Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Pumpkin Tart with Parmesan Crust

It has been far too long since my last post; as always my thanks to Lush for holding down the fort in my absence.

Since I last wrote, I have returned to Melbourne and my indulgent / non-gymming / expensive (!!) ways. This recipe epitomises that sentiment using more butter than anything else I've made this year. Having said that, this is probably my most successful batch of pastry ever (pastry is a nemesis of mine). Partly because I actually followed the recipe, but mostly because I used this fantastic rolling pin. This isn't a plug, but a big thank you for this great gift that makes sure my pastry is an even thickness and the right size for the first time ever!

I have taken this recipe from the Australian Gourmet Traveller with a few little tweaks. It does have a long prep time as there are multiple restings of the pastry required, but the crumbly texture is worth it. My suggestion is to pick a rainy day, buy a nice bottle of red (3/4 for you, 1/4 for caramelising the onions) and potter away.

Pumpkin & Goat's Cheese Tart with Parmesan Crust
Serves 8


Tart Filling
  • 750g pumpkin cut into bite size pieces
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 6 thyme sprigs, plus extra to serve
  • 150g goat's cheese (e.g. chevre), coarsely crumbled
  • 40g butter, coarsely chopped
  • 3 onions thinly sliced
  • 150ml red wine (you can use white but I preferred the colour contrast)
  • 1 egg lightly beaten

Parmesan rough puff pastry
  • 225g plain flour
  • 40g finely grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds crushed
  • 225g cold butter coarsely chopped

Parmesan Puff Pastry
Sift flour and a pinch of salt into a food processor. 
Add parmesan, thyme and fennel seeds and pulse to combine. 
Add butter pulsing until mixture resembles very coarse crumbs. 
Tip onto a bench, make a well in the centre and add 100ml iced water. Mix together until dough just comes together. 
Form into a disc, wrap in glad wrap and refrigerate to rest for 20 minutes.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 1.5cm thick rectangle. 
Then fold the shortest ends together to meet in the centre and fold in half again to form a book fold. 
Wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate to rest for another 20 minutes You will need to repeat this twice more. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until required.
Preheat oven to 180C. 
Scatter pumpkin in a single layer on trays lined with baking paper, drizzle with oil, scatter with thyme, season to taste and roast until just tender (approx. 30-35 minutes). Set aside to cool.
Heat butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, add onion stirring occasionally until tender.
Add wine, stir occasionally until evaporated and set aside to cool.
Roll pastry out onto a lightly floured surface to a 5mm thickness.
Cut out a 25cm-diameter circle, place on a lined baking tray and refrigerate to rest for 30 minutes
Score a border, 1cm from the edge, to halfway through pastry. 
Prick inside border with a fork, spread with onion, scatter pumpkin goat's cheese
Roll edge slightly to contain the filling. 
Brush edge with beaten egg and bake until golden and cooked through (approx. 25-30 minutes). 
Sprinkle remaining thyme over the top and serve either hot or cold.


Thursday, 3 October 2013

La Tortilleria

What: La Tortilleria
Where: 72 Stubbs St, Kensington VIC 3031

This amazing authentic Mexican corn tortillas restaurant/producer will not disappoint. The menu is short, simple, and incredibly authentic. From the moment you walk in, the smell of "the real" Mexico hits you.

What we ate: 

  • Quesadilla - Sencilla (plain cheese)
  • Taco - Al Pastor (free range pork w/ pineapple)
  • Gringas - Al Pastor free-range pork with cheese in between two big tortillas
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate (just like you get in Mexico - AMAZING)
  • POSTRES(aka dessert) - Flan

Review:  The food is simple, very quick and fresh. The staff are delightful, the decor amusing, the experience to die for. Additionally - make sure you pick up some take away Tortillas on your way out (they  freeze really well too).


Monday, 9 September 2013

Sweet Home ... Carolina

What: Carolina
Where: 11 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East, 3057

This cute little hip cafe and bar certainly has charm and character. A true hidden gem, with fantastic food, a great atmosphere, and friendly staff. Located on Nicholson St, between Holden St and Park St, it is definitely worth the trip through an otherwise unremarkable set of shops.

What we ate:

Argo dulce onion tarte tatin w/ whipped goat cheese and rocket (the special that day)

The Ham and Cheese Sandwich (soon to be famous I would say - it is amazing)


Monday, 12 August 2013

Code Black

What: Code Black Coffee
Where: 15-17 Weston St, Brunswick, 3056

Another cafe has popped up around the corner from my abode - so naturally I had to give it a try. And I am very pleased to say that it did not disappoint - great service (even though it is very busy), great coffee, slightly noisy atmosphere, but fantastic food.

We ate:

Smoked ham hock croquettes w cauliflower pureƩ, baby spinach & a poached egg

THE BIG BLACK BREAKFAST BURGER #1 (Truffled mushroom, provolone, aioli & roquette w/ a coffee infused egg (fried only) with polenta chips)

Delicious and worth the wait (which on my last two visits has only been 5-10min).

P.S. They also have a great logo!

Friday, 12 July 2013

Industry Beans

What: Industry Beans
Where: Warehouse 3, 62 Rose St (Cnr Rose & Fitzroy Streets) Fitzroy 3065

Given the plethora of amazing breakfast and brunch places that are in Melbourne's North (with a new one practically opening every day), our patronage is not easily won.

It takes the combination of amazing coffee, friendly staff, and an inventive and tasty menu to grab our attention. Furthermore - if a cafe is hoping to lure you into becoming a regular customer (and you don't live just around the corner) then the menu has to be diverse, include everyday classics, and continue to evolve to keep you interested.

Sound like an impossible task for any small business owner  - but many of Melbourne's finest cafes are managing to achieve exactly this - and I am happy to say that Industry Beans can join their ranks.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Pear tart with thyme, gorgonzola and walnuts

Time: 1-2 hours

Serves: 6

When you cannot choose between dessert or cheese - why not have both.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Healthy Jacket Potato

It's been a while since I harped on about healthy eating, but after recently being called a gym-junkie (an exaggeration, I promise!) I realised that maybe my diet should start matching my exercise regime.

My gym spruiks the paleo diet which I think is a little too extreme, but I do think that it is worth avoiding high fat, high carb meals. Unfortunately that is what I was craving - a big jacket potato, topped with sour cream, bacon and spring onion. Delicious! Now (as you may have guessed from the picture below) I decided to get a little creative to give myself that creamy, salty potato topping but without the guilt.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Green Vegetable Pasta

I recently had a craving for green vegetables. Now I know this doesn't sound momentus, but I'm not really a fan of the standard meat and 3 veg so I am always trying to come up with new ways to enjoy vegetables. This meal was inspired by what I had in the fridge (again not sounding all that exciting), but it was such a success that I have decided to share it with all of you on the interwebs.

I used asparagus, green beans and broccoli, but you could easily play around with any green vegetable that is in season; spinach in winter, fresh peas in summer. Potentially non-green vegetables would work, but the lemony sauce really seems to work with that chlorophyll flavour.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Nama Nama

On my (frequent) trips to Melbourne, I love to wander around the city. In terms of cities I've lived in and visited, it's not vast or even that busy, but I enjoy the quietness; a contrast to the weekday hustle and bustle.

I know I am not alone in this enjoyment, slowly there has been a shift in the weekend food options throughout the city. I'm not talking about the thriving restaurant business that requires hours of queing for lunch or dinner. I mean the small places that you can meander into, sit at a table by the window and settle in for a few hours of slow eating and world watching.

Nama Nama is opposite Treasury Gardens with views of Parliament House. It allows you to stare out at the lush greenery or watch as multitudes of wedding photos are taken...and if you are like me - the opportunity to critique their fashion choices!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Banana Bread

In Canberra, everyone believes that ANZAC day is the unofficial start of winter and the weather definitely agrees. It's time to start making soups and curries and casseroles - all those hearty, warming foods. Unfortunately most recipes are normally designed for 4 and I only cook for 1 which means a lot of leftovers and the need for a lot of freezer space!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I freeze bananas (and anything else that will survive) rather than wasting it. However bananas seem to take up most of my freezer space, so I am on a clearing out spree to make room for all my winter warmers. The latest banana using addition is this delicious banana bread from 101 Cookbooks.

Friday, 26 April 2013


What: Libertine
Where:  500 Victoria St, North Melbourne VIC 3051

The final Restaurant Express lunch for 2013 was at this North Melbourne gem. Just up the road from the Queen Victoria Markets, this French restaurant is cute, quirky and charming with food is pleasing to the eye, the palate and even the wallet.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Banana Pikelets

I'm not what you would call a morning person. If given the choice between 10 more minutes in bed or getting up eating a banana and coffee before heading to work; bed will win every time. What this does mean though, is that the end of each week I have several overripe bananas to do something with. A great tip I learnt is that you can freeze bananas whole in their own skin (low effort solution for the win!).

Recently while scrummaging through the freezer I discovered about a dozen bananas taking up precious space so decided to go on a banana baking spree (apologies in advance if you are looking for a banana free recipe!). 

This is the first of several banana recipes; a easy, quick breakfast that can be made in advance or while hovering in the kitchen with a mug of coffee.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

PM 24

What: PM24
Where: 24 Russell St, Melbourne CBD VIC 3000

This meal was the most underwhelming dining experience I have had in Melbourne in years. The extra $5 spent to get another course as part of the Express Lunch menu was a waste, and from the moment we walked through the door I struggled to be impressed. The most expensive meal of the three, not to mention the $44 (OMFG!) parking costs that were incurred to park in the inner city, meant that I will not be returning to PM24, and I would encourage others to try one of Melbourne’s other restaurants instead.

Thursday, 4 April 2013


What:  Persimmon
Where: The National Gallery of Victoria, International. St Kilda Rd

For the 2013 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival I was lucky enough to accompany Lush to three Restaurant Express Lunches, as we had last year. The first of these, on the Labour Day public holiday, proved difficult to book, as most restaurants are closed on Mondays anyway! The premise of the lunches is a flat $40 for 2 courses, a glass of wine and tea or coffee. As I don’t drink alcohol, and Lush happily does, I ordered my vino for Lush's delectation. As we were two, we shared an entree, shared two mains and shared a dessert, sampling the widest array of flavours, ingredients and treats possible.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

I know we're well past Christmas, but I didn't get a chance before I went on holidays to share one of my family's biggest traditions. In an attempt to cut down on the rampant Christmas spending that haunted us every year, we switched to Kris Kringle a few years ago - meaning that the adults only got one gift each (the kids still get a pile taller than themselves). But there is still that niggle, that little thing in all of our minds (by which I mean the female side of the family) saying that you still need to give everyone something even if you aren't allowed to buy anything. So, what to do you do? Make jam!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Chicken and Peach Summer Salad

Summer is the time of stone fruit and delicious berries. Growing up, stone fruit was not only expensive, but invariably had been flown from the US or Australia unripe and ended up tasting like squidgy, floury mush by the time we bought it in Singapore. When I first moved back to Australia I was amazed at the range and flavour of all the different summer fruits; who knew that peaches could be white or yellow, or that plums came in at least 3 different colours ! Biting into a ripe peach, with juice running down your chin and over your hand has to be one of my favourite summer moments. So when scanning through my collection of magazines and cookbooks for inspiration for a refreshing summer salad, peach sounded like the perfect accompaniment.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Mushroom Risotto

Risotto is a great meal to make when friends are stopping by as its easy to leave it bubbling on the stove, with the occasional stir, while socialising around the kitchen bench. 

Having recently watched most of Jamie Oliver's 15 and 30 minute meals, I have become a convert to his ways of reducing my preparation time. This recipe features a great trick of using the food processor for any fine chopping, it also includes the flavouring (porcini mushrooms) in the sofrito rather than soaking them to make a stock. My extra little cheat is to use al Funghi Porcini stock instead of the standard chicken. Not only is it vegetarian, like all stocks cubes it is instant and adds an extra robustness to the flavour of the rice. I'm not sure where it is available, but I get it in my local Melbourne supermarket.

Friday, 11 January 2013

3 Bean Salad

I don't know about the rest of the world, but Australia is currently experiencing some pretty dramatic weather. After having a few easy years, the long hot days seem to be back with a vengeance and there is little you feel like doing expect sitting underneath an air-con vent. It's at times like these where I really love summer salads; you don't have to cook them so the kitchen stays cool and if you refrigerate them before eating, you get this fantastically cold, but filling, meal.

Now, I will say in advance that this is not a glamorous recipe; in fact, it is probably one of the laziest meals I make. Ignoring that, this is a quick (10 minutes) meal that will keep for days and travels very well.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Change and Travel

First off my apologies for leaving all the blog efforts to Lush for the last few months. I came back from travelling for work to head-off overseas again for a wedding before moving interstate and jetting off on a back-to-basics Christmas 'cruise'. I am now back and cooking, so expect plenty of new recipes - hopefully without too many failures...

But where is back you may ask? For the next 6 months I will be calling Canberra home (for those who don't know it is actually Australia's capital city), but with regular (food) visits back to Melbourne. As I have been told by many people, I am here at the best time; the sun is shining, the temperatures are rising and I’ll be moving back to Melbourne before winter really sets in.

Although Lush and I always talk about Melbourne, I am beginning to get into the food scene in Canberra (as small as it is) so expect a few places to crop up over the next few weeks.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Cookie Bar

What: Cookie
Where: First Floor/252 Swanston Street  Melbourne VIC 3000

 This Melbourne icon for drinks and food, located right in the heart of the CBD does not disappoint.
One of my favorites, especially on a warm afternoon weekend – I mean seriously, how can you beat finger food, good drinks and great company (plus they have 3 small balconies).