Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A long absence

I had been received messages reminding me of my blog, so here I am again.
I have been quite busy since February doing a few things like experimenting with Western dishes, producing sauces, organizing a few parties and a very special catering job in Stradbroke Island for the Australian Institute of Architects.
Brit, my architect friend asked me to cater for the architects two years ago and  since they really enjoyed my after conference dinner, this May she again asked me to cater for their after conference retreat at  Stradbroke Island, but  instead of just dinner I had to provide 5 meals: lunch, cocktail nibbles, dinner, breakfast and morning tea.
It was lucky that Marshall, the owner of “Headlands Chalet (tel. +61 7 3409 8252) managed to accommodate most of the guests and he allowed me to stay at “the cottage” and to use his commercial kitchen to prepare all the meals, while my two close friends Barbara and Pauli offered to help me with the catering as long as we had time for a few games of Shanghai in between services. and we did manage that.
The architects came from different countries (Australia, India, Japan, England, South Africa and Spain so our menus offered were eclectic to suit all tastes.
For lunch we made laksa noodle soup and spicy pinot noir poached pears, which I like to thank Anthony Bourdain for his guidance.  For cocktail nibbles we  made crispy roast kumara  with guacamole, grilled beef wrapped in wild pepper leaves and a selected  Tasmanian cheese platter. We made angel hair with exotic mushrooms, duck in spicy orange sauce, green papaya salad with roasted sesame, black rice pudding with strawberry and ice cream for dinner.  We offered fresh tropical fruit, Spanish omelet, toasts, jam, juice, tea and coffee for breakfast and cucumber sandwiches and orange and almond cake for morning tea.
Pauli is an expert in Spanish fares so he was in charge of the omelet and Barbara, a master baker made the cakes.  
The young architects also helped with setting and cleaning up after.
We were happy that the guests fully appreciated our work.
Barbara the master baker

Pauli peeling potatoes for Spanish omelet

Laksa ready to go

Spanish omelet

The Chalet's dining room

I am not sure if many of you knows about Marshall's Headland Chalet, let me tell you it is the closest to paradise on earth, if one does not expect the run of the mill 5 star hotel services and facilities. The Chalet consists of 11 rooms, some with double bed, some with 2 single beds each room has its own drink fridge and hand basin, most rooms have ocean view, a 2 bedrooms cottage with a double bed, two single beds, a kitchenette and bathroom, it has full view of Main beach. The daily room rates are very reasonable: $70.00 (Monday- Thursday), $75.00 (Friday-Sunday), while the cottage rate is $150.00 (Monday-Thurday); $200.00 (Friday-Sunday) . The share bathrooms have showers and toilet facilities.  Guests can either swim at the Chalet painted in ground swimming pool and relax in the tropical cabana or walk a short distance to various secluded beaches. There is also basic cooking facility for guests.
The Chalet

Main beach from the Chalet's Cottage

The Chalet's terrace

Chalet's room no.6

Sea gull on Main Beach

A lot of requests for the recipes of poached pears , and here it is
Spicy pinot noir poached pears
8 small perfect shaped pears with stems intact (Packhams, Williams, Bosc, Corella)
1bottle of good pinot noir
250g palm sugar
16 black peppercorns
8 star anises
2 cinnamon quills.
16 whole cloves
Empty the wine into a wide shallow saucepan (to fit 8 pears in one layer standing up side by side). Add sugar and all apices. Stir to mix then bring to boil , lower the heat to simmering. Peel the pears leave stem intact, level the bottom so pears can stay upright. Make sure the pears are slightly submerged in the wine solution.
Simmer gently until the pears are soft and coloured.
Careful remove the pears with a slotted spoon and arrange each pear standing up in a deep dessert plate.
Continue simmering the wine until it is thick enough to coat the spoon.
Strain the sauce evenly on each pear. Discard the spices.
Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to each pear and serve immediately

This year is my 50th years living in Australia, so I decided to learn how to make pies, which was my stable food during my student days in Sydney.
I started with a beef and burgundy pie and went on with fish pies and seafood pies. Now I think I know how to make a good tasty pie of any kind.
I read Angela Lawson recipes for fish pie as a guidance  and I made mine with a few personal touches.  I did not like too much pastry so all my pies ended up as potpies.
Seafood potpies:
To make 6 pie-pots
Notes : there are 4 components  in this recipes :
1. Poaching stock:
1 bouquet garni    (2 bay leaves, 3 sprigs of flat leaves parsley, 3 sprigs of thyme)
300ml white wine
300ml water
1 carrot (Peel and cut into small rounds )
2 peeled whole golden shallots
Mix wine and water in a pot, add salt, bouquet garni, carrots and shallots . Bring to boiling then simmer gently for 5 minutes, remove from heat and let it cool down.
2. poached seafood:
400g white fish fillet(Ling, snapper, blue  eye cod….)
400g Skinned Tasmanian Salmon fillet
400g king prawn meat
½ lemon
300ml fresh cream
Cut the fish into 2cmX1cm pieces. Keep the seafood in separate plate,  squeeze  lemon over them.
Bring the poaching stock just to boiling, first poach the white fish for 2 minutes, remove fish with slotted spoon. Then poach the salmon for 1 minute, remove with slotted spoon then poach the prawn for 2minutes, remove with slotted spoon.
Reduce stock to half  
Strain the stock  into a measuring cup  keep the bouquet garni with the stock. Add cream to make 600ml.
3. White sauce with leek
50mls olive oil
1tbspn butter
1 leek, discarded green part. Cut into thin rounds, washed well and drain.
4 tbspns plain flour
600ml. stock with cream, discard bouquet garni
Salt & pepper to taste.
 Heat oil and butter in a heavy saucepan, add leek, fry  until soft and translucent. Add flour, stir to mix and  to cook the flour.  Add stock, gently stir and cook until sauce thicken, season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Assemblage of potpies:
6 small potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with 60g butter
Poached seafood
White sauce with leek
2tbspn finely chopped dill
3 sheets of short crust pastry or puff pastry (I used commercial made pastry), but if you like to make your own  with flour, lard & iced water it could be better)
6 medium oven proof ceramic bowls.
1 beaten egg
Cut 6 circles of pastry to cover the bowls, with ½ cm overlap
Arrange poached seafood equally among the 6 bowls
Sprinkle over with dill.
Pour 100ml  white sauce over
Cover with mash potato evenly then seal the bowl with pastry with a small rosette flu, glaze with beaten egg.
Bake in 180C pre heat oven until golden. (about 20mns)

I tested this pies 3 times with 2 groups of diners and they all like it.  But be careful, it is extremely hot.

Salmon being poached 

Poached snapper

Prepared Leek

Poached prawns

Seafood potpies dinner party

Seafood potpie

Besides making food  and organized farewell parties to friends going North to avoid the Brisbane unusual cold winter I also dig out the vegetable patch filled it with new organic garden soil and plant in new lettuces, beats, mizuna, coriander, dill, thyme, basil and chili.  It looked so beautiful. Unfortunately the possums discovered the new food supply, so I have been busy trying various strategies to protect the seedlings, but then the poor possums need to eat as well.

The vegetable patch for... the possums

As for me, while I was wondering how to celebrate my 50th year in Australia, my friend Athol asked me to go to New York with him to see the Sydney Theatre production of  Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, so we are going there next Sunday. After 10 days in New York  I will be visiting my family in Virginia, Florida, Minnesota and Montreal  and will be back by mid August.
May be I will have some interesting to post.

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