Sunday, November 30, 2008

Eurodore Port Melbourne

Eurodore is amazing- their selection of cheese and delicacies is definitely worth a look if you're in the area, but unfortunately my breakfast choice this morning was a real flop. Zucchini fritters- they were doughy and not cooked well enough. Just not up to scratch. Accompanying salmon was great though- so I didn't have to starve!

I had to suffer through food envy as hubby's scrambled eggs were divine with crispy fat slices of bacon. And our friend from Perth's porridge with rhubarb and pistachios were wonderful.

A brilliant spot to sit outside nd enjoy the brekky, just avoid the fritters!

271 Bay Street Port Melbourne

03 9646 3499

Open 8am - 7pm every day

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hubby's Beef Wellington

This was divine. Something a bit different for a Sunday roast.

You take 2 pieces of good scotch fillet.

Season and seal in the pan.

Pan fry mushrooms and thyme.

Top the scotch fillet with duck pate, your mushrooms and a fresh sprig of thyme.
Wrap it up in puff pastry.
Brush the top with egg yolk

Bake in a hot oven until golden brown.

Serve with mash and veges.

Worst Mojito ever

Wow, now I've experienced the worst Mojito ever. At the Fitzroy Spanish Festival. Disappointment!
What's really bad is I can't remember the name of the bar to warn people. A pub on the corner of Johnston and Brunswick- actually really good fun- full as you'd expect at festival time- great music, good mixed crowd.
But the mojito was made with dark rum, a slice of lime- not big chunks- and the most pathetic sprig of mint you've ever seen. And sugar syrup, instead of raw sugar. Undrinkable and most definitively the worst mojito I've ever tasted.
Understandable if they'd have had 20 cocktails on the list, but for the Spanish festival, they had a total of 4 cocktails on offer. Pathetic!
In will find out what the place was called to name and shame!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Breakfast at Sweethearts

263 Coventry StSouth Melbourne, VIC 3205(03) 9690 6752

Don't expect to just walk in off the street- you know the breakfast has to be good where you have to book a table! We were lucky this Sunday and got an outside table with no booking - made my day thats for sure!
Their selection of slightly unusual breakies are brilliant- I had the Mexican eggs- 2 perfectly poached eggs on toasted muffins, with delicious chilli beans, sausage and avocado. To soak up some of the egg I got one of thier roesti as well- mmm deep fried, potato obviously shredded on the premises- these are not even vaguely related to those deepfried hashbrowns most places now seem to rely on. Divine!
My niece had the Mediteranean- eggs on polenta with pesto- slightly imaginative, but not too 0ut there and absolutely delicious!
Coffee is great and the service was really pleasant.
I love this joint!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Smashed Pav

Again, awe and wonder as Looby threw this one together. So simple, but so delish!

For 7 people

1 small meringue base per person

2 packs muscarpone

1 pack creme fraiche

fresh fruit- blueberries, strawberries and passionfruit (whatever really)

Optional- dark chocolate

Throw it all together and smash it!

Deconstructed Nicoise

I just watched in awe as Looby constructed this magnificent deconstruction- the flavours were amazing!


Tuna steaks - bbq-ed with olive oil, salt and pepper

new potatoes



soft boiled eggs

anchovy mayonnaise

Monday, March 24, 2008


Well I felt really let down by this Sydney institution- everything was oily, nothing was particularly tasty, and I like roesti crispy- not just ginormous- a real disappointment! OK if your filthily hungover I guess, but if you just want to eat, pretty dull.
And if you don't like stuffing yourself stupid, consider the kids portion schnitzels- plenty for any whale...
372 New South Head RdDouble Bay 2028 NSW
Phone: (02) 9327 7287

Lemon Meringue Pie

This was my favourite as a kid- and though this recipe is a bit of a hodge podge of different ones, it sure is delicious (and not that hard to make)

Lemon Meringue Pie
2 cups plain flour
¼ cup icing sugar
150g butter chopped
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. water
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
2 lemons
¾ cup caster sugar
½ cup cornflour
Cup water
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1/3 cup caster sugar
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Sift icing sugar and flour together.
Add butter- rub in with your fingers till the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs
Add yolk, water and vanilla. Mix lightly. Pastry should form a ball
Wrap in plastic wrap. Rest in the fridge for at least 20 minutes
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface, to fit a 25cm flan tin. Ease pastry into tin, then trim edges.
Blind bake for 10 – 15 mins in a 200 degree oven.
Allow pastry to cool
Turn oven down to 180 degrees
Finely grate the rind of 1 lemon. Juice lemons- you need ½ cup. Combine the sugar and cornflour in a medium saucepan and gradually stir in the lemon juice and water until smooth. Whisk over medium heat until the mixture boils and thickens. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon rind and egg yolks, and mix quickly to combine. Allow to cool.
To make the meringue, use clean and dry electric beaters to whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Add the sugar a spoonful at a time, whisking each addition till glossy.
Spread the lemon base in the pie base, the top with meringue.
Bake for 10 mins or until brown.
Set aside for at least 30 minutes to cool.

Spice I Am

It's not a secret any more, but this place has to be the best Thai food outside Thailand. Hot as hell, fresh flavours beautifully combined. The queues say it all- ten out of ten for this hot spot.

Try the green pawpaw salad- guaranteed the best you've ever eaten.

Hubby loves the crispy pork belly...mmmm....crispy!

A recent trip to Sydney confirmed standards have not fallen!

90 Wentworth Ave.Surry Hills Sydney 2010

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Beetroot curry with onions

I am obsessed with beetroot- I just love it. I know that's not the case for everyone- but if you like beetroot and like curries- you'll luuuurve this! Could be an accompaniment to another dish (we had it with the Spicy Baked Beef)- or could be good just with rice (I'm having it that way for lunch today!). Pretty spicy, so you might want to add a dab of yoghurt/ raita.

Serves 3


350g raw beetroot (weight without stems and leaves)

4 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp. cumin seeds

1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 small onion peeled and coarsely chopped

1 tsp plain flour

1/2 tsp cayenne

225 g (8 oz) tomatoes finely chopped

1 tsp salt

300 ml water

Peel the beetroot and cut into even wedges

Heat the oil in a medium sized pan. When hot add the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 5 seconds.

Add the garlic, stir and fry until it turns golden.

Add the onions and stir and fry for a minute.

Add the flour and cayenne- stir and fry for a minute.

Now pop the beetroot in with the tomatoes, salt and water.

Bring to a simmer.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove lid, turn heat up to medium and cook uncovered for 7 minutes- the sauce should be thickening up nicely by then.

This dish can be made ahead of time and reheated.

Beef baked with yoghurt and black pepper

Well the Indian tour is over as of last night- we watched the final game with yet another meal courtesy of my Indian week- this baked beef with the wonderful beetroot recipe that I'll post separately. We were happy to see India win- Australia have been such bad sports this season...and of course this series of meals has put us in a distinctly subcontinental frame of mind.

PS I know my food styling skills need alot of work- this definitely tastes better than my crummy photo would have you believe!

Serves 4


6 tbsp of vegetable oil

900g stewing beef cubed

2 small onions, peeled and finely chopped

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

1/2 tsp of cayenne

1tbs of paprika

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

300ml natural yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 F/ gas 4)

Put the oil in a flameproof casserole-type pan (preferably one with a lid) and set over medium - high heat.

Brown the meat in batches. Put the brown meat in a separate bowl

Put onions and garlic in the same pan and turn the heat down to medium. Stir and fry this mixture till it has browned.

Return the meat to the pan.

Add the ginger, cayenne, paprika, salt and black pepper- give it a quick stir to coat the meat and onions nicely with the spices.

Add the yoghurt. Bring to a simmer.

Cover tightly with foil and then the lid and bake in the oven for 90 minutes.

Stir gently and serve.

This is quite a dry dish, so goes well with a saucy vegetable dish (was great with the Beetroot with Onions) or nice moist rice. A dab of yoghurt works well- if you're feeling like it, whip up a quick Raita.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My first Rogan Josh

I've always wanted to make this as it's one of my favourite dishes at Indian restaurants. Again armed with the Madhur Jaffrey classic "Indian Cooking" I had a go and was surprised how simple this was. The only messy bit (assuming you get your butcher to cube the lamb) was making the paste.

Rogan Josh
Serves 4
5 cm (2 inches) knob of ginger peeled and coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tbsp + 300 (10 fl oz) water
10 tbsp vegetable oil
900g cubed lamb

10 cardamom pods
2 bay leaves
6 cloves
10 peppercorns
2.5 cm (inch) cinnamon stick

200g onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp. paprika
¼ to 1 tsp of cayenne pepper (depending how hot you like it- I use a full tsp)
1 ¼ tsp salt
6 tbsp natural yoghurt
¼ tsp garam masala
Freshly ground black pepper

Use a barmix to blend the ginger garlic and 4 tbsps of water into a smooth paste.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan over medium-high heat.
Brown the meat in batches and set aside.
Put the cardamom pods, bay leaves, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon into the oil and stir.
Add the onions- stir fry for around 5 minutes or until the onions are a medium brown colour.
Put in the garlic-ginger paste and stir for 30 secs.
Then add the coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt. Stir and fry for another 30 seconds.
Add the meat with all the juices, mix well so its coated with the paste in the pan. Now add in 1 tbsp of yoghurt- mix well- and gradually add the rest of the yoghurt. Stir and fry for around 3 minutes.
Now add 300 ml water- bring to the boil, scraping all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan into the sauce.
Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for an hour- stirring every 10 minutes.
If there is still liquid left after an hour, turn to high and boil off as desired- the sauce should be nice and thick.
Spoon off the fat.
Sprinkle with garam masala and black pepper and mix them in before serving.
Ideal with rice.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Food social networking site- Group Recipes

Oh my goodness,

now there's social networking for foodies:

You can set up your own page, add all your recipes with pictures and look at other people. Recipes are easy to search- but I guess it would just take time to work out which users you could trust! Mostly populated by Anericans by the look- and no offense, but I find my tastebuds are different to US ones and I have had some disappointments from American recipes in the past.
Anyway, a curiosity if nothing else!
Their blurb:
  • Create your own food page
  • Have "Roger" the Recipe Robot (aka Food Prediction Algorithm) learn about your tastes and predict recipes you will like or dislike
  • Show off your personal creations and get feedback as well as honors
  • Meet other foodies (aka food lovers) and see what kind of foods they are into
  • Share & Discover great places to eat in your home town
  • Stem the flow of boredom by using the "Recipe Stumbler" to explore recipes related to your favorite foods. (This is a great feature if you're stuck in the office all day and need to waste as much time as possible.)
  • Explore food by taste, mood, photo, ingredients, uniqueness, rating, and your compatibility
  • Organize your recipe collection with the Recipe Manager
  • Join/Create a Group of like-minded foodies
  • Experiment and collaborate on a dish with other members

Potatoes with ginger and garlic

Potatoes crusted with a delicious, spicy garlic and ginger paste. Really yummy! The potatoes I used were a little starchy, so they fell apart a bit when I was trying to fry them- if I were to make it again I would definitely try and get a low starch potato (red-skinned ideal) so it holds together a bit more.
You'll need a large non-stick or cast iron frying pan

650g potatoes
Piece of fresh ginger around 5 x 2.5 x 5 cm- peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
5 tbsp vegetable oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Boil the potatoes in their jackets. Drain and let them cool completely.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 2.5cm dice.
Put the ginger, garlic, water, turmeric, salt and cayenne into a blender (or use a barmix) and blend until you have a paste.

Put the oil in a large frying pan and set over medium heat. When hot, put in the fennel seeds. Let them sizzle for a few seconds. Now put in the ginger-garlic paste. Stir and fry for 2 minutes.
Put in the potatoes. Stir and fry over medium-high heat for 5 - 7 minutes or until the potatoes have a nice golden-brown crust on them.

Green beans with ginger and green coriander- courtesy of Madhur Jaffrey

These are deliciously fresh and tangy! As a side dish to any roast meat would be great. Once you've cut the beans and ginger very easy to throw together.

550 g fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm pieces
2.5 cm piece of ginger, peeled and cut into fine strips
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
3/4 tsp salt
1 fresh green hot chilli, finely chopped
4 tsp lemon juice
150 ml chicken stock
5 - 6 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander

Put the oil in a large frying pan or wok and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the first seeds begin to pop put in the ginger strips. Stir and fry until the ginger starts to brown, a matter of a few seconds.
Put in the green beans and toss once or twice.
Now add the cumin, turmeric, salt and green chilli.
Add the lemon juice and stock. Stir and bring to a simmer.
Cover, turn heat down to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes or until the beans are almost tender. Add the fresh coriander, toss and cover again for a minute. Uncover, toss and boil away all liquid at a higher heat.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Shahjahani Leg of Lamb

My sister-in-law's birthday. 8 mouths to feed. She sort of suggested she might like a curry. What would you do? I raced to the library and got out Madhur Jaffrey's classic "Indian Cookery" and jumped to her suggested menu page. When I saw this leg of lamb recipe I knew this was it- just had to get the lamb from our fantastic halal butcher and start marinating on the Thursday night. But was definitely worth it- it was absolutely delicious! And to accompany it, potatoes, rice and beans (all recipes listed separately- to ease filing issues). Broke all my rules in terms of prep time - that was ok though cause it was a Saturday and I had all afternoon to cook and really enjoyed it! The one ingredient I couldn't get at Coles was the white poppy seeds. Have found a great indian store though at 7 Nicholson Street, East Brunswick- Arora- and if there's something he doesn't have, I'd be surprised- one of those wonderful treasure trove stores- everything you need for Indian cooking- so we swung by there Saturday morning and grabbed the poppy seeds.

Served 8 comfortably
Shahjahani Leg of Lamb
Leg of lamb- around 2.5kg
900 g natural yoghurt
1/2 medium sized onion peeled and coursely chopped
300 g onions peeled and cut in fine rings
5 tbsp peeled coarsely chopped garlic
18cm piece of ginger, coarsely chopped
5 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp garam masala
blanched slivered almonds filled up to the 300 ml mark on a measuring jug (bless Madhur- an odd way of measuring- darn I should have weighed them after- but was about 2 of the packs you buy in the supermarket)
12 dried figs
vegetable oil
6 tbs of white poppy seeds

2 nights prior (or one night will do apparently)
Remove all the fell (parchment like outer skin) and fat from the lamb. Jab it all over with a sharp knife.

Put all the yoghurt in a big bowl or deep tray (big enough to hold your lamb leg). Take around 4 tbsp of the yoghurt and put in the blender, the chopped 1/2 onion, the garlic, ginger, salt, cayenne and garam masala. Blend until you have a smooth paste. Pour the contents into the bowl of yoghurt and mix well. Put the leg of lamb into the yoghurt and rub the marinade into the meat. Cover well and refrigerate for 24 - 48 hours.

31/2 hours prior to serving
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
Take a heavy roasting tin. Put the lamb at the centre and pour the marinade on and around it. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove. Cover tightly with aluminium foil and put in the oven. Bake, covered, for 1 1/2 hours.
While the lamb bakes, set a cast-iron frying pan over medium heat. When hot put in the almonds- stir around until they have roasted lightly. Now grind them in a clean coffee-grinder or other spice-grinder. Add the almonds to the lamb sauce after 1 1/2 hours and mix well. Scatter the figs around the leg. Cover again, put the lamb back in the oven and bake for another 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
While the lamb is baking fry the onions. Line a plate with kitchen paper and fry onions in the oil until they start to brown around the edges. Let oil drain on the plate.
Roast the poppy seeds in a heavy based frying pan- aim is for it to be a couple of shades darker. Remove the seeds and allow to cool. Grind as finely as possible in a coffee or spice grinder.
When the lamb is tender, crumble the onions and add them as well as the ground poppy seeds to the lamb sauce. Mix gently. Spoon some of this sauce over the lamb and put back in the oven for 10 minutes.

To serve, I scooped out most of the (divine!) sauce and served separately with the lamb and figs on a plate for the lamb to be carved. Carve the meat at the table.

Coconut and chilli chicken rice paper rolls

These were absolutley divine- and making rice paper rolls for the first time, I thought it would be tricky- but was pretty easy, low mess and low fuss. I did take longer than my 1/2 hour mid week rule- it was really worth it though and I'll definitely be making these again! Hubby just wanted to drink the leftover sauce- was pretty yum!
The idea of poaching chicken in coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice is pretty transferable- would work nicely using a poached fillet on a bed of rice or green vegetables for example...

Coconut and Chilli chicken rice paper rolls
400 g can coconut milk
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 small red chilli, chopped
2 small red chillis, seeded and finely sliced
2 chicken breast fillets
rice paper rounds
1 cup vietnamese mint (I have some in the garden- it is as mad as European mint and has virtually taken over the whole patch!)
1 green onion
2 cups bean sprouts
(+ I added vermicelli noodles- made the rolls easier to roll and made the rolls more filling, but not in Donna's original recipe)

Combine the coconut milk, fish sauce, lime juice and chopped chilli in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, add the chicken and cover with a tight fitting lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 8 - 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Remove chicken from the pan, reserving the coconut sauce.
Allow the chicken to cool slightly and then shred. Set aside.
Soften a rice paper round in warm water for 30 seconds. Place on a dry clean cloth. Top with mint, green onion, shredded chicken, bean sprouts and sliced chilli. Fold over each end and then roll to enclose the filling (the rice paper rolls I used had a really easy to follow diagram on them). Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Slice rice paper rolls in half and serve with coconut sauce.

Chicken and caramelised balsamic tomatoes

This recipe came just at the right time in our lives- faced with a glut of cherry tomatoes in the back garden, this recipe makes sweet delicious use of them! Hubby had this one night after his running club- so was happy with something pretty light- maybe would want to add in something else on a normal night.
Definitely abides by the half hour rule for a mid-week meal and is an absolute breeze to throw together!

Serves 2
Chicken with caramelised balsamic tomatoes
2 chicken breast fillets
olive oil, for brushing
sea salt and cracked black pepper
250 g. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
basil leaves to serve
extra olive oil for drizzling

Brush chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat and cook chicken 4 - 5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add tomatoes and the vinegar to the pan and cook for 2 minutes or until the tomatoes are caramelised. To serve, slice the chicken, combine with the caramelised tomatoes, sprinkle with the basil and drizzle with olive oil.

Peanut beef with bok choy and beans

Yum- sauce is really like a satay sauce and just spunks up the simple steaks. Fulfilled my half hour rule- so definitely a good mid-week starter! Satisifying enough for hubby's hunger (think peanuts help)

Serves 4
Peanut beef with bok choy and beans
4 sirloin steaks
vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tbsp of peanut butter
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 bunches bok choy, quartered and blanched
200g green beans, trimmed and blanched

Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Brush the steaks with vegetable oil and cook for 4 - 5 minutes on each side for medium, or until cooked to your liking. Set aside and keep warm. Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, peanut butter, coconut milk and soy sauce and cook for 1 minute or until warmed through. Slice the steaks, serve with the bok choy and beans and spoon over the peanut sauce.

Mint and Apple Lamb with crunchy salad- Donna Hay

This literally took 20 minutes to prepare- so definitely a hit in terms of prep- a mid-week winner!
I really liked the taste and combination of textures- loved the fresh, crunchy salad and really liked the slightly sweet sauce for the lamb. Hubby was left a little dissatisfied by the salad I think- but good food for the health/ weight conscious. And for everyone else, maybe just do some mash on the side...
Mint and Apple Lamb with crunchy salad- Donna Hay
For 4
8 lamb cutlets
olive oil
1 cup of apple juice
1/4 cup of fresh finely chopped mint leaves
sea salt and cracked pepper
150g snow peas- trimmed and blanched (we actually used raw)
1 bunch radishes, finely sliced
2 stalks celery, trimmed and finely sliced

Heat a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Brush the lamb chops with oliive oil and cook for 2 - 3 minutes on each side. Set aside and keep warm.
Reduce the heat to medium. Place the apple juice, mint, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir to combine. Slowly add the apple mixture to the pan and cook for 3 - 4 minutes or until slightly reduced.
Thinly slice the snow peas and place in a bowl with the radish and celery and toss to combine. Spoon over the apple and mint sauce and serve the crunchy salad with the lamb cutlets.

Big Food Week

Well, its the end of a big food week- with lots of focus on what we're eating. The week of Donna Hay recipes every evening delivered some winners and the Indian Feast for the family was definitely a winner- though not something you'd want to do every day! This week our only goal is to eat all the meat in our freezer- so we're going to be improvising around those all week- starting off with a bolognese that I made last night (how much frozen mince can one freezer take!). But I'll comment on each of the last week's meals separately...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Smoky Grilled Pork with Barbecued Corn Salad

I love to cook, but let's face it, during the week after work, I don't really have that much time. So I'm trying out some recipes that talk half an hour or less, are healthy and hopefully delicious. This week I've picked 5 recipes from the latest Donna Hay (feb/ March 2008) that are quick to test as potential mid-week favourites.
First cab of the rank was this smoky grilled pork. And yes it was quick, yes its healthy and it is truly delicious. I like the salad very much and this would make just a great salad on its own- the salad leftovers were delicious in my work lunchbox the next day!
Serves 4 (recommendation- halve the meat if cooking for 2 and use the leftover salad for lunches)

4 x 100g thin pork steaks (I used pork cutlets and worked out fine)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons oregano leaves (yum, fresh from the garden!)
1 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
4 corn cobs
4 tomatoes (our neighbours have given us fresh ones- delish!)
2 bunches of rocket
1/4 cup of red vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil for the salad

Place the pork, paprika, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss to coat. Set aside.
Heat a large char-grill pan (or use the barbecue) over high heat. Char-grill or barbecue the corn for 10 - 12 minutes, turning occasionally until cooked. Allow to cool and strip the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife.
Char-grill the pork until cooked through. Slice the pork into strips (or if using cutlets as I did, just set on top of the salad to serve)
Mix the corn, tomato and rocket. Combine the red wine vinegar and extra olive oil and spoon over to serve.

One other thought- the salad would be nice with some chilli in it if you like it a bit spicy. Also, you could as well boil the corn- may be easier.

Best-ever lasagne

On cool nights, one of hubby's favourite meals is lasagne. So I am always on the search for the best-ever recipe for it. So of course when I saw in Neil Perry's new book "Good Food" a recipe for "Best-ever lasagne", I just had to try it.
My verdict- very yummy- though not quite best ever- deliciously tomatoey though. The bechamel didn't work- maybe because I used skim milk- so I made it with an alternative recipe (though have written down Neil's original instructions). Kids would definitely love it. And my father in law thought the next day leftovers were delicious- so smiles all round.
I used de cecco Lasagne which doesn't need to be precooked- was easy and yummy.
Didn't use as much mozzarella as he prescribes- just seemed over the top.
My fabulous Italian deli on Puckle Street in Moonee Ponds minced the veal and pork on the spot for me from lovely lean cuts- so the meat was top class.
So give it a go...

Serves 6
9 lasagne sheets
500g fresh mozzarella- torn
100g freshly grated parmesan

meat sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 onion- finely chopped
6 garlic cloves - finely chopped
300g (10 1/2 ounces) pork mince
300g (10 1/2 ounces) veal mince
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
pinch of cster sugar
700ml (24 fl. oz.) tomato passata
400g (14 oz) tinned diced tomatoes
1 large handful basil leaves

bechamel sauce
50g ( 1 3/4 oz) unsalted butter
2 tbsp. plain flour
600ml (21 fl oz) milk
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Take a 23 x 29 x 7 cm lasagne dish.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (375 degrees F/ Gas 5)

For the meat sauce, heat the oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, but not browned. Add the garlic and cook till fragrant.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add both of the meats and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon for about 4 minutes, or until the meat loses its raw colour but has not browned. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 2 minutes, then pour in the vinegar and stir occasionally till it has almost evaporated.
Add the sugar and passata and diced tomatoes and allow the sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, or until it reduces and has started to thicken slightly. Season. Stir through the basil leaves and set the sauce aside.
To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a saucepan over low-medium heat. Add the flour to the butter and stir constantly over the heat, for 1 - 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the milk all at once, whisking constantly to avoid any lumps. Return the pan to the heat and continue to whisk constantly, until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
To asemble, spread one quarter of the meat sauce at the bottom of the lasagne dish. Place 3 of the lasagne sheets over the sauce. Spread another quarter of the sauce over the lasagne, followed by 1/3 of the mozarella. Continue to layer the lasagne sheets, sauce and mozarella two more times. Pour the bechamel over the final layer of mozzarella, then sprinkle evenly with the parmesan.
Cook the lasagne for 30 minutes, or until the cheese has browned and the sauce is bubbling. Remove the lasagne from the oven and let it stand at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with a simple salad.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Libertine North Melbourne

500 Victoria StreetNorth Melbourne, VIC 3051Phone: +613 9329

Now good French restaurants are hard to come by and I have to say, our experience at Libertine was a bit hit and miss. Unfortunately for me, hubby had the hits and I dudded out with the misses.

But before we move on to food- the place itself. Pretty straighty-180 dining room style- elegant and nothing flashy or showy (a good thing). Service was very friendly, though of the two waiters serving, only one seemed genuinely enthusiastic and knowledgable about the food.
So the food...our overall opinion was that they had tried hard, with a bit of a pedestrian result.
Hubby started with a entree (I was saving up for desert) of Terrine du jour, mini brioche & relishes ($17.50)- as I recall it was goose. Very nice, delicate flavours.
For our main course, we had the duck a l'orange for two (sorry childhood memory of French restaurants means I just love this dish) and the duck was dry- one of the drumsticks was actually burnt and the sauce was a bit scant. Really disappointing- I'd so been looking forward to it. Poor hubby as it means he missed out on the pork belly he thought sounded more interesting.
But my most major disappointment was in the deserts...if a French place gets everything wrong, the desert should deliver redemption.
But not in my case- I had the Rhubarb millefeuille ($13.50) and it was quite bizarre- rhubarb was baked- so really dry and still with fibers a bit intact, and it wasn't a pastry but those little lattice biscuits. Dry dry dry. And served with lemon sorbet- found that odd as the tart of the rhubarb plus the tart of the sorbet just was not a good combination- would have preferred something creamier instead of the sorbet. But Cam's Souffle au chocolat ($13.50) was delicious- everything you would want- rich chocolate flavour but light as a feather.

And the wine list is great too. Just don't order the duck!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Madame Brussels and Gingerboy

How wonderful to combine these two delightful venues in one evening- and that's just what we did on Friday night- a steaming (37 degree!) Melbourne day, the outdoor terrace at Madame Brussels was perfect as the sun went down (ok it was nice in the air conditioned interior too- but no space!).
For those of you unfamiliar with Madame Brussels, it is on the 3rd Floor at 59-63 Bourke St, Melbourne (Phone 03 9662 2775). Inside, you are welcomed by a garden path leading through astro-turf to the bar- wait staff in attendance in tennis outfits and a groovy, sometimes eccentric crowd. The deck is less spiffy- however plenty of chairs and a good view out across the city compensate for that (we also love the free pink blankies in winter and the fans handed out in summer). A proliferation of pink drinks provide plenty of variety- from a simple rose to their spectacular punches (we had campari and gin...mmmm...) or cocktails- both served in jugs (how practical!). Also available are a good range of beers and other wines.
Food is available- splendid sandwiches or cupcakes complement the ambience- but there are more mainstream options like turkish dips and bread.
What I love is the vibe- we were there on a Friday night and the buzz is contagious- strongly recommended!!
Bar rating: 4 stars - love the individuality, the drinks, the friendly staff and the terrace ambience!

Hungry after a few drinks, we found it convenient to go across the street for a quick (and the service is very quick!) meal at Gingerboy. We were lucky to get one of the tables near the bar- which suited us fine- but if you want to sit down- you really need to book ahead!
Gingerboy has been open over a year now and still people are undecided- overrated and overpiced- or a great restaurant. Supposedly inspired by the hawkers of Malaysia and Thailand, the prices bear no relation to those humble providores- however the flavours are almost as good. It is definitely a pricy feed for two- if you want to come out feeling satisfied...but for the odd treat- I really think it's worth it.
I really like the ambience- kitchen half open to the bar- a thousand stars glittering above- though apparently some larger people have issues with the rather narrow perspex chairs.
We also like bar staff who not only have a great range of cocktails, but will mix up anything you want without rolling their eyes is a bonus.
So the food: starting with pork dumplings and deep fried chicken- the flavours were great- quite deep and intense (unlike the lighter flavours I prefer of lime, chili, coriander). The duck curry as main was also deep and intense in flavour- no lightness- but delicious if that's what you're after.
Desert? Yes a banan fritter with star anise ice cream- pretty simple stuff, but did not disappoint- absolutely delicious!!
Also highly recommended- if you're not too worried about what a dinner might cost.
I'm taking off half a star for the price- so only 3 stars from me.

Madame Brussels
Level 3, 59-63 Bourke St, Melbourne
Phone 03 9662 2775

Ginger Boy
27-29 Crossley Street, Melbourne
Phone 03 9662 4200