Monday, October 26, 2009

My quest for the perfect cuppa - and Portuguese Cafe Tarts

Since I've started this new job, I've been on the hunt for the perfect cuppa. But right now, I'm stuck in the faceless masses of average joe's amidst Town Hall, where eveyrone uses Grinders or Lavazza or heaven forbid - Vittoria - beans. Coffee in the CBD doesn't seem to have any real personality or distinction...much like the people caught in the morning rush...

Sigh...give me Surry Hills...where you could tell the creatives from the journos from the designers...and you didn't have a problem picking that one good cafe in the was the one with the longest line!

If anyone knows good coffee in the Town Hall area of Sydney CBD, please let me know! In the meantime, enjoy this Portuguese Cafe Tart recipe.

Portugues Cafe Tarts (Coffee Tarts)

Gourmet Inspired Tip: Who doesn't love a good coffee dessert and who doesn't absolutely adore Portuguese tarts? I thought I would marry these two passions of mine and create some Portuguese Coffee Tarts.

I didn't have a muffin tin, so I used the oven safe tea cups again, but they turned out amazingly well with the puff pastry - if you like that extra bit of puff.


4 x 10 cm rounds of puff pastry
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1 shot of espresso or strong coffee
2 tbs corn flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs brown sugar


Grease a muffin tin (or in my case, tea cup) and cover with puff pastry sheets to form 4 good bowls. Refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. While the oven is heating, combine sugar and water in a saucepan and stir slowly over low heat until sugar dissolves and becomes syrupy. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, combine your corn flour, milk and egg yolks and whisk until well combined. Add sugar mixture and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Return mixture to stove and heat slowly until mixture thickens to a good custard consistency. Add espresso and stir until well combined.

Remove pastry cups and pour custard mixture into bases. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry just starts to brown. Remove from oven and let the custard settle back into the bases.

Spread brown sugar on a piece of aluminium foil and dry in oven for 1-2 minutes to remove moisture. Gently tap the tarts out of their containers and then sprinkle the tops with brown sugar. Place under hot grill or broiler, or use a blow torch, to quickly caramelise the tops. Serve.

Monday, October 19, 2009

My version of Duck a l'Orange

Kylie Kwong eat your heart out. :)


Gourmet Inspired Tip: I was super excited last month to discover that Coles now carries duck. I know most butchers have always had duck, but I think it's a pretty significant sign where home cooking's headed when you can buy delicious duck at Coles. Maybe it's MasterChef or the economic downturn having people becoming more adventurous with their domestic cuisine, but duck is no longer just for the gourmet professionals.

Sure they cost $15 for two fillets but I was pretty keen to try to it out - it didn't turn out to be crispy skin duck like Kylie's but I was still pretty excited to have made a decent duck dish at home.

Duck a l'Orange


The Duck

2 duck breast fillets
1 tbs rosemary
1 tbs tarragon
1/2 tsp pepper flakes
1 tsp sesame oil

The Sauce

1 1/2 cup orange juice
1 navel orange, rind removed
3 star anise
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp sugar


Rub rosemary, tarragon, pepper and oil into the skin of the duck fillets. Place duck pieces into steamer and steam for 12-15 minutes. until duck is just undercooked.

While the duck is steaming, preheat your broiler or oven to 250 degrees Celsius or higher. You can start making your sauce. Pour orange juice, cinnamon and sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down the flame and simmer slowly, stirring occassionally to reduce the juice. When it starts to become syrupy, add the orange pieces and the star anise and simmer for an additional few minutes.

While your sauce is reducing and once the duck is done steaming, put it in an oven dish with any leftover juices and broil for about 5 minutes until the spices and skin are just starting to crisp. Remember to leave the oven door ajar. (I forgot and spent a good amount of time under the smoke detector with a magazine fanning smoke!)

Remove the duck from the broiler and let cool. Serve over rice and pour your orange sauce over the duck and rice for maximum flavour. :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

100 hits!

Haha, a small but significant milestone. The thing with blogging is that in some way, it’s like running your own online business. To get your message out there in the plethora of musings and ego trips you have to actively work on generating a buzz through the right networks. Forums, other blogs, have to spend time promoting yourself (or get a budget so someone else can do it for you!)

Anyway, to my 100 readers so far, thanks! Leave comments, love and feedback.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sushi Stack - cause nothing looks as impressive as stacked food

Gourmet Inspired Tip: I adapted this recipe from a picture my flatmate showed me of a sushi stack, I think it came from Women's Weekly Magazine. And my theory has always been that there's nothing as impressive as stacked food.

Taste wise, it's not really much...just a big sushi patty without some of the elegance and daintiness of more mini sized sushi (although my friend who never ever eats sushi actually tried it and thought it was pretty good...he loved the texture of the flying fish roe which he had never tried before). I guess this is just a general lesson that looks can be deceiving. That's the thing with cooking - there's the art part to it, but it ultimately comes down to taste. That's what they say on MasterChef, "it all comes down to the dish you cooked." Meanwhile, how many times have you been deceived by food that looks amazing but tastes like nothing much?

But I still think that there's nothing that looks more impressive than stacked food.

Sushi Stack


1 cup sushi rice
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 tbs rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
Pinch salt
1 tsp sesame oil
4 tbs flying fish roe (you can get this at an Asian supermarket)
1/2 cucumber, peeled into strips with a peeler
1/4 avocado, thinly sliced
2 piece of Nori (seaweed) trimmed to the size of a small ramekin
Sprinkle of sesame seeds


To make the sushi rice, wash and drain the rice until the water runs clear. Cook the rice, by bringing the water and rice to a boil and then covering and letting simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. You can prepare your other ingredients while the rice is cooking.

Mix vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and salt into a dressing. Pour over rice and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

Let the rice mixture cool to a lukewarm temperature. (I stuck the rice in a bowl and put it in a cool fan forced oven.)

In a small ramekin, or other appropriately shaped mould, layer your ingredients, first with a base of rice, then a layer of flying fish roe, a layer of shaved cucumber and a layer of avocado. Top with a sheet of nori and finish with another layer of rice on top.

Flip your stack over onto a plate. Lift up the ramekin mould to reveal your stack. Top with sesame seeds and a couple of slivers of cucumber. Serve

Important: Contrary to instinct, serve your stack with fork and knife, not chopsticks! The layer of seaweed and cucumbers are difficult to cut through without a knife to help.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Garlic Prawns and Butterflies

Tomorrow is the first day at my new job and I have serious serious butterflies. I'm excited and nervous..and well actually really petrified. It's not the work part that's's the first impression bit...and I'll have to live with it for the rest of my time at this job. It's things like what if I accidentally use someone's personal cup?, what if I make an inappropriate joke? or just fall flat on my face...although that might not be so bad cause then at least people take pity and try to be nice.

When I was in Uni, my first day working as Assistant Technical Director for a production, I cut 15 pieces of wood 6 inches too short. Fortunately, no one, not even the Technical Director looking after me wanted to do the job, so I wasn't fired on the spot.

At least this time I won't be working with a table saw. Now how to cure the butterflies...

Gourmet Inspired Tip: So speaking of butterflies, last week to celebrate my new found employment, we went to dinner in Surry Hills to this amazing Japanese restaurant called Toko. And we ordered the Garlic Prawns. These weren't the sizzling kind you get at the pub, but they were beautifully "butterflied" and split down the middle, head, tail, shell and all. The meat was sweet, juicy and succulent and it wasn't overladen with oil. After a bit of deliberation, I tried to recreate this dish at home. My butterflying and splitting of the prawn wasn't quite as delicately done, but it was still pretty tasty. So these were the good butterflies.


Garlic "Butterfly" Prawns


10 Large uncooked prawns, heads, tails and shells on
2 tbs finely minced garlic (or garlic paste will be fine)
1/4 cup olive oil
Parsley, finely chopped to taste


Very carefully, using a fine and sharp knife, butterfly your prawns with the heads, tails and shells on. To do this, bend your prawn against its curve to "break" the shell a bit and help flatten it out. Then holding it belly side up, starting from the base of the tail, split your prawn lengthwise, between the swimmers, sawing the head in two. Make sure you cut all the way through the meat, but not the shell. Open your prawn and flatten it out, leaving it belly side up.

Lay your prawns out on a baking tray covered in baking paper. Mix oil and garlic paste together then evenly spoon the mixture out over the exposed meat of the prawns. Cover loosely and refrigerate for about 1 hour to let marinate.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Place your marinated prawns in the oven for 5-6 minutes. They should just be cooked.

Remove, sprinkle with parsley and serve. This is going to be a bit of a messy dish (even though it presents quite well) so make sure you've got some moist towellettes on hand!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Beef Stew

It's like 2 degrees outside...and supposed to be Spring. Seeing that this is my last week of "freedom", I figured I'd make a beef stew since it takes a long time. I'm also running pretty low on $$, even for budget gourmet, since this $200 I was expecting didn't come through. (I write this as an act of spite, of course). So with time and no money and freezing weather, the only logical conclusion is beef stew!


Gourmet Inspired Tip: I'm sure everyone knows this - you can't hurry stew. The longer the better. Seriously, if a recipe says 1 1/2 hours undisturbed, leave it for 2. Since I'm not married and have lived in 6 different places over the past 5 years (I've finally stayed in one spot for over 12 months last year) - I do not own something like a casserole dish - so I had to use a large metal saucepan instead. The trick I discovered, is to line your metal saucepan with baking paper on the bottom and another layer of paper over your cooking ingredients. The paper acts as a barrier against the intense heat of the metal to prevent scorching - and makes clean up a lot lot easier!

Hearty Beef Stew


500 g beef - cubed
1/2 cup flour
1 tbs paprika
1 parsnip, cubed
1 carrot, chopped
3 small onions, chopped roughly
4 potatoes, cut
250 ml red wine
Salt and pepper to taste

NB: We had some tops of some leek in the fridge, which worked really really nicely in the mix as well


Preheat oven to 180 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine flour and paprika and lightly coat each piece of beef.

In a casserole dish (or large pot with lid - lined with baking paper), layer your beef pieces on the bottom spacing evenly. Put vegetables on top and stir gently to mix, making sure all of your pieces stay within the confines of the baking paper walls if you've got it on the botoom. Pour in wine and water. Cover entire mixture with another piece of baking paper and put on lid.

Cook in oven for at least 2 hours. The longer the better. The extra 45 mins will do wonders to tenderise the meat.

Season to taste and serve.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Potage Parmentier "un-french" - (Julia Child rolls in her grave)

So upon watching the movie, Julie & Julia I decided I had to start reading the book. It's alright...a bit melodramatic for my tastes, but I guess that's what blog adaptations are meant to be, an overindulgence in metaphorical and lyrical description that you firmly believe to be witty and relatable, chock full of stream of consciousness and the favourite ellipsis...because everyone if given the chance will write like that. Otherwise you would just be writing "today I made potato soup." :)

Anyway, today I did make potato soup. I also read the opening chapter about Julie's first Julia Child recipe, "Potage Parmentier" and her description of making potato and leek soup. All you needed was potato, leek, butter, water, salt and pepper. That sounded easy enough.

There I was, using my fork to mash my soup, since I don't have a potato ricer and using anything electronic, according to the author was simply "un-french". So, I, unlike Julie, was not too above mashing soup with a f
ork in a desire to be as authentically French as possible.

We sit down to eat and it's good. Nice texture, aroma, some good flavour. Then my flatmate says, "you know what would be great with this, some chili. Maybe a little bit of garlic."

And she was absolutely right, the soup was missing that extra little kick. The thing with French food, sounds super sexy. Potage, escargot,'s all gourmet sounding and superb. But "authentic", fork mashing and all, tastes...well maybe a little bland for the modern palette. True foodies would probably kill me for saying it, but in an age where the best Thai take away is around the corner and the scent of curries wafts from every neighbour's home (and it's the good kind, not the kind that just hangs stale in the air)...our modern way of eating isn't really thrilled by the "authentic" delights of butter, mashed potato and leeks.

I'm probably not doing potage parmentier the right way. Julia Child, I'm sure is rolling over in her grave...Julie Powell probably is rolling her eyes too, (I didn't soak my potatoes in water to keep them from turning pink for starters).
I'm sure her soup was excellent and full of flavour - with real kick. But since I don't hold sacred the ancient pages of Mastering the Art of French Cooking nor is there Julia Child in my kitchen brandishing an imaginary wooden spoon, I look what was left over of the the soup, minced some garlic and threw in some chili flakes, added water and cooked for another 20 mins. And I got my kicks.

Potage Parmentier petit epice - Little spice potato soup...still mashed with a fork. Just a little bit "unfrench".

Potage Parmentier "petit epice" - Little spice potato soup


5 potatoes, sliced
1 leek, sliced and washed
50 g butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes or chili flakes
Salt and pepper to taste


Add potatoes and leek to about 1 litre of boiling water. Let simmer for about 30 minutes until soft. Stir gently, then add garlic, chili, salt and pepper and let simmer for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Using a fork, food mill, potato ricer or other non-electronic mashing aid, mash the soup until texture is quite smooth. (You still want to have some "bits" for that home cooked texture. Unless you're serving soup to my boyfriend...who doesn't believe in soup bits.). Stir in butter until creamy and well blended. Serve with cheese toast.

Hint: Okay, I admit it...I didn't really mash the whole thing with the fork. If you have a stick whizz, use that for a few seconds to do most of the mixing, but leave some untouched parts so you can finish it off with a fork for texture.

Please also note: Until further when it gets out of hand...I am making this blog a DoFollow blog but have the verification and moderation on. So leave thoughtful comments and you'll get backlinks. :)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chinese Style Roast Pork, plus Julie & Julia

I watched the movie Julie & Julia yesterday, and it got me thinking...why do people set up blogs? Is it to "give yourself something to do" or is it a narcissistic indulgence, where everything can really be "me me me"? Julie Powell was one of the pioneers in everyday blogging culture, when there were maybe just 1000 of serious blogs in the world...not the millions out there now. Hard to imagine that was really just 7 years ago.

For me, I started this when I quit my job...I think it was to give me something to do. I quit rather suddenly, and as other people have pointed out, my job had really come to consume my life. Leaving left a rather large void in my day to day existence...especially when it came to writing. Cooking and blogging helped fill up "units of time"...and gave me some semblance of routine.

Next week, I start a new job. It's really only been 5 weeks and I don't feel like I've done much over that time. Certainly, I haven't really done that many recipes. I mean...Julie Powell did maybe 50 of her recipes in 5 weeks. It gave her readers something to go back to on a daily basis.

So...I'm going to try and give you something more. I THINK about food and cooking everyday. I talk about it a lot...but not to you. I sit there writing down notes and reading things about cooking to try and come up with my next concoction. I have no idea if it's much of a good read, but it should at least keep me more focused on this work, especially if I'm going to start working full time again. So, feel free to kick my metaphorical blogging a-- if you don't hear from me for a week (like last week).

Chinese style Roast Pork

Gourmet Inspired Tip: I made this last week to serve with Stephanie Alexander's French Onion Soup. A bit of an odd combination, but the pork and baby bak choy themselves are a great combination and work as a light entree. Alternatively, serve with rice for a good and simple main. Char siu (roast pork) sauce can usually be found in your local supermarket in the Asian section.


300 g pork fillet
1 packet red char siu sauce (about 100 g)
2 tbs honey
sesame oil to taste
1-2 tsp sesame seeds
2 baby bok choy
2 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
oyster sauce to taste


Cut pork into 4 pieces. Cover the pieces thoroughly with char siu sauce and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Hint: if you wrap the pieces in foil, you can use the same piece of foil to grill the pork and keep more of the flavour.

Pre-heat grill to medium/high. Brush pork pieces with 1/2 the honey and sesame oil before grilling. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Grill each side for 10 minutes. Turn grill temperature up to high and brush pork pieces with remainder of oil and honey and grill for another 15 minutes or until pork is cooked through.

To cook the baby bok choy, boil approximately 1 litre of water. Separate the leaves and scald quickly in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Remove immediately.

Layer a bed of baby bok choy on plate and drizzle with oyster sauce. Place grilled pork on top and sprinkle with parsley to taste.