Thursday, November 29, 2007

1 Week To Go

+ I took mum for dinner to Bonsai down at Bronte last night. We've eaten at it's neighbour Swell many times, and they both just get it right. Unlike Neil Perry and Rockpool. Such a comfortable place to sit, across the road from the beach with lovely food and always-friendly service. We had really fresh sushi and sashimi, served at the right temperature, and the special of tempura zucchini flowers filled with snapper mousse was so good we ordered another. Oh and a subtle green tea creme brulee with red bean icecream, mmm, red beans.
+ You count down the weeks with impatience but then as the date nears my feelings changed - trepidation, curiousity, again impatience, but with unquiet stillness. Today I'm excited again, and can't wait.
+ I am geekily excited by the produce I'll have access to in Amsterdam.
+ I have stop-started writing about those closest to me for a few days now, but it feels silly. I know how I feel about them and our relationships and that I will miss them and it doesn't need to be written down.
+ I'm almost-completely organised. My tax is about to be sent in, my papers all collated, unit rented out, stuff at mum's mostly unpacked, mail redirected, address changed, office desk sorted. Must buy a Dutch dictionary.
+ The weather is SHIT. Global warming my arse. I've moved back to Bronte and banked on a solid effort at the beach, but it has been grey and on-off rainy for weeks, aka Amsterdam-lite.
+ The news that John Burton Race fathered a child with a woman he's been having an affair with and is leaving his wife and six kids disturbs me. It also disturbs me that a top chef would do "I'm a celebrity...". You suck John. Your goat cheese salad with hazelnut vinegarette may be one of my favourite dishes to prepare and eat, but you are dead to me now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chocolate Souffle

Every food post has a little story to go with it. Except this one. I wanted to make chocolate souffle, so came home and did.

I'd spotted Jules' posting of Guillaume Brahimi's chocolate souffle during the day, and it had me swooning. The recipe has an easy yolk/white ratio, and no cornstarch, which I don't like to use unless necessary. The souffle is just what I love in a souffle - a meeting point of unctuous chocolate goodness and fluffy lightness. It's chocolatey but not too sweet so a pour of sauce or scoop of icecream on the side would work really well. And it's after-work easy. I did them in my Bodum double wall glasses which look so good (but forgot to smooth the top, hence the bumps).

Chocolate Souffle, recipe from Guillaume Brahimi, thanks to The Stone Soup, serves 4
150g dark chocolate
1/2 C milk
1/2 C caster sugar
3 egg yolks, lightly whisked
4 egg whites
Pinch salt
Pinch cream of tartar
Butter for greasing, extra caster sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180C. Grease 4 ramekins with butter and sprinkle with caster sugar, tipping out excess sugar. Break chocolate into small chunks and place in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the base of the bowl. Allow chocolate to melt gently. When almost melted remove from heat and stir, allowing the residual heat to melt the remaining chocolate. Stir through cold milk. Combine yolks and sugar and stir through chocolate.
Beat egg whites until frothy and add salt and cream of tartar. Continue to whisk until firm peaks form. Stir a tablespoon of egg white through the chocolate mix to lighten it then gently fold through remaining whites.
Gently divide the mix between the 4 prepared dishes and wrap each with a collar of baking paper that stands at least 4cm above the rim of the dish. Tie with string. Place dishes on a baking tray and bake for 25 - 30mins or until soufflés are risen and the top looks cooked through.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Farewell Party!

We had our farewell party yesterday and it was so much fun. We had a great spot on the balcony of The Clock, my favourite local, and luckily the weather was top notch after a week of grey and almost everybody came and had a great time.

It was wonderful to catch up with mates, especially some I thought wouldn't make it. Everyone got on, the vibe was great. Champers flowed so of course we got loose, and the night kicked on to Bondi for more drinks and laughs and hooligan behaviour.

Thank you G for the wonderful photos...

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Best

D told me weeks ago she was taking me for a suprise on Wednesday after work. I thought it was going to be something silly-fun, like to the taping of Bingo, but when I came out there was J, W and D, all dressed up and taking me for an early birthday dinner!

I was blown. away. What sweet wonderful friends. We are leaving two days before my birthday so, not wanting me to miss out on a proper birthday celebration, they had been planning a surprise, complete with dinner and hilarious presents! November 21 is now my Australian birthday date!
They took me to Longrain, which we'd been planning to go to together for yonks, so imagine their shock when I reported back about A and I's fantastic dinner there just this Saturday! Live across the road for two+ years, never eat there, and then dine twice in one week. It was even more delicious this time, cocktails and fantastic WA wine, the Barossa chicken, pork belly which was too good, crunchy yet melting and all caramely, and an amazing soft-shell crab. And dessert was incredible, I really couldn't expect such delicious desserts, and we all tried each others with the next being more yum than the one before. I had palm sugar and vanilla tapioca with coconut icecream and little wafers. Little pearls of tapioca in a glossy thin custard, with shards of young coocnut and lychee. Perfectly smooth coconut icecream. This is heaven.

Then I was initiated with silly presents. A little lawn-growing animal thing, a subliminal Dutch-learning CD (Mind Storm!), a tshirt with one of D and I's favourite lines from the trip, and an apron with the Diablo printed on it. This took the cake.

An absolutely wonderful surprise which touched me more than words can say.

In the apron with the Diablo

aka Charlotte and Harry

The soon-to-be Dutch residents!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

2 Weeks aka I Am Never Moving Again

How many times have I moved, and how many times have I said the same thing? It started off ok - removalists, storage, paying a small fortune - then dear Jay helping me haul boxes and boxes over to mum's. Most of it done - what a godsend he is - except my tv weighs more than a whale. Instead of storing it, I thought Kath might like it, except it's unliftable. Drop dead Grundig. I thought I was paying for quality, not lead.

I am never moving again. Who needs all this stuff? Boxes and boxes of books. Who needs books? Pff, Eurotrash. Who needs half of Peter's of Kensington in their kitchen? Who needs all these CDs, who needs DVDs? What is wrong with just sitting in an empty room staring at the wall? I haven't started on the clothes. I don't want clothes, I don't want shoes. Actually, I can't say that. I want my shoes. All of them. But the policy has to be, closed toes come, open toe stay.

Goodbye Surry Hills! I hope the tenant will look after the place. I looked around today, hollow and empty of furniture, and I love it so much. I'll come back and put in new carpet, a new dishwasher, maybe even put something on the walls finally. So, the next two weeks at mum's. I hope we get along and not kill each other.

A jam-packed two weeks, and then, jumping into the new.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I went and told grandma I was leaving on Saturday morning, it went quite well considering it was decided not to tell her the complete truth. Did some packing, then went to Bronte for a sunbake. S came over for a catch up and taught me a few Dutch words. Then A and I had cocktails and dinner at Longrain (it was meant to be a 'special' dinner at Quay but then Neil Perry from ROCKPOOL turned what was meant to be a reasonable night out into the most disappointing blowout so we kept it more low-key). What a fantastic night! Sitting in the bar area with a few wonderful cocktails is just great - it always has a relaxed, cool vibe. And dinner was lovely, even if we were bursting at the seams and had to leave half. Who would think that a hatted restaurant actually gives you too much? The flavours were so fresh and a rainbow of sour, sweet, tangy, fruity. And the service was great, they gave us the best seats at the communal table, were attentive and cute to boot. We sat and chatted for hours. What more could you want?
Sunday did some more packing, took Nut for a walk, made Bill Granger's coconut bread and took it with me to Manly. With the neighbours we headed over to Little Manly for a swim and a kick of the footy. Wow. I'd never been there before, never really liked Manly (or the northern beaches - loyalty is to the east) but this little locals-only beach was incredible, private, calm and crystal aqua sea. It really felt like being on holidays. Then back up for a BBQ for 6, champers, good company, and I crashed.
A super weekend in the heat of almost-summer, a snapshot of this amazing city.

Bacon And Egg Risotto

Yonks ago I thought about doing a bacon and egg risotto but forgot all about it, then the other day saw just that over at the more-ish Last Night's Dinner. My idea had been to fry an egg until the edges were crispy and serve that over the risotto, but the original idea from An Obsession With Food was to poach the egg yolk, and I had to try it. I forgot to saute the pancetta first (I was probably too busy scoffing it on it's own) but added it towards the end, when there was hardly any stock left and could easily fry it, the oil coating the rice deliciously.

Going back to look at the recipe now, I see we've served it the same with lots of chopped chives and also pancetta instead of bacon. Perfect packing-with-SATC-on-in-the-background comfort food.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

3 Weeks

+ I need to keep packing but I'm watching Knocked Up. The bearded friend jokes are the best!
+ The excitement has really kicked in and everything now feels like a countdown. To-do lists are being ticked off, all the logistics taken care of, even the tax is done (if only I can find the rest of my papers to reconcile the numbers...)
+ Skype and webcams installed. Skype is cool, when it works.
+ My place looks fabulous. Shame I hadn't made it look so good just for me.
+ Ladies, if you're needing any beauty appointments before Christmas, book them in stat. I only just nabbed the last laser appointment in December.
+ It's an interesting cook's challenge using up what's in your pantry and fridge/freezer and not allowing yourself to buy any non-essential groceries. Completely essential though are mangoes and new season plums, peaches, nectarines. Yum.
+ I sent a friend my new address today, and it was a real kick.
+ I'm moving to Amsterdam!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Neil Perry Response

Hi Andrew,

The overwhelming majority of people who came to the restaurant last week, all 999 of them loved it and said Sydney defiantly (sic) needs a restaurant like Rockpool (fish).
Sorry you don’t agree, but as you don’t seem to understand what we are doing I guess I won’t be getting you or needing you as a customer.



Neil Perry
Rockpool Group

NB: no reply to the email complaint I sent on Monday, and resent on Wednesday.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Karen Martini's Syrian Chicken

Again, the delightful Elegant Sufficiency provided another recipe I had to make stat, Syrian chicken by Karen Martini. It's so wonderful to have all the herbs and spices on hand so even a dish with many ingredients can be whipped up in half an hour at the end of a weekend.

Karen Martini's Syrian Chicken, slightly adapted, serves 4
1kg chicken thigh fillets, cut into big cubes
2 ts sea salt
2 ts ground cumin
2 ts ground cinnamon
1 ts pepper
1 ts ground turmeric
2 Ts olive oil
1 large brown onion, sliced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
5 cloves garlic, bruised with the back of a knife
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 pinches saffron threads
1/2 ts cumin seeds
5 sprigs thyme
1 lemon, juiced and zest grated
2 Ts honey
100g currants
1/2 bunch coriander
(The recipe includes currants, which I don't like but it doesn't lack anything without them. I also didn't have red chili, which the recipe has two of).

Add the salt, cumin, cinnamon, pepper and turmeric to the chicken and coat. Set aside while you get everything ready.
Heat olive oil in a large frypan. Add chicken and brown on all sides. Remove from pan and set aside. Add onions, ginger, garlic (and chilies if using) to pan and cook for 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, saffron, cumin seeds and thyme and cook for 2 minutes.
Return chicken to the pan and add lemon juice and zest, honey, (currants if using) and enough water to just cover chicken. Cover with a lid and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is tender and cooked through and sauce is slightly reduced. Stir in coriander.
Serve with couscous or rice.

The Rest Of The Weekend

We caught the ferry back to Manly and I got cross with him in the rain. But we had a nice breakfast in the morning and then I headed back for my apartment inspection. D and I went back into town to try on warm jackets, ordered them online for half the price, then hit Bite Me Burgers for a burger feast. We stuffed ourselves with $50 worth of deliciousness: six mini burgers, a footlong hot dog with the works, large chips and icecream sandwiches. It was all fantastic, so be sure to try them.

Late at night we were treated to SBS showing dig! which we'd always wanted to see. What a fantastic documentary! As imdb says, a must-see even if you're not a fan of the bands. Woo hoo!
Spent Sunday with mum as I hadn't seen her in a while, and had a top day. Including a wonderful lunch of prawn ravioli and scampi risotto at WBJ's Nino's Hideaway (laughable how good it was compared to Rockpool), a walk with Nut along Bronte Beach, and the swelling of my heart when mum told me, over a glass of wine in the sunshine, that she is so happy for me going.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Dear Pony-Tailed One,

Thanks for absolutely taking the piss.


JB and A

...except the actual letter of complaint that went out yesterday was much more thorough and detailed just how bad this dinner was, from the service to each bite of food. Even A, who never gets bothered by anything, wrote his own letter.

We'd been looking forward to dinner at the updated Rockpool, that was meant to be a table of 4, then 6, then 4 again, then at the last minute just the two of us. So, a summary of the experience:

+ Casually seated, no chairs pulled out or napkins placed on laps. Fine for the pub, not for a on-again, off-again 3-hatter.
+ Not yet seated, asked what we'd like to drink. No wine list or aperitif offered; choice of beers Crown, Stella or Heineken.
+ Prices significantly higher than website menu, which is identical in menu items; some dishes double in price. We picked the new Rockpool because the prices were appealing, this is nothing less than misleading. I might understand a few dollars, but not double, especially after one week open.
+ Our waiter who seemed to be one of the maitres, was cold and unprofessional.
+ The menu didn't work - entrees were hard to pair up with mains.
+ A's main of grilled john dory was simply a fillet of the fish with a wedge of lemon. Not a couple of green beans, spears of asparagus, something.
+ My main of whole deep sea bream steamed with black bean and chili had no hint of chili or others flavours. I've made better steamed fish at home (see above).
+ Water only arrived with the main course.
+ Our two side dishes were embarassing: 'hand cut' chips were soggy, oversalty Birds Eye; tomato salad with tamarind dressing were tasteless roma tomatoes with the stalk base and pith intact, disgusting.
+ The signature dessert was all gone by 10.40, despite the restaurant being full. No apologies or suggestions for another. The dessert that I chose instead was just like a Mr Pisa tartuffi.
+ I broke one of the dessert wine glasses; no one came to clean up the table, the waiter said he would bring another and didn't.
+ No one ever enquired about our meal, thanked us at the end, or opened the door when we left.
+ $250 when we could of had a much nicer dinner at the pub for a lot less.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

4 Weeks

+ Have the first apartment inspection on Saturday. Am hanging around so no one pinches my shoes.
+ Packing and purging, it's amazing how much stuff is around that you just don't need. A box of videos. Magazines from years ago. Notebooks filled with giberish. Horns and a pitchfork. Such a good feeling to get rid of it all. If only you could be motivated to do it without a reason. Pff.
+ Going through your stuff also brings up old travel journals, that with a glass of wine bring back a flood of memories. It also brings up old photos where you are wearing jeans that now fit one leg.
+ Thanks Sydney for the cool, rainy weather - as if I won't have enough over there! I was counting on a few solid weeks of hot, beach weather but at least it's not tempting me away from important stuff like sorting and packing.
+ Farewell drinks are organised, as is a month of eating in and out. Attempting to cook up as much from my pantry and fridge/freezer as possible.
+ The next month will be gangbusters but it's sooo exciting!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

This Week's Food

1. Spanish lamb roast

2. Odd one out

3. Spaghetti alla Carbonara

4. Blue egg

5. Pilmeni

1. It's spring, and I have been waiting for the right opportunity to have a Sunday lamb roast. And then I saw this recipe over at the wonderful Elegant Sufficiency for Spanish roast lamb, ordered a lamb mini roast from Butcherman and treated myself to a Gordon Ramsay-style Sunday lunch. This marinade is amazing, one I'll definitely make again. It even reminded me a little of Spain, as I'd hoped, and that can only be a wonderful thing.
In a mortar and pestle blend together 2 cloves of garlic, the leaves of a few sprigs of thyme, the juice of a large lemon, 2 teaspoons of smoked paprike, and a few Tablespoons of olive oil. Marinate the lamb for a few hours, or overnight. I baked at 220C for 10 minutes then at 170C for 1.5 hours to juicy perfection.
2. Beautiful cherry tomatoes on the vine from Fratelli Fresh.
3. I was tired/lazy and skipped Spanish. All I could think of was me, couch, any DVD, wine, and a big bowl of real carbonara. Pancetta, egg, pepper, pecorino (didn't have parmiggiano).
4. My last blue egg made my new favourite no-brainer lunch/dinner, a spinach and goat's curd omelette, which I was too hungry to devour to take a photo.
5. Little makes me happier than a big bowl of pilmeni, glossy with butter and a little vinegar.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's November

Daylight savings is in the air and these long days are wonderful.

Spent some time with bubs after work on Friday - she's so funny. Woke up early on Saturday and headed to Fratelli Fresh. God I love this place, I get a happy feeling walking through the doors. Stocked up with a big box of beautiful fruit and vegetables, the colours (deep spinach green, pastel broad beans), the scents (summery mango, dusty potatoes). Then D and I headed into the adventure shop district to try on and price warm clothes. I expected to find lumpy, Michelin men-style stuff I would seriously hate but so much of it is really nice, fitted, warm, and more tech-savvy than a moon landing. Gratefully spent a quiet night at home, packing my books and laughing myself silly over Seinfeld.
Sunday couldn't sleep in, so got up and went down to the fish markets for some supplies for the week and for dad's birthday dinner. Met S and S for a coffee and nice catch up, then came home and made myself a Sunday roast lunch - Spanish roast lamb with baked peas. Kept the oven on in the heat and failed with dessert to take to the dinner (luckily the diabetic wholemeal cherry clafoutis I made at Kath's was better).
Dad's birthday dinner was nice, BBQ, seafood, easy, and he was even happy with his present of St Peter's Shiraz and gourmet goodies. Happy Birthday dad.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Goodbye Books

Starting to pack, first with the books. Putting them in boxes, reminiscing over the time spent with each. The idols, books of, and by, Gainsbourg, Birkin, Bardot. The French history section, absorbing the past in bed, yet a sidenote feeling like you only know a drop in the ocean, dreaming of a week in a beach house doing nothing but reading history. And eating and fucking. One day. The food books, Reichl, David, the pleasure of Bourdain. The allsorts of music, Jim Morrison, Motley Crue. Cinema, the brilliant biography of Bunuel by John Baxter. So much fashion, Chanel, Vogue, the essential Diane Vreeland. The joy of reading Zola. Travel in the form of Lonely Planet's blue spines, and other people's adventures. Osho, I'll take these with me. There are dictionaries and unread books, easing the strain off my Amazon wishlist. And cookbooks. I guess they must stay here, my new home will give me inspiration in the kitchen.

I'll take with me a few books, some I haven't read, and L'Etranger, it always comes with me.


I'm not into retro or space odyssey-inspired but these Orbit bowls from Miam Miam are just the loveliest: I like the idea of curling up with a bowl of risotto, or icecream, or comfort mashed potatoes.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Shopping For The Cold

While D and I get ready for a moving-to-the-freezing-cold-and-have-nothing-to-wear shopping trip, and inspired by a chat/perve with R - not to mention the brilliant Aussie dollar - I'm now lusting after:

The Alex dress from J Crew:

As well as some sparkling tights from American Apparel:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

An Evening With Michael C. Hall And Dexter

Kath got us tickets to Popcorn Taxi's Michael C. Hall evening last night (thanks Kath!) and I thought it was just going to be a standard promo chat about his new show, Dexter. But it was fantastic!

First, the pilot of Dexter, then a great interview with Michael (sidenote: very cute) and the most ridiculous Q&A I've ever heard, then finishing with another episode.

What a truly great actor. Of course, David Fisher being such an amazing character in Six Feet Under. And Dexter, both the show and character, are so good you can't help but be grateful for such beautiful writing and acting and being a beacon in the filth that is everything else on TV these past few years. His voiceovers so accutely reveal the psychology of this complex character, while the sensual delights of food, Miami, heat, music, play beautifully alongside what he would see as the sensuality of the 'projects' that make his heart race. It's a great, great show and we leave before it starts airing here, so I really need to get on the ball and get a copy of the first two series.