Thursday, 24 November 2011

Broad Bean and Fennel: A Love Story

Broad Bean came over to cook and eat with me last night and it was FUN!  I don't usually cook with someone, although I love to cook for people.  It probably ended up being a lot more relaxing because it was a shared effort, rather than a presentation that it going to be marked and measured.

Funnily enough, we used neither Fennel nor Broad Bean as ingredients for our meal (it felt a little too much like cannibalism) but there are so many other vegetables to choose from that we were in no way impaired by this restriction.  In the end, Broad Bean worked on the entrĂ©e and I took care of the main.

Both recipes came from my beloved Moro East cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark.  We started with fried spiced cauliflower served with a healthy squeeze of fresh lemon juice and ate it from a shared plate in the kitchen, with me jumping up now and again to stir….

… the “Courgettes and Almonds” which also contains yellow squash, tomatoes, garlic and shitloads of fresh basil (unlike the mint which the recipe actually suggests).  Because I was busy chatting and eating cauliflower, the C&A was a tad overcooked but still delicious.  We took bowls of this and some rice, along with our “Moppity” merlot, outside and ate in the garden.

Then, back upstairs we listened to Nina Simone and ate cake and drank almond tea and giggled quite a bit.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

We do eat at home...occasionally!

Most of our home cooking is based on simplicity, quickness and the ability to fill-up 2 chickadees with hollow legs. But when on our own SP and I like to mix it up!

Over the last year we have been on a mission to master the humble fried rice. It started when we read Gilbert Lau's recipe for fried rice. He talked about the magic of simple flavours, the right ingredients and taking the time to do it properly - which in the case of fried rice is quickly (you can read the article and recipe here.)

We have made the recipe a number of times over the past year to great acclaim. But each time it has been minus the char siu as it has been too hard to source.

So we decided to make our own.

The first problem was settling on a recipe for the marinade! Google char siu and be swamped by old family recipes, new favourites and everything inbetween.

In the end we found a char siu sauce at the supermarket and topped it up with Chinese five-spice, fish sauce, hoisin sauce, honey, pepper and sesame oil.

We then marinaded the pork fillet for 24 hours.

To cook, we lined a baking tray and sat the pork fillet on a tray. The marinade drips a lot and caramelises - the foil saved us a huge cleaning up job.

The pic to the right looks very wrong I know! But it smelt so good as it was cooking. Every 10 mins or so we turned it and basted it with more marinade.

At the end, we sliced it (& tasted it - mmmm) and got ready to make our special fried rice. The char siu was sweet, sticky and tender. And the fried rice was light, wholesome and extra tasty with all the ingredients finally coming together beautifully.

To say that we were delighted with our end result is an understatement. It was worth the wait; worth the effort and definitely worth doing again.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Almond Bar

A couple of nights ago I went to Almond Bar in Darlinghurst with CC (Cookies and Cream) for a special birthday dinner.  It was a night of delicious food, great service and lovely company in a cozy yet exotic, candlelit cubby house.  We'd been dying to try the place ever since stumbling upon it one evening and finding it promising-looking yet completely empty. We ducked down the road to buy some wine and returned to find the place fully booked for the night! This time we booked ahead and were able to be a part of the crowd taking up every single seat in the place.

Almond Bar is run by two sisters who cook mezze (share plates) based on their Syrian heritage.  After merely reading the menu, I understood why the place is always full; I wanted to try every single thing on it! An unexpected bonus was that all gluten free (and vego, I think) items were clearly marked.  I usually avoid gluten so it was great to be able to know easily and immediately what I could or couldn't eat.

Everything we ate was wonderful - labne, za'tar and babaganouj dips, fried potatoes in coriander and a lamb thing with pomegranates but I will probably chose entirely different stuff next time (and there WILL be a next time let me tell you!) because so many other things look fabulous.

We chose an amazing merlot from the wine list which tasted like mulberries and other yummy, wine-like flavours.  It was a round, juicy flavour with lots of berry notes and a hint of smokiness  (actually CC picked it so I'm not sure what it was called).  It went beautifully with everything.

And just to top off the amzingness of it all we also had dessert: rosewater-flavoured ice cream and pancakes with a cinnamon and almond filling and vanilla ice cream.  Heaven.