As you can see, The Food Blog has been redesigned. My brother Fady, a seriously talented graphic designer who I’ve been hassling for years, has finally sorted me out with a brand spanking new look.
Do you like the new look and feel? I would love to know what you think.
Please leave a comment or send me an email letting me know your thoughts and feedback.
Have you ever been to Silvas in Petersham? Man, that place serves up some mean Portuguese. It’s so my kind of place – loud, straight to the point, big flavours and seriously good food. I love almost everything they’ve got. From espetada, those vertical skewers studded with large hunks of beef partnered with squares of golden fried polenta, to barbecued Portuguese chicken, moist, garlicky, charred, hinting of chili. Then there’s this soft cuttlefish with a sauce of godknowswhat – I think it’s a reduction of soy and balsamic, but they won’t tell me. Oh and the sardines. Jesus. So simple, and so bloody good. There’s also pipis, one of those specials on the blackboard that never seem to disappear. A 5 year special I’d say. So good I can’t even explain. Though not as omnipresent at the tables of the large Portuguese families stuffing their faces with the awesomeness of charcoal grilled chicken, to me, it’s an equally convincing reason to hit the road and seek seafood salvation at Silvas.
Pipis are not commonly found on the menus of Sydney restaurants, are they? I hardly spot them, unless they’re smothered with X.O. sauce, in which case they also rock. I love these little molluscs. Gather them or buy them live. A kilo is a meal for two, or one. Steam them kindly or cook them gently with a half reduced cup of dry white wine like I did. Cover them until they open and then stop before they overcook. Make beurre blanc, but use garlic instead of shallots and stick with wine and lemon juice for acidity, forgoing the vinegar. Add roughly chopped parsley (to qualify the dish as rustic, of course). The cooking liqueur of the pipis is usually too gritty for me, so I discard that. Toss the cooked pipis in the beurre blanc and make sure you have plenty of bread to mop up the juices. Or just go to Silva’s and order the pipis special. I’d wager a bet it’s still there.
P.S. Merry Christmas! Hope this year has been kind to you, your family and friends. My thoughts and prayers go to my own good friend Steve Shaw. I hope the new year sees your recovery. We love you Stevo!
I’ve been recording many segments on Middle-Eastern food for SBS, and they’ve started putting them on the SBS website, which is very exciting.
Unlike most of my previous interviews, these ones are in English, and if I may say so myself, they are very interesting.
It would be great if you could go and have a listen, and possibly leave a comment. It will encourage SBS to extend my contract, and that will support me in my coming days of unemployment 🙂
NOTE: These are audio interviews. The SBS website is somewhat counter-intuitive, so look for the play button under the heading “Listen”.
I hate the Chinese and how clever they are. Fried rice. Bastards. For centuries, Lebanese mothers have been force-feeding their children all the rice cooked for the meal in fear of it going stale. While the Lebanese grew fat with gavage, the Chinese ate reasonably sized meals, saving the rice for the day after. Stale rice is a necessary backbone of fried rice, and when done well, it is pure joy.
There it was, a bowl of stale, plainly cooked basmati, flavoured with Iranian saffron; sitting in the fridge, waiting to be eaten with a dollop of yoghurt – might sound good to you, but in reality, it’s more boring than you imagine. Rice doesn’t survive a nuclear reheating as well as one would hope. Take a lesson from the Chinese. A bit of onion and garlic, a can of chickpeas and some beef mince, caramalised in a wok. A Lebanese teaspoon or two of each cumin and cinnamon, and a touch of chilli – toss the rice in, coat it well. Shred some poached chicken breast and scatter on top with some fried almonds; a stir-fry worthy of an emperor. Rozz a’ djej (rice with chicken), this Chinese remake of the Lebanese classic is still best eaten with a fork.
Are you sick of my pistachio packed posts? I don’t blame you, but really, this is a follow up on my obsessive post on Bronte pistachio paste, so bear with me and you will learn the easiest way to make ice cream, ever.
Now that I had finally experienced what a jar of pistachio paste from Bronte tastes like (bloody amazing), I seriously needed to do something about the low supply situation. A visit to my Greenacre-based Lebanese green grocer Abu Salim provided a good kilo of roasted unsalted pistachios for $15.00. I wouldn’t call us a perfectionist race, but when it comes to roasting nuts, the Lebanese are masters – they get it so right. The nuts were wonderful; the roasting concentrated and amplified their flavour brilliantly.
After shelling for an evening, thumbs sore with pain from the odd stubborn pistachio that refused to open, I ended up with a good amount to try making my paste. I was aiming for a smooth paste, and I knew my food processor was not up to the task. A quick tweet and the incredibly generous Mr Franz Scheurer was quick to donate his time and his Thermomix (what would have cost me $2000 to buy).
I wanted to create a pistachio paste that I could use in desserts, one that could have a decent lifespan, so I decided not to follow the ingredients of my jar of Bronte pistachio paste and instead omitted the milk. The paste would last longer, and I could add milk when I needed.
To create a good paste, I blitzed the pistachios along with some glucose and created an emulsification with grape seed oil. You could use any neutral oil. I didn’t take measurements and went with feel and taste. I stopped when the pistachios tasted slightly sweet and the paste was smooth enough for me (a bit of coarse meal is fine). The consistency needs to be slightly runnier than peanut butter. I went home and mixed in some cream with a small sample to test out the flavour and the gates of heaven opened and I heard a sweet song, and a choir or angels called out to me. Seriously, it was that good.
It is worth mentioning that if you want to make pistachio paste for ice cream, you may as well add some water into the blender to make the paste smoother. That way, you wouldn’t need a Thermomix, because with that much liquid, your food processor should do the trick. If you do add water, make sure you omit it from the recipe below.
The Ice Cream
I was aiming for a custard based ice cream, but as luck would have it, Jules from The Stone Soup posted a churn-free, machine-free lemon ice cream recipe. It looked incredibly simple, and I decided to give it a go. The basic idea is that by increasing the amount of sugar, ice crystals do not form. Jules folds lemon juice and icing sugar into whipped cream and simply freezes the lot for 6 hours. I did the same, but substituted pistachio paste for the lemon juice, and added some water to dissolve the sugar. The result was a beautiful. pistachio green ice cream with the texture of semifreddo, light, airy and delicious. I urge you wholeheartedly to try making ice cream this way. It is so simple – 5 minutes and you’re done, and it tastes ridiculously good.
The Recipe (adapted from The Stone Soup’s Lemon Ice Cream)
300 ml whipping cream
200 grams icing sugar
4 heaped tablespoons (or to taste) of pistachio paste, prepared as mentioned above
Whip the cream until soft peaks form
Mix icing sugar and pistachio paste and 1/3 cup of water until smooth (omit water if already used in paste preparation)
Fold the pistachio and sugar into the cream until evenly distributed
Whip the cream again until it gets to soft peak stage once more
Freeze for 6 hours or overnight