Friday, February 17, 2012

Singing In The Rain / Featured Weekend Movie

Spaghetti with rich tomato and anchovy sauce

We enjoyed watching thunderstorms through our living room window yesterday, and the flickering candlelight inside, while cuddled up on the couch together. It felt like Autumn had arrived early. The rain against our window made me think of a favorite movie and song "Singing in the rain"...and dinner. So I searched through our pantry and fridge to see what I could find (because neither of us wanted to go out in the rain, we were enjoying it just fine from within the comforts of our home). Unfortunately, we broke our committment to "no pasta" through the week (we LOVE pasta, and over indulge too often). Anyway, what were we to do? It was too wet to go outside...remember...As it turns out, I was able to bring together a wonderful dish and create a brilliant new recipe! To those who don't like anchovy, please try this, I promise it's nothing like eating one on a pizza. The anchovy fillets in this sauce disintegrate into nothing leaving a truly beautiful flavour. Adding the fresh basil and parsley 10 minutes before serving gives an incredible burst of flavour, without overcooking the fresh herbs. This is a delicious rich sauce that is the perfect accompaniment to a stormy evening. So enjoy your cooking, light some candles, and nestle in enjoying some pasta and "Singing in the rain".

Spaghetti with rich tomato and anchovy sauce
serves 3

Mis en place "everything in it's place"

Heat olive oil, then add
chopped garlic and chilli
and stir as it infuses into oil
for a few minutes
 keep an eye on it as
you don't want garlic
to brown
Add tomatoes to pan
and crush up
with wooden
turn up heat
add red wine and allow
alcohol to evaporate for
 a few minutes,
continue to stir
Add anchovies and
 cracked black pepper
to sauce and stir
at this stage sauce should
be on a gentle simmer (low flame)
leave to cook for 30 mins,
 stirring occasionally
with lid off
With 10 min to go
add 4 basil leaves
chopped parsley
and a pinch of salt
and stir into sauce
*anchovies do add salt to the
sauce, but another pinch
was necessary
cook your pasta al dente
Sauce is ready!

Drain your pasta
and toss through sauce
add 1 heaped tbsp

parmigiano reggiano cheese
Served and ready
to eat!


3 cloves garlic finely sliced
2 tsp organic chilli paste
5 tbsp olive oil
x2 400g tinned tomatoes
a small handful flat leaf parsley
4 basil leaves
4 anchovy fillets
1/2 glass of red wine
pinch of cracked black pepper
pinch salt
1 heaped tbsp reggiano
1 pkt spelt pasta
 (or the pasta of your choice)
drizzle extra virgin oil to serve

Buon Appetito!

Cheese and Sun-dried tomato toasts / Breakfast

As the weekend near approaches, we would like to share with you a delicious Italian treat.
We enjoy nothing better than a lie in, followed by a walk to our local florist to select some gorgeous flowers for our home, and listening to some chilled out music while we cook breakfast. 

This recipe from Antipasti - A delicious array of Italian recipes is one of our favourites for its flavours, textures and rustic look. We used ciabatta rather than sfilatino bread, and we bought marinated sun dried tomatoes from our local deli and pulsed them in the blender.

Toast al formaggio e pomodori secchi
"cheese and sundried tomato toasts"
serves 2


x4 thick slices ciabatta bread 
4 tbsp sun-dried tomatoes
300g fresh mozzarella
 drained and sliced
dried oregano 
(enough to sprinkle on top)
good quality olive oil
(enough to drizzle over top)
cracked black pepper

Take your sun-dried tomatoes and place in blender. Pulse until roughly chopped. Place in bowl and place aside
Slice the bread diagonally and discard the end pieces
Toast the slices on both sides under a preheated grill until golden
Spread one side of each toast with the sun-dried tomatoes and top with mozzarella
Sprinkle with oregano and season with pepper
Place the toasts on a large baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil
Bake in a preheated oven 220 degrees for about 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted and is bubbling
Remove the hot toasts from the oven and leave them to stand for a minute before serving


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Strawberry Mille Fuille Tower / Puff pastry

Naughty but warned! These little darlings are scrumptious and very hard to stop at one...
As you take each mouthful you are taken to a place of pure ecstasy. Life is short, so pleasures like these must be enjoyed - at least occasionally. The good news is these are super easy to create and are dressed to impress!

Strawberry Mille Fuille Tower


Puff pastry (thawed sheets)
1 cup thickened cream
1-2 tsp caster sugar
(depending on how sweet you want it)
punnet strawberries
2 drops vanilla essence 
icing sugar (for dusting)

Wash strawberries. Cut them in half and then make thin slices. Place into bowl, cling wrap and set aside
Take sheet of puff pastry and place onto clean work bench that has been dusted with lots of caster sugar
Roll out pastry with rolling pin to about 1-2mm thickness
Cut out 5-6cm discs and continue until you have got the desired amount, repeating steps with more pastry sheets. You will need 1 1/2  pastry discs per tower
Preheat oven to 210 degrees
Lightly grease oven tray and place discs on tray sugar side up
Discs will rise (puff) when cooking
Cook until slightly golden - about 10 mins, maybe less, so keep an eye on them
Meanwhile, whip your cream with a beater or whisk (beater easier). Add caster sugar to and vanilla essence to cream. You are now ready to thicken your cream. Beat until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over beat as your cream will turn into butter
Remove pastry discs from oven
Allow to cool
Gently slice discs in half. When building towers make sure you use the top off pastry discs for tops and bottom of pastry for base
When building towers don't go overboard with cream, otherwise your tower will collapse and not stand upright
Spread cream onto base disc 1, top with slice strawberry, top with disc, gently place cream on disc, top with slice strawberry and place final disc on top
Plate up and continue your process of building your towers
Your last step is to dust the top of your towers with icing sugar. You can do this by placing some icing into a strainer and lightly tapping over your towers


Monday, February 13, 2012

Rich Italian tomato sauce / slow cook

We had some time to spare this weekend, time enough to plan some slow cooking, rich flavoured comfort food from heaven (Italy). This dish epitomizes everything we love about food. It is born from rich Italian heritage and offers an aroma and flavour that generations before us have cooked & loved.

This food is cooked the old traditional way - as you cook through its stages you can almost feel a generation of Italian Nona's watching over your shoulder to check on your every move and gently guide you back on course if you were to stray from their tried and tested method.

This sauce is the real Italian deal. It has never been truer the saying  - you reap what you sew. 

If you love Italian food, really love it to its beautiful cultural roots - you must take this culinary journey as though taking a walk through the hills of Tuscany itself.  This is perfect for a Sunday afternoon of cooking and makes for the perfect Sunday night dinner. I hope you enjoy making it as much as we do! My husband and I make a great team in the kitchen. While I made the sauce he prepared fresh pasta to go with the sauce. Fresh pasta post will be coming soon...we are constantly inspired by the many great chefs of the world. This recipe was inspired by Tobbie Puttock's slow cooking. We hope you enjoy our version...x

Rich Italian slow sauce
serves 4

900g lamb chump chops
 (from good quality butcher - great for stewing)
2 onions, roughly chopped
3 carrots, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
4 celery sticks, roughly chopped (discard leaves)
pinch salt
pinch cracked black pepper

4 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 onion finely sliced
2 carrots, finely diced
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 generous tbsp rosemary, roughly chopped
1 large fresh red chilli, seeded, finely sliced
1 1/2 glasses of dry red wine - we use Shiraz (Reilly's Clare Valley 2008)
2 x 400g tinned and diced tomatoes
pinch salt
pinch cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil for flavour
finely chopped parsley leaves to garnish
parmigiano reggiano to garnish

STAGE 1 Mirepoix
vegetables cut roughly
(will be discarded later, so no need to finely chop)
Add Mirepoix to large pot
Add Lamb chump chops
to Mirepoix
Add water just covering ingredients
add bay leaves
pinch salt,
 cracked black pepper
bring to boil, then gently simmer
checking meat every ten minutes to make
sure water level stays above the meat
most of the time
the meat should be tender, almost
falling apart after 2 hrs
(if it isn't keep cooking)
once done remove pot from heat and allow
meat to cool to room temperature
Now you can begin STAGE 2
seed and chop large red chilli
finely chop garlic
Finely chop Mirepoix (carrot, celery, onion)
finely chop rosemary
Put the 4 tbs of olive oil in large saucepan
Add finely chopped Mirpoix, rosemary
garlic and chilli
sweat over gentle heat for 15 mins
(sweat means to cook without colour
-don't brown the vegetables) see below
vegetables soft and cooked without colour
Pour in red wine (shiraz) and allow to evaporate
Meanwhile, transfer meat from pot (STAGE 1)
to bowl and set to one side
Strain the meats cooking liquid and
pour into saucepan
over the vegetables and
red wine (STAGE 2)
discard STAGE 1's boiled vegetables
This is what the liquid looks like
after removing the meat and vegetables
from STAGE 1. This liquid then poured
into saucepan with red wine
Raise the heat under vegetables, wine
and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
At this stage, add the tomatoes, salt/pepper

Again, reduce the liquid, this time
to a level that just covers the vegetables
this will take a little while...
stir occassionally, so nothing sticks
Once sauce reduced, remove the
saucepan from heat and allow
sauce to cool
Tear meat into little shreds
discard fat
add meat to the cooling sauce
add as much or as less meat
as desired - meat will absorb sauce
so if you prefer more saucy add
less meat
 (reserved meat can be used in another sauce
or sandwiches)
add to sauce 1 tbsp extra virgin
olive oil and garnish with a handful
of parsley
Serve immediately with fresh pasta and
Parmigiano reggiano (parmesan)
(you can refrigerate for later use and it will
last 4-5 days)

Enjoy with a crusty bread and red wine

 buon appetito!


**As always, try to buy quality produce by visiting farmers markets
and quality butchers. They love your support

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Harambe Ethiopian Restaurant / Review

"Harambe" - in Swahili means "coming together as one". My lovely wife found this place for an early Valentines celebration - we had a great weekend starting with lunch at Harambe this Saturday.

The Harambe exterior promises a great experience.

We certainly did come together as one yesterday as we visited this intriguing restaurant in Footscray, Melbourne. We walked through the front door, pretty excited about what this experience could bring, entering a small room- enlivened by vibrant Ethiopian colours & enriched by the smells of distant simmering stews and curries.

A promising start! We entered a room that resembled a traditional Ethiopian "Tukul"  -a thatched grass hut. It was pretty cool. We were transported from Barkley St Footscray to Addis-Ababa in a micro-second. The room was adorned with all types of Ethiopian artifacts all working together to transport you to another place.

The main dining room set up as a traditional Tukul.

We'd decided to have lunch at Harambe & as such there were only 5 other tables filled with like-minded eager Ethiopian eaters. The round room (& the lack of any music) encouraged us to fill the void and chat with those near us. It became obvious we were all after one thing - a true Ethiopian experience. There were Ethiopian nationals (always a good sign), travelling Europeans, local students and even a butcher from Queensland on the search for great flavors for his next batch of sausages! A diverse lot indeed - must look Mr Butcher up - the snags would be pretty good ;)

We spied the menu and poured over its contents - hoping to get a handle on what this countries' food offers. In fact we had some idea having cooked some North African food ourselves - the aromas were rich and spicy - our expectation was heavy with notions of great curries and stews. We were not disappointed.

Wonderful stews and curries on offer.

Being the gluttons (food lovers) that we are, we ordered two "platters" - one an array of mixed vegetarian dishes and the other meat based wonders. The smells coming from the kitchen were wonderful! To our amazement we noticed the whole restaurant was being run by one girl. By this, I mean she really did it all, greeted the customers, ran front of house, served the brilliant Ethiopian beers and cooked & served the food - all with an ever-present smile & willingness to share.

We couldn't help but have a chat with Nanique. It turns out she is the daughter of the Ethiopian family who owns and runs this restaurant. Our dream as travelers is always to be invited into peoples' homes, learn about their lives & share their food - maybe even be taught how to cook a few traditional dishes on the way. It turns out Nanique and her family have the same idea. We are not customers in their restaurant - but friends invited into their family for a few hours to share some great food. And how good was the food!

Nanique doing her thing...

Small portions served on top of Injera Bread.

Each dish is served on top of fluffy & light Ethiopian bread (looking a lot like pancakes) called 'Injera". The  beauty of this is the holes in the bread soak up the sauces from each dish. The meal is eaten by hand - one hand only of course - bouncing from one incredible flavour to another. You break of some bread, pinch some food and eat hand to mouth - why do we use knives, forks & spoons anyway - this is so much more fun. of course we also tried a few of the local Ethiopian beers to wash to goodness down.

The flavours were intense - but not overly hot/spicy. Nanique explained they generally served mild versions of each dish for our western market - assuring us at the same time the Ethiopians love drier and much spicier versions of the dishes we enjoyed. Feeling a bit bummed by this we determined we would go back soon and ask for the "real deal" - full spice and suffer the consequences! If you want to feel the power, all you need to do is ask. When in Rome...

We implore you to visit Harambe - the food is great and the Ethiopian experience rich. The surrounding area in Footscray in uncharted for us - we're really looking forward to investigating the hundreds of traditional food shops an markets run by the African, Middle Eastern and Vietnamese traders - it's Melbourne's best kept secret.

One tip - go there for dinner rather than lunch and ask to be seated in the upstairs room - they offer a  very cool Ethiopian traditional room that sets the scene brilliantly.

Harambe Cafe Bar & Restaurant

205-207 Nicholson Street  Footscray Victoria 3011

(03)9687 7177
The best in the west :)

Masterchef's Matt Preston loves the food of course...