Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gold Coast King Prawns

As mentioned earlier by Bev, we are deeply apologetic about our long absence from the blog. Without futher ado, here's the first of many more back-logged entries to come:

Gold Coast King Prawns


We discovered these babies on a trip to the Saturday Fruit & Vegetable Markets at the Brisbane Marketplace (Rocklea). They fetch a healthy $25 a kilo (roughly 20 prawns), and usually sell out a couple of hours before the markets wrap up around midday.

That very Saturday, Bev and I decided that we should do something with these prawns, but didn't know exactly what. Bev, as always, wanted to do something clean such as a grilled application with a tomato-based pasta. I, however, was in the mood for something a little more chi-chi, and conjured up ideas of the usual fancy schmancy. Eventually, and as always, we worked around each other's differences and came up with this dish. I don't particularly like writing recipes as you know, as I seldom adhere to them, but anyhow, here's roughly how I made it.


Tomato and Leek Fondue for pasta:
2 kg roma tomatoes, blanched, peeled and deseeded
1 large leek, green part discarded, and white part roughly cut
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Olive oil

This is a very 'pure' form of a tomato sauce, made with only fresh tomatoes, and without the use of any canned or bottled tomato products. It is somewhat like a traditional Italian Sugo di Pomodoro Freschi, or fresh tomato sauce.

Start by crushing the tomato flesh with your hands, squishing them through your fingers to obtain a coarse, pulpy mixture. Heat up a saucepan with a few good lugs of olive oil to coat the base generously. Then add the leeks and garlic, together with a pinch of salt to speed up the softening of the leeks. Turn down the heat to medium low, taking care not to burn or colour the leeks. Once the leeks are soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes later, add the tomatoes and cook for a further 15-20 minutes till tomatoes are soft and all the flavours meld nicely together. Season to taste. Toss with cooked pasta and a good dose of extra virgin olive oil.

Champagne and Shallot Butter:
2 medium banana shallots, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup champagne (can substitute with other white wine such as chardonnay)
200 gms butter, softened

Fry shallots and garlic in 2 tbsp butter over medium heat for 2 minutes till slightly softened and translucent. Turn up heat and add champagne. Let boil and reduce till you are left with approximately 2-3 tbsps of liquid. Then allow to cool slightly before folding in 200 gms of softened butter. Season with salt and pepper. Chill in refrigerator, covered with cling film.

Grilled Prawns:
Prawns, shelled & deveined & butterflied
Olive oil
1 quantity champagne and shallot butter

Toss prawns with generous amount of olive oil. Heat grill/heavy-bottomed fry pan. Place prawns on hot cooking surface and cook for 2 minutes, turn once and cook another 1 minute. At this point, add a decent knob of champagne and shallot butter to the prawns and let coat, cooking for a further minute till prawns are done. Season with a touch more salt and cracked black pepper if necessary. Serve with pasta.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Hazelnut Macarons and Fig & Almond Meringue from Urban Bites

Apologies for the long hiatus of posts. We've been rather busy these past few months and are now in the midst of a big move. But of course, the eating didn't stop. So here's our promise to update this space once we're done with moving and settling into our new pad. Oh and we'll be doing quite a bit of travelling and entertaining in the months to come, too. So, yes, food, food and MORE food!

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Friday, October 27, 2006

A Quick Dinner of Bangalow Sweet Pork


We had just arrived home from Village Meats in Rosalie. It was there that Bev and I purchased a nice, fatty rack of Bangalow Pork and a couple of Toulouse sausages.

Bangalow Pork, raised over in Northern New South Wales, is said to be free of hormones and antibiotics. It's fat content has also been scientifically proven to be over 60% unsaturated. But above all, a foodie like myself would tell you that the greatest joy in eating Bangalow Pork is the fat. Yes, the fat.

Bangalow Pork is the piggy equivalent of Kobe or Wagyu Beef. The intra-muscular fat dispersed throughout the meat of this pig renders it so much more juicy, succulent and tasty than other breeds of the same animal. As unhealthy as it sounds, let me just disclaim here and now, that consuming small quanitities of this delicacy in moderation ain't as bad as you'd imagine. Hey, I'm no nutritionist, but my personal standpoint is that it really can't be much worse than a drive-thru from the houses of Ronald or the ol' Colonel.

This time, I cut the rack down into pieces of two rib bones, sprinkled fennel seeds all over (fennel and pork are good mates), and pan roasted them very gently. Then I cooked some orecchetti and quickly sauteed it with a mixture of chopped garlic, smoked paprika, olive oil, nodules of Toulouse sausage and seasoning.

I finely sliced some fresh fennel, and cooked it very briefly just in oil and seasoning. Then the sauce: I, like many others, happen to believe that mustard and pork are pretty tight too. So I made a sauce by reducing cream and cuvee brut with some whole grain mustard.

This is the dish. It took just over half an hour to prepare, from start to finish. As I have mentioned before, Bangalow Pork and Toulouse sausage are available at Village Meats in Rosalie. Their Toulouse sausage is made with white wine, garlic and herbs, and is one of the best snags I've laid my hands on here in Brisbane. I really suggest you jazz up your next backyard barbie with some of these beauties. Enjoy!

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Date with the Pink Gold


As you would have realised by now, I have this 'thing' for tender, juicy Wagyu beef. Here in Brisbane, Village Meats at Rosalie Village is such a place where you can find some good cuts of this pink gold.

Village Meats is a fantastic one-stop-shop for all your carnivorous cravings. On any given day, you may find yourself walking in to the delightful aroma of bacon being smoked with applewood chips, or like on the day we were there, lamb loins being smoked with cedar. The good people at Village Meats stock all kinds of meats, and as with other good butchers, are more than happy to entertain special requests from customers. This outlet also happens to be one of the few gourmet butchers in Brisbane to officially supply Bangalow Sweet Pork to the public. (More on Bangalow Pork in a coming post).

This day, we were after a hit of Wagyu beef. Unfortunately, we were not particularly spoilt for choice; only rumps and sirloins were on offer at the time. We opted for rump ($49.99/kilo), and headed across the road to Rosalie Gourmet Market to purchase some cheese to make an accompanying potato gnocchi.


We were kindly recommended a Capriconia goats cheese as an alternative to the conventional parmesan/pecorino for making the gnocchi. We were also offered a great tip on cooking gnocchi by the cheery lady assisting us (pity we didn't get her name): Drop a couple of fresh sage leaves into the potato boiling water to infuse a subtle hint of sage flavour to the gnocchi.

The final dish: Wagyu rump with goat cheese gnocchi, porcini mushroom ragout and wilted spinach, sprinkled lightly with Murray River salt flakes.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Restaurant Two

Eating out:
Bev and I had gone on a quest to dine at every one of Brisbane's 3-star restaurants, as rated by the 2005 & 2006 Courier Mail Goodlife Restaurant Guides. Restaurant Two was one that we had yet to dine in.

We walked through the doors with high expectations; this was driven by the fact that out of the numerous restaurants in Brisbane, only 5 are awarded 3-stars, and Restaurant Two is one of these elite 5.

Upon ordering the degustation menu ($110pp), we sat back and let the night unfold:

Feuillitine of Queensland Asparagus and Leeks, smoked garlic and thyme butter-.

A rectangle baked puff pastry, split open and filled with leeks, green and white asparagus. The vegetables were perfectly cooked. The garlic and thyme butter sauce was the highlight of the dish, but I somehow wished I had a bit more of it on my plate to spread on my puff pastry. Nice start to the meal though. Expectations at this point, I must say, were still relatively high.

Seared Hervey Bay scallops and Mooloolaba tuna, green paw paw and Thai spiced dressing.

I personally felt that this dish was a complete waste of time. Unfortunately, the tuna was overcooked for my liking, the scallops undersalted (or not even salted at all), and the salad uninspiring. To make things worse, the "Thai spiced dressing" was diluted and weak, and flowed on the plate like water. As I sat there, I suddenly began to have doubts about what was to come.

Sauteed organic potato gnocchi, confit of Tetsuya's ocean trout, goats cheese, trout roe, preserved lemon butter.

Now, this dish was good, despite a few ups and downs. The gnocchi was a little on the firm side, but the tasty caramelisation on the surface made up for that. The confit was, in my opinion, done very brashly. I have been to Tetsuya's and eaten the 'original' version, and this was no where close to it. The intention behind the trout confit is that it barely cooks, changing the texture a little, but not the colour whatsoever. As you can see from the photo, due to overcooking, the proteins had actually been allowed to coagulate, changing the colour of the raw trout to an opaque pink. However, based on taste alone, this dish was fantastic; the goat cheese and ikura, a perfect compliment to the fish. Had it not come with the labels 'Tetsuya's' and 'confit', I would have given it a 9/10 instead of an 8.

Roast breast and confit of Rannoch Farm quail with celeriac remoulade and Madeira jus.

Nothing much to complain about this dish. I thought the quail was cooked perfectly, with a little spot of pink on the inside. It was juicy, savoury, and went really well with the remoulade.

Peking duck consomme, duck, pork and prawn tortellini.

This dish was not on the degustation menu. Because Bev was so keen to try it when she overheard it being recommended to the next table, we asked our friendly wait staff if he could somehow slip in an order of that duck consomme between our remaining courses. Ten minutes later, two degustation sized bowls of consomme arrived at our table! The consomme was served with small bits of duck meat and prawns, and a petite duck and prawn dumpling. It was a fairly refined dish; but is it just me, or have all the consommes I've had in the last 6 months been way too salty?

Crab risotto with lobster oil.

We have a winner! I adored this dish from the first bite till the last grain. The risotto was chock-full of crab meat; and from the taste alone, it was obvious that the crab meat was freshly picked, rather than out of a can (some restaurants are actually guilty of that). The rice grains were cooked spot on, the lobster oil intensely fragrant and the baby arugula fresh and crisp. I would come back to Restaurant Two again just for this dish.

Asian barbequed duck, steamed greens, fig and chilli jam, spicy cumquat sauce.

I've always been a bit skeptical about dishes that sound like that. The problem is: I'm particularly familiar with authentic Asian food, and have actually become quite a purist in that area. Thus, I'm not too enthusiastic on such dishes that attempt to 'modernise' Asian food. But being the open-minded individual that I would like to think I am, I eagerly shoved aside these reservations and dug in. The sauce was lovely, the fig and chilli jam even better, but as good as the duck was, I'd much rather be caught burrowing my face into Golden BBQ's (Fortitude Valley) authentic barbequed duck on any given day.

Rare seared 'Cervena' venison, parsnip, leek, white bean and foie gras crumble, buttered spinach, morels and bitter chocolate sauce.

The idea was there, but unfortunately, something got lost in translation. As you can see, the venison was nowhere near 'rare seared'. The crumble did not taste of foie gras at all, and it was a little too dry on the inside.

Assiette of miniature desserts.

We waited 35 minutes for this. It eventually came on a huge platter, with a selection of 5 baked goodies and at least 5 flavours of sorbet and ice cream. There was a Belgian waffle, a creme brulee, a chocolate pudding, a cheese cake with fresh coconut, a lemon tart and a fruit salad. Although I especially loved the fig sorbet, Bev and I agreed that everything else was rather ordinary.

What can I say. Dinner at Restaurant Two didn't knock my socks off as much as I would have liked it to. Did I set my expectations too high? Even if I did, I had every right to, given their reputation and 3-star rating. The whole meal was a rollercoaster of hits and misses. I would graciously suggest that Restaurant Two focuses a little more on the finer details of their food in the future; and for their sake, I sincerely hope that my ordinary dinner experience was just a one-off, rare occurance.

Restaurant Two
2 Edward Street
Tel: (07) 3210 0600

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What's in a Pickle

I was browsing along the fresh fruits and vegetables section in Woolworths when the glistening red and green chillies beckoned. I just had to grab a bagful of each. They looked so plump and fresh, a far cry from the limp and embellished ones that I always come across at other times. So I decided I was going to make me some Pickled Green Chillies and try my hand at making Achar.

Achar is the Southeast Asian take on pickled vegetables (and fruits) marinated in spices, vinegar and oil. The Penang or Nonya Achar essentially consists of cucumbers, carrots, cauliflowers, pineapples and stuffed green & red chillies marinated in a spicy concoction. I headed to Bjorn's and sought assistance from the numerous cookbooks in his humble library, on making Achar. Decided on a recommended recipe from Bjorn's folder of his personal collection; recipes collected from his kitchen stints.

It's a surprisingly simple recipe although I tweaked it a little; added tumeric powder, a tiny knob of ginger, one small clove of garlic, a few dried chillies and a mixture of toasted & part-ground sesame seeds and granulated peanuts. The vegetable medley of choice: cucumbers, carrots and sugarloaf cabbage.

Cucumbers are essential in Achar. It's the 'lamb' in Roast Lamb, and the 'duck' in Duck Confit. You get the point. But you can always substitute cucumbers with jicama or omit the cucumber element entirely and have the carrot (or jicama) as the base vegetable. Play around with the combination of vegetables, altering it according to your preference.

This time however, I omited the cauliflowers, pineapple and stuffed green & red chillies. The first two, I accidentally overlooked when shopping; and the latter, well, they don't carry such Asian condiments at Woolworths, so I gave them a miss. Surprisingly though, they do sell fresh galangal and tumeric. I bought a substantial sized galangal though the recipe called for an inch worth. The rest of the root will definitely come in handy for various other Southeast Asian recipes such as Tom Yam Goong, Laksa and the various Thai curries that calls for the root. It is rampantly used as one of the primary ingredients for spice bases in Southeast Asian cooking.

Pickled green chillies are typically served as a side condiment with most South East Asian Chinese dishes. There would usually be a small dish of these little tangy beauties placed on the table before the start of the meal. These pickled green chillies are best eaten with cooked dishes as oppose to adding them into the cooking process, as with most other pickled vegetables.

Pickling the green chillies was a breeze. I 'jump started the pickling process by boiling the white vinegar and sugar mixture. Then I added the hot mixture to the bowl of sliced green chillies and let it stand, covered for about an hour or so. After it cooled, I placed them in plastic air tight containers (or glass jars) and stored them in the fridge. Usually my stash would not last for more than a month. These pickled green chillies go well in sandwiches, pizzas and even with Mexican dishes, especially Chilli Con Carne. Definitely a good subsitute when a recipe calls for pickled jalapenos.

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Casarecci with Wild Mushroom 'Ragout'


Just a short entry today. Its getting late, and there's heaps to do in the morning. So, what we have here is a pasta dish that is so simple to make, provided you can find the right ingredients.

It's such a pity that wild mushrooms are rare here in Australia. Thats probably the reason why I often visit farmers markets. Its only in these places that you actually stumble upon rare gems such as wild mushrooms. These, like many of my other ingredients, were purchased from the Jan Powers Farmers Markets in New Farm.


The flavour of fresh wild mushrooms is second to none. It sure beats the hell out of those button mushrooms found on supermarket shelves. Trust me, one taste of wild mushrooms and you could be a life-time convert. On this very day, I had in my shopping bag a mixture of king oyster mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, trumpet mushrooms and fresh black wood ear fungus (not quite as foul as it sounds).

I have to admit that I'm quite a purist when it comes to mushrooms. I'd only ever cook them with a permutation of the following ingredients: butter, garlic, shallots, white wine, bacon, truffle oil, certain cheeses, parsley, chives, tarragon, black pepper. Cooking mushrooms with any other ingredients outside of those listed would require long, hard thinking on my part.


So as expected, I made a 'ragout' of the mushrooms with a combination of the above ingredients. First I sauteed the mushrooms with garlic, Gympie Farm butter and salt. Then I took them off the heat when they were barely done, and reserved them on a plate. Then I deglazed the pan with white wine, and added some porcini stock (I used a porcini stock cube). I then returned the mushrooms to the liquids and turned the heat down to low. Next, I folded in cubes of cold butter to the sauce to create an emulsification (the French call that technique "Monte au Beurre"- to heighten with butter).

A ragout, strictly speaking, is a rich stew of meat or fish. However, this funghi dish is so earthy and 'meaty' that it would be a no more than a small crime to call it a ragout. Either way, I doubt the Food Police would be coming round to arrest me anytime soon, so a ragout it is!

The pasta of choice- casarecci, short lengths of rolled and twisted Italian pasta. I admit its not an ingredient you'd find everyday at your local IGA, but you could just as easily substitute it with other fresh pasta shapes such as fusilli or farfalle. So these get cooked, and then tossed through the ragout with some grated pecorino or parmesan (I used pecorino), and a good dash of truffle oil.

Oh, and one last word from me: Please never ever overcook your wild mushrooms. They should only be cooked very briefly. You DO NOT need to cook them till they wilt and start oozing out liquids. That, to me, is pure injustice done to fine ingredients; something that may make the old Food Police really come knocking on your door for.

As always, enjoy!

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Monday, October 16, 2006

My Fascination with Blanquette


What is it about veal blanquette that appeals so much to me? Well, its probably the elegance and refinement derived from oh so common ingredients and simple techniques.

As with most other famous and celebrated French dishes, blanquette started off as a humble dish made of left-over ingredients from the day before. Technically, it is a stew of meat cooked in a white sauce. No prizes for guessing, considering that the word comes from the French term 'blanc' which means white. To look at it from another angle, Alan Davidson (Oxford Companion to Food) suggests that blanquette is the etymological cousin to 'blanket', in this sence referring to the rich white sauce blanketing the stew of meat and vegetables.

Blanquettes are commonly made with veal (today I use osso bucco), but can be just as easily made with pork or lamb. It is typically cooked with vegetables such as pearl onions, carrots, celery.. etc. However, a French purist would tell you that no matter what aromatic vegetables are used when cooking it, it is only the meat and the onions that are put on the plate eventually.

The meat is first cut to size and blanched in one round of water to remove all impurities and left-over blood traces. It is then placed back in the pot with aromatic vegetables and a bouguet garni, and simmered gently till tender. The meat and vegetables are then removed and the sauce thickened. Now here comes the interesting bit- A mixture of cream and egg yolks, known as a liasion, are whisked into the sauce over low heat, and act as a thickening agent while also giving the dish a creamy, velvety texture. The meat and vegetables are then added back in, and a good pinch of nutmeg lifts the flavour profile to another level. I live to serve it with a drizzle of porcini oil, which adds a touch more earthiness to the dish.

Many modern-day recipes call for roux in place of this liasion as a thickening agent, but me being me, I strongly believe in the latter. Roux also makes the sauce slightly starchy, which I find takes much away from the intentions of this wonderful, tradition-steeped dish.

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Blanquettes are as versatile as any other stew. It can be served with rice, pasta or potatoes. You can do as I often do, mop up the lovely sauces with hunks of crusty bread. Today, I served the blanquette tossed with some fresh parpadelle, purchased from Jan Power's Farmers Markets in New Farm. If you are enthusiastic about food as I am, I sincerely hope you try cooking a blanquette too. Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of writing recipes, because I personally never follow them. So I'm sorry if I can't provide you with a precise recipe at this time. But do know that there are tonnes floating around on the internet, and in good cook books. Enjoy!

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Joy of Wagyu

Imagine being fed top quality grub and Japanese booze all day long while being constantly massaged to the tune of soothing music playing in the background. This lucky cow has it all. Until some random Japanese bloke pops by, slits it's throat, strips it down, debowels it, and then starts placing exorbitant price tags on its various muscle groups. Yum.

I am referring to Japanese Wagyu Beef, the creme de la creme of the Bos Taurus species. Any self respecting foodie CANNOT pass through this life without having at least once fed on this genetically bred, man-modified luxury.

Somewhere in Febuary 2006. It was just one of those days where I awoke with the uncontrollable urge to once again indulge myself in one of life's most decadent pleasures titled: The Consumption of Wagyu Beef.

So I found myself at the meat counter in Meidi-Ya Supermarket, at the basement of Liang Court Shopping Centre, Singapore. The array of top-quality meats was mind-boggling; but the rest didn't matter one bit, I was a man with a specific mission. "Show me the Wagyu!"

And there it was, calling out to me. $25.50 per 100 grams (approximately 4 thin shabu-shabu-like slices). I immediately purchased a small quantity (good food eats best in small proportions), and headed home. Nothing could stop me now. The following pictures illustrate what happened subsequently.

I sliced some spring onion, whipped up a light soya sauce-lime vinaigrette, sauteed some thin slices of shitake, briefly seared the Wagyu, wrapped the shitake in the Wagyu to form little parcels, plated with shichimi togarashi (Japanese red pepper mix) and drizzled them with vinaigrette. This preparation was inspired by a dish on Tetsuya Wakuda's degustation menu which I enjoyed in July when I visited his accomplished restaurant.

I was introduced to a similar beef carpaccio preparation by my Japanese housemate, Kazuhiro, from my Sydney days. It comprises of thin slices of raw beef drizzled with soy, mirin, fried garlic crisps, Japanese mayonnaise, toasted sesame seed and raw white onion. It is simply amazing, to say the least. I will endeavor to post it as an entry in the near future.

Ultimately, good food such as Wagyu Beef should never be meddled with too much. Anybody out there with good Wagyu preparations to share?

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Monday, September 25, 2006

The Joy of Risotto

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Risotto- "An Italian method of cooking rice primarily made by stirring stock and often wine into rice that has been sauteed in butter and/or olive oil and sometimes onion. The stock is added slowly, and the rice must be stirred continuously as it cooks, resulting in a soft creamy mass of rice.."

There absolutely nothing that satisfies me more than a rich, hearthy dish of risotto. Risotto, to me, is a fantastic backdrop for a plethora of flavours that may be showcased through it- parmesan, saffron, roasted garlic, mushrooms, peas, pancetta, the list goes on..

Ever too often I find myself out of flour, eggs or sugar; however the one thing that never goes out of stock in my kitchen cabinet is risotto rice. It is, to me, nothing less than essential to good eating.

Risottos make a spectacular meal, whether for one, or for a party of twelve. After many hectic nights in the restaurant kitchen, cooking my own midnight dinner of risotto is a pure comfort to me. Risotto is one of those dishes that requires a labour of love. You get out exactly what you put in. The more conscientiously you stir it, the creamier, the richer the end result will be. So when making your risotto, please give it the utmost care and patience, and I guarantee you will taste the benefits.


Making your risotto:

- Start off with a good variety of aborio rice. Here in Queensland, the best and most readily available varieties would be aborio and carnaroli. I personally prefer the latter, which happens to also be the favourite variety of Thomas Keller, chef of the world renowned French Laundry.

- Heat a mixture of oil and butter in a saucepan. Butter gives it a great flavour (On this day, I used natural butter from the wonderful people at Gympie Farm), while oil raises the smoking point of butter and prevents it from burning.

- Add some chopped onions or shallots. I prefer shallots as they lend more sweetness to the final dish. Be sure to cook the onions/shallots till they are well-translucent; this ensures that the maximum sweetness is extracted from them.

- Add the rice and stir to coat. Allow the rice to cook slightly in the fat; this 'opens' up the starch molecules in the individual rice grains, and facilitates their absorption of liquids. On this day, I also added venison salami to the mixture at this point.

- Add white wine (or vermouth) and reduce till almost dry, then add stock bit by bit and let simmer, stirring continuously and adding more stock as it is absorbed. Stirring the rice breaks off the surface starch, releasing it into the liquid stock, which eventually makes the dish thick and creamy.

- Once rice is al dente, with a tiny opaque spot left in the middle of each grain, turn off the heat and add a knob more of butter, and grated parmesan. On this day, I also added a good knob of gorgonzola that I purchased from Jan Powers Market the day before. Cover, and leave alone for at least two minutes. After two minutes, remove the lid and stir to emulsify the butter and the cheese into the cooking liquid. This process, known as mantecantura, helps in making the dish even more creamy and smooth.


Every one deserves the pleasure of eating a homemade risotto. Do remember to ensure the integrity of the ingredients (tinned SPAM and long-life powdered parmesan just won't do) and do not rush it. Finally, and I have said this to many people: eat risotto with a fork, not a spoon. Shovelling risotto into your mouth with a spoon makes it too easy, mechanical and monotonous, whereas a fork allows you to fiddle with it a little more. I also feel that the first taste of risotto should touch you tongue first, not the roof of your mouth, therefore a fork works best. Enjoy!

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Jan Powers Farmers Markets


The weather was gorgeous with the sun in its full splendour. And the occasional welcoming cool breeze. Yes, Spring is definitely here. It was a lovely, leisurely Saturday morning indeed. We decided to drop by The Powerhouse Farmers Market on Lamington Street, New Farm.


What we love about these farmers markets are the rows of eclectic array of fresh produces, hand made confectioneries, artisan breads, gourmet delicatessens and the arts and crafts stalls. And the wonderful thing about The Powerhouse Farmers Market is that its just beside the park. Overlooking the river, it makes for a
splendid picnic after all that walking and purchasing wares or grub from the stalls.


We arrived a little after 10 a.m and already, it was hustling and bustling with discerning market go-ers. And at some of the stalls, the goods were nearly snapped up.


It didn't take Bjorn too long to find a stall where he made his first purchase; Venison Salami from Wilgavale and a grilled Venison Sausage for a snack. Further down the row, a stall churning out freshly made pasta on the spot, caught our fancy; and in goes a bag each of fresh spaghettini and hand rolled fusilli. Next up was a German delicatessen selling all sorts of cured and smoked meats. Needless to say, Bjorn went crazy there, and the spoils included a vacuumed pack each of their Black Forest Ham and Oak Smoked Duck Breast strips.


The fresh mushroom stall we came across next ran out of the pink oyster mushrooms, but we managed to grab some fresh shitake, wood ear fungus, trumpets, king oysters and a box of dried porcini. Right next to the mushroom place was a stall, where I got my first taste of an Argentinian sauce called Chimichurri. It is a concoction of olive oil with a variety of chopped fresh herbs, consisting mainly of parsley, coriander, basil, oregano and thyme. It can be used with bread as a dip, or as a sauce for pastas, or as a marinade for fish and meat dishes. The stall had the Original and Spicy versions of the sauce. I opted for the Original.

Next, we hunted for the Gympie Farm butter stand, renowned for their hand crafted jersey butter, which I'd heard so much about and just had to get my hands on them. We finally found the small discreet stall, whose simple set up was all but a table with their butters, cheeses and a platter of freshly baked chocolate croissants. I gleefully got myself a tub each of the salted (with celtic salt) and unsalted variety. The salted, for freshly baked breads, scones or muffins and the unsalted, mostly for cooking.


I nearly got myself a woven shopping basket. There were a few stalls to choose from. All selling an assortment of pretty, hand woven baskets and other crafts. But by the time I made up my mind, the stall was no longer there. Oh well, next time perhaps.

All in all, it was a beautiful, fruitful Saturday. We even made it to the newly spruced up Portside Wharf
despite having some transportation issues. That was where we found another gem of a find; a well stocked gourmet supermarket (yes, we went crazy there too!). The weather was perfect, the company was fantastic and the day ended with a delicious dinner, using all the fresh ingredients we bought from the markets and the gourmet store earlier. More on that in the next post by yours truly.

Jan Power's Farmers Markets
Lamington Street, New Farm, Brisbane,
next to the Powerhouse.
Powerhouse Markets are held in All Weather on:
* Second Saturday at the Powerhouse
* Fourth Saturday at the Powerhouse

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Isis Brasserie

Eating Out:
After a tumultuous week, we decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner. We made a list of all the places we wanted to try out and decided on one. Since both of us have not been to ISIS, this was the restaurant of choice. So, the reservation was made and schedules were cleared for that opportune date. What a night it turned out to be! We were expecting to be swept off our feet. After all, the establishment have won many awards since it opened its doors to public and is one of the few 3 Star restaurants here in Queensland (as mentioned in The Courier Mail Goodlife 2006 Restaurant Guide).

Isis Brasserie. Here we are! Upon arrival, we were promptly greeted and seated at a cozy table for 2 along one side of dining room, with a clear view into the kitchen window where Chef Jason Peppler and his team were busy churning out the grub. From where we sat, Bev commented that Chef Jason looked like a rather jolly chap. Well, to me, it doesn't really matter; a chef is judged by his/her food.

After ordering our food and asking the all familiar question: "Is it ok for us to take a couple of photos of the food?", we were quickly surprised with a complimentary amuse bouche each. Served in pretty little cups, our waitress described them to be salmon tortellini with some sort of a vegetable concoction on top. After tasting it, I concluded that the 'shady' vegetable garnish served over the tortellini was some sort of a caponata with pinenuts. The tortellini was pleasant, with a smooth salmon mousseline filling. The pasta skin, though, was a little on the thick side, and had a texture rather similar to San Remo's Ready Made Lasagne sheets. But despite that, it was a nice start to the meal.

For starters, Bev opted for the Sauteed local cuttlefish with homemade squid ink noodles. This was one of the specials for the night, and sounded like a pretty neat dish. Personally, I tend to stay away from daily specials, knowing that many restaurants see specials as a means to clear old ingredients. However, upon inspecting the a la carte menu, and not identifying any dish with cuttlefish in it, we were reassured that this wasn't the case. As for me, I chose the Tartare of wagyu beef with a carpaccio of portobello mushrooms and truffled pecorino. How could I possibly go past raw wagyu beef?


Bev loved her dish, although at first it seemed a little bland. Turns out that it was one of those dishes where you had to get everything together in a mouthful to actually enjoy it. Oh and did she indeed! The dish gave off a strong aroma of onions, but didn't taste very 'onion-y' at all. It was basically strips of seared cuttlefish sitting atop cold squid ink noodles with finely shaved onions, fennel, tomato and micro-parsley. The dish was dressed with some sort of a citrus vinaigrette that tied all the flavours together nicely. It was a very clean starter, and left her in eager anticipation of the main course.


My wagyu tartare was served on top of some very flat slices of portabello mushrooms, cut on a mandoline perhaps, with shavings of sharp percorino cheese and lashings of truffle oil around the plate. The beef itself was evidently minced by hand, rather than in a food processer or meat grinder, the way a proper tartare should be prepared. Yet again it was a very fragrant and flavourful dish, but Bev was slightly concerned that the strong aroma of truffles, the pungence of the pecorino, and the generous amount of capers in the dish would mask the flavour of the beef. I agreed with her sentiments, but ultimately, I still felt the buttery taste of the beef shining through. Towards the last few bites, the dish somehow started to get a Iittle overbearing and I was just a little disappointed that there weren't any accompanying melba toasts to tone down those bold flavours.

After our starters, we were presented with palate cleansers. These took the form of a Vietnamese mint sorbet with Chinese vinegar. Wow. Surprisingly, the vinegar matched the sorbet perfectly, lending it that well needed 'bite'. I asked the waitress if there were any fruits used in the sorbet itself, as it did taste intriguingly similar to a grape and mint sorbet I had made a month earlier. But according to her, it was just mint and sugar syrup. Either way, the sorbet and accompanying vinegar did a great job of blasting out all remaining traces of the tartare from my tastebuds, leaving me feeling fresh and ready for the main course.


For mains, Bev had the Rare seared venison with a celeriac colcannon and a Lindt chocolate sauce. The venison was cooked perfectly, juicy and pink, fanned out on top of a mound of celeriac puree, and surrounded with a bitter dark chocolate sauce. I found that the chocolate sauce to be a little wierd for my liking, neither sweet nor savoury. Bev, however, liked it very much. Also, for some reason there were entire stalks of tarragon in the celeriac puree. To me that was a little ridiculous, as the whole stalks of leaves were rather fibourous and hard to chew. However, on the whole, the dish tasted pretty good despite my few quips, and Bev wiped the plate absolutely clean, in every sense of the word.

I had the Bobby veal blanquette with asparagus, truffled macaroni and creme fraiche veloute. Its been a while since I had a good blanquette. I just love the fact that a dish cooked without caramelisation such as a blanquette, can taste so rich and flovourful like so. Anyway, it was a winner, the fork-tender veal resting on top of truffled macaroni and crunchy asparagus tips. The only problem is that I forgot that I already had a truffled dish for a starter, so the taste of truffles in the macaroni was starting to get a little bit much for me. My bad, my bad. I should have read the menu more carefully before I ordered. Either way, I too polished off the dish with no explicit complaints whatsoever.


We couldn't decide what to have for dessert, so we ordered the dessert sampler which featured 4 different desserts: a strawberry jelly with fresh strawberries and fresh coconut; an orange blossom panna cotta with an orange crisp (not very crispy); a chocolate souffle with chocolate sauce; and a slice of quince tart. Dessert was good, especially the souffle, which had unannounced sugar glazed pistachios in it, to our pleasant discovery.

Isis is one of the better restaurants in Brisbane that we've been to. I just love the way they play on the classics like tartare, blanquette, coq au vin, and cassoulet. We'll definitely be back in the near future for their cassoulet, which I'm so craving for right now.

Isis Brasserie
446 Brunswick Street
Fortitude Valley
Tel: (07) 3852 1155

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