Monday, April 30, 2012

Fresh from Freshwater

We were fortunate the other day to have an fantastic meal at Pilu at Freshwater. Although it was evening and being a big group, in the interior of the restaurant, we still got to take advantage of the view of the waves by night arriving on a blustery Autumn evening! We had the Sardinian tasting menu with matching wines, Pilu's specialty degustation. The highlight course for me was the opener, Smokey Kingfish, pomegranate and red vein sorrel, but all were a delicious progression of Italian cuisine. Such a delicious meal that all our party were raving about!

Instead of talking through it course by course I thought the pictures would speak for themselves!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sarap in Parap

I was looking at my photos from last year's Darwin trip and was inspired again! The markets in Darwin were one of the highlights of a trip to NT, and we weren't even there for the famous Thursday/Sunday night Mindl beach markets. We headed to the Saturday morning Parap market on recommendation of Marion from Masterchef's and our great foodie's friends, to find the Green Papaya salad and Laksa. The markets are an ecclectic mix of Australian, indigenous Australian and Asian, all surrounding one block of a suburb on the outskirts of Darwin.

We had been advised to look for the woman with the big wooden pestle and mortar bashing the green papaya salad together. I guess we found her, and if we didn't (there seemed to be several large pestle and mortars on various stalls) it was certainly a salad worth the hunt. I regret not picking up one of the green papaya shavers (an implement I'm sure I could substitute with one of my mandolin slicer attachments, but it's just not the same!) as the salad was so expertly and quickly thrown together, with the shards of fruit, bashed up chilli, fish sauce and peanuts (I'm sure there's other secret ingredients). When I placed the order, I was asked how many chillis. I think we got two in our "medium" salad - I didn't want to be too blown away! It's a shame I wasn't in Darwin long enough to figure out how many I do - chillis that is - I think I could have gone hotter, but good to start off safe.

The market was bustling and surprisingly, despite the heat, the queue for the laksa was a few people deep. Not only was this the busiest, so the people were crammed in waiting for their turn to order and pick up their pots of spicy soup, but it was situated right in the heart of the market with the heat from the stalls and the day making us a little hot and bothered.

When ours finally arrived we escaped to a cool table under a tree to cool down, but the sweat didn't stop pouring off the brow with the heat of the laksa broth and the kick of the papaya salad. This, however, was sweat of contentment!

PS. Sarap means Delicious in Tagalog (the language my family in the Philippines speaks) I couldn't help thinking "how appropriate" the whole time I was in Parap markets!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Getting Lemon

Lemon & Lemon Myrtle Macarons
In Cockney rhyming slang "don't get lemon" mean's "don't get smart" - lemon - lemon tart - smart - get it?

Well today I was feeling a little "lemon" for the Sweet Adventures Blog Hop - Lemons, hosted by Le Delicieux. Inspired by visiting Zumbo's patisserie the other week, I'd made my mind up a few weeks ago that I was going to try macarons for the next hop (just as well it wasn't a pudding hop!) and was excited to see the lemon theme.

As it was my first time making macarons, I followed a recipe but added a little Australian twist, so I'm happy to share my Lemon & Lemon Myrtle Macarons (based on the exploding lemon macaron recipe on the BBC website):

Lemon & Lemon Myrtle Macarons
Ingredients (makes 40 - 20 macaron sandwiches)
4 egg whites (at room temperature)
80g caster sugar
110g almond meal
220g icing sugar
zest of 2 lemons (keep 1/2 a lemon for the juice in in the butter cream)
1/2 teaspoon of lemon myrtle powder
a few drops of yellow food colouring

Lemon & lemon myrtle butter cream
125g butter
75g icing sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon of lemon myrtle power

For the Macarons
Grease and line 2 baking trays with baking paper
Beat the egg whites till they form stiff peaks
Gradually add the caster sugar and beat till glossy
Sieve the almond meal and icing sugar
Add the lemon zest
Fold a little of the egg white mixture into the dry mixture
Add a few drops of yellow food colouring and continue folding the egg white mixture in, till all combined
Fill a piping bag with the macaron mix and pipe 40 small 1.5cm diameter circles onto the trays
Leave them to rest at room temperature for 20 mins
Preheat the oven to 170°C
When the macarons are no longer sticky to touch, put them in the oven for 10 mins, switching the trays after 5 mins
When the macarons are just crisp remove them from the oven

For the Lemon Butter Cream
Squeeze the 1/2 lemon and add lemon myrtle powder to the juice, and allow to infuse
Cream the butter
Add the icing sugar and beat till combined
Add 2 tablespoons of the juice to butter cream and blend
Manage the consistency to a smooth spreadable paste by balancing the juice with icing sugar (add more juice if the butter cream is too stiff, and add a little icing sugar if it's too wet

When the macarons are cool, spread a generous layer of butter over one macaron and sandwich another on top. Serve and enjoy :-)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Fire it up!

We are very prepared campers. We bring everything including the kitchen sink - well a folding one that is! This time we had a packed car full on an Easter weekend excursion to Mudgee. BBQ, stove, fry pan.... All the essentials for a weekend with some fantastic camping and cooking under the stars. With only 1 meal  to go and too much gear for us all to fit in the car on the way home, we sent some back with our fellow camper who was leaving early. We really did miss Jace after he left on Easter Sunday morning as we'd packed our portable gas BBQ in the boot of his car leaving us only with a little gas stove to prepare our final breakfast. Little did we know that the gas canister was about to run out leaving us stranded, not cooking with gas!

Luckily our smouldering fire from last night was still radiating heat so we went back to basics. Our coffee pot bubbled away in the embers and we cooked pancakes, bacon and eggs holding the frypan steadily over the burning logs dodging the flames as they flared up! Good to know we can go back to basic survival to make sure we don't miss out in our coffee in the morning!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Surprise" Chocolate Cake

Disappointing "4" cake
Creating fabulous culinary creations doesn't work so well if the recipients don't enjoy the food, so we often tame the chilli in a dish or leave the steak on for a few more minutes past a medium rare! We learnt a lesson about catering to the tastes of others a few years ago. My hubbie spent all day decorating a fabulous cake for the 4th birthday of our nephew. Most 4 year old would be pretty impressed, I would have thought, with a cake in the shape of a 4, with a road, real cars and road signs?! However, we realised the hard way that Amadeus was not a big fan of the coloured frosting. So disappointed that he didn't want to eat it until every trace of the orange icing had been removed.

"Surprise" Chocolate Cake
I decided to make the "Surprise Chocolate Cake" from this month's MasterChef Magazine but to make sure it was palatable for all our dinner guests, the surprising thing about how my chocolate cake looked was that mine was missing a segment of the pink pomegranate icing. The cake, with raspberry and chocolate chip surprises, was so moist and I was also surprised by how pink the icing became with the natural pomegranate juice. I was really happy with my creation, and my youngest critic was adamant right up to when I was serving up the cake, that he was to have the un-frosted section!
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