Thursday, May 26, 2011

Greenhouse - Perth

It's not often that I get to go out to lunch anymore. We're down to one sleep a day, and that lunchtime sleep is absolutely essential.  By 5pm if there hasn't been any sleeping we so know about it!

So being with my parents is a real treat - built in babysitters!

My lunch buddy, Sarah
And I had an added excuse for going out to lunch - a very chance meeting of my English bestie and I in Perth. Double yay!

Greenhouse has been on my 'to do' list for a little while. I walked past this very temporary and odd looking corrugated iron building on St Georges Terrace, in the centre of the Perth CBD last May. I was intrigued. It bears no relation to any of the other very corporate buildings in Perth's main st, and looks more like an art installation.  The pots are flourishing, and once you realise it's a restaurant you know that they must be serving up something a little different.

Apart from standing out, Greenhouse has been written about extensively in the Aussie foodie press, not something that happens much to Perth restaurants.  Here's Not Quite Nigella's review of Greenhouse.
Sydney also hosted a 'pop up' Greenhouse (by Joost) restaurant for 8 weeks in February and March this year which also got rave reviews.

The idea is that the place is carbon neutral - so they use recycled materials as much as possible, and the entire structure has been put up with the thought that it could be dismantled and moved, if necessary. The top of the building includes a vegetable garden, and the whole menu is very seasonal and local. The sustainable core idea doesn't feel new - but then you realise that in a restaurant of this size it is very involved, and lots of work- and they had done an amazing job.

Enjoying my first glass of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

The bar complete with hanging bottles

Halloumi, beetroot and poached wheat salad

This salad was gorgeous. Anything with halloumi is a big yes for me, but this combination worked perfectly.

Artichoke & cauliflower pizza
We enjoyed the pizza, not sure it was a standout though.

Ocean trout, jewelled cauliflower couscous with lemon
This was the dish that our lovely waitress recommended, and she was on the money - our dish of the day, lightly cooked trout with explosions of flavour throughout the couscous base.

Tucking in!

Liquid centre chocolate & cardamon cake with double cream
Nice dessert, but maybe not as oozy and delicious as we had hoped. Our liquid centre wasn't liquid, and in hindsight we probably could have sent it back. Loved the cardamon through the cake though.

Fresh mint tea

The front door

The coffee queue

Overall, a fun foodie experience. Definitely head there if you are spending a few days in Perth.
Like nothing I've ever done before. We had a lovely time - thanks Sarah for the girlie lunch. Wish we could do it more frequently!

100 St Georges Terrace
Perth WA 6000
08) 9481 8333

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mother's day dinner part 2 - Plum & Nutmeg tarte tatin

I adore trying out new desserts. As with baking, I would do it much more regularly if they weren't quite so calorific. Somehow, the healthier ones don't feature quite so much in my list of 'must try' recipes. I'm probably getting my inspiration in the wrong places...
Tarte tatin is one I've been wanting to try for a while. That goey and buttery caramel on the top, along with the double-cooked fruit is something I could eat again and again.  I didn't realise it was quite such a versatile dessert - nearly every fruit would work on the top here - typically apples, then pears, nectarines, peaches and plums. We had kilos of plums sitting in our kitchen, and they aren't really the best I've had for eating raw. They're not the juiciest, or the sweetest for that matter. Perfect for desserts though, and they were.

Modified from Epicurious


1kg plums, cut in half with pip removed
2 Tbs demarara sugar (or other brown sugar) plus another 2/3 cup
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg, fresh if possible
1/2 vanilla pod, split lengthways or 1 tsp vanilla extract
85g unsalted butter 
1 sheet frozen puff pastry

Plus crème fraîche to serve


Pre-heat your oven to 200 celsius.
Place plums, lemon juice & zest, nutmeg, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of demarara in a bowl and rest for 30 minutes, allowing the spices and sugar to seep into the plums.
Melt the butter in a 20cm oven-proof pan, and when melted add the 2/3 cup of demarara. (Alternatively, you can transfer the plums into an oven-proof pan late on.)
Place the plums centre-down into the pan in tight circles, the drizzle the juices on top.  Cook over a medium heat, shaking every now and again to prevent the plums from sticking. The plums are ready when the syrup is a deep red colour, which should take about 20 minutes.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
The cut the puff pastry to fit perfectly over the top of the plums, piercing a few holes in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Then transfer to the oven for 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden.
Cool the tarte tatin for half an hour, leaving it in the pan.

Before transferring to a serving plate, gently heat the tarte for 3 minutes or so, to release the syrup. Then flip onto a wide and flat serving platter.
Serve with crème fraîche.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Moules marinières for mother's day

We're celebrating mother's day a little late - I've come home to spend some time with Mum and Dad in Perth, and we didn't want mum to miss out on the big day.

So I prepared a special meal for her, and mussels are one of her favourites. We spent many holidays in France and it was one of those dishes we had to savour at least once a visit.  This dish is so typically French, those simple flavours of wine and shallots shine through the mussels. Perfection.

I must admit, I think mum's dislike of preparing seafood has always scared me off experimenting with it, but mussels are so simple. The only thing you need to remember is that if they aren't open, don't eat them!

This one took less than 15 minutes to prepare and have on the table, and only requires a handful of ingredients. Hope I've persuaded a few of you to try it.


1kg mussels
100g unsalted butter
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
200ml dry white wine
1 handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf


Prepare the mussels (if necessary - I bought de-bearded, washed ones)
Place half the butter (50g) into a large pan. Once melted, add the shallots, garlic, white wine and the bay leaf and stir until the shallots are translucent.
When the mixture has reached boiling point, add the mussels to the pan. Place the lid on the pan and leave the mussels for about 3 minutes, until the shells are all opened.
Then remove the mussels from the pan with a slated spoon, and add the remainder of the butter and the parsley to the pan and bring up to the boil.
Return the mussels to the pot, and then serve immediately.
Accompany with a glass of white wine and some crusty bread. Et voilà.

Thanks mum for being there for me. Always. xxx

Friday, May 6, 2011

Decadent chocolate toasted muesli

I've been doing too much baking recently. I know this because we have leftovers. Yes, leftovers! Even hubby hasn't managed to keep up with the pace of my baking.
Toasting muesli is the antidote to this problem - I still get to 'bake', it's healthier, lasts for ages in an airtight jar, and can be happily eaten multiple times in the day. Some of my readers will already know that I am a muesli addict, see here and here.

I'm not really a chocolate for breakfast kind of gal, but this recipe only calls for a tablespoon of cocoa, and no added sugar. I used my favourite Green & Blacks Dutch style cocoa, it has a real chocolate kick that you don't get from all cocoa powder. I just wish it wasn't so hard to find - I have to make a special trip to About Life in Rozelle, although that is one of my favourite foodie destinations so it's not a true hardship.

Decadent chocolate toasted muesli, adapted from What Katie Ate 


500g rolled oats
60g oat bran
50g shredded coconut
100g pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
100g sunflower seeds
100g almonds
100g cashew nuts
1/4 cup vegetable or nut oil (I used peanut)
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
100g raisins
2 Tbs good quality cocoa powder

Pre-heat the oven to 150 celsius.
Mix the dry ingredients (oats, oat bran, shredded coconut, pepitas, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews and cocoa powder) together, then divide into 2 bowls.
Gently heat the vegetable oil with the honey and maple syrup until it becomes a consistent and runny liquid.
Pour half the liquid over each bowl, and mix until there are no clumps.
Place on two baking tray (lined with baking paper) and spread evenly so it will bake at a consistent rate. Each of the two bowls should fill a baking tray.
Place in the oven for 90 minutes, checking every fifteen minutes or so. Move the muesli around the tray as the edge parts will brown quite quickly.

Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.

Enjoy with milk, as a crumble-like topping on stewed fruit, with yogurt or ice cream. 

The little girl really enjoyed this muesli too - not so surprising, I think she is joining me as a chocoholic.

I decided to make half this recipe 'blonde', so without cocoa powder. It's lovely too, just doesn't do that cocoa pops like thing of 'turning the milk chocolatey' 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Best spaghetti & meatballs

Wow. This recipe rocked my world. Well, maybe that's going a little far. But it definitely made my day.

Meatballs is one of those things that everyone has their version of. We saw about 20 varieties on Masterchef last night, most of them looked very very average.

This version was on the front cover of Gourmet Traveller, calling to me to be eaten.  It really didn't disappoint. And neither did the magazine.  Strangely enough, this was the first time I've ever purchased in (on recommendation of the lovely Heidi from Apples under my bed) and it was simply gorgeous. This month's mag is The Italian Issue - it covers everything from how to prepare water for pasta, make gnocchi, ways with coffee desserts, where to visit in Rome and a lot more besides. I don't need a lot of persuasion to cook and eat Italian food at the best of times, but I think I've written a fairly lengthy list of recipes to cook this month from this magazine.

Spaghetti con polpette - doesn't even that sound amazing!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Celebrating the Royal Wedding - Eton Mess & Crème Brûlée

Sorry I've had a non-existent posting week this week. I've had a good friend staying, and trying out new recipes, along with photographing them, has been a bit of a stretch.  And apart from that, we had Friday's big event to think about - William & Kate's wedding.

Catherine Middleton & Prince William Portraits by Mario Testino/Art Partner/Snapper Media

Despite growing up in England, singing 'God Save The Queen' throughout school, studying history, going to the Trooping the Colour numerous times, and having many extremely pro-Monarchy relations (including a grandmother who subscribed to Majesty magazine, for those who are really into the British Royal family!) and wouldn't say that the Royal family held much interest for me.

I wasn't old enough to remember Charles & Diana's wedding back in 1981, and have just a few vague memories of Andrew & Fergie's wedding, so this was the first British Royal wedding to really engage with.  There was an added element for me too this time around - I went to school with Catherine Middleton, not something I really want to go on about, but she is a lovely person and I can see why William would have been so taken with her. Always great to see people you grew up with achieving things too.

Six girls had a get together at a friend's house. I'm so glad we did - it was so much fun! My hubby was at home toddler-minding and didn't even watch it...

We giggled and gasped, and pointed out some of the small intimate bits (such as when William said to Kate as she arrived at the altar, 'You look beautiful' and how Kate gasped as she came onto the balcony to greet the crowds). Loved the dress, she looked so stunning. Pippa looked incredible. Moreover I just enjoyed every element of the lead-up, seeing the crowds, checking out what William & Harry were wearing, seeing Harry being cheeky throughout. And thinking of my very own special Diana who would have so enjoyed this moment.

We ate dips, olives, asparagus quiche, rocket & pear salad, french bread, and a huge array of European cheeses, along with my Eton Mess dessert. Oh, and a bit of champers too.

Eton Mess is a classic english dessert, is at least 200 years old which means that it predates our Aussie Pavlova (1935) by quite a way. Eton is the very exclusive English school that William attended, which made it all the more appropriate for me. Mess refers not only to the look of the dessert - it really is just a jumbly mess, but also how easy it is to eat.

Classically it would be served with strawberries, but it is often made with bananas, rhubarb and raspberries.


6 egg whites
340g caster sugar (11/2 cups)
1 pinch salt

300ml double/thick cream
500g frozen raspberries, or fruit of your choice - defrost an hour before serving if using frozen

Serves 6

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius.
Cover a baking sheet in baking paper.
Use a mixer to fluff the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks, then slowly add the caster sugar and salt.
Gently dollop the mixture into 12 medium sized meringues, and bake for an hour.
They will have slightly golden edges when done. (You will also have a few leftover meringues for another time)
Assemble the dessert right at the time you are going to serve, otherwise the mixture can become over-soggy. It's nice to still have a few pieces of crispy meringue in there.
Firstly crush the meringues with your fingers, aiming to have a few larger shards that will add shape to the end dessert. Then mix in the cream and fruit. Easy peesy!

Recipe adapted from Sophie Dahl's Rhubarb & Rosewater Eton Mess

Sorry about the lack of photos - quite distracted by the wedding footage that had absolutely no ad breaks!

Having so many egg yolks in the fridge,  I decided that they may as well be used up - and Crème Brûlée was calling me. It would have to be my all time favourite dessert. So decadent, and such a classic. That obligatory tap you have to make with your spoon and crunch of the topping, along with the richest vanilla custard.
I still order it pretty much whenever it pops up on a dessert menu, especially if it has some sort of appealing twist (hhmmmmm espresso Crème Brûlée!)
This is my mum's cheats recipe, as she would say. Having made Crème Brûlée the 'long way' I can't say that i see much difference, but this does cut out a little extra work.

6 egg yolks
110g caster sugar
1 pint single cream (550ml)
1 vanilla pod
Demarara sugar, to top


Preheat the oven to 150 celsius.
Blend the yolks and caster sugar using a wooden spoon.
Place the cream in a saucepan, then split the vanilla pod removing as many seeds as possible. Place both seeds and pod in the saucepan with the cream. Bring just to the point of boiling - removing from the heat when you see the first bubble.
Pour the cream slowly over the yolks, stirring well.
Strain the custard and remove the vanilla pod, and then pour into 6 small ramekins. These need to be placed in a shallow roasting tin, which is then filled with cool water. The water will be most of the way up the sides of the ramekins.
Bake the custards for 1 hour to 11/2 hours - until the custard is set.
Allow to cool, then chill.
An hour or so before serving, cover the tops of the custards in demarara sugar (caster sugar also works, but I love the taste of brown sugar on top) and place under a grill until the sugar is browned.
Allow to cool before serving.
Works well with a fruit compoté or fresh fruit.