Sunday, 19 February 2012

Glitter Gel, Esprit Denim and those Topshop girls

Ok ... can I actually revisit my youth and pair denim on denim with the added chic of a tightfit tuxedo blazer? And will the scourge of sockless leather shoes continue unabated. What will we do when Winter comes?

Or perhaps its time to re-accessorize ... the important sartorial questions of life. Meanwhile the hair is getting there.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

It was all about P ... erm Pierre Roelof, that is ... our 2nd cookup for 2012

Ok ... P, and that's the normal P that is, descended on us dressed like Nanook of the North in his country road jumper and bespoke boots for the sophomore cookup of the year 2012. (The rest of the party were lounging round in shorts and t-shirts.)

The only menu item that we had confirmed was Pierre Roelof's Fruity Summer dessert ... oh the irony. And P had made the blueberry granita (one of the components in the dessert) beforehand.

We sat down to plan out the rest of the menu. I had already scoured some of our recipe books and picked 2 prawn dishes, one cooked with whiskey and lemon from Tessa Kiros' "Piri Piri Starfish" (amazing book btw) and a prawn in orange sauce number from The De Medici Kitchen. But "fancy" had other ideas from some french number that had like a million steps and processes and the word "quenelle" in it. Guess which one we picked.

There were also a number of mains being bandied about, but considering the complexity of both entree and dessert, we agreed on doing something that was decidedly simpler which was a steamed fish dish from Neil Perry. Although make the mistake of mentioning some mexican/south american chilli derivative, and M is off on a tangent as ill-fated as the Costa Concordia.

So our menu for the evening was as follows:

Entree - Quenelle of Harbour Prawns
Main - Steamed Blue Eye with Black Beans
Dessert - Pierre Roelof's Fruity Summer Dessert

As standard, the dessert gets a look in first. So the mango puree was suitably whipped and aerated, without the aid of a siphon and "light bulbs". Cue lots of insipid laughter and endless discussions about Siphons, sodastreams, and what it all was meant to be/do/mean/get/achieve. At the end of the day, the mango slosh had to be well aerated. So it was in and out of the fridge for a quick shake and stir.

Cooking out the Mango Topping

 In lieu of a Siphon, the trusty Barmix takes over aerating duties

Then there was a mad scramble to cool everything in preparation for making the fluffy quenelles of prawn, cream and creme fraiche. Including the cheats stock which we made with a packet of fish stock, a hastily assembled bouquet garnie, prawn shells, leek and onion.

 Our Stock

Everything had to be cooled down, presumably to stop the prawn mixture 'cooking' in the heat generated by the whizzing and tightening up in the process. I still thought it was a little bit of overkill ... but admittedly the end result was fluffy and light.

So let me break it down for you. With our entree we had to:

- peel prawns and chop then chill in the fridge
- cool food processor container in fridge
- make stock
- blitz prawn, egg, double cream and creme fraiche in cold food processor container

 Blitzing the prawns .. and look at our new acquisition - a blue Cuisineart Mini-Prep Processor - gorgeous!

- chill in the freezer
- take stock off the fire allow to cool
- strain

 Stock and Prawn Muck at the Mixer

- make quennelles and slide into cold water

 "Quenelles" in cold water first

- transfer quenelles into the stock

 Fluffy Pillows billowing on the surf - kinda reminds me of the sea in Mooloolaba when we were there last

- slowly warm until cooked through and allow to cool
- combine cooking liquid with remaining stock to make final sauce
- spread liberally over fluffy prawn pillows, cover with grated gruyere (fancy baulked at the $7 per kilo price tag ... wonder what fancy's bespoke boots cost him per square inch of leather!!)

- bake in the oven till golden

- serve 2 each and watch the hungry hogs sneak more and more on their plates!

Quenelle of King Prawn - Entree is served

Ok let me just say that the entree was a-MA-zing!! A little fiddly with the number of steps, but essentially quite simple to make. The prawn and creme fraiche combo was light and fluffy. M said it was like biting into a thick pile of scrambled egg. The sauce was sweet, creamy and prawny all at the same time, with just the right astringent hit from the melted cheese. Yum.

Meanwhile over in dessert land, P & M were busy making Sago, scraping granita, making lime jelly and cutting fruit. (I'm dodgying the chronology a little bit here ... but baby this post has gotta flow!)

I carried on with basic prep for the main as well as for the accompanying herb, cabbage and cucumber salad dressed in Nuoc Cham - that sweetish fishy dipping sauce you get with spring rolls.

 Blue Eye fillets prepped with Spring Onion shards for resting on

Herbs Ahoy!

It didn't take long for the Fish to be steamed, and for the salad to be tossed.

 Fish ready for the steamer - without sauce

Fish ready for the steamer - drenched in a sauce of black bean, soy, xiao xing, and sesame oil

 So in a flash of about 15mins and after a final flourish of hot oil had been poured over the fillets, our mains were served.

Our Main - Steamed Blue Eye Fillet with Black Bean sauce and Nuoc Cham Herb, Cabbage and cucumber salad

Now let us talk about Pierre Roelof's Fruity Summer Dessert. On paper the idea sounds as delectable as a night at Pierre's legendary dessert evenings at Rosamon. A combination of Mango, Berries, Cucumber, Avocado, lime jelly, Sago, Coconut cream ... such a fusion of flavours and textures and visually quite stunning ... it should have worked ... but sadly, while not a complete failure, I did leave half of mine behind. Its the tartness that I don't enjoy, especially when it isn't offset by anything recognisably sweet. There was already lime jelly in the mix, the avacado and cucumber really didn't need to be drenched in an extra splodge of lime, especially since we were cutting and assembling at the same time, ready to eat soon after. No time for any discolouration to set in.

Couldn't find P's infinitely better pic ... will swop if it crops up again - Our Dessert - Pierre Roelof's Fruity Summer Dessert

I found the folder - here's P's photo

I'm hoping M and P will share their comments on this as I am interested in hearing what they thought of the final product. It didn't sully the rest of the meal by any means. It wasn't that much of a disaster. Besides which there was still a quarter of a bottle left of this amazing German Rhiesling which is currently under $20 at Dan's ... hurry buy buy buy!

Volratz 1573 - 2009 Rhiesling

Anyways. Onwards and upwards ... can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Hokkien Mee!!! An evening stroll to Sambal Kampung

Ok ... so its finally opened - a 2nd Sambal Kampung restaurant in nearby Edgewater. I've never been to the one in the city, but have been anticipating the arrival of this newly minted edition in Maribyrnong for what seemed like forever. The paper covered glass windows and doors and the bright red signs slowly fading under the elements and ravages of time pointed to impending failure, but its finally here!

So on a rather fresh summer's night we took an evening stroll to the venue. We were expecting the worse, but our small sampling of the fare was reasonably positive. Although admittedly its close proximity may have some sway on our opinions. I'm not quite sure its worth travelling for if you are on the other side of town ... well not just yet.

Prices here on average are about $3-4 more than elsewhere. I really think a price point of $19 for a vegetable dish is pushing it a bit. But the biggest plus is the fact that they have Hokkien Mee on the menu ... Singapore style. And also Mee Siam, which unfortunately for M, they were not serving when we were there.

We ordered a plate of Loh Bak for starters, and also a plate of Ikan Billis which was in the starters section of the menu. I find this rather odd. Usually Ikan Billis comes with the meal as a side, or forms an integral part of a meal as in Nasi Lemak. And I generally assume that when they refer to Ikan Billis, they mean Sambal Ikan Billis. So I had a slight side-eye moment when the bowl of Ikan Billis and peanuts arrived at the table, undressed, and with sliced white onions, chillies and spring onions.

Unusual, but tasty nonetheless. And the chillies were hot. Quite a nice way to start the meal. The Loh Bak had a nice home style feel to it and came with a relatively generous amount of chilli sauce. Although the flavour of the sambal wasn't quite up to par, at least it wasn't a splodge of limpid sweet chilli sauce like you get at some other establishments I can think of. The cucumber could have done with a refresh.

For liquid refreshment, we ordered teh tarik, which came in hotel lounge style coffee cups and was redolent with that slightly stale milk carton taste that evaporated milk has. Not sure if there was much tea dust in there, but the condensed milk was borderline diabetic.

For mains, M had the Char Kway Teow which was a slight cut above average. He enjoyed the charred pieces of lup cheong, and it was certainly a far superior offering to the one recently had at Kari Leaf (don't go!).

My Hokkien Mee was a slight disappointment in that it had pieces of chicken rather than pork. But now that Chomp Chomp has dissolved under dubious circumstances, there are precious few places (if any) where the Singaporean version can be found. So short of making it myself with the help of a Prima pack, I am happy to make a concession. If you are more partial to the drier version, then be prepared as Sambal Kampung's interpretation is quite soupy.

I'm glad that Sambal Kampung has opened. We finally have a Malaysian in our neighbourhood. And whats more, its not as bad as we were expecting.

Sambal Kampung on Urbanspoon

We will always love you Whitney!

Ok ... I can't say I'm surprised but I am trully saddened. Whether you liked her music or not, her voice, in its heyday, was legendary. Still no details about her death, but I'm waiting to hear the worst. Rest in peace Whitney. Thank you for all those moments.

Happy Birthday Tramway

Ok ... Friday the 10th of Feb was Tramway's first birthday. Amazing! It seems like it has been there forever and is our "local" away from home. And I'm super chuffed that they still have my photo up on the front page of their website.

So after a particularly fucked week, it was nice to unwind amongst familiar faces, great company and good wine. And it was exciting to have something new to try. Currently on their specials menu, but soon to be on the regular I believe was the Pulled Pork Sandwhich, essentially a burger with slow cooked barbecue pork shoulder topped with coleslaw and served with chips and an apple cider chutney.

The texture of the pulled pork (erm ... i.e. shredded! you gourmands and your funny names!) was beautifully tender and the combination with the coleslaw and aioli was spot on. Unfortunately my burger was a tad on the salty side. But, underneath it you could taste its potential to be amazing. I will persevere!!

Once again Happy Birthday Tramway and congratulations to Jess, Chris, Lobby and the rest of the crew.

Bevvies and Snackage - a girls night out part 2

Ok ... I've come to the conclusion that when your hair is right, everything is right with the world!! So as Melbourne is gripped in feverish anticipation of the impending royal visits by Our Ladies Madge and Gaga, and Barry Humphries does his best drag in a mustard linen suit and cheap chinese thongs, and old frenemies share a conspiratorial conversation of very little substance, I remember last night's repast at one of the city's earliest tapas bars, Bar Lourinha.

Tucked away at the top end of Little Collins street, its the perfect place for a pre-and-post-whatever nocturnal flight has taken your fancy. Or if you can find a spot at the bar or a table, a lovely way to see the early twilight hours into the dark mystery of a Melbourne city night.

It helps if your fellow traveller's coat is cut from the same cloth as yours. Never a quiet pause, and generally never a dull moment with JD in tow.

Starting our long overdue catchup with a cocktail (or 2) at Bar Ampere, we ditched the Carne heavy menu (tsk tsk!) and the inflexibility of our backpacking waitress (I'm pretty sure some of those bar snacks could have been modified to suit dietary requirements) and moved further afield which was a wise choice all round.

Its a shame really because the cheese platter (sorry vegans, you'll just be on a liquid diet here) had some amazing choices with a decent amount of apricot bread and rustic cheese crackers for carriage. And having your cutlery stored in a little drawer at your table is a cute touch.

But propped up at the bar at Lourinha, we ordered dish after dish of simple iberic fare that brought colour to our cheeks (ok maybe the alcohol made a minor contribution) and to our conversation.

The evening's repast started well with Yellow Tail King fish 'panceta' and lemon oil. The quote marks are deliberate as this was pieces of raw King Fish done in a panceta style (contradiction?) and it was beautiful. It could very well make it into my Top 10 dishes of all time, although the list is pretty crowded. I think its the lemon oil that just takes it from simple carpacio to carpaciolicious.

Our next small plate was Shaved Cabbage Labneh and mint. In less capable hands, this could have been more tart than heart. But the kitchen here has great respect for the taste of sour and uses it has a highlight rather than the main event. The combination well balanced and satisfying.

We also had the roasted mushrooms and garlic cream. JD generously allowed this order to go through even though she's not an entirely a fan of mushrooms, and is getting less enamoured as she gets older (a bit like me and prawns). I would have preferred a different style of mushroom to the button ones we were served, but the garlic cream was yummy.

It was the Spiced Chickpea and Spinach that ruled the day. And I would have been just as happy having 4 serves of that with a bit of bread for soakage. It was TDF!! And I'm sure its something that you could easily replicate at home, and I'm certainly going to give it a red hot go. Stunning.

There was one tiny dud note. They talked up the Blanca's alfarojes a little too much. We were expecting squishy gooey caramel, but it was a little dry. On the other hand, we may have already hit saturation point, so perhaps its worth another sample on my next visit. And there definitely will be another visit or more.

So if you haven't yet been, its time to make amends.

PS - my shutter clicking abilities have recently gone down the gurgler so I make an apology about the quality of some of the photos on this post, and also for pilfering!

Friday, 10 February 2012

I don't speak german but I can if you like ...

Ok ... hallo Wendy, was trinkst do denn? Hau Ab, du Arsch ... nehmst du das Bild!

PS: a Wendy post was long overdue!

Why I love Melbourne ... part whatever

Ok ... late night tram to smacksville ... slightly pissed ... man with bird untethered ... I swear I wasn't hallucinating!

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