Neil Perry Good Food Review.

Australian chef Neil Perry, of Rockpool fame,  has produced a delightful collection of impressive yet simple recipes with his attractive Good Food cookbook.  The book features simple ‘anytime’ food to share with family and friends and cook in the home kitchen.  Time is not the focus here, although many of the recipes are quick to prepare, with stress on the fact that sometimes good food does take time to make, but the ends results are well worth the effort.

Neil Perry suggests that the recipes are not for ‘special occasions’, but simply food you could serve up to your family mid-week that is healthy and focuses on quality ingredients.  On the whole I agree that the recipes are nothing spectacular or particularly unusual if you are looking to wow dinner party guests, but the simple presentation and great flavour combinations make for impressive dishes I would happily serve to the most discerning of guests.

Good Food starts with a small selection of brunch recipes featuring simple blueberry pancakes and Zucchini fritters with a spicy tomato sauce.  It then progresses to soups, a collection of cold and hot offerings with small twists and additions setting them apart from run of the mill flavours.  The salad selection is also impressive with a focus on good quality cheese and seafood as key ingredients, Asian flavours and even a revamp of the classic prawn cocktail.

Good Food also offers some fantastic pie recipes, some of which feature on the Qantas Business Class menu, (and we thought the flat beds was the only reason to fork out the cash for business class!).  A particular hit is the Veal and Paprika pie, with a deep smoky paprika flavoured gravy and tender slow cooked veal, all topped with a buttery puff pastry top (Neil uses bought puff, but making your own produces even better results).

The pastas are varied and feature classics such as slow cooked Spaghetti Bolognaise and lasagne to the more unusual Spaghetti with crab, tomato and raw fennel.  There are also a handful of vegetarian options.  As with the pasta, the risottos in Good Food range from the classic to unusual, and feature a variety of delicious flavour combinations.

High quality fish and seafood is allowed to speak for itself in the next section, with offers an array of sauces, salads and marinades, (many with an Asian feel), to accompany a wide range of fish and shellfish.  Chicken and other poultry is also offered with a variety of cooking methods ranging from one pot Saffron Chicken and rice, to Pan Fried duck with cherry tomato and oregano vinaigrette.

Good Foods’ meat recipes are just as impressive, again offering a wide variety of cooking techniques and utilizing various types and cuts of meat, all with innovative accompaniments.  Roast Beef with Yorkshire puddings gets an airing out, as do other classics such as Rendang Beef.

The final selection of recipes in Good Food are the desserts, which again follow the simple home cooking vibe of the book.  Wholesome yet eye catching, cafe style cakes such as White Forest Cake and Lemon tart could be a fantastic finale to a relaxed dinner with friends, or a show stopping afternoon tea centre piece.  While Summer Berry Parfait or chocolate pots de creme are the perfect desserts to impress.

Good Food also includes basic recipes which are required by to to accompany various dishes throughout the book.  Techniques are explained clearly and recipes are set out in an easy to read, comprehensive manner.  Introductions to the recipes are engaging and add Neil Perrys personal touch.

This book is perfect for the novice cook looking to learn technique and classic recipes, but also for the more seasoned home chef wanting to try new flavours, experiment with different ingredients and produce impressive, tasty and nutritious food.  Be it for a quick healthy week night meal or a three course extravaganza to impress Neil Perrys’ Good Food has something to serve.

Donna Hay’s Four Tier Chocolate Layer Cake- my new ‘go to’ choccie cake!

After a brief period of obsession with the Masterchef series, in particular Junior Masterchef Australia, I was inspired to try some of the dishes that were created on the show.

I trip to the Masterchef Australia website , provided me with a huge pile of new recipes to test out, both challenges set by guest chefs and intriguing creations from contestants.

The first recipe that caught my eye was Donna Hays Four Tier Chocolate layer cake, which featured on Junior Masterchef.  With four layers, it was a very impressive cake, but the recipe seemed simple and not too time consuming, so I decided to give it a whirl. This was my first attempt at anything more than two layers in a cake!

The cake itself was delicious, and has thus become my new go to chocolate cake for any occasion when chocolate cake is required, (it’s amazing how often these occur!).  It’s moist and crumbly, but holds together well when cutting it to make layers.  The stand out in this recipe, however, has to be the cream cheese chocolate icing.  I love cream cheese icing, but the combination of cream cheese and chocolate brings it to a whole new level and is (in my opinion) a vast improvement on a chocolate buttercream.  The cheesy tang really balances the sweetness of the chocolate nicely.

I didn’t quite achieve a 4 layer cake as the recipe suggests, the second cake seemed a little thin to cut in half, but the result was still impressive and very tasty!  I chose to top it with sweetened whipped cream, white chocolate shavings and strawberries, but just about anything would go.

Four Tier Chocolate Cake (from Donna Hay)

  • ½ cup water
  •  60g butter, chopped
  •  2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 cup  plain  flour, sifted
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of (baking) soda, sifted
  •  1 cup  caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup  buttermilk (I used milk and a little lemon juice as buttermilk isn’t available in Spain)
  •  ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F).

2. Place the water, butter and cocoa in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter has melted.

3. Place the flour, bicarbonate of soda and sugar in a bowl, add the cocoa mixture and whisk to combine.

4. Add the egg, buttermilk and vanilla and whisk to combine.

5. Divide mixture between 2 lightly greased 12cm round cake tins lined with non-stick baking paper.

6. Bake for 40–45 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Allow to cool in the tins for 5 minutes.

7.Turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.

While the cake is baking, make the cream cheese frosting.

chocolate cream cheese frosting

  •  50g butter, softened
  •  250g cream cheese
  •  1 cup  icing sugar mixture, sifted

    Slightly lopsided but still standing.

  •  ¼ cup cocoa, sifted

I made double icing quantity as I love a lot of icing!

 

1. Place the butter and cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 6–8 minutes or until pale and creamy.

2.Add the icing sugar and cocoa and beat for a further 6–8 minutes or until light and fluffy.

 

 

To assemble, slice the cakes in half horizontally. Place one cake layer on a plate and spread with one quarter of the frosting. Repeat with remaining layers and frosting. Decorate as desired.

La Fabrica San Sebastian Review

A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to dine at La Fabrica restaurant in San Sebastian, courtesy of Breadheads parents.  In the city which has the most Michelin Starred restaurants per head of population, it’s always nice to have some guidance on where to eat, as there is almost too much choice and some of the options would leave a sizable hole in your pocket.  The restaurant was mentioned as a place of interest in out Spanish Gourmet Tour guide, and with a degustation menu at 38 euros a head, including excellent wine, six not so small courses, warm bread rolls and coffee, this didn’t seem too bad value. There is also a Menu Del Dia offered for 36 euros on weekends featuring three courses and larger portions than the degustation.

The decor was pleasantly traditional and not at all poncy, as is often seen in high end establishments.  We were greeted by a very friendly waiter who charmed us with some fairly good English skills and the specials menu, making particular recommendations as to the special desserts.  The degustation menu required that we choose out main course and dessert, while all other courses were set.

Prawn Timbale

Our first taste was a delicious watermelon gazpacho, topped with a light foam like cream cheese.  This was followed by a prawn timbal with avocado and fresh herbs in vinegrette, which was light and full of flavour.  The next taster was a creamy risotto of mushrooms and foie, prompting the debate of whether Breadhead was capable of producing an equivalent risotto at home- the challenge has been set!

Foie and mushroom risotto

By this stage we were starting to feel a little uncomfortable around the waist line and were becoming a little concerned about the quantity of food to come.  Although is was a degustation menu, portions weren’t exactly small! We pushed through, however, and were next met with a flaking piece of cod in a creamy sauce.

Baked Bacalao

At last it was time for the main course, between us we managed to sample the fillet steak (very tender and juicy), venison (also full of flavour) and beef cheeks, (soft and melting).  All of the meat main courses followed the same pattern, being served with a very thin potato puree and in their juices.

By this time were definitely full, but luckily our second dessert stomachs kicked in and these desserts were well worth loosening the belt buckle for.  First we were served with a small ‘starter’ dessert of yoghurt ice cream in an

Yoghurt ice cream in red berry infusion

infusion of red berries, which was utterly delicious with exceptionally smooth ice cream.  Our chosen desserts then arrived, a baked cheesecake served with a berry puree and cheesecake ice cream, chocolate in textures (a variety of chocolate delicacies including a fondant type cake and a variety of sauces), Cuajada, (a light cheese curd), served with honey, walnuts and poached pears and a bread and butter pudding  type fried custard dessert served with homemade ice cream.  All were delicious and the perfect finish to a wonderful meal.

Baked Cheesecake, Cheesecake icecream and berry sauce

I would recommend La Fabrica or it’s sister restaurant La Muralla, which has the same menu to anyone who finds themselves spoilt for choice in San Sebastian, looking for quality and value.  The food was outstanding and the service and surroundings unpretentious and welcoming.  The menu represents very high quality food for a reasonable price and gives the diner the opportunity to try a variety of dishes that are both traditional and modern.