Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What to serve with New Zealand roast lamb leg

Roast lamb whether in Australia or not, makes me think of lots of root vegetables cooked in the same roasting pan with peas, gravy and even maybe mint jelly.

If I've eaten it (and swooned over it) a thousand times, no doubt our kiwi friends across the ditch are as equally drained of inspiration. So cooking a family dinner a couple of nights ago in Christchurch New Zealand, PDC and I challenged the idea with a rustic pissaladière along side all the vegies!
Pissaladière is an onion based tart originating from Nice in France, the key components are caramelised onions, anchovies and local olives - all fantastic flavours with lamb - and served on a bread or pastry base.

The books tell me that tomato is only used occasionally on this tart but every version I had either across the country or in Provence had a slight smear of fresh tomato sauce. Hence my addition as you can see.

Pissaladière wedges

I used a bread base, made from a basic recipe in a bread machine (seems like a commonly found addition to a kiwi kitchen that unlike in Aussie kitchens, actually gets used!)
The dough was spread over a tray with olive oil and par-baked and cooled before topping. You could also try a plain supermarket pizza base or a shortcrust pastry, again make sure you partially cook it first.

5 large onions
A handful thyme - picked
3 bay leaves
4 very ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic - crushed
pinch brown sugar
olive oil
anchovies, at least 12 fillets
black olives- niçoise or kalamata are best*, pitted
Par-baked bread base

Make the caramelised onions ahead of time
Finely slice the onions and very slowly cook in a little olive oil with the thyme the bay leaves
Keep the temperature very low to avoid browning, after about 1.5 hours the onions will pulp down to a thick paste
Finish with a teaspoon of butter, and allow to cool

Very simple tomato sauce
Roughly chop the tomatoes and gently simmer in a splash of olive oil with the garlic, salt and pepper and brown sugar
Reduce until fully broken down, about 15 minutes

To make the tart
Smear the tomato sauce on the bread base, all the way to the edges
Top with the caramelised onion, the trick is to add what you think is enough and then double it, the onion is the best bit, you will need all the recipe
Criss-cross the anchovies, using as many as you think your guests can handle, to make large diamonds
Add the olives to the center of the diamonds
Bake until golden brown and the bottom is crisp, cut into triangular wedges and serve along side your lamb roast

We also had a bit of a treat, some potatoes that were dug up from my in-laws cottage in the country. Maori potatoes they are called locally, but I thought they looked like what I'd call pontiac potatoes and purple congos. This had been out of the ground for less than a day when we cooked them, and I thought these ones were fresh!

The local potatoes were roasted with some kumara (of course) and baby parsnips, all unpeeled for ease of preparation and to retain the vitamins under the skin.
I had purchased out of interest some yams the day before, that I wanted to get more of but there was none left, no wonder they roasted up as sweet as candy, with hot pink skin and a caramel coloured flesh.

The lamb was studded with slivers of garlic and small pieces of rosemary. Initially I didn't think the tart would be that popular, yet there was no pissaladière or roast vegies left, or meat on the bones... obviously a success.

*Olives can be a confusing purchase, don't go near those sliced ones that you may see on cheap pizzas. You're best to get whole black olives from a local market or deli and squeeze the pit out

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Kiwi Klassic - Whitebait fritters

You know you are an honoured guest in a Kiwi house when you are served whitebait fritters.

I remember one of my first trips to PDC’s family nearly ten years ago; I was served them as an arrival ‘nibble’ with a fabulous glass of off-dry local Riesling. I remember seeing the little fishes eyes googling me as I devoured the warm fish fritter. They are softly textural, slightly fishy and salty, but mostly a bright fresh taste of the sea, just like a good oyster.
I definitely ate more than my share; I had no idea of the costly nature of whitebait, and I have since learnt it’s available in the local supermarket freezer chest for $120 per kilo. Whitebait fritters are especially expensive because of the way they are served, no mucking about, the baby fish, egg and some flour, into a very basic batter and then a hot pan, served warm. Not served like caviar or other delicacies, as just a garnish, the produce is the main ingredient and star.

This whitebait is from a ‘trench’, the term used for the permitted whitebait fishing spot, near the mouth of the Hokitika river on the west coast of New Zealand’s south island.

Whitebait are sprat galaxiid, if you happen to see Hunger for the Wild, a Kiwi series from the chefs and owners of Wellingtons Logan Brown Restaurant, you should watch the whitebait episode, just intriguing. Note: this is nothing like what we call whitebait in Australia, this recipe is only relevant for the true kiwi classic.

New Zealand whitebait fritters
About 400g New Zealand whitebait
3 whole eggs
1 tbsp plain flour

Whisk the eggs until foamy and then add the flour to create a simple batter

Add the flour and a little S+P, mix, essentially you are trying to get the texture right, add a little more flour if it is too wet
Add the white bait and then spoon onto a buttered hot pan
Fry until golden and serve warm with a squeeze of lemon and a little sprinkle of salt

Thanks to PDCs Mum for the recipe and cooking demonstration.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chilli chocolate dipped cherries

I prefer to make small foodie gifts if I can, and came up with the idea for these as I stood in the chocolate aisle of my supermarket earlier in the week. I was about to grab the 70% cocoa Lindt when the chilli flavoured caught my eye... Umm an idea in the working.

A lap around the supermarket collecting random necessities, and I had justified the combination in my mind, yes cherries dipped in chilli chocolate should be very good.

And you know what, they were fabulous!

Chocolate and chilli is no revolutionary idea, both originally from South America, the flavours have a strangely alluring relationship together.

Chilli and fruit is another inspired combination. In South East Asia I love the little pounches of chilli/sugar/salt that comes with sliced seasonal fruit, the street food in Bangkok is the best in the world, and this is a definite highlight for me.

So thinking laterally, using chilli chocolate for my dipped cherries is not a crazy stretch of the palate, and this is coming from someone that would usually prefer the classic food combos over the fashionable.

Do you need a recipe?
No way... Just melt the chilli chocolate or infuse your own if you're feeling fancy (but getting the portions right scares me!), make sure your cherries are straight from the fridge, dip in the hot chocolate and lay out on baking paper lined trays.
Refridgerate until set and firm. Eat as soon as possible.

I placed mine into a vintage glass bowl and wrapped in pretty paper and ribbon and had an impressive Christmas inspired gift with a twist.

NB Would you believe that when we shared these after lunch, I had not disclosed the chilli flavour, yet the first taster blew the fun for everyone announcing - "wow that chilli chocolate is great"! Bloody ex-sommeliers and their freaky palates!

Merry Christmas everyone.

Laughing out loud

This article on the Guardians Word of Mouth blog about the changes to Cadbury's mixed chocolate box has had me laughing out loud.

And then I remembered my impassioned despair a few years ago, learning that Allens were no longer making Kool Chocs (yes the 'Fruits' use to have siblings).
I rarely eat lollies but Kool Chocs got me through Uni and were a nostaligic treat, yes I was as the Guardian article quotes, BITTERLY DISAPPOINTED (capitals are necessary for dramatic effect...).

Any favourites you've missed recently? Are you bitterly disappointed?

Friday, December 19, 2008

2009, the year of more voices

2008 was (I should be writing is, but it feels so over already) an exciting year for me and Eating with Jack. We have grown together and I have have never been prouder.
There are some interesting projects on the horizon for my little addictive hobby that I hope to be able to share soon, but in a larger Melbourne sense this coming year will be quite interesting.

As no doubt you have read across a multiple of Melbourne bloggers, that the editors of The Age Good Food Guide and writers and reviewers for The Age, in Epicure and other sections have resigned to move to The Australian newspaper.

This strikes me as a huge coup for The Australian, and it must be a pretty sweet deal for John and Necia. But the thing that I think is the sweetest, is the opening and changes to happen in our food reading opportunities and what that will mean for food bloggers, and in fact all Melbourne foodies.

I can only assume that the Australian is trying to secure a little of the Melbourne food reading public, and I guess a restaurant review book must be part of the deal (why would you take new roles, lesser than your current deal?).
Obviously, The Age will replace these writers and readers will get to know new reviewers and/or go searching at The Australian for something more familiar or even perhaps look around for other voices - this is where bloggers come into it.
Google is the tool of choice now days for finding anything online and as we all know blogs are pretty powerful when compared to other websites. I anticipate the shakeup will mean a broader readership as people readjust, search for identifiable and trusted food writers, blogs no doubt will benefit.
So keep your fingers warm, and keyboard clicking away, an opportunity to attract a new group of eager readers awaits.

As for Ed's speculation about Jill and Terry, oh please bring them back to us (they were in town recently 'visiting Mum'), but how can we in little old Melbourne town compete with what seems like the ultimate international lifestyle in London?
Matt Preston, apparently no longer with the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, seems like a likely person to step up?

In other food news, I hear that "every chef in Australia" has applied for roles with Masterchef Australia -presumably as judges - shortlists are currently down to the last handful, so who will it be? Quietly I am pleased that the industry is supporting this program and lending it a good measure of credibility, to what seems like an adjusted format from the UK series.

So bring on the shake up, I'm looking forward to what eventuates and seeing a new round of Melbourne food writers and reviews on our pages and computer screens.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Can you guess where I dined last week?

Melbourne's cheapest, shucked to order, oysters from a selection of regions

A wine list that informs and challenges in it's industry startling breadth

Professional service, no 19 year old, recent tafe graduates here

International cheeses served in copious portions, for what must barely cover their costs

Full at 11pm on a Sunday evening, and people still trying to get tables

I hadn't dined there for nearly two years, I'd forgotten about how much I enjoyed it. Have you?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Baby pink eyes

I was on foot at the Prahran market recently but still had to buy a kilo of these most perfectly pretty potatoes.

Baby pink eyes.

Michael Mow from the speciality potato stand can't get enough of these little suckers, they fly off the shelf and no wonder.
They are from South Arm, Tasmania, just south of Hobart and were out of the ground for 4 days before I ate them. Now that's perfect seasonal produce.

Washed and ready for a quick steam.I've enjoyed mine, simply steamed and seasoned with fish, roasted with thyme and served along side chicken and last night just a quick boil and then tossed in butter and chives.

With many of these potatoes smaller than a grape they make the ultimate fast food. I reckon I could cook these quicker than thinking about how easy takeaway would be.