Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Vue De Monde for My Birthday

What a beautiful gesture. This is the best possible dining experience I have ever had. Five friends have taken me to lunch at Vue de Monde (Melbourne) to celebrate my birthday. The modern French food was sublime. The service was impeccable and yet still charming and friendly. To top it off, we were invited for the ultimate experience of sitting at the Chef's Table in a semi private alcove with an unobstructed view of the kitchen. What a delight to watch this young professional team, so busy and yet so disciplined and focused on what they were doing.

We had the 'Menu du Jour' - available only at lunch time (from Tuesday to Friday) with a selection of two courses with signature dishes (excellent value at a mere $55) including a matching glass of wine and side dishes for the table. Vue de Monde also bake their own fresh bread twice daily. We had a choice of several little rolls including rye, olive, sourdough and brown bread along with the famous Echire butter.

We all opted for the entree and the main and then as an added extra, we had coffee and petits fours instead of dessert.

For entrée - a choice from:
COQUILLE SAINT-JACQUES À L’OSSO BUCCO - Coffin Bay scallops ‘Osso Bucco’
RISONI AUX CHAMPIGNONS SAUVAGES - Wild pine mushroom risoni
SALADE À LA CARBONARA - Carbonara salad
BROCHETTE DE VEAU - Skewers of veal tonnato

For main course
MERLAN EN CROÛTE - King George whiting with courgette tempura and tapenade
CRABE ET POLENTA - Crab with polenta
TOURTE AU CANARD - Duck pie with épice sauce
RÔTI DE BOEUF ET ESCARGOTS - Roast wagyu beef with snails and béarnaise

For Dessert
CHEESECAKE AUX BAIES DE TASMANIE ET À LA RHUBARBE - Tassie berry and rhubarb cheesecake
SOUFFLÉ NORMAND - Apple and Calvados soufflé
FROMAGE DE CHÊVRE - ‘Pandora’s box’ with prunes and Armagnac

PAPILLON ROQUEFORT, Sheep's milk, Roquefort, France
IRONSTONE, Cow's milk, Gippsland, Australia
SEVRE ET BELLE CAPRIFEUILLE, Goat’s milk, Celle sur Belle, France
ISIGNY BRIE, Cow’s milk, Normandie, France
ROUZAIRE CAMEMBERT, Cow’s milk, Ile de France, France
SAINT-NECTAIRE, Cow's Milk, Auvergne, France
LIVAROT, Cow's milk, Normandy, France
QUESO TRADITIONAL MANCHEGO, Ewe’s milk, La Mancha, Spain
COMTÉ, Cow's milk, Franche-Comté, France
OSSAU IRATY, Ewe’s milk, Pyrénées, France
MUNSTER AOC, Cow’s milk, Alsace, France

These photos don't do justice to this divine food.

Coffin Bay scallops ‘Osso Bucco’

As a refresher, liquid frozen verjuice with hibiscus tea in a martini glass.

King George whiting with courgette tempura and tapenade

Crab with polenta

Duck pie with épice sauce

Roast wagyu beef with snails and béarnaise

Sides included a delightful salad and Pommes Pont Neuf

Petits-fours served with our Illy coffee

This really was a wonderful experience. Afterwards, we strolled in for a visit to Bistro Vue for a look see. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Canneles on the Bistro counter, having seen them only in books before. When I asked if they were 'in fact' Canneles, the lovely young man behind the counter gave me one to try. I was in seventh heaven. I did the right thing and shared it with my friends (talk about sharing the loaves!!!!). It was magnificent. I would love to make them, however, cannele moulds are over $100AU each.
We then went in to Cafe Vue. I spoilt myseslf by buying Shannon Bennett's books "My Vue - Modern French Cookery" and "My French Vue - Bistro Cooking at Home". All-in-all a lovely day.

I can't wait to go back again.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake

My lovely friend, Judi, made a flourless chocolate cake for my birthday. Dark cooking chocolate and large eggs make this cake light and delicious.

Melt together in heatproof bowl over simmering water:
120g butter
200g dark cooking chocolate
100g sugar
1 Tab brandy
1 Tab strong black coffee
100g ground almonds/almond meal (or hazelnuts)
4 large eggs (separated)

Preheat the oven to 180C (360F). Stir chocolate, sugar, brandy and black coffee until smooth. Stir in 100g almond meal (ground almonds) or hazelnuts, then 4 egg yolks. Beat 4 egg whites until stiff but not dry, fold a spoonful of this into the chocolate mixture to lighten it then fold the rest of the egg whites and chocolate mixture all together. Bake in a greased and paper-lined 20cm tin for 30-40 minutes (Judi bakes her cake for 30 minutes - as her new oven seems extra hot). Cool the cake in the tin, turn out and then dust with icing sugar. It's extra nice served with thick cream.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Banana-Banana Bread Using the KitchenAid Scrape-a-Bowl

I received my Scrape-a-Bowl blade on Wednesday evening (3 days ago) and so far I have only made banana-banana cake and soft gingerbread dough (another post). I didn't think it creamed the butter and sugar as well as I would have liked for the gingerbread. It may have been that the recipe called for granular sugar. I normally use castor sugar for my recipes as the smaller particles aerated the mixture much better. I didn't have any problems with the banana bread.

Banana-Banana Bread adapted from Shelley Albeluhn's recipe on

I'm sure it's called banana-banana because it has loads of wonderful banana flavour. This is the best banana bread recipe you can find. It is moist and delicious and soooo... adaptable. I throw in whatever I have on hand in the pantry that will go with it. You can use more or less bananas. I have used between 5 and 7 at different times and the result is still perfect every time. If you don't have enough banana, use apple sauce to make up the volume. You can add any type of nuts, spices and fruit - fresh or dry. This time I have added walnuts, unsalted cashews, almonds, dried cherries and a multitude of different spices.

Basic Ingredients:
250g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
5g (1 teaspoon) baking soda
2g (1/4 teaspoon) salt
115g (1/2 cup) butter
110g (3/4 cup) brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten well
525g (6-7 - around 2 1/3 cups) mashed overripe bananas
(definitely overripe for the real banana taste)

100g walnuts
100g unsalted cashews
100g raw almonds
100g dried cherries (or whatever you have in the pantry)
100g dark chocolate chips (or milk or white chocolate chips)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground allspice (or whatever spices your taste dictates)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 11 x 4 inch loaf pan (I used my large bread tin). If you don't add the optional ingredients, use a 9 x 5 pan.

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, spices, cherries and nuts in a large bowl. In another bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar (use the Scrape-a-Blade if you have one). Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into the flour mixture. As this is a quick bread, stir just enough to moisten so it doesn't toughen. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the banana bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Alternatively, you can make muffins. The basic recipe makes 12 muffins. With the optional ingredients, I usually make around 18 muffins with the amounts above. These only have to cook for 20 - 25 minutes.

See the reviews and video of the KitchenAid Scrape-a-Bowl on the Williams-Sonoma Website. No more stoppping to scrape down the sides. It mixes liquid and soft batters fabulously and works in half the time. Overall, a very efficient mixer blade and well worth the price ($49AU).

It conforms to the shape of the mixer bowl
It scrapes the entire sides and bottom of the bowl with every revolution
It has a curved shape that folds the ingredients towards the middle
It has a taller blade that reaches ingredients higher in the bowl for more uniform mixing
It has parallel crossbars that mixes faster
It mixes in half the time of the original blade

You can't use it for heavy doughs such as cookies or it may break.
Some reviews state that it doesn't work as well for frostings, whip cream, and creaming butter and sugar. My advice is to use castor (super fine) sugar for most recipes and use the original blade for cookies.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Grampians Grape Escape Wine and Food Festival

I've just spent a fabulous weekend up at Halls Gap for the Grampians Grape Escape - the wine and food festival. It was a three hour drive from Melbourne and worth every minute of it. We arrived at 11am with a great start to the day with the fabulous blues music of Nick Charles.

Nick is a virtuoso of acoustic roots music and well known both on the Australian and international scene. Later we were entertained by uplifting tunes of the Jazz Traders.

A highlight of the festival was cooking demonstrations by Channel 7's Bettter Homes and Gardens - 'Fast' Ed Halmagyi who used the regional produce and kept the audience entertained with his witty humour.

There were over 60 vendors with goodies including wine, beer, olives, cheeses, nuts, honey, lavender and organic produce to mention a few. Here is a little sample of the great produce on show:

Meredith Dairy - wonderful goat and sheep milk products

We had these lovely little creamy cheesecakes with lemon butter after dinner tonight - made with Meredith Farm's original Chevre and ewe's milk yoghurt by Ms Mullins ( who was assisting on the stand (Lemon Butter also from the Meredith Dairy stand).

Organic vegetable from Bellellen Grampians Organics
(A sample: garlic, multi-coloured carrots, red Russian kale)

Olives and olive oil from Mount Zero Olives

(cold pressed extra virgin and lemon pressed extra virgin olive oil)

Pistachio nuts from Go Just Nuts

Hot Stuff - Chilly from Love's Pantry

Pizza from Glenthompson Bricks Outdoor Wood Fired Ovens

And here are some of the local residences