Food Bloggers’ Dinner at Bistro CBD

What happens when you chuck four food bloggers into the kitchen of Bistro CBD to cook one course each for 70 guests? It turns out that you get a phenomenal success, as we all found out last night at the Food Bloggers’ Dinner as part of Merivale’s Feast for the Senses promotion.

We were served up five delicious courses, one from each of the bloggers and one from Bistro CBD’s head chef Simun Dragicevich. When we arrived, Fouad, Billy, Karen and Linda were hard at work preparing their dishes in the kitchen, as they had been doing all day and the night before.

To start, we had some sparkling wine which was included in the $60pp price for the dinner, as well as some sourdough to munch on while we waited for dinner to be served. There was an awesome vibe on our table of bloggers since we were all here to support the guys in the kitchen, cheering them on when they came out after their dish was served.

Sashimi of kingfish, avocado, wasabi, lime and soft herbs by Simun Dragicevich, Bistro CBD

Continue reading Food Bloggers’ Dinner at Bistro CBD

Bourke Street Bakery’s Strawberry Vanilla Brûlée Tart

There’s always one thing that I absolutely HAVE to get every time I go to Bourke Street Bakery, and that’s a strawberry vanilla brûlée tart. I went to Bourke Street Bakery a few weeks ago late in the afternoon and I was so disappointed that they had sold out of them that I went back the next week just to satisfy my craving. And oh it was so good, the crispy, buttery pastry with the creamy custard filling and of course, that crunchy, slightly bitter toffee on the top.

Sadly Bourke Street Bakery is quite far from me and so I thought I’d try making these yummy tarts at home using the recipe from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook. It was surprisingly straightforward and to me the worst part was having to wait for the pastry to relax because I just wanted to bake them, blowtorch the hell out of the sugar on the top and devour them all!

Ok, so I admit I was still impatient and I didn’t go through all the resting periods for the pastry which is why it shrank in the oven. But apart from having slightly shallower tart shells, the pastry was still as flaky and crisp as I remember it to be from the actual shop. I was also a bit ambitious with the amount of strawberry puree at first so when I put the custard into the tart shells it started to displace the strawberry puree that was in there – that’s why there’s not much strawberry in the photo unfortunately.

I’ve provided the original recipe below but since I only had 6 small tart tins that weren’t quite the same size as specified, I just adjusted the measurements for my requirements. I found that even after doing that I still had some leftover strawberry puree but you can always use this as a topping for ice cream or another dessert. Or just do what Sir D did and drink the leftovers!

Continue reading Bourke Street Bakery’s Strawberry Vanilla Brûlée Tart

Christmas in July

Twas the night before Christmas (in July), when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…

Except for a crazy onslaught of food bloggers and friends who were kindly invited by Billy and The Pom to join them in celebrating Christmas in July! Thanks for letting us invade your kitchen and your house for the night :) 

Of course Christmas just isn’t Christmas without being able to gorge yourself on all kinds of food. And indeed we had a great big feast in store that went on well into the night.

We kicked off the night with some snacks and a cheese platter brought by Shez including her yummy home-made labne.

Then the table was set, the Christmas music started playing, a picture of a crackling fireplace appeared on the tv screen and dinner was served! We all marvelled at Billy‘s beautiful bread wreath which he served with some delicious truffle butter.

Helen brought some home-made chicken liver parfait which was smooth, light and creamy. I couldn’t get enough of this and I slathered this thickly onto chunks of bread.

Minh dished out some sweetcorn soup which was awesome and full of sweetcorn flavour. I could’ve had a billion bowls of the stuff if it wasn’t for all the food still to come.

Billy also made some caramelised onion and goats cheese tartlets which were so addictive, especially with the sweet onions and the buttery pastry. Sir D couldn’t get enough of them!

Shez and Richard constructed this cute antipasto hedgehog – a honeydew melon with skewers of prosciutto, cabanossi, brie, honeydew melon, tasty cheese and olives, complete with eyes and nose! Almost too cute to eat :)

Karen and Shaun made some super tasty meatballs with a creamy white wine sauce and lingonberry jam (not pictured). These were sitting in front of me at the table and even though I knew there was loads more food to come I couldn’t help but keep going back for more!

Simon also cooked up some pan fried angel-fish fingers with a dipping sauce which were deliciously crunchy.

Onto the meats! Billy was slaving away in the kitchen all afternoon, roasting pork and turkey and ham, and soon there were multiple slices of meat on everyone’s plates! The apricot glazed ham was so good with the mustard + glaze as a sauce and omg the roast pork had the most awesome crackling ever. Billy also some roasted some potatoes in duck fat which were gone in a flash but I was too busy serving up my contribution of Maggie Beer’s country chicken and mushroom pie so unfortunately no photos!

Don’t worry, we did eat some vegetables too ;) There were brussels sprouts with bacon courtesy of Billy – my first time eating brussels sprouts and although they weren’t bad I can’t say I’m a big fan.

Helen made her roasted pumpkin salad with feta, and Karen also roasted a medley of mushrooms with garlic and thyme. Towards the end I was very grateful for the vegetables since it provided some respite from all the meat I was eating!

After some rather hilarious gift-giving, it was time for dessert! The Pom served up a ginormous Christmas pudding which reminded me of The Magic Pudding stories. It was flambéed at the table and served with vanilla custard.

Shez made a beautiful and boozy eggnog pound cake which was studded with glace cherries and accompanied by an eggnog cream. Pepe the cat got to the cream while we weren’t paying attention and seemed to love it so it must have been good!

Steph made some individual strawberry, rhubarb and moscato trifles which were was beautifully light and fruity. Perfect for us because at this stage we had all stuffed ourselves silly with Christmas food!

Of course, being full wasn’t going to stop us though and after a heated round of Pictionary we found ourselves eating some midnight snacks. Richard prepared a Fromager des Clarines with sparkling wine, garlic and thyme. After baking this in the oven it became lovely and gooey and the cheese was perfect for dipping slices of French baguette into.

We also had some pretty petit fours created by Karen which included light pillows of passionfruit marshmallow, chewy salted caramels with chocolate and rum cognac balls. Wheee sugar high!

Thank you to Suze who got up early to make brekky for us! I have no pictures to show for her efforts sadly but I can tell you that nothing is better than waking up to the smell and the sound of sizzling bacon on the frypan. And indulging in a breakfast of the crispiest bacon I’ve ever had, scrambled eggs, blueberry pancakes with Suze’s butterscotch sauce as well as leftovers from last night :) Best Christmas in July ever!

Miso, Sydney

If could only eat one type of meat for the rest of my life, it would be meat from the humble pig. There are so many ways to enjoy it – pork, ham, prosciutto, pancetta and of course bacon. But everything tastes better when deep fried, so when I had a hankering for some porky goodness one night, where better to head to than Miso, a Japanese restaurant which specialises in tonkatsu.

Katsu-tama Set – $16.80

Miso is part of the Masuya group which also has Japanese restaurants Masuya, Musashi and Makoto sushi bars. It serves meals teishoku style, which includes a main dish, miso soup, rice and a few smaller individual accompaniments alongside it (kobachi). For the non-pork eaters, they also have chicken katsu, as well as a range of udon noodle, curry and chirashi sushi dishes. But we were here for the tonkatsu, a pork cutlet which has been covered in panko crumbs and deep fried until golden and crunchy.

Katsu-tama Set – $16.80

Continue reading Miso, Sydney

Lemon and Passionfruit Macarons

Oh macarons. You are such tasty creatures but so fickle when it comes to creating you! I’ve had intentions of tackling macarons for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that I mustered up the courage and found the time to attempt them. My sister even bought me a macaron set from France which included a little book on macarons published by Larousse and a piping bag, which I took as a sign that I should hurry up and make them already!

Passionfruit macarons

So I started off the long road to making perfect macarons and began by asking people on twitter for macaron tips. And I got replies from seasoned macaron makers who told me to make sure I don’t overmix my batter, not to overbeat my egg whites and to be prepared for failures.

My 2nd attempt – there is something that resembles feet…?

And oh so many failures there were! The first time I overmixed my batter so that when I piped it out, the circles ended up flowing into one big mess. My second attempt was mildly successful, the macaron shells had little feet which made me excited but I initially undermixed the batter so I had to put it all back into the bowl and mix it again before re-piping it.

The third time I was so sure I was going to get it right – the macaron batter was the perfect consistency and they looked great coming out of the oven. But alas they were stuck! Really really stuck! Most of the insides ended up being stuck onto the baking paper and I was left with thin, hollow macaron shell outsides. I was so upset I just threw the lot in the bin.

4th time lucky – successful macaron shells! Happy dancing ensues

After a few days I was over my disappointment. I did some reading and consulted some fellow bloggers for advice about my macaron situation. Billy suggested that I bake my macarons at a lower temperature and for a longer time, and what do you know, it worked! I got beautiful macaron shells with FEET! YAY!

Since then me and macarons have been friends. Most of the time the macarons are kind to me and turn out great but I have had a couple more battles with them when the shells crack or when they get stuck (especially chocolate macarons, they seem to hate me).

Lemon macarons

But I’d like to think this is something else that I can add to my baking repertoire, even though I am far from being a macaron master. To all of you thinking of attempting macarons – despite the disappointment and frustration from all the failures it really does feel awesome when you finally get it and it’s well worth the effort!

I started out simple so the macaron shells in this post are plain with no colourings or flavourings. For one batch I filled them with homemade lemon curd using the leftover egg yolks, and for another batch I filled them with passionfruit butter. But now I’m armed with powdered food colouring so there will hopefully be some macaron madness coming to you from this blog in the near future!

adapted from Tartelette
100g (approximately 3) egg whites
30g caster sugar
110g almond meal
200g pure icing sugar

1. Age your egg whites by leaving them out for 24-48 hours or 3-5 days in the fridge. This allows the excess water to evaporate from them.

2. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Place almond meal and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse to get rid of any lumps. Sift it into a mixing bowl. If there are still lumps or large bits of almond, place these back into the food processor. Sift again and discard any bits of almond that don’t fit through the sieve to ensure you get a smooth macaron shell.

3. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks. Gradually add the caster sugar to the egg whites and continue beating on high speed until all the caster sugar is added and you have stiff peaks. Be sure to not overbeat your egg whites or the macaron mixture will be dry.

4. Add the almond meal and icing sugar mixture to the egg whites in two additions. With a rubber spatula, mix quickly at first to combine the dry ingredients with the egg whites and to get rid of the large air bubbles. Once the ingredients start to incorporate and the mixture becomes shiny, slow down and start folding the mixture. Keep folding and checking to see if it is ready – the mixture should ‘flow like magma’, should fall like ribbons from your spatula and a blob of the mixture should merge back into the mass after 20 seconds. A wise woman once told me that it is better to undermix than overmix – if it is undermixed you can always put it back into the bowl and mix it again.

5. Put your piping bag (fitted with a 1cm tip) in a tall glass to make it easier to fill. Try to seal off the end otherwise your macaron batter will start oozing out. Fill the piping bag and pipe circles onto your prepared baking trays about 3cm in diameter. Leave about 2.5cm in between each piped circle to allow for spreading. You can draw circles on the underside of your baking paper as a template to ensure that the macaron shells are the same size.

6. When you have finished, confidently rap the baking sheet once onto the counter to allow any air bubbles to rise to the top. Pop these carefully with a toothpick. Leave the shells out to form a skin so that when you touch the surface none of the mixture sticks to your finger. This takes about 30 minutes to 1 hour. During this time preheat your oven to 140ºC, although the temperature will vary depending on your oven. If the baking sheets you are using are thin, put another baking sheet or overturned baking tray into the oven so that you can place the baking sheet with your macaron shells on top of it. This allows for more even heat distribution so your macaron shells bake evenly.

7. When the macaron shells are dry to the touch, place in the oven (on top of your baking sheet or overturned baking tray if you are using it) for 15-20 minutes (depending on your oven). You can tell when they are ready by gently poking the feet – they should be hard and no longer spongy to the touch.

8. Remove the macaron shells from the oven and gently peel off the baking paper and place on a wire rack to cool. If the shells do not come off easily, you can try spraying the underside of the baking paper with water to ‘steam’ them off. Make sure you don’t leave the macarons on the damp baking paper for too long otherwise they will become soggy. Another way is to place the baking sheet with the macaron shells back into the turned-off oven for 10 minutes. I’ve also read that allowing them to cool completely on the tray can make them easier to peel off but I haven’t tried this.

9. When your macarons are cool, place a spoonful of your choice of filling in the centre of one macaron shell and sandwich with another one that is a similar size. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 24 hours to mature. Trust me, it’s hard to not eat them there and then but they taste a billion times better after sitting overnight in the fridge :)