Thursday, 23 August 2012

French Onion Soup

Recently we were invited to friend's French theme dinner party, and a good portion of the courses came from Julia Child's recipes, which was one set of books we didn't own, so a trip to Books for Cooks the week after had us 2 vintage editions of both volumes in our hot little hands. 

It's fair to say that we are a little obsessed with French Onion Soup at the moment. We had a great one (omittidely steaming hot) at the Station Hotel in Footscray, the recent dinner party and previous home made batches. So time again to test a new recipe French Onion Soup from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. This was made in our large Le Creuset as we needed to travel with this batch.

Underestimated how much bread was required for the Le Creuset for the bulk cook.
Onions were sliced on a mandolin, sweated in oil and butter until caramelised, flour was added, beef stock and vermouth to simmer for a couple of hours. Cognac added just before ready to serve, and croutons and swiss cheese grilled vin the oven to finish.

Verdict: Delicious, I could eat this all day. I prefer the onions sliced a little thicker, but now we are getting nit picky.
Would we make this again?: It's a time consuming one, but so worth it. nothing like if you have a couple of hours free on a cold Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012


Cassoulet from The Butcher. This book is part of a Providore series, so we have a couple of the other books in the series, The Dairy and The Green Grocer. They all are pretty great, but to be fair we have  yet to cook anything out of them .. until now. Enter cassoulet - this was one of those French dishes that were on our must eat in France last year, as well as our Champagne a day rule (tough rules we set ourselves). Unfortunately towards the end of the trip cassoulet was still on the 'to try' list.

We ignored all of the locals restaurant recommendations and strolled into an authentic looking tourist trap in Bordeaux.

Now for future references we will know the correct terminology.


It came complete with gingham table cloths, rude etchings on the menu and copper pots swinging from the walls. Not the most delicious restaurant, the cassoulet here was heart burn inducing.  I much prefer the version we made.

So we are lucky that this one here was a winner. Four meats, toulouse and french boiled sausage, confit duck and lamb, with some haricot beans for good measure.

Verdict: Great winter meal, very warming.

Would we make this again?: Yeah, I can imagine making this to impress my Dad. Four meats and beans, I'll just have to be sure not to sit too close to him on the couch after dinner!

Parsnip chips

Recently we had a little shuffle around the kitchen, ended up moving the microwave out into the laundry (we were only really using it to soften butter anyway) to give ourselves a little more bench space. It was a day before that the suggestion of getting a deep fryer was put forward by a bright spark -perhaps it could fill the microwave shaped gap on our bench? A deep fryer is really not necessary, but we could forced to reconsider our stance considering that Troy's little parsnip chips from Mr Wilkinson's Favourite Vegetables were delightful.

Some baby beets were added in the mix with the parsnip sliced thinly, and fried in canola oil. They were served as a garnish on our dinner of lamb terrine, cauliflower puree, quick pickled cauliflower (also from this cookbook) potato and chorizo gratin and the crunchy chips on top.

Verdict: Yum.
Would we make this again?: All fried foods to be in moderation, but I wouldn't turn down a bowl of these with a couple of beers to wash them down with.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Brussels sprouts you say

I grew up hating Brussels sprouts. I think this was maybe the fact that they were always overcooked (sorry mumsie...), and I unfortunately carried this dislike for these cute little fairy cabbages into my 20s. It was only earlier this year when some the topic came up when spotting them on the menu at Gorski and Jones with some work friends that I plucked up the courage to revisit them once more. I feel like an idiot for not trying them sooner, they were really delicious.
So this winter, we have a crazy little community of these baby sprouts sprouting up all over the garden. Seeing as they look like freakish cartoon trees, it only seems fitting that we try something a little freaky: this raw brussel sprout salad from My Kitchen: Real Food from Near and Far by Steve Parle.

Brussels sprouts were sliced on the mandoline and then shocked into crispyness in an ice bath. Teamed with parmasan, olive oil, lemon juice and some seasoning we had a really great salad.

Verdict: Crispy, good acidity, generally delicious.
Would we make this again?: Sure, it would be a great side or would be excellent on it's own as a fresh starter or salad course.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Steamed buns - ah Momofuku

The Momofuku book has been a bit of a bible to us, it caught us on the start of our ramen obsession, which has lead us to visit nearly every restaurant in Melbourne that has ramen on offer.  Then it lead us directly to the cinema to watch the cheesy Brittany Murphy flick Ramen Girl.  What we've drawn from this sensory ramen overkill is that nothing beats David Chang's ramen recipe.  This however is a wildly under-researched statement to which I think only a couple of trips to Japan, and then New York will sort out.  Only then will it be fair to make our verdict on our best ramen.

Enough about the AMAZING ramen.  This post is about the steam buns we made.  Another of our regular recipes in the momofuku cookbook.

At their happiest - steaming away.

A little different from the filled steamed buns in that the dough is rolled flat and folded, a little duck fat is smeared in between, so when steamed it is easy to pull them apart to fill.

Filled with some slowed cooked pork belly, spring onions and hoisin sauce.

Ahh, just dreaming about the day we get to go to Momofuku in New York.  Even though they have just opened a restaurant in Sydney, it feels like cheating on the experience by visiting the distant cousin.  We would way rather save it up for the David Chang foursome in New York.

Verdict: Amazing, always good.  And such a versatile thing to mix and match the fillings.
Would we make this again?: Yes, all the time. And as it makes such a large batch its a good thing to freeze some down, just to re-steam at a moments notice.  If only we had more freezer room!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Roll me up Scotty!

It's hard not to resist any of the delicacies from Peyton and Byrne in London or their take home goods, as I am a sucker for good packaging. So it was pretty exciting when they released their book Peyton and Byrne British Baking from which we chose to bake Chocolate Swiss Roll. This is one of the many recipes that we have tried from this book.  So far so good -we can recommend the spiced ginger bread and the marshmallow tea cakes.

A basic chocolate sponge, filled with cream and raspberry jam before being rolled. Topped with a layer of piped chocolate ganache.

Verdict: The ganache icing was delicious, I would say that the sponge was a little on the dry side, but I think that is my baking not the recipe. 
Would we make this again?: This weekend perhaps. There is no better time to perfect the swiss roll other than the Queen's Jubilee.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

French night

We really worked for this one, completing a record five recipes in the one night. Really getting through the cookbooks here. We've cooked from around 40 (maybe a third of the way there).

Unfortunately we couldn't make it to our friend Mark's birthday dinner at Eau de Vie.  So we invited him and a few others around for a dinner party on Friday night.  We have a few theme menus up our sleeves so we gave him the option of French or British.  Being a man of distinction, Mark of course chose French.

On the French menu was Croque Madame from Bill Granger Everyday, Lyonaisse Terrine from Professional Charcuterie, Canard de l'Orange from Classic French Cooking, Gratin Dauphinois from the Pleasure of the Table and Saint Honoré from The Art of French Baking.

Painstakingly placing what seemed like the smallest potatoes
in the worldin to a pretty arrangement (not just on the top layer either!)

A lack of foresight meant that Thursday night after work was spent making Veal stock (which would be the start of the sauce for the canard de l'orange), the Lyonnaise terrine and preparing the dauphinois potato.  This all meant that our Friday was slightly less frantic.

Always been a big fan of anything small (or big for that matter) so the Croque Madame's made with baguette and quails eggs were a hit in my eyes.

Canard de l'orange -A really tasty dish.  Full of butter -we all felt our arteries tighten a little that night. Probably has something to do with the book being published in the 1970's (a simpler time before calorie counting and low GI).  The food styling was our attempt at replicating the glamorous over the top vibe of the book.  It looks a little amateur, but I can assure you the taste far exceeded the look -and that's what really counts right?

The birthday boy with his Saint (dis)Honore cake.
1. Croque madame -We made as canapes with quails eggs and sliced baguette for our arriving guests.  They went down a treat.  Everyone likes mini stuff though!
2. Lyonnaise terrine -Pork, veal and chicken livers encased in crepinette.  Great textures and flavours.  We served it with toasted challah and some homemade chutney.
3. Gratin dauphinois -The decision to use kipfler potatoes was a bit of a time kill, but it looked great! Surprised by the lack of cream or any kind of liquid in this dish. 
4. Canard de l'orange -The hero of the night.  We made 2 for ten people.  It could have been significantly less, it was so rich that only a small amount was needed.  The flavour of the sauce amazing, but seeing a pound of butter being casually whisked in was not.
5. Saint Honore -A few melt downs over the choux pastry ring, the saint honore cream and the overall presentation but everyone seemed to enjoy it.  It was the perfect ending to a night of excess.
Would we make this again?:
Yes, maybe, yes, yes with half the butter and yes to get it right.