Eating Melbourne in three days – Books for Cooks

This blog entry is part of a series. Read Part 1 here.

As chance would have it, two doors down from Gertrude Street Enoteca sits a bookshop. Standing infront, window shopping, a realisation came over me. This is no ordinary bookshop. Every single book or poster in the window is about food. A quick glance at the name and my dreams come true. A bookshop purely for the pleasures of cooking and food!

window shopping gives me a swift realisation

I ran inside, and I did not know where to look. Stacks upon stacks of books, all calling out to me, whispering sweet nothings into my ear. I was like a foody kid in a Valrhona store. A quick chat to the owner told me that Books for Cooks has been open for around 10 years now. I made a joke about finding somewhere that had more cook books than I did, and was quickly shot down even further, told that there were two other rooms packed full of books!

Another room full of books

There also was going to be another shipment of books coming in soon. The great thing about Books for Cooks is that they have a mail order service, and you can send them an email to check if they have your favourite book. So if you are in the market for a specialist food book (as I often am), which is rare, or out of print, get in contact, and they should be able to sort you out!

And another room full of books

Books for Cooks
233-235 Gertrude Street
VIC 3065
T: 61 3 8415 1415

Eating Melbourne in three days – Gertrude Street Enoteca Review

This blog entry is part of a series. Read Part 1 here.

The Gertrude Street Enoteca
229 Gertrude St, Fitzroy 3065 VIC, Phone: (03) 9415 8262

View of Gertrude Street Enoteca from with my back to the courtyard

Leaving the hotel and heading right, a 2 minute walk will get you to Gertrude Street Enoteca.
The word enoteca is Italian. Breaking down the word, you will see that it sounds like biblioteca (library) , having the suffix “teca” in common which means case or box. The “eno” prefix refers to wine, and so, putting 1 and 1 together, we have a wine library.

enjoying my coffee!

Unfortunately, it was only 10 am, and I did not feel the need to start loading up with wine, regardless of the setting. So Elaine and I ordered coffee and cake, kicked back and enjoyed the surrounds. The coffee was fantastic, and the cakes fresh and tasty, and oh how good it was to have real cream with real vanilla seeds dispersed throughout, slightly sweetened with some caster sugar. We both agreed that even though the chocolate hazelnut torte was extremely good, the lemon cake won hands down. There is nothing like a simple, buttery cake, a small side of cream to make the heart happy.

hazelenut and chocolate torte (front) and lemon cake (back)
with gertrude street in background

Try Gertrude Street Enoteca for a light lunch, or come for dinner where there is a limited menu with usually some form of meat (a bird or something similar). The focus is on local produce, and you can buy some hampers. The floor stocks some nice local products, but the room is tiny, so be early, or try to book.

Eating Melbourne in three days – Introduction

Since I’ve arrived to Australia in 2001, I’ve had the chance to see the food scene in Sydney blossom and grow in inverse proportion to the size of foam bubbles in cappuccinos. Getting a good feed around here is getting easier by the day, what with all the fantastic chefs we have opening new restaurants and seducing us with thoughtful, concentrated and enticing menus. However, if you follow this blog, you would agree if I said that it is not my habit to review restaurants (not online anyway). So in the coming few entries, you will see this change somewhat. My trip to Melbourne has injected me with tonnes of excitement, and my camera is packed with some delicious photos. But let me step back first, and make it clear that my intention is not review Melbourne’s restaurants, but rather share an amazing weekend away. The restaurants I’ll be discussing are integral to my experience, as they were the focal point, and if it the place was not worth it, I am not going to include it.
April 26th 2008: Lainy and I have just tied the knot, and are in the hotel waiting to catch a cab to the airport, for a 4 week culinary journey to Japan and France. All cashed up with the generosity of friends and family and about to have the best month of our lives.
April 24th 2009: One year later and Lainy has not left me yet! Hurrah! This year, the trip will be domestic, and Melbourne is the destination. Sydney’s top foodie (and I mean that honestly, but no name dropping here) had provided me with tailor made lists of restaurants that are a must for our trip, but the main reason why Melbourne is the city of choice was simple: Greg Malouf. A few months back, I was reading through Greg’s fine book, Saha. I can not stress the importance of this book enough. This is a unique travel log by one of Australia’s finest, documenting the impressions and emotions that the food cultures of Lebanon and Syria can impart on a man whose mind is ready to take it all in, and draw and mix those experiences with the expert eye and knowledge of a master chef. And it was as I was reading through that I decided to email Greg and express my admiration. Unbelievably, Greg answered my email, and extended an invitation for me to visit him at his Melbourne restaurant MoMo. Greg had only recently reopened MoMo and there was a lack of literature on this new venture, so I was not sure what to expect, but I knew one thing, it was going to be worth the trip to Melbourne. And boy was it worth it! Now, I don’t want to jump ahead of myself, so let me list down the places that I will be covering in the next few posts.

Gertrude Street Enoteca
Books for Cooks
MoVida Next Door
• MoMo

Following a friend’s suggestion, and gratifying my well loved hatred for hotels, we decided to base ourselves in arty Fitzroy, in a little Victorian bed and breakfast called the Brooklyn Arts Hotel:, 48-50 George St Fitzroy Melbourne, Australia
Telephone +61 3 94199328

Our room at The Brooklyn Arts Hotel

This cool little space is run by Maggie who is possibly the friendliest person you will ever meet, so if you are ever in Fitzroy, make sure you stay there. The hotel has a very communal feel to it, very befitting the area of Fitzroy, which is very similar to Newtown, with the difference that you can get some fine tipple even at cafe’s, which are abundant. So, for a morning coffee, having just arrived from the airport, first on our list is Gertrude Street Enoteca.

Orange and Blossom Cordial

Homemade cordial calls back to my childhood, and mom made the best. Dad would come back with boxes full of oranges, which he would have picked up from the local growers, and mom, knowing that there was no way we would get through them, would start the “mooneh”. The word mooneh translates to “supplies”, but is most usually used to indicate the larder, or the winter store with pickles, jams and of course cordials. My brother Fady was a big fan of mom’s thirst quenching cordial, of which she kept several bottles in the kitchen pantry. I remember walking into the kitchen and seeing Fady pull out a bottle from the pantry, pour some in a glass, and add some water straight from the tap, and in his haste, he downed it all without stirring. Before I could say anything, Fady spat out the lot. Those of you who know Fady, know he is a bit like Emile, the gluttonous brother from Ratatouille. Fady had taken a bottle of our own cold pressed, unfiltered olive oil and downed the contents. I have not let him forget that story.

This weekend we went for an Easter visit to Lainy’s parents, who own a fantastic plot of land in Picton, NSW. I’ve tried to grow some vegetable there before, but our visits were not frequent enough, and the land itself needed some serious work, so the yield was low. There are, however, some old fruitful trees that are in desperate need of being taken care of. One of which is a loquat tree (my favourite) which self seeded in the same month I met Lainy, and we take that as a “sign”. Another one is a sorry looking orange tree, around a meter and a half tall, but with fantastic yield. My in-laws are not big fans of this tree, and I have difficulty convincing them that the oranges should be eaten, rather than let go to waste. So I picked some oranges and brought them home with me. I also picked some of the orange blossoms in order to infuse them in my cordial.

orange blossoms from Picton

So once I got home, I cordially recruited Ludwig’s help (as he had made the last batch of lime cordial). The recipe could not be any simpler than this:

4 cups of orange juice
8 cups of boiling water
10 orange blossoms
1.5 kg of sugar (yep!)
1 tsp citric acid (from the supermarket)
The rind of 3 lemons

Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, infuse the lemon rind and the orange blossoms for 10 minutes. Add the orange juice and citric acid and stir, making sure all the sugar has dissolved. It’s now ready to go, so add some water as desired, and plenty of ice! And it tastes so good, especially with the orange blossoms having infused in there. Very Lebanese!

The finished product, orange and blossom cordial

Congratulations to Trish

This morning, my friend Trish became a published author, with her article on baking for Greek Easter taking the cover position in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living publication.

Check out Trish’s article here, and you can also see her blog here.

Congratulations Trish!!!

You say tomato, I say tomato

I wonder how you can actually write that in a way that makes sense: you say tomato, I say tomato. Hehe.

Anyway, yeah, just wanted to share some action shots with some beautiful heritage tomatoes growing in my backyard. Are they not beautiful?

Tonno Di Coniglio – Rabbit Like Tuna

I doubt that any serious food lover has not heard of the very respectable Matthew Fort. If you haven’t seen him gain weight by judging on the Great British Menu, providing enthusiastic and insightful feedback, you may have seen him with on the slightly less exciting Market Kitchen. Matthew is also the Food and Drink editor for The Guardian and is the author of several books, one of which I own – Eating Up Italy, Voyages on a Vespa.

Now, I remember some years back seeing our main man on Rick Stein’s Food Heroes (if memory serves). Rick visited Matthew for lunch, and Matthew was showing off an Italian specialty he called Tuna Rabbit. The texture of the rabbit was supposed to have some how been transformed to that of tuna. To me, that was interesting! I can’t explain why it stuck with me, the idea of flaky rabbit in olive oil. The issue was, when Matthew opened up the tuna rabbit batch, it had grown moldy and hairy. So I never got to see how it looked like, but I trusted that if Matthew Fort raved as much about it, it must be good.

Sage and garlic play a big role in this 4 ingredient recipe

So, I pick up Matthew’s aforementioned book two days ago, and flipping through, what do I find? A good recipe for Farro soup, Sfarrata. I also find the recipe for Tonno Di Coniglio subtitled Rabbit like Tuna. Matthew had this dish at a restaurant called Cascina Martini. He describes it as the inland version of tuna in oil and as being typical of the cooking of the people of Monferrato, which, having little access to seafood and finding canned tuna too expensive, came up with this dish. The recipe is quite simple and is as follows:

1 rabbit
20-30 sage leaves
20 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

The finished product, ready to get into the fridge for 3 days

The rabbit must be cut and simmered in salt water until it’s ready to fall off the bones, at least 45 mins. Drain the rabbit and pull the flesh off the bones while the meat is still warm. Layer an earthenware container (use one with a small radius to save on olive oil) with rabbit seasoned with salt and pepper and topped with garlic cloves and sage, in at least 3 layers, seasoning each layer individually. Cover with olive oil put in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. Serve on a bed of rice or some slightly bitter chicory leaves.

I am still waiting for the rabbit to mature in the fridge, and I’ll add some action shots of the dish itself when I decide what to do with it. But the picture looks delicious no?

Sujuk – from Armenia to Lebanon and to the land down under

OK. This is not here just to save face value. I have neglected you. I’m sorry. But hey, I’m back now. Let’s just move on.

I was showing a colleague some blog pix back in December and her comment was: How do you expect people to follow your blog if you haven’t updated in a week… Truth of the matter is, I don’t really expect people to follow my blog. The fact that I have a few visitors each month is taking me continuously by surprise. A recent comment on my blog was chasing me up for a task I had set myself in the first ever post. I obviously have not done any entries on Lebanese breakfasts. But, after a visit to Emma’s on Liberty, I had the chance to get reacquainted with an old favourite: Sujuk. Before I get stuck in, I want to make it clear, this is not a post for the sake of posting. This is the real deal, a full subject matter, so let’s dig in.

Red Sujuk Stockings, probably great for Christmas, with black Sujuk in the background

Lebanon has a fantastic Armenian community who have enriched our cuisine and with whom we have co-contributed to much cross-cultural osmosis. Our fellow Armenians have had a presence in Lebanon for centuries, but the major influx was during the Ottoman empire’s Armenian genocide in 1915 – a very sad event.

But Armenians are a strong and positive people, and they persevered well, and integrated into the Lebanese society where they now have representatives in the parliament. An area of major concentration is Bourj Hammoud, and there you will find some of the best sujuk ever.

All cut up and frying, with no oil.

So sujuk, it turns out, is a semi-dry, spicy sausage that crosses cultural boundaries. It can be found in more or less similar form in Macedonia, Greece, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Armenia. The version familiar to me is the latter, and after the visit to Emma’s, I wanted more. Emma’s version of this Armenian specialty is pure authenticity. What left me hanging is the mean, upsettingly small portion.

My recipe based on a traditional version with plenty of onions and fresh tomatoes, made smokey by the sujuk slices

Normally, I would seek sausages out at the butcher’s. This particular one however, has an alcoholic ingredient (red wine or arak) which means none of the Lebanese butchers I know would make it, alcohol being a forbidden ingredient by Islam. So, determined to make my own, I looked around the net for resources and found several. So I took the best bits of all the recipes, and came up with my own. It turns out there are two types of sujuk – red and black. Red sujuk contains red wine and has paprika as a main ingredient, which gives it its color. Black sujuk depends on pepper for spice, with the aniseed hit coming from Arak (the macho Lebanese cousin of ouzo or pastis). Beware, you will be stuffing the meat in freshly bought single legged ladies stockings. So here is how you make it:

Red Sujuk
1 Kilo fatty beef mince (or half beef, half lamb)
1/4 cup finely minced garlic
2 tsp salt
2 Heaped Tablespoons Sweet Paprika
2 Heaped Tablespoons Smokey Paprika
1 Heaped Tablespoon Fenugreek spice
1 Heaped Tablespoon Cumin
1 Heaped Tablespoon Black Pepper, the fine powder type, not the fresh cracked.
1/2 cup of Red Wine, nothing too expensive

Black Sujuk
1 Kilo fatty beef mince (or half beef, half lamb)
1/4 cup finely minced garlic
2 tsp salt
1 hpd tbsp white pepper
1 hpd tbsp black pepper
1 hpd tbsp cinnamon
1 hpd tbsp cumin
1 hpd tbsp allspice
1/2 cup arak

  1. Mince all ingredients together for your chosen color in a mincer (or in a food processer).
  2. Stuff meat nicely in clean stockings and make sure the meat is nice and uniform.
  3. Hang meat for 3 to 5 days at room temperature, less if hot, more if cold.

So, of course, after a week, I had to get everyone over for a sujuk festival.

Stuffed soujouk foccaccia, pre-oven

To cook the sujuk, you need only slice it and fry it dry in a frying pan. The amount of fat within is sufficient to fry it nicely.

For the foccaccia, I used a basic recipe with mozzarella, parmesan, semi-dried tomatoes and sujuk.

The following are questions I had in my mind
1- Is this safe? Should I be hanging meat in the garage? A – Yeah, come on!
2- Will it rot? A – You won’t know unless you try. My batch didn’t rot
3- Will it dry up? A – Yep, slightly, and it becomes harder on the outside, which makes it easy to slice
4- Will it drip as it hangs? A – No
5- How do I know if it has gone bad? A – Evidently, it will smell bad, but the alcohol and salt should preserve it well.

The stuffed foccaccia as an end result.

So, what do I think? Fantastic result, and everyone loved it. None was left over, so that’s cool… I had to buy a few books about sausage making as a result, but that’s another post for another time.


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