14 October 2011


OK, so we have to wind the clock back a few months to catch up with what our pots have been up to in the Cooking Club kitchens! 

Back in October, we traced our sticky fingers across the globe into Turkey as the theme for our feast. This is what we ended up with. What do you think of our feast?

CookB: Rosewater Sharbat (Sherbet). 

A sweet, sparkling bevy with a hint of cinnamon and rosewater.

CookA: Spinach and Feta Cigars, yogurt and dill. 

Our tastebuds were really tingling now!

CookV: What would any Middle Eastern banquet be without Tabbouleh? 

A simple mix of fresh tomato, cucumber and bulgar wheat livened with handfuls of parsley dressed with lemon juice and olive oil - bursting with goodness and flavour!

CookV: vibrant, verdant, crisp chunks of cucumber under a blanket of dill laced yogurt and fresh walnuts - the perfect foil to the heavier, more robust dishes.

CookV (yep-she was busy this month!) baked us a delicious turkish bread that was crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and studded with nutty sesame and nigella seeds. 

CookEl: Succulent lamb koftas subtly but confidently spiced were moist, tender and finger-lickin' good! 

CookEl: Turkish Pide filled with delicately spiced beef mince. 

CookEs: Turkish Delight Ice Cream, fresh strawberry and watermelon jelly. 

It was a spectacular way to finish!

20 September 2011


This month saw the Cooking Club crew pack our bags and head down to Pinjarra, WA for a much anticipated getaway. Once again we found ourselves at Valley View Cottage, where for a day and a half, we all escaped our busy lives and took the time to  B R E A T H E. Its the sort of place where the only things that feel appropriate to do include having copious cups of tea, reading magazines and napping. Nirvana. 

We arrived to find CookEl had some lovely soups on the stove and a freshly baked loaf of soda bread. It was the perfect way to start our slothful afternoon. 

We took to the task of relaxing immediately, with CookEl finishing off her beautiful Christmas gifts, CookA starting a cute-as-a-button stuffed toy project and CookN plonking herself on the couch in front of the tv for a fix of footy. Can you imagine the pleasure of being able to do all those things with no interruption, or the need to get snacks and wipe bottoms?? 

Later we started assembling the various components of our country style feast. The little kitchen was soon abuzz with activity - rolling, melting, chopping, chilling, baking, sautéing, blending, stirring, slicing, dicing, baking and resting! Follow our journey and share what was a pleasure for all the senses. 

 Starter: Terrine with capers, cornichons and homemade chutney by CookV

Drinks: Mojito's by CookEl

Main Course: Beef Wellington by CookA
Sides: Potatoes Dauphinoise and Sauteed enoki, oyster, portobello and field mushrooms by CookEs

Dessert: Hazelnut Meringue, Strawberries, Pedro Ximinez, Mascarpone, Roasted Hazelnuts, Chocolate Ganache by CookB

 With full bellies and satiated tastebuds, we retired to the lounge room and continued the chatting, reading, sharing and laughing...

Spring-fresh spears of asparagus growing rampant!

The breathtaking view!

Exploring and admiring...

The next morning, we broke our fast with a revitalising breakfast of fresh juice, yogurt, fruit and a scrumptious blend of chopped dates, fresh apple, almonds and coconut. We spent the morning pottering around, stitching, sipping, reading, making, talking, walking, picking, photographing, snacking and finally, packing! Not before elevenses, of course. CookN treated us to perfectly poached eggs atop wilted spinach and blanched asparagus (picked fresh from the garden, no less!) atop buttery toast.
What a way to finish our idyllic escape! 

We would like to extend our special thanks to Mr Rose for sharing with us, his breathtaking piece of paradise.


14 August 2011


This months challenge was quite unlike any other before it - it got the thinking caps on and creative juices flowing! To create a dish that basically looked like something else entirely - could have gone SO wrong - but with experience and determination, I am pleased to say we all got it so RIGHT! One could have quite easily gotten carried away with all the visual trickery and forgotten about what really matters in the end-taste. See what you think.

CookA's "Ginger Bell"
I'll bet you've never had a cocktail like this one. Its a Ginger Bell, and the ingredients include ginger vodka, fresh OJ, ginger ale and..wait for it - honey lemon and capsicum syrup! Yes-Capsicum! Absolutely refreshing and delicious, none of us knew what the secret ingredient was before tasting it and we all agreed it was definitely one to whip out for those hot, lazy days by the pool!

CookEs's "Licorice Allsort and Raspberry Pastille"
Mostly an invention test, this dish came together rather quickly and was surprisingly simple to construct. The "Licorice Allsort" component is basically, layers of : squid ink pasta, dill and orange cured salmon, dill and cucumber jelly and lemon spiked creme fraiche. The pasta was made using sachets of ink purchased from the local deli incorporated into a standard pasta recipe (flour/egg ratio of 100gms:1 egg). Easy. Super fresh, skinless fillets of salmon were cured in a mix of sugar, salt, orange and lemon zest, and dill. The curing process only takes a total of 6 hours. The dill and cucumber jelly was made using the juice of 1 cucumber and a bunch of dill, with gelatine to set. It looks much like a terrine, and sliced quite easily.
The "raspberry pastille" was actually a firmer set jelly of unsweetened fresh beetroot and orange juice. It all came together rather nicely! Happy Days!

CookB's Mint & Rocket Gelee Shooters
These peppy, zingy, refreshing shooters were the perfect palate cleansers. It was vibrant and provided a natural bridge to what was to follow.

CookV's "Cupcake"
Here we have a pretty-as-a-picture cupcake, good enough to grace the finest high tea-tray, what with its baby pink 'icing, raspberry coulis and double cream"! What we actually got, was a meltingly tender fillet of white miso marinated beef topped with a beetroot-stained potato mash as its icing! The 'cream' was actually a horseradish creme fraiche, and the 'coulis' was in fact a thick beetroot borscht! How very clever, and delicious!

CookB's "Milo Milk & Key Lime Pie"
Yet another clever creation by CookB, the "milo milk' was, in fact, a cauliflower and parmesan soup, topped with a chestnut pangrattato! The pangrattato, made with fresh chestnuts procured from the local farmer's markets was a nutty, smoky and sweet foil to the soup's velvety smoothness. The gorgeous little 'key lime pie' was in fact a crisp shortcrust shell filled with a pea and lettuce custard. Sub-lime (sorry!) !

CookEl's "Pizza Margherita"
I am confident to say that if you put this in front of someone, they would probably have been completely convinced it was a margherita. Simple, but beautifully executed and absolutely in keeping with the brief of this month's theme, it was a dessert pizza with a soft, chewy crust. The 'sugo' was in fact, a raspberry puree and was topped with large, fresh mint leaves and and almond crumble that looked exactly like grated parmesan! Served with a honey marscapone, it was a fitting and scrumptious finale!
You like?

09 July 2011

July 2011- Masterchef (Australia) Masterclass

Our Cooking Club offerings this month, were selected from Masterchef Australia's cache of Masterclasses. We also invited a special guest, chef Cyndi Blake, to join us - not so much for a critique-but more because we figured that when one is a chef, one might not receive as many dinner party invitations for fear of having to live up to (usually perceived) expectations! We first met the lovely Cyndi when we all attended a cooking class she was hosting. I think most of us still apply a lot of the tips and tricks she taught us that night. Thank you Cyndi!

So here's how we started things off - CookV's Pina Colada's!! I'd forgotten how fabulously creamy and pineappl-ey fragrant this retro-ish cocktail is! A couple of large pineapples were blitzed to a pulp before coconut milk and fresh lime juice was added. Then it was up to each of us to add however much rum we wanted. Those glowing little red orbs of maraschino cherry and pineapple garnish perched coolly on the rims made me forget, even if just for one minute, that it was actually about 13 degrees outside on a bitterly cold winter's eve! Get the recipe here http://www.masterchef.com.au/pina-colada.htm

Then onto CookB's starter of "Four Textures of Corn". I love the idea of showcasing a single ingredient so many different ways, in one dish. It looked spectacular, the naturally vibrant sunshine yellow of the corn - makes you happy just looking at it. If you'd like to try it, have a look here : http://www.masterchef.com.au/four-textures-of-corn.htm
I think our version looks much prettier (sorry, George!) and it tasted of summer. The four elements were a corn custard (shown in the middle, shaped like a cone), corn puree, popped corn annointed with saffron butter and a roasted corn and smoked almond salad. YUM.

For mains - well, the dish was SUPPOSED to be "Steamed Crab Filled Baby Calamari" http://www.masterchef.com.au/steamed-crab-filled-baby-calamari.htm The other elements of the plate include candied tomatoes, spiced cucumbers, black olive paste, potato 'chips', basil seed cream and baccala mantecato (salt cod paste)

CookEl produced the first two elements beautifully, they looked exactly as in the picture. The rest was up to me. Problems: 1. there was no fresh, quality crab available at the two reputable fishmongers closest to me; 2. basil seeds? I knew they were used more widely in Thai cooking but left too much to the last minute and was not able to source them on time and, 3. I forgot that you need 48 hours to rehydrate baccala!!

In the end, a mixture of prawns and scallops replaced the crab. It was OK, but nowhere near as delicate as crab would have been. The basil seed cream just got left out, and I decided to make a 'brandade' of sorts using smoked herrings in place of the baccala but stirred through some mashed potato to absorb some of the saltiness. Quite delicious, but you certainly couldn't have a great big wodge of it o the side, as the recipe suggests. In all, I think it was fine but certainly not a very good representation of the original dish.

Finally, my favourite part of any meal, dessert! CookA's Pear Frangipane Tart finished things on a high. Delicate but perfectly poached, spiced pears crowning the almondy, sticky frangipane inside a short, crisp sweet pastry shell. A tumble of spun sugar and a quenelle of creme fraiche rounded it all of rather nicely. Need I say more?? Try it yourself http://www.masterchef.com.au/pear-frangipane-tart.htm

Watch this space for next month's installation as we all flick the switch on the left brain and think outside the square, Heston-style...

04 June 2011


Its vibrant, fresh, colourful and can look like art-on-a-plate, if its done right. Its easy to presume that Japanese food is all about sushi and sashimi, but its more about delicate textures, colour and freshness.
Here we present our version of it, it all looked stunning and eating it felt as if it was actually doing you good. No heavy sauces or long hours spent over the stove. A dieter's delight?
* the photos were downloaded in the wrong order, to reverse them all would have taken too much time! :-) Sorry.

Dessert Platter - clockwise from top: Sweet potato and fresh apple wrapped in a thin pancake; 'sandwich' of sweetened red/adzuki bean ; milk jelly; fresh persimmon and marble of red/adzuki bean paste; Black sesame jelly (star shaped),

Main - Sashimi of tuna, kingfish and salmon; nori-cured squid; seared salmon rolled in toasted black & white sesame, edamame and curl of crispy fried fish skin.
Condiments - Ponzu; pickled ginger; soy sauce.

Sides - Buckwheat soba noodles, served cold with soy and dashi simmered shiitake mushrooms.

Sides - Dashi simmered Eggplant and fresh ginger

Sides - Carrot and Daikon Salad

Starter - Teriyaki Chicken, Cashew and Rice stack.

Aperitif - Umeshu and Tonic
(Umeshu is the sweet, aromatic result of steeping green ume fruit- similar to apricots - in pure alcohol)

Cooking Club 2011

Finally, we have returned.
The hiatus from our blog was a result of a combination of several things, the biggest being general 'life' itself. Since our last post, our beloved CookN upped-sticks and moved, to a lovely place about 2.5 hours out of the city. We are missing her dearly, and have been hobbling along as a group of 5 ever since. That said, we have been working as hard as ever to maintain the (now) high standards of cooking, all the while still learning lots of new things and having fun doing it!

OK. Sit back and enjoy the visual feast to follow - recipes will no longer be posted here, although you can leave us a post to request one.

Thanks for coming back and we hope you enjoy the ride for 2011!