Sunday, November 25, 2012

Simple springtime menu for dinner with friends

I love inviting friends for dinner, especially on the weekend when I can have a bit of time away from writing my latest novel. Planning a menu and cooking it is then a pleasure. I want to produce something delicious, good-looking and intriguing. But I do try not to overdo it and make things so complicated I can't also loaf around and read the weekend papers at my leisure!

So here's a dinner I made very recently, which fulfilled all the criteria above.

Entree: spinach and sorrel soup(recipe in previous post)
Main course: Meat: Pork medallions with sauce Robert--which is made by sauteeing some sliced onion in butter, adding a little flour, splash of white wine(though I added vodka, which worked well!), stock, stir well till thick. Add some herbs(I added chopped sage as it was for pork), and then in a bowl stir a tablespoon of white wine or cider vinegar, a spoonful of mustard and one of tomato puree together. Stir this into the hot sauce, and serve over the pan-braised pork.
Vegetables: the first new potatoes out of the garden! And artichoke hearts, also out of the garden, stir-fried with garlic and tomato.
Green salad.
Dessert: Chocolate Pithiviers pie (recipe in earlier post, here:

All of the elements of this menu are easy to make, look great and taste even better. I made the pie and the soup in the morning, so as not to have a mad rush at the end of the day. 

Spinach and sorrel soup

At this time of the year, both spinach and sorrel are flourishing in the garden, and we have them in all sorts of ways: the spinach mostly cooked but occasionally small leaves in salad, the sorrel mostly raw in salads, but occasionally also made into sauce for fish. But last night I combined both in a Russian-style spinach and sorrel soup, light, nutritious and tasty and just right for a late spring dinner entree.
Here's how to make it(makes enough for 4 people). Finely slice a couple of potatoes and half an onion. Saute in some butter, with some crushed garlic. Add the washed spinach and sorrel(much more spinach than sorrel--only a small handful of sorrel will do.) Stir around. Add chopped garlic chives and parsley. Add a splash of white wine, then good stock--chicken or good vegetable stock. Add pepper, salt if needed(check, though, as stock is often salty). Bring to a boil then simmer for about 25 minutes. Take off the heat and either mash the vegetables with a potato masher, as I did, or whizz in a blender. In a bowl, mix one egg yolk and about three tablespoons milk, stir, and then add to the hot soup. Serve with chives or any other herb you want.
Simple and very tasty! I recommend making it a few hours before you eat it as then the flavours have time to develop.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Home-made kangaroo ravioli

We eat kangaroo once a week on average--it's a tasty, lean meat that is extremely versatile(though like venison, whose antipodean equivalent it is) it doesn't take kindly to oven-roasting, unless it's been well-barded with bacon--kind of a pity as then the taste of the bacon interferes with the taste of the kangaroo. We've had it quickly seared like fillet steak, pot-roasted, curried(it makes a wonderful rogan josh), stewed and the other night we had it in David's home-made fresh ravioli.
He minced the meat first with the hand-mincer(only about 100 grams was necessary to fill enough ravioli for two of us), added chopped sage, crushed garlic, very finely chopped onion, salt and pepper. He made the pasta for the ravioli(just flour and egg) and after passing it through the pasta maker to smooth it out, used the ravioli mould to shape the little pockets, filled them with kangaroo mix, closed and crimped then, then hey presto, a few minutes boiling and they were done! With a home-made tomato sauce, it was utterly delicious!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Food in Sydney: the good and the disappointing

I spent last week in Sydney and when I'm there it usually means going out at least a few times to restaurants and other eateries. Just thought I'd put down a few comments about the places I went to, many of which I've been to before but which don't necessarily provide the same experience each time!
First, the good:
No Name, in Stanley St, Darlinghurst: first time at this Italian eatery which we found has a good, very reasonably priced lunch menu($10) of fresh pasta dishes and risotto as well as more expensive mains and a range of entrees. Very good value. We shared an entree of deep-fried pork terrine with remoulade sauce--not as weird as it sounds, because actually inside the deep-fried crumb crust was what I'd say was more like rillettes, or pulled pork, rather than chunky terrine. The remoulade sauce was good too, tangy and very moreish. Excellent value for this entree at only 6 bucks--between 3 people!Then we had various fresh pastas and a risotto--they were all nice, but my ravioli were voted the best.
Menya Noodle Bar, in Chinatown,  was also a firster for me, recommended by my foodie younger son, and it was terrific. Large steaming bowls of wonderful ramen noodle soup with rich stock, and various kinds of other ingredients, mostly pork or chicken, and eggs. Totally delicious and satisfying! And very cheap too.
Maki Maki, Californian roll house on Broadway(between Mountain and Wattle sts) is a place I've come back to several times and never been disappointed. The food is fresh, tasty, served fast and very well-priced. We went there for dinner and ordered combos of different main dishes--featuring salmon, pork, eel or chicken-- with cold or baked sushi-style rolls(such as dragon rolls, tiger rolls, etc)and miso soup, and it was all really nice and came to about $15 a head.
Petaling St, a Malaysian hawker-style restaurant on George St(just up from Hay St)
 is another one I've been to several times and always enjoyed. It has an extensive menu from which we ordered Hainanese chicken rice(which of course I had to order--become quite obsessed by this dish!) wonderful steamed whole fish with Assam sauce, beef rendang and roti to begin with. Very delicious and satisfying.
The big disappointment for me was the Spanish Club(at least its restaurant, Iberico, upstairs in the Club premises on Liverpool St). I've often been here to meet friends and family for lunch as it's very central, has a nice, big quiet space, and has a cheap and cheerful lunch special of $12 for several simple but usually good dishes(plus a longer regular menu of delicious tapas and main dishes). This time I chose a paella Valenciana as this was a new addition to the lunch specials menu(the rest of which I've sampled at different times and found perfectly acceptable, as my Russian friend Sasha would say!)And I've always loved a good paella. But this one wasn't one of those. To be frank, it was awful. The rice was dry--and there was far too much of it--and the other ingredients were utterly paltry--a shrivelled mussel, a prawn that had seen better days, an overcooked clam, and some mingy bits of roast capsicum and a stray pea or two. Pretty much inedible. Now I've heard there are rumours the Spanish Club is to be closed, and sold, and maybe this was the dejection of the place showing in this miserable meal--but it didn't make the feeling of being thoroughly disappointed and unsatisfied any the better. Such a pity, because other times the food has been really nice, fresh and tasty.
Another disappointment, though of a much lesser kind, was the supposed Toulouse sausage sandwich I had at another lunchtime, at the gourmet sausage stand in the Westfield Centrepoint Plaza food court(fifth floor.) It was a nice enough sandwich, with the sausage, mushrooms and 'aioli' mayonnaise in a brioche roll: but it wasn't a Toulouse sausage or anything like one, and the 'aioli' mayonnaise also had only a passing ressemblance to any real aioli mayonnaise(why, why can't they make their own instead of getting that goopy white stuff out of a jar??). Toulouse sausage has become very fashionable in Australia but the only trouble is that butchers here do not know how to make it. The meat and fat are always minced much too fine, there's never enough pepper, and it simply does not have the right consistency or taste. So--though the sausage was definitely better than the thick or thin abominations that are sold as regular sausages in all too many butchers' shops, and though I quite enjoyed it as an upmarket sausage sandwich(with associated expense of course!), it simply didn't fit the description that had me drooling at the menu board. But then that's my fault. I ought to know by now that I'm never going to find a good Toulouse sausage 20,000 kms from Toulouse!