Aug 7, 2015

Poached quinces - a winter's antidote

If the reader prefers, this can be regarded simply as a poached quinces recipe. The one that gets you a ruby-red tenderness from the hard and inedible fruit.

As a matter of fact, when I came across it in Gourmet Traveller, I was completely desperate for an antidote to my winter blues.

Winter is not the type of fair you buy a ticket too. Like it or not, you are in attendance, with or without your scarf and gloves.

The daily orchestra of rain and never ending wind chorus sets sadness even in the most joyful of souls. This questionable composition plays out till its natural end, months in a row.

Deep in suburbia, I was ready for a battle. Armed with vanilla, cinnamon quill and lemons, I set my eyes on a pair of quinces.

I needed some burgundy from the virtues of poaching; I got the happiness and spring itself.


Ingredients
From Gourmet Traveller with some small changes.

800g organic coconut sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
2 lemon, cut in half
2 cinnamon quills
3 star anise
2 or 3 large quinces

Method

Place all ingredients apart from the quinces in an ovenproof pot and bring to the boil. 
Peel, cut and quarter the quinces, remove the cores.  Add to you a pot and bring to a simmer. Place in oven until quince are the desired tenderness and colour (between 2 to 3 hours for a ruby colour). To get a deep burgundy, leave them to cool completely overnight in oven.

Aug 1, 2015

The Juicy Story of Cherry Dumplings

Of course there is a better way to tell a story - intelligent characters, sophisticated dialogue, a well designed plot.

This little spiel is all about dumplings. Tender pastry morsels filled with cherries. Back in Kiev, growing up, it was far too lavish to get this any other time, but only when abundant warmth and summer sun would bear cherry season.

Away in holiday houses it was a family affair to gather round the garden table and spend hours on end creating little pockets filled sometimes with blueberries, but mostly cherries; by far the most popular and affordable.

Fresh from markets, they'd come in rattan baskets, still holding sun in their burgundy weight.

You'd need to brake the flesh apart and take the stone out; carefully collecting the thick and sweet juice for the sauce. You'd shield the cherry in delicate pastry florets, protecting the rest of the sweet berry nectar.

Allowed to eat with my hands, condensed cherry savor would cover my face and drip down my fingers.

That's how I learnt that messy things that happen in life were always for the best.


On the subject of pastry
(enough to make 60 dumplings)
50g plain flower
4 table spoons olive oil
250ml warm water

Cherry Filling
500 g sour cherries (fresh or frozen), pitted
100 g raw coconut sugar

Sour cream to serve, if desired.

Pile the flour on a work surface or board. Add the form water little by little, to make a soft dough. Add in olive olive, work together. Place in a bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap, so it does not dry out while you work on cherries.

Wash and stone the cherries, reserving the juice for later, it can be used to serve the dish, as it has a lot of beautiful flavor. Mix in the sugar, and taste to see if the sweetness is as you'd like it. You can always add more if your cherries are not too sweet.

Sprinkle the flour on your work surface. Roll out the pastry to about 3mm thick. Use a cup or a glass to cut out the circles, place them separately and cover again, so that they don't dry out.

Place some cherries in the middle of the circle, fold it in half and use your fingers to close the pastry pocket together. It's important to make sure this is properly sealed, so that it does not open when it will be boiled. 

Place the dumplings into the boiling water, a few at a time. Let them boil for a couple of minutes. Take them out and drain. Serve warm, with addition of reserved cherry juice and sour cream if desired. A little bit of sugar can also be sprinkled on top.

Jul 28, 2015

Mr Mister

161 Chapel Street, Windsor

Dear reader,

In my flavor-hunting mission I come to you with a warning.
Mr Mister plays with his food.

I am not against braking the table etiquette now and then, but take the mere fact of open omelette with roasted artichokes! That is a blow to morning eggs de la classique. And how can a proper person be expected to exhibit some table manners when pear and blue cheese are brought into play? The final blow comes with confit tomatoes. I am not even mentioning the prosciutto, lightly grilled for that matter.

I was not alone. My dear friend, a very refined lady, was fronted with baked beans and caramilsed pear combo.

I present these pictures to testify my case.

In a form of disapproval and left with no choice, we also ate a couple of croissants with extra coffee, and ordered lime, coconut and pistachio balls to go.

I feel we can't be blamed.
Open omelette of roasted artichokes, prosciutto, confit tomatoes, with rocket, pear and blue cheese salad. 

Baked beans with rocket and caramelised pear salad. 

Mon - Fri 6:30 am - 4:00 pm
Sta - Sun 7:00 am - 4:30 pm
mrmistercafe.com

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Jul 23, 2015

Comi-kitsch: Herring in Fur Coat

Italians grew up with Ai frutti di Mare; French - Beouf Bourguignon. My iron curtained past personified by Herring in Fur Coat. A pickled hearing dressed in seven layers of pungent veggie swagger.

Nothing embodies the kitsch of Soviet life, the outrageously tacky and overdone ways better then this playful dish. It's taste and color was a stark contradiction to the dreary life. The people, naively optimistic and desperate to get a kick out of color-grey-Comi-collage, served this magenta salad as a center piece at any gathering or celebration.

The Empire may be gone, but this souvenir from the Motherland has made it; from the communal flats of Kiev and Moscow to New York, Melbourne and Monte Carlo. Where the people go, Herring in Fur Coat goes too.

You  may think your palate is not ready for experiment. But baked beats, mixed with grated waxy potatoes and carrots, boiled eggs and home made mayonnaise on a bed of pickled herring flavored with onion and dill, is a surprisingly delightful entree.


Ingredients (for 20 cm diameter dish)
  • 1 medium beetroot
  • 1 large potato, such as Yukon Gold or 2 large fingerling potatoes
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 egg, hard-boiled
  • 2 tablespoons Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 fillet of pickled or salted herring in oil
  • dill, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise (ideally homemade)
  • salt to taste

Directions
  1. Roast beetroot wrapped in foil, until tender at the center.
  2. Cook potato and peeled carrot, until tender.  
  3. While vegetables are cooking, make the herring mixture: remove fillet from package and reserve 2 tablespoons of the oil. If using pickled herring, you will need 2 tablespoons of sunflower or vegetable oil. Dice the herring fillet. In a small bowl, mix together the diced herring, chopped dill, diced Spanish onion and reserved oil. Set aside.
  4. Peel the hard-boiled egg. Separate the white from the yolk. Using a spoon or your hand, push the whites through the mesh of a sieve. Set aside. Clean the sieve and now do the same with the yolks. Place in a separate bowl.
  5. When vegetables are cool enough to handle, peel skin off potato, grate it and set aside. 
  6. Grate carrot. Place in another small bowl. 
  7. Peel and grate the beetroot and set aside.

Assembly 

  1. Before assembling, check if all are room temperature. 
  2. Place your hearing mixture the bottom of your dish. Use the back of the a spoon to smooth it out so it forms an even layer. Season with salt.
  3. Add the grated potatoes. Level with the spoon again.
  4. Add the grated beetroot and level again. Season with salt.
  5. Garnish with egg white, egg yolks and any leftover dill. 
  6. Serve immediately.

Jul 19, 2015

Drugstore Espresso raising the anti

194 Toorak Road, South Yarra, Melbourne

It's hard to get any hotter than this split-level space.  The appeal is very calculated, and it should be; from striking murals to cold drippers display and phrenology by L.N. Fowler craniums, nothing is left to a chance.

Same goes for the food and coffee. Bold and exiting, they raise the anti with some unusual brew such as Pour Over and Cold Drip.  My slow cooked duck ragu with spiced mixed beans, smoked chorizo, feta, and poached egg was pure melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

It's not a major thrill to find a good spot in Melbourne these days. In the past few years we have been so completely spoilt for choice. Equally so it is hard to stand out exactly for the same reason. Drugstore Espresso has done exactly that, lucky South Yarra dwellers.


Mon - Fri 7:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sta - Sun 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
drugstoreespresso.com.au



Slow cooked duck ragu with spiced mixed beans, smoked chorizo, feta, topped with a poaching egg & crispy sourdough.


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Jul 15, 2015

Cabbage rolls

My grocery shopping is an impromptu exercise; I've given up on lists completely. Instead, I scout for appearance and prices, getting what I fancy most on the day.

Admittedly, there are a few problems with this frivolous approach. Aside from at times forgetting the essentials, you could also end up with some surprising vittles in your pantry.

Letting loose in my latest spree left me with a sizable cabbage in my trolley. That could only mean an afternoon of rolling, poaching and stuffing. 

Sorry if I am boring you. I completely understand if your desire is to get to the cabbage folding exercise of your own. It's worth it. Now, down to the meaty, saucy bits, the recipe below covers them all.

Cabbage rolls are very popular in Eastern Europe. No celebration is complete without them on the table. Even though they might not look it, they are very easy to make. A little time is needed to do the rolling and stuffing, but if you've got some spare hands around, and a glass of wine, this can be a bit of fun as well.

I have used meat in this recipe, but equally, vegetables can be used instead; some sautéed carrots with lemon and marjoram for example.

Ingredients
1 whole white cabbage
200g long grain rice
2 large onions
1 carrot
1 egg
1kg mince (beef, pork, veal)
parsley to add to the minced mixture
olive oil
salt, pepper

Tomato sauce
200g Tomato paste
4 table spoons of Sour Cream
Vegetable stock reserved from poaching cabbage

Method
Use the knife to cut the cabbage cob out. Let the whole cabbage boil for a few minutes, take it out and let it cool down. Reserve the water for your sauce later on.

Cook the rice just a little, as it will be cooked again in the cabbage and set aside. Brown off the onions and shredded carrots in some olive oil. Mix the mince, egg, rice and onion/carrot mixture together.

Take cabbage leaves apart gently, take care not to brake them. Cut out any think white veins. Cut any small or broken leaves and place at the bottom of your pot.

Place about a tablespoon of your mince mixture on each cabbage leave; wrap the leave around to form a little parcel. Place the parcels in your pot.

Mix your reserved cabbage stock, tomato paste and sour cream to create a sauce. Gently pour this over the cabbage leaves to cover them completely. Gently simmer for 1 1/2. Serve with some sour cream on the side.

Jul 11, 2015

Bancroft Brewers

480A Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick

Elsternwick just got saucy.The newly opened Bancroft Brewers offers quite a range of flare, from specialty coffee and house made bagels to their street art murals. 

The Bancroft name's connection to Melbourne's coffee history is in the menu. The list is on with batch and cold brew, to espresso-filled coconuts. 

Not shy on the European and local wine selection, you can pair it with Hopkins River wagyu beef and pickles or shitake mushroom miso soup for lunch.

And when my grain salad evoked the 'can I have what she's having?' moment from the next table, I thought, what else do you want from a local cafe? I wanted more coffee.

Opening hours:
Mon - Fri 7:00 am - 4 pm
Sat - Sun 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
instagram.com/bancroftbrewers


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Jul 8, 2015

Apple and blueberry pancakes

These small, sweet pancakes were my favorite growing up. I remember whole apple slices being browned in the still sizzling pan. Fond memories of the place where I grew up, in the country that doesn't exist. 

I often think I have two lives. My first twenty years spent on steep hills above Dnepr. Heavy chestnut tree blossoms and heady lilac flood the streets as you climb back up from the river. Kiev. The next twenty five are coming to an end in sunburned, windswept Melbourne. 

One day there will be a pen, sharp and witty, factual and insightful, that will tell the whole story. Chaotic, intense and often agonizing times, that pushed a whole generation away from home. 

And I, for now, just keep my food memories to connect what I had been with what I have become. 


Apple and Blueberry Pancakes - Recipe
Whisk 2 eggs, sour cream, milk and sugar together. Add self-raising flower to form a batter. Slice apples into small cubes, add to the mixture along with some blueberries.

Melt some butter in a hot frying pan. Spoon a dollop of the batter to form a pancake. Fry for a couple of minutes and turn on the other side.

I added some rosemary flowers from my garden together with a little bit of pineapple salsa for some extra flavor once the pancakes were ready.



Jun 30, 2015

Life of a working guy sandwich

Earl Canteen
500 Bourke, Lt Bourke St courtyard, Melbourne

It is not terribly exciting to be a sandwich. Like it or not, but you need to know your place in the stylish world of delectables.

You can't compare yourself to the ever popular deserts. These snobby chocolate types, covered in fresh strawberries won’t even look your way. You have no chance with fancy salads and hearty soups, they are allowed to play with ingredients, know so well what's 'in' this season and can make themselves look very handsome.

It is very hard to get noticed when you are a working guy sandwich. When all you can have is a simple filing and an even simpler purpose - feed those office types, rushing about their daily business. They will have their time later, with sophisticated dinner sorts, but now all they want is a quick bite for lunch.

I am not being totally honest here.  If you are a sandwich from Earl Canteen, made to order, with the choices of roast pumpkin and gorgonzola piccante, or free-range pork belly, apple, cabbage & fennel, you know that you've made it. You are on par with the sit down dinners, served at night, with dim lights and adults only conversations.

I am one of those selected few, hand made, from Earl Canteen, an aristocrat of a sandwich.

I am well aware that I will not even survive past lunch time. But isn't this the point? A life very short, but spectacular, where every moment counts?

Earl Canteen street view
Earl Canteen lunch box




Earl Canteen gorgonzola pumpkin sandwich
EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon

May 18, 2015

Life goals and The Perfect Drop

5 Howe Street,
Daylesford, Victoria, Australia

I do not have many ambitions or a set path in life to follow. I've always been driven by passion and curiosity, letting in logic and reason only in a road-safety type manner; just to avoid a major collusion when at a fork in the road.

Through all of that I've always had two goals: to see as much of the world as I can and to enjoy the many forms and artistry of cooking.

A short time ago, while in Daylesford we visited The Perfect Drop. A nourishing meal, created from locally sourced produce, a cosy room, live music. The Perfect Drop was the place where I finally understood that at 45 I will be perfectly happy to walk down the corporate ladder, take a country road and leave my business cards behind. At least for a little while. I, who always agonize about slightest of decisions, was sure of this one. I have decided to take as much time as I need to let myself discover who I really am, travel, cook, blog, and live.

The moral of the story? I am excited to see where all of the above will take me. I am ready to fail, at least I will know I tried. And, even if you don't need a visit from life altering ideas, do book a table at The Perfect Drop, if only for their char grilled beef eye fillet.