Friday, April 22, 2011

The Big French Feed

The Big Feed is a campaign running from April to June encouraging foodies to use their talents to raise a bit of money to help food education projects of disadvantaged children in Australia. To put my cooking talents to good use sounded like a great idea to me, and my friends were happy, as always, for an invitation. If I was commanding donations, I thought I'd better go all out and what better cuisine than French to try for my gourmet meal!

MasterChef Justine's Duck with Sauce Aigre Douce
We kicked off the meal with Deep Fried Brie, a bread-crumbed brie dunked quickly into the deep frier until golden brown. The brie melts inside and oozes out all over the plate! It's delicious served with redcurrant jelly. The entree was a crowd pleaser and we kept the wine topped up while I prepared the next course, MasterChef Season 1 Justine's Duck with Sauce Aigre Douce with an Eschalot Tarte Tartin.

There are lots of components to this dish - a creamy celariac puree, crispy pastry of the eschalot tarte tartin, carrots with a hint of spice, and a delicious jus for a medium rare duck breast - but it's well worth it. Good mis en place made my life a lot easier so I could cook the duck perfectly and plate up quickly. Another successful course and all that was left on the plate was the top stalks of the baby carrots!

Eve's Chocolate Cake and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
The third course was a recommendation by my Uni classmate, Donn. It's his favourite chocolate cake and, when he found out I was a foodie, sent me the recipe to try out! Damien Pignolet, a chef of the reknown French Bistro in Sydney Bistro Moncur, is on to a winner with this one! Eve's Chocolate cake was probably the course of the evening! The flourless chocolate cake was simple to make, but so tasty and looked fabulous. I served it with a home-made vanilla bean ice cream which was a great combination.

What a fantastic evening - great food, great company and all for a great cause! Thanks to The Big Feed for the inspiration, and my lovely friends for making very generous donations to the great cause!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Fabio's Firenze Feast

Burrata Crostini with Sun Dried Tomato
When visiting LA it's on most people's wish list to see a Hollywood star! On my wish list, I was hoping to see a star of the culinary world - Fabio Viviani - one of my Top Chef favourites. My friend and I headed to Moorpark, in the suburbs of LA, to Fabio's restaurant Cafe Firenze. We were ushered to our table, the only table with full kitchen view - right across from the pass, and there was Fabio looking just like he did in the Top Chef kitchen! We could see the chefs running around, bringing dishes for Fabio to taste, and even witnessed a passionate Italian outburst!

We opted for the Chefs Table 5 course feast designed by Fabio himself especially for my pregnant buddy.
Troife con Anatra e Finocchino
Burrata Crostini - Burrata, Arugola, homemade Sun-dried Tomato, Basil, 25 years Balsamic Vinegar, Shaved Parmesan
Trofie con Anatra e Finocchino - Homemade Troife Pasta, Duck Sausage, Caramelized Fennel, Parmesan
Gnocchi alla Rustica - Homemade Gnocchi with Truffled 4 cheese and Sausage
Gnocchi alla Rustica
Costole Brasate - Braised Short Ribs, Parmesan Polenta, Roasted Mushrooms
Italian Homemade Cannoli - Ricotta, Chocolate Chips, Pistachio Encrusted, and Dusted with Sugar
Limoncello Ricotta Cheesecake - Creamy Ricotta Cheese and Limoncello with a light Graham Cracker Crust

Costole Brasate
Turns out, a subject Fabio is very passionate about is what pregnant women eat and how that effects the palate and diet preferences and allergies of the new born, and much to our excitement he pulled up a chair and chatted with us between courses!

The food was fabulous - great portion size, and scrumptious flavours. Each bite had distinct fresh Italian flavours.With the small plates that kept coming, we felt like Tom, Gail and Padma tasting the Top Chef dishes! 

Limoncello Ricotta Cheesecake



Me and Fabio

Monday, April 4, 2011

These little piggies went to Market!

I was lucky enough to have read It Happened In Florence, while I was in the early planning (read thinking) of a trip to Italy! It totally sold me that Italy was a must-see destination and booked my trip straight away. Despite being a self confessed non-foodie as far as preparation and even eating goes, Nita loves everything about the accompaniment to good food - being a fabulous hostess, the company, the fun and the buzz of shopping at the market. 

"Buying food at the market always led to a barrage of questions,
How many people are you serving? When are you eating this? What are you serving to accompany it? What wine are you drinking with it? How are you cooking it? 

Purchasing a piece of meat from the butcher is kindred to adopting a pet from the Humane Society; until he is assured that you will be taking proper care of the purchase, he isn’t going to let you have it. And with fruit, buying a melon for example, the first question would be,
When are you eating it - today, tomorrow?
And depending on my answer, the vendor would make a selection and hand me over a fruit of the appropriate ripeness. If my answer gave a date three days out or more, she’d look at me like I was joking,
Why would you come to the market today? Come back when you actually need it.

In addition to getting the meat, fruit and vegetables that exactly met my needs, my responses to other interrogations would ensure that I got the right kind of pesto to have with the bruschetta I was serving, and not the one more suited to eat with pasta; the correct amount of sauce to accompany the fresh linguine I’d chosen; and the best advice on the way to prepare, cook and serve all the things I’d purchased on any given day."

With this experience in mind we were excited to visit the markets in Italy for ourselves. They looked like a work of art! So many fresh vegetables: zucchini flowers, mini pumpkin, mushrooms, chillis, trays and trays of tomatoes adorned the vegetable stands; the aroma of herbs - dried and fresh - filled the air; cured meats and prosciutto stalls were piled with ready to slice hams and salamis; and fresh pasta was artistically curled up in the enclosed stalls. The fish markets had all types of sea creatures - some we had never seen before! We wished we had access to a kitchen so we could take home a bag of fresh groceries to cook, but alas, we had to make do with the fabulous Italian restaurants and wish that one day we will find markets like these in Sydney!

Reprinted by kind permission of the authors Nita Tucker and Christa McDermott
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...