How gorgeous are these zucchini flowers? I got them, the avos and herbs in my neighbourhood, growing wild. I’ve always been a forager. I think it’s criminal to see fruit dropping off trees. Anyway, this is just a taster- I’m going to write more on foraging soon.
Everything was conspiring against me. I’d just received a sample of my favourite stock (no, I am not on commission!) The Stock Merchant- crab. Ingredients: crab, water. Love it. So I decided to make some crab ravioli.
my local fishmonger and had none of my favourite fresh Noosa Spanner crab; (no, not on commission from them either) just some frozen stuff. At least it was Australian spanner crab. Then the pasta dough went wrong and my pasta sheets just didn’t work. I had an old friend coming to dinner, and not much time, so I ran down to the supermarket and got some Gow Gee (dumpling wrappers). So much easier than fiddling around making ravioli. Anyway, the end result was delicious, although if I add up the cost, probably ridiculously expensive, but the reduced crab. butter and saffron sauce was so good we all agreed to look the other way while we licked our plates. For some reason I can’t upload pics at the moment, so you’ll just have to use your imagination and trust me; they were delicious.
Crab ravioli with saffron, butter, crab reduction
- 1 pkt Gow Gee wrappers
- 300g raw crab meat, fresh or frozen
- 100g fresh ricotta
- tsp lemon finely grated lemon zest
- seasalt and pepper
- 2 bags Stock Merchant crab stock
- couple of saffron strands
- 50g of butter
Put the stock and saffron strands on a long, slow simmer. Mix ricotta, crab meat and lemon zest then add seasoning. Put about a teaspoon of the mixture into the middle of a gow gee wrapper in the palm of your hand , fold over and create a crescent shape. Press edges together firmly. If you find they’re not sticking together well, wet your fingers first.
This amount of filling should be perfect for the packet- around 50. Put them on a tray with baking paper and cover with a damp tea towel and keep in fridge until ready to use.
Reduce the crab stock right down-it should be a beautiful bright yellow colour and have a really intense crab flavour.
Put the ravioli in a big pot of boiling water; when they float to the top, take one out and test if cooked. Put in a bowl, and drizzle sauce over. If I was more organised, I would have added a green herb garnish of some kind as well as have some really good bread to mop up the sauce.
I have an old Woman’s Weekly cakes and slice recipe book from the 70s I sometimes refer to. I adapted a recipe from it yesterday and the results were so good that it’s all gone already. I love date and pecan together- the recipe uses walnuts but I reckon pecans (especially Australian ones) are better. I also substituted caster sugar for brown sugar and added a spoonful of maple syrup. And instead of all that faffing around beating eggs etc, I just put it in as was. So easy and so good and minimal washing up- thus meeting all my criteria.
Date and Pecan Slice
Slightly less than 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Put dates and pecans in food processor until chopped. Add sugar, flour, melted butter, egg and mix gently. Spoon mixture into a 20cm square slab pan. (Silicon is good) Bake at around 160 for around 30 minutes. Cut into slices while sill hot. Cool in tin.
I definitely like to watch (with a glass of wine preferably). The reason being, I don’t really think a cooking teacher can divide his or her attention equally when going from station to station checking out people’s efforts, giving advice etc. Also, I’m a visual learner. I like to watch how it’s done-I just remember it better that way, then I’ll have a go in my own time without the pressure of someone looking over my shoulder.
Of course, just like school, people have different ways of taking in information. I have to admit too, that I have a short attention span. I need recipes to be quick, easy and give great results; being a single mum for ten years; there was no choice in my household and today I still have little tolerance for long winded recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I want to cook from scratch and I do, but the best cooking classes for me are based on practical, down to earth advice. If you can make it quicker, better, easier and tell me something I don’t already know (as the recent few programmes of Heston have) then I’m happy.
So how about you dear blog readers? Do you like to get your hands in when you do a class or just observe? And what’s the best cooking class you’ve ever done?
I adapted this chocolate cheesecake from a taste.com.au recipe and made it for Easter dessert. It’s absolutely delicious, very light and almost mousse like in texture but extremely rich. A little goes a very long way. I sent the 12 year old to the shop because I realised I didn’t have enough chocolate and the only Lindt he could find was with almonds, but it was fab. The almonds are in tiny little crumbly piece. I served it with some orange and cardamom ice-cream I bought from Sourced Grocer at Teneriffe.
I’m sorry I don’t have a pic- we ate it before I thought of it, but it’s big, luscious and umm chocolatey.
The best ever chocolate cheesecake
250g pkt plain chocolate biscuits (I used Arnott’s chocolate ripple)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
125g melted butter
2 -70% chocolate Lindt bar
1 chocolate & almond Lindt bar
150g caster sugar
3 x 250g pkts cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tbs cocoa powder, sifted
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 x 300g ctns sour cream
Preheat oven to 160°C. Brush a 24cm springform pan with melted butter and line base with non-stick baking paper. Put choc biscuits, cinnamon and butter in a food processor and whizz until crumbs stick together when you push down. Put into the pan and press down well all over the bottom. There’s probably enough crumb to do sides as well but this cake is tres rich and I don’t think it needs it.Make sure it’s the same thickness all over. Put in the fridge.
Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and melt.
In another bowl beat together sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese, and sour cream and beat then fold in chocolate, cocoa powder and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the biscuit base and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Bake for around an hour (don’t use the fan if you have a fan forced) until it looks set the centre then turn the oven off and leave the door ajar with the cake in until cools. This will prevent it from cracking. Cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge. Take out and bring to room temperature just before serving.
Like certain new kids at school there are some places that just seem to fit in right away. Bucci is one of them. It’s the ideal for its James Street location. In fact, I think it the concept fits even better than it does with its firstborn, Bucci in Macrossan Street in Port Douglas.
What I like (a lot) about Bucci is that it’s imaginative modern Italian but doesn’t lose sight of the Italian ethos of not overdoing it. Food is tasty and perfectly seasoned. I also like that Bucci embraces food from different Italian regions without being too specific or regionalist. The calamari stuffed with Calabrese sausage is a case in point; a tender calamari hood stuffed with sausage with that little bit of spice that we usually don’t expect in Italian food, so habituated as we are to the food of northern Italy. I remember the husband of a friend of my Florence based Aunt who would scandalise all the Fiorentini because he carried around a little test tube of dried chilli with him to sprinkle on food- a spice almost unheard of in that part of Italy. It appears again in a marinated olives, served in a seal-top jar at the table.
I like that two out of our three waiters had strong Italian accents. I like the decor, the open kitchen, the whole friendly vibe. After our assagini (‘little tastes’-share plates which included very moorish deep fried crumble of pig trotter with salsa verde), we had the smoked hay lamb cutlets (the BF), pink and tender and perfectly smoky (ie not too much, not too little); thin ribbons of homemade rabbit-sauced pappardelle (the 12yr old) and olive gnocchi with tender baby asparagus(me). All were excellent.
The wine list is divided into weight rather than varietal ‘light reds/medium reds/fuller bodied reds) which is an easy way of classifying the sometimes unfamiliar Italian labels. It would be great to have some more regional Italian wines, (I recently read for example that Puglia in Italy makes more wine than the whole of Australia!), and Bucci seems like the perfect venue to showcase the well priced end of more interesting regional Italian wines, but to be realistic, the list is probably correctly pitched for its diners.
I couldn’t fit in dessert, but tasted the BFs chocolate nemesis (delicious, but no match for me with my naturally high chocolate tolerance-gained through years of scoffing Dello Mano brownies I suspect) and the 12yr olds ‘Nonna’s dessert’ with raspberries and biscotti and vanilla and mint ice-cream according to 12yr old but it was gone before I could properly look let alone taste!), all very good.
I think the reason Bucci will do so well is that its part of a new style of eating (for Brisbane anyway) where you can call in anytime and share a few plates with a glass of wine or do the traditional entree, main, dessert.
And the menu is highly appeaing- it took us a fair old while to make up our minds.
Congrats to Spencer and Reina Patrick, chef Shaun Malone and their whole team, many of who they’ve coaxed down from Port Douglas. They’ve got the formula spot on as far as I’m concerned and I reckon I’ll be a frequent visitor.
Been to Esquire yet? Reckon it’s too posh for the likes of you? Too exxy? Pah!Esquire is neither. But for the cautious or time poor, there’s now `Esq’.
The name is a truncated version of Esquire, because the bit of the restaurant to the left of the entry is specifically designed for those who don’t fancy the dego experience or who just don’t have time to indulge in the whole shebang.
There’s both a sit-up eating bar (perfect for solo lunchers) where you can watch your lunch being cooked over coals through the glass walled kitchen, as well as tables including a couple outside positioned to catch the river breeze.
The genius of Esq. is that you can pick and choose as much or as little as you like. Some prawns and a dessert perhaps? Or maybe a coral trout sashimi and some crab pasta? Cherrypick one or two or go the ridiculously teeny priced ‘Prix fixe’- $35 for 3 courses of your choice.
The menu is divided into ‘Charcoal’ (dishes cooked over environmentally friendly charcoal) ‘Raw Greens’, ‘Raw’, ‘Basic’ and “Sweet’.
People in the food industry bang on all the time about ‘good produce’ but it’s one of those things that until you’ve had you don’t really know you’ve never had (like good sex?). Esq. sets a benchmark. Food is beautifully simple; wonderful produce cooked well versus show pony trickery-here it’s style over substance; sustainable seafood in season versus what’s trendy.
Moreton Bay sand squid is a dish I’ve had over on the other side at big bro’ Esquire and it’s just as good here eaten in slightly more casual surrounds. Marshmallow tender, it’s dressed simply with olive oil & parsley.
You might think a- take- no- prisoners herb like dill would overpower the delicate sweetness of scallops, but infused into oil it’s subtle enough to simply give it another layer of flavour without overwhelming.
The beef with perilla (a herb incidentally super rich in omega 3 acids) is charcoal grilled, intensely rich and flavoursome with a sealed salted, crusty caramelisation that a perfect steak should have. My pic is out of focus, so I won’t show it here, but the amount served won’t have you going back to the office and nodding over your computer. A good thing really because it’s so rich a little goes a long way.
Flat bread is another charcoal item- baked with thyme (I think) and topped with a honey gel; a typical sweet-savoury Greekish type flatbread with just a hint of smokiness.
From the raw section, I would come here for the treviso lettuce alone; with crumbled Itchi Bai cheese (aka Roy de Valles a French cheese made from a mix of sheep and goat milk) it’s dressed with 12 old balsamic vinegar. I love the bitter/sweet/umami/crunchy/soft contrast of it-perfection in simplicity. Funnily enough one of my fave things on the Esquire menu is an equally simple crescent of avo dusted in dried wasabi root-a side on another dish. Perhaps I’m a vegetarian at heart.
Err, no. From the ‘basic’ section, we also tried the finger licking charcoal glazed pork ribs, (nom nom) the almost translucent fettucine with spanner crab, moist trout cooked in a bag with gnocchi and possibly my fave, along with the lettuce; Murray cod with smoked yoghurt. OMG good.G.
There are three choices of dessert- `chocolate milk and nuts`, curds and whey ice-cream with ‘Campari components, sherbet, and orange’ -tangy, palate cleansing, light, and totally extraordinary and the weird sounding but trust-me-it’s-divine grilled sweetcorn parfait with caramel popcorn and tarragon.
If you’re a fan of sticky date pud or richy gooey chocolate things, you probably won’t appreciate any of them. If you’re a ‘not that keen on dessert usually’ kind of person, be prepared to be surprised that you may find you’re a dessert person after all.
Nothing on the Esq. menu is over $16 which is unbelievable value. OK, portions are not huge; but still, it’s amazing value for money for the quality. If you’re not sure that Esquire is for you; or you have time, I definitely reckon you should check out Esq; the service is really friendly, the food is at bargain basement prices for top drawer produce and there are few more pleasant riverside spot to while away a lunch hour.
145 Eagle Street Brisbane
One of the reasons I hate the question ‘What is your favourite restaurant?’ (and there are many) is because you never know the weight that people personally assign to food, service and ambience. If the planets are aligned and the gods have chosen to smile on you you may get all three, but it’s rare.
For me food wins, followed by service and ambience. If the food is exceptional, I can make allowances for the other two. If the food is merely good, the ambience and service are pretty important. If the food is bad, nothing makes up for it; not the best, most professional service nor the most amazing fit out. However, I think good service makes you disposed to judge more kindly. My personal ratio if out of 50 would be Food /25 Service /10 Ambience 8/ (and edited to add, after it was pointed out I’d missed it out.. ) Wine /7. However, if the food was really good, the importance of wine would go up and ambience would drop right back!
So, what is the most important aspect for you, dear readers? Can you eat in canteen like surrounds if the food is good? Or is the service and ambience as much of the eating out experience as the food?