Monday, 1 August 2016

Sourdough Adventures

I've been watching someone on Instagram start their sourdough adventure and thought, I really should give that a try. So a bit over a week ago, I kicked off my sourdough starter. Just a simple 50:50 mix of plain flour and water, feeding it daily and keeping it near the heater. First it smelled a little funky, then the bubbles started to appear...
So yesterday I decided to test my first loaf. I wasn't convinced the starter was quite ready, so I dropped in a little commercial yeast just to help it along. I must say, I was pretty impressed with my effort; a lovely moist sourdough loaf. It's just unfortunate I didn't oil the sides of the pot I used, as it got a little stuck.
My method was pretty simple
  • mix together the flour, starter and warm water (with a splash of dried yeast dissolved in it)
  • sit for 30 minutes
  • mix through salt; knead by hand for about a minute
  • put in oiled bowl
  • stretch and fold every 30 minutes for approximately 2 hours
  • Shape the loaf and put in oiled pot (I use my French oven)
  • leave it to prove; with the added yeast I gave it an hour but true sourdough would need several hours
  • bake for 20 minutes at 200C with the lid on, then a further 40 minutes with the lid off
  • turn onto cooling rack
There are heaps of different recipes around and its really a matter of trial and error to find one that works for you. For mine, I used:
  • 500g plain flour
  • 300g warm water
  • 180g sourdough starter
  • a teaspoon full of salt (I use Murray river pink flakes)
While the process takes most of the day, it doesn't actually require a lot of intervention, so you can go about your business while your bread is doing its thing. Mine was absolutely delicious served with some lamb shank pasta that I'd cooked for 12 hours in the slow cooker...

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Eating in Japan: Osaka

We are very lucky to have just spent a week in Japan, soaking up some sunshine and lots of yummy food. I thought I'd just share a couple of highlights. They are by no means fancy restaurants, but great places for a quick and inexpensive meal.
We stayed at the Westin in the Umeda district, so these places were all easily accessed from there on foot. I had quite a list of food I needed to eat in Japan, and these ticked off a few boxes.
Curry Chicken Udon
We wanted to try both Japanese curry, and Udon, and this restaurant satisfied both in one go. Ordering from the restaurant machine was an interesting experience, but we did manage to get what we wanted.
Restaurant: Tokumasa
Location: 〒531-0076 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Kita Ward, Oyodonaka, 1 Chome−11−8

Delicious curry, tender chicken, and perfect noodles. I could easily have gone back for a second helping.
I love tonkatsu ramen, and we managed to have a few different variations over the week we were there. For approximately 1000yen, we had ramen "with the lot" and it was delicious. A huge serving that had me stumped right at the end. We also had a serve of gyoza which were delicious dipped in the chilli provided and a little soy sauce.
This restaurant is a chain, but don't write it off because of that, you'll miss out on a great experience. Its a small restaurant and a line forms outside because its that good.

Restaruant: Ippudo OsakaLocation: 6-7 Kakudacho, Kita-ku | 1F, Osaka

Something I'd never had until I arrived in Japan, but after my first experience in Tokyo, I wanted more. There are a million places to choose from, and we picked this one as we strolled around underneath Umeda station because it was busy and the food looked yum. We also didn't have to cook it ourselves. We were spotted from a mile away and shown the English menu which had pictures and pork and seafood options for each type of Okonomiyaki. We missed out on being able to order other little nibbles by virtue of not being able to understand the Japanese menu but don't feel we missed out on anything. We tried the traditional cabbage style, as well as the spring onion style of okonomikayi. We also finished off with an undo version which was equally delicious. The chef cooks up the okonomiyaki, then it is delivered to the hotplate at your table for you to top off with any extra toppings, divide up and eat.


Restaurant: SakuraLocation: Shin-Umeda Shokudogai 新梅田美食街, 9-26 Kakudacho, Kita Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 530-0017

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Food-Processor Orange Cake

With Autumn comes a glut of citrus, and one of my favourite ways to use up a spare orange is this easy cake which is done entirely in the food processor. No beating, no creaming, just mix, pour and bake.

1 orange, roughly chopped, skin and all
3 eggs
180g butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups SR flour

Preheat oven to 180C.
Line a loaf tin with baking paper.
Throw the chopped orange in the food processor and process until smooth.
Add the rest of the ingredients, and process until combined.

Pour mix into the prepared tin, and bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Leave in tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool.

You can then enjoy the cake plain, or smothered in a lemon icing if you want a little extra zing.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Boom! The Way to Good Wine.

Brought to you by Nuffnang and Vinomofo

If you follow me on Instagram (, you'll know I have quite a passion for good wine. But along with a love of good wine, I also like to keep a close eye on my budget and that means hunting for bargains. That's where Vinomofo comes in.

Vinomofo is an epic wine site where they only sell the wine they absolutely love. If they don't like it, they don't sell it. Once a wine is selected by their team, it hits the website for a limited time, and often sells out before you can blink. If you want a wine, you click buy, and Boom! It's yours.

My favourite part of Vinomofo is the secret and black market deals. These are great wines sold "nameless" to bring you the best price; you get variety, location, and often a few other details which means you might just be able to work out what the wine is. But because the name isn't advertised, you get a fantastic deal. Some of my most favourite wines have been purchased as secret deals, from the Fox Gordon Hannah's Swing Shiraz, to the Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, to the Mule Shiraz from Innocent Bystander.

One of my most favourite purchases to date has been the Hungerford Hills Cab Sav; it's hard to beat any good red from the Coonawarra.

What makes Vinomofo even more unique is that they not only sell wine, but they also co-produce some of their own branded wines that you can't find anywhere else. These wines are always in stock, and have funky names like The Orgy, and Art of War.

And the best bit? If you don't like a wine, just call or email Vinomofo and they will arrange a no-questions-asked return. With that guarantee, what do you have to lose?

To sign up and take advantage of a new member credit ($25), head on over to Vinomofo and treat yourself to some fantastic wine, because everyone deserves a Champagne lifestyle on a beer budget.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

La Festa d’Autunno at Church St. Enoteca

This week we attended an Entertainment Book members dinner at Church St. Enoteca, our first visit to the restaurant.  The evening was advertised as a celebration of classic Autumnal Tuscan produce, chestnuts, mushrooms, honey, and the king of the festival, lamb, and presented a 5 course tasting menu with wines from McWilliams.
The menu looked good and the reviews were promising, so we scuttled off in the rain to attend what promised to be a good evening.
Of course the weather delayed a few people, but it wasn't long until we were enjoying a glass of champagne while we waited.
Once the evening kicked off, freshly baked bread was bought around to nibble on. By then the champagne was long gone and there were no offers of a refill. So bread and water is was.
Then came the tortellini, with a Yarra Valley chardonnay. These were delicious, with a creamy goats curd filling, and a perfect match for the crisp wine.
Second course was the wallaby; I was a little apprehensive about eating this native animal but it impressed along side the Tasmanian Pinot Noir.
The third course was my least favourite. I'm not a huge fan of mushrooms and this dish did not sit well with me. The Pinot served was heavier than the previous one and very pleasant, but the only win for me.
It was nearing 9.30pm and I was starting to tire. It seemed a long wait between courses, particularly as they were all on the very small side. I had envisioned a lovely fillet of lamb for the main, and was disappointed when the following was placed in front of me. The disappointment was short lived; the lamb was sensational! There just needed to be twice as much of it. The Heathcote Shiraz was a big miss; decanters were seen on the wine table but went unused, and the wine was young and not that enjoyable to drink. A little time in a decanter would have made all the difference.
And then it was finally time for dessert. The pannacotta in a glass was very enjoyable, as was the matching dessert wine. However by this point in the evening I was well and truly over it, having taken over three hours to be served five courses. The food was amazing, though a larger serve here and there would have been well appreciated, but I found the wine matching a bit of a miss. The bottles seemed to be labeled with "home brand" type labels leaving us mystified as to what they actually were should one want to purchase them later.
Overall? A protracted evening, with good fine and average wine. I'd go back to the restaurant again, but wouldn't bother with this sort of evening as the wine really did nothing for us.


Church Street Enoteca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Homemade Tomato Passata

Sauce season is here!

Last year I made my own passata for the first time, and loved being able to tip this homemade goodness into many of the meals I cooked throughout the year. This year I've repeated the effort, but on a slightly larger scale.

Saucing tomatoes can be picked up from many produce stores; I bought a huge box for just $16 and we now have enough sauce to set us up for the year. It's great for ragu cooked in the slow cooker.

To make your own passata, you will need:
box of saucing tomatoes
olive oil
your oven (180-200C)
a large cooking pot
lots and lots of jars and/or bottles

I filled my sink with cold water and tipped all the tomatoes in for a quick wash. Remove any with suspect patches  (I had a few with fuzzy spots that I discarded).

Cut in half long-ways, arrange on a tray and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Pop in the oven and allow to cook until the start to bubble.

Transfer into the pot. I cooked 4-5 trays of tomatoes to fill the pot. Now is a good time to give your jars a quick rinse under hot water and put them in the oven, ready to receive your passata.

Cook tomatoes on the stove until they collapse fully. Pick out as many of the skins as you can be bothered with. I get less fussy as it get's later in the evening.

When you're happy with your tomatoes, blitz them with a stick mixer.

Get your jars out of the oven (don't burn yourself), then pour your hot passata into the hot jars, and seal. Once they are cool they are ready to store. For a little extra jazz, throw a few leaves of fresh bottle into the bottom of each jar before you pour the sauce in.

I had so many tomatoes that I had to do mine in several batches, so I was putting another two trays of tomatoes in the oven to cook while I dealt with the pot. If you have a massive pot, or a smaller load of tomatoes, you may be able to do them all in one batch.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks with Polenta

It's still summer, but I couldn't resist pulling out the slow cooker yesterday for some melt-in-the-mouth lamb shanks, served with creamy polenta.

2 lamb shanks
1 Onion, diced
2 gloves garlic, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tub tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1/2 tsp beef stock powder
Herbs of choice; I used oregano

Coat your shanks in plain flour, then brown off in a frying pan with a little olive oil.

Transfer to slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients. Cook on low for approximately 8 hours, when the meat should be falling off the bone.

We cooked our polenta on the stove, 1 litre of water and 1 cup of polenta. Stir continuously for approximately 15 minutes until smooth and no longer grainy. You can add extra water or even milk as required. We also added in a dollop of butter at the end and a generous sprinkle of salt.

Serve your shanks atop your lovely creamy polenta with a  sprig of fresh parsley.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Pork and Fennel Meatballs with Spaghetti

For Christmas I bought myself the Philips Pasta Machine, and as I'd been wanting to make meatballs for ages, I had the perfect excuse.

500g pork mince
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds
pinch chilli flakes
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1 egg, lightly beaten
sea salt and pepper

olive oil
1 bottle passata
brown onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
fresh basil
salt and pepper

Spaghetti or pasta of choice

For the meatballs, combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix using your hands. Form into approximately 12-14 balls. To cook, heat oil in a frying pan and brown off the balls. Remove from heat.
For sauce, heat oil in the same frying pan, then add onion and garlic. Cook until soft. Add passata, simmer for a few minutes, season, then add meatballs. Cook sauce until meatballs are cooked through.

Serve over cooked spaghetti, sprinkle with Parmesan and extra fresh basil.