Monday, October 29, 2012

Winglets, greens and pasta

One of the difficulties that many parents face is how to make a healthy, hearty meal, that will be accepted by picky toddlers and finicky teens. Thankfully, I at least don't have to face those two dreaded parenting cooking issues "I'm a vegetarian now" and "I don't eat carbs now". This is a quick meal I threw together, once I realized how many mouths I was expecting. I like to make my spaghetti Al dente, both for its slightly lower-GI rating, and also because it copes with being played with by little hands better. I tend to toss mine in butter or olive oil after straining, to keep it from clumping and add a little richness.
For greens, I went out to our veggie patch with Triceratops Girl, and picked a mess of spring onions and kale. I'm always glad when she takes an interest in where her food comes from, and hope this carries on in all we grow, make and eat. The kale and spring onions were washed and blanched, then chopped and sauteed in beef lard which had crushed and diced garlic cloves previously browned in it. I didn't want to over cook the kale, wanting to lock in its flavour and not letting it loose that emerald green colour or turn to mush. 
The winglets were the easiest par by far. Pre-marinated honey-soy winglets and drummettes in a "family pack" from the meat section of Aldi. This is always a good option, and keeps our chest-freezer well stocked. To do these I greased the eathernware dish that would fir the chicken evenly, poured in the meat, and baked them in the oven until the raised winglets tips were crisped and the marinade was sizzling. All in all this meal was both very quick, easy to prepare and pleasing to both the picky and finicky eaters of the house, whilst being flavoursome and hearty enough for the more mature palates as well.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hotspots: Self Preservation (Restaurant Review)

Up the top of Bourke St is an oh-so-hip cafe. They have all sorts of delicious looking things in the window, the smell of coffee wafting through the air and an eclectic range of art on the walls.. how could I resist?

Inside you also find jewellery along with the art for sale and lots of cosy little tables. It manages to give the impression of both airy open space and intimacy.

I had a cappuccino, which was just fine, and a slice of chocolate tart, which was really good - it came with a little jug of thick cream and fresh raspberries on the top, and a generous dusting of cocoa - perhaps a touch too much cocoa, I inhaled as I tried the first bite and spluttered a bit at all the powder.. but the tart itself was rich, simple and sublime.

They had a number of delicious looking savouries and sweets in the window and a cheese-board of the day as well, which looked very enticing.

Self Preservation on UrbanspoonAll in all a gorgeous little slice of Europe in the heart of Melbourne, well worth a visit.

Self Preservation is at 70 Bourke St, Melbourne.

I paid for my own meal and didn't identify myself as a blogger. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Family Feasts: Indian Style

For my first post here, I thought I would begin with a home-cooked meal I made for my family: my partners Omega, (my co-author here, and author of Fashion Adjacent) and Anastasia, Mz Anime (Omega's 15y/o daughter) and Tactical Baby (Omega and my 17m/o baby girl). Tactical Baby gets her name from my other blog, Apocalypse Equipped, check it out of that takes your fancy. We have a large household, with two housemates, and one night a week my other daughter, Triceratops Girl (4y/o) so between them, and frequent other visitors (like Anastasia) I like to have a variety of ingredients I can put a meal together out of and tailor for taste and number of mouths, on the fly. This is one such meal:

This is a red lentil dahhl that I put together by simply simmering dry lentils in a pan with water, adding more as it cooked, with a dash of a mixed Indian spice packet a colleague gifted me (it's in Hindi, so I can;t really tell you much about it, but I added it "to-taste" and kept it at the mild end of flavorsome. Once it was mostly cooked, I added dollops of "Smashed Cheese" dip we had gotten from the Oasis Bakery. I let it simmer further, till the cheese heated up, and served it sizzling in the pan.

The second dish was roughly chopped broccoli (stalks included, because I think they are quite tasty, and always try to use all available components of food). I braised this in a pan with rendered bacon fat, and once mostly cooked through, topped with the remains of the fabulous bacon-jam that friends of ours gifted us a while back, and we had been rationing. Tossing the broccoli through the jam coated it, and following deglazing the pan, I returned the brownings to the bowl for added crunchy flavours.

 The purple rice comes in a mix which included regular long-grain rice, split peas and "purple sticky rice" which I treat like wild rice, and generally cook in the microwave, at a 1 cup rice-mix to 3 cups of water ratio. It is a delightful, hearty, sticky dish, slightly sweet, and subtly flavoured. Perfect accompaniment for this meal, I thought.

Lastly, was the pre-marinated Tandoori mix butterflied chicken, (from Safeway), which I grilled. Before grilling, I also re-spiced this with a dry Tandoor spice mix that my same colleague had gifted me, to add to the flavour, and vary it from simply a "store-bought" meal. Butterflying the chicken makes it much easier to cook, I find, especially when getting a bunch of components together at once, whilst not wanting to run the oven. I also like grilling, because of the slight charring you can get to the edges and skin, which harkens back to the authenticity of cooking in a tandoor oven.

We had a lovely meal, no complaints from fussy teenager, and Tactical Baby ate with gusto.

Monday, October 22, 2012

HotSpots: French Fantasies (Restaurant Review)

I was introduced to this place years ago by a good friend, and it's simple perfection has stayed in my mind ever since. When mundane errands saw us within strolling distance, I simply had to visit again.

 The fa├žade is really unassuming - in typical Melbourne fashion, this is the kind of place you discover by lucky accident or you get guided there by someone "in the know".

During past visits I have sampled their omelettes, baguettes, sausage rolls and flour-less orange cake - all delicious. The coffee is also very good.

There is one star of the show though, and that's their eclairs - I don't even like eclairs that much normally, but theirs are so light and fluffy and gorgeous they're simply impossible to resist.

I insisted that Josh, being on his first visit, sample these legendary eclairs.

With many different ones of offer it is always a difficult choice - there's cream, chocolate, coffee and caramel varieties available.

He chose chocolate, I went with traditional cream.

Josh also ordered one of his favourites -  Pain au Chocolat (Chocolate Pastry). If his pleased smiles and enthusiastic murmurings are anything to go by, I think this was also a very good example of it's type.

The staff are friendly and helpful and were happy for me to take photos, which is always nice. The interior furnishings are very simple, the food is definitely the focus here, and that attention to detail really shows when you're enjoying their delicious delights!

Once you've stuffed yourself with decadence, there's also a provedore/deli section as well, where you can get fresh baked bread and all sorts of french goodies - if you're wanting to impress dinner guests, Julia Child style, and need special ingredients, this would be the place to go - they've got it all! The prices aren't budget, but neither are the ingredients. For special occasions I think it's well worth investing in your ingredients, they can make all the difference between an "okay" result and one that results in eye-rolling appreciation.

French Fantasies is located at 15 Toorak Road, South Yarra. 
We paid for our own meals and didn't identify ourselves as bloggers. 

French Fantasies on Urbanspoon