April 30, 2006

she who eats eats what man that cooks cooks

Meet the Chef in the kitchen....

Cooking dinner for four

Today's main dish: fish

Stuffed up

And wrapped up

So were the grissini we're being fed, wrapped in prosciutto

So were the potatoes

Meanwhile, the table was all set

Whilst Chef's busy with his hands at cooking





...Et Voila! Pan-seared scallop and prociutto-wrapped potato with potato-leek soup and crispy pancetta. The scallop was tender, the potato was light, and the soup was rich and creamy, almost of sauce-like consistency. The pancetta made a nice contrast in texture. Yummm.

Back in the kitchen; oooo this must be for later...

...And this is for right now

White fish baked in banana leaves with freshwater prawns, lemon and chili, served with rosemary-roasted root vegetables. Baked in layers of banana leaves, the fish was almost like steamed - light and tender, moist and delicate.

After some beers and wines, there was even live music

And a cheese platter ("Australian Cheese, French Way"); organic camembert and Tasmanian cheddar, served with a choice of commercial and home-made quince pastes. I thought the combination of the cheddar and home-made quince paste was the winner, although the quince paste with camembert could almost make a beautiful dessert

...Unless we have a more proper dessert, which we had - oven-roasted figs served with a dollop of mascarpone, that is. Brown sugar and butter seemed to give a butterscotch-like flavor to the figs, and it tasted divine. I could have finished a whole panful of them all by myself if I had been allowed, which I wasn't. Which was probably a good thing, I guess.

With the figs we had some Belgian beer and that last sip finished me, who had been up for the past 40 hours or so, except maybe for a total of about one hour of sleep on the plane. It was a long dinner and I was tired, but I was having too good time to leave the table early, and every single bite of the dishes could not have possibly been missed. The photographs don't do the dinner justice at all; I did a pretty terrible job. I wish taking pictures of dishes at someone's house were as easy as eating ones. It was indeed a lovely dinner.

Now, I haven't been able to do a post about my Tassie trip nor my Auckland stay, but I have already left New Zealand and flown westward back to mainland Australia - in fact, further west way beyond Melbourne, I now find myself in a sunny, warm Westcoast city of Perth.

And I almost forgot to do Meet the Chef, didn't I...

Ladies and Gentlemen, here's our Chef in the kitchen!

April 22, 2006

alive, eastbound

Last Wednesday, I set out on a trip to the east

Spent days hiking, bushwalking, beachwalking on a southeast island

And further moved east to eventually land on another island.

From Melbourne to Tasmania and then I now find myself in Auckland, a de facto capital of New Zealand. While my laptop is loaded with tons of photos from Tassie, I've got other business to take care of and it might take me a little while to sort out all the photos and post them here. For now, I have posted some pictures from my days in Melbourne and its neighboring areas; if you are in need of killing time, click any of the thumbnails below to launch a slideshow.

Strolling along St Kilda beach, near Melbourne City, on the last real hot, sunny day of the summer

A day out to Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne, to taste local wines, bears, cheeses and chocolates

My second weekend at Yarra Valley wineries; after one month from the first time, things got definitely much autumnlike...

Casual dinner at a restrant in Sounth Bank district of Melbourne; after a gray and almost stormy afternoon, we had a lovely evening view of the town.

April 12, 2006

days of easter

Eggies were found by Bunny

Eggies were found by Bunny who also found carrots

Eggies were found by Bunny who also found carrots which were turned into yummy Carrot Tea

Eggies were found by Bunny who also found carrots which were turned into yummy Carrot Tea which was drunken by me

Eggies were found by Bunny who also found carrots which were turned into yummy Carrot Tea which was drunken by me who made almond-coconut chocolate nests for the eggies, which were found by Bunny...

Carrot tea "carrot top" by T2; chocolate eggs by KoKo Black.

Bunny wishes you a Happy Easter!

April 8, 2006

in place of cherry blossoms

At about this time last year, I was in Kyoto to see cherry blossoms blooming. This year, since I am at the moment here on the other hemisphere where it seems as if the summer turned directly into the winter, there is no post of cherry blossoms here. Instead, I've got something seasonal in pink at least - namely rhubarbs.

When it comes to an easy fruit treat, one of my usual suspects is crumbles;

And slightly gingered crumble happens to be one of my favorite way to eat rhubarbs. I've got my staple recipe for crumble base, but this time I used one by Delia Smith, which isn't remotely different from my own version anyways in that both uses almonds and ginger, though I left my almonds pretty chunky rather than finely chopping them.

This time I mixed in an apple for a texture, but it made rather moderate difference. I also served it with double cream instead of ice cream, which would be what I usually have with my crumble.

Speaking of rhubarb crumble with ice cream, how about giving a bit of twist to its composition;

Rhubarb crumble ice cream, whose recipe I happened to find when I got the Delia Smith rhubarb recipe mentioned above. It is basically ice cream made by mixing gingered rhubarb puree with cream, with crumble base broken into pieces mixed in, in a manner that you make cookie & cream ice cream. Funnily enough, when I made the rhubarb puree, it smelled and tasted like strawberry puree; and the ice cream did actually taste like strawberry or raspberry one. It was easy to make and very tasty, so I'll probably make this again, although I'd rather top rhubarb ice cream with crumble pieces rather than mixing them into the ice-cream base, because that way I'd get more of crunch from the crumble.

Okay, now here's something NOT crumble-involved;

Champagne-poached rhubarbs with rose water, served with coconut sorbet and fresh strawberries, which may sound rather swankish for something I make. Admittedly, the recipe I found in the March 2006 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller is by Philippa Sibley, an Australian pastry chef currently at a renowned Melbourne eatery Circa, The Prince. So it is certainly a restaurant-dessert type of stuff, specially if I had made sugar-coated rose petals as suggested in the recipe, which I didn't bother. Then what's left was quite simple; all I needed to do was to mix rhubarbs with sugar and a dash of rose water before baking them with sparkling wine, and make lime-scented coconut sorbet, with which I shortcut several steps and simply blended coconut cream, syrup, and grated zest of lime and churned it in an ice-cream maker.

The recipe used a regular white sparking wine, but I used a pink one which I served with the dessert. The dessert itself was quite sublime; the combination of rhubarb and rose was very charming, and I actually smelled and tasted sparking wine; cooking rhubarbs with the wine at a relatively low temperature seemed to manage to reserve the delicate scent of wine quite well. It also worked well in making the texture of the fruits just right; the rhubarb chunks held their shape beautifully, and were tender but not mashy.

Since I liked the scent of rose in rhubarbs, I might try it in something else, such as rhubarb cobbler with rose-scented cream by Claudia Fleming (whose recipes seem to be the flavor of the month among a lot of fellow Japanese food bloggers these days)....

April 1, 2006

turn of the seasons, almost backward

While news from Tokyo says the cherry blossoms are about to be in full bloom, the very first weekend of April here in Melbourne started with a chilly, drizzling Saturday morning. When we were out for a brunch at a market, what I saw were people in a light jacket and autumn crops of earthy colors...

The strong winds pushed away rain clouds in the afternoon, but the air was still pretty brisk.

It got quite chilly after dusk, which prompted us to put the first fire on the fireplace in this colder season, and -

- make the first cup of hot chocolate, might as well.

Wasn't that just a month and half ago that I'd warm up with some hot chocolate, I was mildly wondering....