Posts Tagged ‘Stephanie Clifford-Smith’

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Sweet eats: the Empress returns

October 15, 2009

stephprofiterolesI think it’s clear by now that if you want to delve into desserts, howtoshuckanoysterland is not your first port of call (if you’re a salt freak, on the other hand, come on down!) .

Lucky for you then, sugar, that we have the Empress and her culinary meanderings around this city to bring some sweetness and light to this salty little land we call home.

Steph’s last two columns for the SMH have been a sweet tooth’s heaven: first, she told you where a girl can find a profiterole to fiterole (! sorry bout that, chief)  and second, this week’s column, on banana desserts.

stephbananaYes, really. Apparently banana desserts are good.

Cooked banana being one of the rare things I find quite repulsive, I’m not one to comment – but She Who Must Be Au Fait says these things are good, so I’m prepared to change my mind.

Check out the yellow peril here.

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Ay, carumba!

October 2, 2009

stephburritosThe Empress has ventured into Mexico – well, the kind of Mexico you find in Oz restaurants – in her column on burritos this week. I’ve never been a fan of Mexican restaurants, scarred by the country town one of my youth (sangria = headache, let’s just get that on the table right now), but I have to say this column had me almost ready to change my mind…..

Writes La Emperatriz:

Burrito means “little donkey” in Spanish; it’s believed the name comes from a similarity in appearance between this street food and the animal’s ear. It’s simply a flour tortilla wrapped around a filling and when they were first sold in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua in 1910, they were slim, containing only a couple of ingredients. American influences saw them grow to stupendous proportions…

Check out her recommendations here.

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Empress roundup

September 21, 2009

Another bit of falling down on the job I’ve been doing lately is omitting the Empress’s last two weekly columns – ! – and now am annoyed that it seems I’ve left her fish and chippy one too late to find online and post here. Bummer, because we were with her on one of those assignments – to wit, fish ‘n’ chip morning tea at the excellent Greenwell Point F&chipper whose name I can’t now remember.

Anyhoo – her column of last week, on Sydney’s best Lebanese pizza – or Man’oushe – is still up and running here so check it out quickly before Wednesday when no doubt it’ll be down to make way for the next instalment!

And I promise to keep myself nice and up to date from here on in.

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Back to the books

August 30, 2009

booksFurther to our very satisfying natter about cookbooks a couple of weeks back, I have now obtained the Empress’s informative and amusing cookbook manifesto, first published a few years ago in Good Reading magazine, and it’s available here as a quick PDF file (will also pop it on the Writing on food page for easy access later). It’s a lovely piece of writing about Steph’s favourite books for recipes, travelogues, pictures and entertainment …

A taste:

I’ve never actually cooked anything out of The Taste of France based on a Sunday Times magazine series from 1983 because the food all looks a bit dark and the layout’s confusing. But the photo of a chipped pottery bowl filled with three kinds of wild mushrooms, five eggs still in their shells and an old wooden spoon holding sea salt, ground pepper and garlic cloves is fantastic. It doesn’t immediately make me want to make scrambled eggs with mushrooms but it does make me want to rent an old house in the Auvergne, in October (mushroom season), shop at the markets for my eggs and butter and then make the recipe. It’s just something a white-styled Donna Hay book can’t do.


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Snag a sausage roll

August 26, 2009

stephsnagrollsThe Empress has come over all flaky in her Good Living 3-of-a-kind column this week – it’s on sausage rolls.

I can vouch for the goodness of the Bourke St Bakery pork & fennel version, and the others sound just as fine. (If you’ve never checked out the Berry Bakery, down there in the southern highlands, you must.)

As the Empress writes, “Six years ago, in a pre-election distraction strategy, former NSW Premier Bob Carr heaped scorn on this iconic snack but as a nation we disagree with him. Along with the meat pie, the sausage roll is up there among our favourite fast foods. Most of us have fond childhood memories of them, hot from the tuckshop or at birthday parties with the requisite sticky tomato sauce. Pastry and fillings vary enormously and, while dud versions are still around, some good bakers take them very seriously.”

Pop along and have a look at Steph’s picks of the best three snag rolls in Christendom here.

P.S. Snag rolls are not the only thing we disagree with Dymocks Bob about…


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Eager for Uighur

August 21, 2009

stephuighurThis week’s column from the Empress in Good Living is a beauty, and extra fun for us to read because we were crash test dummies for one of these Chinese muslim restaurants with her – the Western Orient in Hurstville. It’s loads of fun going on these excursions (as we’ve discussed before, it’s so easy to get geographically locked into your own tiny suburban area of this city), and I can vouch for the divinity of everything Steph mentions in her Western Orient review.

The waitress, Candy, and her mum, the hidden chef, were incredulous that a bunch of gweilos would enjoy their fare. But once we convinced Candy that we actually really would like the noodles that she insisted were ‘better for Chinese people, not Australians’, she became our new best friend and recommended all sorts of goodies.

After the meal the Empress went to do her ‘candid camera moment’, where she tells the restaurateurs she wants to feature a dish of theirs, and which is always nice to witness as they get very excited. And this time, once that bit was done and we’d paid the bill and were about to leave, Candy returned to the table with a giant tureen of “Egg FlowerSoup”, compliments of her mum. As we were all completely stuffed, we groaned inwardly at the idea we had to eat yet more food, although obviously couldn’t insult the hostess by refusing. But at the first spoonful, an expression of utter ecstasy came over every face at that table, and then it was a fight to the death for the rest of the soup. The clearest, most delicate chicken broth with an egg-whitey streak, it was simply unfrickingbelievable.

And the rest of the meal, as detailed in the Empress’s column, was excellent too. She also visited two other fab-sounding Chinese Muslim joints too – so go along and check one out.

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The martian’s pizza

August 6, 2009

stephmartianThe Empress’s SMH Good Living column has been the most emailed SMH article so far today – and with good reason. This week she checked out an outlandish (to boring old Anglos like me!) Japanese dish called okonomiyaki, which her husband has described as “a martian’s idea of a pizza”.  Writes the Empress:

This could be one of life’s weirdest dishes. Having said that, when done well it’s compellingly delicious. Cabbage with pork, seafood or a combination of both are lightly bound in a flour, egg and dashi batter that is fried as a thick round. This is where things start getting trippy: once cooked, the okonomiyaki is covered with squiggles of Japanese mayonnaise and special sauce that is like the Aussie barbecue variety, sprinkled with nori flakes and piled with bonito shavings, which wave slowly in the pancake’s rising heat.

To find out where to eat this strange delight, visit her column here.

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A Persian excursion

July 31, 2009

persianstuffOne of the best reasons for having a proper food writer as a friend is joining them for the spontaneous suburban sojourn in search of a particular dish or ingredient. The Empress took me the other day to Auburn in the mid-west of Sydney, where all things Persian, Afghan, Turkish & Lebanese can be found (and where the Gallipoli Mosque is a feature).

As DrDi wrote recently, it’s very cool for we postcode-centric Sydneysiders to take a trip along the discovery highway to an unvisited suburb – and the Empress is the gal to do it with. Our trip was a short sharp operation but chock full of discoveries for me. First stop was a great restaurant for lunch, where among the delights was an an eggplant dip to die for called Kashk-e bademjan; I devoured the lot and got an extra tub for takeaway.

After that we popped into a Persian supermarket where we filled our shopping bags with these goodies: green raisins, dried sour cherries, barberries and slivered pistachios. The shop guys and we managed to cross the language barrier with the aid of some friendly other customers, which was a very nice part of the encounter.

I haven’t used any of these staples of Persian cooking yet, and have never seen those ruby-red barberries or the chewy black and very tart sour cherries before, but plan to have a go very soon at a polow – a Persian pilaf, basically, which apparently has a lovely crusty bottom.

I’ve checked out some polow recipes with barberries here and with sour cherries here and here and here.

But I’m also thinking that both of these would be delicious chucked into any tagine or, as I found after taking this photograph, just eaten as a little dried-fruit mix from a bowl.

Years ago when making the divine mast-o khiar – a yoghurt & cucumber dip with walnuts, green raisins & rose petals (and another recipe here)  I had the devil’s own job finding green raisins, and now I know they’re everywhere in any Middle-Eastern suburb I feel a bit of a dill for buying them from these elegant and expensive packagers (although their stuff is top quality, so if you can’t get near a Persian supermarket, they are worth a shot online).

And as for my plans for the pistachios, well obviously the list is endless. But apart from Karen Martini’s quite incredible baked lemon and goat’s curd cheesecake with pistachios (from Where the Heart Is, but Stonesoup has an adaptation here – scroll down to find it), I have just come across this delicious-sounding pistachio dukkah which sounds a very fine idea.

Now, off to Culburra for the weekend with a bunch of food-crazy friends. Will return fatter and more recipe-laden than ever next week…

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Sweet success: A&U annual bakeoff

July 25, 2009

cakesallThis week the Empress and I found ourselves bestowed with the extraordinary honour of judging the Allen & Unwin staff club’s Annual Bakeoff.

We arrived at Cake HQ to find a staggering twenty-seven entries awaiting consumption – from cakes and tarts to flans, shortcakes, cheesecakes, friands, cupcakes, meringues, quiches, biscuits, strudels… in three categories –  Savoury, Chocolate and General.

The task was almost overwhelming, but like the truly professional gutses we are – and despite the growing threat of sliding into diabetic coma – the Empress and I made our way through the blind tasting, separately keeping our scores out of 10 each for presentation and texture, and out of 20 for flavour.

stephjudgingWorking diligently through the morning with valiant A&U staffers slicing off slenderer and slenderer slivers – and fending off contestants desperate for their morning tea outside the door – the Empress and I were gratified to discover, when comparing scores, that for each category we had picked the same winner, and our scores were within one point of each other’s.

The standard, it must be said, was exceptional. It’s our first year of judging, but the bakeoff has been an A&U fixture for some time apparently, and competition is fierce. The winning entries were within one point of each other on the scale, and then from the three we had to choose one overall 2009 Bakeoff Champion.

And the winners were …

cakewinnersBy a whisker, the three winners were:

Savoury – Lou Blue’s Quiche Lorraine with  Pancetta

Chocolate – Anthony Bryant’s Triple Chocolate Praline Tart

General – Catherine Milne’s Clementine & Almond Syrup Cake with Chocolate Ganache

The overall champion, by the slenderest sliver of a hair’s breadth, was Catherine’s clementine cake. (And it turns out this was something of an upset win – apparently for the past several years Anthony, who also entered an incredible chocolate and cherry cake and a divine rhubarb and amaretti tart,  has been the unstoppable reigning champ. Next year’s bakeoff should be very interesting as he attempts to wrest the crown back!)

clementinecakeOnce the presentations were made and the hordes descended on the entries for morning tea, the Empress and I prised a few recipes out of the contestants, some of which happily are available online.

Turns out that Catherine’s unbelievably moist and complex clementine cake is an Ottolenghi recipe, and can be found here; and Anthony’s incredible praline tart (the silkiest, most satiny smooth filling ever) is from Gourmet Traveller a couple of months ago and is available here.

choctart

All in all, it was an astonishing display of skill, nerve and flair. The Empress and I have begged to return and offer our greedy evaluative skills for the A&U staff club’s Great Curry Contest – can’t wait!

Oh, and in case you think all this gustatory grandeur might be a little decadent, it also has a higher purpose: everyone who joined the morning tea festivities gave a donation to Sydney PEN, and every one of the many A&U staff club activities for 2009 raises some moola which will go to Sydney PEN at the end of the year.

Hey, I sense the opportunity for a Sydney PEN fundraising challenge! Any other Sydney publishers willing to take on the A&U master chefs in a publishing industry bakeoff? Let me know – Steph & I are more than willing to go the extra mile and extend our judging skills across the land!

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Love that lasagne

July 22, 2009

stephlasagneI have always loved a good lasagne myself – but a really good one is hard to find, no? Not for the Empress though – she winkles out three excellent versions of lasagne in this big wide city in her  SMH Good Living Three-of-a-Kind column for this week, online now. Says she:

Lasagne is believed to be the earliest form of pasta, which makes sense given the flat sheets result from simple rolling. But it isn’t always layered with bolognaise and bechamel sauce; there’s a more elaborate version, known as vincisgrassi, which can contain sweetbreads or other offal, spices, porcini mushrooms, prosciutto or a combination.