Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Awesome eats: Melbourne take 2

L-R George Calombaris, moi, Stefano De Pieri, Andre Chiang
Is it just me or did we all get so used to seeing George Calombaris on our TV screens thanks to Masterchef that we momentarily forgot that first and foremost he is a chef with serious, considered skill in the kitchen? As part of my recent Melbourne trip I got to eat at Press Club Projects - George's experimental test kitchen of sorts with an intimate table of about 10 guests. One of the most relaxed, fun dinners I've been too - helped along by the phenomenal company of chef Andre Chiang (Restaurant Andre) and our Aussie Italian godfather Stefano De Pieri. Good times. Here are some pics of the dishes on the night. Obviously some could be better but I was so overexcited I think I "downed it first, photo later". But it gives you some idea of the food and I hope is teaser enough for you to go and try it for yourself.

think what really got me, despite the technical skill George and his seriously slick kitchen team offered, was the truly beguiling set of dishes based on only one or two striking flavours. Because lets be honest, that is essentially what Greek food is; a distillation of thousands of years of culture and lifestyle in food that is essentially rustic. Was it Greek taverna food gussied up to be some highbrow, new wave 'other'. Hell no this was Greek food that was present - it was modern but it simultaneously embraced tradition and virtue and humour and delight in every mouthful. And goddam there was some cooking skills. I just loved that George could "take the piss" out of Australian and Greek cultures while still being true to them - that probably sounds crazy but I suggest you eat there and you'll understand exactly what I mean.
Liver lolly
Ok I'll be honest, I judge, quickly. To me the appetizer sets the tone of the night - start with a bang and its all culinary oohs and ahhs all night long.  And this creamy, rusty gelatinous livery lolly pop was just the ticket. So delicious. And yes that is raspberry. Ahhh friends, what a dinner.

Hills Hoist Chips and Dips
Next was the hills hoist chips and dips. Now I don't know what sort of hills hoist George had growing up but it was certainly better than mine if it inspired food like this. Mine was more rusty, with grandma's undies swinging like a national flag in the breeze. This hills hoist version made me wish a little bit that I lived near George's place. Superb. Delicate tastes of sweet, savoury and plenty of umami.

The Walnut

Then we had "the walnut".  George's take on a nut, pear and blue cheese salad. So beautiful and delicate - it was the sort of thing you wanted to dab behind your ears. It had subtlety and depth. Such a lovely transition into the other dishes - a perfect palate warm up.

Burnt Bread crumb
Oh my, this was in my top three dishes of the night. Rich, fatty, textural and gelatinous - all in one bite. If the insides of my mouth could write a love song about this dish they would. If I didnt know more was coming I would have been Oliver holding out my bowl "please sir may I have some more". I had to physically restrain myself from licking the damn plate clean. 

Watermelon/oyster/germinated lentils
This was one of those scenarios of eat first, photograph later. The watermelon had been compressed in the feta brine - taking on all the flavours without any of the creaminess. I just found it genius. It let the richness of the oysters shine through, the lentils gave a much needed textural crunch and the freshness of the watermelon and tang of brine just rounded it off beautifully. Eaters seemed a little divided on this dish but I absolutely adored it.

Green Greek Salad
Nuff said really. This was beautiful, bright, pungent and refreshing. A perfect play before the following heavier dishes.

L-R Whiting Dressed Up as Lamb Souvlaki; POrk/Cherry/Cauliflower

My dish of the night. Whiting dressed up as a lamb souvlaki. George had cooked the whiting in lamb fat - so the fish took on all the flavours of the lamb without any of the heaviness. It was genius - in a single dish he seemed to have distilled the thousands of years of culture and lifestyle - to me it epitomised that notion that the greek repertoire doesn't need a fancy dress and expensive uncomfortable shoes - it is perfect as it is - rustic, clever and full of tradition without any need or desire for unnecessary airs and graces. The pork with cherry and cauliflower - well pork lovers - it was unbelievable. The subtle tartness of the cherry cut through the richness while the radish provided the perfect textural crunch. 


So high on my list of 2015 new year resolutions will be to learn how to make haloumi. I had house made haloumi at Sydney's Nomad and this piqued my interest, and George's version. Holy shit batman - why would you ever have the packet junk ever again - creamy, tangy with just enough resistance in mouth feel. I could wax lyrical about this for hours and I haven't even told you about the lamb. Sweet, so so sweet with just a perfect even layer of fat, I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the meat. I wondered if I was dreaming. Perfection on the plate.

Water to Ice

Ok so you know how I mentioned that I was in an eat now photograph later kind of mood. Well I'm sorry dessert paid the price. I was so overexcited I just ate it and it was over. In an instant. And this makes me truly sad because I wanted to share it with you. George started playing Zorba the Greek then the chefs proceeded to smash plates of meringue over a delightful light, slightly tart sorbet. It was such a great end to the night. I am jealous of Melbournians yet again for having an intimate dining experience such as this available to them. One of many of course thanks to the incredible and fun dining culture in Melbourne but if you can get a booking, do it - it will be one of the best meals you eat this year. 

Christmas Lamingtons

Introducing the Christmas Lamington
If ever there was an excuse for a Christmas/Aussie-baking-great mash up I feel the lamington is it. I thought you might feel the same way. So Merry Christmas from me to you, in the form of an unapologetic use of brandy and white chocolate sponge, a smothering of cherry jam, fresh cherries and of course chocolate. I know. It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. This is good time overload in dessert form.
I do suggest though, in the Christmas spirit, that you make a double batch. From experience I’d like you to know, these don’t tend to last long.

White chocolate and brandy sponge
225g butter
300g caster sugar
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
100g good quality white chocolate, melted
60ml brandy
300g plain flour, sifted
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
120ml milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp mixed spice

Filling and coating
Cherry jam (minimum 4 ½ tbsp.)
½ cup dried cherries, finely chopped
1 cup shredded coconut
2 tsp mixed spice
500g dark chocolate
Fresh cherries to serve

Preheat oven to 170C. Grease and line a high-sided square baking pan with baking paper and set aside. I prefer this to sheet pans so you can cut the cake horizontally through the centre and smother in jam but if you don’t have one a rectangular sheet pan will do just fine.
Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add the remaining dry ingredients to a separate bowl and stir to combine. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. Add the milk and vanilla and brandy, continuing to beat, then add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Gently stir through the melted chocolate before pouring the batter into your prepared baking tin. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. If you are using a sheet pan, keep a close eye on the time, you may only need to bake for 25-30 minutes.
Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes in the tin then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Split the cake in half. On the bottom half smear the cherry jam then gently place the other piece of cake on top. Pop in the fridge to firm up slightly – it makes the cake easier to work with.
For chocolate ganache coating, combine chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. When chocolate begins to melt, stir gently until combined and smooth and set aside in a warm place.
Scatter shredded coconut, chopped cherries and mixed spice over a tray, using your fingers to turn over and combine. Cut the sponge into sixteen 5cm squares. Using 2 forks or spoons, dip each square into the chocolate and shake to remove excess. (If chocolate starts to thicken, place bowl over gently simmering water to thin.) Roll each square in coconut mixture, shake off excess and place on a wire rack (sitting over a tray). Stand until the chocolate sets then store in an airtight container. When serving, top with flakes of shaved white chocolate (optional) and the fresh cherries. You’ll be the most popular person at Christmas.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A few bits and bobs

Hello, hello
How are you my fine friends? December 2, what the???? Did that year just fly by or what?
I am looking forward to the Christmas break - some downtime with family and friends in sunny Queensland. It can't come soon enough, it has been one hell of a year. I hope you have a great feast planned  - I'll be sharing some Christmas inspired recipes with you over the coming weeks to help get you in the (hungry) festive spirit. But for now a little bit of an update on what I have been up to.

I'm finally on instagram
It's only taken  a few years but I am on, and is it bad to admit, totally addicted. I thought pinterest was a black hole for procrastination, but this is taking it to a whole new level. Pop on over and follow me so I can view your photos and posts, I'd love to see them. I'm on @kcoquette

#this is not sponsored!
I had the great pleasure of giving two Shun knives away with a book order last week. And I am a little bit in love with these knives - it was hard to see them go - there was a utility knife and a chef's knife. At first I was a little hesitant that such beautiful blades came with a plastic style handle but the polymer blend handle actually hold beautifully, the weight staying in the blade rather than your hand and it really helps with speed and precision in the kitchen. For repetitive tasks such as fine chopping, chiffonade herbs etc I actually found this quite helpful. This is a chef knife's chef knife. If you wanted to add a few knives to your Christmas wish list, these are it - the chef's knife retails (in Aus) for $130.90 and the utility knife is $115.50 - available from most specialty knife stores and department stores. The stainless steel blades have this beautiful sort of wave like pattern along the blade, evidently inspired by Japanese sword designs, there is something about it that makes you feel extra hard core in the kitchen because of it. 

Here are a couple of pics for you to print and leave out on the table, on the fridge or posted to your head until someone takes notice and buys them for you immediately come 25 December.

Bistronomy update
Proud to say that Bistronomy is being translated into both French and German, with the German cover looking a little different but just as sweet. Both slated for release early next year. I'll pop up the French cover when I receive it. The french are doing something really different I am told so I look forward to seeing it.

Bistronomy has just been covered over on Eat your Books where I did a little interview and they are giving a copy away today so get in quick! Here is a snapshot of it below.
Haute cuisine for the people

Katrina MeyninkKatrina Meynink is a freelance food writer who lives and breathes all things food. She is also a prolific lover of cookbooks. In addition to degrees in journalism and creative writing, she has a Masters in Gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu and the University of Adelaide, as well as an Advanced Diploma in Taste through the University of Reims, Paris and Hautes Etudes Du Gout. When she's not writing. Meynink blogs, eats and food styles through her business La Petite Miette, The Little Crumb.
Meynink has just published her second cookbook,Bistronomy: French Food Unbound. (You can enter our contest for your chance to win a copy.) The title refers to the nascent bistronomy movement, led by young chefs who create sophisticated food free from the pomp and circumstance of high-end restaurants. Meynink embraces bistronomy's concept of sharing by offering more than 100 recipes contributed by thirty Australian and international chefs. We asked Meynink to discuss the bistronomy movement.
How did the bistronomy movement start?
There was a slow belly grumble; an ever-growing discontentment among both chefs and diners who wanted more from the experience of cooking and eating. Yves Camdeborde was the chef to articulate it with the opening of La Regalade in the early '90s; a restaurant that embodied all the elements of bistronomy - a focus on the food on the plate, ideas of thrift in tight economies and that sense of community and being in touch with the dining experience. People craved it, it was something they wanted and needed and a style of dining they could relate to. I think from there it was a natural progression as more diners sought that kind of experience and chefs relished the opportunity to give it to them.
How is bistronomy different from traditional French bistro cooking?
Bistronomy goes far beyond the traditional bistro fare, incorporating the technical skills of Michelin level with economic sensibility. Where French bistro is often a replication of the classics, bistronomy chefs always say the rules are, there are no rules. They play with different ingredients and styles. It is far more progressive and relaxed with no definitive style or structure.
Which chefs do you consider to be the leading lights in the movement?
The chefs profiled in Bistronomy: French Food Unbound first and foremost. Other chefs I am really interested and am following closely are Alexandre Gauthier, one of France's most underrated chefs and also I'm really interested in James Syhabout in Oakland, US. I think one of the greatest things about Bistronomy is that it is constantly evolving as more chefs try their talented hand at the style.
How many different countries are represented by the chefs in your book?
Seven countries are represented by the chefs in the book.
How much does the bistronomy concept change when the restaurant is outside of France?
I think bistronomy is actually quite a fluid concept and it is only the tenements of the movement that are replicated globally - freedom, generosity, spirit and the idea of frugality. It is quite free thinking so its not something that is "purely French," rather it is something owned and embodied by each of the chefs who understand bistronomy and cook in this style.
How many of the restaurants covered in your book were you able to visit?
At least 80% of them. I am still trying to work my way to Panama. While I have eaten Jose's food I am yet to eat in his restaurant. Watch this space.
How did you decide which chefs and restaurants to profile?
This was the hardest component of this project - there are lots of great bistronomy chefs and restaurants to profile and who, where and how they work is constantly changing. In most cases "stars had to align" - I needed some experience with the chefs, they needed to be available and willing to participate in the book amidst their commitments, so in many ways we found each other.
Do you have a personal favorite restaurant and recipe from the book?
While I hold them all dear, there is something about Sixpenny in Sydney and L'Ami Jean in Paris. As far as recipes go, who could ever say no to James Knappett's crisp chicken skins with bacon jam?
Photo by Matthew Duchesne

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Feeling the Christmas love

A foodie ramble through Footscray: Melbourne Part One

Recently I had the great pleasure of a quick trip to Melbourne as a guest of Tourism Victoria as part of the Restaurant Australia campaign. The first part of the trip involved a brilliant trip around Footscray, a foodie melting pot to say the least, with the truly delightful Allan Campion. No stranger to the food scene, it was fascinating to wonder the streets sampling foods with this champion of all things local and Footscray. Allan runs Melbourne Food Experiences and I cannot recommend it highly enough if you are short on time and really want to get to know the backstreets and places to go in this area. I cant wait to go back.

It was also so great to catch up with the ever delightful Andre Chiang - one of the great chefs of our time on this trip. I'll be posting again this week with more pics and details of the amazing dinner we had at Press Projects, the experimental chefs table with Melbourne culinary stalwart George Colombaris. But for now here is a little taste of Footscray


Monday, November 24, 2014

Poached chicken and blueberry salad with smoked almonds and sumac dressing

New York. I have so many things to thank you for. Firstly just for being you. And for Bergdorf's, Saks, the apple pie at Bubbies and the pastrami sandwich at Katz. But it is my undying obsession with chopped salads that I will forever thank you for. That and the multitude of flavours that mean you could eat one for lunch everyday of the week and still have options a century from now.
The chopped salad screams for glasses of chilled pink wine, long lunching with best friends, with the obligatory bread baskets, people watching and chatter that you never want to end.
This salad is the salad whisperer of chopped salads. So bright and so so pretty, just like your insides will be after you've eaten it. You might question the blueberries. Don't. You will almost certainly question the dukka, circa 1990 but stop judging me.  In the background of this salad it adds a delightful textural crunch and a little extra flavour kick. Besides, no one needs to know.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
2 large skinless chicken breasts
2 cups water
270ml coconut milk
250g blueberries
½ cup smoked almonds
2 tbsp dukka
1 red onion, peeled, very thinly sliced
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped
1 cup roasted sweet potato, chopped
1/2 cup Persian feta
Sumac dressing
1 tbsp sumac
60 ml (¼ cup)extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tbsp caramelised white balsamic (replace with 1-2 tsp white sugar if unavailable)
Bring water and coconut milk to the simmer in a saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken, simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, then set aside to cool in the liquid (20-25 minutes). Just before serving, coarsely shred chicken.
Combine the almonds and dukka in a small bowl then place in a large serving platter. Add each of the remaining ingredients separately to the serving platter.
Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl, stirring to incorporate then spoon over the salad when you are ready to serve.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hello and some recipes for you

Hello hello,

Pheewwww it has been a while since an update. Bistronomy has been going along swimmingly and I am excited to let you know that as of January next year the French and German additions will be available. Woop woop hurrah - I should receive the translated versions shortly and I can't wait to see them, it has been a bit of a dream of mine to have a book translated. I'll be posting the regular weekly recipes here in between working on book 3 which is due out by Christmas next year - talk about planning ahead! 

Here are a few recipes for a feature I did for a Semillon wine matching feature in the always fantastic James Halliday Magazine. Enjoy!

I'm starting some food writing workshops with the Essential Ingredient in Rozelle - my local home away from home in November - should be a lot of fun.  

Food Writing – Katrina Meynink

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Presenter: Katrina Meynink
Date: 22/11/2014
Time: 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: The Essential Ingredient Cooking School Rozelle
Price: $95.00
Format: No Categories
Join Katrina Meynink in learning the secret to the perfect recipe! Sharing her knowledge of the industry and how she herself got into food writing, Katrina will guide you through crafting your own recipes while showing you techniques for using the senses in order to successfully write about food and cooking.
Learn about different styles of writing and how written style can affect your own output, be exposed to the writings of leaders in various areas of cooking expertise & gain insight into how you can turn your writing into a career with blogging, food journalism & even cookbook authoring!
All classes and events require closed-in shoes.

About The Chef

Katrina MeyninkKatrina Meynink is a freelance food writer and author. She regularly contributes to national and international food magazines and writes weekly for Fairfax’s Daily Life. Her first cookbook Kitchen Coquette (Allen & Unwin), was awarded Best First Cookbook (Australia) at the Gourmand World Food Cookbook Awards and her second cookbook Bistronomy: French Food Unbound was released in September this year with Murdoch Books.
Katrina has a Masters in Gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu and the University of Adelaide, an Advanced Diploma in Taste from the University of Reims, France and Hautes Etudes du Gout, Paris as well as culinary training from Le Cordon Bleu and tertiary qualifications in journalism. Katrina has received numerous scholarships and grants for her writing from the James Beard Foundation and the Culinary Trust USA, most recently being awarded the highly coveted Julia Child Grant for Research.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mango, Passionfruit Coconut pops with kaffir lime sugar and chilli salt.

Here's the truth. I'm not particularly built for making cold desserts. Love them. Hells yes, I am human after all. But it's not often I find myself going into the kitchen with the inspiration for procuring an ice cream influenced dessert from the ravages of my mind. That is until I need to remind myself of summer holidays in Asia like it was nobodies business.
I became obsessed with the dipping of fruit or sweet ices in a chilli sugar and salt combo when I was cooking in Thailand. There is something about being in the hot sun, shoving something cold and sweet in your mouth only to have it followed by this tart, zinging and saccharine sensation that has you smacking your lips and rubbing your cheeks just in front of your ears as the saliva flows only to move to your forehead as the cold headache rages. It might look strange but the party of reactions is sensational.
The weather of late has been questionable to say the least so you are obviously going to have to pick your day/moment to enjoy these to their full effect. And if you want to make a more grown up version, a healthy dash of white rum through the mango mix will help that along nicely. I won't tell anyone. I just expect hope for an an invite so I can share one with you.

Makes 6

Ice pops
Flesh of 1 large mango, chopped
Juice and pulp of 4 passionfruits
200ml coconut milk
palm sugar to taste
dash of lime juice
Dipping sugar salt
3 kaffir lime leaves, deveined, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tsp dried thai chilli
Add the kaffir lime and chilli salt ingredients in a small bowl and toss to combine.
Add the mango and passion fruit to a blender and pulse until a puree – be careful not to over pulse as you want the passionfruit seeds to retain their shape and texture not become little black nightmares that will get stuck in your teeth.  
Scoop the mixture into the base of 6 ice cream moulds.
Add the coconut milk, lime juice and palm sugar (if using) to a saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the sugar has melted and is fully incorporated into the milk. Gently pour over the top of the mango mixture in the moulds then place the moulds in the freezer until firm (at least 3 hours). Run the moulds briefly under hot water to separate the ice creams and serve immediately with the chilli dipping mixture.