Wednesday, March 18, 2009
See Ivy's Tahinopita recipe
Tahini, a lot of people mistake for tahina, which is a savory dip made from tahini which is a sesame seed paste. The dip also contains garlic, water, parsley and lemon juice and is a bit heavier than hummus but a great accompaniment to some nice fresh bread or with lamb kafta or shaftalia (Cypriot sausage).
See my savory tahina recipe
Tahinopita is usually made with a cinnamon dough which is then spread with a sweet tahina dip. It is then rolled and twisted into shapes.
Admittedly I did alter the recipe slightly, simply because I did not have any mastika or malheb, but I wanted to see what would happen it omitted, whether it would work, or just be a shear disaster. I made the dough, and as it was very wet, had to add a lot more flour to my mixture. I kneaded it and then let it rise for half an hour during which I made the sweet tahini dip from tahini, sugar and cinnamon (one of my favourite spices).
I cut the portions, rolled out each ball and spread the sweet tahina over it.
The next task is to successfully roll the dough into a sausage. Simple, some may thing, but as my tahina was quite thick, when I rolled it it ended up like a very large sausage which meant I was only able to twist them slightly. Usually when you make savory tahina you add water to make it thinner, so if you want a thin dip then add it, but I quite liked it thick. It was heavy but for people who actually like tahini, they will be able to handle it and really like it.
In my old school, non-fan forced, oven they took 20 mins to brown which was quite quick and I was very eager to try them. They were fat and looked like really nice knot rolls once baked. All crisp on the outside with a warm sweet filling, I was very eager to devour it. A bit too eager though as I went to bite into the staming hot bread, but because the tahina is also steaming hot, it actually burnt the top of my mouth which takes a couple of days at least to recover. I was then patient and let it cool down completely before eating the rest of it.
I hope you share them with yours too, but please don't burn your mouth as they are very hot.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
I was to choose the restaurant however, but left it quite late to make a choice and ended up informing my friends 3 days beforehand. I wanted something casual, with excellent food, wine and vegetarian friendly. I had a few options but decided on Cafe Sopra in Potts Point. The only bad point about this place, which is the ONLY negative, is that the do not take bookings, and if yo know me, I ALWAYS book, write it in my diary and lock it in. So to save my friends the heartache of waiting for a long time I planned to get there at least half an hour before all of them, so I could put my name down on the list. I got there at 6, which was a whole hour early, and one friend was already waiting. She had beaten me to it and put her name down already. Great I thought, but no, not great. We could not be seated until our whole party is there....and the rest of them arrived on time......7pm. We were reduced to waiting at the bar for the whole hour, watch guests be seated and food constantly go past us. It was like someone was watching us and enjoyed the tease.
Well we were lucky however, because once our last friend arrived they just had a table free outside. It was perfect. Not as chaotic as inside (although I actually like that) and in the fresh air. Menu's? No. We still had to walk inside and look on the huge blackboard to decide what we wanted. I was actually given the task of choosing for a few of them.
So for starters I decided on a little treat to wet our palettes, something I hadn't had in a very long time. Stuffed zucchini flowers. The cheeses used were ricotta, parmesan and tallegio as they each had a very distinct and differing flavour which I could pick up. They were crisp and beautifully battered, not too heavy, but not too light...........just right. Everyone seemed to like them too which was great. TICK
My dish was amazing. I loved it. Such simple flavours, but yet so effective and flavoursome. It was a linguine with scallops, parsley, a touch of chilli, lemon juice and olive oil, then garnished with toasted sourdough breadcrumbs. The balance of flavours were perfect, just enough chilli with that hint of citrus and fresh herbs made it a treat to have.
Jack was very happy we were all full as he finished the whole thing, and enjoyed every last bite.
So with this challenge I really wanted to impress Mum so that she would really enjoy the meal. I researched a lot about the different ways of making Paella, the pan, seafood and how one of the best bits is the crispy layer at the bottom of the pan.
However, I started off on the wrong food before I began cooking. It was a Friday night and I ended up finishing work an hour after I would normally. This meant that by the time I got to Hurstville, the fish store had closed which absolutely shattered me. I was therefore reduced to buying frozen prawns, and whatever other seafood I could find at the supermarket.
Once I go home I took all my ingredients and prepared them so they were all ready to go in at once. I crushed the many cloves of garlic, chopped the onion, sliced the peppers and uncorked the wine.
Originally I thought that 5 cloves was too much so I reduced how much I actually put in to about 4, but I think for the amount of rice and after simmering for so long, I think that it would have been fine....should have used my instincts, but I think I was still disappointed about the seafood.
One thing whilst I was cooking however, did boost my excitement, using a new ingredient. Saffron. I used the whole little box I bought, which probably weighed 0.5g and still cost around $6. It is such a fascinating product and the most expensive ingredient in the world. This is due to the way it needs to be hand picked and dried immediately withing the 35 days that the flower flourishes in Autumn. Although expensive, the smallest amount will give dishes a nice edge to them and a beautiful yellow colour. It is a staple ingredient in Paella and if I did not find it, would not even consider my dish of rice and other pieces a Paella.
Well the majority of things had gone in, it was time to let it simmer and not touch it so it could achieve that crusty layer at the bottom called soccarat. This is the prized part of the dish that everyone fights over. Once the rice soaked up a lot of the liquid it was time to put in the seafood, which I was still not happy about, but I suppose since I also have chicken and chorizo, it didn't need too much seafood to make it a hearty and meat filled dish.
It smelt wonderful though, the spices, garlic and seafood smells went all through my ridiculously small kitchen and before I knew it, it was done. Time to eat.
For my first try, after work on a Friday night, with access to only a handful of ingredients and without the proper pan or cooking it on a grill of my bbq or over coals, it was not too bad. It didn't have the same flavours as other Paellas I have eaten before, I think a little chilli would have improved it, but my Dad does not touch chilli, so that was not an option.
The verdict from my Mum? It was nice, the chicken was really tender and she thought it was better than the small Spanish place she went to for Valentine's in which she received ONE prawn, ONE mussel and ONE piece of chorizo. I think the thing she likes most about it was that she didn't have to cook for the night and could just relax and steal a glass of wine from my bottle while she relaxed after a week of work.
Even id the dish wasn't as I would have liked, my Mum's reaction and contentness, made it a success for me.
5 cloves garlic crushed
1 large spanish onion chopped finely
500g chicken thigh
2 peppers sliced thinly
3/4 cup white wine
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/4 cup arbrio rice
2 pinches saffron
500g prawns with shells on
1 cup scallops
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1. Sautee the garlic and onions for a few minutes until the onions become transluscent.
2. Add the chicken and chorizo and cook until lightly browned.
3. Add the peppers, wine, tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to the boil.
4. Once boiled, add the rice and saffron and simmer with a lid over the pan and leave for 15 minutes. (Do not stir as you want to achieve the crust)
5. Add the prawns and scallops and cook for a few minutes until just under cooked then add the peas and cook for a few more minutes.
6. To serve, spoon into a bowl, then top with some of the rice scraped off the bottom of the pan.
Sophia and I parked and walked to the end of the wharf, not seeing any signs, just hoping that the restaurant would be at the end, just like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. We were starving, slightly wet and just wanted to sit down and relax with a glass of wine. It went on forever but eventually we made it to the end. There was a restaurant, and I just hoped that when I told them the name of my reservation they would happily tell me they would take us to our table. YES. My female intuition did me justice as it was the restaurant and we were taken straight to our table.
Taken aback by the views and surroundings, we were seated at arguably the best table in the restaurant. It was right along the glass wall in the corner straight in front of the Harbour Bridge. The rain and mist coming off the Harbour made it a really mystical setting. I felt as though I was looking through a Snow Globe onto Sydney. The lights hanging from the open double ceiling were like fairy lights but the bigger bulbs resembled fire flies lighting up the space enough to keep the calm and soothing ambiance.
We glanced around, able to see both the open kitchen and sushi bar where our dishes would be made. The tiles behind the kitchen caught my eye as they were a metallic bronze with an amazing texture to them making them stand out from the other side of the restaurant. They really complimented the large wooden structure of the wharf which has preserved from the 1900's when it was used as a place to import wool, sugar, flour and other goods.
But enough about history, back to the food.
Thankfully we were served our warm sourdough bread rolls very soon after being seated, and we did not hesitate one bit, and devoured them in about 15 minutes. Of course many of your know how much I love Olive Oil, so it is a given that I asked for some to go with my bread, in addition to the smooth and creamy butter.
We were given our menu's and immediately shortlisted our options. I was tossing up between the Seared yellow fin tuna with ruby red grapefruit and sweet pork crackling, and the Seafood Tapas (not because of the current tapas fad, but just as it was a selection of many varieties of seafood prepared in different ways). After hearing what the tapas consisted of - cornet filled with scampi and creme fraiche, kingfish sashimi with a lime infsed cream, tuna tartare with almond cream and Avruga Cavier and finally a single oyster served with finger infused pearls and nigella seeds. HOWEVER, I was told about the tuna which was apparently the signature dish. I was torn, and although I wish I chose the signature dish, the waitress said she would get the tapas over the tuna as you can try a wider variety of things, and it was a lighter entree. That sold me.
I was instructed to eat from right to left as the flavours will build up. So I started with the cornet which was quite buttery which was good as the scampi was served cold and without a sauce, and was really amazing to have natural. You can taste its sweetness which isn't overpowered by heavy butter and herb sauces, but the creme fraiche and shallot made it a fresh and not too heavy combination but rather quite refreshing.
The Kingfish was amazing and probably the best sashimi kingfish I have ever had. The flavour was so strong and the fish was firm. It was served with shavings of cucumber and lime infused creme, although I could not taste the lime at all, but it didn't matter as I enjoyed the kingfish plain so much.
The tuna tartare was so surprising. The creme had such a nice texture and I would say was made by mixing almond meal with a pure thin creme. The tuna was really soft and once it hit your tongue, seemed to just melt in your mouth. Quite a mild flavour, probably as it was so fresh but a really interesting dish. I must have taken at least 10 minutes to eat it as each bite I took in the flavours and textures as it was something I did not expect but enjoyed every mouthful.
Lastly was a virgin coffin bay with ginger infused pearls. I was hanging out for this as oyster are one of my favourite pieces of seafood. I had never had pearls before but as I did not want to deconstruct this little spoonful to analyze each flavour, I just enjoyed the combination as was intended. It went down so smoothly. The oyster was delectable and its creaminess circulated around my mouth as I took in the flavours. It was a great way to finish the tapas and I was glad to choose this dish.
Sophia, unlike me, knew exactly what she wanted as soon as her eyes rolled over that dish. Caramelised white scallops with corn puree, cuttle fish risotto and basil foam. It looked diving, the scallops perfectly cooked, slightly crisp on the face but so soft and tender in the centre.
I ended up ordering the poached flounder with mud crab and vongole, served with scallop mouse. I was informed that the flounder for the night had been switched with the sand whiting. I thought that was fine, but once I started eating it I fond the fish a bit to mild for my liking and this was further enhanced being poached, not pan fried or baked. I did however, really enjoyed the crab and vongole, especially when I poured the scallop mouse over it, which was absolutely divine. So light and creamy, I could have eaten whole bowl full of it, and I waned to, especially when I got to the end and was scraping the last bits out with my fork.
Sophia ordered the Curry with pumpkin, mint and coconut, but I'm afraid I do not remember for the life of me what the fish was, but I think it was snapper. It was served with yogurt sauce which had cucumbers, capsicum and crab mixed through, roti, and spiced eggplant. The dish was quite spicy, and Soph had to reach for the water quite a few times, but mixed with some yogurt, or to dip the roti into, it was the perfect balance of flavours and levels of spice. The fish was nice and crisp on the outside but soft and cooked well.
For drinks I ordered a glass of red wine. It was a Coted-de-Rhone Villages ‘Massif d’Uchaux’ Domaine di la Renjarde. I originally tasted a wine from Austria but found it too peppery and woody for my liking. The Sommilier just read my face as I tasted it so he brought out the Cotes-de-Rhone and I really liked it. Full of berries it was very smooth and a bit bigger in flavour. Although it did not 'compliment' my fish like other white wines would have, I enjoyed it just as much by itself.
Sophia ordered a cocktail with passionfruit juice, lime, vodka and a few other bits and pieces. It was called 'Bikini Blast' and we laughed for a bit at the name. However, they brought out the wrong one for her. It was a caprioska and very strong. She had one sip then asked for less alcohol, but they then realised she got the wrong one in the first place.
The only criticism I could give is that I think the service could have been bit better. For a fine dining restaurant, they made quite few mistakes and weren't as smooth and out of the way as I would have thought. All of the food was beautifully presented with tastes that matched, but some lacked that wow factor that other restaurants offer.
Monday, March 9, 2009
Resting time (letting dough set): 30mins - 1hr
Cooking time: 15 mins
1 large bunch English spinach
50g Parmesan grated + extra to garnish (I used Grana Padano as I could not find Reggiano which is much nicer)
2 eggs lightly beaten
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp butter
150g pine nuts
3 large English Spinach leaves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1. Wash spinach and cook in a pot of boiling water. Once cooked, cool under running water and remove excess water with paper towels.
2. Chop spinach finely.
3. Add ricotta and spinach into a pot and cook for 3 minutes until excess moisture is absorbed.
4. Combine flour, eggs, nutmeg, butter, parmesan and ricotta mixture in a bowl. Add salt and pepper as necessary.
N.B. Mixture will be quite wet and will firm up after being in the fridge, but if too wet add additional flour.
5. Put mixture into the fridge for at least an hour until it stiffens a bit more.
6. In the meantime, cook the additional spinach for the sauce and chop into strips.
7. Once set, using a dessert spoon get balls of mixture and roll with your hands to form dumplings then coat with flour and set onto a plate until ready to cook.
8. After the gnocchi is ready, prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan with the pine nuts and nutmeg. Cook over a low heat for about 5 minutes until it starts to turn golden and burnt. Add the spinach and stir through.
9. To cook gnocchi bring a large saucepan of boiling water to boil and add the gnocchi in gently. The gnocchi will rise after a couple of minutes and continue to cook for 30 seconds afterwards.
10. Let the gnocchi rest in a bowl lined with paper towels to absorb water.
11. Plate gnocchi and top with sauce, grated parmesan and cracked pepper.
1 apple (I think a nice sweet variety like Pink Lady or Royal Gala are best)
2 tspns cinnamon
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
1 sheet puff pastry
1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
2. Cut apple into small cubes.
3. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl.
4. Cut a sheet of pastry into four squares. Put a quarter of the mixture into the centre of each square and then fold in the corners to close the pillow.
6. Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.
6 squares 70% Lindt broken into small pieces
1 sheet puff pastry
1. Cut sheet into 4 strips.
2. Put 1.5 blocks of Lindt in a line along the centre of each line.
3. Fold pastry around chocolate and press shut.
4. Wrap two strips around each other and place on a baking tray.
5. Bake until golden brown.6. Sprinkle with icing sugar to serve.