demi-glace. Strain again, if you're really keen, then pour into ice cube trays and bung in the freezer. To be used for red meat sauces and gravies.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Recipe: Pancakes

When I was growing up, the ultimate foodie treat for us kids was a piping stack of Dad's pancakes, with an alternating topping of lemon & sugar or Log Cabin maple syrup.

These days, not too much has changed. I still love the occasional stack, although my maple syrup palate is a little more discerning ('CAMP...pure authentic nature you can taste' reads the bottle. Hmm, maybe not). Anyway, this is my dear old da's Yorkshire recipe.

Mix 250gm plain flour with half a teaspoon of salt. Add two beaten eggs and a little milk, then mix well with a wooden spoon. Keep adding milk gradually while mixing until the batter has the consistency of thickish cream.

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan. Add a large tablespoon of the batter and tilt the pan so it spread out to the edges, like a crepe. Cook on a medium high heat until bubbles break the surface. Turn over (or flip, if you can wing it) and cook on the other side briefly. Don't worry, the first one with undoubtedly turn out crap. Add to a plate and keep warm in the oven, with a teatowel flung over the top to prevent from drying out. Repeat to your heart's content.

Serve with lemon juice & sugar, or Canadian maple syrup.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Macaroons @ Lamont's Wine Store Cottesloe

Ah, the macaroon. Winking away at me like colourful jewels on a plate, these were imported from France by Lamont's Wine Store Cottesloe and totally looked the goods. With light, crunchy shells and delicate, slightly chewy praline fillings they came in flavours of mango, blueberry, vanilla, raspberry and rose water. LWSC manager Jeri was right when she said they were moreish: I had three and could easily have scoffed half a dozen more. Duncan, macaroon aficionado that you are, my thoughts were with you.

ETA: I profiled Lamont's Cottesloe for Your Restaurants, here

Star Anise is Not Closing

Practically everybody I've spoken to recently about David Coomer's top Shenton Park restaurant
Star Anise has come back with the comment "Yeah, did you hear they were closing down? Such a shame". So it was with some trepidation that I called to make a booking. Happily, they are alive and thriving as always. I asked sous chef Matt Stone what the skinny was on the rumour.

"We're not even close to closing", said Matt. "Actually, we've just renewed our lease so we'll be here for years yet. It's just a hospitality rumour that's going around at the moment. We're very much open".

You heard it here first, folks..

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Review: (A)LURE

It irks me when people say dining out is all about the food, because it isn't. Dining out, especially when it's high-end, is also about feeling loved and cossetted, like being wrapped in a warm cocoon of specialness for the night. If I wanted just food, I'd have stayed at home.

At Burswood's (A)LURE, I felt about as loved as a puppy caught in the rain. On arrival, we were led past a cool bar/sushi station through to a wonderful Manhattan-inspired fit-out, then towards the back until we were seated next to an exit door in a small, tiled area entirely by ourselves. This was a little puzzling considering the restaurant was only three quarters full, and I felt the rumblings of foreboding. And heard the sound of much clattering as crockery, cutlery and glassware began to hit our table. All delivered in a most unloving way by a team of young girls who looked as though they'd prefer to be anywhere but serving us. Sean Marco is an award-winning chef who has worked in some of the world's most prestigious hotels. Such a shame, then, to have such poor conveyors of his fine fare. I asked only one question during the night, hesitatingly, knowing I would be disappointed: could a side be suggested for my $48 upmarket surf-and-turf? "Um, like, maybe a salad?" was the surly reply. Care factor: zero. I went with the buttered asparagus.

(A)LURE is great if you're after conventional high-end grub with low-end service in a cool space. Not so great if you expect fine dining.

What we ate:
Entree - Mixed half dozen oysters ($20); fetta & mushroom tartlet ($17)
Main - Avon Valley beef fillet with lobster tail ($48); confit pork belly with grilled King prawns ($42); buttered asparagus.

What we drank:
T'Gallant Pinot Grigio; Capel Vale Unwooded Chardonnay; Clairault Cabernet Sauvignon

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gourmet Traveller 2009 Restaurant Awards-WA Nominees

Gourmet Traveller has just announced the nominees for their annual restaurant awards. Congratulations to all the WA nominees who made it into the final cut:

The 2009 Restaurant of the Year will be announced in Sydney on 18 August.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mundaring Truffle Festival 2008

There was a whole lot of truffling going on in Mundaring today. And the weather held out in a most obliging manner. Truth be told (and being the greedy pig I am), there wasn't as much truffling as I would have liked, considering this was, after all, a truffle festival.

Cute truffle-seeking labradors, yes. Truffle oils with the obligatory dukkah (by jingo I'm sick of that stuff), truffle butter, a big scrummy truffle in a jar worth around $150, a mega truffle luncheon for the gastronomes and a truffle masterclass with master chef Shannon Bennett (who looks suspicously like Kurt Cobain).

But where was the elusive truffle to be tasted? Must I forage for it myself? In the end, The Loose Box saved me with their excellent offerings: boiled egg in its shell blended with a bechamel sauce, nestled into a carton of raw brown rice, and topped with shavings of black, earthy truffle. Heaven in a cup.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Review: Ha-Lu

Ha-Lu is a wonderful, wonderful little Japanese restaurant in Oxford Street, just round the corner from The Paddington hotel in Leederville. It's not much from the outside and, truth to tell, not mind-blowing from the inside either, but the food, in all its hues and textures, is glorious. Ha-Lu spurns the entree-main-dessert habit and instead encourages diners to order several dishes each so that everyone at the table can dig in and be sociable. Sort of like a Japanese tapas.

The menu is extensive, as is the variety of sake, which can be ordered warm or cold. Our waitress suggested ordering ours warm and drinking it with the sashimi, which was a magnificent combination.

The sashimi was some of the best I've tasted in Perth. Thick slabs of salmon, tuna and mackerel that, once bitten into, retained its shape beautifully. A bit daunting for those new to sashimi, however.

Meals were in itty-bitty tasting portions so that everyone got just one sublime mouthful each. Which can be a little frustrating if you don't like your mouth being teased. We kept ordering more and more and, in the end, I think we ordered the whole menu. It was fab.

What we ate: Wagyu beef tataki; pork belly 'Kaku-ni'; Nigiri sushi; premium Dorper lamb cutlets; duck and aubergine with Madeira sauce; spicy ginger pork; sashimi; Patagonian toothfish nitsuke; foil-baked salmon; aubergine with soy dashi broth; karage chicken; prawn tempura; chocolate parfait; green tea/mango ice-creams.

What we drank: Hideyoshi sake (warm); Lenton Brae Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (2008)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Recipe: Camel Fillets with a Shiraz Butter Glaze

We currently have over half a million feral camels roaming around our deserts. They're not native to Australia, they're a pest and they're terribly grumpy. So we may as well eat them.

Chop up one onion and two carrots finely. Heat olive oil in a pan and fry the onions and carrots until brown. Trim the fat from two camel fillets and add to the pan. Add 250ml of Shiraz red wine and 250ml beef stock to the pan and simmer for 30 mins. Strain. Add 2 tbspns butter and whisk until the sauce has a buttery glaze.

Add oil to another pan and heat the oil until very hot. Cut the fillets into medallions. I followed Debby the butcher's suggestion of searing the fillets very quickly, around thirty seconds on each side. Take off the heat and leave to relax for a couple of minutes. Serve with couscous, dates and a green salad.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, Debby the butcher was right. Camel tastes like sweetened beef. Lovely.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Treat from Mates Meats Butcher


I went for a nice, long drive with my little one today and we found ourselves in the backstreets of Maddington ("Where ARE we?" asked my little one. "I have no idea, honey. Lock your door, will you?" No, not really).

We went for a wander around the local shopping centre and happened upon an absolute find - Mates Meats. Really, all I wanted was a leg of lamb for this Sunday's roast. Instead, I felt strangely compelled to buy the whole shop. The names of the fare on offer were all written nonchalently on scraps of butcher's paper with a highlighter pen and stuck on the display glass but oh, what fare. Emu. Kangaroo. Goat. Venison, duck and rabbit. There were slices of camel ($7.99 per 100gm) that, according to Debby the butcher, had the flavour of "sweet beef". There were fillets of crocodile that tasted "partly of lobster, partly of chicken". What's a girl to do? Let them eat camel, I say, I wanted it all. In the end, I went with the camel. Recipe to follow in the next few days.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Review: The Prophet Lebanese Cafe

Image: manpasand

Step over the threshold of this snug Lebanese eatery in Victoria Park and wonder as every trite wintery cliche comes to mind. Cosy, warm, inviting, traditional, etc etc. As decor goes, The Prophet really does live up to every one of them. Colonial chairs and rustic display cabinets abound and I was back in my Mum's country kitchen, greedily guzzling her home-made chicken soup (see earlier post).

I was there with a group of raucous Mums who were letting off some steam after a heavy week of parenting. To hell with it, we cried, as we threw the menus back at the waitress and demanded the banquet. Actually, we didn't demand it but were told we had to have it because there were ten of us. No matter, we weren't there to read.

Entree ensued with a trio of dips. How strange, we mused. One of them tasted of garlic puree which - surprise - it was and we gleefully ruminated how offensive we would be the next day: perhaps the kids wouldn't come near us? Such was the power of Lola's Garlic Dip in all its smooth creaminess, which chef and owner Jihad Moussallem apparently spent years perfecting. We also enjoyed a solid hommus, a smokey baba ganouj and layer after layer of warm Lebanese pita.

Where does the time go? Entrees disappeared and mains materialised in the form of gigantic falafel balls, spicy beef and lamb kebabs, and mounds of fresh, palate-cleansing tabbouleh. I'm sure there was more but by this time we were at the musical chairs and taking silly photos stage of the night so I didn't get back to the eating bit until a generous square of Turkish delight appeared in front of me.

The service was a little slow and sullen but overall an excellent night was had by all. The Prophet is a busy place so book in advance, and it is BYO. You can always purchase a bottle of wine from The Balmoral two doors down if you enjoy spending $20 on a cleanskin, but for my money I'd pick one up on the way.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Perth Good Food & Wine Show 2008

Caterer extraordinaire Anna Gare (Lifestyle Food Channel)

The Perth leg of the Good Food & Wine Show was in town over the weekend and, while I enjoyed the buzz (both from the crowd and the wine), I couldn't help but be a tad disappointed. Much of the marketplace feel that I remembered from earlier years seemed to be missing. Gone were the enormously popular oyster shucking demonstrations and the big stainless steel bowls of freshly steamed mussels. In its place were an awful lot of packets, bottles and jars. And how many EVOO and chutney tastings can one venue handle?

On a positive note, the new celebrity theatre was a big hit and there was an excellent turn-out of winemakers, both local and interstate. Some yummy foodie goodie bags too.

Ben O'Donoghue from 'Surfing the Menu'