The goat’s horn chilli pepper

The goat’s horn chilli pepper.

They’re not particularly hot at 2000-5000 SHU, and they have great flavour.

Goat's Horn Chilli Peppers

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Easter/Autumn Menu

Autumn. There’s a chill in the air. One might imagine animals brought into the barnyard, the hot breath of Robins (Erithacus rubecula) in the crisp morning, hedgerow fruits, composting oak and birch leaves, undergrowth, game, red Burgundy…

But Easter is at completely the wrong time of year in the southern hemisphere… In Sydney, Australia, autumn fits almost none of the above descriptions.

Despite recent tumultous temperatures, there is a chill in the air, and Burgundian wines are available (even if they come at a significant price)…

Salad of quail breast, aspargus, butter beans, Parmigiano Reggiano, baby lettuce

Salad of quail breast, aspargus, butter beans, Parmigiano Reggiano, baby lettuce

Butter and tarragon white wine vinegar dressing.

Christian Moreau‘s Chablis Les Clos 2008 paired well with this dish, showing lemon butter, freshly cut meadow flowers, and perhaps some quince. It possessed lovely and great length.


Baked watermelon, feta, mint

This was baked en papillote with a little butter and Sherry in a moderate oven for about two hours. The texture is very interesting, almost like lychee flesh, and it doesn’t really taste like watermelon at all. Hong and Kim pair it with feta, balsamic reduction and mint. Even just with feta and mint (here) it works well.

Autumn: Game, smoke and chestnuts

Quail legs, Eucalyptus-smoked baked potato, roast chestnuts, quail jus

Quail legs: pan fried

Potato: boiled, smoked in Eucalyptus leaves, then baked in olive oil with rosemary. The smokiness worked quite well, even if the texture of the mise-en-place-reheated potato wasn’t up to scratch. I was quite worried about them until the final roasting: having eaten too many mildly smoked (i.e., “is it actually smoked?”) components in restaurants in the past, and finding the intensity of my own smoking experiments insufficient in the past, I smoked the sh*t out of these potatoes. The result was that everything that came into contact with them became smoke tainted (the tupperware container that held the smoked potatoes over night still has a little taint after soaking for over a week). Smokiness is one thing, smelling like a bushfire torched everything in sight is another. Fortunately, after the roasting, they presented a smoky note that was distinct yet not overpowering.

Chestnuts: roasted, then marinated in Sherry and stock.

The Domaine des Croix Beaune Cents Vignes 2009 was far too young. The fruit was vibrant and has was some sweetness to it (2009, no doubt). The tannins were quite velvety, but the acid stood out a little, as did the pleasant lick of slightly vanillary oak in the finish. I do find Domaine des Croix wines a little sweet-fruited for what I look for in red Burgundy, but this probably just needs time to integrate and become more savoury and… autumnal.

Shin of beef and unadorned veg

Pressed braised shin of beef, blanched radish and griddled spring onion, beef jus, thyme

I have been leafing through the Noma cookbook recently, and the idea of unadorned root/leafy vegetables caught my interest.
Pressing (finely blended) slow braised shin of beef provides a good form; although I admit that the phallic presentation requires further work, and one mustn’t forget it does require some braising juices to keep the meat moist (no pun intended!).

Cheese and nuts

Poached pear-encased Stilton, spiced walnuts

Easter = Chocolate

Early grey cream, dark chocolate mousse, white chocolate mousse, chocolate brownie

(1) Perhaps hair driers are too warm to de-mould cold desserts.
(2) Is Dutch processed cocoa really worth it?
(3) Make sure white chocolate content is high when paired with dark chocolate, lest it’s presence be lost.

Posted in Asparagus, Beans, Beef, Cheese, Chocolate, Dessert, Fruit, Menu, Radish, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coffee: Finca La Fany

Finca La Fany, from the Silva family in El Salvador, are beans with a near cult following – and much loved by home/amateur roasters internationally. The beans are 100% Red Bourbon, and washed and honey processed (i.e., some sugary mucilage is left on the dried beans lending additional sweetness to the final cup).

It is a consistent and reliable bean that can take a wide range of roast profiles and yet still produce a balanced cup with flavour interest. One of the things I have always liked about it, though, is rarely cited: it throws its chaff early in the roast, which is particularly helpful when pan roasting.

Fina La Fany chaff

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Australia Day Menu

Australia Day means lamb, not so much because Sam Kekovich tells (Anglo?) Aussies it does. More because, of all the readily available meats available in Australia, lamb is possibly the best.

But before the lamb, a seafood starter. Every time I eat mussels, I think I should eat them more often, and at Christmas that was exactly how I felt… which prompted some mussels, cooked the classic French way (shallot, butter, garlic, white wine; parsley garnish), with some tagliatelle.


French-style mussels with tagliatelle

Lamb Two Ways

Lamb Two Ways: Rack loin, fennel, anchovy-butter sauce; Middle loin, cannellini bean purée, rosemary lamb jus

Lamb: BBQed.
Fennel: baked with butter and white wine.
Sauce: anchovy melted into butter.
Cannellini bean purée: rehydrated; shelled; boiled with bay, thyme and garlic; puréed, reduced.
Jus: lamb stock, reduced with a hint of rosemary.

The rack loin is simply the loin meat from the lamb rack. The middle loin is the eye meat further down the back of the lamb. The middle loin was rather tough and I would not choose to serve it again.

I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that baked fennel is a bad idea – so much better fresh. It was the only problem with the flavours on the plate.

Lamb-Stuffed Aubergine/Eggplant

Lamb-stuffed aubergine/eggplant with Moorish spices and melted Manchego

The lamb dishes were served with four different Passionvale Cabernet Sauvignon wines: an unoaked 2009, an unoaked 2010, an oaked 2011, and a 2011 oaked Cabernet Shiraz blend.
They are wines which, it might be said, are definitively of their Hunter Valley roots, yet show a kind of Italian (or perhaps even French) sensibility, in that they have that Hunter Valley fruit profile that (for me) shows both black and red fruits (think inky blackcurrant, along with cherries of varying shades, and plum), yet aren’t just about fruit because they have a kind of blackcurrant bush or dried grass-like element that is both herbal and herbaceous, and a kind of lift that can run from Parma violets to polish. And on the palate, they are fresh (sometimes too fresh), aren’t afraid to show their tannins (though never in an aggresive way), and are unashamedly of the medium bodied (rather than the full bodied) mould.
The 2009 was actually preferred by the diners, surprisingly being the fuller and somewhat riper of the four. It’s acid-balance was better (even though it was the only wine of the four whose must had been acidified!) and perhaps as a result, it matched the food better, particularly the stuffed eggplant dish.


Manchego, Beaufort, Amontillado and vanilla-poached apricot, English crackers

I wanted to poach (somewhat too-firm apricots) – but in what? Think Manchego, think Spain, think Sherry, and a little vanilla to lift it all. The Sherry imparted a slightly too woodsy character to the apricots (perhaps I used too much?), but otherwise this was a pleasant combination.

Fruit and sorbet

Mango, lychee, passionfruit, lime sorbet

Posted in Beans, Cheese, Dessert, Eggplant, Fennel, Fruit, Lamb, Menu, Mussel, Sorbet, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Christmas Menu 2012

White truffle custard, mushroom ragu

White truffle custard, mushroom ragu

From the first time I made Thomas Keller’s white truffle custards I served them with a mushroom “ragu” rather than Keller’s black truffle “ragu” of veal stock base. I feel mushroom and truffle is a good combo, and never looked back: porcini, chicken stock, perhaps a little vinegar, but no truffle (afterall, the custard is already truffled). I must try Keller’s version one day, but these aren’t bad nevertheless.

Vanilla-star anise buttered lobster, white wine mussels, lime oysters

Vanilla-star anise buttered lobster, white wine mussels, lime oysters

Lobster: warmed in a clarified butter that has been infused with vanilla and star anise.
Mussels: it’s hard to beat the classic French version, so I didn’t try – mussels steamed in a sauce of white wine, shallots and butter.
Oysters: just lime zest and a little lime juice.

Duck Salad

Duck Salad: duck confit, roast kumra, butter bean purée, crispy bacon, mâche, raspberry vinegar

Using only extra virgin olive oil to confit the duck at 90-95°C (195-203°F) yielded a soft texture. The bean purée was prepared by rehydrating dry beans, boiling the beans in herbs (rosemary, bay and thyme), purée-ing, and reducing the purée.
The combination was interesting, but I’d drop the kumra/sweet potato in future.

Lamb medallion, eggplant purée, mint salad, lamb jus

Lamb medallion, eggplant purée, mint salad, lamb jus

Essentially the same dish concept as this or this, which has become a standard for me. It perfectly suits the use of quality Australian lamb and eggplant/aubergine.
Eggplant: roasted to soft, then finished on the BBQ to add a smokiness before being being puréed, having a little yoghurt added, and reduced to the appropriate consistency.
Mint salad: young mint leaves, dressed in a little rice wine vinegar.
Lamb jus: a standard lamb stock, reduced.
Lamb: BBQed loin meat (only) from the rib – I feel it’s the perfect cut for this.


Manchego, Comté, English crackers, fresh walnuts, quince paste

Like any quality ingredient, good cheese (and at over A$100/kg it better be!) needs little doing to it/accompanying it.

Carpaccio of summer fruits

Carpaccio of summer fruits

Thinly sliced white peaches and white nectarines, dusted in vanilla sugar ground to a powder, splashed with lime juice, and chilled, with a few cherry pieces for contrast. Stone fruit paradise. (Essentially, this is just a refinement of this previous execution, wherein the tangelo didn’t work.)

Strawberry and Rhubarb Trifle

Strawberry and Rhubarb Trifle: fresh strawberries, crème anglaise, stewed rhubarb, rhubarb jelly, ginger 'crumbles'

The height of British summer translated to a rainy Australian summer’s day.

Posted in Beans, Cheese, Dessert, Duck, Egg, Eggplant, Fruit, Lamb, Lobster, Lobster, Menu, Mushroom, Mussel, Rhubarb, Salad, Shellfish, Strawberry, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Coffee: Sumatran and Guatemalan

Guatemala Finca Santa Clara – a fully washed, air dried Bourbon
Sumatran Mandheling Blue Batak – dry processed Sumatra (I believe)
Both received a reasonably gentle roasting that coasted some way into second crack (by perhaps 30 to 60 seconds) resulting in a roast somewhere between City and Full City.

With this darkness, the Blue Batak remains smooth and caramelly, but appears to have lost it’s animal or subtropical rainforestfloor edge. I see many recommendations for a City+ roast on this bean, but I don’t think you see the full terroir/typicity of the bean if you go beyond American Roast+. I think I feel the same way about the Finca Santa Clara, but I will reserve judgement until I remind myself with a lighter roast.

Sumatran Blue Batak: single shot espresso with minimal crema

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Lavender icecream

Is the hiatus over? Hopefully.

I remain proud of my “creation” of lavender icecream (actually, in the early days, I was experimenting with vanilla and lavender). I say creation because I’ve never heard of anyone ever making – though I have no doubt it must have been done before. It is a fantastic icecream IMO: “sweet” yet herbal, warm and familiar (yet cold because it’s an icecream), and elusive – because unless you are serving a hardened herb lover, the taster tends to recognise the flavour but is absolutely unable to pin it.

Served here with Manuka honey and scorched almonds, which were a perfect accompaniment.

Lavender icecream, Manuka honey, scorched almonds

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Strawberries and cream

Vanilla crème, roasted strawberries, strawberry coulis

I’ve always preferred the flavour of fresh strawberry to cooked strawberry, but these strawberries tossed in butter, sugar and cracked black pepper, before being roasted to soft, were a delight. A particularly good use of firmer winter (Queensland) strawberries. Some brûlée would have complimented well, but the torch was out of gas.

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Beetroot and goat cheese salad

Beetroot and goat cheese salad

Inter-layered soft ashed goat cheese and wafer-thin lemon-acid-accented fresh beetroot, thyme, walnuts. Old delicious themes never die.

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Szechuan and Sauternes

GrapeRadio have some interesting videos on YouTube, including some pretty nice cinematography in the The Scent of Black, a short film about Cahors. I found the video on Château Suduiraut (Part II) discussing the pairing of Sauternes with Szechuan cuisine of particular interest.

I completely agree with Christian Seely’s comments regarding food-wine matching (“if there’s something in the dish that can wake up something in the wine… that, for me, is what food and wine matching is all about”). Pierre Montégut remarks on the success of subtly complex spicy dishes bringing out the fruit in Sauternes.

I love Szechuan cuisine, so I thought it worth combining some stirfry and a comparative tasting of Château Guiraud 2007 and Château Suduiraut 2007.

Stirfry pork with carrot, Chinese cabbage (sui choy), ginger and lemongrass

Not so very Chinese, given that the sauce comprised lemongrass and fishsauce – perhaps a Vietnamese-Chinese fusion(?), but this worked particularly well with the Sauternes.

Stirfry Szechuan-style chicken with bell pepper/capsicum

Chicken marinated in soy sauce and rice wine. Stir fried with onion and bell pepper/capsicum. Sauce of black bean, chilli and garlic. Generously garnished with Szechuan peppercorns.

Château Guiraud 2007 was darker in colour, had a more complex nose showing caramel, underripe nectarine(?), quince, a touch of canned pineapple, nut shell and honey. The palate is pleasantly light, with the fruit showing (particularly with the pork dish) on a long finish. This was a better balanced, more aromatically complex, longer wine than the Suduiraut (and I say that being a Suduiraut fan).

Château Suduiraut 2007 had significantly less aromatic/flavour intensity, was fatter, heavier, and I would say of inferior balance – but some may prefer their Sauternes that way. It had flavours of rather floral honey and apricot syrup. Perhaps slightly underperforming for the producer I thought (which may well be an issue of bottle provenance).

The combination with stirfry was excellent, with the viscous texture of Sauternes working well with the oil in the stirfry, and the aromatic spices bringing out different characters in the wine.

Dessert comprised a vanilla crème brûlée, a classic accompaniment to Sauternes. I felt the wines were too acidic for the crème, and it did not bring out interesting flavours in the wine like the stirfry had.

So, next time you reach for a Sauternes, consider drinking it with an Asian main rather than with/as a dessert!

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