Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pollo al limeno (Mamma Agata's Lemon Chicken)

Wow I cannot believe it is so long since I last blogged, July 29 is a while ago, no wonder I have been getting the hurry up from so many followers.

Jo and I started researching for a trip to Europe a couple of years ago, early on in her digging for things to do, Jo came across a cooking school on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, she has nagged me to take her there since.

Mamma Agata

Cooking Courses in Amalfi Coast

We don't go on our trip until May 2013, so when I saw Mamma Agata had released a cookbook, I thought we'd save some time and I would just buy the book and enjoy the food straight away, if it was as good as the many recommendations suggested.

The book arrived not long after ordering, personally signed by Mamma and her family, I cooked Jo a three course meal from the book in May this year, celebrating a year to our journey begins, you can see that blog here

Pollo al limeno

Last week Chiara posted a photo of a Lemon Chicken dish from the book, it looked 
Last week Chiara posted a photo of a Lemon Chicken dish from the book, it looked
amazing and after making comment, Chiara suggested I could make as it was on page 121 of the book, I took her advise and prepared this for Jo's dinner tonight, accompanied by roasted potato and baby carrots, and steamed Brocolini.

Happy to say it was as delicious as it looked, absolutely delicious in fact, now of course Jo want's more and has suggested I could cook it for her parents when we visit Geraldton over Christmas, might just have to do that.

If you are not planing a trip to Italy any time soon, you can buy a copy of the book from Mamma  Agata's webpages, it might not make it in time for Christmas, but then do you really need a reason to buy a quality cook book?

By the way, cooking great food with this book is a breeze, thanks to the step by step guide, photo's and Mama Agata's secret tips scattered throughout the book, which makes it a terrific book whether you are a seasoned cook or a beginner.

Boun Apetito

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sunday cooking is fun-day cooking

It seems like I have been in the kitchen all day today and I really do not have a great deal to show for my efforts, unless of course your taking a look at my ever growing girth!

I have had a craving to try making choux pastry, I do not know why, maybe I am afraid I will one day be fool enough to enter a cooking competition and be handed the task to cook profiteroles, or perhaps it is just wanting to replicate the food I grew up with, my Mum makes awesome chocolate éclairs, I ate so many of them on one occasion it made me sick, perhaps that is why I don’t seek them out nowadays.

Whatever the reason I found myself boiling water and butter together this morning and then adding some flour, which is whisked as quickly as you can, I loved it the way the dough formed, very similar to making rue for a white sauce.  Even more interesting was piping out the creamy dough and then watching it puff up whilst cooking in the oven, I was like a big kid I got so excited, and I am really developing a love for baking!

It seemed to turn into a marathon effort to get the bloody things finished though and I in fact left them to first make lunch and then dinner before going bake to make custard for the filling and a chocolate sauce to go on top, and they ended up looking pretty ordinary, so it seems I have still a bit of work to do to get them to a point that I am going to be satisfied with them.

Somewhere between making lunch, custard and a chocolate sauce I got started on a simple tomato sauce for dinner to go with some pasta, I like to cook tomato sauce for as long as I can and to I had the opportunity to do just that.

I made some pasta dough with a fifty-fifty mix of 00 flour and semolina and used 1 egg and five yolks I had left over from another dish, the dough was a lot harder than I am used too, but once I had it through the rollers it worked out alright.  Once it was rolled out I made some little pasta pillows stuffed full of a ricotta, mozzarella and prosciutto mixture.  

Originally I started out making ravioli, but actually ended up with some half moon shapes, but I wasn’t too worried, especially when I got to eat it, as it tasted great and had a nice little bite to it.  I dished Jo up three of the flavour packed pasta pillows with some tomato sauce and a couple of slices of garlic bread, she obviously like them as she came back for some more, but then to be honest, so did I, they were delicious!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Beef Vindaloo with Dry Potato and Pea Curry

Feasting on Indian food tonight!

Whilst tidying up in my kitchen, Jo came across a recipe for Roti Bread, I had downloaded from the net.  My intention was to have roti with some left over bolognese sauce  when I downloaded it, however that night, by the time I reached home, I had become more adventurous and I made a quick lasagne instead.  On reading the roti recipe, Jo exclaimed "YUM", then said "when you make this can you do a brown gravy curry to go with it", how could I resist to give her what she wanted?

Given I had a day off, I decide it as time to deliver, so out came my favourite little curry cookbook to look for a brown gravy curry, I did not have to go far before coming across a Beef Vindaloo, as Jo loves anything beef it was an easy choice and one I knew she would love.

Beef Vindaloo

When I have Indian food I like a little bit of variety, so to compliment the beef I made my favourite potato and pea curry, it is so full of flavour and the brown mustard seeds with the peas give the dish both an interesting look and great texture.

Dry Potato and Pea Curry

Great combination of flavours
I was so pleased with the way the roti turned out, I made the flat bread version, the recipe is very simple, the hardest part of making the bread is the 10 minutes of kneading to get the dough to the right consistency before rolling out, once it is rolled it is a minute each side on a hot pan and it is ready to eat.

Bon appetite 

I added a cucumber yoghurt sauce as an accompaniment as I love to have the coolness and the crunch of it with my curry, this along with beautifully steamed rice, completed the Indian feast I prepared for my beautiful wife, on a cold winters night, it proved to be just what she needed after a hard day at the office!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Roast Duck Breast and some funky little cakes!

It has been a while since I posted a blog about my own cooking, with the back pain I have experienced  since my accident 13 months ago, I have not been cooking as much as I used to, nor as much as I would like, hence the move to more restaurant reviews.  In the past couple of months I have been writing articles for Weekend Notes, which has satisfied my need to write, but I have missed cooking and writing about good food prepared by myself for the love of my life, my wife.  So I hope you enjoy this one as much as I have enjoyed cooking and writing about it tonight!

Bon appétit!

Roasted duck breast with potato, asparagus and baby carrots in a rich wine sauce

The last couple of days at work I have felt a bit like a piece of plasticine in poor kids play ground, being pulled this way and that, everyone seemingly wanting a little bit of me at the same time.  It is a good way to be when you’re working, being kept busy the days seem to fly by.  During the mayhem of the day I stumbled upon my timesheet and thought I best do that now whilst I think about it, dutifully filling it in I realised I had quite a bit of flexitime up my sleeve, then looked at the clock and saw it was 3:45 decided I had had enough and began to wind down, but not before arranging a couple of days of toward the end of the week.  Not much after 4 o’clock, I was on a bus heading into the city and texting Jo not to worry about picking me up.

I loved making these baby raspberry and coconut cakes

I was home inside an hour and pretty much had an idea of what was for dinner by the time I unlocked the door, having a quick look for some ideas in a Marie Claire cookbook I spotted a beaut little Raspberry and Coconut cake, thinking Jo would love it I jotted down a few ingredients and after a quick change of clothes I was in my little Swift and on my way to StirlingFresh IGA for a few provisions.

We had picked up a couple of nice duck breasts when at the Good Food and Wine Show, they were to make up the main course though I needed a few vegies to go with them, I found just what I needed in a bunch each of Asparagus and Baby Carrots, add a few spuds into the mix and I was heading for the checkout.

I was home and cooking by 5 o’clock, a rare treat these days on a week night, just me and the radio playing Hot Country, my kind of heaven.  The raspberry and coconut cakes were a joy to make, just throw all the ingredients in bowl a bit of a mix and in the oven they go, the only difficult part of the whole exercise was trying to answer the bloody phone when you are up to your elbows in sticky dough, thanks Jo Girl!

I think they look fantastic!

Still they came out of the oven looking fantastic and the dishes were all done by the time she walked through the door and the kitchen smelt heavenly too.
125 grams butter
1/4 cup almond meal
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 2/3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
5 egg whites
2/3 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
Heat butter in a saucepan over low heat
Mix almond meal, coconut, icing sugar, flour, baking soda in a bowl add the egg whites, mix well, then add the ,melted butter incorporate thoroughly, then spoon dough into your pre greased patty  cake tins, sprinkle raspberries over the top.  Cook in a preheated oven @ 180 C for 12 to 15 minutes.

Having the dessert out of the way it was time to turn my attention to dinner, the duck breast is so easy to cook, just heat a dry pan to very hot add the breasts skin side down, don’t worry if they jump and pop, it just means your pan is nice and hot they will settle quickly, cook skin down for 3 minutes, then turn and cook on the cook top for one minute, then place the whole pan in the pre heated oven @ 180 C for 10 more minutes, then remove them and rest for 5 –  8 minutes.
I decide to roast some potatoes in duck fat, so these went in the oven 30 minutes before I cooked the duck and I had the asparagus and baby carrots to cook.   I decided to try something a little different and cooked a small onion and a sliced clove of garlic in butter over low heat for 5 minutes,  added the asparagus and carrots and tossed them for a few minutes, then added the juice of a lemon and let that cook another two minutes.  I then transferred the whole lot to a small roasting dish and before putting it in the oven I sprinkled a couple of tablespoons of parmesan cheese and some black pepper over the top, and then baked the dish for about 15 minutes.

I have been experimenting a little bit lately with Maggie Beers Cabernet Paste by adding it to various stocks to build a sauce or gravy, tonight I went a little heavy with the flour and ended up with a very thick gravy, whilst cooking it I commented to Jo that it almost tasted like chocolate, but by the time it hit the plate it was an awesome sauce to go with the duck, the small amount of duck fat left in the tray to cook the flour added a wonderful depth to it.

A very satisfying meal indeed!

All in all it was a great tasting meal and one that was really effortless to cook, we enjoyed the meal with a bottle of 2011 Windy Creek Cabernet Merlot and by the time I tucked in the last thing on my mind was the busy day I left behind at the office, for now it was all about enjoy a great feed with a great bottle of red with my gorgeous wife, what more could a poor kid ask for?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Yoshiya Japanese Restaurant

107 Pier Street Perth

Yoshiya Japanese Restaurant first opened their doors to Perth diners in 1987, since that time thousands of people have darkened the doorstep of the little premises at 107 Pier Street, the majority of them, like me, being return customers.
I first dined here on the occasion of my younger brothers 30th birthday, he celebrated his 50th birthday last year and I have since lost count of the number of times I have dined at this wonderful restaurant, nor can I remember that number of times I wished to myself that I had been there, rather than somewhere somewhat inferior, it is that kind of place.

When owner operators Francis and Sherry Lim first opened their restaurant it was known as the Hayashi Japanese Restaurant, the business was very good to them and in 1995 they opened a second restaurant by the same name in Applecross.  I was privileged to have been present for the opening night and the memories are still vivid of beautiful food and meeting some great people.  Sometime after however, the couple sold off the Applecross store and when they did the new owners kept the name of Hayashi, hence the name change at Pier Street.

As they say “Call a rose by any other name and it will still smell like a rose” and never a truer word could be said of Yoshiya Japanese Restaurant, the food I enjoyed there on Saturday night with my wife was just as exciting and just as delicious as that first meal I enjoyed here in 1991.

Niku Tataki - Tender marinated beef fillet so succulent and tender it melts in your mouth.

It has become a standard order for our entrée to include a serve of Niku-Tataki ($15.00), the thin slices of very rare beef are so succulent and tender, once marinated at the table in a soy vinegar sauce which you have added minced ginger, garlic, spring onion and daikon radish is unbelievable.  In more cases than not this is accompanied by a large Mixed Sashimi ($35.00), David the Sashimi Chef, is a master at his craft and the food he prepares always looks fantastic, tastes even better! 

Mixed Sashimi, my favourite.

I love the Mixed Sashimi, slices of Tuna, Kingfish, Salmon and Snapper with a little wasabi for spice and daikon for texture, and I believe my wife when she says she could live on nothing else but this food!  As Yoshiya is a BYO restaurant, I was able to enjoy a Windy Creek Chardonnay with my meal, it went so well with the sashimi, I was wishing we had taken a taxi so I could have opened a second bottle.

Main course, so much food!

There are so many choices on the Yoshiya menu, but when it comes to the main course my wife, always orders the same thing, it has become her all time favourite of any meal she has had and I cannot now get her to go without her Yaki-Niku ($27.00).  

Yaki Niku, Jo's fave meal of all time!

Yaki-Niku is another beef dish, this time marinated beef tenderloin fillet which is char grilled to perfection and comes with a spicy flavoured dipping sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds, the first time she experienced this meal, I experienced what Billy Crystal did sitting opposite Meg Ryan in “When Harry met Sally”, it was one of those blissful moments for her, as when you feel you have died and gone to heaven!

The Char Grilled Salmon was divine.

I ordered Sakana Shioyaki ($27.00), char grilled snapper, only to be told they were out of snapper, so Sherry offered to do the dish with Salmon instead, I was not disappointed, it was wonderful and cooked to perfection.  Both main meals are served with steamed rice and fresh salad.

Entrees at Yoshiya range from $6.00 a single serve to $35.00 for large share plates, with main meals ranging from $18.00 to $35.00, there are a couple of desserts on offer @ $7.00, you also have a choice of 2 set menus which can be ordered for a table or for a single person the first menu includes BBQ Prawns, BBQ Salmon, BBQ Scallop, Teriyaki chicken, and a marinated cubed beef dish, this comes with Miso Soup, Rice, Salad, Dessert and Japanese Tea or coffee, great value at $60.00 per person.  The second menu includes Sashimi, Tempura Seafood and Vegetables, Teriyaki Chicken and Yaki Niku and this also comes with Miso Soup, Rice, Salad, Dessert and Japanese Tea or coffee for $50.00 per person also great value and the food is awesome. 

I introduced a few friends to this restaurant last year, they enjoyed their entrees and mains so much, when asked what they would like for dessert they ordered what they had just had over again, knowing how good the food is at Yoshiya, I can understand why!

I really shouldn't because it is hard enough to get a table already, but I do highly recommend Yoshiya Japenese Restaurant, the food is the most exciting and delicious you will get anywhere and Francis and Sherry Lim, are the most wonderful hosts, they can never do enough for you to ensure you have a wonderful meal and evening.

Yoshiya Japanese on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Salt Dish Café

We were up at Geraldton for the WA Day long weekend when I mentioned going into town for breakfast, instantly my mother in law offered that there was only one place to go for Breakfast in Geraldton, the Salt Dish. 
A little while latter my sister in law rocks up and it is a little late for breakfast, but she is excited at the prospect of going to this hometown eatery, so I begin to thinking this place must be good.  Father in law, is not happy, he has chores to do and cannot join us, and apparently Salt Dish is his favourite café, for any hour of the day!  So it has been decided, we will go our own ways and then meet at Salt Dish @ 11:30 for lunch, you need to be early to secure a table I am told.

I headed off to visit the HMAS Sydney II Memorial with my nephew in tow, it was a beautiful day around 23 C sun shining and barely a cloud in the sky, the memorial had a new feature added last November and it has been beautifully done as are the other 4 elements.  Once we had had a look around and taken a few snaps we headed over to the coast to check out the Lighthouse, something the young bloke wanted to do and then found our way to Salt Dish.

Saltdish Cafe on Urbanspoon

From the street it looked like any other store front, with the exception of the couple of tables set up on the footpath, on entering it was obvious how busy this place was all tables were taken in the front of the restaurant, which looked onto the service area.
Here again were obvious signs of busy people as the staff went about, cooking food, making coffees and preparing to deliver plates of food to eager customers.  Behind the service area was another smaller room with 3 or 4 assorted tables and dining/lounge areas, we were led through this area and out to a garden area out the back were a table for our party of 6 was set up in a spot shaded by sail cloth.

This area was very relaxed, the furniture was mixed at each setting and a few of old captain’s styled armchairs set around an old coffee table, in various parts of the outdoor area were pot plants of flowers and herbs, it had a very homey feel about the place.

Once seated we ordered some drinks, I went for an Iced Chocolate drink, something out of the ordinary for me, when it was brought to the table I took one look at it and began to wonder what I had done, there was so much cream and ice-cream in the glass, not at all what I expected.  But after taking my first sip I was a little more relaxed about it, then I stirred it all up and it became this wonderful creamy liquid chocolate, oh so heavenly, I was immediately hooked!
Virgin Mary, Iced Chocolate, Iced Tea with Honey and Lemon

Jo order a Virgin Mary, which appeared on sight to be very much a Bloody Mary, the waitress informed it was but for the fact there was no alcohol, I tried it and it was very YUM, but I think I would rather dance with the big sister version, give me my Vodka!

The third drink brought out, ordered by Pam was an Iced Tea with Honey and Lemon, it too was very YUM, but after tasting it decided I made the wisest choice, the kids were very wide eyed as they watched it disappear, so much so that they asked for the same at the end of our meal, which I was only too happy to get for them.  Unfortunately when taking my order the lovely lady misheard what I had said and instead of 2 being brought to the table, there were four on the tray, bugger!  I really did not need that extra iced chocolate, but it sure went down as if I did!
Grilled Whiting and Chips

Boy food, Hand Cut Chips with tomato sauce

Soon the food began to arrive and finally I started to get an idea as to why everyone had been so excited about coming here for lunch, it really looked amazing and these first two dishes were the kids fish and chips, beautiful grilled fillets of fresh whiting and hand cut chips, it was just the start of the oh’s and ah’s from Jo and myself.
Lime Chicken Salad

Pam had practically begged Jo to try her favourite dish, Lime Chicken, with beans, grilled coconut, coriander, and spiced peanuts finished with curry dressing and chilli plum jam on the side, as the waitress took the order a huge smile came over her face as she gushed “My favourite, good choice”.  I could see what all the fuss was about as soon as the dish hit the table, I could taste the flavours just by looking at it, it looked so appealing, Jo twisted my arm so I would have a taste and that confirmed it as very YUM YUM YUMMY!
Green Papaya Salad with Grilled Prawns

Pam ordered next and had managed to pick what I thought looked and sounded good to me, Szechuan BBQ Prawns in a green papaya, radish, cucumber salad with chilli garlic dressing and chilli lime caramel, the prawns in this dish were so fresh I’d swear I saw them still kicking, another superb looking dish that tasted as good as it looked, disappointed not to have ordered it myself after trying it.
Peppered Scotch Fillet Sandwich

It was to be a Peppered Scotch Fillet sandwich with balsamic onions, provolone and mustard mayo served with hand cut chips for Shane, I can only imagine how good this was, as he wasn’t sharing it with anyone it can only have been as good as it looked!
Beef Tenderloin Steak with Asparagus

Given my first three choices off the menu had been ordered I looked toward the specials board for my meal and ordered from it a Beef Tenderloin Steak finished with a red wine jus and asparagus with béarnaise sauce and roasted kipfler potatoes, whilst I may have been a little disappointed with having to go to my fourth pick, I was not at all disappointed with the meal, it was divine, the steak was so tender the potatoes where perfect as was the asparagus and sauce.
Happy Campers

I have eaten at a lot of restaurants in Geraldton, and several of them have been very good, but I can categorically say that Salt Dish is by far the best restaurant I have eaten at and one I will look forward to visiting on my next trip to Gero.
Be sure to check out the graffiti at the back wall next door!
Tucked away at the northern end of Marine Terrace, opposite the beautiful sea is Salt Dish Café, a food lover’s home away from home.
A bright red door, dark wooden tables, bent wooden chairs and a lush red wall fill Salt Dish with a warm, inviting feeling ideal for indulging in great food and friendly welcoming service, lifted from off the back of Salt Dishes compliments card, I really could not have put this better myself, highly recommended!
Saltdish Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Green Curry Fish and Prawn with Coconut Rice

During the last half hour I spent in the office today it looked very bleak outside, it was rainy and I really was not looking forward to running out to the car and getting wet, it must have dampened my spirits as I rang Jo and asked her to stop by on her way home so I could take her out for dinner.

Stopping somewhere in Northbridge on our way home for dinner has become a fairly regular event, often it will be my favourite Vietnamese Vinh Hong, not only because I love the food, but also because of Jo’s love for the wine bar next door, it is a nice way to end the day, especially  after being busy at work.

Well that was the plan anyway, however by the time I left the office it had stopped raining, and Jo was still stuck on the freeway, so I told her to continue on home and I’d cook for her after all, I had started driving myself by this time and was formulating an idea in my head to cook a green curry chicken.  That was until I turned the next corner and the traffic was at a stands still, so after a quick U turn, I was heading back from whence I began and looking for a quicker route home, that route took me through North Perth, straight past our local fish monger, an ordinary chicken curry had now been elevated to a fish and prawn curry.

After a quick stroll through Coles, I was headed home with my snapper and king prawns, a yellow capsicum, a handful of green beans, a bunch of chives and a red chilli, with this and a few items from the pantry dinner was on its way!

I make my own green curry paste from green chillies, lots of coriander, shrimp paste, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, shallots, galangal, ginger, garlic, Kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass, it is absolutely the best, when I make it I make enough so as to make a couple of curries and then to fill an ice cube tray for later use, I used 3 cubes tonight from my last batch. 

I cooked the rice in coconut milk using the absorption method that takes 30 minutes to cook, having prepared the curry ingredients in the first 10 minutes of that time, left me 20 minutes to cook the curry, such an easy dinner to make and oh so YUM YUM to eat, really did leave me wanting more, but that would leave Jo without lunch tomorrow and we cannot have that now can we!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mamma Agata – Simple and Genuine

We are planning a trip to Italy in a year’s time, which is keeping Jo very busy as she surfs the net looking for as much information as she can find about the place, its culture and most importantly its food.  Whilst doing this she came across a site for a cooking school on the Amalfi Coast, which is one of the areas I have indicated I very much want to see and experience.  The cooking school, known as Mamma Agata’s is perched high up on the side of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, it would be an experience just to visit the property it looks so beautiful.  She keeps nagging me, can we go, have you had look, nag nag nag, so eventually I went and had look at the site and some of the food they prepare there, and I have to agree with Jo it does look fantastic. 
Whilst looking around on the site I found they had released the third edition of a cook book titled “Mamma Agata – Simple and Genuine” and it was available from their web site.  I could not resist so ordered one there and then, it arrived a few days later personally autographed by Mamma and the family with the words “Cucinare con amore in Jack's cucina”, which translates to “Cook with love in Jack’s kitchen!”

I sat down and had a look through the recipes one night last week, then handed the book to Jo and had her pick out 3 recipes to make up a 3 course meal, as I handed her the book I told her I think you really only need to pick the main because I know what you will want for the other two courses, a little while later she gave me the three courses, the only surprise being her main course, Stuffed Squid, the entrée  and dessert as I had predicted were to be Sautéed Mussels and Clams and an Apple Tart, know her too well!

Sautéed Mussels and Clams

A very simple entrée, but oh so satisfying, mussels and clams sautéed in garlic and olive oil finished with a squeeze of lemon, very more-ish, served up with crusty garlic ciabbata YUM YUM

Stuffed Squid
Another very simple to prepare dish, packed full of flavour, finished in a tomato puree cooked up with the left over stuffing, beautiful fresh flavours, accompanied by a Mediterranean styled salad, so glad I brought too many squid, took the left over’s for lunch on Monday and had all the office looking on in envy as I devoured my lunch!

Mama Agata’s Apple Tart

If I never made this tart again, I can promise you I will certainly be using the pastry recipe again, unbelievably good!  But then so was the filling, I was feeling a little guilty putting this together, felt like I was cheating on my Mother and Grandma, as I have made their apple pie recipe so many times and I love it, always will, but I am going to have to find room for this recipe too, it is so amazing.

So we have celebrated a year to go until our holiday in true Italian style, with good food, really good food, made with love for the one I love, now there is just 364 days to go, can’t wait!

As you can see by the photo's Jo did a great job setting the scene for our evening, she also picked out an amazing bottle of wine for us to enjoy with our meal, an Autumn Red from one of our favourite Swan Valley wineries Windy Creek, a top drop from a top little winery!