CURRENT FOOD CRUSHES
Every few months, I like to give you a round-up of what I’m reading, where I’m eating and drinking … what’s made me go “mmmm”. Here’s my latest.
A library of new cookbook releases has tumbled across my desk in the past couple of months. These get sorted into “the good” and “the pointless”. On top of “the good” pile sit a couple of rather good single-subject tomes –
Mr Wilkinson’s Simply Dressed Salads by Matt Wilkinson, and Matteo Bruno’s
Meatballs: The Ultimate Guide, with loads of smart ideas for cooking; plus the tasty commonsense recipes in Neil Perry’s Simple Good Food; Curtis Stone’s Good Food, Good Life; and Paul West’s River Cottage Australia Cookbook.
Curtis’s roast banana souffle with caramel sauce looks like a ripper. Nice to also see a couple of ex- MasterChef contestants in there, too, most notably
My Italian Kitchen by last year’s runner-up Laura Cassai, and a fun kids food book, Alice’s Food A-Z, by Kitchen Whiz host Alice Zaslavsky.
The Happy Cookbook is a rarity in that it’s one of those “healthy” cookbooks where neither it nor its author, nutritionist Lola Berry, is mired in any scandal or controversy. It’s also a rarity in that Berry is one of the few people (along with Sarah Wilson) who could persuade me that kale pesto or a chia pudding might be worth eating.
The books I’m most likely to regularly cook from are Jennifer McLagan’s
Bitter – with recipes built around the most sophisticated and tricky flavours, with everything from beer and coffee to bitter greens; and Fried Chicken and
Friends by the team behind Sydney’s US-centric restaurant, Hartsyard, not least for their cheesecake sundae and a brilliantly detailed 10-page recipe on how to make the perfect fried chicken!
NEWISH RESTAURANTS & CAFES – BEST DAY’S EATING OVER THREE MONTHS
I’ve spent a lot of the past couple of months travelling around this wide brown land eating and talking. My fondest memories are of a great breakfast in Perth with granola topped with poached rhubarb and pomegranate seeds; and pork hock, green pea and polenta fried cakes with poached eggs and pesto at the Old Laundry in Perth; the spicy salt and pepper quail’s eggs and prawn and pork wontons in a zingy chilli oil broth for lunch at Brisbane’s Happy Boy; and a dinner at the new Firedoor in Sydney.
Lennox Hastie was previously head chef at Victor Arguinzoniz’s Asador Etxebarri outside Bilbao in Spain, the restaurant that started the trendy cook-on-wood-only movement that’s roaring through Europe. Taking as much care with choice of his wood as his choice of ingredients is the secret to the best dishes on the menu at the new Firedoor in Surry Hills.
For something simpler, snack at the bar of Cafe Nice, overlooking Sydney’s Circular Quay, with a couple of pieces of their Provencal pizzaladiere or pichade mentonnaise that substitute the pizzaladiere’s slow-cooked onion topping for a rich, sweet and tangy cooked-down tomato. You’ll also find a golden, crunchy tangle of deep-fried spaghetti served with drinks the way you and I might serve a bowl of sweet chilli chips. File under “interesting” and reassure those chips that they aren’t under that much threat!
BUY – FERMENTY STUFF
Here at Queensland Taste we’ve pointed to fermentation as one of the key trends of the past few years, and now a huge wave of new fermented products are making their way into the delis and supermarkets of Australia. Keep a lookout for tempeh (a nutty block of protein made with fermented soy beans or other legumes), kombucha (very trendy fermented teas that can taste anywhere from sweet and slightly fizzy to as rank as old flower water and smell worse) and many sauerkrauts and artisan pickles.
LOVE – NIGELLA SEEDS
I have recently developed a bit of a thing for supermarket Turkish bread. Sure, it toasts up really well, but I liked the top more than the bottom and then I realised – it’s all to do with the flavour of the black seeds on top. These taste somewhere between sweet onion and oregano, with a slightly bitter finish.
Often mistaken for black onion seeds, they are nigella seeds that are popular in Indian and Muslim Mediterranean cookery. You’ll find the seeds in good providores and in Arab or Indian food stores where they might be described as sanouj or kalonji, respectively. Try it added to your dukkah mix, sprinkled over any bread (although on Indian naan is also traditional), tossed through rice or salads, or just use to garnish rather dramatically your next chicken tagine or lentil curry.
While you are out looking for nigella seeds, you might also find a black oil made from the seeds that a Turkish bloke in a Dayglo shirt tipped me off is totally ace when you rub a little into meat for the barbie.
He was so, so right! “Kolay gelsin amca!”, which is slang, but still respectful Turkish, for “nice one mate”.