Croquembouche challenge

I’ll happily admit it, I’m a MasterChef fan and although, sometimes I roll my eyes at how contrived it all seems, I still enjoy watching the contestants grow from great cooks to fantastic cooks. I enjoy watching them take on challenges that I fear would make me fall to the floor in a blubbering mess. With this in mind, I set about giving myself the challenge of the croquembouche. Da da dahhhhh…

DSC02992We were catching up with friends to celebrate two July birthdays, a ‘welcome to the world’ baby and pre-wedding party. Four celebrations that were worthy of a croquembouche challenge! The key to getting it done is definitely confidence although I did have my assistant Al on hand to help with the caramel dipping and the tower building which I was most afraid of.

DSC02988When piping the choux pastry, make a big effort to get them consistent in size as this will really help when assembling them in the cone. Our final product was a little lopsided but, thankfully, it did still stand up on its own.

I halved the MasterChef recipe as I didn’t fancy making 100 choux pastry balls and I hired a 42 cm cone from our local Kitchenware Megastore for $10 with a $200 refundable deposit.

DSC02982Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make 50 choux balls and enough creme patissiere to fill them. This amount was enough to feed 12 dessert hungry people.

Choux pastry:

  • 200 g butter
  • 10 g sugar
  • 265 ml full cream milk
  • 10 g salt
  • 210 ml water
  • 265 g plain flour
  • 8 eggs

Crème patissiere:

  • 540 ml full cream milk
  • 1 vanilla beans, split, seeds scraped
  • 220 g egg yolks (about 12 egg yolks)
  • 220 g caster sugar
  • 90 g corn flour
  • 90 g butter, diced, softened

Caramel:

  • 500 g white sugar
  • 150 ml water
  • 200 ml liquid glucose

Follow the MasterChef method here to make each of the individual components. Finally, don’t be afraid to take the caramel to the edge of burning. As some of you may know, burnt caramel is one of my favourite flavours plus this will ensure the whole dessert isn’t too sweet. DSC02993As I had to transport my creation to the party I didn’t decorate with the spun sugar.

IMG_2055This is me grinning like a Cheshire cat with my leaning tower of croquembouche. Yes, it was cold, hence my furry hat!

So, the moral of this story is, take the baking challenge, you might just surprise yourself.

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Best suburban BYO, Cinco

Cinco is one of those suburban restaurants that I’ve driven past countless times over the years. I’ve never given it more than a passing thought and in fact, if you go to the website, as I did recently, you’d be forgiven for dismissing it as a possible choice for a celebratory dinner with friends. The website certainly doesn’t reflect the unstated elegance of Cinco or the high standard of food we experienced.

After making a list of nine CBD contenders, Miss P and I decided on going local and giving Cinco at Camp Hill a try, based on the menu and the fact that it had just won ‘best suburban BYO restaurant’ at the Qld Good Food Awards.

Woo hoo! We felt like we’d won gold. Good company and good wine aside, the food and service was spectacular.

For starters we ordered the sizzling olives ($8) and a serve of empanadas (4 for $16) with Pebre sauce (a Chilean condiment made of coriander, chopped onion, olive oil, garlic and ground or pureed spicy peppers). The olives were moreish and the empanadas, deep-fried, were crunchy but not oily with a slightly spicy beef filling.

The much anticipated entrees were packed with flavour and all beautifully presented. After tasting each dish I had trouble deciding on my favourite but I think the fried goats cheese would be a dish I’d return for.

Salad of baby beetroot, fried goats cheese, candied walnuts, walnut cream and rye ($19).

DSC03009Jamon Serrano, grilled figs, torn boccconcini, mint, pomegranite and grissini ($22).

DSC03008Gratin of sand crab and bug, garlic, chilli, tomato and basil hollandaise ($23).

DSC03010Goat pie with pine nuts, dates, pickled radish and rose yoghurt ($22).

DSC03007Yes, we ate a lot of food, probably too much food, but it was so good. Seriously, Cinco does really tasty food.

For mains we ordered grilled Barramundi, artichokes, chorizo vinigrette and opal basil ($36), braised rabbit leg, Jerusalem artichoke, mushroom ragout and rabbit ravilolo ($36), Kurobuta pork belly, grilled onion, leek, rhubarb and pepper sauce ($38) and Cape Grim eye fillet, field mushroom, potato puree, spinach and oxtail sauce ($39). Because we couldn’t resist we also ordered sides of pumpkin with yoghurt sauce ($10) and the ancient grains salad ($12).

Usually I’m no slouch when it comes to ordering dessert but I very nearly did pass until I noticed pomegranate jelly with rose cream, fig, pistachio and meringue ($15). You had me at pomegranate! This dessert delivered on so many levels. Very cleverly constructed with each mouthful delivering a surprise in flavour and texture.

DSC03026We also had to try the hot pear fritters with walnut and cinnamon parfait ($15). Miss P claimed this was probably the best dessert she’d ever eaten. Now, that’s a big call. The hot fritter was perfectly cooked, light and crunchy on the outside, it went beautifully with the parfait which was smooth, with a good hit of walnut and cinnamon flavour

DSC03022A bonus for wine lovers, Cinco is BYO but if you forget your favourite drop, you can always select from a comprehensive list of wines.

The name Cinco (which means five), was chosen by owner Peter Stubbs, to represent the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water, all of which are essential to cooking, as well as achieving balance and harmony in life according to the principles of Feng Shui. In my books, it also represents five stars. How lucky are the people of Camp Hill to have this gem on their doorstep? Very lucky indeed.

Cinco

Dinner Tuesday – Saturday 6pm
Lunch Thursday – Friday 12pm

589 Old Cleveland Road
Camp Hill
Phone (07) 3843 6666

July noodle nights

Apparently Brisbane loves night noodle markets. By 5.30pm on opening night, the Southbank forecourt, adjacent to the big wheel, was filling up with hungry diners looking for Asian flavours and fun.

Part of Brisbane Good Food month, the noodle markets are a great opportunity to sample some of Brisbane’s best Asian fare. We started with some mouth-watering yakitori from Birds Nest, followed by tasty little gyozas from Zagyoza, The home of Gyoza and finished up with buns from The Bun Mobile, cause it’s very hard to walk past and not want a bun!

There are plenty of cool places to sit and enjoy the beautiful Brisbane skyline and take in what is a very family friendly atmosphere.

Restaurants participating in the night noodle markets: Bang Bang Pop Up, Birds Nest Yakitori, Chitty Banh Banh, Fat Noodle, Harajuku Gyoza, ii-na Japanese Food, Japanese Pizza Okonomi House , Lets Do Yum Cha, Longrain, Mamak, Mini Pancakes, New Shanghai, Passion Tree, Peng You, Saigon Alley Cafe Vietnamese Street Food, Sake Restaurant, Sendok Garpu Authentic Indonesian Food , Serendipity Ice Cream & Sorbet, Spanthai, Taro’s Ramen & Cafe, The Bun Mobile, Zagyoza, The Home Of Gyoza.

A great place to meet up with friends, the Night Noodle Markets operate every evening until Sunday July 27, starting at 5pm weeknights and 4pm on weekends.

Cash only.

Ribs & Burgers

After a morning outing to see the beautifully filmed ‘Yves Saint Laurent’ (highly recommend, if you like art house films) Mrs A, Miss Moo and myself should have been in the mood for a sophisticated French lunch but no, what did we choose, burgers! Something about the smell that drew us in as we walked out of the Palace Cinemas in James Street.

It was my first visit to Ribs & Burgers and I liked it, a lot. It was fresh, fast and they serve wine in a tumbler. That took Mrs A and I straight back to the 1980s when we frequently drank (not very good wine) out of a glass.

I enjoyed the mini burgers, one beef, one chicken, served with well seasoned crunchy chips ($16). Both were moist with a particularly good tasting sauce and the buns were light and soft. Mrs A went with the Italian style feather steak, a tenderised grain-fed sirloin, seared, seasoned and dressed with olive oil, lemon and herbs ($17). The steak really was tender and succulent. Miss Moo had the cheese burger ($12) and surprised herself by finishing it all.

Together with a side of crunchy onion rings ($5) and a cabbage salad with chopped apple, roasted pinenuts, fresh mint, seasoned with olive oil and lemon ($6) we were full up to kitty’s bow, fueled and ready for some post lunch shopping.

Ribs & Burgers

Centro on James, 39 James St, Fortitude Valley

 

 

The Catbird Seat Bistro

I know it’s shallow of me but to be honest what hooked me was the name, The Catbird Seat Bistro. Once I realised that owner/chef was James Guldberg (formerly of Piaf, The Sardine Tin and Aquitaine Brasserie) I was smitten as a kitten and eager to go check it out.

First to the name, the term ‘the catbird seat’ is a phrase used to describe an enviable position, often in terms of having the upper hand or greater advantage in all types of dealings among parties. According to the Oxford English Dictionary the first recorded usage occurred in a 1942 humorous short story by James Thurber titled The Catbird Seat.

DSC02969Now, onto the food.

I love a small menu and this one was exquisite. From tiny snacks to shared mains it would keep most diners very happy.

For starters I chose two items from the snacks menu; pork jowel, raspberry, provolone toast and smoked crispy egg, horseradish mayo (both $5). The tart raspberry was a lovely addition to the rich little toasts. The crispy egg was perfection but I would have loved a bigger hit of horseradish. Al chose the soup of the day from the entree menu, French Onion ($10). OMG! Perfectly balanced sweet and savoury. This dish of goodness hit all the right notes for both of us.

We very nearly went with the shared main of roasted free-range pork, purple carrots, mustard sauce and anise roasted apple ($50) but in the end Al went with the fish of day, Barra ($28) and I, predictably, went with the Siwa Fresh organic, free range slow braised goat, vintage carrols, poached quince, crisp onions ($27). The fish was beautifully cooked and the goat, married with the poached quince was melt in the mouth. Very happy diners.

DSC02959DSC02957DSC02961The huge bowl of well seasoned fries ($7) were also a hit.

For the sake of my readers 🙂 dessert is a must. It didn’t matter that I was full, I had to go the extra mile. Strawberries and cream, dark choc pudding with winter berries and mascarpone, fine apple and rhubarb strudel, caramel brandy sauce or petits fours (all $11). Dark choc pud, made to order, it was. While we waited chef presented us with the most gorgeous wooden jewel box full of precious little petits fours. Unexpected and so beautiful to look at, they tasted as good as they looked. Choc chilli, honeycomb, caramel, turkish delight, cardamon white chocolate, profiterole.

DSC02964The dark chocolate pudding was oozy and rich and delicious.

DSC02965The Catbird Seat Bistro is charming and quaint with modest European decor and a friendly atmosphere. It’s the kind of place you look forward returning to, best enjoyed, I think, with the one you love.

The Catbird Seat Bistro

2/888 Stanley Street East, East Brisbane

Ph: 07 3392 2645

Tues–Fri 11:00 am to 9:00 pm, Sat 7:00 am to late, Sun 7:00 am to 3:00 pm

 

 

 

Alfred & Constance

Alfred & Constance has a distinctively Queensland vibe. Maybe it’s the weatherboard house and the party lights but it just yells, “come in, relax, have a drink, EAT, enjoy our fun atmosphere and drink some more.”  So we did.

DSC02925DSC02913There was nothing on the menu that didn’t tempt me so I spent plenty of time considering the options. For starters do we go with the southern fried chicken drumsticks with bourbon caramel sauce ($15.90) or the flame grilled lamb cutlets with yoghurt, tahini and garlic sauce ($16.90 for two). In the end we chose the blue swimmer crab cakes with hot pink mayo ($15.90 for 2) and the crispy calamari with sweet paprika mayo ($14.90). Crab cakes that were actually filled with crab and not a filler and the most tender calamari I’ve had in a long time. It was a happy start.

Crab cakes and calamari starterI actually had a tougher time choosing a main. I really wanted to try the pig carved from the whole hog and served with apple sauce, crackling and skin on potatoes (250g $32) or the slow roasted pork belly with smokey cauliflower puree and roast pear ($29.90) but in the end I went with duck, something I rarely order. Duck served with braised leek, lentils and quince ($32.90). It was the combo of braised leek, lentils and quince that got me in the end. Al went healthy again (what is going on here) and had the Cone Bay barra with lemon and sea salt crust, kipfler potatoes and sugar snap peas ($32.90).

Barra

DuckAl’s fish dish was cooked perfectly and so pretty to look at with all of the fresh colours. After a mix-up with my main (I was served a beautiful looking bowl of gnocchi with roast pumpkin and walnuts ($27.90), the duck arrived and looked spectacular. It was a sweeter dish than I had anticipated, the quince, maybe a little overpowering for the leek and lentils but still a delicious flavour combo. Our side dish of sauteed peas, brussel sprouts, broccolini, bacon and pine nuts ($9) was a winner. I devoured most of this while waiting for my duckie.

Brussel sproutsFor a sweet ending we enjoyed the crepes with lemon curd and vanilla ice cream, a traditional sticky date pud (both $14.90) and a piccolo of Vittoria coffee.

A&C has a great atmosphere. The music is cool but not too loud so you can still talk without yelling. The service we experienced (thanks Cody) was thoughtful and friendly. There is plenty to look at (I especially liked the walk to the bathrooms) and the glow from the EAT sign. Check out the winter menu here, text your friends and go check it out!

 Open seven days a week. Monday-Friday 7am – late. Weekends 8am – late.

Corner Alfred & Constance Streets, Fortitude Valley.

Phone: (07) 3251 6500.

For the Love of Food dined as a guest of A&C and Lucid Media.

 

 

 

 

Shady Palms Cafe

After several failed attempts at visiting Shady Palms over the last six months, Al and I finally managed to visit for a Friday lunch catch-up with a friend.

Shady Palms, located at Stones Corner, is the second baby (first baby is café Lady Marmalade) of Mal and Bec, from My Kitchen Rules fame. Shady Palms is a cafe/bar serving up award-winning sandwiches or what I’d like to call brioche burgers (winner of best sandwich in Australia 2013 and the Riveta sandwich champion 2014). If you are watching your carb intake, they also do interesting options without brioche eg., salads and American style ribs and chicken.

Shady Palms is a warm, homely space made up of several dining areas with an eclectic array of furnishings and quirky touches such as the movie character table numbers. We got lucky with Ron Burgundy!

DSC02885We found a table in the back room, studied the menu and ordered at the front counter. Our meals arrived quickly and with a smile.

Al ordered the blackened jerk barra burger with smashed avo, remoulade, rocket and shaved zucchini served with plantain crisps ($18). It was fresh, tasty and healthy. I was confused.. “What, no bacon?”  Al replied, “I’m being healthy today”. Fair enough.

DSC02890I chose two of the four sliders available: pork belly, celeriac remoulade, apply chutney and Wagyu beef pattie with mushroom, rocket and mayo (two sliders for $11.50). The pork belly on the soft brioche bun was my favourite. The beef pattie was just a little dry.

DSC02893Our mate ordered the Shady Wagyu burger with provolone, sliced tomatillo, dill pickle, lettuce, onion, special sauce and battered onion rings ($15). Although I didn’t taste the burger, it looked juicy. I did taste the onion rings which were crunchy and just as onion rings should be.

We decided to order a dessert to share and this turned out to be the best decision of the day. The apple rhubarb crumble with toasted marshmallows and ginger ice-cream ($10.50) was sensational! Warm and comforting on a cool autumn day. It must have been a special cause it’s not on the menu on the website.

DSC02895The peanut butter and jelly deep fried ice-cream served with salted caramel is on the menu and I’m pretty sure I need to try that sometime in the near future. Although to be honest I think our next visit will be breakfast. The menu is inventive with some great flavour combos. For example, buttermilk hotcakes with roasted pineapple, ginger beer ice-cream, coconut and almond crumble and blackberry compote ($14.50). What? How good does that sound? Or maybe the Death Benedict is more your thing, pulled pork shoulder empanada’s, southern style grilled ham, crispy kale, poached eggs, tomato salsa and hollandise sauce ($18). Sweet or savoury, Shady Palms has it covered.

Shady Palms Cafe and Bar

427 Logan Rd, Stones Corner

Ph: 3324 2917