September 11, 2011

Basque Dinner

On Thursday a good chef friend of mine and I put on a dinner at Sydney's Basque Club. Tustra from The Big Paella and I are trying to narrow our field down to the jobs that we actually really want to do instead of the food we must do to survive!
When you have been cooking professionally for over 20 years (eek!) you start to get a bit fed up with all the bulls----t of the kitchen world (and believe me there is a lot). Cooking for a job realistically can get a bit ho hum. It's not all wow and ooh behind the scenes....sorry to burst that bubble for any of you who were thinking of giving up your current job and stepping into the throws of a commercial kitchen.

Tustra is from the Canary Islands, he has cooked all over the world and now in Australia. The man is infatuated with this great big country of ours, so it has been his mission for the past 10 or so years to live and cook all over the Great Southern land. Every time I work with him we have a great time. We laugh, work hard and then laugh some more so when he asked me if I'd like to start doing dinners around Sydney, food we actually WANTED to cook I thought it was an awesome idea.

Our first night was Thursday just sides are still hurting from all the laughter and tomfoolery. Our first group was small but totally successful. Because the Basque club kindly let us use their building we wanted to honour their tradition and incorporate our ideas into their history and I think it worked a treat. Lots and lots of pintxos were eaten and well received, I shall now give you a photo commentary so I don't bore you with the details.....

We started with beautiful Sydney Rock oysters topped with an orange and balsamic salsa, plus oregano and garlic marinated olives

after this little taste we moved on to jamon with a drop of aioli and served with lightly roasted cherry tomatoes and coriander flavoured white anchovies.
I love how pintxo's are mainly served on slices of bread.....according to Tustra you are not meant to eat all the pieces of bread, it is more like a vehicle for the flavoured toppings, however, I remember when Nic and I were travelling Spain on a shoestring we ate everything!

Tustra made a delicious lemon and bacalao mix that we stuffed into these beautiful mini Spanish capsicums. We also served the traditional omelet with mushrooms and spinach.

Moving right along to our meat pintxo where we couldn't go past some beautiful, freshly made chorizo. Tustra went to visit his Spanish supplier for this wonderful sausage while I rolled apricots in a pork fillet, lightly poached and sliced it then warmed the slices in the oven and served it with sweet caramelized onions.

Just when everyone thought the show was over we managed to keep their attention with slow braised beef cheeks served with sauteed asparagus and oyster mushrooms. No wonder our lovely server Kris was surprised when we told her to set for the main course!

In traditional Basque style we served fish and potatoes. Roast ling fillet served on a baked potato with a parsley volute made from the mussel and pippi stock and garnished with a boiled egg, asparagus and squid ink squeeze.

By this stage we allowed ourselves a beer and a little light entertainment while everyone was finishing up. I think we might of got a little too relaxed because I totally forgot to take pictures of the churro and chocolate sauce for dessert!

Once the kitchen was spotless and the guests stopped dragging us out to say thank you and "come have a drink" my eyes were starting to glaze over and the legs were a little sore. I think it had something to do with the 5.30am start that morning and the 100 sandwiches I had to make before I got to have a little fun in the kitchen. Tustra being the good Spaniard managed to party into the night with the guests until 1.30am. I however had to get up at the crack of dawn and make morning tea for 60, so 11am was super late for me.  
Sore legs and all, I will do this again and again. It is why I first started my trade many moons ago and I am just happy I have realised once again why I love working with food and great people and why I need to pursue the bits I love and not necessarily focus on the part of cooking I loathe- sandwiches!
Stay tuned for our next location dinner.

September 5, 2011

Chocolate Pie

I bought a pie crust last week...this is not something I thought I would ever say! However, my lovely blogger friend Susie wrote a post a couple weeks ago about a delicious chocolate pie she recently made and her pictures were VERY convincing.
After reading through the recipe I thought I would give it ago seeing as I hadn't done much in the dessert line lately. I also thought I had a can of evaporated milk in the cupboard, alas, there were only two cans of condensed milk and after some through reading on both I decided NOT use one instead of the other....this small decision is why the pie crust went back in the freezer and it has taken me over a week and a half to finally buy the correct milk! Does anyone else out there feel like the days are just moving way to fast at the moment?
Anyhow, Susie you were right this is a very quick and easy dessert to whip up, however, I am thinking I got lost in translation and didn't quite manage to deliver a pie as magnificent as yours!

I had to convert ounces into grams and I could of got a little heavy when gigging the figures because when I look at Susie's pie here, as you can see hers is firm but silky where mine looks more silky centred than voluptuously firm and has a spongy skin (Help-is what I am saying Susie!!)

As you can see from Alex licking the bowl, the mixture is pretty darn tasty and I have to say when we sat down to a piece with a cup of tea yesterday I was impressed with the flavour. I have decided to remove a few grams from my original 150 something grams of evaporated milk down to 145grams and see how that works but first we need to polish off the rest of this pie and from the oohhh's and arrgh's coming from the boys that won't take long!

September 4, 2011

Father's Day waffles!

Firstly I have to send a big Happy Father's Day greeting to my dad.

 I let the weeks go by and never got to the post office...... Not only did I not send a card, my sister the more organised one out of his daughters actually got him a card/present but thought it was the following Sunday. Poor dad had to wake up this morning with nothing from his daughters except a couple of phone calls and excuses. So I am terribly sorry dad and l promise to make it up to you with yummy food when you come for Christmas this year. As you can see, my dad is of the adventurous variety so something tells me he'll have a fabulous day no matter what!

Actually, when you look at your life as you grow older, there are quite a few patterns forming without you really realizing the similarities of your childhood versus adult life.
 Strong childhood memories for me are food and music. When I was growing up there was always music in our house. The weekends were for dad to play his records all day long (or was it just the mornings?) while mum always seemed to have something brewing in the kitchen.
To this day whenever I hear a Fleetwood Mac tune or Doctor Hook song it takes me back to the green carpet of our one-time living room in Tiwi (a suburb of Darwin) and dad drumming his fingers and thumbs on anything and everything around. Memories of a few decades ago mirror the scene of today.

What to get Nic for Father's Day? Music was on top of the boys list, along with a Doctor Who iPhone case (not quite the same as Doctor Hook!) and a book, not to mention a 'special' breakfast. Max pointed it out that Nic should choose breakfast seeing as it was fathers day.

"What do you think boys?" was Nic's reply and without a moment of hesitation the three of them in unison yelled out


Nic was very happy with his itunes gift card and instead of Doctor Hook playing on the record player we had The Killers humming out of itunes while I made a batch of waffles in the kitchen. A scene that felt perfectly comfortable and if I had been doing it all my life, when in fact I was only watching all those years ago without even realizing the enjoyment I had of such an everyday moment.

Basic waffle mix
2 cups plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
pinch salt
4 tablespoons sugar
4 eggs (separated)
100grams melted butter
21/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and leave until needed. (you will have to tip the w/m husks back into the mix)
Separate egg and place the yolks into the centre of the dry ingredients.
Whisk the whites in a medium bowl until peaks just start to stiffen.
Gradually pour in the milk and melted butter into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Your batter will be lumpy and that is all good.
Add vanilla essence and egg whites then fold until combined.
Heat up your waffle iron and begin cooking!