(That’s PJ Harvey wearing the Opera House, right? Back me up here.)
How lazy have I been? Took forever to get these photos to TBC because I’m just too lazy! Anyway, had a great night and I’m in love with the decor of the Five Bar. I mean an opening roof for summer? Can you imagine? Sometimes I wish I could just rip off the tin in our house so I could lounge on my day bed lounge in the warmth and light of summer. – TBP
A few weeks back I was stuck in a mid-afternoon day-dream about pork belly. This is not uncommon. As I was discovered the hard way soon after when I was asked to prepare a poster on homosociality on the spot I, should have been keeping my eye on the prize – instead I was busy on twitter talking TBP into coming to Five Bar’s Spring Into Cider tasting. TBP was sure she could get home, dressed, and find her camera in under an hour so we snapped up two tickets. As it turned out traffic conspired against us, but we weren’t the last ones there. And only the last one there counts as late, right?
The event was tucked up the back of the venue under the opening (but sadly closed that night) roof while the rest continued on normal service. I hadn’t expected it to be standing and since we got there too late to stake out a spot on the platform-sorta-business we ended up awkwardly perching on the end of a handsome sideboard doing a self-conscious side-shuffle every time the staff needed to get at the cutlery. They were very kind about it though and reassured us with a pithy anecdote about a more difficult customer and a beef tartar.
My initial anxiety on realising that it was a standing event and my dream of soothing my woes in a comfy chair with some pork belly needed some adjusting started to calm down when I was handed an icey pint of James Squire Orchard Crush. Drink responsibly friends. It was a full-strength (4.8%) scrumpy, a little cloudy from the yeasts and had a distinctly apple-juice scent. It was neither too dry not too sweet and was a refreshing way to kick the evening off. Being a James Squire it’s pretty easy to find reasonably priced in your local bottleshop too. Since we arrived so late there was only one piece of the chorizo sauteed in cider left in the building and TBP boldly stole it from under the descending hand of a stranger. We’re sorry about that. She made me have it because she says she can’t talk about food but in the end all I can tell you about it is that was indeed a piece of chorizo and it did have a slightly sweet note. The guy we stole it from sure seemed to be enjoying it and one piece wasn’t really enough to get a good idea of how it worked together with the cider.
Macca, the night’s booze expert, did a great job of explaining what we had to eat and drink – he gave us just the right amount of information and in just the right way that we felt we were learning but not being condescended to. He welcomed feedback and seemed genuinely concerned that everyone enjoy the experience. The contrast between Macca and the beer degustation at Elmar’s couldn’t have been more stark and we really appreciated it.
The second cider, the Napoleone Methode Traditionelle Pear Cider, was a really interesting one. It’s made in the same style as Champagne, the methode champenoise or methode traditionelle, with two fermentations and a spell aging on lees. The ciderhouse was aiming for an Australian twist on a classic European style and used 60% Packham and 40% Beurre Bosc pears. The finished product is dry for a pear cider with small tight bubbles, a toasty feel and vegetable notes. It was paired with crumbed and fried artichoke hearts on a goats smooth goats cheese base with a little slivered red onion. I love artichoke but I’m essentially a lazy person and the work involved in preparing and eating fresh ones is usually beyond me. I appreciated the amount of effort that went into the preparation as they were tender and delicious, a great seasonal nod. All together the dish was savoury with a bit of tang provided by the goats cheese but the cider complemented the dish by adding a note that seemed missing in the food and taken together it was a great combination.
The Kelly Brothers Sparkling Apple Cider is a classic Australian style cider. We thought it smelled a bit funky, but it tasted nice – a sort of hint of apple sweetness with a crisp dry finish. We were given a whole stubby each, which at 7% alcohol was pretty generous. The Linley Valley pork belly served with it was good, if a bit tricky to eat while standing up and chatting. The applejack sauce had a bitter note which stood out and confused us, until we learned what that actually was and everything made sense. I’m well known in the family for my love of potato bake and so my cravings were perfectly satisfied by this dish. By the time we had plates, stubbies, glasses and cutlery we’d pretty much commandeered that sideboard. Sorry guys…
Our palate cleanser was a deconstructed ‘Stonefence’ cocktail, a glass of Domaine Dupont Cidre Reserve served with a glass of Laird’s Applejack. Drinking the spirit first allowed the cider to serve as a palate cleanser for both the pork belly, and the applejack. And when I say palate cleanser, we’re talking a scorched earth policy. Applejack is made from 30% apples and 70% grains, described by Macca as being like those that make up whiskey. So despite being warned this was basically whiskey I was still thinking about it as some sort of delicious sticky apple-based dessert liqueur. Obviously I was wrong and it hurt in the way being fed a spoon full of vegemite when you think you’re getting jam hurts and now you can all laugh at my folly. The cider, on the other hand, was lovely. It had been aged in Calvados barrels and was honeysuckle sweet with small bubbles, not as tight as the methode traditionelle, more foamy. I really enjoyed this cider, so inevitably it turned out to be a premium one which sells by the bottle (at $50) rather than the glass.
The cider I enjoyed against all my expectations was the Cidrerie D’Anneville Cider Doux Binet Rouge. It was a sweet cider (a cidre doux) made from binet rouge apples, which are traditionally used in the making of Calvados. I’ve had sweet (sickly sweet) ciders before, like Rikorderlig, and never enjoyed them. This was definitely sweet but it didn’t gang up on you, it had a red apple flavour with soft foamy bubbles and was very pleasant to drink. I don’t know if it was the way the tasting was structured and this was just what I was ready for but I really enjoyed it. Macca said he’d happily drink it all day, except at 2% the alcohol content is too low for that – given my track record with cider that actually makes it even more appealing. If I find one I really enjoy I don’t want to put it down. It looks as though this cider is occasionally available for retail in Perth so I look forward to hunting for it.
The dessert was cute, mini palmier pastries with fresh strawberries, a vanilla-flecked creme fraiche and a square of foamy strawberry gel. The gel was particularly interesting because it was clearly solid enough to be cut into squares, but destabilised while I was distracted with the cider so by the time I got to eating it made a foamy sauce. The sweetness in the dessert was well balanced and sat well with the cider. We weren’t really clear on how to go about eating the dessert, I picked it apart and TBP ate it like a tiny bruschetta. I hope that was the intended method because it was adorable.
So, Five Bar – definitely going back. I don’t know what did it for me – the service, the food, the drinks, the roof. I’ve managed to link that roof and cider in my head and now I just want to spend all summer there. It’s like outdoors…. but indoors.
On Monday we went to the Beaufort st Festival’s Roving Dinner! I was really excited about this for a number of reasons – I’d never been to a roving dinner before, I’d only been to one of the venues involved, and I’m trying to plan ahead around some financial stress so my ticket was a gift from L. He is the best.
PS I’m sorry there’s so much of my face in this. It was not my intention.
Must Winebar ~ Champagne Lounge
Must was a great place to start and we had fantastic service, both from the staff there and from the Beaufort st Festival staff. Everyone was friendly, especially because of TBP’s camera! Even the photographer was nice to her! Normally if the camera is a conversation starter it’s the kind where we apologise profusely. We’d forgotten to ask if cameras were okay and so we were both sort of worried about what we’d do if they weren’t. Maybe that was just me, I worry for us both. The Champagne Lounge (which lets be fair, I’m unlikely to see again) was beautifully appointed. I really love that late baroque/rococo style.
Never before have been so happy to be a photographer at a food event. I got a nod from the professional photog there and Laura Moseley commented on it, and then asked us both about it. Basically everyone was really nice (and not at all mad when I flashed the ceiling a few times, I swear I didn’t do it too much!). – TBP
Jamon, Organic Feta, Compressed Rockmelon & Mandarin Oil
These were really delicious. I avoid eating cured pork products in Australia so this was really special. The jamon was intensely savoury, the feta salty and smooth and the mandarin oil gave a soft citrus lift. I also never eat rockmelon so my main thought re: the rockmelon was ‘that wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be’ and didn’t really register anything else. TBP thought it could have been ‘more rockmelony’ though so you can’t please everyone. Sucking that off the spoon was the moment where I realised that bright red lipstick was a foolish choice.
Carnarvon Prawn & Parsley Croquetas
Also delicious with a few chunks of prawn tucked inside and a gentle prawn flavour throughout. They were cheesey and soft and I really, really love fried food so they were sort of the edible equivalent of a warm hug. Even TBP liked these and she doesn’t like prawns!
The more I think about these, the more unfair it is that they are comparatively tricky to make because it’d be totally neat if you could just get these from a chippy. I’ll have a small chips and half a dozen croquetas, thanks. This obviously does not help with my perception of Europe as paradise because you can do and I have done exactly that in Rome except I grant you it is somewhat less classy because you are standing on the side of the road and not in an elegantly appointed lounge.
Olive & Gruyere Toasties
As you’d expect these were savoury and salty, and the gruyere flavour was subtle. They were warm, and not too greasy despite being stuffed full of some potentially pretty greasy ingredients. TBP also liked these! This stage of the progressive dinner threw a lot of taste challenges her way. They were a bit messy to eat – even with a napkin it was a bit of a challenge. This was the point where I considered just ditching the lipstick entirely as half of it was smeared all over my hand but I persevered.
Pork Meatballs & Romesco sauce
These were my least favourite, the pork flavour was pronounced and delicious but they seemed to be with dill which I found an unusual combination. Not by any means bad just not as exciting as the rest. R pointed out that the last nibbly should always come on a toothpick – very wise.
Mas Pere Cava ‘Brut Selección’ Penedes, Spain, NV
We each had about 2 small glasses each before the amount allocated to our sitting ran out. It was certainly a nice drop and I would drink it again, but I would have appreciated a bit of direction about it’s characteristics as I know nothing about Spanish sparkling.
R was offered one of these which we initially put down to his wearing a checkered shirt and having a beard, but then it turned out the sparkling was gone and we were offered ours in due course. Official word on the taste: “it is a beer.”
Santa Vittoria Mineral Water
Russel Blaikie came around and introduced himself to everyone and had a little chat about how excited he was to be involved in updating an admittedly retro concept into a display of Beaufort st’s finest. This is the third Beaufort st roving dinner he’s been involved in, I gather the only restaurant that has been in them all, and will also be part of next week’s line up. The most exciting part of this encounter was managing to have a completely normal conversation with a chef whose work I admire and whose book I own (thanks Mum!) without making a twit of myself. It seems I was at the optimum point of the champagne curve or I am finally developing adult social skills. Either way, hallelujah!
Salmon aquachile lime jalepeno coriander GF
This dish converted me to eating salmon. It’s flavours are fresh and clean, and you get the occasional hit of jalapeno to keep you on your toes. Ceviche (okay aquachile, fine) strikes me as such a wonderful summer food for those days when you really can’t bear to turn on the stove and I’m keen to have a try at recreating this at home when it starts to get hot again.
Housemade green chorizo sope queso onion GF
None of my notes on this dish made any sort of sense, so you’ll have to take my word on how good it is. I really like the flavour of masa, and pork, and herbs, and so… there is nothing about this I do not like.
Vegetarian options available
Our vegetarian dish was a carrot salad with both pickled and roasted carrots and a salsa di pan (bread sauce). The two different preparations of carrot were a great way of working within the theme of one vegetable while maintaining textural contrast.
We thoroughly confused our waitress by ordering chickpeas (and paying separately), because we aren’t capable of walking past El Publico and not having the chickpeas. To be honest, they weren’t as crunchy as normal, but we still vacuumed them up. I’m still waiting for Sam Ward to send me that frequent chickpea-r card… Probably for the best, financially speaking, for everyone involved.
Paloma ~ blanco pink grapefruit soda lime salt
I’ve never been huge on grapefruit, with its connotations of diets and it’s weird side effects. But I trust El Publico, they do nice things to my taste buds so I gave it a shot and really enjoyed it! It looked like one shot of espolon blanco over ice and a wedge of lime in a tall glass rimmed with salt, topped up with grapefruit juice and a dash of soda water. Mmm, summery. It seems I have a weak spot for tequila with a sweet/sour/citrus/bubble thing because their Captain Fanta Pants’ also rocks.
el Presidente white or red
The red sounded fine (possibly a Cab Sav) but the white was a Chardonnay? I was confused, all the food was so zesty I felt like I’d missed something if the house white was a Chardonnay. So much still to learn. I had been all set to have the white but then I was too skeptical and went for the Palomas instead and did not regret a thing.
Monday was also their first 7 day trading day! Congrats guys. They have a $20 Tecate (beer), 3 taco and street corn dinner deal thing on mondays and I can pretty much guarantee you will be finding me there.
The service was the next best after Must, the chef (whose name I didn’t grab, the usual head chef Sam Ward is on holidays) came out to explain the dishes. Luckily we were sitting quite close to him as he was a touch on the quiet side even after the nudge in the kidneys he was given by front of house. Table service was good although the guy didn’t stick around long enough to take our answers after asking if anyone else wanted another drink, so only R got two (are you sensing a theme? R has no trouble getting drinks) and we spent the next 15 minutes trying to get his attention only to be told we were about to leave and we ended up being the last ones in the restaurant trying to finish them at the bar. Sorry chaperones.
200g West Australian Wet-Aged Rump on Mash Potato, with a side of char-grilled vegetables and black pepper Sauce
or Baked Garlic and Feta Mushrooms, Char-grilled Vegetable Casserole V
Guigal Cotes du Rhone Syrah Grenache Mouvedre – France
Corte Giara Pinot Grigio – Italy (Venezia)
Okay so we weren’t full but we were well along by this point and steak and mashed potato was an ambitious choice for such a menu. 200g isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot when you’ve come from el publico because I have no self restraint. I gather Bos Taurus is pretty new (like a month or two new) and the decor was great, we liked the industrial vibe with the warm leather, L is a huge fan of Chesterfields and I liked the porthole style mirrors on the walls.
The wine, too, was good – I am like a pig in mud with an Italian Pinot Grigio and would quite literally drink it all day. I had a sip of the Syrah (which was referred to as ‘The Shiraz’ by the staff, fair call, my french sucks too) and it was smooth and far more drinkable to my palate than Australian Shiraz.
(Funny story in Italy I ordered a fillet steak at a posh restaurants that offered two reds by the glass, a Syrah and a something else I instantly forgot and can’t divine from their wine list since it changes monthly. I asked the waitress which would better suit the meal, expecting her to say the Syrah and she immediately responded the other wine, as it was more full bodied. When we reached that course the wine was aearated and poured with due ceremony into the biggest glass I’ve ever had set in front of me. Panicking the wine would be too big and I would make an arse of myself in front of my parents / the restaurant / the sommelier I was pretty shocked to discover something with the body of an Australian Pinot Nero. Moral of the story I live in the wrong country and Italian reds are right up my alley. This Cotes du Rhone seemed to be following along the same theme and would be quite acceptable to people who weren’t big red drinkers.)
When we were walking in I overheard one of the waitresses asking ‘no vegetarians in this lot?’ to one of our chaperones. The event page had asked us to let the organisers know in advance if we were vegetarian or had any special requirements, and the Beaufort st Festival’s food organiser, the incredibly organised Laura Moseley, had checked this again on the door. Now, we’re in a steak house. This isn’t going to be a place falling over itself to cater to vegetarians or acknowledge that vegetarians are perhaps not the only people who eat vegetables. But I had been taken in somewhat by the menu offering a choice of dishes – I hadn’t realised that if you wanted the mushroom dish you’d have to order it in advance. Logically I did know the food was probably almost ready to go when we got there and with only 45 minutes per sitting they didn’t anywhere near have time to wander around asking each person what they wanted or how they wanted it cooked, but obviously it didn’t really register. I like my steak, when I have it, a fair bit rarer than it came out so next time at an event of that size I’ll know to book in the mushroom. The only people who had a say in how their steak was cooked were the pregnant women – a waitress came around to check if there were any in the group so theirs could be cooked for longer. Given how well our requirements had already been vetted I thought this could have been handled a bit more discretely, but the waitress looked as uncomfortable as I felt so at least we were all uncomfortable together. Bos Taurus says they only use that policy at events like the Roving Dinner and not during usual service.
The service was quick and the pepper sauce was really excellent.
Almond and Honey Nougat
Chocolate Pot with toasted Marshmallow and Vanilla Ice Cream
Fusta Nova Muscatel
Alvear Solera Pedro Ximinez Sherry
I’d never been to Clarence’s before but it was another great looking venue and more refined than I’d expected from their website – Beaufort st really has some lovely hidden gems. I’d been keen to come back here for a relaxed Sunday session with friends and check out their nibbles and the outdoor area. The service was the most lacklustre of the roving dinner, in that we were handed our food and drink in complete silence. We weren’t told what we were drinking and neither of the dishes were explained to us. That made a bit of a stark contrast with the first two venues. With Bos Taurus, it was pretty self explanatory – if anyone had told me “here is your steak, mashed potatoes, vegetables and sauce” I would have thought they were taking the piss. I’m perfectly able to identify nougat, but if I hadn’t read in advance dessert involved marshmallows I would have been at a bit of a loss. Maybe they were going for an air of mystery? It would tie in with the sweet abstracted theme of the decor.
The nougat was nice, sweet and without any almond flavouring (outside the nuts) which I always consider a dodged bullet with this sort of thing. Since we weren’t given any information on the accompanying wine I admit I didn’t pay it a great deal of attention – it was light and sweet, sure. I can’t digest lactose without help (and cleverly left the stuff at home) so I will have to defer to TBP on the other dessert. The accompanying sherry was pretty much exactly what you expect from a PX ie it was dark and tasted like raisins. Normally a PX would be a big treat for me but I’d splashed out on a bottle for a dinner party the night before and so inadvertently spoiled myself for this one!
Since TBC has a weak body ^_^ I’ll have to remember this dessert for you. The chocolate pudding with marshmallows were both sweet, but not overly sweet that I often find marshmallow to be. The chocolate wasn’t bitter at all, but instead rather rich and creamy. The vanilla ice-cream was good, but I wasn’t overly impressed with it (ice-cream has to be something special for TBP to take note, I eat a lot of it!). Though the unsurprising nature of it was quite a good palate cleanser from the pudding and marshmallow. But the real star was the caramel & nut clusters hiding under the ice-cream which was really delicious! Would love to eat that again with a nip of sherry. – TBP
The Roving Dinner is an excellent way to showcase Beaufort st’s venues, from its well established to its up and coming, or barely opened. It gave me a great excuse to visit Must, which I had been a bit of a wuss so far about doing and luckily I was blown away and will absolutely be back. I have a known El Publico problem and I was not disappointed with their offerings. Bos Taurus’ mains did not blow me away, although I did enjoy their wine, but I look forward to seeing their menu online when their website is ready – hopefully with a few more options and more control over how my steak arrives I’ll be tempted back. Clarence’s is calling my name for a Sunday session, although, admittedly, not until I’m next cashed up. But such is life. While the ticket price is admittedly steep at $160, the restaurants only cover their costs and the profits are donated to the Beaufort st Festival. Think of it like charity, but with *lots* of food!
There is another one coming up on the 29th of October stopping off at Must Winebar, Raah, Bos Taurus and El Publico so if you missed out on the first I’d highly recommend you check it out. You can find the details on the Facebook Event.
Beaufort st Festival Roving Dinner
519 Beaufort st, Highgate
511 Beaufort st, Highgate
0418 187 708
550 Beaufort st, Highgate
http://www.bostaurus.com.au/ (placeholder page)
566 Beaufort st, Highgate
We had been eating our way around the truffle festival and lost track of time. We weren’t quite sure where the Masterclass was being held, so we headed back to the gate to check. A friendly chap handed us a copy of the Loose Box truffle menu and we (foolishly) assumed he might know where the venue that his boss was performing in might be. He told us to ‘follow those men’ and pointed over his shoulder to Alain Fabregues, Guillaume Brahimi and Emanuel Mollois. This seemed like a sound, if creepy strategy. We strategically loitered around their general vicinity while they chatted (and kissed! lots of kissing, if you’re into that) with festival visitors. As the clocked ticked closer to the appointed time we became increasingly nervous, until they disappeared out a secret exit. Disaster! We ran back to the entrance and found someone who looked official enough not to troll us. She looked skeptically at her watch as she gave us directions and we jogged into the hall in the nick of time.
TBP (a linguist) hadn’t entirely realised that all three chefs still had strong French accents and her face lit up when she realised we were about to be treated to what essentially boiled down to a piece of dinner theatre. The challenges in demonstrating three dishes of varying complexity and cooking time while also balancing three egos on one bench became immediately apparent, but our entertainment luckily skirted around the potential train smash and came across as a lighthearted, if scatterbrained show. Alain Fabregues and Emanuel Mollois have recently opened up Bistro des Artistes in Subiaco together, and if their interactions at the Masterclass were anything to go by, working in that shared kitchen must be quite an experience. They had an excellent rapport, Fabregues gentling teasing Mollois about being a Patissier rather than Chef (the difference, in case you are wondering, if that Chefs must learn patissiere but Patissiers are not required to learn to cook). You did occasionally get the impression that Fabregues and Brahimi were ganging up on Mollois somewhat but this kind of added to his underdog charm as the youngest of the three.
Our entree was a ‘quick’ scallop dish prepared by Alain Fabregues. It was definitely the quickest of the lot, despite having a 24-hour lead time to allow the scallops to cure and intensify their flavours. Each seared scallop was topped with a huge piece of shaved truffle, placed on a bed of sauteed leeks and truffle reduction, and garnished with a round of puff pastry. This was my favourite course of the Masterclass, it’s really hard to serve perfectly cooked scallops for a hundred people simultaneously and it was done with such apparent ease. The wine match didn’t have me quite so excited, I would have preferred the rich creamy flavours with the sparkling Chardonnay we were given on arrival rather than the crisp, fruity Sauvignon Blanc Semillon it was paired with. It’s easy to imagine how that panned out, Chef said ‘scallops’, sponsor said ‘white’, no one mentioned cream and then the sparkling was already a Chardonnay and here we are. Of course, it’s also entirely possible it all went over my head.
Guillaume Brahimi demonstrated our main of braised wagyu beef cheeks with celeriac puree, and, of course, truffles. The preparation for this dish was much more involved (although still not outside the range of a home cook) consisting of the beef cheek, sauce, puree, carrots, croutons and truffle garnish. The beef cheek is slow cooked for five hours in a veal stock which is prepared the day ahead from veal osso bucco, with the cooking liquor from the cheek reduced into the jus which finishes the dish. The celeriac is simmered with milk until tender then blended, and the carrots are simmered (with butter) then finished in a pan (of butter) with a touch of garlic and the croutons. After you’ve seen Brahimi cook, you’re not quite as shocked as you should be to learn they go through 400kg of butter a week at Bennelong. The portion sizes were hefty, too, or it could have been our morning of grazing catching up with us. The texture of the beef check wasn’t what I was expecting, although I should have known better. It was very soft, with almost no resistance. Usually you’d use ‘falling off the bone’ and so on as things to strive for, but… maybe there’s something to be said for a bit more texture. The celeriac puree was subtle and silky smooth and the carrots nicely done, but the only element which offered a textural contrast was the scattering of croutons. Flavour wise, the dish worked very well, the strongly flavoured jus tying in the more understated puree and the croutons providing a garlicky highlight. It was definitely good, but the scallops were the standout for me. The Shiraz matched with the dish was a Shiraz – something I’d normally save for a food that could kick back at it, but it did help to cut through the gelatinous feel, and I am demonstrably not the world’s biggest fan of a powerful red.
Desserts, Mollois told us, are not a truffle’s best friend. Truffle does not like sweet, sugary flavours, and its properties are destroyed above a certain heat. Although he felt he’d ended up over his head the first time he agreed to create a truffle dessert, he learned that truffle goes well with fruits like apple and pear, and can be infused into cream. The dish we had at the Masterclass tied these elements together, with a sable breton base, a dome of caramelised apples, a truffle infused creme anglaise and a walnut craquelin decoration. I love fruit and caramel desserts, so it was a hit with us. The viognier it was paired with was sweet but not overly so, a little thick, but not cloying. I thought it was a good match, maybe the best of the day.
The service was stellar – it was a tough job to get three beautifully plated courses and four glasses of wine on and off the table in the cramped conditions of the hall and the staff did it without distracting us from the show on stage or landing anything in a lap. The staff out the back were also on the ball with the courses coming quite quickly once they started. A longer wait between each course would have allowed us more time to digest and drink our wine, not that our surroundings were really comfortable enough to encourage that. Knowing I’m on a time limit makes it hard to savour and then I end up leaving half the wine rather than rushing it. This is always the way with me and matched wines though, unless I have the trusty L around to help me polish them off.
All in all, we had a very enjoyable dinner-theatre-and-matched-food experience and would definitely recommend the event to anyone heading up to the Festival in the future.
TBP – I have a little confession to make; I have a soft spot for cherry pie because it features heavily in Twin Peaks, which I absolutely adore to death. In fact, once I’ve finished with this semester I plan on having a Twin Peaks themed party! Which I will get TBC to cook for (she doesn’t have a say in it ).
TBC – The reason I don’t get a say is because I gave up on Twin Peaks since it drove me to distraction. David Lynch is a bit of an acquired taste. I do quite enjoy this though.
We had a spare jar of cherries from the delicious cherry stuffed chicken and I’d heard a rumor you could turn them into cherry pie without much effort. Cherries are quite possibly the best fruit and one of my favourite things about summer. You know how when you are in school and the teacher asks what you want to do when you grow up and you are supposed to say doctors and teachers? I said cherry picker. Ask my Mum, she has the evidence to prove it. But this is Australia, you never have dessert pie when it’s hot and cherries are in season, and I doubt anyone is going to convince me that a cooked cherry is going to taste better than a fresh raw one in the height of summer. Now it’s cooling down though… I’ll take my fix where I can get it.
After watching all of Pushing Daisies back to back about a dozen times some years ago my sister (hereby known as the Brazen Assistant for her uncanny ability to appear under your elbow with a spatula 3 seconds before you knew you needed one) went on a pie craze and came across this pie crust recipe. It’s not too temperamental, and the end result is thick and soft. It’s one of my favourite sweet pie crust recipes (the other coming from the Bourke Street Bakery).
for the Brazen Assistant’s pie crust:
2.5 c flour
¼ c sugar
1 tsp salt (omit if you use salted butter)
approx 5 TB iced water
for the filling:
1-2 jars of pitted cherries, drained (depending on how big your pie tin is)
2TB sugar, or to taste
3-4TB plain flour
sprinkle of cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Place the flour and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined. chop the butter into same-sized pieces, add to the bowl, and pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. add the vanilla essence and the iced water, a spoon at a time, until mixture comes together. It’s safer to stop and work it with your hands a bit before you think it’s done, rather than let it get too wet. Divide the mix into two balls, flatten into disks, wrap with clingwrap and leave to sit for an hour or so. At this point you can keep the dough in the fridge for a few days, but you’ll need to sit it on the counter for a while before rolling (or have very good muscles).
When the dough has rested, roll the disks out into two round sheets, about 5mm thick. I find it easiest to do this between two sheets of clingwrap.
Combine the drained cherries in a bowl with the flour, sugar, and cinnamon and stir so the cherries are covered with a very light, but even coat.
Line the tin with one of the disks of pastry. This is where the clingwrap comes in handy. Fill the case with the cherry mix and gently shake the tin around a bit so the contents is roughly levelled off. Top with the other round of pastry. I prefer a solid top where I want the filling to reduce down and thicken a bit, but you could do a lattice top if you prefer. Trim the edges and seal by pressing down lightly with your fingers. Make a little slit or two with a sharp knife in the centre of the pie to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, until golden, checking frequently. The edges will colour quicker than the centre, so wrap those with foil if you feel they are getting close to the danger zone.
Serve with a generous dollop of Bannister Downs thickened cream, whipped cream, and/or ice cream, thickened cream obviously being the superior choice.
All you need, honestly, is a little piece of cherry pie hot from the oven.
I’m not a chocolate person. Sorry.
We didn’t eat a lot of dessert when we were kids. Thinking back, we had the odd bowl of ice cream, and once or twice a winter Mum’s rice pudding or apple crumble. If we went to visit our Grandparents in Perth there would always be stewed fruit or crumble, and after our family dinners on Friday Nights (highlight of the week) there would be one of my Nanna’s desserts – usually tiramisu, cheesecake, or… crumble. I hope you’re sensing a theme here.
Maybe because dessert was so rare and special, or maybe because they were so good when I got them, I have a soft spot for fruit desserts, and especially crumbles. Since I discovered I also really like caramel, I was pretty stoked to see Citrus and Candy’s Caramel Apple Crumble recipe. It is seriously good. Having so much crumble in the family I went my own way with the topping, but all credit to her for the filling.
1 small cinnamon stick (I omitted this, since we didn’t have any)
240g caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
8 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 2cm chunks (if you’re doing individual serves you want around an apple a person and one for the pot, as it were)
3/4 c wholemeal flour
3/4 c white flour
handful of slivered almonds
two handfuls of rolled oats
softened butter – to taste. Realistically I used probably 200g.
sugar – ideally brown, but this time we used white
Being a family recipe, I’ve never seen anyone weigh or measure any of this – it just depends on what you feel like eating on the day. All quantities are very, very approximate.
Preheat oven to 180°C
If you’re using a cinnamon stick, heat it with the cream then remove from the heat and let sit for 10-20 minutes. Remove the stick before making the caramel.
Make the crumble before you make the caramel – it can sit quite happily at room temperature or in the fridge if you make it in advance. Roughly chop the butter, sprinkle over the flours and sugar and rub together. Mix in the oats and almonds. You can do this in a food processor, but I would still add the oats by hand or before the very last pulse, otherwise they get all ground up.
Heat the water and sugar over a low heat until the mixture reaches a golden caramel. If anything, stop slightly on the light side, as the mix will stay on the heat a while longer and then go into the oven and you don’t want to take it to perfect and then push it over the edge later.
Add the cream, from a safe distance, followed by the butter and salt. Once the butter has melted, add the chopped apple, toss them through the caramel and lightly cook. I found that with their time in the oven, even a few minutes in the pan was enough to make the final product very soft. If you like your apples with a bit more texture, I’d fry them for only a minute, or less.
Spoon the apples into your ramekins (as we used) or a baking dish. Drizzle a little of the caramel sauce over the apples if they look too plain and lonely.
Top with the crumble mixture and bake for 15-25 minutes, until the crumble is coloured up to your liking.
We couldn’t find the Bannister Downs thickened cream (the cream that will ruin you for all other creams) at my local IGA, so we had these with just a spoonful of extra caramel drizzled over the top. I’m sure they’d also be delicious with ice cream, but it’s Bannister Downs or bust as far as I’m concerned.
TBP – Do you remember the Caramello Koala ads? “They call me mellow yellllowwww”. Basically this is the adults version (and it’s BYO chocolate).
Perth people have broken ‘winter’ sensors. We don’t even have a real winter, as I learned after an Italian autumn, more like three months where it’s slightly less hot and rains occasionally. By the end of February we are excitedly eyeing off our scarves in anticipation every time the temperatures dips below 30. When it gets to 25 it’s long pants and jumpers. This leads to some confusion when it comes to food – if you don’t live in even vaguely the right climate for apple trees, can cider still be one of those things that makes you think winter is on it’s way? Given I made these at Christmas (granted, another site of blatant food/weather confusion) I have to say, not so much. They are absolutely delicious though, tangy and complex, and I eat them by a pool or a fireplace as weather permits.
The recipe comes from Sugarpunk, a blog I read from start to finish during Corporations Law lectures last year (sorry Mum). The author ran her own business by using a professional kitchen in the wee hours when it was empty, making cakes, chocolates and caramels. Quite an inspiration. Much more so than Corporations law, sadly. So rather than repeating everything she has to say, if you want to be really thorough, have a read of Sugarpunk’s post first. Baking and confectionary are the only things I really use recipes for and I like a lot of information, but if you find too much information overwhelming then just stick with this.
Because there are only a few ingredients in this and you (try to) only eat a small piece at a time, using high quality ingredients makes a noticeably high quality product. But, even if you supermarket cream and black and gold butter, you’ll still get something worth eating. At the moment I favour Three Oaks cider (although I’ve used Bulmer’s when I’m feeling skint and it’s fine), Bannister Downs cream, and whatever ludicrous butter is on special at Fresh Provisions. Corn syrup, on the other hand, is always trashy. It’s the most absurdly American thing you can find in an Australian supermarket. I challenge you to name even one recipe using corn syrup that doesn’t give you an instant fear of diabetes when you read it (sorry).
Apple Cider Caramels
2c Apple Cider
2/3 c of cream
85g unsalted butter (by the way, I love that a butter converter exists. so useful.)
1 ½ c sugar
¼ c corn syrup
¼ c water
Reduce the cider down to ⅓ c and put aside. You can ignore it to start with, but keep a close eye on it towards the end because it’s easy to overshoot the mark.
Heat the cream and butter to boiling point in a saucepan and put aside to infuse with the cinnamon, if you like. I think I prefer them without.
Place the sugar, corn syrup and water in a moderately large saucepan, maybe the next size down from your soup or pasta pot. When you add the cream the mix will triple or quadruple briefly as it boils and you don’t want the pot to overflow, but nor do you want to be struggling to comfortably reach the mixture with your thermometer when it settles down. Cook the mixture until it reaches a ‘light brown’ or ‘amber’ colour.
For reference, what you don’t want is this. It took about three minutes for this mix to go from just starting to bubble to almost black, which is incidentally how long I spent watching Louis Theroux documentaries over TBP’s shoulder. Keep it over a low heat and keep an eye on it.
When the syrup is nearly there, bring the cream and butter back to the boil. Pour it (carefully, from a safe distance) into the syrup, and add the reduced cider. When it’s safe, start stirring. Cook it to 121 degrees celsius.
Pour into a pan lined with baking paper (as Sugarpunk says, if you use two pieces, one going each way it will be easier to remove later) and chill in the fridge. I haven’t found that covering the pan with gladwrap makes much of a difference in our climate. If you want to cut them into sticks or batons, use a square 20cm pan. If you prefer thicker squares, use a loaf pan.
The caramels will technically last in the fridge until the expiry date of the cream. I don’t think this has ever happened. It is virtually impossible to only eat one. TBP keeps hers in the freezer to make her pace herself. You have been warned.
(lovely pictures of the finished product will be up shortly)