Friday, December 23, 2011


I don’t know about you, but at this point in the marathon of festivities, I’m ready for a good lie down. So this post will be almost as simple as the meal I made for friends this past Saturday gone. The starter was scallops, the main was salmon, and to round off a fine 2011, I said let there be (more) meringues. 
It’s hard to go astray when scallops are the first act, and raspberries are finally ever so briefly in season, but the richness of the starter and dessert means whatever you do for main, keep it simple, light, and definitely sans cream or any kind of heavy sauce.
The scallops are a classic, but just to make sure the method was correct, I referenced Neil Perry’s cookbook The Food I Love, by far my favourite cookbook of all time. His new one Rockpool Bar & Grill is available on the ipad as well as in print.

Pan-fried Scallops with Sage and Burnt Butter
Referencing Neil Perry’s The Food I Love
Serves 6
30 fresh sea scallops, roe off
sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
200g unsalted butter cut into small cubes
a handful of picked sage leaves (at least 24)
2 lemons cut into quarters
freshly ground pepper
Season the scallops with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil. Heat a heavy based frying pan on the stove until hot. Add the scallops and sear for 3 minutes or until showing some colour, and then turn over with tongs and sear for another 3 minutes.* 
Add the butter and the sage to the pan on a medium heat, and keep an eye on it until sizzling, and beginning to turn brown (the sage should be crispy). Pull off the heat.
Quickly divide the scallops onto 6 plates, season with salt and pepper. Pour the butter and sage over the scallops. Add a lemon quarter to the plate and serve.
*For the record Perry’s recipe says only sear the scallops for a minute on each side, but mine were nowhere near cooked, so it’s best to adjust according to the heat of your stovetop. I cook until they have some colour to make sure.

Meringues can be made earlier in the day, which will save you a lot of hassle. No one should attempt to whisk egg whites into stiff peaks whilst trying to hold up your end of an intelligent conversation.

Chocolate Meringues with Raspberries and Cream
Serves 6
4 egg whites from large organic eggs, at room temperature
A pinch of salt
240g of caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Dutch cocoa
To serve
150mlm thickened cream
1 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra to dust
1 punnet raspberries
Preheat the oven to 150C and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Separate your eggs, and place the egg whites in a large bowl (it’s vital the bowl is clean and dry otherwise the egg whites won’t aerate). Add a pinch of salt, and then with a whisk or an electric beater start beating the egg whites slowly. They should start to froth up and thicken after about a minute. Increase speed and beat until they form stiff peaks. Then add one tablespoon of sugar at a time, whisking after each one, and beating continually until you have thick, glossy white meringue. Add the vanilla extract and whisk in. Fold in the sifted cocoa.
On your tray, spoon 6 even apple-sized mounds of meringue spaced well apart so they can spread while they cook. Place the tray on the middle shelf of the oven and lower the heat to 120C. Cook for 50 minutes and then turn the oven off and leave them in there until they’re cooled (this prevent them from cracking).  
Whip the cream and icing sugar together. Dollop a generous serving of cream on each meringue and scatter the raspberries over the top. Dust with icing sugar.
As I type, summer has made its first belated appearance in Sydney, just in time for the Christmas weekend. Blue skies, actual summery shimmery heat. So off to the beach I go. I hope you all have a lovely holiday season, and thanks for reading and sharing this year.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Why, hello. I've been in New York, hence the silence of late. But I wanted to get a post up before the beginning of the Christmas season (yikes).

Above is a view of Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and this is the park in Dumbo (an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). 
Manhattan was work, Brooklyn Heights was play. Stately brownstones, cobblestone streets named Willow, Poplar, Pineapple and Orange, and a quiet that couldn't be found anywhere else on or off the island. Getting lost in Dumbo at night, and the river's edge is calm and the skyscraper's windows far enough away and glittering with promise to believe New York might offer some kind of magic, but Brooklyn will deliver down-to-earth goodness. 
And the number of quality restaurants and bars on Court St, Atlantic Ave, Montague St, and Smith St do. By far, my favourites: the River Deli, on Joralemon St – small, intimate, and dishing up unpretentious Italian with a Sardinian edge, and Brucie on Court St.
Catching up with old friends, the greatest discovery was Sunday brunch, a New York institution served straight up in Brooklyn. A dear friend of mine lives in Court St, and took me to two brunch venues that nailed it, and us. She got sozzled on bellinis, and I discovered the Bloody Mary. The New York state of mind: work like hell all week, and then rise to the midday Sunday surprise of vodka and eggs. The places she took me were light filled, laid back, and packed: Colonie on Atlantic Ave, and Buttermilk Channel. Colonie's featherweight leek and gruyere scramble is the closest rival I've tasted to Bill Granger's legendary scrambled eggs. Buttermilk Channel does a killer Eggs Benedict, and buttermilk pancakes made from a batter that pillows up and sops up the maple syrup. Yes, we had not one, but two breakfasts, over a course of three hours, sitting next to a woman dressed as a tree spirit (she was on her way to trick or treat for Halloween).
Williamsburg, allegedly hipster central, was also on the agenda. A visit to Bedford Ave, via the G line, and at midday it seemed less hipster, more community vibe, with its small pubs, organic grocers, secondhand furniture places, and delis. Apparently it comes alive at night, but I'll have to leave that for someone hipper to verify.

If you're a into jewellery don't miss out on Catbird, and Norbu.
Back in Manhattan, and an in no way exhaustive list of other cool things that one might do while in town: go see War Horse at the Lincoln Center, eat at Gramercy Tavern on E 20th St, or Annisa on Barrow St. Visit the International Center of Photography. And make sure you see Sleep No More in Chelsea. An immersive theatre experience channeling Macbeth into trippy, sexy physical theatre, it was how I imagine stumbling through the Looking Glass might feel, only finding a 1930s jazz club and the Last Supper on the other side... and a dance party rather than a tea party. 
And then there's the High Line. An elevated railway for the transport of goods in the early 20th century, the High Line has been transformed into a park snaking through Chelsea and down to Gansevoort St.

From there it's a hop skip and a jump to Bleecker St and several more years of economic slavery. Visiting Occupy Wall Street in a freakishly unseasonal snowstorm balanced the scales... a tad. Have a great holiday season.