Tuesday 29 June 2010

green goddess dip

After a month offline in Europe, it's time to start cooking again. It's been a while and I although I'll be blogging about the food we discovered for quite some time, I also plan to keep blogging recipes too.

It's winter back in Australia, but I'm still dreaming about the rays of sun I managed to catch in northern Spain.

This recipe captures the fresh flavours of summer well and is a great little dip to serve at a party or BBQ.

It tastes herby and fresh, and the saltiness from the anchovies leaves you wanting more.

Green Goddess Dip

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma. Makes 1½ cups.

2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh mint
2 or 3 anchovy fillets
1 shallot, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup mayonnaise
¾ cup sour cream
Chips and crudités, for serving
1. In a blender or food processor, combine the chives, parsley, basil, mint, anchovies, shallot, lemon juice and mayonnaise.
2. Blend or process until smooth, about 1 minute or about 15 pulses.
3. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the sour cream.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 3 days.
5. Serve with potato chips and crudités for dipping.

This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging this week, hosted by Anh from Food Lover's Journey.

Sunday 27 June 2010

food from the basque country

San Sebastian harbour

In early June, Jonas and I spent 6 days in Bilbao and San Sebastian, the two major cities of Spain’s Basque Country (Euskadi in Basque and País Vasco in Spanish).

This is an area laden with Michelin star venues, including Arzak.

Fiercely independent, and speaking an ancient language from before Indo-European arrival (7000 BCE), their food is focused on seafood and dominated by pintxos (tapas).

Txikito is the act of pintxo bar hopping and a cuadrilla is the squadron of revellers on a pub crawl. We certainly saw those!

Pintxos are a great way to eat. They are small bite-sized samples of local flavours and allow you to wander from bar to bar, drinking and eating for hours.

In fact, during our time in Spain we never got drunk or hung over. We drank as much as we would at home but the constant grazing meant perfect sobriety and a healthy morning after. It was great!

The only problem is that, although the prices and quality of the pintxos vary, they are pretty much the same formula at each bar. There’s a lot of bread, cream, seafood and specifically anchovies.

A typical pintxos bar

I loved the pintxos, but be warned they’re delicious at the beginning but might become a bit tiring after a few days. Be sure to break up your meals with some of main dishes of the region too.

A typical pintxo of sliced bread topped with seafood goodness (in this case boquerones, tartar sauce and caviar).

Piquillo peppers stuffed with morcilla (blood sausage) and topped with bacon.

These little txangurro tarts (spider crab) are quite a common pintxo option around San Sebastian, flavoured with a little piquillo peppers.

The Guggenheim in Bilbao

Txakoli is a very green, very dry, slightly sparkling white wine made in the three local areas of Arabako, Bizkaiko and Getariako. The wine is drunk within a year of bottling and its poured from a height to allow aeration and increase the frothiness. It has a very crisp, acidic, young flavour and goes well with seafood.

A plate of smoked fish: cod, anchovy and salmon.

Gulas, or elvers, are tiny baby eels. Unlike earthy regular eels, gulas are smooth and squid-like with a lovely clean flavour.

Al fresco dining in Bilbao's Plaza Nueva

Txangurro (spider crab) meat sits on boiled eggs and is topped with Idiazabal, a local sheep cheese.

These peppers come from Gernika and are very similar to their cousins from Padrón (Galicia), only a bit bigger.

The kalimotxo is a strange drink: half cola, half red wine. It sounds terrible but on a hot San Sebastian beach it’s a quick-fix sangria.

San Sebastian’s busy Playa de la Concha

Piquillos are spicy, sweet peppers stuffed with txangurro (spider crab) meat.

Txipirones en su Tinta are little squids with their legs removed and stuffed inside them, then cooked in a sauce made from their ink. Delicious!

Amazing deep fried balls of molten cheese and chilli.

The busy marina in San Sebastian's harbour

Basque apple cider is served in sagardotegi (cider houses) all over the Basque region, with quite a few in the hills around San Sebastian. It tastes similar to non-sweetened alcoholic apple cider found in other countries, like Germany and Switzerland.

Bacalao (salt cod) is grilled under cheese in a gratinade style pintxo.

Unfortunately there were a few things I missed out on:
• Lunch at the world famous grill house, Asador Extebarri, in Axpe
• Seafood at one of Getaria’s famous restaurants
Kokotxas – hake cheeks
Marmitako – tuna stew
Bacalao al Pil-Pil – garlic cod
Bacalao a la Vizcaina – cod in red pepper (capsicum) sauce
Merluza en Salsa Verde – hake in parsley sauce

Bilbao's main bridge

So what are my top picks for the Basque Country's two major cities?


El Globo
Calle de la Diputación, 8
Located in the centre of town and packed out with business people chowing down on delicious pintxos.

Calle Santa María, 8
Small, funky bar serving basic pinxtos to a grungy, rock vibe.

Casa Víctor Montes
Plaza Nueva, 8
Fantastic lively pinxtos venue with friendly staff and celebratory atmosphere. Great food.

View Bilbao, Spain in a larger map


Arzak (Anna's review)
Avenida del Alcalde José Elosegi, 273
Amazing three Michelin star experience.

A Fuego Negro (Anna's review)
Calle 31 De Agosto, 31
Something a little inventive and unique. An excellent break from traditional pintxos.

Konstituzio Plaza, 15
Great traditional pintxos with particularly good meat skewers and seating in the square.

Casa Tiburcio
Calle de Fermín Calbetón, 40
Packed with local people delivering an authentic charm. A few of the rarer regional specialities are on the menu.

View San Sebastian, Spain in a larger map

Other posts from our Spain trip:
Arzak, three Michelin star restaurant
A Fuego Negro, San Sebastian pinxtos bar
Feasting in Galicia

Friday 4 June 2010

paciencia, por favor

Hello friends!

I know I haven't been blogging a lot lately, but that's because Jonas and I are on the road.

We've had a great long weekend in Göteborg, celebrating the much anticipated wedding of Helena (Jonas’ big sister) and Christian (another Aussie in the family, yay!).

Now Jonas and I are cavorting through northern Spain: Galicia, Basque Country & Barcelona.

After that we're off to Zürich for and Tim and Livia's wedding, where I'm the "best man".

Please be patient with the lack of posts while I enjoy myself, and I promise to fill you in on all the delicious discoveries as soon as I get home to Sydney.

Wednesday 2 June 2010


Another amazing dining experience in Sydney, this time at Tokonoma, the not-so-little-brother of Surry Hill’s famed Japanese haunt, Toko.

The Tokonoma crew and Mark Communications hosted me and a few other bloggers to try out the chef’s tasting menu and check out the venue.

The fit-out rocks. It’s moody with retro curved booths and elegant, secluded alcoves. I heart.

Better still, the cocktail menu is the same as Toko, with some of my all time favourite cocktails in Sydney.

I rate very highly their Fuwa Fuwa Martini, as well as several others I’d like to list but can’t remember the names!!!

The amazing pineapple, ginger sugar, vanilla and rum mojito made my month. Seriously.

I could easily come here with friends and drink the cocktails all night long.

But what about the food?

Well, in one word, it’s sublime.

Head Chef, Regan Porteus, hails from NZ and spent time in London pursuing Michelin-quality experience before discovering modern Japanese cooking at Zuma in Knightsbridge.

“I want the food in Toko and Tokonoma to make an impact. I want it to please the eye, please the tastes . . . I want it to excite. I take the best of local produce, combine it with Japanese commodities and preparation techniques and try to deliver it with a modern touch.”

On discussing why Japanese food captured his imagination, Porteus said “It was a new world of ingredients, tastes, commodities, techniques and a whole new style of cooking, eating, dining and serving that kept me interested and continues to.”

Toro fans should keep their eyes peeled for the fast approaching tuna season, with farmed bluefin a potential menu item and, if Porteus can figure out a way to make the most of the kitchen’s 6-burner stove, he might just introduce a newly developed recipe of braised pork and mushroom kama meshi (Japanese rice hot pot) to keep away the cold during the winter months.

In the meantime, feast your eyes, and your stomachs, on the chef’s tasting menu ($70pp):

maguro no miso taru taru
tuna tartar, barley miso, baby shiso leaves, taro chips

Sweet, honeyed flavor reminding me of ahi poke.

gyu niku no tataki
seared beef, pickled onions, mizuna, garlic chips
Amazing, my second favourite dish with smoky seared edges and an iron-rich centre.

watari-gani kara-age
crispy soft shell crab, wasabi mayonnaise

The crab had a great spongy crunch.

omakase zushi
assorted selection of rolls and nigiri

The rolls had a sweet fish flavour with crisy, salty caviar bursts.

The kingfish nigiri was like melting butter while the fluro-pink tuna had a sticky, iron touch.

piri kara dofu to abogado
spicy fried tofu, avocado salsa, barley miso

Sweet, paprika-flavoured chilli threads over soft, fatty avocado and homely-soft tofu in crispy batter.

hotate no jalapeno amazu zoe
robata grilled scallop, sweet pickled apple, jalapeno garlic
The jalapeno salsa was a sweet, spicy hit and took on an almost chipotle flavor despite its bright green appearance. The apple and sweet scallop were complimented by it perfectly. My favourite dish of the night, and incidentally the chef’s pride and joy too.

ami yaki ro-su niku to wafu
scotch fillet steak, wafu sauce, garlic crisps

This buttery, fatty steak was simply divine. My third fav of the night.

zucchini no wafu yaki
zucchini, wafu sauce, sesame

Tangy vegetable cylinders offset the richness of the beef.

shiro miso
white miso, spring onion, tofu, wakame
This gentle umami soup was a perfect end to the savoury courses.

The dessert platter contained ginger and d-ate pudding; rockmelon, chocolate, tonka bean and calpico sorbets; ginger, coffee and green tea crème brûlées; chocolate fondant and a spring roll filled with deliciousness (sorry, can’t remember!!)

I’ll be back to Tokonoma soon. Very, very soon.

Photo of Toko interior from indesign.
Photo of Regan Porteus from Mark Communications.
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