Monday, May 31, 2010

Savour Tasmania wrap up: Demon chef Alvin Leung at Mee Wah and Maggie & Simon’s Masterclass

I recently wrote about Savour Tasmania and having just returned from Hobart, wanted to share further details and images with you.

I was thrilled to be part of the second annual Savour Tasmania, an epicurean festival featuring Australian and international chefs and fabulous Tasmanian produce. Beginning on 27 May there were various sell-out degustation dinners and masterclasses for students and the public in Hobart and next weekend more events in Launceston and Burnie.

Guests came from around Australia to dine on the cuisine of Spain’s Paco Roncero from Casino de Madrid, Alvin Leung from Bo Innovation in Hong Kong, Philippe Nouzillat from Brasserie Wolf in Singapore, New Zealand’s Martin Bosley from Martin Bosley’s in Wellington and our very own The Cook and the Chef, Maggie Beer and Simon Bryant.

I mced two dinners by Alvin Leung, whose restaurant, Bo Innovation in Hong Kong recently catapulted up the San Pellegrino Top 100 List from position 97 to position 65. Held at Mee Wah, which brought elegant and sophisticated Cantonese dining to Tasmania, the dinners were as much fun as they were innovative.

Alvin, with his streaked hair, sunglasses, funky clothes and ‘Demon chef’ tattoos, held the audience captivated as he explained the motivation behind his dishes created with the science of molecular gastronomy. All had a recognisable basis in Chinese cuisine from his Molecular ‘xiao long bao’ transforming the much loved Shanghainese dumpling into a sphere which popped in the mouth with familiar flavours

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hunting the truffle

One of the ultimate food experiences would have be eating truffles. Once smelt and enjoyed they are unforgettable. There are both black and white truffles, the latter principally from the Alba region of Italy. However, black truffles are also grown in Australia and are beginning to get some critical mass.

The good news is that not living in Europe is therefore no longer a barrier to hunting the mysterious black diamond. Imagine plucking one of these prized fungi from the earth and inhaling that evocative aroma.
The truffle industry in Australia in certainly burgeoning, however truffles have been successfully grown in all Australian states – but they can take up to 10 years to grow. What a long and tantalising wait. If you are interested in growing your own or want more info about the Australian industry click here.

To experience first-hand the joys of the truffle hunting, a number of farms around Australia offer hunting. And if you have a spare weekend in June, July, August or September why not indulge.

Here are some suggestions:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Savouring Tasmania at Savour Tasmania

The countdown has begun to one of the best food festivals in Australia – Savour Tasmania – a celebration of the outstanding regional produce from Tasmania combined with Australian and international talent.

It takes place in two locations:
27 May – 29 May Hobart
5 June – 6 June Burnie & Launceston

The inaugural festival in 2009 was a sell out success and this year’s program looks to be just as exciting with an interesting line up of degustation dinners, lunches and masterclasses.

I’ll be mcing two dinners at Me Wah Restaurant, Sandy Bay, entitled ‘Deconstructed Dining by Hong Kong’s demon chef, Alvin Leung’. I met Alvin from Bo Innovation when he was in Australia for the Sydney International Food Festival. He is one lively chef, as you might tell from his picture, so should keep things moving and far from predictable.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yia sas from Crete

Wild artichokes

Click here to read about my eating and drinking adventures in Crete.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Multi-tasking at Signorelli Gastronomia

Where’s the latest place to go for a casual Trattoria-style lunch or dinner, salumeria selection, drink at the bar, cooking class or a gourmet shopping experience which includes wine?

Signorelli Gastronomia at Doltone House, Darling Island Wharf, 48 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont is a haven for all things Italian with a local flavour. The whole space has been devised by Paul Signorelli and his sisters, Anna Cesarano and Nina Milazzo, as homage to their late father, the pioneering greengrocer and hospitality entrepreneur, Biaggio Signorelli. They’ve even commissioned a sculpture of him outside.

The antipasto bar

I had lunch there a couple of weeks ago with my mate Glenn Wheeler, from radio 2GB.

I first met Executive Chef James Viles of Doltone House’s Darling Island Wharf, years ago when I taught a special holiday class at Pittwater House school. I have seen him sporadically over the years and it was great to see him here. The menu encompassed wood-fired pizza, stone oven dishes (including porchetta with agrodolce – traditional Italian sweet and sour – requiring 24 hour pre-order), oysters, a comprehensive list of cured meats, primi, secondi and dolce.

The salumeria selection

We trialled a little of many menu items from the salumeria selection from crisp pizza and a wonderful squid ink risotto with Hawkesbury cuttlefish and soft poached egg. Though it’s hard to go past the goat’s cheese & broadbean ravioli with glazed golden beetroot or the beef served with either foie gras, gorgonzola or porcini butter. To finish, an affogato of ice-cream, espresso and little gel ''pearls'' of Nocello formed in a calcium bath.

After lunch I visited the cheese room and checked out the food offerings. Interestingly the focus was on local produce. Apparently Signorelli Gastronomia’s philosophy is to stock seasonal produce, mainly sourced within a 100 mile radius. I was told there are more than 500 product lines.

I stuck my head in the wine room – an impressive 200+ bottle collection of Australian and international wine as well as a shelf devoted to organic wine.

I left nearly three hours later with the biggest rib eye on the bone you’ve ever seen – of Flintstone proportions - it weighed 1.6 kilos. It cooked beautifully on the BBQ, some of the time with the lid down and rested nicely. It’s nearly time to go back and get another one.
The cooking school also looks interesting and there is a calendar of upcoming tastings, exhibitions and events on their website.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hummm hummingbird cake

This is one of my favourite cake recipes – I’ve been making it since I had my café back in the early 90s.

It is a southern USA speciality and while there are a number of theories behind it’s name, I like the idea that the cake was named after the Hummingbird who is drawn to sweet things – like this cake!

The addition of undrained crushed pineapple and banana makes this cake incredibly moist and it is especially delicious topped with cream cheese icing.

Here is a link to the recipe on my main site.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The stars of food safety

Canada Bay Council Mayor Angelo Tsirekas launched their Food Safety Star Rating Project yesterday at Aqua Vista Restaurant, Henley Marine Drive, Drummoyne.

While we are familiar with restaurants being rated with chefs hats or scores, now there is an easy to understand and easy to recognize rating system to allow us to make safe food choices; whether we are dining in a restaurant, café, club or pub or buying take-away food.

This ‘scores on door’ program will publicly recognise businesses that make a consistent and serious commitment to food safety. They will be awarded three, four or five stars depending on their level of compliance with criteria, designed to ensure that only the safest businesses receive star ratings.

More importantly, it teaches owners and employees good food practice – something which will stand them and their business in good stead.

I mc’ed the launch which, along with Mayor Angelo Tsirekas, was also attended by Alan Coutts, CEO, NSW Food Authority; Gary Sawyer, General Manager, City of Canada Bay Council plus other councilors and council employees and local Star Rated business owners and representatives.

Canada Bay Mayor Angelo Tsirekas with me, Aqua Vista Chef Anthony Ishak and Deputy CEO of NSW Food Authority Craig Sahlin

I hope other councils follow Canada Bay’s initiative. Food safety is taken ever more seriously and this Star Rating system is a guarantee to consumers that these food businesses have achieved a pre-determined standard which was independently assessed.

As I mentioned above, the launch was held at Aqua Vista Restaurant, who incidentally have achieved a 5 Star Rating. 

Executive Chef Anthony Ishak presented a delightful array of canapes, including this one which caught my eye as being not only quick and simple but also impressive.  Here is his recipe:

Skewered gnocchi and prawns with pesto

250g potato gnocchi, cooked until al dente, rinsed and drained
500g cooked medium prawns, peeled
1 teaspoon pesto
dash Tabasco, or to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Combine dressing ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add gnocchi and prawns, mix well and set aside for 10 minutes. Thread two gnocchi and one prawn on small bamboo skewers, starting with gnocchi. Serve immediately or make a few hours ahead and refrigerate, however return to room temperature for serving.

Thanks Anthony!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Quick Chicken Comfort Soup with Asian Flavours in 12 minutes

One of the things which gets me going is people saying “do you really cook a meal when you are home on your own?”. My response is “I deserve it. Why eat rubbish just because you are on your own?” I love good food and I love cooking and sometimes we don’t always have time for long leisurely sessions in the kitchen. It is also a worry that too many people don’t give themselves this respect when they are on their own, especially as they get older, when good nutrition is still important. Sure, shopping is often the issue but I have some simple, nurturing, nourishing ideas which can be made largely with things on hand. This “soup” is one of my favourites.

I love Asian flavours and the simplicity of a one-pot meal put together from pantry staples, a free-range chicken breast pulled out of the freezer and a few fresh ingredients. I vary it according to what I have to hand.

If you don’t fancy chicken, a firm white fish fillet would be an ideal substitute or go totally vegetarian with a few slices of firm tofu splashed with kecap manis.

Also, snow peas, beans or other chinese greens such as gai lan, pak choy or wombok would be great as an addition to or alternatives for the carrots, mushroom and bok choy.

Here is a link to the recipe on my main site.