Friday, June 27, 2008

Review: Siena's in Leederville

Popped into Siena's in Leederville while the in-laws were in town as they're partial to a bit of Italian. As usual the place was heaving, bursting out into the street with a conga-line of smokers kissing the kerb. Kids running amok with invisible parents, which always gives me the proverbials, but in a bustling Italian joint it never looks quite so bad. Anyway, to the food.

Skip the starter, bring me the pasta thanks. And there it is - a steaming plate of thin, al dente spaghetti with half the ocean marooned on top, swimming in a red sea of tomato sauce. The mussels came still in their shells and weren't the rubbery New Zealand green-lipped monsters but the small and tender variety, the ones that remind me of childhood days spent on Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay. Also in the dish were baby octopus (not too rubbery), rings of calamari (ditto), prawns, tomato and just enough sauce to cover the bottom of the plate. The surprise in the dish were green seeded jalapeno peppers which worked very well and gave the meal its promised kick.

Others at the table enjoyed a milk-white baby veal saltimbocca topped with prosciutto in a creamy orange and wine sauce (which I personally thought a little bland) served with new potatoes, chilli mussels (lots of mussels, not much chilli apparently..but this was coming from an Indonesian palate), and a pretty standard carbonara.

Great Italian fare guaranteeing no-one leaves hungry. Oh and a big nod to the staff too, who were crazy-busy but managed to be attentive, friendly and just plain excellent.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Recipe: Lamb chops with macadamia crust

Firstly I have to tip my hat to Anthony from spiceblog for inspiring me to make this. He cooked a delicious-looking rack of lamb with the same crust and I was intrigued. So, thanks Anthony. I used lamb forequarter chops, which are far less romantic than rack of lamb, but it was all I had in the freezer so you'll just have to wear it.

Marinate the chops in virgin olive oil, rosemary, apple cidar vinegar and lashings of paprika. Press a mixture of breadcrumbs and crushed macadamia nuts on top of the chops and stick them in the oven for oh, say, 25 mins at 220 degrees. Yes I was hungry so slow cooking would have to wait for another night. I chucked in some cherry tomatoes to roast with the chops to add a bit of interest, and served it all with a mixed green salad. I also served it with some cos cos, which tasted absolutely bloody awful. Mental note: must not make cos cos with EVOO in future. But the rest of it was yummy and my 2yo, bless his little foodie genes, loved it too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Henschke Dinner at Burswood

Where to start? At the beginning I guess.

Standing around sipping a Green Hill riesling in the foyer of Victoria Station isn't the hardest thing I've ever done, although sadly I did miss out on the gently fried whitebait canapes being passed around for want of an extra hand. Henschke and Henschke are two very mellow fellows over from South Australia to host the night and know an awful lot more about wine than I do. But that's okay, they're meant to and I'm not. Stephen and spunky son Johann come from a long line of vintners and have done an indecent amount of travelling in the name of the good drop. They even have their own family crest.

See? He's a bit scrummy.

Anyway, to food and wine. Actually, coming from the school of the House Wine I'll happily admit I don't know much about wine so will refrain from adding any sage comments about them. For appetisers we enjoyed a nice Julius Riesling served with a tender sliver of smoked salmon languishing coyly between two miniscule slices of toast, served with strawberry, some clever toffee work and a sharp lime puree to balance.

Entree consisted of Rottnest Island sea scallops with an apricot balsamic vinaigrette and apple-potato rosti balancing precariously on top. Also on the plate was the tenderest of milk-fed veal loin with a light parmesan and shallot crust scuffing the surface. And (yes we're still on entree, stay with me people) a nest of homemade fettucine ribbons all served with a parsnip puree. It sounds much, much bigger than it was. Sadly, no photo for you as I was too hungry. The wines (yes, we had two per course, very few of which I got through) were a Cranes and a Croft Chardonnay.

To main. Main was a five inch thick slab of medium-rare Black Angus beef fillet which I believe has spoiled me for life as beef fillets go. It came with an oxtail, beet and oyster mushroom broth with an way-too-hard-and-crunchy elderberry sage rice cake atop. The reds were an Abbott's Prayer merlot and and a lovely full Johann's Garden shiraz.

Are we there yet? No we're not, so quit yer whining. Next was sorbet, which was an odd concoction of crunchy ice and cucumber that didn't really do it for me or several others at the table. Then the grand dame of the evening arrived - the Hill of Grace shiraz. She was borne from vines over 140 years old and had a surprisingly spicy aroma. Someone at the table told me it cost $380 a bottle and I was so impressed I drank the whole glass. Another taster arrived in the form of a teeny-tiny piece of toast with shavings of truffle on it that had me musing dreamily at how much truffle I might get to scoff at the Mundaring truffle festival later in the year.

Finally, dessert. Apple and fig strudel with a marscapone parfait (which tasted the same as ice-cream) and more strawberries, served with a clear muscat of Tappa Pass that I could have easily bought a couple of bottles of if they were selling them.

After each course, Stephen addressed the room detailing the love and care that went into the making of each wine. It was disappointing to see several bored faces dotted around the place: surely this is what we were here for? No matter. Most people looked suitably engrossed.

The impressive menu was painstakingly created by as-of-today executive sous chef Jochen Beranek and his team, who all looked understandably knackered as they were trotted out for some applause at the end of the night. Should I gush? Nah. Was it a memorable experience? Yes. Yes it was.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Recipe: Yummy Mummy's chicken soup

There can be no better sound in the world, for a Mum at least, than to hear her offspring proclaim "Mmmm, yummy! More?" It just warms the cockles of your heart. Sure it isn't grammatically correct, but what more are you going to get from a two year old?

This is my Mum's recipe from when I was a kid. There's a lot of roughly-chopped vegetables and a fair bit of dolloping too so I've dispensed with the measurements. Grab some chicken pieces from the butcher's (or the supermarket if you must), stick them in a big pot and cover with water. Boil for one hour. Take them out again to cool.

Now, this is where my Mum and I go our separate ways for a bit - she throws out the chickeny water/stock and starts again (noooo!!) while I hold onto it and keep adding. I love the deliciously oily chicken fat slick on top of the water. It's so wintery and hearty. She hates it. Anyway, up to you.

Bung in some roughly chopped carrot, potato, turnip, onion and a handful of barley if you're so inclined (I usually am). Add a dollop or two of tomato sauce, a slurp of Worcestershire, some sugar, some seasoning, chicken/veggie/beef stock (I usually add a bit of all three) and boil for another hour, topping with water if needs be. Remove the meat from the chicken bones, chuck that in the pot too and you're pretty much done. Great frozen in individual servings for a quick lunch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Review: Monza Restaurant

What to do with the family on a quiet Sunday morning? Head out for brekky I guess. We'd discovered Monza in Leederville last Mother's Day and, despite our 2yo falling off his chair (twice) we'd had a surprisingly enjoyable time. We sat outside. There were cars and traffic lights and people. He was a happy camper.

Anyway, we re-traced our steps today and ordered what we had last time because (a) we're slack and (b) we knew it was good and safe - double eggs benedict. Mmmm. Lashings of foamy hollandise sauce poured over thick creamy eggs and crispy bacon which were perched atop fat slices of crusty ciabatta bread. Sure the yolks were too hard for our liking but ach, you can't have everything cos then what would you do? Meanwhile our little one slurped busily on his newly-discovered vice, a babycino (hold the foam, add extra chocolate sprinkles, thanks) and eyed up the street traffic.

Despite the mild gale threatening to blow us and our table away, a good time was had by all.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Purring for Persian

Have you ever tasted Persian food? I haven't. Or at least I don't think I have, I'm sure I would have remembered. No matter. Today I was invited to a Persian banquet at an acquaintence's house for lunch (incidentally, I'm using the word Persian because it sounds more romantic than Iranian, which sounds more like a metallic property. But I digress).

The food was set out on a buffet table which, after the last dish was lovingly set down, practically buckled under the weight of so much ceramic. Everybody grabbed a plate and we all shuffled clockwise round the table (it's always clockwise isn't it?). Oh my goodness. Where to start? The oval tureens of baked spinach and cubed lamb that looked a lot like an Indian palak paneer but wasn't? The whole roasted saffron tandoori chicken that had been macheted into four enormous portions? Persian baklava? (Hey, I can eat baklava anytime chum). In the end I chose luscious spoonfuls of the egg, potato, gherkin and home-made mayonnaise concoction that had a smattering of peas atop. There was so much creamy mayo, filled right up to the lip of the bowl, that at first I thought it was yoghurt. I couldn't even see the other ingredients until I dipped in. And the taste - Oh. My God. So divine. So naughty. So divine.

Thanks to the lovely Sholeh and her Mum for inviting us. Next time I'll have the gumption to bring my SLR and take pics. There will be a next time, won't there?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Quick Review: Hayashi Japanese Restaurant

I warn you now, this review is completely biased as we've been going to Hayashi Japanese restaurant in Applecross since forever. It has a sweetheart of an owner, Jie Wu, who has watched over us before and after childbirth (though not during, that would be taking the client-restauranteur relationship too far). And they usually have great sashimi. The decor is so-so, a bit spartan but it does the job for a joint in the burbs. Although if Jie plays any more of that bloomin' tinny Japanese muzak we will have to have words..

I ordered a large sashimi dinner which consisted of miso soup, Japanese salad, plain boiled rice and layers of fresh sashimi. I'd just sipped my way to the bottom of my tasty miso and tucked into a couple of pieces of the oh-so-creamy rolled salmon when our 2yo decided he didn't want to play the grown-up-restaurant game anymore and we both hoofed it for the door, scattering dinner guests in our wake. So my meal sadly wound up variously stuffed and poured into semi-opaque plastic takeaway containers. Good news is I got to photograph it in the peace and comfort of my own home, hurrah! I'm sure there's something lucrative there.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Indonesian Banqueting

So my parents-in-law are in town from Indonesia at the moment and tonight we all got together to enjoy some of Mum S's excellent cooking. First up was Hainan chicken with ginger and plain boiled rice served alongside a clear broth, with lashings of fresh coriander over everything.

Next were
pork spare ribs with a hot bean curd marinade, then noodles lightly tossed about in the wok with celery, egg and chicken. Followed by crunchy whole green asparagus, lightly steamed and topped with fried onion pieces and soy sauce.

And finally some painstakingly-constructed layer cake, with alterning stripes of moist lemon and cinammon sponge. Mmm-mm.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Mere Truffle

Oooh, ooh. It's truffle time. Black gold, hidden treasure, whatever you want to call them, little pooches have been hard at work faithfully unearthing them for our gluttony. Hopefully that will mean chef Neal Jackson (of Jackson's) will be producing another of his dego truffle triumphs, fingers crossed! Manjimup's best export will be the star attraction again at the Mundaring Truffle Festival in Mundaring, Perth Hills. From 1-3 August 2008.