Thursday, November 25, 2010

The golden rules of freezing

As I’m often asked about freezing I thought it was high time I posted a summary of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up over many years cooking and eating.

Why freeze?
~ Freezing will preserve flavour, colour, texture and nutritional value as long as foods are frozen frozen fresh and in good condition
~ Great way to store leftovers and avoid waste
~ Out-of-season produce is available all year
~ Food bacteria stops growing (note: freezing won’t kill bacteria but does stop it growing)
~ Partial freezing of meat or fish makes it easier to slice, eg carpaccio

Why not?
~ Organisation is required for defrosting; frozen food normally stored in the fridge should be defrosted in the fridge
~ Some foods will spoil, eg food with high salt like ham or high sugar like jam can be watery when defrosted

What should I freeze?
~ Liquid based dishes – such as stock, soup, sauces and casseroles
~ Berries – such as strawberries (place in a single layer on a baking tray to open freeze, when frozen transfer to container and return to freezer)
~ Muffins, cakes and slices – double wrap (plastic and foil) and store in a plastic bag
~ Egg whites – try individually in an ice-cube tray
~ Meat – remove from butcher’s packing and wrap portions separately in plastic wrap
~ Mince – in a plastic bag and flattened to allow for even defrosting
~ Nuts – stops them becoming rancid
~ Ice-cream – cover surface with plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn
~ Pastry – make sure it is well wrapped

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy 150th birthday Tahbilk!

I have long been drinking Tahbilk wines, one of Victoria’s oldest wineries and family owned by the Purbrick family since 1925. I was delighted to be invited to celebrate this milestone at a grand dinner at the Plaza Ballroom in Melbourne last month – not the least because I had the pleasure of going there to do a beautiful pictorial story last February.

John Caldon with Rosa Purbrick and me

Guests, including many generations of the Purbrick family with their extended families and friends delighted in the Rococco themed dinner. Also in attendance were a who’s who of the wine industry, notably CEOs from Australia’s First Families of Wine (of which Tahbilk is a founding member) such as Robert Hill Smith (Yalumba), Stephen Henschke (Henschke), Bruce Tyrrell (Tyrrell’s), Ross Brown (Brown Brothers), Colin Campbell (Campbell’s), Peter Barry (Jim Barry Wines), Mitchell Taylor (Taylor’s), Doug McWilliam (McWilliam’s), Chester Osborn (d’Arenberg), Coonawarra’s Bruce Redman and Ian Hollick, and Victoria’s Stephen Shelmerdine.

The food and wine matching were well thought out – 2008 Tahbilk Sparkling Marsanne with canapés, a bracket of 2002 and 2009 Tahbilk Marsanne with the tiger prawn agnolotto entrée and 1999 Tahbilk Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 2004 Tahbilk ESP Cabernet with the seared Asian-style duck with ginger, orange and palm sugar sauce main. Finally Tahbilk’s iconic 2004 1860 Vines Shiraz and ESP Shiraz perfectly complemented a selection of Australian cheeses.

When not focusing on the excellent food and wine, James Morrison and his band with vocalist Emma Pask, charmed guests with their jazz. Some even ventured onto the dance floor.

Then it was time for cake, a sweet version of Tahbilk’s iconic tower which was wheeled out after CEO Alister Purbrikc’s speech and cut by all the family. Guests’ rendition of Happy Birthday raised the rafters!

Happy Birthday Tahbilk!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The easiest chocolate almond fondant pudding ever – and gluten-free too!

Really, these delicious, gooey puddings are almost too easy! They can be mixed together quickly in a saucepan (saves washing up), spooned into greased muffin tins or ramekins and baked immediately or set aside for an hour or two or even overnight – whatever suits your schedule. One important point … before baking don’t forget to insert a square or two of chocolate into each pudding to achieve the classic fondant melting interior. These decadent puddings are excellent with cream or ice-cream or, my favourite, thick Greek yoghurt. I find the slight sourness balances the richness of the chocolate.

These crowd pleasing puddings are perfect just as they are, but if you are seeking variety, add a teaspoon of finely grated orange rind or a tablespoon of strong coffee to the pudding mixture. And, for a really unusual twist (and a little heat), add a pinch of dried red chili flakes.

The other variation I was thinking is substituting ground hazelnuts or pistachios for the almonds. I’ll let you know how it goes …

Click here for the recipe on my main site.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Regional food stars at Brisbane Good Food & Wine Show - starts this Friday

For the third year running I’ve been asked to host the Lyndey Milan Producers’ Market at the Brisbane Good Food & Wine Show.

My friends at Forever Knives will be there too and I’ll be demonstrating my Brilliant Cut Knife on their stand at various times throughout the day. Make sure you come and say Hi.

I’ll also be chatting and interviewing these fabulous artisan and boutique producers at the Lyndey Milan Regional Producers’ Market:

Hills of Byron is an award winning, plantation roasted coffee from the Bryon Bay hinterland with rich flavour and aroma. The 18,000 Arabica coffee trees meet pesticide and herbicide free growing standards prior to being processed, roasted and packed. A judge at a recent coffee competition stated ‘the coffee has a good sweet aroma with hints of pleasant strong toasty fragrance and mix of molasses or honey’.

Silverwood Organics from Longreach in western Queensland sells and delivers organic meat packs. Silverwood grows the dorper breed of sheep which naturally shed their wool and are also known for their excellent carcass and superior eating quality. The free-range lamb is grown in natural Mitchell grass paddocks without chemicals or supplement feeding. To avoid undue stress, the lamb is processed locally by an organically accredited processor. Half or full packs with associated cuts are available online for home delivery. Just one taste and you will be convinced.

Located in the Barossa Valley, Careme Pastry, is owned and operated by William and Claire Wood, who, coming from a restaurant background we were always disappointed with the quality of commercially available ready-made pastry. Careme only use natural ingredients, free of additives, preservatives and colours to produce their hand-crafted pastry products. Their product range includes ready to use pastry dough: all butter puff, sour cream shortcrust, vanilla bean sweet shortcrust and dark chocolate shortcrust as well as a range of tarts, pies, savoury galettes and sweet tarts and croissants and pastries. Stephanie Alexander commends it!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Steak Haus – new neighbourhood gem

Don’t you love finding a great new and affordable local?

After finishing a meeting my colleagues and I headed out for a quick dinner in the Potts Point / Kings Cross environs. I had previously heard about the very newly opened (a few days prior) Steak Haus and was keen to give it a try. Situated around the corner from the Coke sign in the premises that formerly housed Blanco, the interior screams chic with the obligatory communal table, low lighting and friendly wait staff. In a word, stylish. One thing I didn’t like was the soundtrack – maybe it is just me but the Gypsy Kings (I think?) on repeat was just a tad too much – and too loud. Also, as the night wore on it was harder and harder to hear with the buzz from other tables. That aside, the concept is great, the food good and the whole very budget friendly.

The Steak Haus offers a three course set menu with a few options for $30. Kind of like the $5 pub steak, but oh so much better.

The one size fits all entrée was a classic bistro style green salad taken to the next level with a herby mustard dressing and fresh crunchy walnuts and buttery croutons offering toothsome crunch.

Mains came with frites – shoestring fries to the non-Francophiles – and lots of them. They were good too. Protein choices were steak or tuna plus a vegetarian option. Our table sampled the steak and tuna. The thinly cut steaks (again a generous serve) appeared sporting char grill marks, and all were cooked as ordered, as was the tuna.

Accompanying the protein and frites was a selection of four sauces served DIY style in the middle of the table. My pick was the Chimmie Churrie (sic), although I would have enjoyed the Le Paris (with café de paris butter style flavours) a little more if it hadn’t separated. Chilli and mushroom sauces made up the quartet.

L to R le Paris, mushroom, chimmie churrie (sic) and chilli

The wine list was also approachable – with a concise selection of good local and international (France, Italy, New Zealand and Argentinian) offerings. We enjoyed a couple of bottles of 2009 Merricks Creek Pinot Noir which seemed to suit both the meat and fish eaters.

There were four desserts in the set menu and like good sports, we decided to have one of each. The usual suspects appeared – panna cotta, macaron, profiterole and brulee, however all were sweetly satisfying, especially the profiterole adorned with crisp caramel and the vivid pink macaron with creamy white chocolate filling. Apparently all house-made.

For a restaurant that has only been open for a couple of weeks, they are certainly getting a lot right. It’s one you could go back to time and again, as long as the noise didn’t put you off.

Steak Haus is at 5-9a Roslyn Avenue, Potts Point.  Telephone 02 8065 1812.  As yet there is no website.