Thursday, 25 October 2012

An all time favorite - Portello Rosso

I have many nights when I have dinner out. In all honesty it probably averages at about once a week.

If there isn't something new that i've read about, and am dying to try, it is guaranteed that the first words that pop into my head will be "Portello Rosso".

Down Warburton Lane... a hidden gem.

I arrived for my first visit on a Thursday night in 2010, when it was still quite new. The sangria, white as well as the usual red, is still (even after a recent trip to Spain) the best I have ever tried.
For the first time I tried Spanish anchovies and it was love at first taste. We followed it up with prawns, meatballs, tortillas; all little tapas dishes of about 3 pieces but we were stuffed.

Duck with mushrooms and other divine additions

We sat at the big communal table in the centre and chatted with the other people dining. The chef, Aaron, came to the table with small extra dishes and a granita just to try. I am still waiting for that rose water granita to make its way onto their menu because I still have dreams about how good it tasted.

When organising a dinner with my friends, I wanted to impress them with my fantastic knowledge of the "hip and happening" places to go, so I booked Portello Rosso...and took up most of the communal table. They raved about how good the food and the atmosphere.

A close friend of mine turned 40... I immediately booked his party on their top floor.

My mother was leaving for a holiday in, of all places, Spain... She spent her last night in Aus at Portello Rosso.

I met my best friend's boyfriend... We took them to Portello Rosso...

Since I've been back in the swing of my daily life after my trip... All I could think about was my all time favorite... 

Olives and Vegetable Tortillas

Last Thursday I finally made it down there.
Now, I have already tried everything on their tapas menu and have never been disappointed, so to change it up I decided on the chef's degustation.

The food just kept coming. I was going to burst!

Pancetta with garlic and bread... Delicious!!!

I ate olives, vegetable tortillas, chorizo, pancetta, duck, pork belly, asparagus, scallops... You name it.
A fresh twist on Asparagus... Surprising and tasty!

Everything that appeared in front of me was delicious. I felt like I was back in San Sebastian.
If you have been to Movida and enjoyed it then Portello Rosso will knock your socks off.
It has a personable, cosy feel that only a small establishment with passionate staff can achieve. There is never a sad face and the room is filled with loud voices and laughter, maybe the sangria loosens us all up a bit :)

Pork Belly

I recommend the pork belly as the must-have dish and I am demanding that you finish the experience off with their churros. I have never tasted a chocolate dipping sauce quite like the white chocolate and rose! 

CHURROS!! My favorite.

Say hi to the head chef Aaron, he is so enthusiastic about what he cooks and will explain everything on your plate.

 You will soon see why this place is my undefeated number one!

Portello Rosso on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

A tarte tartin catastrophe. How NOT to cook an apple tart

I frequently flick through cooking shows on free to air TV. There are an abundance since the influx of Masterchef contestants that are interested in hosting them. It makes for some interesting cooking ideas.
Jamie's 30 minute meals is the definite standout.

One afternoon, while channel flicking, I came across an easy (looking) way to caramelise sugar in order to make a tart.
The TV chef (and I feel horrible that I have forgotten his name... and the show :)) simply pours his sugar into the pan first, then once the sugar has caramelised he added the butter and continued on with the normal technique of making the tart(e).

I thought.. "I can do that. Its simple!". So after a quick trip to the supermarket, I was loaded with apples, sugar, short-crust pastry and was ready to go.

The apples were peeled and cored and placed in a bowl containing 1 cup of water and the juice of a lemon. The bowl was then placed to the side.

An then the disaster commenced.

In my stupidity it did not occur to me to turn the heat up on the setting, when cooking sugar with butter you only need a medium heat. When there is no butter to assist with the dissolving, the heat needs to be higher.
I have a fear of caramel. My first attempt, a few years back, nearly lead to the house being burnt down and required a heavy duty oven cleaner to rid the evidence from the saucepan.

So into the saucepan the sugar went... alone. And slowly, the sugar began to harden... but only so slightly. Caramel takes about 5 minutes. I was there for 10 before I thought; "I don't think this is working... Maybe I should add the butter."
And my caramel looked lovely... what with its lumpy chunks of hardened sugar and a nice layer of liquified butter on top.

But I was not to be deterred...
 In went the apples, and because I was in such a rush (for fear the chunky caramel would solidify), I didn't bother to cook them on the stove top. On went the pastry and the entire fry-pan was placed into the oven.

When it was ready, the delicious smelling tart was pulled from the oven and left to cool.

The first sign that things had gone array (oh no, the previous ones had obviously not been big enough) was when I attempted to turn the tart over into the cake dish. All the caramel ran out the side and all over the bench. I was in hysterics. It was a complete disaster and my dog was on the biggest sugar high of his life. There was caramel on the splash back, on the bench, on the cook top, on me, in the sink and on the floor.
I tasted the part I had salvaged from the avalanche... Then wished it had not been saved at all.
The caramel had crunchy pieces,  the apple was undercooked and it did not look so appetizing.

I wish I had not been covered in such mess and the clean up had not been so swift (to avoid never ending sticky-ness) because a photo of my experience would have been delightful.

Onward and upward... I shall attempt it again... in time.

One plus; Hamish (the dog) thought it was the best apple tart he had ever tasted :)

Friday, 12 October 2012

A Sweet Obsession - Burch & Purchese

Every month I try to experience something new. The only criteria being that I can only repeat visit if either it is an absolute favorite I have not attended recently or if there is a new event...and every second month there seems to be a new reason to return to Burch & Purchese.

Tonight, the reason for my visit was to celebrate the release of their collaboration with Connoisseur ice cream. I have to admit, when the new flavours appeared in the freezer at our local Coles, I had tasted all four within the fortnight.

A four course dessert evening designed around the four flavours of ice cream, with accompanying wines. Who could resist?

The moment I walked in, I was greeted by name (is this a sign that maybe I am in the store a little too often) and seated right next to the kitchen. Best seat in the house.

I turned to examine what the chefs were preparing and saw Darren with his hands in a foggy bowl, creating the individual elements for the first course. I was sitting on the edge of my seat.

My standout favourite was the salted caramel ice cream sandwich, served as the last course. Could they have rigged the menu so that his flavour was the best?

I was amazed when I discovered that the honey used in their kitchen is from their own bee hives. It tastes amazing.

While waiting for my courses to arrive, and while eavesdropping on the conversation of others on my table, I came to a conclusion about the comparison of Darren Purchese and the Sweet Studio with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. A more fitting likeness is to Mr Magorium and his Magic Emporium. Everything in the Sweet Studio is not edible, like in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, but it does seem that every thing you eat has an element of surprise, like the toys in the Magic Emporium. Darren reminds me much more of the quirky, happy-go-lucky, modest Mr. Magorium rather than Wonka. The association between desserts and Wonka is made all too often. As the emporium brings a fresh and different outlook on toys, the Sweet Studio brings a fresh and different outlook to desserts.

Don't take my word for how enjoyable the dessert is at the Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio because I know it is no secret that I am a huge fan of their work. Pop in for a visit, decide for yourself and let me know what you think.

Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio on Urbanspoon

Italian Ragu: A delicious Bolognese

As I have mentioned previously, I went on an amazing camper-van holiday around Europe earlier in the year.
In florence I experienced the best bolognese sauce in the world. Which is to be expected in the home of pasta! It was a penne ragu in a tiny restaurant called "Mario's Trattoria".

The experience was amazing. All of their ingredients are sourced fresh from the market next door each day. To accommodate for seasonal changes in fresh stock or the possibility of ingredients not being available at the market, the menu is handwritten on a piece of paper and attached to the wall each day.

 Once the ingredients have run out, the dish is simply crossed off the menu. When all dishes have been served and there is no food left to cook, the restaurant closes to prepare for the following day. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming. This divine little restaurant is run by a close-knit family who appear to love to cook. The waitress was fantastic and had no trouble with my order, with no help from my pitiful knowledge of the Italian language.

All I have thought about since I got back is making my own Italian Ragu.

So you'll never guess what I did yesterday...

To begin I needed the ingredients:
A packet of Latina Fresh papardelle (or any pasta for which you have a preference...or in the cupboard)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion
1 celery stalk
1 carrot (leave the skin on and simply wash, tastes better)
100g thick slice of pancetta
2 garlic cloves
500g diced chuck steak
1/2 cup of a clean skin chardonnay
Can of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon of pure cream
pinch of nutmeg
parmesan cheese
parsley, to serve

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Slice the pancetta into small, thick strips. Cook the onion for 3-5 minutes until softened, don't let it brown. Add the celery, carrot, pancetta and garlic and cook until vegetables have softened (about 5 minutes).

2. Increase the heat to high and add the steak, cook until browned, then add the wine and bring to the boil.

3. Add the tomatoes and reduce the heat to low.
4. Cover and leave to simmer. We left it for about 3 hours so that the steak pieces fell apart at the touch. If you want to have dinner cooked in 30 mins; slice the steak into finely chopped pieces and simmer for about 20 mins.

5. Stir in the cream and nutmeg. Season to taste.
6. Boil the pasta then add to sauce.
7. Cover with parmesan, dress with olive oil then sprinkle some parsley and you have a delightful italian dinner ready to serve.

Although it wasn't from a trattoria in Florence, it is definitely a new addition to my repertoire.