Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fabulous Feast Francais

After our morning lecture and submission of our restaurant reviews we head straight to Norwood Green Groccers to attack the two page shopping list Cari has printed out.
But before we hit the stores we get some caffine and a bite to eat. Then were on the hunt for the freshest produce in Norwood!

Fresh asparagus and portabellos ... oh la la!

How cute are these lil' baby carrots?! Awww!
Check out my plump, firm, juicy tomatoes?!

Even though we didn't need any fennel - he was so pretty I had to catch a pic of him!

The range of potatoes left us spoilt for choice.

This guide helped us decide....

Amy managed to fit in her personal groccery shopping as well!

Australia is home to several varieties of pumpkin and squash as you can see here. The taste is sweet and the fleshy texture has converted me into a pumpkin fan. (I wasn't really into pumpkin before I moved here I must admit.)

Done with the veggies we rest our legs and recoup before heading to the supermarket for dairy and canned products.

Cari susses out some free-range eggs ...

And I have enough cream and butter to give us all a calorie comma!

Veggies check, Meat check, Shellfish check, Grocceries check - so off to Adelaide's gourmet providore we go.

Making a stylish entrance of course!

Cheese Heaven!!!

Bottega Rotolo has a little wine room with bottles of the finest European vintages.

Muscatels - now that would be perfect on our European cheese platter! Let's go full out and splurge! After all it's my birthday!

With a bootfull of stuff the chefs were eager to get cooking with the clock already at 2.00 pm. Jackies spaniels greet us as we enter her driveway.

Getting my excerise for the day - benching some beef!

If I had a cookbook - this would be the cover!

With a full French meal to prepare we needed a soother before we got to work and Jackie had just the thing. Lapsong Sauchong, a Chinese Tea one of the must eats on the Omnivores 100 can now be crossed off my list. Characterstically smoky it's like a cuppa of campfire!

Jack's hedges are perfectly manicured and her pool glistens in Adelaide's afternoon sun. The day was beautiful - a Danish sign that I have been a good girl all year. (The weather is indicative of your attitude over the year just passed.)

Another wonder that grows in Jackies garden - Kumquats! How cute are these little guys - and what is that shiny, thing blinding me? Ohhhhh... it's Cari's engangement ring! Uh huh!

Cari introduced us to this slightly savoury, slightly sweet Spanish Torta! Boy is this stuff just amazing. So light, so crisp, dusted with sugar and infused with carrom seeds and olive oil - it is the ultimate treat! I'm still reeling two days after!

Jackie shows me the dinnerware for the evening - the perfect thali for our bisque, mignon with sauces and sides right, eh?!

Jackie's totally nutty!
But, is that really enough? We might need to make another trip to the store?!

A quick birthday hug! Yippe....

And then there's always time to cut a rug. Jackie shows Cari how to do the Aussie Nut Bush...

And as 5.00 pm rolls around its time to crack out the first bottles of wine and celebrate the big 2*3 baby!

Gastro girls strike a pose by the stove.

Time-out for a group huddle!
And Kim and gf Sarah arrive just in time for dinner, bringing with them a bottle of Pink Moet!!! Yipee! This birthday keeps getting better and better!

Lobster Bisque


Two 1-pound live lobsters
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 large celery stalk, sliced
1 small carrot, sliced
1 garlic head, cut in half crosswise
1 tomato, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
8 whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup brandy (cognac)
1/2 cup dry Sherry
4 cups shellfish stock or bottled clam juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
Crème fraiche

We made our shellfish stock from scratch using:

1 kg of mussels
1 celery stalk
1 carrot
5/6 cloves of garlic whole
Although the mussels cook in about 5 minutes, we removed the mussels and let the stock continue to simmer for about 20 mins.

Then it was time to take the fresh lobster that was a deep red and put him in a wooden steamer to cook.

In this case the steamer set atop the shellfish stock, but be warned that this will reduce the quantity of the stock and therefore when serving the biqsue there will be less broth, so it may be adviced to steam the lobster over a pot of water instead. The lobster needs to cook for only 8 minutes.

The lobster is ready and the shell has turned a beautiful bright orange.

Working over large bowl to catch juices, cut off lobster tails and claws. Crack tail and claw shells and remove lobster meat. Coarsely chop lobster meat; cover and chill. Coarsely chop lobster shells and bodies; transfer to medium bowl. Reserve juices from lobster in large bowl.

Here the shell has been taken off carefully and is saved to be added to the stock for flavour.

Allow the lobsters to cool by putting it on ice.

I would like to say at this point that all our produce has been treated with the utmost humanity. Lookie here: Amy gives the lobster some TLC!

Since the mussels were used merely to create the stock the actual flesh had no scheme in the dinner menu. Amy threw the mussels in salad dish with spicy sliced, red onions, corriander, tomatoes and an aioli styled lemon dressing with Coriole extra virgin olive oil.

Picture perfect! Amy I think Neil Perry could use a hand darling!

In the midst of the flurry in the kitchen this was the only moment that Cari, Jackie and myself (well, actually the whole day I was really an observer) took a break and sat down for a bit. Amy continued stealthily making way - woking on the various courses simultaneously.

Back to the base for the bisque. Mushrooms were quite a bone of contention. Amy puts them in without giving it a thought, while Cari was not comforatble with this at all. According to this Boston girl who is used to Bisque made in the good ol' Yankee way she says mushrooms add a brown tinge, taking away from the characteristic orange blush and adds a strong earthy flavour.

I will have to try a bisque minus the mushrooms to comment - so I guess we just HAVE to have a do over?!!

Here the mushroom, leeks, carrots and other vegetables from the stock are strained out, having infused their flavour into the simmering stock.

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Add lobster shells and bodies and sauté until shells begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add onion and next 8 ingredients.

Mix in brandy and Sherry.

And two bay leaves fresh off Jackies tree...

Boil until almost all liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add shellfish stock, reserved 2 cups lobster cooking liquid and lobster juices. Simmer 1 hour.

Strain soup through sieve set over large saucepan, pressing firmly on solids. Whisk tomato paste into soup. Simmer until soup is reduced to 3 cups, about 15 minutes.

(Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
Look at that beauty...
So much of gorgeous flesh on this guy!
Add cream to soup and simmer 5 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water. Add to soup and boil until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Put lobster meat in bottom of bowls and ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with crème fraiche and chives.

It's time to move onto course number two: the red meat - now that's what I'm talking about baby!


Steak au Poivre
4 (3/4- to 1-inch-thick) boneless beef top-loin (strip) steaks (8 to 10 oz each) or filet
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup finely chopped shallots
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup Cognac or other brandy
1 Tbsp beef or veal demi glace
3/4 cup heavy cream
3-4 large Portobello mushrooms

Amy takes the 1.5 kg fillet mignon out of the plastic wrapper.

Here she is trimming any bits of fat off, even though this cut was beautiful and only yielded some odd bits that came in handy as drippings for the sauce later.
This is the size of each fillet before she rolls each one up neatly to cook evenly and look more presentable on the plate.

In order to hold the roll in place Amy use some string to hold it firmly in place.

Securing it on all sides.

Voila - job well done! Amy you are truly gifted!

1. Preheat oven to 200°F.
2.Pat steaks dry and season both sides with kosher salt.
3. Coarsely crush peppercorns in a sealed plastic bag with a meat pounder or bottom of a heavy skillet.

4. Heat a 12-inch heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over moderately high heat until hot, about 3 minutes, then add oil, swirling skillet, and sauté steaks in 2 batches, turning over once, about 6 minutes per batch for medium-rare.
5. Transfer steaks as cooked to a heatproof platter and keep warm in oven.

Now for the sauce: 6. Pour off fat from skillet, then add shallots and half of butter (2 tablespoons) to skillet and cook over moderately low heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until shallots are well-browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes.

7. Add Cognac (use caution; it may ignite) and boil, stirring, until liquid is reduced to a glaze, 2 to 3 minutes. Add demi glace if using, cream, Dijon mustard and any meat juices accumulated on platter and boil sauce, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and cook over low heat, swirling skillet, until butter is incorporated. Serve sauce with steaks.

Gratin Dauphinois a la Jacquois
Improvised from a recipe by Patricia Wells
1.5 kg baking potatoes (Desiree)
3 cups whole milk
3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 tsp salt
3 bay leaves
Ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy/thick cream
2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C. Lightly butter a large gratin or lasagne dish.

Slice the potatoes into thin, even slices so they cook through at the same time.

2. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with the milk and 3 cups of water.
Add the garlic, salt, and bay leaves. Bring to boil then simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally so the potatoes do not stick to bottom of pan. Cook stirring from time-to time until potatoes are just tender But not falling apart(About 15 minutes).

3. Drain potatoes quickly, then put half potatoes in dish. Sprinkle with the nutmeg, pepper, half the cream and half the cheese. Cover with the remaining potatoes and sprinkle again with nutmeg, pepper, cream and cheese.
4. Bake the gratin until crisp and golden on top, about an hour. serve immediately.


And now on to the sides to serve with the steak, the veggies of course.

Glazed carrots
4 1/2 cups water
4 pounds carrots, peeled, cut on sharp diagonal into 1/4-inch-thick ovals (about 11 cups)
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar

1. Combine 4 1/2 cups water, carrots, 4 tablespoons butter, sugar, and coarse salt in heavy large pot.

2. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until carrots are just tender when pierced with knife, about 10 minutes. Drain. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

This is Jackie's amazing bean cutting device that left Amy and Cari wanting one too! And trust me they are not easy girls to impress in the kitchen.

The harricot verts and asparagus were simply tossed in butter and sauteed.

Amy whips up the crowning glory:

Paris Brest
250 ml of milk
25 g of flour
2 yolks
1 egg
70gr of sugar
1. Boil the milk with sugar.
2. Mix the eggs and flour in a bowl.
3. Whilen the milk is boiling pour, put a little bit of milk into the bowl along with the eggs and flour and mix well.
4. Then pour the mixute into the pot with the milk and sugar. Do not stop stirring until it has thickened. A low flame should be used. Be careful to ensure nothing stick to the edges of the pot.
5. Add 100g of praline cream when the custard is still warm, and then add 200 g of softened butter and allow it to cool down.

Pate a Choux

250ml water

4 eggs

pinch of salt and sugar

150g flour

100g butter

1. Mixed the pastry ingredients together well.

2. Add this mixture to a saucepan and cook it on a low temperature constantly stirring with a spatula until is thick like a dough.

3. Allow it to cool and then put it into a pastry bag.

4. In a sill-pad or buttered baking paper over a baking plate draw a circle of dough, then another one in the center and then one on top for these two.

5. Once you have created a snail like pattern and made sure there are no bubbles or gaps, brush it with egg-wash. Then spinkle the top with toasted almonds.
6. Bake for 30 min aprox or until is golden brown in 180 - 200 C degree.
Once it is baked allow it to cool. 7. Then cut it in half.

Taste the praline cream of course to make sure it is fabulous!

And then place the custard mix on one half with a pastry bag making layers of shapes as you want.

Allow it to cool - refridgerating it so it doesn't loose its shape after covering it up with the other half before serving it. Dust with caster sugar to finish.


With the meal prepared the table is laid and ready for the fabulous food to be presented.

Course # 1: Lobster Bisque

Served with a Fino Palomino White Sherry to accompany.

Course # 2: Fillet Mignon.

With all the accompaniments...

Gratin Daphonise with a Gruyere Crust, buttered asparagus, harricot verts and torpedo carrots.

This is one meal that is going to live in my memory forever. Wonderful job girls!

Oh Boy! Amy outdid herself with the dessert - it was utterly divine better than any restaurant in any part of the world! Hats off!

And it was time to play birthday girl - candles, birthday song and all! Yippeee!

And a wish for another year of fantastic food and fabulous freinds seals the deal.... Amen!

And then there was a good half an hour where I got to know Paris alot better!

Content with three perfect courses of delectable French food, we rounded up the night in traditional epicurean style with a cheese platter featuring Epoisses de Bourgogne from the Cote-d-Or, a pungent unpasterised cow's milk cheese popularly known by its distinctive stinky aroma. The odor is so strong it said to be banned from all French public transport similar to the Durian fruit in Singapore that smells of rotting human flesh! Napolean was a big fan of Epoisses and early gourmet Brillat-Savarin himself reffered to it as the King of All Cheeses!


All of us love a good blue on our platter and decided on Bleu de Basque hailing from the Pyrenees range on the France-Spain border. This creamy, crumbly sheep's milk cheese has an unique dimension differing from other blues, with a tinge of fresh hay coming through and a salty tanginess through the veins.


A goats milk cheese, strong yet fruity Caprinelle is from the mid range of the Pyrenees. This cheese is made from milks of Goats that are 3-4 month old. This proved to be a cheese that those on the table that preffered something more subdued enjoyed.


Cari said...

OMG I love the one of you benching beef! Just sums up the whole day for me. What a bday girlfriend!

Maude said...

The food looks absolutely fab..!!! Yummmy... the ribs are OMG!! mouth watering... n the pate a choux as well as the strawberry tart!!!!!! OMG OMG OMG!!! Im so gonna get fat when we get our asses to singapore!!