Friday, February 26, 2010

My foodie family - styling and lamingtons.

OK, I think we gathered from my previous post that my family is not actually particularly foodie. Though whenever I visit Melbourne my brother and I always go out to at least one really good restaurant and he now has three kids who are proving to be quite fond of food.

Before I elaborate, my littlest niece would like to say hello to her adoring fans (check out that Queen wave!):

I ended up with tons of photos of her in her high chair - the place where she was most often found still enough to capture, and happy as well.

So now I have two nieces and a nephew who are into food (quite literally in Lila's case!) and I was excited to discover my nephew shaping up to be a food stylist in the making. I remember cooking with him and his sister years ago (they were 2 and 4 at the time) and he showed considerably more aptitude and patience for it than his otherwise more coordinated older sister. On this visit, when he noticed me taking pictures of food he offered up his own meals, styling first a hot chocolate at Cuppa Cottage (very cute little bakery in Sandringham with yummy cakes and savoury pastries - I spotted the Ottolenghi cookbook and some of the recipes oin the cabinet). By the end of my trip he was carefully plating up his BBQ and salad for my approval. Gorgeous!

Hot chocolate before and after Tom's handiwork.

I only cooked once with the kids, lamingtons at their request. Between the three of us we managed to coat the whole kitchen and ourselves with chocolate icing and coconut. Fortunately we made them straight from the pool in our swimming costumes but the kids still had to wipe their feet before they could even leave the kitchen. Great fun but allow an hour for clean up afterwards! To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of lamingtons (or vegemite - see, I am English!), but they are quintessentially Australian and must be tried. Anzac biscuits, however, are scrumptious, but frankly the lamington adventure didn't really encourage me to bake with them again, especially when the sun was shining outside!

The recipe we used:

I didn't eat out much in Australia but a post on the few places I did go plus the chocolate scene are on the way....

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Homemade Tartare Sauce

I'm writing this post from my mother's computer in her classroom. She brought me in to meet her class and now that I've been introduced and I have bragged about how I have the coolest job in the world (ah, something about being inside a room papered with Times Tables and the alphabet has my maturity regressing to pre-adolescence), I've been tasked with getting cashback on the netbook she generously bought for me (thanks, mum!), as she sits on the carpet and helps her charges learn to tell the time. Being a school, all of the decent websites are blocked so I can't access Gmail, Twitter or Facebook to find out what's going on in the world. For whatever reason, blogger has not been blocked so, now that I've printed the requisite form, I feel free to whitter away the time. Unfortunately my half-written posts and pictures are not on this pc so instead of backtracking over the more interesting events I've not yet written about from the past few months, I just thought I'd say a brief hello to the world and a quick comment on regressing and food in the back of beyond.

I learnt how to cook out of necessity. I prepared a dish to go alongside my mum's chips (my mum makes the best chips) earlier this week. If you've ever seen The Castle, the reaction I got for courgettes and cannellini beans with garlic, parsley and lemon, was almost exactly like Daryl's response to everything his wife cooked:
"What's this, love?"
"Aw, that's just sponge cake, love, it came out of a packet."
"Wow. You're amazing. I am the luckiest man in the world to have a wife that can cook like this."
These are not exact quotes. It's been a while since I watched it and, yes, you really have to watch it to get it.

Anyways, they were suitably impressed that I'd managed to make something out of the next-to-nothing in the cupboards. It's flattering, but frustrating. I have informed my dear mother that I need to go to the supermarket on the way back from school. "What for?" Um... because there are no other meals I can make out of what's in the cupboards and from the vegie garden. At least, not enough to feed five people a coherent meal that will fill them up. Cousin and his lovely wife are heading down from Sydney and I want to be able to feed them and the baby-on-the-way. Plus I want to be able to make a birthday cake with unsalted butter, not margarine.

Last night my dad took my mum and I out for her birthday dinner. I was tempted to offer to cook but didn't want to rain on his parade. So we went to dine at the pub with the balcony and beautiful view. The menu options were typical of an Australian pub: Chicken Schnitzel, Chicken Parmagiana, Steak, Reef and Turf, Calamari, Fish & Chips and Seafood Basket.

The Fish and Chips were described as "beer-battered, locally-caught gummy shark served with chips, salad, homemade tartare sauce and a wedge of lemon". Oh how I wish I could get the picture from my iphone to plug in here so you could see the plate with its two plastic servings of Masterfoods' tartare sauce, and no lemon. When I asked for lemon I was told there wasn't any. I asked behind the bar and managed to get a few water-logged slices. The chips began their life as frozen oven-fries. No surprise we decided not to stay for dessert. We went home and they had a few of the Charbonnel et Walker truffles I bought for her. I had Milo. Definitely regressing. :-)

Ah well, at least the scenery was pretty!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Lex Eat... the best fish pie ever

After my dalliance into underground restaurants last Summer with an afternoon tea at Ms Marmite Lover's (in conjunction with Lavender Bakery) I'd been keen to try more of London's supperclubs but was too busy (read: slack) to get around to it. I did look into organising a private party last December but gave up and hosted my own mince pies and mulled wine evening at home. Most of my friends were keen though so when I saw that Alexis of Lex Eat was starting up her own supper club I booked a table of ten and then sent a blanket email to the people who'd attended the mince pie evening. The places were quickly snapped up.

The gorgeous Lex and her equally gorgeous partner Y put on a fabulous evening. It was exactly everything that, in my mind, supperclubs should be: delicious, homecooked food, friendly hosts and a cosy, jovial atmosphere. They have a gorgeous flat perfect for the number of people there (18, I think) and everything ran incredibly smoothly, from being greeted at the door and having our coats taken and hung up and immediately offered a glass of delicious sparkling to the end of the evening having cabs home booked for us. The only negative was that going with such a large group meant I barely spoke to all the people I knew, let alone the other lovely people, and I think that is one of the nicest part about these home restaurants.

I'll let the pictures tell you more about the evening:

funky table decorations

delicious homemade tortellini and pesto

the BEST fish pie I've ever tasted. flaky pastry and rich, creamy filling with smoked haddock and cod; the potato on the side was fabulous too.

a pre-dessert of coconut and lime sorbet - very special

a plate of 3 desserts (I was very happy!): lemon cheesecake, turkish delight and brownie.

The Turkish Delight was polarising amongst our group. Some thought it was the most amazing thing ever and others hated it. I was definitely in the former. It was original and delicately flavoured and the Persian fairy floss (candy floss) was a great addition (not to mention very pretty!).

Congrats and thanks to Lex for a fantastic evening and best of luck for the rest of them! I'm booked for Fernandez and Leluu in February and thinking I might have to get to one a month in 2010... Suggestions welcome!