Saturday 30 September 2006

coriander two ways

This weekend is the one year anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging, as started by Kalyn at Kalyn’s Kitchen.

Even though most weeks the “herb” flexibly includes vegetables, fruits and all things plant-like, this weekend we have to stick to herbs because Kalyn is taking a poll on the most popular herb.

This is an extremely difficult task.

Mint is so good in dips, cocktails and mixed through fruit salads.

Basil makes pesto, one of my all time favourite things to eat. It’s also wonderful in a caprese salad or on a magherita pizza.

Parsley is very diverse and makes such a fresh accompaniment to meals in tabouleh or on pasta.
Chives provide a kick to salads, soups and go so well with dairy food.

Rosemary reminds me of Greece, ANZAC Day, potatoes and lamb.

What to choose?

Well, my heart must go to coriander. (I’m sure Kalyn will be pleased to here this!)

I never ate coriander as a child. I still recall the first time I ever tried it. I was physically ill. No kidding. The flavour was so repugnant to me that I couldn’t continue eating and was nauseous all night. My mum thought I had food poisoning because I didn’t know what was making me feel so ill.

A few months later my mum started a herb garden and I helped her plant the young herb shoots. Patting the coriander plant into its pot I got a huge wiff and immediately experienced waves of nausea. I explained to mum that this was what had made me feel sick and she found it hilarious that little old coriander could make me gag.

I was also amazed with the power this herb’s mere smell had over my body and every day after school I’d go to the herb plot and break off pieces of coriander, daring myself to smell it, lick it and eventually eat it.

Thus I built up a tolerance . . . and an addiction.

It’s funny to think the herb that once made me vomit is now my favourite.

These days I use coriander in abundance. I can’t get enough.

I’ve made salsas with so much coriander that my father overdosed and hasn’t touched the herb since (that was about 10 years ago now!) and Jonas is starting to build up limits to how much he can ingest because of my obsession.

One of my favourite things of all time (and one I listed on my Top Five list for Foodbloggers Guide to the Globe) is Batata bil Kizibra. This Lebanese side dish is deliciously pungent and tangy from an excess of coriander and lemon juice. Jonas has elaborated and perfected a recipe given to him by an old colleague, Haas, who was a chef and of Lebanese origin.

Batata bil Kizibra (Potatoes Coriander)
Recipe by Jonas & Haas. Serves 4 as a side.

1kg potatoes
Juice of 2 lemons
Pinch of chilli flakes
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
1/3 cup chopped coriander
1/3 cup chopped parsley
5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 180’C – 200’C.
2. Cube potatoes into 1cm cubes. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until potatoes are well coated.
3. Put in large baking dish, lined with baking paper, and space so potatoes are not too crowded.
4. Bake for 45min to 1 hour or until golden brown and a little crispy.
5. To get the best results and crispier potatoes, turn them every 20 minutes and add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Note: You can also sprinkle in a pinch of citric acid to get very tangy results.

Another wonderful, spicy coriander recipe is Madhur Jaffrey’s chutney of chilli, yoghurt and fresh coriander. Beautiful with just-fried pappadums.

Coriander and Yoghurt Chutney
Recipe by Madhur Jaffrey. Makes 1½ cups
1 packed teacup of chopped fresh mint
1 green chilli
285g plain yoghurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Pepper to taste
1. With a mortar and pestle, blend the chilli, mint and 2 tablespoons of water to form a smooth paste.
2. In a non-metallic bowl, combine all ingredients to create sauce. Season to taste.
3. Refrigerate until use. Best eaten the same day it’s made.

By picking coriander I’m cheating a bit because it’s both a herb (leaves, stem, root) and a spice (seeds, which are actually the dried fruit).

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), called by its Spanish name "cilantro" in North America, is an annual plant.

It was probably native to south-west Europe, which is amazing since it is rarely used in traditional European dishes. It was used extensively in medieval European cooking as its strong flavour masked spoilt meat, but it fell out of favour in the period before industrialisation. Now only the Portuguese area of Alentejo uses the herb in traditional dishes.

Coriander derives its name from two Greek words meaning bedbug and resembling because it is said to smell like crushed bedbugs (and people wonder why I gagged initially!!!)

It has been cultivated in Greece since 2000 B.C. where it was used as a spice, a herb and an ingredient in perfume (which is still is today).

The use of coriander seed is mentioned in the Bible (Exodus) and records show the Ancient Egyptians enjoyed it too.

Coriander arrived in North America in the 1670s and was one of the first spices grown in the new colonies by the settlers.

The herb has feathery leaves and all parts of the plant are edible. Coriander stems and leaves are used in soups, sauces and garnishes. Fresh leaves as used heavily in Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican dishes. In India the leaves are used as a garnish for many dals.

The roots of the herb as used mostly in Thai cooking.

People that grow their own coriander can make their own ground coriander by dry roasting the seeds then grinding them with a mortar and pestle.

Coriander leaves loose their flavour and freshness fairly quickly so it's best to consume them shortly after purchase. Similarly ground coriander looses it's flavour too and should only be ground when needed. Whole seeds can be kept indefinitely.

Coriander seed is used regularly in African, Moroccan, Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian and Arabic cooking. It is key to the Indian spice blend garam masala as well curry powders, Lebanese falafel, Egyptian dukkah, German sausages, Tunisian harissa, Russian rye bread, Ethiopian berbere and Belgian wheat beers where the flavour of the seeds is blended with orange peel.

The Arabic spice blend, taklia, is a combination of garlic and coriander seed crushed and then fried.

Coriander is believed to help flush lead, aluminium and mercury from the body and in the past it was used as a cure for stress, anxiety and insomnia.

Elizabeth and Ian “Herbie” Hemphill’s book Spicery divides spices into groups to assist the blending procedure: sweet (eg cinnamon, vanilla), pungent (cardamom, cloves), tangy (sumac, tamarind), hot (chilli, mustard) and amalgamating (paprika, sesame seeds).

They classify coriander as an amalgamating spice. They call amalgamating spices the “unsung heroes” that “make a very important contribution to spice blends” and say that “with coriander seed it is almost impossible to use too much” in your spice blend.

So my vote goes to the herby spice that inspires both revulsion and swoons of bliss.

Be sure to visit this week's Weekend Herb Blogging recap at Kalyn's Kitchen. Leave a comment with me or Kalyn to put in your vote for your own favourite herb. We'd all love to know which herb reigns.


Tuesday 26 September 2006

a stallion of a meal at pony

Pony Lounge & Dining
The Rocks Centre
Corner of Argyle Street and Kendall Lane, The Rocks
Chef: Damian Heads

I was meeting Jonas after work so we could check out the section of the Botanical Gardens that we’d booked for our wedding ceremony. A slight detour to the pub ended all of that and since Nicki lived across the street we roped her into our mischief also.

This impromptu drink turned into an impromptu dinner and the three of us went in search of an interesting dinner venue.

Then we remembered Pony! Nicki had passed by when she walked to work and I had read press releases and snippets from Gourmet Traveller and the Sydney Morning Herald.

I was impressed that after being open for such a short time, Pony was already serving up some pretty good food. I guess that’s down to chef Damian Heads who was the 2003 winner of the Josephine Pignolet Award – ‘Young Chef of the Year’ as well as a regular on Ready Steady Cook at Channel 10.

Since it was still dewy-new no one had found the sparse outside deck with a great view of the street and a cosy position under the heaters. A long communal table dominated the space, but we chose a smaller table closer to the street.

The interior was like a space ship kitted out in western gear – shining metal surfaces and organic egg shaped light fittings alongside marbled brown and white cow hides and exposed dark wood beams.

Our waitress (Sheryn?) was fantastic and built a rapport with us immediately. It was a shame that another waitress - who seemed to be the floor manager - was significantly less genuine and bordered on rude. Our lovely waitress made up for it though!

A complimentary bowl of tiny Ligurian olives whet our appetites and so Nicki and I decided to order some small plates for entrées.

Butterflied sardines ($8.50) came with crispy breadcrumb, parsley and pine nut tops. The fish was wonderfully oily and rich and matched the herby breadcrumbs well.

Seared sirloin slices ($12.30) were wonderfully rare and topped with a tangy dressing of soy, lime, chilli and ginger. It was an attractive dish with an invigorating flavour.

For main there wasn’t too much choice for our vegetarian, so Jonas settled on the bintje potato gnocchi with gorgonzola and spinach ($24). He commented that the gorgonzola wasn’t as strong as he would have liked but that the texture and flavour of the gnocchi made from bintje potatoes was exceptionally good.

Nicki’s ocean trout ($28) looked exquisite, served with fennel, Jerusalem artichoke, blood orange slices and garlic mayonnaise. She was pleased with the overall flavour composition, but it was disappointing that a significant portion of her fish was raw (no, not rare, raw). This was only one half of the trout so we suspect it wasn’t the chef’s intention.

My lamb cutlets ($31) were also close to undercooked, but I was happy with the flavours in the parmesan crumbing. Three cutlets to one serve was generous and I couldn’t finish one of them. The roasted baby carrots and caramelised shallots matched the lamb perfectly and I was quite impressed with the overall dish.

A 2004 Chard Farm Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir from Central Otago, New Zealand ($56) was a satisfying drop with light cherry and herbal elements, even if it didn’t really match the dishes we ate (another case of Jonas’ powerful addition to pinot noir).

I finished the meal with a fruit trifle ($12). A compote of rhubarb, raspberries and strawberries were layer with cream, jelly and a little sponge cake to make a fruity, but rich finale.

We enjoyed a fantastic spontaneous dinner and went home happy and very, very full.

Located smack band in tourist central, my only hope is that Pony doesn’t fall into the trap of its neighbours by dumming down the menu to feed bored tourists. Stick to your guns Pony!


Monday 25 September 2006

recipe carousel #15 - yoghurt

This week my Recipe Carousel is focusing on seven recipes using yoghurt.

As a wee lass I loved the ultra sweet flavours of banana or fruit salad Yoplait. In Italy, I became addicted to a rich strawberry flavoured tub from Danone and as an adult back in Australia I am a devotee of King Island Dairy’s Honey & Cinnamon yoghurt.

I have also acquired a taste for Greek style yoghurts. They are so versatile: over fruit or in curries or dips.

The following seven recipes are a mixture of sweet and savoury with heavy influences from Indian cooking. I have also included a recipe on how to create the curd yourself.

Enjoy . . .

Curd Rice or Dadhojanam is a delicious looking side dish from Vineela in the USA (Vineela's Cuisine). Translated from its Sanskirt origins, dadhojanam means yoghurt rice and it is made by combining sona masoori rice (short, fat grains) with yoghurt, chilli urad dal (split, black lentils) and ginger then mixing with a ghee heated seasoning of mustard & fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and cashews. Photo courtesy of Vineela.

Spinach in Yoghurt or Mor Kerai is a recipe from Priya in the USA (Sugar and Spice). A spice paste of fresh coconut, soaked rice and chillies is added to yoghurt, spinach, spices and coconut oil to create an excellent accompaniment to vegetables and curry. Photo courtesy of Priya.

Vanilla, Melon & Yoghurt Soup is the reconstruction of a wonderful entrée experienced by Béa in the USA (La Tartine Gourmande). Béa journeyed home to France where she ate a memorable soup at Bistro Pères in Paris. Her own version includes yoghurt, rockmelon (cantaloupe), a vanilla pod, mint and muscat wine. It sounds simply wonderful – a gorgeous summer starter. Photo courtesy of Béa.

Yoghurt Rice w Mango is a recipe from Indira in India (mahanandi), that cojures up memories of childhood and yummy school lunches. Traditionally left over rice was mixed with warm milk and yoghurt culture to form curds overnight. The rice disintegrates a little to meld with the curds and the whole dish is like a gratin. Sweet, ripe mango was chopped and scattered on top for a lovely midday meal or dessert. Yum! Photo courtesy of Indira.

Maampazha Pulisseri is a sweet, sour and spicy sauce eaten with rice. RP in the USA (My Workshop) provides this recipe using sweet, ripe mangoes, yoghurt, spices and chillies. After it is cooked tadka (oil, mustard & fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and whole red chillies) is added. Photo courtesy of RP.

Strawberry & Yoghurt Jelly is a summer treat from Sumitha in Switzerland (Kitchen Wonders). Fresh strawberries are puréed and sweetened with sugar then gelatine is added before the mixture is layered into glasses. Next a similar yoghurt layer is created and the jellies are unmoulded once set. With such little fuss this is sure to be a pure and fresh flavoured dessert. Photo courtesy of Sumitha.

Yoghurt from scratch is explained out step by step by Nandita in India (Saffron Trail). She writes that leaving milk and yoghurt cultures overnight in a warm place will cause curds to develop. She even provides an interesting tip for developing very thick yoghurt. Photo courtesy of Nandita.

Add your own recipe!
If you want to link in your own yoghurt recipe and share the love around, just leave the link in the comments section. You didn’t have to invent the recipe yourself, just make it and post it on your site. The whole idea of Recipe Carousel is that good recipes are shared with people who love to cook.
Note: Usual comments are more than welcome but all html links must be recipe related (yours or others).

Check out other Recipe Carousel themes: crispy snacks, vegetable desserts, fruit in savoury food, made from scratch, strawberries, jam, bread, seafood mains, ice cream, soup, chocolate and drinks.


Saturday 23 September 2006

artichokes with lemon & garlic

I am a huge fan of antipasto. The idea of snacking on a variety of different flavours and textures is so much more exciting than ploughing through a huge plate of one dish.

Italians, Greeks, Spaniards and Middle Eastern countries have perfected the antipasto/tapas/mezze tradition. Bliss.

Artichokes are particularly good in antipasto. They have a very mature flavour and the texture I would describe as softly toothsome.

I didn’t know much about artichokes until I did some research for this post. They are intriguing little veggies with an interesting culinary history.

I am also a huge fan of lemon and garlic. What better then to combine these three delights into a wonderful antipasto/appetizer that can be eaten hot or cold.

I discovered this recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website and the only changes I made was to increase both the lemon and garlic measurements.

Enjoy and please read on to discover some interesting tidbits about the artichoke.

Pan-Roasted Artichokes with Lemon & Garlic
Recipe by Williams-Sonoma. Serves 4 as an appetizer or side.

3 lemons, quartered
4 large artichokes
½ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
10 peeled garlic cloves, crushed
1. Fill a large bowl with water. Squeeze the juice from the quarters of 1 lemon into the bowl.
2. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, remove the tough outer leaves to expose the light yellow core.
3. Peel the stem end of the artichoke, keeping about 1 inch of the stem intact and exposing the pale, tender core.
4. Trim 1 inch off the top of the artichoke and cut the artichoke in half lengthwise through the center. Using the tip of a spoon, scoop out the furry choke. Add the cleaned artichoke halves to the lemon water. Keep the artichokes in the water until ready to cook (they may be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days).
5. Just before cooking, spread the artichokes on paper towels, sliced side down, to drain and pat dry.
6. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until nearly smoking. Sprinkle the pan generously with salt and pepper.
7. Carefully place the artichokes, sliced side down, in the pan, making sure they lie flat.
8. Season with salt and pepper and slip the garlic into the spaces between the artichokes.
9. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally to keep the artichokes from sticking, until they are evenly browned underneath, 6 to 10 minutes.
10. Using tongs, lift 1 or 2 artichokes up to check they are ready.
11. Add the lemon to the pan, place a piece of foil over the pan and cover with a lid.
12. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and keep covered.
13. Let the artichokes cool to room temperature, 30 to 45 minutes.
14. Transfer the artichokes to a serving platter. Squeeze the juice from the cooked lemon wedges into the pan and whisk to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the pan bottom. Pour the juice over the artichokes and serve. The word artichoke most commonly refers to the globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus L.), a species of thistle that gets its name from Arabic ارضي شوكي ardi shauki or ارضي شوك ardi shauk which translates to "ground thorn".

The part of the artichoke that is eaten is the base of the head or bud, also known as the receptacle. It is considered a vegetable because the bud is harvested before fruit has a chance to develop.

The plants can grow to 2m tall, with silver-green leaves. The flowers develop in the edible bud and are a deep purple colour.

There is a great deal of deabte around the cardoon’s relationship to the globe artichoke. The cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is said to be the wild version and the globe artichoke came from its cultivation over thousands of years. Some scholars believe that references to artichokes in Ancient Greek and Roman texts could have been referring to the cardoon not the globe artichoke we know today.

Globe artichokes originate in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean and are said to be one of the oldest foods know to humans.

In Ancient Greece and Rome, artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac. Perhaps this can be attributed to the legend of their origin: an Ancient Greek myth talks of a young woman called Cynara who attracted the attention of the alpha god Zeus. He made her a goddess and his mistress but when he caught her returning to the mortal realm to visit her family he grew angry and transformed her into the plant we know as the artichoke.

Records show artichokes being grown in Sicily as early 287B.C. In the 1st century A.D. rich Romans ate artichokes with honey, vinegar and cumin.

Once Rome fell, artichokes faded from the forefront of diets and then, around 800 A.D., became the domain of the Moors who grew them in their Spanish territories. This may be the source of the English word for artichoke (Arabic ardi shauk rather than Greek cynar).

Globe artichokes were cultivated again in Naples in the mid-1400s and at this time only men could eat artichokes because they were believed to have aphrodisiacal qualities that increased sexual prowess. This didn’t bother Catherine de Medici who introduced the artichoke to France and saw the acceptance of women’s consumption of the artichoke as a sign of modern progression.

In 1576, Dr. Bartolomeo Boldo wrote that artichokes "provoke Venus for both men and women; for women making them more desirable, and helping the men who are in these matters rather tardy."

German tourist in Italy, Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) was horrified to see "the peasants eat thistles".

It was the Dutch who brought globe artichokes to the English speaking world and Henry VIII grew them in his garden.

They were spread to North America by French and Spanish settlers and Italian immigrants brought them to Australia. In my green grocer I most commonly see the Anzio variety from Lazio.

Artichokes have had a tumultuous history in the USA. In the 1920s, a Monterey County (California) landowner rented his property to Italians to start the country’s most prolific production zone. Needless to say he made a fortune.

During the same period, NYC Mayor, La Guardia, banned the presence and sale of artichokes in the city due to the serious “Artichoke Wars” led by Mafioso Ciro Terranova. Terranova was behind a complete monopolisation of all produce coming from the west coast as well as the destruction of farms and the intimidation of merchants and distributors. The ban lasted one week because even Mayor La Guardia admitted he loved the artichoke too much to go without.

Today, the globe artichoke is commercially grown mainly in France, Italy, and Spain and even though Castroville in California claims it is the global artichoke centre, this is not internationally accurate.

Artichokes can be steamed or boiled then their petals plucked. Diners can then dip each petal in flavoured butter or oil and suck the soft inner end before discarding the outer part. The base is also edible, although the hairy choke must be removed first.

Alternatively all the scaly petals can be removed before cooking to leave the edible heart. This can be preserved, sautéed and even battered and deep fried.

Artichokes are also used to make drinks such as Italy’s liqueur Cynar (named after the Greek beauty) or Vietnam’s artichoke tea from Dalat.

According to the Californian Artichoke Advisory Board artichokes are:
• low in calories,
• low in sodium,
• fat free,
• cholesterol free,
• a good source of fiber,
• a good source of vitamin C,
• a good source of folate,
• a good source of magnesium.

Be sure to visit this week's Weekend Herb Blogging recap at Kalyn's Kitchen.

Also, everyone should be aware that next weekend is the one year anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging so Kalyn is asking all bloggers to write about their all time favourite herb and to contribute recipes that celebrate that herb. Afterwards she'll be doing a tally and will annouce what the most popular herb is. Those with blogs can post about their herb and those without can still take part by leaving a comment on Kalyn's blog. Hope you can contribute to this!



Thursday 21 September 2006


Buzo Restaurant
3 Jersey Road, Woollahra
+61 2 9328 1600
To see all the photos, click here.

Back in August I made an impromptu decision to join friends for dinner at one of Fabio’s favourite Sydney restaurants: Buzo.

I was not disappointed.

The restaurant was hard to notice, just off the main drag of Oxford Street, and nestled into a refurbished terrace house. The interior had a Parisian café feel with the curved wooden chairs and French prints, but the food was clearly Italian.

The daily menu appeared and I had a tough time making my decision since more than one item caught my eye. For entrée I decided upon the house smoked eel ($17) which came atop a crostono (toasted baguette) and was hidden under a forest of dressed watercress and slices of boiled egg. The eel was sweet and perfectly textured, flaking into smoky morsels and matching perfectly with the egg and watercress. A wonderfully light and flavoursome start.

Fabio chose the pan fried quail as his entrée ($17). It was accompanied by pancetta and slices of pickled pear. Shreddings of radicchio treviso gave a perfect bitter contrast to the generous lashings of a rich, dark jus. Even though it was an intense and heavy start, I adored this dish and thought the flavours were paired skilfully.

Julia also chose her entrée well, with a terracotta pot of baked spinach, endive, gorgonzola and parmigiano ($17). The vegetables oozed with cheesy goodness and were topped with fresh chives. A vegetarian delight!

Jean-Philippe ordered the gnocco fritto ($17) which turned out to be ravioloni filled with goat’s cheese and covered with coppa, salami, shredded basil and generous mountains of parmigiano.

Our fabulous waiter Marty presented us with some chicken wings to share, deep fried bites topped with a salsa of chilli, garlic, basil and aged balsamic. They had a good flavour combination but were a little dry.

Upon Fabio’s suggestion, for my main course I ordered one of the most exquisite dishes I have ever tasted: vincisgrassi ($25). This layered pasta from the Marche region has been found in records dating back to the late 1700s. Buzo’s version of vincisgrassi is fairly faithful to the original recipe using pasta sheets sandwiched between porcini mushrooms, prosciutto and truffles. The intense flavour combinations were simply superb and I cannot recommend this dish highly enough.

Julia and Chantelle joined me and devoured their own servings of the divine vincisgrassi.

Jean-Philippe’s chargrilled scotch fillet ($28.50) was also delicious, smothered in a salsa di cipolline – shallots teamed with fresh parsley in a jus based gravy.

Fabio ordered slow roasted pork shoulder ($28.50), complete with a rich sauce and topped with crispy breadcrumbs flavoured with fresh herbs and garlic. This was also an excellent choice because the meat was so perfectly cooked, the breadcrumbs added a delightful texture and the flavours danced elegantly in the mouth.

With our mains we shared three contorni ($23.40): a mixed green salad, green beans dressed in olive oil and fried potato cubes scattered with sea salt. All were exceptionally good side dishes and worth a mention.

With dinner we indulged in some excellent wines. First was Fromm’s 2004 La Strada Pinot Noir from Marlborough, New Zealand ($82.50) was a silky pinot noir with strong berries and gentle spices. It was a deep, thick red hue and had mild tannins. Throughly enjoyable.

We also sipped upon Martinez Bujanda’s 2002 Rioja Crianza from Spain $36.50), which was bright red with purple tints, sweet-spice aromas from the American oak and an elegant, red fruit palate with hints of acidity.

Even though I was ridiculously stuffed I still decided to indulge in dessert. I chose the budino di matteo ($14.50) – a steamed vanilla pudding topped with plum jam and vanilla cream. The pudding’s warmth and sweetness were just to my liking, but the vanilla cream was a little thick and cloying. The overall flavour was comforting and mild.

Fabio and Julia shared the baked chocolate ($14.50) which had a soufflé like consistency and was sprinkled with flaked almonds. It was absolutely wonderful and came with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Jean-Philippe went for the simplicity of an affogato served with a nip of frangelico ($17.50).

Our lovely waiter Marty delivered a complimentary preserved blood plum tart ($12.80). Sweet latticed pastry encased jammy plum pulp. The tart was served with a scoop of double cream and dusted with snowy powdered sugar.

Marty had not yet dispensed the final surprise – digestivi of house made limoncello which Marty explained was an evolving and unique recipe of wine, spirits and, of course, lemons. Unlike traditional Italian limoncelli which are zesty and vibrant, this version was mild and restorative. A perfect finale.

Overall, the service was friendly and professional, the food was outstanding and the total cost for five people was not exorbitant for the standard and quality: $475 total or $95 per person (including a 12% tip).

I am not at all surprised to see that in the 2007 Sydney Good Food Guide, Buzo received a well deserved chef’s hat!

To check out all the food porn from the meal, visit my Buzo set at Flickr.

Buzo on Urbanspoon


Monday 18 September 2006

piña y menta

I think all those zany Mixologists in the northern hemisphere forgot about us southies when they developed this month’s Mixology Monday theme “Goodbye Summer”.

Hey guys, summer is just on it’s way for us!

I have decided to think of this theme as “Hello Summer” and I’m more than excited since I’ve recently plonked together a delicious drink – the Piña y Menta Fresca – which I plan to drink day-in day-out during this upcoming hot season.

I took a few bright green leaves from my tiny, long suffering mint bush and combined them with pineapple, lime, sugar and tequila. Add some star shaped ice cubes and Bobbito’s your uncle.

Simple but delicious!

Piña y Menta Fresca
Anna’s very own recipe. Makes 1.
1½ parts tequila resposado
½ lime juice
3 parts pineapple juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
6 chunks fresh pineapple
2 mint leaves, shredded
1. Muddle pineapple, 1 shredded mint leaf and sugar in a shaker.
2. Add a little ice, lime juice, pineapple juice and tequila. Shake.
3. Pour into a tumbler with extra ice. Garnish with remaining shredded mint leaf.

When I suggest tequila to most people, the common reaction is “Oooohhh no, not tequila. I always feel sick from tequila. I got trashed on tequila too many times that I just can’t drink it anymore.” Or the second most popular reaction is “Tequila is disgusting”.

I just can’t relate to this. Tequila is probably my favourite spirit of all time.

When I was young I never got drunk on tequila. Fortunately for me I have no nauseous flash backs of university days, tequila slammers and self-inflicted overdoses.

I have also never drunk the common and potentially disgusting mainstream brands that turn most people off tequila for life.

My introduction to tequila came a few years ago when Roberto and Vicky brought a few prized bottles of the good stuff back with them after a trip home to Roberto’s family in Mexico. They allowed me to taste the different styles and qualities, and then whipped me up a few drinks so I could experience good tequila in action.

I was hooked.

When the Spaniards arrived in Mexico, the Aztecs were already making pulque, a type of beer made from the sap of the agave plant. The Spanish taught the Aztecs the art of distilling and the Aztecs started to make mescal.

Tequila is a superior form of mescal, having been distilled twice, and is subject to quality and production controls like most DOC liqueurs and wines.

Some tequilas mix sugar cane spirits but in order for a product to be called tequila, it must contain a minimum of 51% agave juice.

To make tequila, the leaves of the blue agave plant (which is actually not a cactus) are removed to leave the stem, heart or pina. This is steamed, chopped, pressed and then its juice fermented and distilled twice: first the same way as mescal and then a second time in a copper pot still. It is then matured in wood casks before bottling.

Like wine, the flavour of the tequila depends on the soil and climate where the agave grew (altering sugar and mineral levels). The production methods and processes also impact heavily on the flavour of the final product.

Tequila flavours range from earthy, sour, sweet, smoky and woody.

Joven / Blanco – bottled very quickly after distilling (aged less than 60 days), clear, sometimes golden, young flavour

Reposada – golden, aged in oak for 2-6 months, smoother flavour than blanco

Añejo – aged in oak for 12 months plus, rich golden colour

The agave juice is naturally very acidic, which is why tequila takes on a spicy, sour element. The addition of salt is said to enhance these natural attributes further.

In Mexico, where most foods contain significant levels of spice, tequila is an excellent accompaniment and is seen as a gastronomic drink as many European view fine wines or cognac.
Tequila absorbs flavours very easily and is a great spirit to use for flavoured liqueurs. Tequila blanco / joven can be combined with vanilla pods, cinnamon sticks, ginger, chilli, nuts and even fresh fruit to take on new and exciting attributes. This is known as tequila curados.

Tequila can be drunk in various ways: slammed with lime and salt, shaken as part of a margarita, mixed into a Tequila Sunrise or simply sipped along side a glass of sangrita.

Tequila is excellent paired with spicy and salty food and makes a great aperitif or beverage alongside a meal heavy with chilli or spice.

Be sure to check out the Mixology Monday VII recap at Paul's Cocktail Chronicles to see what summer sauce the northerners are bidding adieu and the southerners are welcoming in.


recipe carousel #14 - crispy snacks

There’s nothing better than sitting back with a beer or a glass of wine and indulging in some good conversation. And how to fuel this chatter? Why with this week’s Recipe Carousel theme: crispy snacks.

Here are seven snack recipes that have that crunchie, crackling crispy texture that we all identify with the party atmosphere, whether that be snuggled up with family in front of a DVD or hosting a dinner party.

Microtato Chips are fat free potato crisps from Christiane in the USA (28 Cooks). She shares with us a secret microwave recipe to turn wafer-thin slices of potato into crispy snacks. Flavour with whatever spices you desire and lubricated with a little cooking spray, you too can make some nibbles that look as pretty as these. Photo courtesy of Christiane.

Butter Murukku are crunchy spidery snacks from Radhika in the USA (Radhi’s Kitchen). The recipe is surprisingly easy and consists of rice and gram flours and butter. The mixture is piped directly into hot oil. Radhika also explains that you should only mix the flours with the water just before frying or otherwise your final product will turn out a reddish colour. Photo courtesy of Radhika.

Sesame Asparagus are crispy treats from Santos in Guam (The Scent of Green Bananas). Green asparagus sticks are wrapped in prosciutto then dipped into egg wash, rolled in sesame seeds and then baked until toasted and crisp. Santos recommends serving these with Japanese mustard for dipping. Photo courtesy of Santos.

Polenta Chips from Haalo in Australia (Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once) gave me a big surprise. I’m not a polenta fan at all, but these crispy, fried goodies would be enough to turn anyone. Haalo lets the polenta firm up before dusting wedges in flour and deep frying to perfection. She suggests serving them with bubbly or beer as an appetiser, or even as a side to a main meal. Photo courtesy of Haalo.

Palakayalu are rice based savouries from Sailu in India (Sailu’s Food). Sailu would much prefer to create her own homemade savouries than buy them in the shop and she shows us her recipe for these dry rice crackers flavoured with vaamu (also known as ajwain, omamu or carom seeds – they are bitter, pungent and peppery and are believed to aid indigestion). Photo courtesy of Sailu.

Crispy Fish Balls are the work of Glutton Cat in the USA (Glutton Cat) who has devised these Turkish inspired snacks. Fish is blended with cornmeal, bread, garlic and parsley, then flavoured with cumin, pepper and oregano before being bound together with egg and saffron. They are deep fried to crunchy perfection and served hot to any gluttonous cat in waiting. Photo courtesy of Glutton Cat.

Thai Wontons bring back childhood memories of potlucks for Ed in the USA (Is it EDible?). These crunchy little appetisers are stuffed with garlic and flavoured with ginger, garlic, sesame, soy sauce and onion. Ed’s recipe provides two alternatives for cooking the wontons: in chicken broth to make a soup or deep frying them for the crispy effect. Photo courtesy of Ed.

Add your own recipe!
If you want to link in your own crispy snack recipe and share the love around, just leave the link in the comments section. You didn’t have to invent the recipe yourself, just make it and post it on your site. The whole idea of Recipe Carousel is that good recipes are shared with people who love to cook.
Note: Usual comments are more than welcome but all html links must be recipe related (yours or others).

Check out other Recipe Carousel themes: vegetable desserts, fruit in savoury food, made from scratch, strawberries, jam, bread, seafood mains, ice cream, soup, chocolate and drinks.


Saturday 16 September 2006

my kingdom for some soup

The first time I made this soup was a disaster. A huge, horrible disaster.

I was at the stage where all I needed to do was turn the soup to low and allow it to simmer, but a distressed phone call from a crying friend proved a significant distraction and when I returned to my pot I had a pulpy mass of burnt lentil and a very smoky kitchen. Oopps.

But I persevered and on the second attempt I was rewarded with this healthy, flavoursome lentil soup – my kind of comfort food.

In the Old Testament (Genesis), which is shared by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike, there is a story about a hungry young man called Esau.

Isaac and Rebekah were the parents of twin boys: Jacob and Esau. The boys were locked in a constant struggle, even from within the womb. Esau was the eldest of the sons and therefore was destined to inherit his father’s land, but Jacob had some tricks up his sleeve.

It seems Jacob knew his way around the kitchen and managed to whip up a meal so delicious that Esau was prepared to trade his birthright (rule over Israel) for a mess of potage – a bowl of Jacob’s red lentil soup.

Esau (who is also called עֵשָׂו Edom, which like the name Adam, means “red”) went onto other fame and fortune and Jacob took control of Israel.

It must have been bloody good soup!

There are as many versions of Esau’s Soup as there are of chicken soup. Every Arabic household has eaten Shurba al- 'Adas around their Levant and every Jewish bubbe has her own secret recipe. My version, although not worth giving up your birthright, is still pretty delicious, healthy and flavoured with lemon, garlic and cumin.

Lentil Potage
Recipe from Anne Sheasby’s The New Soup Bible. Serves 4.
1 onion, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
10 garlic cloves, chopped
1 potato, peeled and diced
1 (generous) cup red lentils, rinsed
1 litre vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
3 lemons, halved
½ – 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil
Flat leaf parsley for garnish
1. Heat oil in large pot. Cook onion for 5 minutes, until soft. Add carrots, celery, potato and half the garlic. Cook until they start to soften.
2. Add lentils and stock then bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover then simmer for 30 minutes or until potato and lentils are tender.
3. Add bay leaves, remaining garlic and half the lemons to the pan. Cook the soup for 10 minutes more.
4. Squeeze the juice from the cooked lemons and discard the rind. Squeeze the juice from the remaining lemons also.
5. Puree soup in a food processor until smooth the return to stove.
6. Add cumin, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.
7. Serve topped with chopped parsley, swirls of olive oil and lemon wedges passed separately.
Variation: This soup can be served cold with extra lemon juice.

Lentils (Lens culinaris) are the seeds from within the pod of a bushy plant. Each pod contains two seeds.

People have been eating lentils since the Neolithic era and they were one of the first domesticated crops. Colours range from yellow, red and brown to green and black.

In the vegetable world, only a soy bean contains more protein than a lentil – which is 25% protein. This accounts for its popularity in India where there are large vegetarian populations. In northern India lentils are known as dal and in the south they are called paruppu, akin to most dried legumes.

Besides containing protein, lentils are a great source of fibre, vitamin B1 and minerals, although green lentils have more fibre than red lentils (31% green; 11% red).

Lentils are eaten mostly in the Middle East, Mediterranean and South Asia, where they can be made into soups or combined in rice dishes.

India produces and consumes the most lentils, although Canada is the world’s largest exporter.

While reading about Esau’s and his weakness for a lentil soup, I stumbled across this very interesting website about bean soups in history. It was amazing to see just how many historical figures had gone balmy for liquid legume. There was also a list of the various bean soups from around the world.

That’s it for my latest Weekend Herb Blogging. In beautiful Italy, Piperita, from the delightful My Kitchen Pantry, will be hosting our group recap. Please go and have a look at all the recipes!



Friday 15 September 2006

beauty on the inside

I am amazed at where I discover new and interesting foods.

As part of pre-wedding beauty routine I have been treating myself to facials and massages at local beauticians.

First I must state that I am a massage/beauty treatment junkie. I’ve tried many beauticians and day spas and I know good from bad.

In my area, fifty percent of those I have tried have been bad. Others have been better, but not great. Then, like an oasis in the desert, Skin Therapeia miraculously appeared close to my apartment complex and offering divine spa treatments in über chic surrounds.

Usually when a treatment is complete you dress yourself then head to the counter to pay the bill. Not at Skin Therapeia! Instead I was lead into a plush lounge area where a plunger of tea and a small plate of snacks awaited me (in ultra funky tabelware too I might add!).

The tea was organic and was made from wild limes and ginger. The little plate of snacks (which was to bring up my blood sugar levels again) consisted of macadamia nuts, wild figs, organic pineapple, green sultanas and almonds.

The wild figs were more compact, tougher and smaller than usual figs, but they had an intense sweet-savoury flavour. The sultanas tasted similar to golden sultanas, but they seemed less sweet and somehow fresher. My favourite was the pineapple, the dried chunks glistening with internal sugars so they were almost glace.

I was so excited that even in the most unexpected places there are always interesting and unique food discoveries to be made. Even when you think you’re just getting a facial!


Wednesday 13 September 2006

heart attack snack

Here is one way to give yourself a heart attack.

Take some spicy seasoned fries and bake them.

Top with cooked diced bacon, sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese.

Eat with gusto.

So bad for you, yet so very, very gooooood.


Monday 11 September 2006

recipe carousel #13 - vegetable desserts

A while ago I discovered some strange recipes using chocolate that confused the boundaries between sweet and savoury. Included in this mix was a cacao nib pasta and chocolate roasted cauliflower.

People were very interested in the idea of using ingredients out of the normal “Western” context and so I scoured the blogosphere to bring you some unique recipes that use vegetables in desserts.

Let’s get straight into this week’s seven recipes for vegetable desserts:

Red Lentil Minipuddings are the brainchild of the lovely Ilva in Italy (Lucullian Delights). Each of the ingredients represents some part of her native country – Sweden – and the overall result is an extremely interesting soft, creamy pudding flavoured with lemon, pistachio and honey. Very intriguing. Photo courtesy of Ilva.

Jamaican Choko Tarts were devised by Helen in Australia (Grab Your Fork) with inspiration from a Stephanie Alexander recipe. The choko (also known as chayote, christophine, cho cho, mirliton and vegetable pear) is infamous as the secret ingredient in McDonald’s apple pies. That idea never really bothered me when I was a kid since we grew a choko vine on the pool fence. Helen uses brown sugar and cloves to caramelise the chokos and create these pretty tarts. Photo courtesy of Helen.

Sweet Potato Brownies. Trying to find a healthy recipe that would satisfy her cravings for something sweet, Paula in the USA (The Cookbook Junkie) found this recipe in a women’s fitness magazine. She admits it wasn’t the best brownie she ever tasted, but it was certainly very good and very chocolatey. The sweet potato makes them very moist and Paula discovered they got better after a few days in the fridge. Photo courtesy of Paula.

Butternut Squash Ice Cream. Fiordizucca in the UK (Fiordizucca) whips up a homemade batch of this very unique gelato flavour. She flavours the squash with maple syrup, nutmeg and vanilla. Fiordizucca’s recipes are also written in Italian on her Italian language blog. Photo courtesy of Fiordizucca.

Chocolate & Zucchini Cake comes from Clotilde in France (Chocolate & Zucchini). Clotilde explains that this recipe is fluffy, moist inside with a crisp crust and that the grated zucchini provides excess moisture so you can use less butter. She explains that the zucchini does not flavour the cake and that the chocolate is pronounced and matches well with the hazelnut top. Photo courtesy of Clotilde.

Strawberry, Asparagus & Orange Filet is a very unique dessert from Meeta in Germany (What's For Lunch Honey). White asparagus is teamed with freshly milled black pepper then sweetened with sugar, honey and fresh ginger to create a vibrant dessert salad. A pinch of salt is also thrown in for good measure. Photo courtesy of Meeta.

Pumpkin Pots au Crème is one of those original Recipe Carousel entries that I think need to be posted again under a relevant theme. ChefDoc in USA (A Perfect Pear) takes the traditional flavours of America’s pumpkin pie and turns them into a creamy dessert for Thanksgiving. The chilled pots are topped with amaretti crumbs and crystallised ginger. Photo courtesy of ChefDoc.

Add your own recipe!
If you want to link in your own vegetable dessert recipe and share the love around, just leave the link in the comments section. You didn’t have to invent the recipe yourself, just make it and post it on your site. The whole idea of Recipe Carousel is that good recipes are shared with people who love to cook.
Note: Usual comments are more than welcome but all html links must be recipe related (yours or others).

Check out other Recipe Carousel themes: fruit in savoury food, made from scratch, strawberries, jam, bread, seafood mains, ice cream, soup, chocolate and drinks.

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