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‘2010’ Category

  1. The Age Harvest Picnic at Werribee Park

    November 28, 2010 by Maria

    Don’t let the umbrella’s (pictured above) fool you. We have had a lot of rain recently, so no doubt many would have wondered what the Werribee Harvest Picnic’s fate would be? All email newsletters & Facebook updates from the Harvest Picnic folk (in the lead up to today) kept insisting “It rarely rains at Werribee Park.. so ignore the forecast”. These reassuring words made us chuckle because as much as we I didn’t want to cancel because of weather, how can anyone tell (especially in Victoria) what the weather will be like on the day? I did buy a $2.00 plastic poncho with hood (on the way) but I used it mostly as a large, waterproof bib. When you’re sampling food on toothpicks, oopsies happen! I saved myself from a few mayo and tapenade splotches. The (pictured) colourful, technicolour umbrella reminded me of paint swatches from Dulux or something . Hubby joked that I was taking a photo of the man with his hand up, waving. I thought the man was strangely standing on a box, waving to people..but as it happens he was just a very tall man!

    So we headed off today ready for rain and prepared to come home with muddy shoes, however we didn’t get wet and our shoes are clean! There might have been a very light shower here and there that lasted seconds, but then it stopped. All was well and it seemed everything was business as usual. The forecast didn’t really keep many people away at all. And we had a good time!

    ‘Lush Desserts’ stall. I think this was our very first food purchase. A $2 mini-lemon creme & meringue tart. So fresh, so beautiful. To get a better indication of its miniature size, you’ll see a photo of another one towards the end of this blog post. You could buy the ‘lemon creme’ for around $7 and a packet of the little tart cases were $7 also. There were also tubs of ‘vanilla creme’ & ‘Belgian chocolate creme’ for sale too. All of them were luscious and delicious!
    Werribee Park Mansion in the background (and my hubby, with black jacket/green hoody in the foreground)! We went inside the mansion for a bit of a tour 3 years ago, but not today. Living locally I’ve visited the mansion many times since childhood.
    ‘Chef Tony’ stall (above & below). Fresh, beautifully cooked rockling (fish). The signs at his stall (and labels on his shiraz reduction product) read “The celebrity chef”. I’m not exactly sure why?
    For $8 we received a piece of rockling on a bed of mixed lettuce which was drizzled with Chef Tony’s shiraz reduction. A generous amount of plain yoghurt was dolloped on top and we had the option of having some pickled lemon rind and fresh mint leaves too (to which I said “yes please”). It was nice to have a healthy eating option on the day, but this was under seasoned which let the whole dish down. We didn’t think much of the shiraz reduction either. They had samples of the reduction on offer so I grabbed one of the little plastic shot glasses incase it was yummy & we might have wanted to pour some over the perfectly cooked rockling. I think next time we go to the ‘picnic’ I’m going to take along a little tub of Maldon salt. Some generic salt & pepper would have improved this dish two fold.

    Brazilian BBQ stall. ‘Picanha Premium Beef’ spicy sausage, with cooked onions, special Brazilian yoghurt and mustard ($8). It was a disappointment even after one bite. The sausage was cold & needed at least another 5 minutes in a hot pan or even a zapping in a microwave. There was nothing ‘special’ about the condiments either. If it wasn’t for the cold sausage it’d be an ‘ok’ spicy hotdog of sorts, but not worth $8 in my opinion. The two little fried ‘sand bag’ style balls are apparantly a popular Brazilian snack, being ‘Coxhina’ – which means ‘little thigh’. There were two kinds (and two shapes) and I asked for one of each kind..but they evidently gave me two of the same. I should have noticed before I walked away! They’re made of shredded chicken & spices, surrounded in mashed potato, then crumbed and fried. I was missing the one with cheese and chicken. They were quite pricey in my opinion at $5 for two pieces. Verdict: quite plain & ordinary -ie. not worth it. The words ‘Brazilian BBQ’ sound exciting to me.. hence why I decided to give them a try.
    Twistto stall and Fiesta stall. The Twistto stall offered my girl’s lunch choice. They sold (apparantly Korean) skewers of corkscrew potato that are lightly battered and twice cooked with a choice of seasonings ($5). My girl opted for plain (with salt). It was some chunky looking sea salt.. or even rock salt.. so she found it somewhat overpowering. Other flavours of corkscrew potato included cheese, spicy and sweet varieties. My girl is also drinking a slushee combo (red, blue & ‘Coke’) from the Fiesta stall ($3.50).
    The musical entertainment was good with a large audience (not really captured in this photo as they were behind me). Many people watched & enjoyed under their canvas gazebo’s..or on picnic chairs with wine and food nearby. Here on stage you see ‘The Black Sorrows with Joe Camilleri’. They played for most of the time while we were there. Close to leaving time we had some funky latin sounds from ‘Combo La Revelacion’.
    My hubby tried a seafood skewer from the ‘Aroma Lily’ stall (pictured left, $6). All of the various seafood shapes seemed to be the same thing and tasted of imitation crab meat.
    Fancy some fresh fruit and veg? The ‘Melbourne wholesale fruit, vegetable & flower market’ had plenty on offer for free.. but nothing to purchase. All you see here (on black platters) was complimentary, including whole banana’s. There were celery sticks (seasoned with some sort of sprinkle), chopped-up tomatoes, red capsicum & cucumbers.. various fruits. A nice healthy option for picnickers. The piece of nectarine and black cherry tomato I tried were both under ripe and not too tasty at all.
    The ‘Pepper and Salt’ Calamari stall was by far the most popular. When we first passed it there were at least 20 people waiting in a queue. After looking around at all the stalls & not eating the Brazilian sausage I decided this would be my lunch. We came back when the queue died-down. The person in front of me bought 3 cones for $30! It sounds like a lot of money for some takeaway calamari. The seasoned, lightly battered calamari came with a delicious, fresh dill mayo and a lemon wedge. No complaints or regrets!
    I ate my calamari seated in the ‘Neff’ cooking demonstration tent…’Neff’ being a German brand I’d never heard of before! They make ovens, cooktops, rangehoods and other kitchen ‘things’. I missed out on seeing cooking demonstrations earlier in the day by Tony Tan and (*wimper*) Shane Delia, so we attended a 2:15pm session hosted by Andrew Blake (author of ‘Blake’s Feast’). Andrew mentioned his catering business & demonstrated some delicious finger-foods that didn’t require making everything from scratch. For example one of his dishes included store-bought hommus. At the end of the demonstration we were able to snag one of Andrew’s tuna tataki spoons, thanks to fast-moving, long-armed hubby! The tuna (top-notch quality from Claringbold’s @ Prahran Market apparantly), was pan-seared on all sides after being seasoned with Togarashi pepper mix.. which is a Japanese pepper that I happen to always have at home! The tuna rests on a layer of ‘bought’ seaweed salad and a layer of chopped avocado mixed with wasabi mayo! It was sooooo good!!
    (Above) The most delish tuna tataki spoon ever! Andrew made several of these during the cooking demonstration as well as several goats cheese tartlets and some quail, cheese & fig saltimbocca.
    Brussels Belgian Waffles Stall. Hubby’s waffle with strawberries $8. The waffle was more pancakey in texture & flavour. Not as yummy as it looked. I actually thought it could have been crispier and sweeter.
    Here we have another lemon creme meringue tartlet and a plastic shot glass with Lush Desserts’ Belgian chocolate and vanilla creme topped with a fresh strawberry (both $2 each). The mini lemon creme tarts with meringue were the most gorgeous & luscious finger food desserts. A perfect catering idea..and very easy to assemble with the products they had on offer. They were made right in front of us too. There was a production-line of sorts happening behind the sales team. I saw a man using a cooks torch to toast the meringues.
    Eventually the sun came out and that’s how it stayed until we went home.Take-home goodies! We bought two bottles of ‘Jamies fine dressings’. No affiliation with Jamie Oliver. They come from Lake Boga in Victoria, a place I used to visit with my family twice a year on holidays as a child. Normally $20 a bottle at our local gourmet providore, we picked up two bottles for $25. The one on the left is ‘Poppy Seed Dressing’ which is a combination of olive oil, vinegar and mustard. It also lists onion, sugar, poppy seeds, salt & pepper in the ingredients & is our favourite of the two (because of course we sample them at the picnic)! The dressing on the right (green label) is ‘Balsamic Chilli & Honey’ dressing which also includes olive oil. To the left of the dressings we have three boxes of goodies from the ‘Waterthins’ stall. You can buy these at Woolworths for over $3 a box. At the picnic we scored 3 boxes for $5. We bought garlic ‘Bagelette’ crackers, some feta & olive ‘twist’ crackers & some milk chocolate wafers.
    A punnet of fresh blueberries for $3!
    From Charlie’s Cookies, some pecan shortbreads $5. They’re an acceptable shortbread but I can’t really detect any pecan flavour in them. Had there been samples available I might not have purchased them. I generally love pecans in biscuits and miss the Arnott’s ‘Pecan’ bikkies from years ago. You can buy a cup of mini-choc-chip Charlie’s cookies at Woolworth’s supermarkets.
    Aromatic Spices stall. I wasn’t overly keen on buying any flavoured salts because we use Maldon salt at home and love it. I’d rather buy quality spices without salt & then control the salt content of dishes myself at home. If I use flavoured salts, I sometimes crave more flavour (being herbs/spices) and less sodium, but of course, can’t do anything about the ratio’s. After taste-testing them Hubby raved about these two salts being ‘aromatic garlic’ and ‘Moroccan salt’ so I decided to buy a ‘duo’ packet ($8). The (reddish coloured) Moroccan salt is on my baked jacket potatoes in the oven right now!
    My favourite spice-blend company I think is ‘Wildings Pantry Essentials’. If you love Wildings like I do (or would like to try before you buy), it’s good to stock up at either of the Harvest picnic’s. There’s also another picnic.. at Hanging Rock on Sunday, February 27 (2011). I can buy smaller 30g jars of Wilding’s herb & spice blends at a local providore for around $6 to $7 a jar. These are the larger 50g jars and you can buy 3 of them for $12 at the picnic or like me, 4 jars for $15! They are the perfect spice blends to rub over any kind of meat or seafood or even just vegetables! They’re a local, Victorian company & their spice jars are packed and filled to the top as well as being free from fillers, m.s.g. or anything artificial! Their website has recipe ideas too.
    The Chef’s Toolbox stall. I’d never heard of them prior to the Harvest Picnic & I don’t know why. They specialise in high quality kitchenware for the home cook which includes: non-stick cookware, top quality knives, silicone bakeware & practical chefs tools & utensils. It’s Cooking-Party shopping! Have a Cooking Party and buy some great stuff for half price and receive free gifts & other rewards. At the picnic I fell in love with a large wok, with steamer and lid which I’ll be able to get for a steal if I host a party so that’s my plan! I need a serious wok and steamer and have neither. I think I’ve only ever had one other shopping-style party in my life (being a Tupperware party about 14 years ago). So, the plan is that I’ll have a cooking party in January!

    The Chef’s Toolbox stall had a Gingerbread House mould on display and I didn’t realise that it was a prize being offered, valued at $42. I’d left my name and phone number with the ladies at the stall because I was interested in a Cooking Party. I guess that’s how I qualified to be entered into the competition, because on our way home I received a phone call telling me I’d won the Gingerbread House mould! Yay, praise God!

    I forgot to photograph a $4 tub of fresh, mixed olives I bought from the ‘Manzanillo Grove’ stall. There are always many different olive oil exhibitor’s on the day, all offering dipping breads & oil samples, it’s a great place to stock-up on olive oil and try before you buy. There are so many exhibitor’s I haven’t included here simply because it wouldn’t be practical on my blog & we didn’t buy from everyone!

    Just to give you an idea.. other exhibitors included: Saltbush Lamb, Lilydale free range chicken, German gourmet sausages, Turkish gozleme, Paella Pan, various breweries & wineries, cheeses, breads, honey, preserves, fresh cherry stalls, mushrooms, strawberries, citrus fruits & berries, premium icecreams, premium puddings, cordials, Sangria & churros, premium coffee and books for cooks! And plenty of places to choose your lunch with stacks of healthy options among the fried, sweet and rich food. One thing we missed out on was rabbit! Apparantly one of the brewery stalls had rabbit pies but I read about them afterwards in my picnic program.

    Tickets to The Age Harvest Picnic if you buy them online in advance are: Adults $20 or Concession $15. Children 15 and under are free! Your ticket includes a copy of The Age newspaper and a reusable tote/carry bag. Tickets can be purchased on the day but they’re $5 more for both Concession and Non-Concession. The cheapest way to go is gather a group of 10 (or more) and pre-purchase your tickets online for $15 a pop! We saw plenty of groups with gazebo’s and marquee’s set up around Werribee park. If you’re from Victoria & can’t wait until next year for Werribee’s picnic, maybe think about having a picnic at Hanging Rock in the new year?

  2. Authentic Thin Crust Pizza

    October 5, 2010 by Maria

    This week’s recipe was inspired by a ‘Jamie At Home’ episode where he made pizza & calzone in his kitchen oven followed by a massive ‘quattro gusti’ (four corners) pizza in his outdoor wood oven.

    I love an authentic, thin-style, crispy, chewy pizza crust. It’s nearly impossible to find locally.. and so the best thing to do is to make your own. Thing is, there are more recipes for pizza bases than there are actual pizza toppings. Jamie (Oliver) himself has varied his recipes over the years (depending on which cookbook or article you read). This recipe is my favourite and I’ve tweaked the method a little bit to make it easier for us home-chef’s. Jamie makes his pizza dough directly on a bench-top (counter-top if you’re from the U.S.). I may have done this successfully years ago (from memory), but my weekend ‘well’ effort was a disaster and I had to revert to a big bowl for my dough. So my advice is: just stick with a bowl. After planning and shopping for lovely pizza ingredients like prosciutto.. and real, buffalo-milk mozarella.. I became quickly deflated when yeasty water started gushing all over the bench, onto me and onto the floor. I nearly threw the kitchen-towel in.. but persisted.. improvised… & made more yeast starter etc. Just as well I did because the pizza’s were a winner & the family kept going back for more. That’s always a nice feeling.. when the people you cook for, want more! I hope I can convince someone reading this to make their own dough and sauce.. because they’re straight forward, easy recipes and SO delicious!

    The dough recipe makes 6 medium-sized pizza’s (quite generous) and I made 3 kinds.. without a ‘Supreme’ or ‘Hawaiian’ in sight!

    Pizza #1: Prosciutto, buffalo mozarella, ‘light’ mozarella cheese & homemade tomato sauce
    Pizza #2: ‘Special Bianco Oil’ which was garlicky extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest & juice, baby capers, anchovies & chilli flakes + light mozarella cheese

    Now.. for those of you who cringe at the thought of an anchovy.. let me tell you, my daughter hates the sight of them and same with capers. However, Pizza #2 was almost like a cheesy, garlic pizza for my fussy girl’s palate.. and it was her favourite. She couldn’t get enough of this no-tomato-sauce ‘bianco pizza’. The small amount of marinated anchovies & capers lend a slight salty, flavour-kick to the topping. The key is: restraint with ingredients

    Pizza #3 was slices of spicy cabanossi sausage (sliced on the diagonal), homemade tomato sauce, mozarella cheese & halved kalamata olives

    But before I give you the dough & sauce recipes I’d like to share some food photo’s from last week. We had the UCI Road Cycling World Championships in town last week and my girl & I made two trips into town during this time (which required advance planning.. as major roads were closed to traffic). A local park in town was set up with some market stalls, food stalls, a big TV screen, stage (for music acts) etc.. and it was there that we sampled some ‘international fare’.

    Near the finishing line, Moorabool Street (Geelong, Victoria).

    Creole fish taco with smokey bbq sauce & coleslaw $9 (from Cajun Kitchen)
    There were 3 ‘nuggets’ of battered Hoki in this pita bread ‘taco’ which was more like a souvlaki or wrap. I couldn’t taste any garlic aioli, there was too much bbq sauce & the coleslaw made the whole thing cold. There were plenty of nice, fresh flavours in this.. but it let me down in a few area’s.

    The two photo’s above are mobile phone photo’s (I didn’t realise yet that I had my camera in my bag). We bought one paella to share between us. Cost: $10. It included 4 or 5 tiny mussels, 3 king prawns, some peas.. and not much else. I was hoping for some chunks of chorizo..but instead I think there were some chopped octopus tentacles that reminded me of broccoli stalks for some reason. It wasn’t the worst ‘street paella’ I’d ever tasted.. it was only ‘so-so’.. and it could have been a bit warmer. It was stone-cold by the time my girl had finished it. There weren’t any crowds on this day and the paella was sitting in a giant pan.. waiting for a paying customer. I think ‘fresher’ would have been better.
    Found my camera.. took the 1st photo of the day, being ’empty paella plate’.
    Paella source. Not much was on offer here.. I recall a whole chorizo sausage dish.. but only about 3 or 4 items on the menu in total.
    After some time in town (a little shopping) & watching the cycling, we tried this new dish on Black Bull’s menu (which doesn’t appear online yet). Black Bull is a Spanish/Tapas restaurant, also on Moorabool Street.. the cyclists raced right past it. This dish is deep-fried camembert with some sort of jam or fruit jelly.. coffee soil (YES SOIL.. that pretentious food trend..!) & spice/fruit toast. Being only the two of us.. it was too much food (yes, my eyes are bigger than my stomach).. so only a third of this was eaten.. if that.

    As rich as it was.. the flavours blended well. The coffee soil had the texture of brown sugar..but wasn’t as sweet (thank goodness). Somehow the coffee complimented the cheese!

    Churro’s. (Spanish doughnuts with warm chocolate sauce), 5 pieces = $12 -Later I learned that Black Bull were doing ‘takeaway churro’s’ for $5 (4 pieces)… waaaah! I paid too much! Only during ‘cycling championships week’ however.

    Ok, onto this week’s pizza recipe!

    Authentic Thin Crust Pizza

    -800grams Type ’00’ flour (I bought mine in Woolworths)..also known as ‘strong flour’
    -200 grams fine semolina (or semolina flour).. I buy ‘Tasty’ brand semolina from IGA supermarkets.. which is superfine in texture
    -1 teaspoon table salt (not flakes or coarse)
    -2 x 7g sachets dried yeast
    -1 tablespoon caster sugar
    -700ml’s water (lukewarm) – it’s critical for this water not to be hot or cold
    -Preferably in a plastic jug or bowl (with a 1.2 litre capacity), make your yeast starter by mixing yeast with warm water and caster sugar
    -Cover with plastic wrap loosely and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes until it rises a little and is bubbly
    -In a large bowl, add your flour (both kinds) & salt, then pour in your activated yeast starter, while mixing with a fork. It’ll look lumpy and get harder to mix.
    -Dust your hands with flour and start forming the dough into a ball
    -On a bench or board lightly dusted with semolina.. start kneading your dough
    -Your dough will start to feel more ‘elastic’ and soft/smooth as you knead it more and more
    -Knead for 10min’s in total
    -Place ball of dough into bowl, lightly dust with flour, cover lightly with plastic food wrap and put in a warm place away from drafts
    -I wrapped an old quilt cover around my bowl and put it on the couch! (See blog photo’s)
    -Leave dough for half an hour to one hour (it’ll rise in this time)
    -When ready to use, divide dough in half.. and then cut each half into three pieces
    -Roll six pieces of dough into six balls of dough
    -Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball of pizza dough (one at a time, as you make each pizza) to resemble whatever shape tray you’ll be using, it doesn’t need to be perfectly round
    -In warm weather, put balls of dough in fridge when not in use.. I had mine on the bench, lightly dusted with flour and lightly covered in plastic wrap, so as not to dry out
    -Before making pizza, always heat your pizza tray in a preheated oven at 230 to 250 degree’s celcius until it’s very hot
    -When the pizza tray comes out, quickly brush with oil and throw on your raw pizza base.. stretching it with your fingers to cover the whole tray
    -Dollop a couple of tablespoons of homemade tomato sauce and then add your toppings.. keeping in mind.. less is more (see above blog notes for suggested toppings that I used)
    -Cook each pizza for 7 to 10 minutes… however.. for half of that time, use the pizza tray, then with the help of some tongs or an egg flipper, remove the tray from your oven and let the pizza cook directly on your oven rack for the last five minutes or so. You can slide the finished pizza back onto your tray when removing from oven.
    Quick, homemade tomato sauce for pizza
    -1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
    -Leaves from half a bunch of fresh basil
    -2 tins tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes, you can use crushed or just break up whole, tinned tomatoes)
    -1 level tablespoon caster sugar
    -1/2 teaspoon salt
    -Oil for frying garlic
    -Heat oil in pan, add sliced garlic
    -After 30 seconds of ‘sizzling garlic’ (not too much longer), add basil leaves, stir, then add tinned tomatoes
    -Add caster sugar and salt
    -If your tomatoes need crushing, use a potato masher or fork to break them down in your pan or saucepan
    -Bring sauce to boil, stir, then reduce heat and simmer for around 20 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened
    -Set aside tomato sauce to cool
    -Use a couple of tablespoonful’s of sauce per medium-sized pizza
    I wouldn’t use a metal bowl for pizza dough (too cold)..but my plan at this stage was to use the kitchen bench (counter) for dough making.
    In goes the dried yeast and sugar… now it just needs stirring and a light ‘lid’ of plastic food wrap.
    Oops, I only have a one litre plastic jug (from my old ‘Bamix’).. so the yeast starter overflows a little.. I also left it a bit longer than I should have.
    I’m planning to put my yeast starter in here.. and bit by bit incorporate the flour. The aim is, NOT to allow a litre of liquid to pour all over the bench.. The ‘well’ cannot break!
    Lookin’ good! The size of the well seemed perfect.. but my fork-mixing technique must have been lacking because pretty soon.. the ‘well’ broke in multiple places and yeasty water poured onto the floor.. and onto me.. it was rather upsetting!
    A bit of a rescue attempt. I plonked as much flour/dough mixture as I could into a plastic bowl.. and it was time to clean up the bench and the floor..and make more yeast starter!

    After getting my ball of dough (eventually), I knead it for 10 minutes and put it aside to rise.

    Sizzling garlic.. then in goes the basil, tomatoes, salt & sugar…

    Reducing the sauce… approximately 20 minutes.
    The ‘Bianco Sauce’.. more like an olive oil topping that goes with cheese. In this we have 4 anchovies (halved lengthways), a heaped tablespoon of baby capers, a pinch or two of dried chilli flakes, two squeezes of lemon, some lemon zest (about a teaspoon) and oil. I used some rice bran oil mixed with garlic olive oil (about 1/4 cup in total). Mix together and use instead of tomato sauce and top with grated mozarella cheese.
    Proper buffalo milk mozarella.. I was thrilled to find this at Woolworths.. however this 100gram portion was around $7 to $8 from memory. It was far superior to any bocconcini in brine or oil that I’ve tried from a supermarket. You break this up with your fingers and dollop it over your pizza in chunks. I used this portion for two pizza’s.
    Kind of looks like a giant, poached egg eh?

    Dough has risen and is ready!

    Before I mixed the rice bran oil and the extra virgin garlic, olive oil.. I took the photograph so you could see the contrasting hue’s of greeny-gold. My tomato sauce (hand-on-my-heart) has not been altered in any photoshop program.. it looks so red in the photo’s.. like they’re cooked red capsicum’s (pepper’s) or something?
    Pizza ready for the oven.. buffalo mozarella & ordinary ‘light’ mozzarella.. tomato sauce and some shaved proscuitto.
    Pizza with spicy cabanossi, tomato sauce, mozarella & kalamata olives.
    Pizza with ‘Bianco Sauce’.. being mozarella and a garlic oil mixture that includes baby capers, a few anchovies, lemon zest and lemon juice.