Monday 30 October 2006

ahi poke

Ahi is the Hawaiian word for tuna and this marinated seafood dish comes from Hawaii’s Japanese population who have been in the islands for over 100 years.

Ahi Poke is available all over Hawaii in restaurants and sushi bars and is even sold, pre-made, in supermarkets.

I first tried ahi poke on a visit to Hawaii in 2004 and was pleasantly surprised by the modern take on traditional Japanese sashimi, as well as the successful addition of coriander and the sweet nutty sesame seeds.

This recipe is quick and easy so all you'll need is fresh tuna and a healthy appetite.

Ahi Poke
Recipe from Williams-Sonoma cookbook “Savouring America”. Serves 6.
500g sashimi-grade tuna steaks, skin & bones removed
½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted
Few dashes of sesame oil
Large pinch of coarse sea salt
Pinch of red chilli flakes
Coriander leaves for garnish
1. Using a sharp knife, cut the tuna into small 2cm by 2cm cubes.
2. Place tuna in a bowl and add all other ingredients.
3. Toss the mixture gently to blend evenly. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
4. Serve garnished with coriander leaves.
Notes: Ahi poke is best eaten within a few hours of being made, but can be kept in the refrigerator for one day. Hawaiians use Maui onion, but for those of us outside the US, any sweet onion will substitute. Yellow-fin tuna is best for this recipe, although any other sashimi-grade is fine.

" Open Sesame"

Sesame is a plant widely cultivated for its deliciously nutritious seeds which contain high levels of copper, manganese, tryptophan, calcium magnesium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, vitamin B1, and dietary fibre.

In countries without oil groves, sesame oil is an important cooking oil. In fact sesame seeds are extremely rich in oil - an estimated 50% of the seed.

The origin of sesame is unknown, but studies show its closest cousins growing in Africa. The first records of cultivation come from 2000 BCE in Assyria and Babylon (modern day Iraq and Syria). It later spread throughout the Middle East and Asia.

The etymological root of the English word sesame shows its path through world cuisines. The Latin sesamum came from the Greek sēsámon which had fashioned itself after the Aramaic shūmshĕmā. This was a derivative of Babylonian shawash-shammu via Assyrian shamash-shammū. What amazes me more than anything is how close the English word remains to the original Assyrian source despite geographical distance and thousands of years.

Around 4000 years ago in China, records show sesame seed was burnt to create soot for making ink. In Ancient Greece, soldiers carried sesame seeds as emergency rations and in India, sesame is a good luck omen for Brahmins who use it as anointing oil.

It is said that The Arabian Night’s tale used “open sesame” as the magic access to the thieves den because the sound of a sesame seed being released from its pod is similar to a lock opening.

In the Middle East sesame seeds are used to make a nut paste (tahini) and a dessert (helva). In Syria and Lebanon it’s an important ingredient in a spice dip (zatar) and sesame seeds crown Turkey’s favourite snack food (simit). In Greece sesame seeds are set into slices sweetened with honey (pasteli) and they are also widely used in Indian, Korean and Japanese cuisine as a garnish and flavouring. In Europe, seeds are sprinkled over cakes and breads as decoration.



recipe carousel #20 - raw is best

After another recent visit to the Sydney Fish Market where I spotted some excellent sashimi grade fish, I've been hankering to eat anything raw. This craving resulted in ahi poke.

Raw food can be so appealing. Absolutely fresh fish doused in acidic citrus or vibrant red beef flavoured with briny capers. Tartare, sashimi, ceviche and carpaccio - raw is best.

Hake Marinated in Pink Peppercorns is a recipe from Marcela in Argentina (La Majaluta). The post is in Spanish but I deduced that Marcela’s recipe uses extremely fresh hake cut into paper thin slices then marinated for 30 minutes or so in olive oil, lemon juice, pink peppercorns, juniper berries, ground black pepper, dried ginger and grated lemon rind. Photo courtesy of Marcela.

Cucumber Carpaccio is how Ed in the USA (Is it EDible?) used up an abundance of hot-house cucumbers. This recipe contains soy sauce, sesame oil, Hawaiian sea salt and some shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice seasoning often made from red chilli, black pepper, sesame seeds, dried mandarin peel, nori seaweed flakes, prickly ash pods, hemp seeds and poppy seeds). This vegetarian dish takes 5 minutes to prepare and provides an aesthetic accompaniment to any meal. Photo courtesy of Ed.

Shrimp Ceviche is a ploy by Elise in USA (Simply Recipes) to get her father to eat shrimp. The shrimp are cooked with lemon and lime juices and served with red onion, serrano chile, cilantro, cucumber and avocado. Elise uses cooked prawns in this recipe, but ceviche can be made just as easily with green ones. Photo courtesy of Elise.

Beetroot Cured Salmon is a colourful creation from Haalo in Australia (Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once). Haalo leaves a salmon tail overnight in a mixture of grated raw beetroot, vanilla extract, vanilla vodka, lime zest and fennel. The marinade firms the fish flesh and dyes the outer edges a beautiful royal cerise. Haalo also provides two recipes to use the salmon (here and here). Photo courtesy of Haalo.

Beef Tartare is a tasty tidbit from Johanna in the UK (The Passionate Cook). As part of an amuse bouche feast she made tiny spoons of diced raw beef seasoned with mustard, worcester sauce, shallots, cornichons, pepper and chopped capers, then topped with a raw quail egg. Served with grissini and garlic chips, Johanna swears by this delicious appetiser. Photo courtesy of Johanna.

Scallop Ceviche & Kumquats is another beautiful recipe from Béa in the USA (La Tartine Gourmande). Spain is the inspiration as Béa cooks the delicate conquille St Jacques with lemon juice. Cumquats are also used to provide a sweet, citrus flavour alongside the cucumber, red onion and chives. A sprinkling of cayenne pepper adds a perfect touch of heat. Photo courtesy of Béa.

Trio of Tuna Tartare is a gourmet meal at home for Aun in Singapore (Chubby Hubby). According to Aun, the best way to cook tuna is not at all and I think I can agree with that. Aun’s three tuna tartare options include spicy red chilli and garlic; shitake, soy sauce and sesame; and the jalapeño, ginger and avocado. This is another recipe that appeared in my original two Recipe Carousels and has been posted again under a relevant theme. Photo courtesy of Aun.

Add your own recipe!
If you want to link in your own raw 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: berries, dips, cocktails, pasta, yoghurt, crispy snacks, vegetable desserts, fruit in savoury food, made from scratch, strawberries, jam, bread, seafood mains, ice cream, soup, chocolate and drinks.


Friday 27 October 2006

tomato carpaccio

Sometimes I'm bored of green salad. I'm bored of Greek salad. I'm bored of rocket and parmigiano.

On one of my "bored" days, Jonas came to the rescue with this wonderful Japanese style salad dressing. We eat it all the time now. On mixed greens, on rice, with fish, with chicken and now on thin slices of tomato.

It's tangy, healthy and great for summer.

Oh, and it's bloody easy too.

Tomato Carpaccio
Jonas' very own recipe. Serves 2.
3 egg (Roma) tomatoes
4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon shoyu (or light soy sauce)
1 teaspoon sugar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
2.5 cm piece of ginger, finely grated
Chopped green shallots (ecshallots), optional
1. Slice the tomatoes as thinly as possible (our photo was a rush job but it's nicer if it's thinner)
2. Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour over the top.
3. Eat with gusto.


Thursday 26 October 2006


Recently Jonas and I received three international care packages.

To our utter delight our very thoughtful friends and family brought us back some treats from recent holidays.

First, Roberto came back from Mexico with Jonas’ drug of choice – Valentina sauce. He also brought the smoky flavours of chipotle in the form of Mexico’s famous Lucero sauce. I was not forgotten with a tetra pak of salsa verde, my favourite sauce because of the tangy, sourness of the tomatillos and the fiery chilli.

Next arrival was Vicky’s magnifique assortment of goodies from her month in Lyon: orange blossom lozenges, Dijon mustard flavoured with currants, a dainty bottle of Poire William eau di vie, Versinthe and raspberry infused dark chocolate and a small tin of Valrhona chocolates. Little did Vicky know of my obsession with violet flavoured candy and so the surprise pièce de résistance were the hard violet bonbons.

Last but not least was the final restocking of our extensive sauce cabinet courtesy of my father and stepmother. They hauled back bottles of sauces from the US which are impossible to find in Sydney: Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce, Liquid Smoke to add flavour to Jonas’ veggie burgers, smoky chipotle flavoured Tabasco and my all time favourite chilli sauce, Louisiana Hot Sauce (flavoured with cayenne and vinegar).

With friends like these, who needs to go shopping!


Wednesday 25 October 2006

let's do lunch at forty one

Forty One Restaurant
The Chifley Tower, 2 Chifley Square
Sydney, Australia
Tel: +61 2 9221 2500

It’s still Good Food Month and I managed to squeeze in another Let’s Do Lunch, this time at Forty One Restaurant.

When I first started taking an interest in the Sydney restaurant scene, Forty One Restaurant was considered a hot spot. Since then public opinion has wilted for Swiss-born chef and owner Dietmar Sawyere’s cuisine.

Nonetheless, a restaurant perched on the 41st floor with commanding views across the Harbour is not to be dismissed lightly and this chef’s exciting vegetarian degustation menu has always drawn my attention.

I decided I had to make my own mind up about Forty One Restaurant and so I enlisted Tim and headed there for the Let's Do Lunch special.

Getting to the restaurant was a lot trickier than I anticipated. Even though some lifts went to the 41st floor, they didn’t give access to the restaurant and a small paper sign explained that the restaurant was actually on the 42nd floor and was only accessible from two elevators back in the lobby. After seemingly stopping at each floor between 41 and 28, I made it to the lobby and to the correct elevators. I also collected an equally confused Tim along the way.

When the doors opened we were greeted with glorious natural light and greenery and were promptly seated in a secluded spot with fantastic views over the Harbour and even to the Opera House. The room was bathed in natural light without any glare and the stress and frustrations of my day started to wash away.

Service was prompt, professional, knowledgably and very friendly. Certainly miles ahead of my other Let’s Do Lunch service experience at Yoshii. I was very pleased with the way we were treated even though we were just there for their lunch special.

For $35 we received a glass of the sponsor’s wine or beer (Brown Brother’s or James Squire) and the set main course. Tim and I opted to pay an extra $10 to enjoy dessert and coffee as well.

The Tasmanian ocean trout was described as “slow-cooked” and it was a healthy pink-orange hue and almost raw. The flavour was delicious and the meat flaked away easily without even using a knife. A light butter, lemon and chive sauce had been spooned over the fish added an excellent sour twang.

On the side was Israeli couscous. Unlike North African couscous, the Israeli kind are larger and more like tiny pasta. They are delicious cooked like risotto and flavoured with whatever spices, sauces or salsas you fancy.

In this case, they had been cooked like risotto and flavoured gently with zucchini, diced fresh tomato, chilli and grated bottarga (Sydney’s latest “it” ingredient). The combination was a soft yet toothsome accompaniment to the rare ocean trout. I was very pleased.

I enjoyed this with a glass of the sponsored Brown Brother’s 2004 Pinot Grigio (Milawa, Victoria) and Tim had the James Squire Porter.

Next arrived the dessert. A dark chocolate pannacotta had been sprinkled with crunchy praline pieces and served with tongues of biscotti and a strawberry and passionfruit salsa. Of course Tim enjoyed his sans fruit due to his fruitophobia.

The pannacotta was deliciously chocolate, and had a wonderful rich flavour and smooth texture. It was a little thick for my liking however, because I prefer my pannacotta to melt more readily in the heat of my mouth, but I wouldn’t dare fault this for fear of giving Sawyere’s critics something to hold onto.

My experience at Forty One Restaurant was highly enjoyable: the food was perfect, the service was excellent and the view was nothing short of spectacular.

Yes, I would visit again and that’s what makes Good Food Month events so successful.


Be sure to visit Rebecca’s round-up at Cucina Rebecca to see what other Good Food Month events the Sydney food bloggers are indulging in.


Monday 23 October 2006

recipe carousel #19 - berries

With summer slowly making it’s way to Sydney, I’m looking forward to better berry access.

This week’s theme celebrates the sweet and tart attributes of berries.

I have included cherries in this bunch, because although I know they are stone fruits and not berries, they are still small, exciting little morsels that make wonderful desserts.

Blackberry Rock is a great way to cool down on a hot summer’s day and is provided by Archana in the USA (Spicyana). Yoghurt, crushed blackberries and a splash of ginger are mixed together then frozen coarsely to create a textured, adult slushy. Photo courtesy of Archana.

Mannavaht comes from Pille in Estonia (Nami Nami). Semolina is boiled with berry juice or puree until it becomes a thick porridge. The cooled mixture is whisked and then served with milk. Simple Estonian comfort food. Photo courtesy of Pille.

Blueberry & Pine Nut Foccacia was a simple invention from Ilva in Italy (Lucullian Delights) These are some of the bluest blueberries I’ve ever seen! Not slate-blue but black, shiny and pulsing with colour. Ilva tops her usual focaccia dough with these gorgeous berries, sugar and pine nuts to create a sweet treat. Delish! Photo courtesy of Ilva.

Blackberry, Pear, Mango & Almond Gratins are quirky little puddings from MarketMan in the Philippines (Market Manila). A mixture of almond meal, vanilla, sugar, eggs and cream is baked with pieces of ripe fruit and topped with a flaked almond crust. MarketMan highly recommends this recipe as a successful dinner party finale. Photo courtesy of MarketMan.

Sour Cherry Clafouti. Being allergic to almost all fruit must be impossible, but Christiane in the USA (28 Cooks) makes the most of the fruits she can eat: citrus and berries. Christiane uses up an excess of sour cherries with this delicious recipe for a pudding-like cake flavoured with vanilla and almond. Photo courtesy of Christiane.

Baked Nectarines & Cherries w Ginger & White Chocolate Ice Cream. David in France (David Lebovitz) shares a summer recipe of stone fruits and creamy chocolate ice. David bakes his fresh summer fruit with cassonade sugar, rum and kirsch and the white chocolate ice cream is given a spicy kick with fresh ginger. Scooped atop a heap of the warm, stone fruit it’s a dream come true. Photo courtesy of David.

Blueberry Crisp is an easy dessert using fresh or frozen berries from Karina in the USA (Gluten Free Goddess). Gluten free flour is crumbed with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter then baked over the fruit until crispy. Easy, quick and oh so good. Photo courtesy of Karina.

And if you’re wondering why strawberries weren’t mentioned, it’s because I covered them in a previous Recipe Carousel.

Add your own recipe!
If you want to link in your own berry 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: dips, cocktails, pasta, yoghurt, crispy snacks, vegetable desserts, fruit in savoury food, made from scratch, strawberries, jam, bread, seafood mains, ice cream, soup, chocolate and drinks.


Sunday 22 October 2006

spaghettini con zucchini

Phew! I’ve been having serious computer woes. For some bizarre reason I haven’t been able to get into Blogger since last Monday. I suspect it’s more to do with my Broadband connection than Blogger, since it’s taking forever to upload new windows (although ironically only in Blogger).

But let’s get down to some Weekend Herb Blogging.

After flicking through my stepmother’s Marie Claire & Donna Hay magazine, I came home with a hankering to cook a summer meal based on a photo I saw. I hadn’t read the instructions but it seemed very simple so Jonas and I set about to recreate our own version.

Spaghettini con Zucchini
Anna & Jonas’ version of a Donna Hay photo. Serves 2.
3 zucchini
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
2 thick slices stale bread
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
Rind of a lemon, finely grated
Juice ½ lemon
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Olive oil, for cooking
Salt & pepper, for seasoning
Parmigiano to serve
200g+ dried spaghettini
1. Put bread into a food processor and pulse until they form rough breadcrumbs.
2. Put water onto boil for the pasta.
3. Grate the zucchini on a coarse sized grater. Squeeze zucchini over sink, or wrap tightly in cheese cloth and wring the excess liquid out.
4. If pasta water has boiled, add salt and then spaghettini and cook as per packet directions.
5. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Fry shallot, chilli and garlic until soft and translucent in the case of the shallot.
6. Add zucchini, salt and pepper, and fry. Zucchini will leak considerable juices into the pan so continue cooking until it’s soft and only a little moist.
7. At the same time, heat olive oil in another frying pan. Add breadcrumbs and lemon rind. Continue frying and stirring until crumbs go gold and crispy. Add oregano and cook for another minute. Remove from heat.
8. When pasta is ready, remove from pot and drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of cooking liquid.
9. Return pasta to cooking pot and add zucchini. Mix to coat. Add lemon juice and a little olive oil if needed.
10. Divide pasta into bowls and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Serve with lots of parmigiano.
Note: The zucchini will go very soft and absorb the flavours from the garlic and chilli so it’s important to have breadcrumbs to add texture to the dish.

As a kid I hated zucchini. Dad used to serve them up steamed and I couldn’t stand the soft, nothingness of them.

When I lived in Italy I learnt to cook them in magical ways and became a zucchini addict. I realised how versatile they can be and how easily they can take on the flavours around them.

Now I even enjoy their simple, natural flavours with gusto.

Cucurbita pepo is cucumber shaped and usually yellow or green, although some can be shaped like a bottle. Although we treat zucchini as vegetables, they are actually fruit (oopps, don’t tell Tim!) because they are the ovaries of the flowers.

The little flowers are delicious too, stuffed with rice or cheese then baked or battered and fried. Yummy!

The ancestry of zucchini is in the Americas, although the exact form that we know developed in Europe as a mutation on those imported from the American colonies. Apparently this occurred in Milan in the 1800s.

These little lovelies have two common names in the English speaking world: the Italian origin zucchini (American, Australian and Canadian English) or the French origin courgette (New Zealand and British English). It’s interesting to note that both the French and Italian names are diminutives for squash/pumpkin: courgette from courge and zucchini from zucca.

This week’s Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by Pat from Up A Creek Without a PatL. Be sure to visit the round-up.



Monday 16 October 2006

grape & aniseed schiacciata

Zorra from Kochtopf has brought it to the attention of the food blogosphere that Monday 16 October is World Bread Day.

In honour of this day, Zorra has invited everyone to bake or buy bread and to write about it. There are two round-ups with 113 entries in total!

World Bread Day '06 - roundup - part 1 (A-J) entries from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy & Japan.

World Bread Day '06 roundup - part 2 (L-Z) entries from Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Senegal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK & the USA.

So without further ado, here’s my contribution to World Bread Day!

Grape & Aniseed Schiacciata

Schiacciata is a traditional Tuscan flatbread. Schiacciare means “to flatten or crush” in Italian and describes the foccacia-like shape of the bread. This bread can be savoury (rosemary and salt; zucchini; tomato paste) or sweet.

It seems that people have been making this kind of bread in Tuscany for quite some time and Etruscan frescos even show the bakers in action before Rome was even a twinkle in Romulus’ eye.

This grape version Schiacciata con l’uva is traditionally made around the wine harvest using wine grapes. I used Muscat grapes because they were seedless and a pretty colour for the recipe, but any wine grapes will do.

Grape & Aniseed Schiacciata
Recipe from Gourmet Traveller.
80g sultanas
2 tablespoons dry Marsala
7gm dried yeast (sachet)
2½ tablespoons caster sugar
400g plain flour
400g black or red wine grapes (seedless)
2 teaspoons aniseed
Olive oil for brushing
Sugar for sprinkling
1. Combine sultanas and Marsala in a small bowl and soak for 1½ hours.
2. Meanwhile. Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and 180ml warm water in a bowl and stand in a draught-free place for 10 minutes or until yeast foams.
3. Combine flour, remaining sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl.
4. Add yeast mixture and stir until just combined.
5. Add half the grapes and knead until mixture is well combined. The dough will be very sticky.
6. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Stand in a warm, draught-free place for 1 – 1½ hrs or until dough has doubled in size.
7. Preheat oven to 190’C.
8. Knock down dough, transfer to a baking paper lined oven tray and shape into a flat oval.
9. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with aniseed and then press drained sultanas and grapes into the surface.
10. Cover with a tea towel and stand in a draught-free place for 20 minutes.
11. Sprinkle with caster sugar.
12. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until golden.
Suggestions: Serve warm or at room temperature. Great hot with butter. Best eaten on day of making.
Notes: My dough did not double in size, in fact it hardly rose at all. In the end I turned the oven on low for 10 minutes then turned it off and kept the door open with the dough inside. The warmth allowed it to rise a little, but not much. It all turned out fine in the end though.

So just what is World Bread Day?

Apparently the International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners got together and declared today World Bread Day in order to celebrate the importance and magnificent sustenance that bread has provided people all over the world and throughout history.

Bread has stood as a symbol for basic human needs, political solidarity and has even taken on religious connotations. The idea behind this day was to make people curious about bread, its history and its bakers.

Bread started in Neolithic times and the earliest forms were unleavened and probably cooked grain paste. More modern versions of the original flatbreads include the tortilla (Mexico), chapatti (India), dosa (India), oatcake (Scotland), johnnycake (US), and injera (Ethiopia).

For images of some of the world’s flatbreads, click here.

Dough left to rest could naturally become leavened since there are yeast spores absolutely everywhere. It is likely that leavened bread was created accidentally in prehistoric times, but the first evidence we have for leavened bread is in Ancient Egypt around 4000 BCE.

The discovery of leavened bread could also come hand and hand with the brewing industry, with either the yeast from the brewing grain travelling to nearby bread dough and causing it to rise or from using brewed liquor rather than water to mix a batch. Roman historians noted that the Gauls in Germania and the Iberian peninsula used the foam from their beer to make lighter bread.

Mostly commonly though, leavening would have come from retaining a piece of dough to include in the next batch (a starter). This is how the sourdough tradition was started and some San Francisco sourdough bakeries have enjoyed continuous production over 150yrs, developing a particularly sour flavour. This actually comes from a lactobacillus bacteria that lives along side the yeast. It feeds on its by-products then excretes lactic acid, producing the sourness in sourdough. In fact, the San Francisco sourdough has such a pronounced flavour that the lactobacillus responsible for sourdough is called Lactobacillus sanfrancisco.

For images of some of the world’s leavened breads, click here

In English, the word bread derived from a Germanic root of the verb “to break” and even today the word for bread in Germanic languages are very similar (German = Brot; Dutch = brood; Swedish = bröd; Norwegian = brød).

The word loaf derives from the Old English hlaf which in turn came from Teutonic. The derivatives of this word are still used in some European languages today, such as Finnish leipä, Estonian leib, and Russian хлеб (khleb).

Bread’s importance can be seen in ranks of status, since the English word “Lord” comes from the Old English hlaford via hlafweard which translates to “loaf guard”, an important position indeed!

Another sign of bread’s importance within European culture was the administration of pieces of bread in church to represent Christ’s body. This can still be seen today by the symbolic communion wafers during Catholic ceremonies.

In medieval times, Europeans would be served their meal on stale slices of bread which could be eaten after the meal. It took a few centuries for people to switch from bread to real wooden, ceramic or metal plates.

It’s funny to think that in Europe white bread was always seen as a status symbol because only a wealthy family could afford refined flour. Thesedays, it's the opposite with more affluent families adopting the more nutritional darker or organically made breads whereas white bread is seen as something tacky (I have to admit, I love white bread - guilty).

In Europe, most bread is made from common wheat but other grains include durum, spelt, emmer, rye, barley, maize and oats.

It is interesting to note that in some Asian languages the word for rice is synonymous with the word for food in general. In some European languages, the word for bread is also the word for food.

According to Wikipedia, Germany wins the prize for the highest consumption of bread, because in one year, 82 million Germans consume:
- 1.1 million tons of bread
- 5,024 million bread rolls
- 454 million pretzels

So, what are the top bread eating nation’s top bread choices?
1. Rye-wheat Roggenmischbrot
2. Toast bread Toastbrot
3. Whole-grain Vollkornbrot
4. Wheat-rye Weizenmischbrot
5. White bread Weißbrot
6. Multi-grain Mehrkornbrot
7. Rye Roggenbrot
8. Sunflower seed Sonnenblumenkernbrot
9. Pumpkin seed Kürbiskernbrot
10. Onion bread Zwiebelbrot

And before I sign off, here’s some bread trivia direct from Wikipedia:
• The anime and manga Yakitate!! Japan chronicles the quest of a young baker to create a bread that tastes better than rice so that the Japanese will accept it as a staple food.
• The phrase "the greatest thing since sliced bread", to mean something of superlative quality, is common in the UK and United States, there is also at least a German and french equivalent.
• Lithuanian folk saying: "Bread cries when a lazy person eats it" refers to how difficult it was to produce bread, from sowing to baking, in antiquity.
• The word "companion" literally means one with whom bread is shared (com = with + pani = bread).
• In some Asian Christian churches, the people eat rice cakes instead of bread served in the holy communion.
• In Turkmenistan, President Saparmyrat Niyazov renamed the word bread çorek after his mother Gurbansoltan eže.

So happy World Bread Day to all!

For more bread recipes from around the blogosphere, have a look at my bread themed Recipe Carousel and be sure to visit Zorra's round-up of 113 bread entries!!!

World Bread Day '06 - roundup - part 1 (A-J) entries from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Italy & Japan.

World Bread Day '06 roundup - part 2 (L-Z) entries from Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Senegal, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the UK & the USA.



pavlova martini

It's Mixology Monday again and this time the theme is exotic drinks.

I had to think long and hard about this since what is exotic to one person is common to another.

I decided to write about a cocktail that takes something Australian and turns it into a drink and the pavlova martini is the result.

The Arthouse Hotel boasts one of the most interesting and innovative mixologists around. Ben Davidson takes random ingredients and spirits and turns them into delightful signature drinks. He seems to be influenced heavily by the hotel's kitchen and has devised some very interesting cocktail degustation menus, where cocktails are matched to courses of canapès, both savoury and sweet.

In fact, he is a master of liquid desserts such as the blackberry crumble, the sticky date martini, the toffee apple frozen cocktail and, my own favourite, the pavlova martini.

The pavlova is true blue Aussie (it's also an All Black shade of Kiwi too, but let's not go there). What could be better than a base of meringue topped with cream and fresh fruit. Yum!

This strong cocktail combines the delicious elements of the wonderful pavlova into a liquid dessert suitable for any sweet tooth.

Be sure to visit the round-up by Meeta at What's For Lunch Honey?


Pavlova Martini
Anna's guess on Ben Davidson's recipe. Makes 1.

90ml 42 Below Passionfruit Vodka
30ml Crème de Framboise
30ml Alizé Gold
30ml egg white, whipped
1. Combine alcohol with ice and shake until chilled.
2. Pour into martini glass then top with whipped egg white.
3. Garnish with meringue.


recipe carousel #18 - dips

Last week's Recipe Carousel was all about the cocktail, so why not match up with some dips to go along.

Here's seven dip recipes to keep those cocktail revellers sated and on their feet:

Sumac & Beetroot Dip is sourced from JenJen in Australia (Milk & Cookies). JenJen tries to ween friends onto the mature flavour of beetroot through the non-confrontational medium of the dip. In her recipe roasted beets and onions are blended with sultanas, ginger, balsamic, yoghurt and sumac, a tangy Middle Eastern spice. Photo courtesy of JenJen.

Broad Bean & Mint Mash could be a dip, a spread or a side dish and comes from Ulrike in Germany (Küchenlatein). Potato is boiled in stock until tender then mashed with softened broad beans, chopped mint and heaps of parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with olive oil and you have yourself a tasty treat. Photo courtesy of Ulrike.

Pepita, Cherry Tomato & Sage Dip comes from Mellie in Australia (Tummy Rumbles). Dry fried pepitas (pumpkin seeds) are combined with oven roasted onion, cherry tomatoes, sage and chilli before processing into a smooth dip to eat with corn chips, toasted bread or pita crisps. Photo courtesy of Mellie.

Hot Cheesy Artichoke Dip is a Thanksgiving recipe from Kalyn in the USA (Kalyn's Kitchen). Artichoke hearts are pulsed with mayonnaise, parmesan, shredded cheese, onion powder and Anaheim chillies. This is then baked until the flavours meld. Photo courtesy of Kalyn.

Muhammara is a fiery red dip from Binnur in Canada (Turkish Cookbook). Binnur roasts red peppers and blends them with walnuts, garlic, breadcrumbs, cumin and olive oil to create a dip with a pesto-like texture and a spicy kick. Photo courtesy of Binnur.

White Bean & Nut Butter Dip is simple "emergency-dip" from Clotilde in France (Chocolate & Zucchini). By using ingredients that are mostly on hand (canned white beans, peanut butter, tahini, lime juice, sundried tomatoes and chilli sauce) Clotilde has come up with an addictive, creamy treat that's great served with veggie sticks. Photo courtesy of Clotilde.

Apple & Red Onion Tzatziki is an exciting twist on regular tzatziki from Anne in Sweden (Anne's Food). Grated red apple replaces cucumber and honey and white pepper give this dip a little something extra. This is another one of my original Recipe Carousel entries that's getting another plug under an appropriate theme. Photo courtesy of Anne.

Add your own recipe!
If you want to link in your own cocktail 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.
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Check out other Recipe Carousel themes: cocktails, pasta, yoghurt, crispy snacks, vegetable desserts, fruit in savoury food, made from scratch, strawberries, jam, bread, seafood mains, ice cream, soup, chocolate and drinks.


Sunday 15 October 2006

manta oyster forum

Today was a rather marvellous Sunday afternoon.

After experiencing October’s two highest consecutive temperatures on record (37'C & 39'C) on Friday and Saturday, Sunday saw Sydney cool down to a humid 20'C with a brisk wind coming in from the sea.

As part of Good Food Month I journeyed down to Woolloomooloo’s Cowper Wharf, with Nicki and Slinky Minx, for Manta’s biannual Oyster Forum.

The Wharf, 6 Cowper Wharf Road
Woolloomooloo, Sydney, Australia
Chef: Daniel Hughes

Perched on the wharf beside bobbing yachts, the naturally lit restaurant was set up in long tables of twelve. By some bizarre twist of fate my neighbour turned out to be the good friend of a good friend so it was a great surprise and lovely company throughout the meal.

The $85 lunch (bargain!!!) started with a welcome aperitif of prosecco and blood orange juice. I was very excited to discover that Manta has generously provided five wines for taste testing with the oysters. I hadn’t read that wine was included in the lunch and so I was prepared to buy a glass or two. Bonus!

The Forum was well coordinated with a moderator, Simon Marnie, who is a radio and TV presenter and also happens to be an oyster judge for the Royal Agricultural Society Easter Show.

Other panellists enlisted to discuss the growing, selling, preparing and eating of oysters included:
Tim Connell – Manta’s owner who was once a shucker and seafood provedore. He was also the founder of the Tasmanian Pacific Oyster Company.
Chris Boynton – oyster farmer, specialising in Sydney Rock oysters and also the rare Angasi variety.
Gary Rodley – proprietor of Tathra Oysters in Nelson's Lagoon (regarded as the best oyster growing wilderness lagoon in NSW). His oysters and farming techniques have won over 125 awards since 1992.

Pacific oysters are not native to Australian waters and were introduced from Asia. They can grow anywhere and as one of the oyster growers at the Forum said, “I could cultivate them in a bathtub”. They are very fast to mature (about 12 months) whereas Sydney Rock Oysters take at least 2½ years. Pacific oysters are prized for their size and white flesh.

Sydney Rock oysters are a native oyster which has been farmed since the 1870s but people have been enjoying them since the first person set foot on this continent. Carbon dating puts Aboriginal shell deposits at 6000 BCE!

Sydney Rock oysters are smaller than Pacific oysters and have a more intense flavour. They have a very creamy texture and buttery, yellow coloured flesh. They certainly don’t look as pretty as a Pacific oyster, but I think their flavour is superior.

Sydney Rock oysters are at their prime during spawning season when they are enlarged and swollen. As they said at the Oyster Forum “a lusty oyster is a good oyster”.

Angasi oysters Ostrea angasi (above) are oysters native to southern QLD, WA and all southern States in Australia. They were an important part of the Aboriginals’ diet before Europeans arrived but were almost wiped out due to settler’s desire for the large shells to make mortar.

Angasi are large, fleshy oysters with brownish meat that retain quite a strong flavour. They were mostly farmed in Tasmania until farmers switched to the ever popular Pacific oysters instead. Now the Angasi is making a comeback since they fetch significantly higher prices than the other oysters and are prized by those in the know. They have been nicknamed “the venison of the oyster world” by industry connoisseurs.

At the Oyster Forum I also learnt about shucking an oyster. Apparently front shucking (cracking into the flat, front of the shell) is faster but shatters the shell and puts grit into oyster. This is how most seafood stores and fish markets open oysters because it is three times faster than back shucking. Usually oysters that have been front shucked have also been washed which means you lose the lovely brine inside. Che terribile!

Back shucking enters from the hinge and decreases contamination from broken shell and damage to flesh. Aficiandos recommended back shucking, especially for Sydney Rock oysters, whereas Pacific are a little harder to crack through from behind.

In terms of shelf life, an unopened Sydney Rock oyster can last around 3 weeks(!) although provedores recommend consumption within 10 days. They can be stored in a damp sack and their long shelf-life can be attributed to their tough growing conditions. Thicker shells keep oysters in better condition since they are less susceptible to weather fluctuations.

In comparison, Pacific oysters will last 3-5 days in a refrigerator.

An Angasi can last a week in the fridge, but needs pressure applied to the lid to prevent these lazy oysters from opening on their own accord.

Although all oysters must be consumed on the day they’re opened, you can shuck them in advance then cover them with a damp tea towel in the fridge until they’re needed.

In terms of environmental effects on flavour, it is algae levels that determine iodine content in an oyster and those oysters growing closer to an estuary mouth tend to be more briny. Those further up the river have sweeter, creamier meat.

We were directed to go through our oyster tasting plate in specific order since the flavours of each oyster needed to be taken into context with each other.
We ate the oysters in the following order:
Control oyster
Pacific - Coffin Bay, SA
Pacific - Pittwater, TAS
Pacific - Smokey Bay, SA
Sydney Rock - Clyde River, NSW
Sydney Rock - Hastings River, NSW
Sydney Rock - Albany, WA
Sydney Rock - Pambula, NSW
Sydney Rock - Wallis Lake, NSW
Sydney Rock - Merimbula, NSW (S)
Sydney Rock - Merimbula, NSW (SS)
Sydney Rock - Moreton Bay, QLD
Angasi - Merimbula, NSW

Instead I will order the tasting notes as each oyster appears in the photo (in a clockwise direction) so you know what they look like as I describe them.

Control oyster (centre)
Shucked from front and washed in water. Plain flavour, low on juice and brine. Grit.

Angasi – Merimbulla, NSW (top left)
Brownish flesh, wine flavour; chewy texture; muddy attributes; almond tinge.

Sydney Rock – Albany, WA
Ligiment easily dislodged; good mild salt content; soft, delicate flavour; extensive aftertaste; mouthwatering; very good (went beautifully with the 2003 Salomon-Undhof Grüner Veltliner).

Sydney Rock – Clyde River, NSW
Young oyster, 6-9 months old; creamy on tongue; bitter at back of palate; moreish; not too strong; very good.

Pacific – Coffin Bay, SA
Large; very salty; not so creamy; sweet ligament.

Sydney Rock – Hastings Rivers, NSW
Young oyster; small shell; yellow colour; plump body; less moist in appearance; mushy creamy texture; less complex; less salt; white cheese mould aftertaste.

Sydney Rock – Merimbulla, NSW (S)
Very plump body; thick, heavy shell; very juicy; mild flavour; meaty texture; short aftertaste.

Sydney Rock – Merimbulla, NSW (SS)
Mild; extra cheese (I preferred the S).

Sydney Rock – Moreton Bay, QLD
Extremely high salt content; low on flavour; long salt aftertaste.

Sydney Rock – Pambula, NSW
Very salty; short aftertaste; mild white cheese mould linger.

Pacific – Pittwater, TAS
Very pointy shell, lower salt content; milder flavour; slightly watery; chlorinated edge.
Pacific – Smokey Bay, SA
Large body; less moist in appearance; good balance of salt; very sweet, creamy texture; short finish.

Sydney Rock – Wallis Lake, NSW
Motley flesh; heavy shell; buttery, cream flavour; low salt content; long flavour on the palate; medium length aftertaste.
My overall opinion after tasting all these varieties was that I much prefer Sydney Rock oysters over Pacific and Angasi. In fact I was quite indifferent to the angasi and thought it tasted quite muddy, the way some freshwater fish taste.
I particularly liked the Albany and Clyde River Sydney Rock oysters and enjoyed the Smokey Bay Pacific.

The oysters were matched with some of the yummiest wines I’ve tried recently. They were all very light bodied with high acidity and slight citrus tones.

2003 Salomon-Undhof Grüner Veltliner (Krems, Austria)
Minerals; herbs; green, youthfulness; significant pepper, lime.

2005 Kanta Riesling by Egon Müller (Adelaide Hills, SA, Australia)
Green apple; honeydew melon; bitter lime; dry finish.

2005 Kellerei Kaltern Pinot Bianco/Weissburgunder (Alto Adige, Italy)
Very light body; floral and honey; red apple; creamy palate; mild flavour overall.

2006 Hunters Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand)
Heavy with passionfruit; elements of grass; flint and capsicum undertones on the palate; bold aroma and taste.

2006 Norfolk Rise Pinot Grigio (Mount Benson, SA, Australia)
Extended skin contact produced the pink hues; light pear attributes; strong finish.

I was particularly impressed with the Sauvingon Blanc and Riesling, although the 03 vintage of the Grüner Veltliner was also right up there (better than the 04 from the same vineyard).
After the masterful oyster plate we were served a three course meal with yet more matching wines.

The entrée consisted of still more oysters, this time Pacific oysters were coated in coarse breadcrumbs and fried. They retained their moisture and plumpness but were contrasted with the extreme crispiness of the crumbs. They were served with delicate shreds of smoked salmon and baby rocket leaves.

This was matched with a delicious 2005 Plantagenet Hazard Hill Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (Margaret River, WA, Australia). It had tropical scents and bold, crisp apple flavours with a hint of lemon. I really enjoyed this wine even though I’m not a big fan of Semillon (this was 80% Semillon, 20% Sauvignon Blanc).

For our main course we indulged in farmed Hiramasa kingfish with roasted kipfler potato and parsnip and a tomato, parsley and caper salsa. The fish was cooked perfectly: the flesh flaked under a fork and had a soft bounce in the mouth. The skin had been salted well and its crispy texture contrasted well with the sweet meat. Very well done considering the kitchen was pumping out 80+ to feed all the guests at the Oyster Forum.

With the kingfish we were served a 2004 Sticks Pinot Noir (Yarra Valley, VIC, Australia). This had strong cherry aromas and light red fruits on the palate. It was a very easy to drink, a light summer red.

For dessert we were served pannacotta. I am usually very disdainful of pannacotta. It’s ubiquitous on Australian restaurant menus and it’s rarely done well. More often than not you battle between gluggy mush or hard gelatine rocks. The flavouring of a pannacotta is also a delicate balance, with many tasting very bland.

Manta’s buttermilk pannacotta was delicious. It had the perfect texture, soft with a slight resistance. In the mouth it was clean and creamy, without any residue fats. The flavour was a gorgeous sour-sweet, coming from the buttermilk and black flecks of vanilla bean. It was served with a prosecco and blood orange jelly (repetitive flavour of the aperitif) as well as a slice of firm mango. I was really happy with this ending.

The pannacotta was served with a 2005 Brown Brother’s Moscato. As sponsors of Good Food Month their wines are served at all incorporated activities, but a good Italian Moscato d’Asti puts this replication to shame.

I’m just spoilt. Sigh.

Even though a drizzling rain arrived, this was a wonderful Sunday afternoon. I learnt so much about oysters, I discovered Manta is an excellent restaurant that I'd love to visit again and I stumbled on some beautiful wines for the summer.

I can't believe I got a lesson in Oysters 101, a welcome cocktail, 5 tasting wines, 13 oysters, a three course meal with matching wines and all for $85!

Good Food Month indeed!

Be sure to visit Cucina Rebecca's round-up of all the other Good Food Month events other Sydney food bloggers are involved in.

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