Saturday, 30 May 2015

Potato and Leek Soup

Potato and leek soup, also known as Vichyssoise is a comforting, humble dish. Just the concoction to whip up on a late Autumn evening in Canberra. I know, I know, this dish is meant to be served cold, but the temperature outside dictated it be served nice and warm. 

The very few veggies left growing in my vegetable garden include leeks. They are relatively small, but are firm. I picked 4 of these babies for this soup.  

Teamed with the leeks is a single brown onion, 3 coliban potatoes, 4 Pialligo Estate thick cut short cut bacon pieces, Vegetta vegetable stock powder, a smidge of white wine for deglazing, water, and some cream. Measurements are not exact, so I pretty much winged it, but it worked out a treat.

Firstly, snip up the bacon using scissors into teeny pieces. Next, roughly chop the leek and the onion, and cube up the potato. When cut, they assembled into some strange foodie flag on my kitchen bench! 

So now to the cooking. Fry the little bacon pieces off in a large saucepan in some garlic infused olive oil and set them aside on kitchen towel to dry off. In the same saucepan, heat some olive oil and fry up the leek and onion for a few minutes. Deglaze the pan with a smidge of white wine to move all the previous bacon-ey bits and flavour off the base and let it infuse into the vegetables for a minute or two. Now, bung in the cubed potato and stir around to let the vegetables become accustomed to each other. Now, in a two cup measure, pop in a good tablespoon of the Vegetta stock powder and fill with boiling water. Stir to dissolve the stock, pour into the saucepan, then add in a further two cups of boiling water. 

Let this come to a low boil and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the potato pieces are soft (not mushy, but well cooked). When ready, take off the heat, and begin to pulse blitz with a stick mixer. Give it a few good pulses, targetting the lumps of potato. Keep it chunky if you like, or whizz it longer for a smoother soup.  Pour in about 3 tablespoons of cream, and season to take.  I added in just a sprinkle of Pialligo Estate smoked salt. 

Pour into bowls and sprinkle over a few of the bacon pieces. Finish with a graffiti inspired flourish of cream and you are good to go. 

I paired with this soup an extremely drinkable Pialligo Estate 2009 Riesling. May I add the Riesling was part of a generous 'goody bag' received as a thank you for attending a degustation dinner at Pialligo Estate. 

Roll on Canberra winter, I am armed with more delicious soups to combat you with! 

Thursday, 28 May 2015


We've just come back from a few glorious, sun-shiny filled days in Toowoomba and Brisbane to visit family.  A far change to the minus 6 degrees in soon-to-be-winter Canberra. 

A trip to Toowoomba wouldn't be a trip without lunching at the one and only Sizzler. My parents-in-law are staunch regulars and have their routine down pat. Firstly the cheese toast, then fresh rolls and soup, next salad bar with all the fixin's (maybe a trip or two) followed by dessert (again, maybe a trip or two) and coffee. Its a lovely ritual and nice to see them settle in and joke with the staff. 

So away we, my parents-in-law, and a few of their friends all went for lunch. Our waiter was friendly, polite and attentive. After he seated us, he whisked away and returned with the obligatory cheese toast... mmmmm cheese toast is divine, and all that I remembered from the last Sizzler trip. Crunchy on the top, cheesy, warm, and soft on the underside. You can ask for more if you desire. We all ordered the endless salad bar. You can order a main dish, or sides, or smaller meals with or without the salad bar, so there are choices that suit all appetites. 

Next stop for me on the lunch express was soup. Choices were laksa, pea and ham, and pumpkin. I chose the laksa, which was vibrant, tasty and had just a little spike of heat. That and an entree-sized wholegrain roll and I was happy. 

Onwards to the salad bar.  So. Many. Choices. There are all manner of different salads, a nachos bar, hot pasta and sauce bar, caesar salad making station, and a fruit and yoghurt section. I tried a little of this, and a little of that. Some new salads (pulled pork and cabbage slaw, chorizo pasta salad), some all time favourites (tuna pasta salad), a scoop of hot potato bake and a couple of crispy potato skins did me. Its great to see everyones selections and combinations when you all sit down.

Dessert. Now it is customary to use the small fluted topped dessert bowls. I would guess they hold about 1.25 cups? Not my father-in-law. He goes for a soup bowl, which is nice and deep, and holds about 3 serves of dessert in the one go. There's something to be said for years of wisdom (and years of being a Sizzler regular).  Dessert choices include hot items like the apple crumble and bread and butter pudding (plus custard of course!), and cold offerings like pavlova, panna cotta shots, chocolate mousse, and jelly cups. There is also chocolate and vanilla soft serve complete with toppings like mini marshmallows, smarties, sprinkles and jellybeans. A little something something for little kids, and big kids... and kids at heart. I gave the apple crumble and custard a crack, followed by a panna cotta shot. Delish.  A cup of Dilmah tea washed it down quite nicely.

All up, Sizzler is a great restaurant. Family friendly, lots of space, and clean. The staff regularly go around and check the temperature of the food items, and mark their sheet off accordingly. A bowl of food was removed when we were there, because a little girl put her hand in it. Yep, they are quick and there is someone watching the food all the time.

We used to have a couple of Sizzler Restaurants in Canberra, but they closed down years ago which is a shame. Sizzler offers a family friendly, and budget friendly dining alternative where you serve yourself exactly what you want, its clean and efficient, and value for money. 

Cost:  (Adult) $17.95 endless salad bar, plus $3.95 for endless beverages, total $21.90

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Inaugural Canberra Antiques & Vintage Fair

So into the world of antiques, and vintage goodies we dived on Saturday, at the inaugural Canberra Antiques & Vintage Fair. This event was held at the Canberra Southern Cross Club's Woden venue, 15-17 May 2015. 

Don't get me wrong, we really don't know much about antiques at all, but love these types of events simply to look at the range of goods on offer. There was a wide variety of goods, some that really made you stop and go.. whoa! For instance, there was a stall with two big cat pelts... one a tiger from the 1940's and the other a lion from the 1930's. Items that today seem so immoral and cruel, I hesitated to ask any further questions of the seller. I needed to take pictures of them, but felt bad in doing so. I paused in front of the lion, admiring his magnificent features, when a lady came up beside me. We both just looked at this stunning creature, when she reached out and gently stroked his fur. She said this would probably be the closest she would ever get a lion. A poignant moment indeed.

Anyhoo, onto other items. Like this decorative glass piece. I was told it was a epergne, used primarily on its own as a centrepiece for a table, or sometimes filled with small flowers. Such craftmanship, and such a lovely shade of cranberry. 

I spied this little pair of shoes, that would have only been about 4 inches long each. Upon picking one up it was so heavy!! pure metal, and exquisitely designed. The stallholder just loved them, and thought there was just something special about them. They were just darling, and actually quite reasonably priced! Kicking myself now I didn't buy them... 

So many wonderful things to photograph, but I did ask each time I wanted to take snaps. Some of the stallholders, especially those selling vintage jewellery said 'no' to any photos, and I respected that. They often noted that insurance was mainly the reason, but thanked me for asking first. 

One lovely set of china really caught my eye, as it was a miniature set of colourful plates, teacups and teapots. You really can't see the scale of these pieces, but there were really quite small. Tea party sized, but lovely to look at, and we were told quite rare to find an entire set of this brand, Royal Worcester, intact... hence the $9,500 price tag. 

Entry was $12 for adults, and $10 for pensioners. There were a few people when we were there on the Saturday afternoon. Afterwards, we indulged in a little afternoon tea at the bistro. 

Monday, 11 May 2015

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Looking back... I so wish I kept my dad's cast iron skillets. They were smooth, loved and heavy. Well used and full of memories. He used them almost daily.. there were always eggs in a basket on the kitchen shelf, and bacon in the fridge. Its the simple things you wish you did at the time, instead of years later, looking back and having that small pang of heart, and wishing you did things differently. Sigh... 

Now, years later, I found myself buying a lovely cast iron skillet, much the same design as dads.  This one is a small Lodge brand skillet, and its just the perfect size. Big enough to do a couple of steaks in, or a small pan fried supper.  

Tonight I christened it with a juicy porterhouse steak, cooked in lashings of butter and garlic, and finished off in the oven.  How nice was this steak! So juicy, cooked perfectly on the inside, and with just enough of a smattering of charred crunchy bits on the outside. 

Paired with a wonderful St Hallett's Gamekeeper shiraz, that was on the smooooth side of yesterday, fresh beans, potato bake and a couple of rounds of garlic bread. What a awesome autumnal supper. 

Hats off to you dad. You'll be in my heart forever. 

Friday, 8 May 2015

Taltarni Wine Dinner

How lucky was I when The Food Marshall asked if I wanted to accompany her to the Taltarni Wine Dinner at Peppercress Restaurant at the Canberra Southern Cross Club. This dinner had already been sold out, but she worked her magic and scored us seats. 

Yes please!

This is my second wine dinner this year at the CSCC, with food again provided by head chef Anurag Gautam and his team. Check out my review of the CSCC Chef's Signature Dinner held at the Yacht Club last year. 

So... without further ado, onto the menu...

The first course, a canape, matched its title perfectly and was indeed a 'surprise'.  An innovative presentation of a tortilla wrapped into a cornet, filled with caviar, smoked salmon, and the surprise foie gras at the base. A very tasty morsel, teamed with the Taltarni Blanc de Blanc. 

Next up was a succulent soy poached yellow fin tuna, atop pureed eggplant and scattered with sea bananas. What are sea bananas you ask? small plant pods found in coastal dunes, shaped like, well, bananas! Also known as Pig Face. Check out this informative post about 'tucker in the dunes'. A Taltarni Fume Blanc was the yin to this course's yang. 'Fume' means to 'smoke', with some of this Sauvignon Blanc fermented naturally, and some in French barriques

Smoked duck was the next course to arrive and was quite a surprise. It didn't look like duck. In fact it looked like thick bacon, curled on the plate. Smoked in Anurag's 'industrial size' smoker with hickory, the duck held the smokey flavour and had a wonderfully dense meaty texture. It was accompanied by a sweet almost marmalade like citrus sauce, and a baby pear. Plate lickingly good. 

Phew! still going OK? Hang on, because the lamb arrived next. A short loin of Pyrenees lamb, coated in merguez spices, and swimming in a beautifully rich, sweet jus. This was joy to eat, and cut like butter. Anurag certainly knows how to keep his customers happy! Matching this was a bold Taltarni Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich, punchy and strong. 

An interlude of brie, crackers and fresh figs arrived to cleanse the palette. A straightforward offering, but fresh and moreish. A 2012 Taltarni Estate Shiraz sat side by side with this dish.

The last course of the night was dessert. A wee pastry tart filled with a sharp passionfruit curd, sesame shortbread biscuit on top, and crunchy baby meringues scattered about. It was just the perfect size for dessert after such a food journey. The wine match for this course was something special. It was the Taltarni Cordon Cut Sauvignon Blanc. Cordon cut is a method I had never heard of. It involves cutting the main fruit bearing cordon on the vine, which results in the nutrients being removed back from the fruit, but leaving the large sugar molecules in the fruit. The grapes shrivel, meaning more fruit to flesh ratio, resulting in a sweet but intensely fruity flavoured wine.

Thanks all round to CSCC, Taltarni and The Food Marshall for a thoroughly enjoyable evening. 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

In My Kitchen - May 2015 (the baking edition)

Welcome food bloggers, and foodies one and all. I cannot believe another month has rolled around and its time again for an 'In My Kitchen' post. I look forward to reading yours, if you participate in this series, which is hosted by the lovely Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial blog fame. If you aren't a participant, please consider doing a post! It is a lot of fun. 

In my kitchen... now lives proof that it is indeed "my" kitchen, as this lovely fridge magnet proclaims...

I have named this IMK post the 'baking edition' as I have added to my bakeware stash with a couple of sinfully delightful Nordic Ware goodies, like this elegant bundt tin...

...and this mini scone tin...

Other baking goodies this month come from Aldi in the form of these cute little tart tins...

...and a lovely plum coloured platter.

My outdoor kitchen is still producing lovely edibles, including the first of the spring onions...

A recent acquisition of tomatoes prompted a slow roasting affair, with the tomatoes sprinkled with a mix of crushed Himalayan salt and smoked garlic. Slow roast in a 150 oven for 1.5 hours and you have the most delicious, soft, flavour-filled tomato pieces...

For more delicious IMK posts, pop over to Celia's blog to peruse posts from all over the globe.

So... what's happening in your kitchen today? 

Thanks for dropping by, Kirsty xx