Monday, 24 February 2014

Recooked Ricotta

Bad puns for titles aside, this really is a cooked ricotta dish with the cheese being the major component of the dish.  In Italian ricotta literally means recooked and the cheese is made using the remaining waste liquid from the hard cheese making process.  Heated and "recooked" with some acidification, the resulting soft curds are strained off and drained, there you have it, ricotta.

If you want to make your own fresh cheese it's a very simple process at home and all you need is milk, acid (usually lemon juice or vinegar) and a little salt if required.  Cheating may not be the right word to describe the process, but unless you're producing hard cheese I don't think it's slack to not use the traditional method!  Heat the milk to 91 deg then take off the heat, add 1/3 cup of the vinegar or lemon juice and swirl to combine.  The milk will start to curdle immediately but leave it to sit for 10 minutes or so, allowing large curds to form.  Strain these off in cheese cloth and allow to drain, from here you can keep the cheese in the fridge or use immediately, the thing you will notice straight away is just how fresh and creamy the cheese is.  As a guide for volume, 3 litres of milk will give you about 500g of cheese.

 The thing I like about this recipe is that it can be adapted to be both a sweet or savoury dish depending on what you add to the basic mix.  This is obviously a sweet version, but remove the sugar and vanilla, add a few herbs and seasoning... Beautiful on toast or crackers!

  • 480g (2 cups) fresh ricotta
  • 110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) thickened cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
I also added cinnamon and nutmeg to the mix and topped with some zest of lemon and nutmeg.  No technique required with this one, just whisk or food process all the ingredients together until smooth then pour into a lined cake or tart tin.  Bake for about an hour at 170 deg until the top has set and is a deep golden brown.  This would be best served sliced and topped with seasonal fruit and honey.

It's got a lovely texture and flavours but really is the simplest of things to make, so it's the sort of dish that's useful at short notice or don't want to stress too much about a dessert.  It could also be used over a pastry base to make a tart, again topped with fruits.

Perhaps an Orange marmalade syrup over the top would also be nice...

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Extreme Refreshment

Miramar Semillon 2012

Sniffling and coughing away as I write this note, at least it will remind me of the aroma and taste of wine. No one likes a cold, but in the summer heat and being unable to taste properly I really hate it. The upshot is the chance to write up some jottings, of which this is one.

This is a wine for the hot weather, lovely and bright with great refreshment. This is also reflected in the pale brilliant colour. Nose of lemon, herbs and some tropical guava hints, even a grassy touch. This follows through on the palate with superb balance. There's more lemon zest on the front with grassy green, followed by the waft of tropical fruit and lemon grass. It's all nice and restrained and with underlying acid and minerality, has nice length and balance. There is even at this early stage a whiff of honey/lemon lolly peeking out, so you can expect this to age with elegance and interest.

It seems the winemaker is deft as ever, really approachable and easy to enjoy with hidden depths. 11.5% alcohol is also a big plus in the warm weather. 91 

Monday, 9 December 2013

Sweet In The Evening

Strawberry Lemon Brulee Tart

I thought it looked rather alright, despite the rustic photo!
I cannot lay claim to being an experienced or even competent pastry cook, so this recipe was somewhat of a leap for me.  It is rather easy to follow a recipe or create a dish where technique and process are familiar despite difference of ingredients or style, but then of course we would never get better or try new things in the kitchen.  This would be rather sad and the pleasure of new food, success and achievement would be missed.

It was decided I would attempt a sweet pastry dessert, recipes were perused examined and discarded; it's hard to decide what to make you know and always advisable to get a sense of the prevailing taste of your audience.  Chocolate, baked ricotta and fruit tart were considered, but in the end you just can't go past a Creme anglaise right!?  The recipe used appealed because I'm not the sweetest of palates and I like the lemon playing off the richness of the custard.  The strawberries were my own addition to the recipe I used, courtesy of sbs and Matthew Evans.

The recipe is available from the link, so I will detail my slight alterations and observations, rather than the whole.  The first of these being that I should have started earlier as I had the most interrupted afternoon!  Aside from this:

I topped with strawberries.  A 100g almond meal substitution was made in place of flour to the base, I always love the texture and flavour this gives.  A little vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon were added to the custard, as it's such a lovely accent with the strawberries.  The berries were also added after removal from the oven then grilled with icing sugar, I simply must buy that blow torch! 

For a first go I'm pretty pleased and I hope those who tried it were too.  I must also say thank you to my friend Catherine, for her sweet inspiration.

Close up on the plate...


Sunday, 27 January 2013

Pukka Tukka In Rather More Than 15 Minutes...

New Orleans Chicken, Corn Salad with Sweet Mash and Beans

Thanks Jamie
Over the holiday season a lot of eating and drinking has been taking place, however it hasn't been until January that I have really gotten back in the kitchen seriously.  Apart from the usual baking, the time previously has been dedicated to organising the space after moving house, a task which is always good when the space is better, but also a pain in the neck with the difficulties of missing utensils and unfamiliarity with stoves, storage and layout.

In celebration of the new domestic arrangements and co-inhabitants I tried one of Jamie Oliver's 15 Minute Meals.  Hmmm.  Both the 15 and 30 minute tomes grace our shelves but I hadn't used them previously;  jokingly as I was cooking away I stated an extra 0 would be a good addition to the title, exaggeration, slightly, but you would need an assistant and slave to get all the prep and cooking done in 15 minutes.  Cooking times would also have been an issue.  The disclaimer may be that I used the framework of the dish rather than following it to the letter and really made the marinade my own, also using beans and not Okra as they were available.  We also barbecued the meat on coals and so on...  In short it was quite different but similar in spirit, with the bbq imparting a wonderful smokiness to the dish.  Thankyou for the recipe and inspiration Mr Oliver.

I felt it took more like at least 90 minutes to get the meal done allowing for prep, cooking and serving, but let us delay no more, to the dish!

Chicken breast (halved or cut into thirds, depending on size.  It's also good to ensure they aren't too thick, as the marinade works better and they cook evenly and quickly.)

Olive Oil
White Wine
Lime zest and juice
Fresh Red Chillies
Dried Chilli

Soaking it up
Fish Sauce
Brown Sugar
Polenta, mix this in just prior to cooking
White Pepper
Black Pepper

                           Mash & Beans
                           Sweet Potato
                           Green Beans
                           Feta Cheese

Corn Salad
Fresh corn
Spanish Onion
Cherry Tomatoes
Parsley (Coriander originally)
Slivered Almonds
Lime Juice

The corn is dry fried on a hot griddle, a little char is good.  This can be done while you boil the sweet potato which has been chopped into smallish chunks.  While that's happening you can combine all the marinade ingredients finely sliced or blend it all in the food processor.  Reserve a little for the mash and pour the rest over the chicken and leave to marinate.

Once the potato is done, remove the pieces and throw the bean in the water for a minute or two to cook.  Mash the potato and combine with the reserved marinade, season.  Set aside, then drain and cool the beans in water, again set aside with the mash somewhere warm until ready to serve.

Thanyou Mr Sommelier
Cook the chicken in a pan or on a grill till cooked and coloured nicely.

Whilst that's happening and when the corn is done, run a knife down the cob to remove the kernels, combine with the halved tomatoes, parsley and finely diced onion.

To serve I went with a single platter.  The salad is dressed with the lime juice, almonds and maybe a little oil whilst the chicken sits on a bed of mash, topped with the beans and fetta.  Season all to taste.

Thus I present a tasty, simple dinner, not revelatory but pretty tasty and a crowd pleaser, which I think is Jamie Oliver really and I mean that as a big compliment.  Pukka Tukka! 

The tasty wine match

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Return

This entry is so titled as I have been neglecting my poor blog, it has been over two months since the previous post.  I am just too naughty and slack, although there has been a lot going on, so it's not all my fault!  To get moving again I have a really simple recipe that turned out to be a little more special.

Rare Prosciutto Veal

Veal, thin pieces
Flour, to dust

Olive Oil
Garlic, 2 large cloves
Onion, ½
Black pepper
White Pepper
Brown Sugar
dash of Cinzano Rosso
Red wine
Sprig of thyme

A nice easy but quite delicate dish, it could be served for an everyday meal or when you have guests. The beauty of it being the sauce can be prepared and the meat only takes minutes to cook, hence it's usefulness when guests are around.

Saute the onion and garlic in a little oil and then season with salt and peppers, deglaze with the vermouth and then add a little more oil and the red wine. I add a little sugar to balance the flavour out, a squeeze of lemon or a little balsamic is also useful here too. I throw in the thyme and then reduce the sauce so it's slightly sticky.

Put this pan aside and throw the prosciutto slices in to warm. At this point delicately flour the veal, (which should be thin) and pan fry for about 1 minute or less either side in a very hot pan. The meat needs minimal cooking as it is thin and delicate and will continue to cook even off the heat.

From here arrange the veal to serve and top with the sauce and prosciutto. Garnish with parsley.  What can I say, I think it's old school but great!

You can serve this with a salad, some potatoes, or just use your imagination.  Oh and you have to provide your own view, but it is a nice springtime al fresco dish... 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

A Jaunt To The Southern Highlands

So I had a brief little sojourn to the Southern Highlands early last week. Some wine tasting, touring and eating was done, all in all a pleasant way to pass the time. The start wasn't all that auspicious however as after the 1.5hr burn down the freeway from Sydney, we arrived at our first port of call only to find it not open! I was keen to visit St Maur Wines as I had had a few good samples previously. It seems the website and printed material are at odds and they are in fact closed on Monday. Don't make our mistake, go on the weekend (the website is currently not correct)! Next trip I guess I'll just have to drop in, the wines are good though so give them a go.
Chris, with one of the staff out front.

Disappointment still smarting, some debate ensued about where to go next. We also drove past a few places; I blame the driver in these situations, however salvation appeared on the horizon or at least the signposting, in the form of Centennial Vineyards. This is a rather grandly styled establishment along french provençal meets grand château lines. You can dine here as well so this was a definite plus as our late start meant lunch beckoned. Rather an excuse to drink more wine I thought but that's a good thing!

Quite loooong
Looking at the tasting list what strikes you immediately is the number of wines produced. Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Savignan and Pinot Gris in the whites, then Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Barbera for reds. I may have missed some as well, anyway these wines are also made into two different ranges for some grapes and I believe they also have Nebbiolo in the ground! When I see this in a single producer wariness creeps in as often a lot of mediocre wines result. I don't know if that comes from the winemakers efforts being spread a bit thin or a lack of focus in the vineyard, but it can be a problem. However I'm prejudicing things a bit for you so it pleases me to say I was pleasantly surprised, there was some good wines in the mix, and some interesting stuff. I still think they try and do to many different things but overall quality was good.

Without giving notes on all the wines there were some highlights: in the whites the Riesling and Chardonnay were good, I was particularly taken by some of the off dry rieslings presented. These wines had lovely balance between the residual sugar and acidity whilst being lovely and aromatic. I would see these as very versatile and food friendly wines. The Rosé style, Sauvignon blanc and Savignan made pleasant if not exceptional quaffers. In the reds Cabernet was the dark horse, perhaps not classically styled, but this wine was intense with fruit concentration and formidable tannin, pretty interesting and atypical. In the other wines the Tempranillo and Barbera are very good wines worth a look. The Pinot was good if not exceptional. I wasn't impressed by either the Shiraz (which had a 5% co-ferment with Viognier) or the Sangiovese.
Upside down tasting plate (uploaded oddly, hmmm)

So the advantage here was the range having something for most tastes; if you are a bit into wine there's interest, if you just like a drink to chat with that's here to. Overall the wines can't have been too bad as we decamped to the dining room...

Faux Château was the term I jokingly ascribed to the décor and styling, maybe when I make some wine that's what I'll label it! It all depends if you like this sort of thing in your interior decorating; for myself I find it treads a line a little close to tacky, not bad just not me. Each to their own I suppose.
Lovely Asparagus spears and Pork belly in the background

The food itself was very pleasant and well executed. Sourdough was a great start along with a shot of pumpkin and ginger soup. I enjoyed some Oysters and then the tasting plate with a glass of Chardonnay and then some of the Tempranillo. The plate had a lovely terrine of pork, cauliflower soup shot, beans and peas with feta, oyster, chicken sausage, salt cod croquette. Quite a mix but very tasty, except for the sausage which was rather beige in flavour. My other quibble was that it needed some of the lovely bread to go with it, still nice. Serving the tasting plate and oysters on bits of slate was a nice textural effect, if a little contrived. I also had images of the slate being frisbeed away after use (given the cost of slate I'm sure it goes in the dish washer)!

The Tempranillo was quite interesting as I always find this wine a bit of a shape shifter in the glass. It has really nice lighter cherry and rose characters on the nose, but then you get lovely whiffs of funk and meatiness. Sweet fruit and hints of citrus also follow on the palate and the acidity keeps it taut. Nice and light but with quirks so a nice lunch wine.

Around the table we also had a rolled roasted Loin of chicken, Pork belly and a lovely side of fresh asparagus. Yum!
Faux Chateau courtyard...

Overall then a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and it's always nice to have some of the wine just tasted in a real world setting, with a meal. This gives you more of a sense of what the wine is really like, just like people...

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Art Of Simple Things

I have really neglected the blog of late, which is poor not least because I keep thinking about it rather than just doing a post. So to get things back on track I thought a post about some of the simplest of dishes and foods. Quite often when you are into food or wine it all seems to get complicated pretty quickly, when in fact I'd be amazed if even the most dedicated gourmet doesn't return to the basic and even most rough and ready of dishes. Sometimes it's just what you want more than anything else in the world.

Soft boiled, a few extras but pretty basic... 
For myself one of these is a nice poached or soft boiled egg on toast; not flash, easy to make and a few additions and variations are possible. Winner.

Cold beer with a Salt & Vinegar chip, how could you go wrong.

Even in the world of wine let me disappoint by saying you can do worse than a crisp dry white, assuming that it is of course a crisp, dry white and not some sweet and flabby pretender.

Others will have their simple favourites and friendly standbys that I'd love to know about. You do however get an idea of the variety these snacks provide from more elaborate fare. Food is so contextual anyway so the right thing at the right time crucial, sometimes even magic, the 2am kebab, or some oysters by the water. Nothing else is needed as time and place is captured.

Just what was required whilst waiting for a delayed flight!

Friday, 27 April 2012

So... Some Wine?

Tallarook Shiraz Viognier 2004, Victoria

This producer is I fear defunct.  Rather a sad outcome as I reckon they made some nice wines, not for everyone, but a bit more than interesting and rather enjoyable.

The pliers add to the rustic nature of the photo,
just like my messy kitchen.
Fading ruby to look at, this smells like dried herbs and flowers, with, violet? over mineral earth. The palate follows through with more herb, leather and dry earth, but the fruit is suprising with it's bright rasberry lolly and cherry character. Open for an hour or so classic shiraz fruit and spice show through. From here stem and leaf chime in and this producer always builds over an acid/tannin backbone, oak is subtle but nicely present. This all carries the wine and imbues structure and length. 90.

A bit of an old world pretender, I'd be intrigued to see this next to a couple of examples from the Rhone. Overall this is tight, but opens with a bit of time, it may also be a bit over age, but again this is gracefully so and I really like the faded primary characters yielding to other funk and complexity.  Like many good wines, the fruit comes up once the bottle is open for a little while.  The other point to mention is the deft handling of the Viognier, some of the previous editions of the wine have used Marsanne to the same end; the element to like here is that it is intergrated with such class.  The only hint to it's presence is the slight floral edge and ephemeral dried apricot note.  So many of these wines are so overladen with the viognier that they taste like apricots and flowers, which if the shiraz is good does not compliment, but rather overtakes.  As they say less is more right? 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

And So To Dessert

Pear With Figs In Red Wine

A dessert done many times, this edition has a few tweaks I enjoy to give it a little more zing. I always like playing with elements typically used at the opposite end of the flavour spectrum; the chilli in this instance would more often be seen in a savoury offering, however here the very small amount used enhances the flavour and lifts the dish as a whole. Dark chocolate and chilli are in my book a rather classic combination anyway.

I must apologise for the terrible photo/plating,
time was short however you get the idea...

Pears, peeled*
Dried Figs, 2 per pear

1 bottle Red wine
Star Anise, 1 head
Cinnamon, 1 stick
Cardamom, 1 pod
Chilli (small sliver)
Dark Chocolate, 50g finely ground
Brown Sugar, taste

Double Cream

*I tend to leave the cores and stems in the pear. I like the aesthetics of the pear on the plate like this and it all holds together better. The purists would say there is little worse than biting into a lovely pear and getting core or seed. That seems a bit silly to me when you know it will be there, decide for yourself and prepare accordingly...

Prepare the pears and set in a saucepan so they fit snugly, this means they wont move around unless you want to adjust them, thus select a pan size accordingly. Put the figs in as well and throw all the spices in. Pour the wine over the top, they should be covered by about ½ to ¾, more is probably better. Poach gently for around 45 minutes, here long and slow is good. Set the pears and figs aside when done and retain the liquid.

The wine and spice can then be reduced by half and sugar added. I have not put a measure here as it depends how sweet the wine and your taste, you will need to balance it to the spice. Strain the liquid and then slowly combine the chocolate through the sauce.

Pour the sauce over the plated pear and figs, serving with cream.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

A Drink Perhaps?

Most things in life, even the supposed minutiae and extras like writing a blog, require discipline.  I could say that my various other life strands intervened, but this would negate the fact that I should have just made and set aside time to post and create material.

So at 11:09 in the morning I'll get the ball rolling once more with a wine review from the back catalogue.  Who knows, maybe it will roll through to something else.  The review is published as is; by way of context it was a response to a review of the wine by Cambell Mattinson on The WineFront.

2004 Longview Nebbiolo (tasted May 2009) Adelaide Hills, South Australia.

Well I read this review with interest as I acquired a case of this a while back. I tried a bottle or two but never got round to writing a comment, and thought I’d like to as Nebbiolo intrigues me. I mean when I poured a bit out you look at the wine and have a first whiff, c’mon you say, is that it!

Desperately light is generous when describing the colour and the nose wasn’t giving anything away. Sat it for a bit and things unfold. Is one of the problems with this grape the impact the colour has before tasting? Your thinking thin if your not careful before you start.  Anyway after breathing the wine thickens out; the nose is tarry, resinous and quite intense along with some more delicate herbs, “rose petals” lol. The palate is concentrated, but the fruit restrained, with darker flavours, cherry? as well as the raspberry, hint of grass and a bit of boiled lolly on the end. (I feel like an idiot when I write a tasting note) Tannins are dry, grippy and long, but I quite enjoy that and it pulls it all together balancing out the slight alcohol hit, but as you say I don’t think its a problem. I think I’ll pour another.



I was interested to read something like this from a while back as it's intriguing how ones writing evolves and stays the same.  I still have some of this wine so it should be educational to try it now or in the near future and see how the wine is travelling.  Nebbiolo is a variety I really like, it's pretty interesting and here in Aus and we are now making a few that are decent drops.  If you like it, worthwhile examples locally are coming from Pizzini and S.C Pannell amongst others.  Of course there are many others and I really urge everyone to give it ago, it's certainly something different.  A quirk perhaps, but the wine I drank that introduced me to Nebbiolo was a 2001 bottle from the Granite Belt in Queensland.  It was a most lovely wine and one of the best examples I can recall, even allowing for those heady days of first love!

The wine (generally) also benefits greatly from bottle age, possibly not on the scale of the benchmark Barolos, but it can be a little austere as a youngster.  I'm expecting this wine to be at a bit of a peak now.

I'm also left to ponder the relative value of stuff by this wine because I picked up a case of 04 and a case of 05 for less than $200.  From that perspective it's some of the best wine and value for money buys I've ever encountered.  In the negative I don't think the producer benefited greatly from my auction win.  Enough of that though, here's to good wine, winemaking and drinking! 

*Not the original label art for the vintage, but this 2007 example is exquisite.  Thankyou to Longview Vineyard for the image.