Monday, October 25, 2010

Edible Balcony - Spring deluge

What about all this rain? The rain storms were so heavy on the weekend in Sydney that most of the normally protected plants on the balcony were soaked and I didn't need to water.

The rain combined with the burst of warm weather last week has been a boon for gardeners. I think my plants think they're on a Club Med resort. Pina Colada anyone?

They've lushed up very nicely.

I've put in some beans against the west facing wall

The sorrel, feverfew, warrigal greens, Vietnamese mint, kale and a little spanish sage are jumping back into life on the vertical wall

My four varieties of potatoes are really starting to sprawl now. The potatoes should be ready to harvest in three weeks.

And the garlic will be ready when most of the leaves start to yellow - in about 4 weeks' time

All in all the Edible Balcony tenants are very happy little chappies.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sydney - Berta Restaurant

This place is too cool for skool. berta restaurant is simply sizzling with hotness. As the Sydney Morning Herald's Good Food Guide's best new restaurant of the year it's no surprise by 6.30pm on a Friday night it's already heaving at the seams.

This tiny industrial space overlooks a rough alley and a razor-wired carpark..... the sort of edgy chic you usually only find in Melbourne - or Beirut.

The blackboard menu has dishes pared down to their three essential ingredients.

We start with the clams, mussels and fennel

This is done in a light tomato broth with spinach and flecks of garlic. Very morish, robust flavours.

Dishes are designed to share. Next to come out on a wooden serving board are crunchy cubes of polenta topped with a chilli salsa verde and pickled fennel.

Ocean trout, radish and pickled jerusalem artichoke

Next are kipler potatoes with garlic and rosemary.

Crunchy skins and fluffy insides..

preparing the way for the piece de resistance.... roast suckling pig and white beans 

my arteries are hardening in anticipation

deceptively simple food with big flavour

Our biggest gripe is the noise level. Animation and buzz are one thing in a happening eatery on a busy night but deafening cacophony is not a good accompaniement to great food. A little more noise reduction panelling and we'll be coming back more often.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Edible Balcony - First Potato Flowers

With potato plants all the excitement is centred on the roots or tubers - the potato.
But how pretty are potato flowers?
These little white and yellow delicate chaps emerged this morning.

The potato plants are proving to be very happy balcony edibles. Straw, manure and blood and bone in a free-draining planter bag, a regular watering and the rest has been up to them.

The four varieties are now about two metres high.
I'll know when I can harvest my first new potatoes when the bottom leaves begin to yellow.  That should be in about 4 weeks time.For older, bigger spuds I'll leave them in for a little longer.

Does anyone have any favourite spud recipes?

MUMU Grill - Gundooee Wagyu 7 ways

Vegetarians look away now. This is a story of how meat made men. Only the toughest survived to tell the tale

The setting was MUMU Grill in Crows Nest - Sydney's only sustainable meat steakhouse. Chef/owner Craig Macindoe is a barrel of a man who is the walking embodiment of the grass-fed meat his restaurant specialises in.

Tonight he is featuring Rob Lennon's, of Gundooee Organics, Angus cross-Wagyu in a sumptuous dinner.

Rob is a great mate. Saucy visited his free-range farm near Mudgee at Easter where he and his wife Anita have battled droughts to produce some of the best free-range beef you'll ever taste.

Tonight Craig, his chef friends and several cooking-class apprentices have designed a 7 course death-by-meat extravaganza featuring Rob's Wagyu like he's never seen it before.

First up is a tartare of wagyu on cassava chips. Beautiful combination. The wagyu is silken.

Craig talks to guests about the importance of sustainaible meat production and that cattle aren't necessarily the climate change enemy they've been portrayed as.

From the look of the faces of diners he's preaching to the converted. These people clearly live for meat.

Next is a carpaccio of wagyu with zucchini, radicchio, shaved fennel and parmesan


Rob gives us a little background about what makes his wagyu special - grass-fed on native perennials, certified organic, rich in flavour and nutrition, environmental and ethical.

..... and you can certainly taste all that special rearing

Osso Bucco Ravioli in beef consomme is next. The broth is so deeply-flavoured. Mind-blowing.

but wait there's more.... a crunchy zingy Thai beef salad

Rob is used to just throwing his wagyu T-bone on the barbie. I don't think he can quite believe this is still his wagyu.

I'm starting to lose a bit of steam now. Groan. Just enough room to squeeze in a few bites of my favourite of the evening - Slow roasted sirloin with king prawn, asparagus and flying fish roe. An ethereal reinterpretation of surf and turf.

you really need to taste this dish

This is where I peter out and the real meatlovers continue the marathon.... organic wagyu brisket with pickled watermelon salad and sambal.

And then the last course - a crazily ginormous rib eye roast with coffee teriyaki, endamame salsa and braised witlof.

Again superb but surely we've eaten our yearly meat allowance in 4 hours !!!????!!

But I look around the room at diners sucking the bones and realise I'm just out of my league.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recipe - Chocolate fondant with lavender flower cream

 The perfect spring dessert

Yay for Spring! The lavender is out, the bees are dropping in again and the balcony plants are bursting back into life.

The lavender variety I'm growing has large soft lilac flowers with a gentler aroma than the tight hedge variety. The flowers are perfect stirred through some cream and served with a luscious oozy chocolate pudding.

Recipe: Chocolate fondant with lavender blossom cream

350 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
50g soft butter
150g caster sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons plain flour

For lavender blossom cream
1 cup of thick cream
1 tablespoon caster sugar
5-6 lavender flower buds

To make the lavender cream: beat the cream and sugar with a whisk until it is thick. Stir in the lavender flowers and set aside in the fridge for the flavours to infuse.
Grease 6 dariole moulds and place them on a baking tray.
Melt the chocolate by placing a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water making sure the bowl does not touch the water.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Add the flour and mix well. Add the melted chocolate and beat to form a smooth batter.
Divide the chocolate mixture evenly between the 6 moulds. At this stage the fondants can be set aside in the fridge for up to a day.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Place the fondants in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes. Check them by inserting a skewer. They should still be gooey and runny in the middle. They should be cooked at least a 1cm in from the edge.
When ready, turn the dariole moulds on to a plate and serve with a dusting of icing sugar and a large dollop of the lavender cream.

If the word fondant made you break out into a cold sweat in the past you have got to try this recipe.
Fail safe, delicious .. your friends and family will swoon...