Friday, April 20, 2012

Chicken Dinner

Sometimes it is the food, other times the friends or love ones that you share the food with, today it came shopping for food....

I enjoyed a wonderful lunch with my mate Wes today at our favourite Vietnamese restaurant Vinh Hong in Northbridge.  As we were leaving I looked across the road at the Wing Hong butcher shop, turned to Wes and asked if we had time to do a bit of shopping.  Wing Hong supply several of Perth’s restaurants with fantastic meat and their shop front is always packed with customers, today was no exception.  We walked in and standing at the back of the mob, near to the beef fridge when the woman serving started calling out “number fourteen”, “number fourteen”, it was then that I realised that I had to take a number.
I walked over grabbed the next number walked back to where I had been standing and the woman again called out “number fourteen”, “number fourteen”, I looked at my number and sure enough it was 14, smiling I waved the ticket around frantically calling out “WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER”, the woman looked at me and said “No! No! That beef, chicken liver up the other end”!!!! Well to say we were in hysterics would be an understatement, she looked at me with a funny look on her face and she said “what you say?” so I repeated “WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER” and showed her my number, with that she turned to her colleagues and said something in Vietnamese, next thing the whole shop was laughing, clients and all, a very funny moment.
After the laughter subsided I ordered two beautiful big T Bone steaks, as she stuffed them into a bag and looking at Wes and myself, she asked “is this for your lunch” which started a conversation about eating lunch across the road at Vinh Hong, I think that was enough to satisfy her that weren’t that silly after all as she had a beaming smile as we departed the shop!

Bloody good steak too! Princess was well pleased!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Red Cabbage, to go with Pork Involtini

I was home a little earlier tonight as a training course I have been on finished at 4:00, so I ducked into Cedric St to pick a couple of things up Jo needed, saving her the need to do so at a later hour. 

Whilst I was shopping about I picked up a red cabbage, to go with a nice pork fillet I already had in the basket, given I had that little bit of extra time, I thought I might do something different and hopefully nice for Jo Girl.  Having made that decision I picked up a bunch of asparagus and headed for the deli counter to order a few slices of prosciutto and a wedge of fontina cheese, so I could make my Pork Involtini.

Originally thinking I would steam the cabbage, then thought better of it as red cabbage can be a little bitter, so I headed for the PC to Google red cabbage, a couple of things came up, but nothing that really appealed, but I found enough info to inspire me into creating something which would match the pork perfectly.

Red Cabbage
2 tbl spn butter
1-2 shallots, finely sliced
1 golden delicious apple, grated
Pinch of nutmeg
½ red cabbage, washed and finely shredded
2 tbl spn balsamic vinegar

Melt butter over medium heat, add the shallots and cook slowly for about five minutes or until nice and tender.
Add the apple and a pinch of nutmeg, stir in well and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, then add the cabbage, mix in well, reduce heat to low and cover the pot, leave to cook for 4-5 minutes.
Season well with salt and pepper, add the balsamic, stir though and cook a couple more minutes with the lid off, add more butter, salt and pepper to taste, serve hot as a side dish.

Pork Involtini
300 – 400 gram pork fillet
Cabernet Paste
100g fontina cheese, cut into batons
Bunch asparagus
6 slices prosciutto
Salt and pepper

Prepare the pork by first slicing through the centre of the fillet, careful not to cut all the way through, butterfly out and pound with a rolling pin or an empty bottle.
Season well with salt and pepper, spread a couple of teaspoons of Maggie Beers Cabernet Paste over the meat, then lay half the asparagus and cheese across the meat, roll the meat over the asparagus and cheese back onto itself, allowing a little bit of an overlap, then cut through the fillet. 

Place on top of the slices of prosciutto and roll.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make a second roll.
To cook, quickly brown all over in a hot non-stick pan, transfer to a preheated oven @ 200 degrees for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven, rest for 5 minutes, slice across the roll cutting slices 12-15mm thick, serve with mashed potato, cabbage and a red wine sauce.

As luck would have it, Jo had to work back later than usual, but thankfully I had not started cooking the meat when she phoned so I was able to turn everything off and just reheat the vegetables whilst I rested the meat, made for a very tasty meal and the red cabbage was sensational!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Fillaudeau’s Cafe, Pinelli's Winery Caversham

Being such a beautiful day, Jo and I ventured over to the Swan Valley on Sunday to pick up a few stores and to have a bite to eat, our first stop being Pinelli Wines in Bennett St Caversham.

Pinelli's has been a long time favourite for us and we have been eagerly anticipating the opening of their new restaurant, so we were very pleased to find on arriving at the winery, that not had they finally opened the restaurant, but they were in full swing, with around 30 people seated for lunch when we arrived.

A bit of background history…

I met Daniel Pinelli in the late 1990’s when he came to work a summer at my workplace, whilst he was a uni student studying Mechanical Engineering.  Dan’s fellow student and mate Brett, had been assigned to work with me that summer as I travelled around various regions of Western Australia collecting road data.  Brett was the envy of all his mates that summer, he landed the best assignment and experience, as he not only travelled around the state, but was paid overtime each day as he did so.  On the days when we were not out in the field, Dan would come and see Brett in my office and practically begged me to arrange for him to accompany me on a field trip, with a little gentle persuasion of his manager, we managed to pull it off and Dan came away for a week on the road.  On our return, Dan rocked up at my house in Riverton with a box of fruit, vegetables and bottles of wine and port from the family business, which was my first experience with Pinelli wines.

Then a few years later, a mutual friend was invited to Dan’s wedding, he was marrying a girl Belinda, that just happened to work with us, when my friend told me of the invitation she had added that she would have to find someone to be her partner for the night, I put my hand up and so was fortunate enough to attend and enjoy watching and celebrating, Dan marrying the girl of his dreams.

Since that time, Dan has given away Mechanical Engineering, went back to uni to study viniculture, fathered two beautiful children and is now working with his brother Robert in the family business making fantastic wines.
Knowing the restaurant was getting close to opening, I popped in to see Belinda in her office a week or so ago, she confirmed they were close to opening, but would not commit to dates or anything like that, she just told me of the plans and the fact that they were looking forward to opening, though I think she was just a little bit nervous too.

The restaurant, being run by a French-born Chef Manu Fillaudeau and his Perth born wife Jasmin, has been constructed from rammed earth, opens out to beautiful wide veranda’s, surrounded by the Pinelli vines and lush green lawns, it is a very relaxing setting, tastefully decorated with lots of natural timber furniture and flooring, it is a nice place to be.

We had had a late breakfast and thought we would be eating a little latter in the day, however after finding a nice outdoor table available and having a quick look at the menu, decided we would stay and ordered a shared seafood platter, consisting of a fish terrine, chilli mussels, garlic prawns, grilled squid and bread.  
We ordered a 2007 Family Reserve Chenin Blanc to enjoy with the meal, and enjoy we did, I have come to love the Chenin Blanc’s from the Swan Valley and this is amongst the best of them, if only I did not have to drive home!

The platter was absolutely YUM YUM, the only thing I was wanting was more bread, which I ordered eventually, so as to mop up the chilli sauce and the juices left behind after we had devoured the prawns and squid, the chilli sauce was unbelievably good, the bite of chilli was just enough to satisfy me without being over powering, I really regretted having to share the plate, I could easily have found room to polish it off by myself, very Moorish!
The atmosphere of the place was totally relaxing, the day was glorious sunshine with a gentle breeze blowing through the veranda, which helped intensify the experience, the other customers around us must have felt the same as no one seemed to be in a hurry to rush off, it was really lovely.

I did not want to go, and so asked to see the dessert menu, Jo quickly piped up and said she would not have dessert, then having seen Panacotta on the menu promptly ordered one, I ordered port poached pears and vanilla ice cream.  Both desserts were awesome, a perfect way to finish the meal, I think I could become addicted to pears poached in port.
When I spoke with Belinda, she had expressed a concern of how things might run and how long before they would have an efficiently running restaurant, well I can say given they were on their fourth day of having been opened, I was impressed, they are a young team and being so new, there were quite a few people wanting to say hello and discuss how things were going for them.  But I estimated that they had close to fifty through for lunch whilst we were there, and it was done without any noticeable anxiety, the staff were very pleasant, the food came out in reasonable time and piping hot, and oh so delicious, we will be back and soon, got my eye on some duck!
Fillaudeau's on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday Roast

Nothing brings back memories more than times like Easter Sunday, as a kid it was pretty much the same routine each and every year, woken early enough to get to church on time, then returning home to receive Easter Eggs, which were quickly opened and tucked into whilst sitting on the back step with my brothers and sisters.  All the while Mum would be in the kitchen with a leg of lamb in the wood fired oven, as she peeled potatoes and sliced up beans, or putting the last touches to an apple pie.  When the lunch bell rang we would race to get our favourite seat at the table, there was often a bit of pushing and shoving to get the seat you wanted, it was noisy and it was fun, lots of fun and the food always plentiful and oh so yummy, Mum is a great cook.

This Easter Sunday was somewhat quieter, just the two of us for lunch and nothing more planned for the day but to enjoy a delicious roast lamb with a nice glass of red, however finding a day old SMS from my son early in the morning changed things a little bit, it went pretty much as planned.
Thinking back to the first time I ever cooked a roast, makes me cringe now, I would panic so much trying to bring the meal together, I used to make such a great deal about it all, which I find so funny now, as it really is the easiest of meals to prepare, and when only cooking for two it becomes so much easier still, as I always plate up four meals, two for now two for tomorrow, makes my Easter Monday very cruisy!

One of the things I love when I roast nowadays is my roasting pan, I brought it about 18 months back whilst in Busselton, from a little cookery shop.  I had seen one just like it in Osborne Park about 12 months earlier fell in love with it but did not buy it straight away, and when I did get back to buy it, it was gone.  Devastated as I was I remained positive that I would find another one and when I did I would buy it regardless of the cost, that happened in Busso, I was so happy, but nowhere near as I am now after I have cooked a roast in it, I love it, it is BRILLIANT.
Funnily enough, that is also the brand name of it Brilliant, it was made in Romania and is finished in a hand painted enamel, inside and out, being that is a covered pan means less dirt and grime on my oven walls. I have only recently learnt the best way to roast meat with it, I tried adding a glass of water, then I tried cooking in oil, both ways were OK but not fantastic then I finally tried dry roasting and that works a treat, the meat stills browns up nicely, there is less mess and the juices in the pan help make the best gravy.

Today’s roast was a 2 kilo leg, which I stuffed with garlic and rosemary after making holes in the meat with the spike of my meat thermometer, then coated with a little olive oil and seasoned well with salt and pepper, it was placed in to a preheated oven @ 170C and roasted for two hours, turning the meat every 30 minutes.  The vegies, potato, parsnip, sweet potato, carrots were added on the last turn and at two hours the meat removed to rest in the lid whilst the veg continued to cook for another 30 minutes, after which the vegies are transferred to another plate and put back into the now switched of oven, while the gravy is made in the roasting pan.

I made a side dish of peperonata from shallots, red capsicum, chilli, zucchini and tomatoes and steamed Brussels sprouts and beans to complete the meal, it was deliciously good and brought back so many wonderful memories of the beautiful roasts my Mum would make and still does, not just at Easter, but week in, week out, though mine is not as good as hers yet, I think it is something worth striving for!

Well we didn’t sit on the back step and eat our Easter eggs today, but we did sit together and enjoyed a nice glass of red after lunch, while watching the movie War Horse and eating choccie eggs, mmm who ever knew chocolate and red wine went so well together, Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bouillabaisse - Happy Easter

It is Good Friday morning and I am in the kitchen preparing to celebrate this important Christian event with my sons, daughter in law and grand children, I have Bouillabaisse and Pavlova on the menu, which we will sit down together and enjoy this evening.

Bouillabaisse is my favourite all time dish to make, it does not feature very often on our menu for a number of reasons, it is an expensive dish to make, you need time to make it properly and you need a crowd to sit down and enjoy it together.  Being that it is Good Friday, it fits the “no meat” brief perfectly and it is such a special dish, the day is deserving of it, being the very special day it is. 

There is another fantastic thing about this dish, you can do all the hard work early having everything ready so that when your guests arrive all you need do is reheat the beautiful seafood stock/soup, add the seafood piece by piece and it is ready to eat in around fifteen minutes, spoon it into bowls, dish out large servings of toasted bread and your good to go, love it.

I am 3 hours into my cooking, and just as I was about to strain the stock off, a damsel in distress put out a call for help, her car had a flat battery and as luck would have it, she had not found out until after she had packed the car to the hilt for a trip down south for a family holiday.  I simply turned the stove off and took off to assist her, job done I returned home and picked up where I left off, now how many dishes can you do that with? Again the fact it is a holiday and I have plenty of time made a big difference.

You begin making the stock by sautéing a sliced up leek with an onion, fennel bulb and half a bunch of garlic, cooking for about 6-7 minutes, then adding a can of chopped tomato, 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, a few sprigs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves, some peppercorns, a couple of teaspoons of  cumin seeds, a few star anise and the grated rind of an orange, this is stirred while it cooks until the volume reduces by half, the aromas whilst cooking this are amazing.
Now you add in two crabs that have been cleaned of the dead man’s fingers and broken into 3 or 4 pieces, put the whole crab including the mustard in its head, the mustard has lots of flavour, cook for 5-6 minutes then add in some fish bones, I brought two whole fish for this dish, which I filleted, the carcasses when into the stock.

The flavours in Bouillabaisse are magnificent every mouthful as you eat meal makes you yearn for more, there is so much depth in the finished broth, it truly is a wonderful experience to sit with a bowl of this gorgeous seafood stew and a chunk of toasted crunchy bread, heaven.

After cooking the vegetables and seafood down you add a full bottle of white wine to the pot, Jo could not believe it as she watched me pour the contents of the whole bottle into the brew, the wine is mixed in well with the vegetables and then cooked on a simmer until reduced by half, then you add 2 litres of water, bring the pot to the boil, then reduce to simmer for an hour.

Whilst the stock is simmering away you have time to skin the fish fillets, trim the legs of the prawns and de-beard the mussels that will be included just before serving, there are also potatoes to steam, steaming the potatoes before adding them to the broth makes them more receptive of soaking up the YUM YUM, steam them with the skin on, peel them when cooked and straight into the pot.

After the stock has simmered for that hour, strain the solids off, pound the crabs to a paste, I used my pestle and it worked well, you could bung it into the food processor but why create extra work when a bit of elbow grease will do the job!  Once they’re crushed down add the stock back mix in well and then strain the solids off again, this is done to extract as much flavour as possible from the crabs, fish and vegetables, the solids are then discarded.

Now add a heaped teaspoon of saffron, some salt (be generous with the salt) and some cayenne pepper to taste, bring back to a simmer and the stock is now ready, you can leave it here and reheat later or continue on and begin adding in the fish, potatoes and other seafood.

I added the potatoes and then turned the pot off, coming back to check the taste about every fifteen minutes thereafter, not that I needed to, it tasted great, hence the several consequential checks!
Garlic and capsicum mayonnaise served with the Bouillabaisse which is spread on the crusty toasted bread, the mayo is made from a little baked potato, red capsicum, garlic, egg yolks, lemon juice, saffron threads a pinch of cayenne pepper and olive oil, all the ingredients are blended together to make this rich creamy mayonnaise, it is beautiful.

Having everything prepared including the Pavlova and its topping by three o’clock, gave me time to lay down for an hour for a poppy nap, very relaxing way to spend the afternoon after a busy morning.
The fish I choose to use included a Red Throat Emperor, a Red Coral Rock Cod, Exmouth King Prawns, Shark Bay Prawns, Blue Swimmer Crabs, Mussels, and a little Squid.

You add the seafood to the simmering stock starting with the fish that will take the longer cooking time adding the other pieces within the cooking time of the first, get it right and everything will be beautifully cooked, I added the squid and smaller prawns a little early, so they had shrunk by the time they hit the bowl, but overall I was happy with the final result.
While we waited for my son Ryan to arrive, Jo readied the bread grilling one side then buttering the other side and then grilling that, by the time he arrived there was a huge plate full resting in the oven, when it came to the table I thought there is no way we’ll get through that, but I had forgotten just how good it is soaking up the broth with the crunchy bread and before we were done I was cutting more bread for the table.

I learnt on the night the only seafood my daughter in-law likes is fish, I knew she did not eat prawns but mussels and crabs came as a surprise, given the broth was based on a crab bisque had her plate looking very grim with only fish and potatoes to eat, however as it turned out even she loved the flavours and when offered more fish, she requested that it come with some of the broth and a slice of bread, I wasn’t at all surprised when her bowl was emptied and she was complaining of having eating too much, that’s just the way it is with Bouillabaisse!