Food! Lists! Crossing food off lists!
(but no buckets)

Friday, October 15, 2010


Mel is a little Spanish obsessed. She's also obsessed with Brunswick St. So when I said that I'd never had churros, she insisted we had to go visit Juanita's on said street. I could hardly be churlish and resist, now could I?

We got six to share. And quite the generous pot of chocolate too.

Did I forget to mention what churros are? Long thin deep-fried donuts, basically. With chocolate for dipping. How had I missed out on them for 31 years?

They were fabulous. And at the end, our plate looked like this:

Aaactually... that's not entirely true. That is, the plate certainly looked like this at one point. But it wasn't the end; not quite. You see, Mel convinced the nice waitress that I needed a spoon... and, well, I'm sure you can imagine where that led.

Mel tells me that the restaurant, dessert version is even better than the cafe version. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Baclava French Toast

Mel says: It felt like quite a milestone to sit down and share baclava french toast with Alex at Demitri's Feast because discussing our desire to eat it led to the idea of the Bucket Food List to begin with. Baclava french toast came with walnuts, greek yoghurt and orange blossom syrup. The toast was light and fluffy. My favourite part were the candied walnuts, yum! We also shared a delicious lamb pie with crisp, crunchy pastry.

Alex says: yeh, just imagine what it was like for us trying to halve that sucker. Pastry blowing in the wind. The french toast wasn't nearly as sweet as I had feared - the yoghurt went a long way towards mitigating any overwhelming-ness. The walnuts were indeed wonderful, but the hit for me was the syrup; I love orange blossom syrup. Pity Demitri's is in Richmond, because this could easily become a favourite. On the other hand, maybe it's good that it's not that close by...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Whole lotta hubris goin' on

That, friends, is Alex's First Sponge. The hubris comes from the fact that, well, it wasn't hard. I'm sure my next one will rise more, but I'm quite happy with this one. I forgot to measure it before I split and filled it (with cream and Kate's aunt's "qunicalade"), but I'm claiming a height around 45mm.

It looks a little funny around the sides because I was initially putting cream around the sides as well as on top, and then I realised that might be a leedle bit too much. Clutterpunk's oven having done some... interesting... things over the last week, we're not having pizza tonight, so it will be takeaway of some sort. Some filling sort. Hopefully we'll leave room to sample Alex's First Sponge. Hopefully it will be worth it...

Recipe: "Jackie's mum's sponge", from Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion.

A cross-section. Turns out that even with quantities of Thai food, we were still able to polish off a fair chunk of the sponge, which was indeed quite spongey.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I have crossed two more things off my list in the last little while, which just goes to show that having a list is actually the way to make me do things. There are no pictures, however, because one of them was too ugly for a picture and the other just wasn't very photogenic.

Firstly, I made puff pastry. Tragically this means that I now know how much butter goes into such pastry. (Answer: the same amount as flour.) My motivation in making it was my beloved promising some workmates that he would make them Beef Wellington. This dish is basically his signature dish, and he's working on fine-tuning it. I made a fairly large amount of pastry because he wanted to trial the Wellington on just the two of us before unleashing it on people he actually wanted to impress - and who was I to complain?? I froze the rest of the pastry, and thawed it out in the frig overnight before the Real Thing, and it worked a treat. It was so short! I was very pleased with myself, and didn't require nearly as much effort as I had expected.

The other thing I have made is ravioli, using a trusty recipe from the Women's Weekly Italian Cooking Class recipe book. I did however halve the recipe, which may have been the start of where things went a little pear-shaped. I used a different filling too - theirs was just too fiddly; I went for fetta and spinach instead. Anyway, making the pastry for the ravioli was ok, and again not as fiddly as I had expected; but I don't think I divided it into two equal halves, and I know I didn't roll them out as well as I might have. As a consequence I struggled a bit to make 'proper'-looking parcels, and in fact had to apply emergency bits of pastry so that they wouldn't disintegrate in the water while cooking. I was fairly disappointed in their appearance - oh, and I made them too big, too, which didn't help. They actually tasted all right, though, which was a relief. I think I will probably make them again, and this time I'll just make the correct-sized recipe; they can be frozen, I'm sure, after cooking.

Monday, August 9, 2010

How'dya like THEM apples - er, macaroons?

The first time I made macaroons, they kind of looked like fried eggs: they spread at the base, and went crispy, with a bit of 'proper' macaroon in the middle. It was a problem with the oven temperature. This time, I made a few changes. Firstly, I bought a new piping bag, which is easier to use than the cheapo plastic one I had. Secondly, and I don't know how much this helped, but I sifted the whole lot - about 400g worth of almond meal, icing sugar, and cocoa - three times!! This was a suggestion from Mel, who I believe stole it from Masterchef. Oh, and thirdly I allowed my darling to pipe them for me; I actually had little choice, he just started doing it after helping me to fill the bag.

I realised halfway through the cooking that I had made the same mistake, temperature-wise, as last time - because I didn't realise I made this mistake last time. The recipe says to cook for 10-12 minutes, and after 5 minutes turn the temperature down. I read that as cook for 10-12 minutes, and then cook for another 5 minutes at the lower temp. Ah well. I adjusted the temp for the last couple of minutes, so these aren't a complete disaster. A bit less chewy than might be ideal, but still awfully moreish.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Middle Eastern Tiramisu

I'm not a huge tiramisu fan, but that's mostly because I am anti-coffee. La Clutterpunk, however, is an extreme devotee. We have a standing date for Sunday nights, to which Mel has recently been granted admittance, and it was Clutterpunk's birthday last Saturday, which was the excuse for my Syrian French toast. She announced that she was delegating dessert responsibility for Sunday night to my shoulders, then bounced a few ideas around about what she might like, mentioning tiramisu. I knew I had a Middle Eastern variation in my Moroccan book, and when I looked it up I realised it wasn't nearly as hard as I had expected. And, of course, that you can make half of it with chocolate rather than coffee. So that's what I did.
What makes it Middle Eastern? The creamy bit is made with marscapone. It has orange blossom water in it; it was meant to have brandy, sherry, and Marsala, but I used sherry and Grand Marnier instead. The syrup which went over the top was meant to be pistachios, but I used toasted almonds instead and I think they worked out just fine. And when I say syrup, I mean that I made a sugar syrup, added the almonds, and all of a sudden I had praline.

I'm very pleased to have finally discovered tiramisu. This may become a signature dish for me as I experiment with different alcohols, etc. One idea I had yesterday: paint the sponge biscuits with melted chocolate, wait for it to set, and then dip them in the marinade. I wonder if that would work? Anyone want to invite me over for dinner so I can try?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Syrian French toast

Where: Gingerlee, Lygon St
What: Syrian-style French toast, with orange blossom syrup, honey labne, stewed rhubarb and pistachios.
Why: who needs a reason?? In this case, though, it happened to be a dear friend's birthday, and we stole her away from her family for brunch.

Mel and I both chose the Syrian-style French toast. In the top photo you can see part of what the other two chose - they were in a savoury mood, and so went with poached eggs, avocado, field mushrooms and Persian fetta. I mean, yes, awesome choice, but... against THIS??

This may win as one of my all-time favourite breakfasts ever. I am unconvinced that there is egg involved in the toast; it's too transparent, and more candied than eggy, I suspect because of the orange blossom syrup. The rhubarb is stewed perfectly, and its tartness cuts through what might otherwise be slightly cloying. The honey labne adds a delicious creamy note, and the pistachios - well, they're pistachios. Most meals are improved by pistachios.

In between gazing into the far distance in rapture over this meal, Mel and I decided that perhaps we need to investigate all of Melbourne's French toast opportunities. This was sparked by the birthday girl's revelation that she is a savoury French toast person, which is... something that needs to be investigated.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mole & Mamasita

Mel: On Monday night at Mamasita, Alex and I began to eat our way through our bucket food list. Trying mole for the first time was the reason for the excursion. It was a yummy and fun night with many new flavours: mole, plantains and huitlacoche. It was also a humbling experience as I quickly realised that for all my love of eating I have no natural talent as a food writer or critic. Where Matt Preston chews pensively with an uninterpretable expression, I eat with sound effects and talk with my mouth full to express how good it is. After Matt Preston has tasted he delivers a witty and precise comment about the dishes balance of flavour and texture. I, on the other hand, found myself gesticulating wildly, pulling faces and making noises as I struggled to finish sentences like "it tastes so...". Thankfully since I'm no professional, I can fall back on a smile and declare it to be good.

Alex: That was pretty much the theme of the evening, as far as I'm concerned. For all that we are both such literary nerds, words failed us.

Mel: We started with Tacos de Pescado, soft tacos with grilled fish, lime, achiote paste & red onion salsa. They were delicious, fresh and zingy. I would have happily eaten many, many more. Next we had Quesadilla de Huitlacoche which included mushrooms, roasted corn, epazote & queso fresco. Huitlacoche is also known as "corn smut" and was described in the menu as Mexican truffle. I really enjoyed the first few slices of the quesadilla, especially the meatiness of the mushrooms with the crispy fried tortilla. Then I got a bit tired of the flavour and started dreaming of eating more fish tacos.

Alex: Mel is being a bit coy here. Huitlacoche - and no, neither of us tried to pronounce it - is actually the mould that grows on corn. I guess if something is growing on your main food supply, you figure you might as well try eating it? I agreed with Mel - I really enjoyed the quesadilla, but it was a bit too big, especially compared with what felt like too little of the fish. Mmmm fish and lime...

Mel: At last the main event, Mole Poblano con Pollo, chicken mole. Yum! The chicken was beautifully cooked, moist and tender. My first reaction was that it didn't taste like I'd expected. (Not quite sure what I'd expected to be honest.) It tasted unlike anything I'd ever eaten before and I really liked it. I remember reading about mole in Like Water For Chocolate in Spanish class and it has intrigued me ever since. As we ate I tried to recall ingredients but I couldn't remember very many (the fact that I read it in Spanish may be part of the problem). It had a thick but soft texture and I really liked the warm flavours of the spices. We ate the chicken mole was Platanos Machos, fried plantains with salsa & queso fresco. Our helpful waitress said plantains looked like fried bananas and tasted like potato. Indeed they do. I enjoyed eating them just as they came and also as a vehicle for mole sauce.

Alex: I had no idea what to expect from mole, really; all I knew is that it had chocolate in it and about a million other ingredients. The chicken was some of the most tender bird I have ever had in my entire life, and the mole was one of the things that had us both struggling for words. Rich, deep, thick, comforting, warm... these all work and convey nothing of the reality! And I am now officially a Fan of Plantains.

Mel: To end end we shared Flan de Menta con Caramelo, mint flan with caramel. It tasted surprisingly light for a custard. Perhaps the mint at work? I liked the burny taste of the dark caramel. I've been wanting to eat Mexican at Mamasita ever since I got over my sadness that Recorded Music Salon was no more. Now I am eager for an excuse to return! Alex, can we put ceviche on the bucket food list? I'm pretty confident I've never eaten it...

Alex: I had no idea that 'flan' implied custard, not pastry, so I was surprised to have what looked like a creme caramel arrive in front of us! Ah, so narrow a view.... It was utterly delicious and wonderful, and just the right note on which to end. Ceviche? Fish in citrus? Hell yes, on to the list it goes!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Not Sushi

It's embarrassing to admit but my experience of Japanese food extends as far as sushi. Sushi and no further. It's kind of bizarre too because I'm very fond of sushi and like a whole range of other Asian cuisines. So it's time for me to fill this gaping hole and eat Japanese food that is not sushi.

Preserved lemons

Ever since I got a Moroccan cookbook, preserved lemons have been on my personal bucketfoodlist. I tried making my own once, but let's just say there was something of a sterility issue. I did find some at an Indian wholesalers, but decided that a 2kg tub was not the way to start my investigation. Finally, I discovered some at a deli at the Victoria Markets. They are now sitting in my frig, waiting to be utilised...