Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cookbook Challenge Week 50 - Picnic

Recipe: Turkey & sweetcorn meatballs with roasted pepper sauce
Cookbook: Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (2008)

Ottolenghi is the London restaurant of Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Their cooking is influenced by their childhoods in Jerusalem and shows the influence of the Middle East, the Levant and France.

This cookbook precedes 'Plenty', which was recently featured in 'Delicious' magazine. I picked up my copy from lay-by a couple of weeks ago and this is the first recipe I have made from it. I am very impressed with the flavours of this dish and plan to dip into this book often. It won't be one that gathers dust on the shelf.

100g sweetcorn
3 slices of stale white bread, crusts removed
500g minced turkey breast (I actually used minced turkey thigh and combined it with chicken mince)
1 egg
4 spring onions
2 tbls finely chopped parsley
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 crushed garlic clove
sunflower oil for frying

Roasted pepper sauce
4 red peppers (I used capsicums)
3 tbls olive oil
1 tsp salt
25g coriander, leaves and stalks
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 small mild chilli, de-seeded
2 tbls sweet chilli sauce
2 tbls cider vinegar or white wine vinegar


Preheat the oven to 200oC.

Prepare the peppers for the sauce by quartering them, shaving off the white parts & seeds with a sharp knife. Put them in a roasting tray, toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes or until soft.

Transfer the hot peppers to a bowl and cover with cling film. Once they have cooled down a little, peel them (although this isn't essential for this sauce - I didn't) and then blitz them in a blender or food processor with their juices from the roasting pan and the rest of the sauce ingredients. Blend until smooth, salt to taste and set aside.

For the meatballs, place a heavy, non-stick frying pan over a high heat and throw in the corn kernels. Toss them in the pan for 2-3 minutes until lightly blackened. Remove and leave to cool.

Soak the bread into cold water for a minute, then squeeze well and crumble into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients except the sunflower oil and mix well with your hands. With wet hands, shape the mince mix into balls about the size of golf balls.

Meatballs ready to be cooked.

Pour 5mm depth of sunflower oil (or other vegetable based oil) into the heavy frying pan. Allow it to heat up well and then fry about a teaspoonful of the mince mix in it. Remove, let cool and then taste. Adjust the amount of salt and pepper in the mince mix if necessary.

Cook the meatballs in small batches in the hot oil, turning them around in the pan until they are golden brown all over. Transfer to an oven tray, place in the pre-heated oven at 200oC and cook for about 5 minutes. When you press one with your finger, the meat should bounce back. If unsure, you can always break one open and taste it to be sure!

Serve with the pepper sauce on the side.

These turkey and sweetcorn meatballs with roasted pepper sauce would add colour and spice to any picnic spread. It was too wet to eat them outside last Sunday, so we plated them up with salad and enjoyed them for lunch. Hot or cold, these meatballs are flavoursome. The cooked sweetcorn provides a delicious, sweet pop in your mouth as you bite into them. I really liked the sauce in this recipe. It is full of flavour, rich, sweet and spicy without being cloying. It would be the perfect accompaniment to meat or seafood dishes on a hot, summers day.

I would recommend making them the day before, as they are little bit time consuming to prepare. This would also allow the flavours to develop and intensify even further!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

No. 96: A new era...Breakfast at Milkwood

Route 96 tram terminus in East Brunswick sits at an intersection that has been 'deep cool' in waiting. Over the years, a motley collection of shops have stood either vacant or variously housed an eclectic assortment of businesses: the silver top taxi club, 'psychic rainbow', the museum of experimental art, a pizza shop and a tattoo parlour. It always looked a little forlorn and forgotten to me when I passed through on the 508 bus. But that was many years ago and times have changed. There are now three cafes, the Lomond Hotel seems busier than ever and 3RRR sits on the corner of Blyth and Nicholson Streets. The renaissance has begun in earnest.

Milkwood sits directly across from this terminus. It was with some excitement that I went there last Sunday for breakfast, as S. has been riding his bike over to the Route 96 of a morning and grabbing a coffee (and occasionally a cake) at Milkwood before jumping on the tram to go to work. He's been singing its praises for weeks now.

First, let me get out the way the things that I didn't like, because there's actually a lot to like about Milkwood:

- My knife and fork being set back to front. Etiquette dictates a correct way to set tables and position the cutlery. I wish this was adhered to more regularly.

- A hair in my food.

- The noise levels. The white-washed brick walls look fab. But with no sound insulation, a high ceiling and wood floors the noise level made it difficult to hear others.

- Snow pea shoots used to garnish my dish. Why do people persist in using these? They're fibrous, chewy and tasteless. And so...90s.

Now, to what I did like - the food. I had a special, smashed peas & broad beans with mint & pecorino on sourdough with poached eggs. What a wonderful spring breakfast dish! So flavoursome and fresh, I could simply have had the peas, broad beans and mint mixture on toast and I would have been happy. I wanted more, I wanted to keep eating it and eating it, rapturous in its simplicity and flavour. The poached eggs had rich, golden yolks. Perhaps they could have been a little more runny, but this is a small quibble.

S. had the ricotta pancakes with coconut, banana & honey yoghurt. These were served as a generous stack of three, large and flecked with toasted coconut. The yoghurt provided a tangy contrast to the fluffy, light pancakes and the sweetness provided by the honey and bananas.

The service at Milkwood was attentive and friendly. Coffee orders were taken the moment we sat down (the coffee used is Coffee Supreme). A query from me about their gluten-free bread was followed up immediately and I was informed that it was an artisan bread. In a conversation after our meal with another staff member, querying whether we had enjoyed it, we were told that it came from Fatto a Mano on Gertrude Street, Collingwood. It was delicious. I'll be visiting this bakery sometime in the coming week!

Despite the noise, the space at Milkwood is bright and airy. It is a small space and can get busy on the weekend (I think I counted six tables inside, some bench space and a couple of tables outside). The food makes the most of seasonal produce in a very small kitchen. The staff are welcoming and service is attentive. Importantly for me, they offer gluten-free options so I can enjoy a wheat-free meal or sweet treat. It is a very enjoyable cafe in which to enjoy breakfast or lunch, or grab a coffee and snack before getting on the tram to the city.

If you go, do the right thing and catch the tram there. Parking is difficult in the area. And don't forget that the Route 96 is one of National Geographic's Top 10 tram journeys of the world. We will definitely be going back to try some more of their breakfast offerings.

Smashed peas & broad beans with mint & pecorino on sourdough with poached eggs - $15
Ricotta pancakes with coconut, bananas & honey yoghurt - $13.50
Coffee - $3.20

120 Nicholson Street
East Brunswick
9380 4062

Milkwood on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge: Week 49 - Ice

Recipe: Raspberry Semifreddo (Semifreddo al Lampone)
Cookbook: The Silver Spoon (2005)

Yes, I know. Week 48 is missing. I'm working on that and should have something up soon. Bread is a bit of a challenge for me as I can't eat wheat.

This week's cookbook challenge recipe is from The Silver Spoon, something of a publishing sensation when the first English edition was published in 2005. It made available an Italian cookbook classic to the English-speaking world for the first time, and I think it was Phaidon Press' first foray into cookbook publishing.

6 eggs
250g caster sugar
250g raspberries (I used frozen)
750ml double cream

This recipe begins by making a sabayon. Whisk the eggs with the sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water until thickened. The eggs will turn the colour of straw during the process and the mixture will become aerated. Then remove from the heat and continue whisking the mixture until it is completely cool. This step will take about 20-30 minutes, at least.

The sabayon once it is taken off the heat

My arms turned red and felt swollen at the end of this step. Although maybe they were red from gardening yesterday. But they definitely felt swollen. It's a lot of whisking.
I managed to unintentionally listen to most of News Radio's 'Weekend Halftime' (their sports report) this morning while whisking. If you've got the radio on in the kitchen while doing this step, make sure it's on a station you enjoy or a programme you actually want to hear. You are not going to move from the stove.

Mash the raspberries (I left some whole) in a shallow dish. Stiffly whip the cream and stir in the egg mixture and mashed raspberries. (I didn't whip the cream, as the double cream I purchased contained no gelatine).

Line a rectangular loaf tin with cling film, pour in the mixture and smooth the surface. Put in the freezer overnight or for at least 4 hours. To serve, turn out and remove the cling film.
This was the first time I've made a semi-freddo and it was delicious. Creamy but not overly sweet with the tang of raspberries, it was the perfect end to a meal. I'm definitely going to make this again and I've been inspired to try the over semi-freddo recipes in the The Silver Spoon


Monday, October 18, 2010

The Cookbook Challenge: Week 47 - Italian

Recipe: Farsomagro (stuffed Sicilian beef roll)
Cookbook: My Cousin Rosa: Rosa Mitchell's Sicilian Kitchen (2009), Rosa Mitchell

This is a cookbook I often use. The recipes are easily 'do-able' and can often be pulled together with ingredients on hand, and quite quickly too.

A particular favourite in our house is her recipe for polpette (meatballs in tomato sauce), which apparently serves six but I find we get at least 16-20 serves from it. We make a batch at the beginning of winter and find ourselves eating it for the rest of the season. It's such a tasty recipe though, that this is in no way a burden.

However, I'm not making that recipe this week. I wanted to use my first week of participating in the cookbook challenge (albeit a week late) to make something different, something that I wouldn't normally try. And so I chose 'Farsomagro'. About this dish Rosa Mitchell writes 'this is a traditional Sicilian favourite - every family has its own version'. The end result was absolutely delicious, well worth the effort and just perfect for a cold and rainy weekend.


1.5 kg girello roast or a piece of beef shoulder, boned and flattened as much as possible (I used beef shoulder)
2 tbls grated parmeson cheese
5 slices of mortadella
large leaves from 1/2 bunch of spinach (I used baby spinach leaves and it was fine)
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled but left whole
125 ml of olive oil

For the sauce:
3 tbls olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
2.5 kg tin or 4 x 500ml bottles of pureed tomatoes (I used passata)
2 bay leaves


To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large saucepan that is big enough to hold all the meat. Cook the onion, celery and carrot over a low heat until soft and golden, then add the tomato puree and bay leaves, season with salt and pepper and leave to simmer while you prepare the meat.

Lay the meat on a flat surface, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the parmesan. Lay the slices of mortadella down the centre of the meat. Lay the spinach leaves over the mortadella. Arrange the eggs lengthways in a line down the centre of meat. Season again with salt and pepper. You can see from the photos I worked with two pieces of meat, which made it easier to fit into the saucepan.

The tricky part, as Rosa points out, is rolling up the meat. It helps to have a second pair of hands around at this point.

Start to roll from one long side, tying with kitchen string at intervals of about 8cms. Make sure the ends are tied very tightly or you will lose the eggs.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and brown the farsomagro on all sides, then add to the sauce in the pan. Cover the pan and cook over a very low heat for 1-1 1/2 hours, turning occasionally. Remove from the sauce and leave to cool slightly. Remove the string before slicing. Spoon some of the sauce onto a large serving plate then arrange the slices on top and serve.

Serves 8.

This cooking method produced a meltingly moist meat that was full of well-balanced flavours. A great thing about this recipe is that there will be a lot of sauce left over and you will get more than one meal from it. The sauce that the meat is cooked in is full of flavour and can be used for a couple of quick pasta meals.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

While you see a chance, take it...breakfast at Pope Joan

It almost didn't happen, for a couple of reasons. First, we weren't intending to go to Pope Joan for breakfast. We were driving down Nicholson Street on our way to somewhere else when we passed by and saw there was only one table occupied. One table occupied in the hottest cafe to open in the last 12 months. Ok, I exaggerate. There were two tables occupied and that was it.

Second, there were milk crates out the front. Bloody milk crates! I'm not sure when it became acceptable to expect people to sit on milk crates and pay for their meals, but I'm not having any of that designer feral palaver. I used milk crates for furniture when I was a poor student. I'm not paying to eat on them now I'm earning a decent income (and hence I will not go to 'A Minor Place' while milk crates continue to be used for seating).

On closer inspection it was clear that the milk crates were being used for tables, and topped with 'marble', no less. Well, as long as I don't have to subject my delicate derriere to such indignity that's ok then.

Now, enough of the ranting and to the food.

S. had the Corned beef bubble and squeak with celeriac remoulade, toast and fried egg. He said "...inside the beautifully crumbed croquette, the filling was soft, salty and tender. It contained pumpkin, carrot, potato and (he thinks) parsnip. The creamy remoulade tempered the saltiness nicely". The egg and toast were, of course, delicious.

Excited to see a rice dish on the menu, I ordered the kedgeree. I must say I thought it was slightly lacklustre. While the high quality of the ingredients was apparent, it didn't have the spicy 'bang' I was looking for. The rice was generously flecked with salmon and mackerel and topped with creme fraiche, fried onion and mint. Mixed into the dish the mint lifted the dish but not enough to give it the 'wow' factor I was looking for.

'Where's the egg?' I wondered. A kedgeree should have boiled egg. I'm sure it said 'egg' on the menu, but maybe not. Bad note taking. Mea culpa.

The hummingbird cake was a treat to behold. The pale lemon icing provided the perfect backdrop for the light green pistachios and the toasted coconut to dance upon. Moist as a good hummingbird cake should be but not stodgy as they sometimes can be, the fruit flavours were perfectly balanced and not overpowered by a sugary sweetness. One of the best hummingbird cakes we have ever eaten, with this category of cake being a special interest of S.

The soft chocolate tart was superb. It had a mild bitter chocolate taste, was sweet but not cloying and the consistency of a brownie. However, it wasn't heavy or stodgy as brownies can sometimes be, it was light and satisfying with just enough 'goo' in the middle to make it moist and a little bit chewy. It was, and this is a big call, the best chocolate cake/tart I have ever had. Yes indeed. I'll stand by that statement. It was perfect.

Pope Joan we thought you were over-hyped but now we love you. With one blip to report (being the kedgeree) we can't find much else to fault. The service was attentive and friendly, the British-Anglo focussed breakfast menu evoked comforting memories of childhood and the coffee was good. The cakes were a standout. The quality of the ingredients is high and we spied a veggie garden down the back. Ample seating indoor and outdoor is available. Enough has been said about its industrial setting so I will say no more. We will definitely be going back.

Kedgeree - $17
Corned beef bubble & squeak - $17
Coffee - $3.50
Cakes - $4.50 to $5.50

Pope Joan
77-79 Nicholson Street
East Brunswick
T: 9388 8858

Pope Joan on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Weekend Soup! Chicken & vegetable brodo

This recipe comes from Karen Martini's Cooking at Home (2008). This is her second cookbook, written after the birth of her first child. As I find the recipes a little less complicated in Cooking at Home than those in Where the Heart Is (2006), I tend to use it more. However, I think they are both excellent cookbooks. I particularly like her style of combining Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavours and techniques.

It is a hearty soup, perhaps a bit to hearty for this time of year, but as the nights are still cool I think it can be enjoyed during the spring. It is satisfying without weighing you down and is full of veggie goodness.


1 kg of chicken wings (I used wingettes, which I found much easier as the tip had been removed)
4 tbls of olive oil
2 litres of chicken stock
1 litre of water
2 chopped onions
4 cloves of chopped garlic
4 sprigs of oregano
4 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and sliced.
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 bunch of celery, chopped
1/2 cup of arborio rice
50g of spaghetti, broken into 6 cm pieces
2 chopped zucchini
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/2 cup of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
crusty bread and parmesan to serve (optional, of course).


Preheat the oven to 220 degrees. Toss chicken wings in 1tbls of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

Once cooked, place wings in a large stock pot, cover with stock and water and boil over a medium heat. Then simmer for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Strain, reserving the stock and set aside. Leave to cool slightly then remove the meat and about half the skin (I just removed the meat).

Heat 2tbls of olive oil in the stockpot over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic, oregano. thyme and bay leaf for 2-3 minutes, then add the fennel, carrots and celery and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Add chicken meat, reserved stock, rice and spaghetti and bring to the boil over a high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Stir in zucchini, peas and parsley and simmer for a further five minutes until the rice and pasta are cooked. Add the remaining olive oil and serve with some crusty bread and parmesan cheese.

Serves 10.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Local Heroes - Trivelli Patisserie. First in an occasional series

'Local Heroes' is the first in an occasional series aimed at showcasing local food and produce suppliers in the suburb where I live - Coburg.

It's intended to be an antidote to continual focus on eastern suburbs in food articles such as
this. Honestly, with writing and research such like this you'd think only people living in the inner north (Fitzroy) and the eastern suburbs of Melbourne have access to good food suppliers. Oh, except when it's Epicure's Middle Eastern special, then Brunswick and Coburg get a tokenistic guernsey.

Ok, enough seriousness. The first local hero I am going to feature is Trivelli Patisserie.

Trivelli Patisserie celebrated their 35th birthday last month with a cannolo festival. The special price of 70 cents each generated such demand that all seating was removed from the shop to accommodate the customers crowded into it. The queue for cannoli stretched down Sydney Road (I wish I had've had my camera with me to capture the madness but I don't carry it with me when I'm doing my weekly food and grocery shop!).

I regularly stop into Trivelli for a coffee and sweet treat. They carry a wonderful range of Italian-style sweet biscuits, pastries and cakes. Their Italian style biscuits made from pistachio and almond meal are a wheat free treat I can enjoy.

I'd love to show you a photo of their gleaming counter bulging with goodies but unfortunately they don't like photos of the shop interior to be taken. So it's a shot of their rather fast fading exterior. But don't let that put you off from stepping inside. You won't be disappointed.
It's not a glamorous exterior but don't let that put you off

What I would like to feature here is their cakes. Trivelli has become our patisserie of choice when it comes to celebration cakes for a number of reasons. First, their cakes are absolutely delicious and excellent value for money. Secondly, the service is fantastic. The staff will take their time to talk through the many options available with you until you are completely satisfied. Finally, they provide an excellent product I can purchase locally without having to traipse all over town.

Picking up your finished cake from Trivelli is an experience in and of itself. First, the shop ladies get on the walkie-talkies to contact the bakers across the road. A couple of minutes later, a baker can be seen weaving his way through the chaotic traffic on Munro Street bound for the shop with cakes balanced in each arm. A final check inside the box and it's ready to take home.

Our wedding cake. This was a traditional fruit cake with a royal icing finish. The flowers were hand-painted. Trivelli bakers reproduced from an image in a magazine. It was big hit! Absolutely delicious.

Yes, it was very nice and very pretty. I was so overwhelmed when the bakers brought it out to me I almost cried.

A recent birthday cake ordered from Trivelli. Vanilla sponge cake layered with hazelnut and vanilla custard and finished with profiteroles. The waiter at Hellenic Republic was so impressed he asked us where it was from so he could order one. This cake is a small size and serves approximately 15 people. It's a little bit over-the-top but fun. For $70, I thought it was very good value.

So there you have it. Trivelli Patisserie. My first local hero.

Trivelli Patisserie
369 Sydney Road

Trivelli Cakes on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hot off the press - Filou's to reopen

It started with a text on Saturday morning:

'OMG! Filou's reopens on 7 Oct!'

That turned into a bike ride.

When we arrived we were greeted by a passing fellow cyclist who punched the air with joy and called out to us:

'Opens next week!'

Here is the proof:

And all of inner northern Melbourne rejoices at the news that Filou's Patisserie is reopening!

Filou's has been closed for the best part of a year after a car crashed into the shopfront. It seems like it's been much longer, but soon we can all enjoy delicious French pastries again!