Saturday, April 19, 2014

Taxi Kitchen, Hofbrauhaus and Hopetoun Tea Rooms

Recently, I had a weekend of fancy eating, with food so good I have to share.  It started at Friday lunch, with a legal team catchup at Taxi Kitchen in Federation Square, Melbourne. We had the lunch special, being $39 for two courses and a glass of wine.

With my pinot noir, I ordered the seared salmon with  warm sea lettuce and zucchini salad with black garlic dressing:

I had no idea what sea lettuce was, but the meal itself was delicious.  I'd definitely order this again.

For my second course, of course I chose dessert.  I ordered lemon meringue pie (frozen like Nan's) (normally $13):

This dessert was visually gorgeous, and the taste did not disappoint - like lemon sorbet atop a biscuit with meringue on top.  I think the pink crumbs were freeze-dried raspberries.

Verdict - not cheap, but delicious.

The same night, I went to Hofbrauhaus Melbourne in Market Lane with Tim:

Tim and I ordered a Zwicklbier (pale ale ($8.50 for 300ml):

This is a light, pleasant brew that goes down easily.

For main, Tim ordered the HB Wurstplatte ($29.50), comprising bratwurst, kaiserkrainer (cheese filled kransky) and nurnberger (mini Bavarian sausages):

while I ordered the bratwurst ($26.50):

Both meals were served with mustard, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.  I had a two for one voucher, so our meals were half price.

For dessert, we shared a serve of apfelstrudel ($13.50):

This is a light, fruity dessert with a crispy pastry shell.  It was served with icecream and custard, and was a lovely way to finish the meal.

Verdict -  hearty fare, perfect for winter.

Finally, on Saturday, I went to lunch with Sandra at our usual haunt, the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade.  I ordered the daily special of seafood ravioli ($23):

The ravioli was light and delicate, and served in a lemony sauce.

For desert, I opted for the pistachio and raspberry cheesecake ($10.50):

I had spied this dessert in the window before going in, and had to have it:

I washed it all down with one of the many house teas.

As always, it was a delicious experience in lovely, old fashioned surrounds.  Just be prepared to queue for around 15 minutes to get in. 

If you come to Melbourne and want to try any of the venues, here are their details:

Taxi Kitchen
Level 1 Transport Hotel
Federation Square,
Cnr Swanston & Flinders Streets
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9654 8808  
Hofbrauhaus Melbourne
18- 28 Market Lane 
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9663 3361
Hopetoun Tea Rooms
Block Arcade
282 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9650 2777

Friday, April 18, 2014

Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps and Garlic en Papillote

We are going crazy for spring veges this week at French Fridays with Dorie this week with Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps and Garlic en Papillote.  Yes, I realise that in the Southern Hemisphere, we are coming into winter, but most of the Doristas are in the Northern Hemisphere, hence some lovely green spring vegetables are perfect for them at this time of year.

So, what's all this "en papillote" stuff about?  Well, it's just French for cooking in a bag - on this occasion, a foil bag made by folding alfoil around the vegetables before baking them in the oven.  It's quite a nifty way to cook that I learned from Jamie Oliver years ago,  back in his "lovely jubbly" days.  It keeps all the moisture in, facilitates preparation in advance, and is a "set and forget" method of cooking.

Here's a look at the veges resting in their foil cocoon after cooking:

I served my veges in a bag with tahini, cumin and buttermilk chicken from WWDH.

To see what the other Doristas thought of their veges en papillote, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WWDH - Thai Red Beef Curry


For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, I chose Red Thai Beef Curry from p104 of Modern Classics Book I.  You can also find the recipe online here

This thick, rich beef curry uses store bought curry paste for convenience, and contains pumpkin to beef it up a bit.  I served the curry atop a helping of boiled brown rice.  I used light coconut cream to try and cut down on some of the calories.

This was melt-in-your mouth delicious, and I would definitely make it again.  If you are a lover of curries, you can't go past the taste and convenience of this Donna Hay recipe.

To see what Margaret and Sarah thought of this curry, visit their websites.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cranberry Hot Cross Buns

Easter is almost upon us, hence 'tis the season for making hot cross buns.  I have always wanted to try making my own hot cross buns, and was sold when I saw a recipe in this month's Gourmet Traveller Magazine for sour cherry hot cross buns. The recipe has been posted online here.

Instead of sour cherries, I used dried cranberries, as I already had some in the house.  These buns do take some time to make, so think of it as a half a day project while you wait for risings, baking etc. The buns are not hard to make.  The hardest part for me was marking the cross - the first piping tip I used was too thin for the flour paste used to mark the cross, hence I expended lots of energy getting nowhere before switching to a broader tip.  Remember to put the glaze on while the buns are still hot (although the recipe is silent on this).

The resulting buns were soft and moist inside, with a lovely sweet sugar glaze on top:

I am not a huge bread person, but I really enjoyed eating one of these hot cross buns with a dab of margarine:

If you are looking for a good hot cross bun recipe to cut your teeth on, I recommend trying this sour cherry hot cross bun recipe (with cherries or other fruit).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Best. Ever. Red Velvet Cake for Edna's Birthday

Today is Edna's birthday.  I brought Edna's cake into work on Friday so that she could enjoy it with everyone at work before her birthday.  I asked around as to Edna's favourite cake flavour, and as it turns out, it's red velvet.

By good fortune, I had just bought Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude by Libbie Summers.  This book is awesome - just take a look at the video here.  It has hot pink tipped pages, a sassy cover, fabulous photographs and great stories, not to mention recipes that are a little different.  This book is my kind of cookbook! Libbie happened to include a recipe for Best. Ever. Red Velvet Cake, which she makes for her now husband as it is his favourite cake.  Perfect!!! This had to be the cake for Edna.

Libbie says that her secret weapon in this cake is using vanilla sugar.  She also says that she has cut down on the amount of sugar in the cake and frosting from the traditional red velvet recipes so that you end up with a tangy cake that is not overly sweet.  Libbie's assessment of this cake was confirmed by Edna, who loved that it was not overly sweet.  The only changes that I made to the recipe were that I used three quarters of a teaspoon of red gel colouring rather than using liquid colouring, and that I only made one third of the cream cheese frosting - and that was heaps to frost the double layer cake.  (Note also that I never buy buttermilk - for each cup of milk add one tablespoon of lemon juice to curdle it.  I also make my own cake flour by putting 2 tablespoons of cornflour in a one cup measuring cup, then fill it up with flour - and voila, cake flour.)

Here are the cakes pre-frosting:

Next comes the crumb layer of frosting:

and finally, the top of layer of frosting decorated with red writing gel, sugar pearls and sugar hearts arranged as flowers: 

The gel pen gave me grief by squirting unevenly - at one stage I had to scrape off the writing because it was so messy, and this unfortunately left a faint red stain in the frosting.  No matter - I was happy with the overall result, and there were no complaints from Edna about it.

Here's my slice of cake which Edna kindly saved for me: 

I really enjoyed this cake too - it is as smooth as silk, not overly sweet, and the tangy frosting makes a nice contrast to the cake itself.  This cake is seriously yum - I can see why Libbie's husband loves it.

If you would like the recipe, I seriously recommend buying Libbie's book - it is truly fabulous, and well off the beaten track of your typical baking book.

Friday, April 11, 2014

FFWD - Quiche Maraichère

This week, our French Fridays with Dorie assignment was Quiche Maraichère - literally a "market fresh" quiche.  This quiche is unusual in that it is mostly vegetables with only minimal custard, and the cheese is on top rather than through the quiche.

The vegetables were leeks, carrots, capsicum and celery, and were finely diced then pan cooked before being placed in a par-baked tart shell and covered with a custard of eggs and cream.  Close to the end of baking, the quiche is topped with grated cheddar cheese. 

I didn't expect much of this quiche, and before the cheese was added, I thought it looked a little scary.  However, once the cheese had melted over the top of the vegetables, which fill the tart shell,  the quiche looks amazing, and serves as a flavoursome dinner:

This was another surprise hit for me.  To see what the other Doristas thought of this quiche, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Maggie Beer's Peach Jam

It has been a week of using up lacklustre fruit from the end of the season.  I had a kilo of peaches languishing in my fridge because - well, they were pretty bland peaches.  However, I didn't want to waste them.  Initially, I thought of making baked goods with them, but I thought that a whole kilo of peaches would take an awful lot of baking to use them up.  Plan B was to make jam!

I searched for the right recipe for peach jam for me, and I chose Maggie Beer's Peach Jam recipe from The Cook and the Chef TV series. I liked the fact that Maggie did not peel the peaches - she used the whole fruit in her jam after de-seeding them.  In fact, she even uses the seeds in the cooking process, presumably to add flavour.  Instead of amaretto, I added brandy to my jam.  I am so glad I didn't skip it - the alcohol added a lovely flavour to the jam.

This jam is so versatile.  As well as indulging my habit of eating jam out of the jar, I have been mixing it in with my rolled oats for breakfast and putting it on icecream for dessert.  It would also be fabulous in muffins, to fill cakes or on toast.  And it transformed some very ordinary peaches into the extraordinary.   Perfect!