I assume you have been good boys and girls, so here is a treat!
Check our "recipes" pages for details
Another Food Market: Fox Studios Sydney and the start of my quest for the "best croissant" in Sydney.
Rebranded "The Entertainement Quarter", the grounds of Fox Studios have had an up and down kind of life and fame, and I rarely visit.
However, it is the center of the film industry in Sydney, made famous by a number of films finalised there by Animallogic, the famous visual effect company involved in a number of famous films including Babe, The Matrix, Moulin Rouge!, Hero, 300 and culminating in the 2006 release of Australia’s first digital animated feature Happy Feet and by the presence of AFTERS, the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, where my son is currently enrolled to become a cinematographer.
He wanted to drive himself to school this morning and I was the lucky designated co-driver, with a 6.00am start of the day to match! But hopefully you know me well enough now that I would try to make that an opportunity rather than a chore...
So, here I am chasing a good cup of coffee and a some substenance at the market which is on every Wednesday and Saturday and it is under shade, so weather is less of a worry than at the Growers Market in Pyrmont!
It really starts at 8.00am and most people were still setting up, but I found a nice little stand of pastries and was quicly attracted by a pile of croissants under "cloche". As soon as I ordered one, and the cloche was removed, a beautiful waft of buttery smell hit my nose and hunger was immediately replaced by lust!
I had inadvertantly come across one of many ventures of Michel (and wife Elisabeth...) who also owns Strudel in Drummoyne and my recent discovery of "C'est bon" in Rozelle (infact "c'est tres bon"...), an affordable alternative to the overpriced Victoire a few doors up, and across Victoria road from another of my joints: Pierre Labancz.
Michel also started what is now a very ordinary chain of cake shops: Michel's Patisserie. Unfortunately only the name is left from Michel's previous empire - at a time where he was using a TON of butter a week for our pleasure!
There is certainly still an inordinate amount of butter in his croissants today. And so it should be!
Actually, I need to organise a breakfast party to compare croissants from Choco Cannelle, Labancz & C'est Bon...
This morning, coffee was courtesy of Toby's Estate, a "valeur sure", and a perfect match to Michel's delights.
The rest of the market was quite a disappointment: my friends at Willowbrae Cheese were nowhere to be seen, although there was another nice cheese stand (see photo), a good vegetable stand with produces from the North Haven region (Ricardo's Tomatoes that we met at "A Slice of H(e)aven a year ago - I bought some lovely asparagus). Also, not to be missed, the "saucissons" and "terrines" from Jean-Marc: I had to stop chez Pierre Labancz on the way back to buy one (actually two!) of his lovely multigrain baguettes and couldn't wait any longer arriving home: I brewed myself some coffee and cut some saucisson and baguette (see photo below...)
Listening to ABC Classic in my car, I bumped into an interview of Charlotte Wood, a Sydney-based writer whose range of interests and writing is quite wide.
Her most recent book "Love and Hunger" was the topic of the interview, and it resonated so much with me, and the reason why I cook for my family every day and my friends as often as I can. I found this on her website and thought I would share with you:
"The title of the book comes from this paragraph, from MFK Fisher's The Gastronomical Me - which is the epigraph Charlotte has used for this book.
"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it … and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied … and it is all one."
For more details of this book and other food writing by Charlotte, visit the stand-alone Love & Hunger website here.
A taste of France: baby zucchinis, heirloom tomatoes and goat cheese
A few people have commented to me recently that I was lucky to know how to cook, as they would like to be able to do so themselves.
(one of my clients recently tried, unsuccessfully so far, to convince me that cooking lessons were part of my contract. No way, and he is of Italian descent as well!).
Anyway, today is a quiet day, as my children are away studying or partying and my wife in France, taking care of my Mum...
This is not a good enough reason for not eating properly. Besides, I went to the Orange Grove Market in Rozelle and came back with some baby zucchinis and goat cheese(s) from my friends at Willowbrae.
So, here we go: Braised the baby zucchinis with some spring onions, added some heirloom tomatoes at the last minute and topped up the onions with a dollop of fresh goat curd. Some smoked salmon on the side, some more goat cheese and fresh figs for dessert: et voila!
I should mention as well the multigrain baguette from Pierre Labancz, a real treat and perfect companion to these goodies.
I have recently developed a sweet tooth for Pinot Grigio from the Venice region, thanks to my friends Ian and Ettore, the local importers of Abet Laminati, and tried some more at Ventuno and at various other Italian-infused restaurants. So, I had to have a few glasses with this lunch, and it proved to be a perfect match!
ready now for a good cuppa and some music: life is beautiful...
Easter Sunday - itching for fish...
Went to the Fish Market and found a beautiful "arrivage" of turbot, one of my favourite fish and quite rare to find in Sydney, as it is a cold water fish and is usually imported from New Zealand.
The young Indonesian lady who served me pointed me first towards the Yellowbelly flounder, but I had no intention to settle for this cheap cousin of the Dover sole and even more so with a load of beautiful turbots next to them.
But this young lady was not your ordinary sales attendant, just there to earn a wage and improve her cash position while attending Uni.
She actually asked me why it was better and how you should cook it.
So while some of her colleagues back of house was filleting my turbot, we engaged in a short and concise cooking lesson. So this post is for her.
Although I didn't prepared a "beurre blanc" (literally "white butter") today - I just poached the fish and added a drop of Lebanese virgin olive oil after removing the skin - I thought I would show you some of the steps I took to cook this beautiful fish and my usual side of braised fennel.
And I will add two videos found on YouTube, one in French, one in American, illustrating two different methods to prepare a "beurre blanc".
First thing first, you need to prepare a "court-bouillon' - literally a "short boil":
Take an oven dish, fill it halfway with hot water, add bay leaves (laurel), pepper corns, cloves, and some sea salt
and put it on the stove and bring to the boil.
In the meantime, start preparing your vegetables: slice some oignons, red peppers and a couple of fennel bulbs.
Throw some of the leaves in the cout-bouillon and keep some in the pan with the vegetables.
Get a saucepan with a thick bottom, pour a little extra virgin olive oil, bring to sizzle, add the onions and peppers first and cook for five minutes. Add the fennel, season with salt and pepper, reduce the heat and cover
Then, if you were to prepare a "beurre blanc', you would do that now, during the 15-20mns it takes for the fennel to cook - more on that later.
So here is the French video on how to prepare a "beurre blanc"
Note the simplicity of the ingredients: shallots, vinegar, white wine, salt, pepper and...butter
I would use some from "Echire" (available in Sydney at Harris Farm, midly salted, so don't add any more salt...)
or you can use the unsalted Lurpak from Denmark, available both at Coles and Harris Farm.
You need some rich butter to get the "fluffiness" right. The butter needs to be at room temperature.
Now. let's have a look at the American version. I let you watch and then, I will make some comments...
Altough the French recipe is labelled "easy" (facile", it is actually the American version which is not as challenging, because the butter doesn't need to be at room temperature - the recipe is done on the stove - and as a result, you need to add cream, so the butter doesn't risk to "split" due to the heat.
Besides, adding cream changes the taste and makes it less refined, espacially if you have access to real butter!
The advantage is that your sauce will be still warm enough when you serve.
The french version needs to be rehated on a "bain-marie" until you are ready to serve.
Now, let's see what we do next with the turbot:
Remove the heat from the cout-bouillon, wait for the boil to stop and then immerse the turbot fillets gently in the court-bouillon. depending on the thickness of the fillets you may need up to 10mns to cook them through.
By now, our fennels should be almost ready: add a little water, put the heat up with no cover, so all the juices from the olive oil and the vegetables get to caramelise a little - don't burn it!
It shouldn't take more than a few minutes, so now it is time to share some oysters and a glass of wine with your guest! Turn the heat off, cover up and enjoy yourself.
It is finally time to assemble your main course: gently remove a fillet of turbot from the court-bouillon, add some fennel on the side and serve immediately. Serve the beurre blanc separately for each guest to use to their own preference. Add a small bottle of extra virgin olive oil on the table for people who would prefer. Enjoy!!!
Born in France, well travelled, relocated to Sydney in 1997.
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