May 1, 2011

Pie in the sky

43 Olinda-Monbulk Road, Olinda, Victoria

I had to escape. I had to run away from reliable, reasonable, rational me. Up into the stillness of the Dandenong Ranges I go to become a part of the eternal order of things, feel the filtered autumn sun on my face, watch the copper leaves fall slowly, walk up these hills, take a deep breath and just be.

Olinda, less then an hour away from Melbourne.  I get the freshly baked pies and pastries from 'Pie in the Sky'. The place is always too full to get a table inside, so we just order pies and apple strudels to go. It's cold and we eat outside, the steam coming out of our pies.

There is something that needs to be said about the happiness you can get from a freshly baked pastry.  Is it the smell, or the way it melts in your mouth, I am not sure, I prefer to leave some things undiscovered. And as for 'Pie in the Sky', I am already planning a visit back, I don't care if I can't get a table inside, in Olinda eating on the side of the road is as good as sitting at the best table in the house.

Pie in the Sky

Chicken and mushroom pie

Apple strudel

Pie in the Sky on Urbanspoon

Mar 27, 2011

Dumpling crawl

Food and wine festival is the culinary haven that descends upon Melbourne in March. Melbourne in March is pretty much heavenly anyway, but dipped into all sorts of delicious events around town, this is as good as life really gets.

With a modest investment of $50 dollars I went on the 'Dumpling crawl', purely because I was intrigued by the name. I had no great expectations, since Chinese food in general and dumplings in particular were never in my food fantasy land.

How wrong I was! Safely, best $50 dollars I have ever spent, guided by the legend of Chinese cuisine, Tony Tan I am completely convinced now, dumplings are the sexiest of food.

If my photos don't do justice to these wonders of shape and texture, those reading this story will need to take my word for it.

pork dumpling

pork dumplings

scalop dumplings

the table is set

dumplings for dessert

more dumplings for dessert

Mar 20, 2011

A chickpea story

What do you say to a teenager who tells you 'I am not eating animals any more'? The same kid who did not want me to hold her hand when she was making her first steps, striving for independence.

Do you exercise your parental power and just say 'no', or you let the debate with the new generation take you on a spin? I considered the former and tried the latter, but after a while I decided to give her the chance to find her own way.

And me, I will always be there, ready to stretch out my hand, like I did when she was making her first steps, so very independently.

Chickpeas with spinach

Chickpeas with spinach 
from 'delicious' magazine
  • 425 g can chickpeas
  • 450 g baby spinach
  • olive oil
  • garlic, crashed
  • 2 slices of white bread, cubed
  • 1 tea spoon of paprika
  • 1/2 tea spoon of ground cumin
  • 1 cup chicken stock
Rinse and drain the chickpeas. Steam the spinach, squeeze out the excess water, and roughly chop.

Combine with chickpeas.

Heal oil in a fry pan, add the garlic and white bread cubes, paprika, cumin and cook until the bread is crisp. Put the bread mixture in a blender, add the chicken stock and blend to a paste.
Combine the mixture with chickpeas and spinach and serve at room temperature, 

Mar 6, 2011


213, Barkly St, St Kilda

For many, Claypots bar needs no introduction, but it was my first visit there.

Where do I start, the food or the place? I pushed the door open and was overwhelmed: live music and signing, crowds on comfortable old couches along the walls. It didn't look like we can get a table.

A waiter picked up on my hesitation and led us straight down the maze of rooms which unfolded into a large leafy courtyard.

From our table I was looking inside to what appeared to be no less then Poseidon's kingdom. Every single creature from the ocean was on display, covered in ice.

We ordered chili crabs, grilled octopus and a sticky rice tagine clay pot.

We ate with our hands, covered in chili, sauce dripping down our wine glasses. Completely fitting in that bohemian and infections atmosphere.

Simply delicious chili crabs, with generous amounts of mussels, the dish was a winner for me.
I don't remember if I've ever licked my fingers in public, but that was the day and the place for it.

chili crabs and mussels

grilled octopus

Claypots Seafood & Wine on Urbanspoon

Mar 3, 2011


19 Fiztroy Street, St Kilda, Melbourne

There are only two of us, we know what the other likes and we easily forgive each other. It was my choice today, when I spotted a handsome Hispanic figure waiting in the doorway. "Elbowroom", - I was bluffing, I had no idea what it was like there, but how could I go wrong, we are on Fitzroy Street.

Table outside with full view of the bay, afternoon sun on my face. "You will not be disappointed", my confidence came from the menu, I could already imagine the flavours.

We shared the prawns infused with lemon and garlic, summer salad, tortillas and dips. Next, potato, chick pea and zucchini fritters, crispy and just a little spicy, gently softened by the fresh mint and creamy cucumber yogurt.

Delicious food disappeared as quickly as it came. St Kilda, a place where food gambles pay off and the bill comes inside the "Magic Carpet".

Audrey - Fitzroy Street graffitiElbow Room - seats outside

chick pea and zucchini fritters

prawns infused with lemon and garlic

bill comes inside the "Magic Carpet"

Elbow Room on Urbanspoon

Tarte aux Pommes - French apple tart that is.

French apple tart

See, this is just a cake really, but it is also something that tends to live in your memory for a while, and it has a small problem, if it is not gone right away, you will want to go back for more for as long as you know there is something to go back to...
What you will need:
  • 2-3 Granny Smith apples
  • 1 sheet of puff pastry
  • brown sugar
  • unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk 
Preheat the over to 200 C.
Apples need to be peeled and sliced into thin slices. Place puff pastry in a baking dish and add apples, placing them in rows, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with butter. Beat egg and milk together and brush on pastry boarder. Bake until golden brown.
On the subject of pastry
I felt that making a cake using a recipe from a French cook book (see my first post) and not to try and make the pastry was a crime. So, I did, and it turned out just fine, probably close to perfect.
To make puff pastry (or Pâte Feuilletée):(this will make 1 kilo of pastry; you will only need a half of this for the apple tart, but the rest can be kept in the freezer, waiting for another day to be used with sweet or savory filling)
  • a little bit of time
  • be brave, it is good to fail! 
  • 350g  + 150g plain flour
  • 50 g cold butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 180 ml water
  • 10 g sea salt
  • 400 g softened butter
Mix four and butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Combine egg yolk, water and salt, add to four and butter mixture and mix until a dough is formed.
Sprinkle some flower on your work surface and roll out the dough so it reaches 1 cm in thickness.
In a bowl, mix softened butter and flower together and spread evenly on top of dough. Fold the edges up, wrap in plastic and put in a fridge for 20 minutes. When you remove it from the fridge, roll it so it is again about 1 cm thick. Now, fold again and put back in the fridge for 20 more minutes. This needs to be repeated twice more, and rest the pastry for 1 hour before using it.
I did mention you will need some time to do this!

'Tolarno Bistro' as Christmas present

There could be no better present for Christmas. A book about how Melbourne became mesmerised with French food and Mirka Mora; about the place where she painted and entertained guests during the sixties. Tolarno Bistro was part of St Kilda as much as St Kilda is an essence of Melbourne, where the smell of food is mixed up with the smell of the sea.

Iain Hewitson and Bob Hart, thank you, thank you for giving me the pleasure of owing your creation. 

P.S. An apple tart was made with thoughts of all the others who tried and enjoyed this recipe, it will be shared with anyone interested, very soon. If you can only trust me, it is a joy to make and a delight to eat.
Tolarno Bistro - a book by Iain Hewitson and Bob Hart

Soupe au Pistou and a feeling of autumn

This summer was long and strangely humid. I am looking forward to a break from unrelenting, unforgiving heat. Dry leaves under my feet make me wonder, are they the victims of the heat or the first signs of autumn?
Autumn in Melbourne is nothing like European, when crying sky sets off the sadness in people, even the windy fireworks of leaves don't help. 

Here the days are sunny and mild, with chilli mornings and crisp nights. Thinking of autumn on a cool summer's day, I made Soupe au Pistou, a Provencal version of minestrone. After earning 'Your mum can cook' comment from my daughter's friend, I can confidently say it is simply the best soup I have ever made.

Autumn, please come, I am ready.

Soupe au Pistou

Recipe from Tolarno Bistro

I think the magic of this soup comes from the vegitable stock and basil pistou (Provencal version of pesto) recipies I found in this book as well (all below).
  • olive oil
  • 2 leeks, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 2 medium carots
  • 1 medium fennel bulb
  • 2 cups soup pasta
  • 400gm can of diced tomatoes
  • sea salt
  • freshly groud black pepper
  • 375gm cannellini beans
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 liters of vegetable stock
  • basil pistou
Heat oil in a large pot and saute leeks, celery, potatoes, carrots and fennel until tender. Add the stock and pasta. Cook pasta pasta until it is al dente, adding more stock if needed. Add cannelini beans, peas, zucchini and pistou and cook for 5 minutes or so.
 Vegetable stock makes 2 - 3 litres 
  • 2 leeks, coarsely chopped
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 6 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • fresh herbs
  • 2 lemons, sliced
  • 4 litres of water
  • 2 star anise
  • white wine
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Put everything in a large pot and boil for 20 minutes. Cool and strain.

Basil Pistou 
Makes about 1 cup
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 24 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 8 table spoons grated parmesan 
  • sea salt 
  • freshly ground black pepper
Whiz garlic and basil in a processor, then add oil, through feeder tube. Remove to a bowl and mix in the parmesan. Season to taste.

Feb 8, 2011

Hopefull green in a dark blue night

I often think my life is like a kaleidoscope - I turn it a bit and the picture changes. I look through the coloured glass sparkling on the sun. I look for hopeful greens, joyful blues, passionate reds.

Today I colour my day green, and go to Victoria Market,  Mecca for all Melbournian food lovers.

For me it is as much a pleasure trip as one can be allowed on a busy working day in the city. I often have some idea of what I want to buy, but I am really bad at sticking to my plan or budget. But really, I can hardly be blamed for spending a tiny bit more on an unplanned piece of cheese or seductive chili olives from the deli.

After diving into the smells and sounds of the market, I re-appear 30 minutes later with what I am hoping will become a simple and tasty dinner. I don't pretend I am a serous chef, and the pressure of blowing people away with what I make is not for me (secretly, of course, I hope to make someone incredibly happy). Today my plan included Parmesan crumbed pork with green salad, slow roasted tomatoes with ciabatta and feta.

Did someone say wine? Never forget passionate red.

Kaleidoscope of life turns again, dark blue night settles in and the food is ready to be served.