Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Top Marque

For a special birthday treat (maybe more for me than him) I took my hubbie to Marque restaurant in Surry Hills for the degustation menu. Marque is an understated elegant restaurant on Crown Street and they pride themselves on showcasing the food more than the views! We've heard fabulous reviews of the restaurant so I was excited to be trying it finally!

The first course came out, a mandarin crisp which was so fruity it was almost juicy (even though it was a thin crisp!) and a large prawn cracker. After this unusual palate cleanser the real show began with course after course of interesting textures, fascinating cooking techniques and delicious flavours.

We started with an Almond Jelly with Blue Swimmer Crab on a sweet corn custart. It had crumbs of Popcorn to add a little texture.

Next was a normal Calamari straw, with a Calamari pickled in Ink which had a texture of kelp, with some compressed mint. This was probably my least favourite course of the night. It was a bit difficult to eat, although was interestingly flavoured!

One of the most delicious courses followed, a wafer thin potato crisp sandwich, filled with bonito, fois gras butter and olive truffle. The crisp of the potato contrasted to the creamy fois gras and the dish just melted in his mouth!

The course that bridged the seafood to the meat was a beautiful duck egg poached at 60 degrees for 45 mins. The resulting egg was soft and sticky inside and perfectly cooked. The small brussel sprout crispy leaves were a delicious complement to the egg!

The next course was unusual and probably my favourite course of the night - Pigeon with Poached Oyster in a foam, on Sautéed Lettuce. The little Pigeon leg was flavoursome and tasty, but not as succulent as the amazing breast meat. It looked beautifully decorated on the plate with some little edible flowers.

Wagyu Beef with Onion, Black Tea & Stem Salad, with a Sorrel sauce was the final savoury course. It was beautifully cooked and tender with a great flavoured fresh sauce.

To ease us into the Dessert we had a Pre-Dessert which was a luxurious Sauternes Custard served in an egg cup. It really did look like a soft boiled egg but didn't last as long - there would have been no patience for soldiers!

Finally, we finished on a fun combination of flavours called "Pomme Pomme:" Jerusalem Artichoke ice cream with apple, caramel, cocoa and chestnut tasty sauces. The balance of tastes was a really nice fresh,  and the dessert wasn't too sweet an end to a fabulous meal.

Happy Birthday Cam!

Monday, May 16, 2011

In the Finger Limelight!

Australian Finger Lime on FoodistaAustralian Finger Lime
One of the most interesting Aussie bush fruit that I was introduced to last year at Fins Restaurant in Kingscliff, is Finger Lime. It is an ugly looking finger that when you squeeze, spurts out little juicy, citrussy spheres which burst in your mouth. I liken the texture to caviar, but with a sweet, tangy, fresh flavour.

Last week our good friends, with finger lime orchards sent us down 2kgs. Most were packed into the freezer so we can enjoy them year round, but the rest are looking tempting on my kitchen bench.
Baked Fish Parcels with Pomegranate
and Finger Lime Salad
Just as normal limes have a place in both sweet and savoury food, I decided to do a finger lime themed dinner to put the lime in the limelight! Inspired by a recipe from Good Food Magazine this month, I prepared the Fish Parcels with Pomegranate and Finger Lime Salad for main, and for dessert, Kaffir Lime Pannacotta with Finger Lime Syrup.

The fish is laid on a large sheet of baking paper and seasoned with lemon juice, seeds from a finger lime, a glug of olive oil and a bay leaf, then wrapped tightly in the paper and baked for 10 mins. The Pomegranate Salad was a fresh addition with baby spinach leaves, celery, spring onion, parsley, coriander, pomegranate seeds and finger lime flesh with a light olive oil and lemon juice dressing.

Kaffir Lime Pannacotta with
Finger Lime Syrup
It was my first attempt at pannacotta, but I wanted to emmulate Fins delicious Lemon Myrtle Pannacotta with Finger Lime. We grow Kaffir lime on our balcony, so I opted for to combine lime flavours for the dessert. It was a great balance between citrussy flavour, creamy texture, sweet limey syrup and the explosion of the finger lime spheres which truly pop in the mouth! A beautiful fresh dinner to highlight a lesser known magical fruit from the land of Oz!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Yums for Mums

We had three generations of mothers at my in laws this Mother's Day and as usual, we were up in Brisbane to prepare a special lunch to treat them! At first we thought we'd be ambitious and prepare a roast, but since we had to shop in the morning and then prepare, we opted for one of Jamie Oliver's 30 min meals without expecting that the dinner for 15 would take the same time as one for 4, particularly without our favourite kitchen equipment. Our plan to make the fantastic looking Catherine Wheel Sausage and Horseradish mash was scuppered as something similar was served at the restaurant we visited last night with some of the same guests! Instead we opted for scallop on guacamole baguette decorated  with one of my favourite Aussie bush fruits, finger lime,  Mustard chicken with Dauphinoise potatoes and Greens - a dish that would hopefully please all the guests spanning from being in their 2s to 70s all with different tastes and preferences and Damien Pignolet's Eve's Chocolate pudding - a winner I prepared a few weeks ago for our Big Feed Charity dinner.

Cam's Potato Dauphinoise
Cooking in someone else's kitchen for so many was quite a challenge. We had the chicken frying in 2 different pans - an electric fry pan with variable heat control where the chicken was either sticking to the pan at one temperature, or practically turned off when one notch lower and a fabulous portable induction cook top which browned the chicken beautifully - an excellent invention! The oven was more predictable and I was able to knock out the flourless chocolate cake quite effortlessly and Cam's Potato Dauphinoise was a great success!

All in all, scallops were a nice appetizer and the finger lime was certainly a talking point. The Chicken with Mustard Sauce, albeit some not as moist as I would have hoped after a rocky ride in the electric frypan, quietened the table and all you could hear was knives and forks clinking - a good sign! And the best part was that all the Mums had a day off to enjoy lunch prepared for them! It was indeed a Happy Mothers Day!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gourmet Campers

Although I love my kitchen comforts, when we have an opportunity, we enjoy being out in the bush in our 4WD, camping in the middle of nowhere. I'm not the "walk-in" camping kind of girl, as I would need a pack horse to carry my high end camping requirements, and we're known for being "Gourmet Campers," not settling for cans of beans heated up on a fire, or dehydrated camping meals!

Our Easter camping trip was no exception and we had a menu rivalling any Easter Sunday roast! Marinated butterflied lamb on the BBQ was the main dish, accompanied by BBQed corn, stir fried veg and Tuscan potatoes. 

This camping trip, inspired by the MKR challenge, we also gave a go at making the Aussie bush tucker favourite, Damper. Damper is a bread made without yeast and baked over the campfire. We added sugar and sultanas to ours and tried cooking it two ways - the traditional: wrapped around the stick and cooked over the heat, and wrapped in foil and pushed into the embers. Both were relatively successful and we enjoyed the fun of making and eating our afternoon snack!

Sultana Damper

4 cups of Self Raising Flour
1 heaped spoon of Brown Sugar
A large pinch of salt
175g of sultanas
2 spoons butter
200ml milk
1 egg
Lots of foil


1. Build you campfire and get some embers glowing!
2. Add the dry ingredients (including the sultanas) to a large bowl. Melt the butter over the campfire (a little foil basket works a treat!)
3. Pour the melted butter into the dry ingredients and mix in
4. Break an egg into a mug and lightly beat, add to the milk
5. Mix the egg and milk mixture into the dry ingredients till all combined
6. Knead till reaches a smooth dough consistency and it holds together without crumbling

To cook wrapped around the stick: Roll out a long sausage using 1/4 of the mixture and wrap around a long stick. Hold over the campfire turning till firm and cooked.
To cook in the embers: Wrap the dough in foil (so there are 5 or 6 layers) and place the parcel in the hot embers. Takes about 30 mins, depending on the heat!

Whilst not as comfortable not convenient as our own kitchen, there's a lot more space and it's a lot more adventurous to cook our camping meals under the stars in the vast open bush of Australia!

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