Friday, March 30, 2007

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with Vanilla-Lemon Curd

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This dessert is sort of a collaboration between Bev and myself. If I may say so myself, it is so simple to make, and yet so decadent in taste.

Bev did most of the work, and was thus responsible for baking the (fantastic) chocolate buttermilk cakes, while I prepared the simple chocolate ganache and put together a cheater bug's version of a vanilla-lemon curd (you'll see what I mean shortly).

The recipe is as follows:

Chocolate buttermilk cake

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
230 gms butter, at room temperature
170 gms good quality chocolate, melted
4 eggs (59gm each), at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

Beat butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl till pale yellow, and sugars have dissolved. Add eggs into mixture till fully incorporated. Then, add the melted chocolate and continue beating till smooth.

Sift all dry ingredients together into a bowl. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and fold thoroughly. Add 1/3 buttermilk, that have been mixed with the vanilla, and fold again till smooth. Keep repeating with 1/3 each of dry ingredients, then buttermilk, till all have been used up.

Pour into individual rectangular/round/square moulds which have been brushed with melted butter. Bake at 170 degrees celsius for 20-25 minutes till cooked through. To test, insert a wooden skewer to the middle of the cake. If the skewer comes out clean, cake is cooked through.

Rest in moulds, undisturbed, till cool enough to handle.

Basic chocolate ganache

100 gm chocolate (use either compound or couverture)
100 ml thickened cream

Heat cream in a saucepan till just below boiling point.
Pour over the chocolate in a clean, dry bowl.
Mix well.
Ganache may be used immediately, or cooled and reheated later on.

sneaky 30 second vanilla-lemon curd

1 jar store-bought lemon butter or lemon curd (we got ours, homemade, from the farmers' market)
1 vanilla bean

Split vanilla bean in half. Scoop out seeds and mix well in a bowl with the lemon curd/butter. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins before using.

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To assemble:

Place cake on a plate. Spread a layer of warm chocolate ganache on top of the cake, then top with fruit. The ganache helps the fruit to adhere to the cake. In this instance, I used kiwi fruit. Berries of any sort would work beautifully too. Spoon a generous amount of vanilla-lemon curd over the fruit. Garnish the rest of the plate with some chocolate ganache or lemon curd if desired.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Steamed Black Bean Fish with Asian Mushrooms

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Here's a dish that's so easy to make, you could easily do it in half an hour. As much as many of us feel that the selection of Asian mushrooms available at supermarkets is generally limited to the usual shitake, enoki and oyster, these few varieties are all you actually need for this dish!

So here's how to prepare it:

1) Cut even sized fillets from a soft, white fish (eg, cod, coral trout, halibut, barramundi, snapper, etc). Marinade with bottled black bean and garlic sauce (available at the Asian food section of most supermarkets).

2) Cut fresh shitake and oyster mushrooms into small pieces. Leave enokis whole, but cut away the dirtier root section.

3) Saute the shitake and oyster mushrooms in a pan with chopped garlic and ginger for a minute. Add a few teaspoons of cooking wine (mirin, chinese cooking wine, sherry, etc), chicken stock, soya sauce and sesame oil and simmer for 3 minutes. Add enoki mushrooms to the mixture in the pan and cook a further 3 minutes till the enokis just soften and wilt.

4) Steam/bake fish fillets till just cooked through (4-8 minutes depending on size of fillets).

5) For individual servings, lay a portion of shitake and oyster mushrooms on a plate, spoon cooking liquids over. Place a piece of fish over the mushrooms and top off with a small bunch of enokis to garnish.

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Green Curry with Chicken and Quail Eggs

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Upcoming event: Settler's Cove Celebration of Australian Food and Wine: 18-20 May

For all you fellow Queensland foodies out there, just a bit of a heads up on a great event coming our way. It's the annual Settler's Cove Celebration of Australian Food and Wine 2007, and it's held right here in Noosa from the 18th to the 20th of May.

Tickets are on sale now, and range from $25 for entry to food and wine tasting sessions, to $75 for celebrity chefs' cooking classes, to a hefty $250 for a 7 course "Great Australian Degustation", where 7 leading Aussie chefs collaborate to prepare a scrumptious tasting menu with wines to match. You can bet that Bev and I will be attending as many sessions as our wallets would allow!

Of the famous chefs participating in the event, Bev and I are particularly looking forward to welcoming Giovanni Pilu (Pilu at Freshwater, Sydney), Matt Moran (Aria, Sydney), Matt McConnell (Bar Lourinha, Melbourne), Brent Savage (Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Sydney) and Meyjitte Boughenout (Absynthe, Gold Coast) to the event. These are just a few of many big names attending and contributing to the festivities. For more information, or to purchase tickets, do visit the event website.

See you there!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Chermoula Spiced Roast Chicken

Chermoula- A delectable Moroccan spice blend consisting almost always of cumin, paprika, ginger, chilli, cinnamon, pepper, onion parsley and coriander.

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This morning Bev and I woke up at 6am to visit the Jan Power Farmers' Market at New Farm Park. It had been a while since we last popped by to check it out. There, we stumbled upon an interesting stall selling little bags of spices and marinades. We enthusiasticly purchased a bunch of these ($3.90 per bag, or 5 for $17), one of which being Chermoula.

When we got home we rubbed some of this potent spice over the corn-fed chicken (that had been cleaned and butterflied) and roasted at 180 degrees for about 45 minutes. This was the result:

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Chermoula goes well with all kinds of meats beacause of its big, bold flavours. All you need to do is mix it with oil and lemon juice/vinegar to a paste, and then rub it on the chosen meat to marinade. The acid tenderises the meat proteins while the ground spices char to form a delicious crust on the surface of the meat when barbequed/grilled/roasted.

While on the topic of roasting chickens, I do insist on using corn-fed chickens because of their superior flavour and texture. If price is a concern, fear not, as they only cost approximately $1 more per bird than regular chickens at Coles or Woolworths. Trust me, these chooks are worth that extra dollar.

It was a relatively warm afternoon, so I chose a cooling salad of corn kernels and grape tomatoes dressed simply with olive oil and cider vinegar (fresh parsley and coriander from Bev's new herb garden were torn up and tossed in the salad too.), to go with the roast chicken. Enjoy with a huge glass of freshly made, icy cold Lemon Tea. Ah.. what a way to start the weekend!

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Ezard at Adelphi, Melbourne

Eating out:
As much as our blog focuses on the foods of sunny Brisbane and it's surrounds, Bev and I do travel around once in a while. This is our first post on a restaurant outside of Brisbane/Queensland.

I was in Melbourne for a few days last year, during the Christmas season. There, I met up with my cousin, Becky whom I hadn't caught up with for a couple of years. Seems like she's doing pretty well for herself, seeing that she was recently appointed a senior position at work. So in light of the joyous occasion, we decided to dine at Ezard at Adelphi.

Ezard's a pretty well known Melbournian restaurant, always staying at the forefront of the dining scene. Teage Ezard, the chef, had just recently released his second cookbook, Lotus: Asian Flavours, which was quite a hit with foodies and critics alike.

Given that it was a weekday and we hadn't made any reservations, we were rather fortunate that they managed to fit the two of us in.

The restaurant was dimly lit, but I managed to take some decent pictures of the food. So here's what we ordered:

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Blue swimmer crab tortellini with verjuice and citrus butter sauce, crispy leeks and Yarra Valley salmon eggs.

This dish was a winner right from the first bite. No wonder foodies and critics rave about this restaurant. This could possibly be THE best tortellini that I have ever put in my mouth! The skin of the tortellini was silky and soft, unlike any other that I've eaten; encased within them were generous pillows of lusciously fluffy crab meat. The sauce was well composed in it's flavours and the salmon roe added explosive bursts of saltiness to every mouthful. The petite salad of fried leeks and micro-herbs that crowned the tortellini contributed an additional textural dimension to the already refined dish. I can't believe I'm still raving about it till today. Flawless, absolutely flawless.

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Beer battered zucchini floweres stuffed with herbed ricotta, panzanella, and herb oil.

This was Becky's dish. The batter was light and crispy, not cloyingly oily as most beer batters are infamous for (thanks to many a fish n chip shop). The olive oil used in dressing the panzanella (bread salad), I believe, was evidently of premium quality, displaying unadulterated fruity tones. The panzanella had just the appropriate amount of acidity to cut through the richness of the fried batter. Another very well conceived dish.

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Crispy fried pork hock with chilli caramel, spicy thai salad and jasmine rice.

Possibly one of the most photographed and replicated dishes in the food scene today. Every other local restaurant seems to feature such a dish. I cannot safely say who was the first to innovate or recreate this dish in Australia, but I can certainly bet that Teage Ezard's version was one of the first; even till today, many people still see his as the 'original' chilli caramel pork hock. Would appreciate it if anyone who knew better could leave a comment to differ.

Well, back to the dish. I liked the duo of textures; meltingly soft on the inside, crispy and sticky on the outside. However, the whole dish was drowned in a sauce so ridiculously sweet that every mouthful tasted exactly the same as the last. In this case, even the pungent Thai herbs and beansprouts couldn't save the sauce from overpowering everything else. The rice which was served separately in a small rice bowl was rather hard to tackle, especially so given that I was only armed with a fork and knife.

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Wagyu rump braised in Asian masterstock with Crispy shoe-string taro chips and jasmine rice.

The beef was very well braised and tasted every bit like what it should have tasted. The taro chips were indeed very crispy and obviously freshly fried to order. I really like their integrity with using the word 'crispy' unlike some other restaurants I've been to. The big let down however, was the addition of pak choy to the dish. Isn't pak choy soooo passe by now? It really gets to me when I have to endure with such pieces of oh-so-overdone ingredients in restaurants. Could someone please kindly add pak choy to that list of dreadfully misrepresented 'Asian' ingredients which currently consists of wasabi, nori, mango, sticky soy (excuse me, I believe it's called Kecap Manis?), sweet chilli, chilli jam and the likes?

Anyway, besides those few hiccups, Ezard @ Adelphi is still a restaurant very much worth visiting in Melbourne. Do remember to make a reservation though, as they are fully booked on most evenings. And finally, may I insist that if the tortellini dish is still on the menu, go for it- it's jaw-droppingly good.

Ezard at The Adelphi
187 Flinders Lane
Tel: (03) 9639 6811

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