Stormy weather equals comfort food…..

Unless you have been living under a rock, you’ll be aware that Newcastle and the Hunter have been hit this week by terrific storms with cyclonic winds and flooding rains. Its during this time that as a home cook and baker, I like to turn my mind away from the backyard strewn with tree and leaf debris and concentrate on some comfort food for the family. In particular the 18 year old likes some home cooked treats and likes to have something nice to eat for his school lunches…..2 more terms to go! So I have spent the weekend cooking Roast chickens and baked veges, Italian meatballs, pea and ham soup and some all time favourites “bills” choc chip cookies.

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The food techy and I literally stubbled upon the newly opened “bills cafe” in Darlinghurst way back in the early 1990’s and were suitably impressed with the breakfast menu items which were a world away from the normal items on offer at the time. I remember tasting the now famous ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter and having a delicious flavoursome cup of coffee. The cafe was tiny and was one of the first to brave the communal table, but was soon so popular that we were only ever able to get back in again for one more breakfast. We haven’t been back since leaving Sydney, but Bill Granger has gone from strength to strength and now boasts a global empire of cafes, cookbooks and TV shows. For me I have bought 3 of his books and continue to make some regular recipes……the choc chip cookies for one. Bills recipes are simple and easy to follow….but don’t go buying the books, his website and your local library are fully stocked!

As I write this post, I’m acutely aware of the fact that, though the Hunter has been hit with an incredible storm and many people are still without power and other services, lets spare a thought and some much needed cash for the people of Nepal, where latest estimates are of 1800 people losing their lives and terrible devastation is to be found everywhere.

Lets be grateful for the small comforts we can still enjoy this weekend.

TBHxx

The Bountiful Hunter in….Haberfield

I’ve just returned from a wonderful Italian Gourmet Safari around Haberfield with my good friend Fiona. Our guide to the delights of this foodie suburb was the passionate and effervescent Sam, a local Italian boy who has his roots firmly entrenched in the magic of gelato making and drinking good coffee. He regaled us with stories of his family which were driven by his culture and connection to food. Wonderful stuff…..

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We started the morning with excellent coffee at the Haberfield Post (previously known and loved as Il Goloso) and this would be our base and lunch spot for the day. I was delighted with our first stop being the Paesanella cheese shop, where we tasted the freshest of ricottas, bocconcinis laced with 30 year old balsamic and a ridiculously rich and hedonistic “cake” of layered mascarpone and blue cheese, topped with fig sauce, known as Figaro.

Peppes Pasta followed with tempting duck and prosciutto ravioli and rocket lemon zest angel hair, with all pasta being made fresh, along with accompanying sauces. Raphaels bakery next door was laden with bread and sweet creations of all grains, shapes and sizes, and the ladies behind the counter were friendly, cheerful and loud in their enthusiasm for their beautiful baked goods.

 

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Onto Lamonica IGA, where 3 businesses exist under the one banner…. An italian butcher, a burgeoning deli and fresh fruit and vege displays. The place was packed with locals buying their weekly supplies and Italian women seemingly bickering about the best olives…. Sam assured me this was the norm. This place certainly would give the two big supermarket giants a run for their money and I know where I would rather shop.

Over Ramsay St we crossed to Zanettas 5 Star deli, possibly the jewel in the crown for Haberfield with every possible brand of dried pasta available and a small goods counter that would make any Italian swoon with delight. Here we tasted the impossibly green Sicilian olives, San Daniele proscuitto (absolutely delicious and well worth the $70kg!) and several varieties of pecorino cheese. Sam explained the importance of good olive oils and the heritage of aged balsamic vinegars – like champagne, true Balsamic is only made in the Modena region of Italy. I indulged and bought the 8 year old vintage for special occasions.

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It was then back to the Haberfield Post for a generous and filling spread of breads, pasta, authentic pizzas and a glass of Italian Sangiovese. This was a relaxed affair and we were able to chat with our fellow tour guests plus meet the humble Tony, owner of the restaurant and a proud Roman.

Lunch was followed by a trip to Rino Saffioti’s chocolate shop where the man himself spoke with love of his passion for excellence in chocolate making and the delicate balance of tempering this often temperamental ingredient. Rino also specialises in gelato and has just started roasting his own coffee beans. A true artisan indeed.

 

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Our tour concluded with a shot of prosecco and limocello from the Haberfield cellars….a celebratory end to a wonderful day.

My thanks to Sam for sharing his Haberfield with us and to my good friend Fi, who shares my love of eating well and seeking out the good food. Our next adventure looks to be the Vietnamese Cabramatta jaunt. Cant wait! I need to also say thankyou to Celia from Fig Jam Lime Cordial, for meeting us for early morning coffee in her beloved “Haby”. It was a pleasure to finally meet her face to face and as always, she was generous in her time and in many other ways!

TBH xxx

 

Jackie’s Chocolate Cake – Worth a 100 bucks!

So here is the second of my high rotation chocolate cake recipes. Fondly known as “Jackie’s”, this recipe came from my friend Katherine in Brisbane and was in celebration of my baby boy turning 1. Katherine sent me a copy of the recipe so that I had a decent choc cake for creating those damn childrens birthday cakes, that tend to lose their complexity as the child gets older. Jackies makes a huge slab cake, perfect for sculpting and cutting into 3D Ninja turtles or characters from Frozen at 2am in the morning, prior to the onslaught of 5 year olds the next day. My son will be turning 18 very soon and no doubt I’ll cook a Jackies….it will be simply iced and if lucky a spray of sprinkles and “18” shaped by smarties will be placed lovingly on top!

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The other part to this little story is about Jackie herself. ‘Jackie’ sent in this recipe to a women’s magazine and promptly won $100 for her “original” recipe. However according to Katherine, she had seen the recipe elsewhere and felt Jackie was not really deserving of the prize…Katherine wrote this on my copy, along with the fact that my baby boy at the tender age of one, would be quite happy with an iced shoe box, but that this recipe would come into its own one day…..and so it has. The recipe has been copied in its entirety (including Katherine’s scathing words regarding Jackie) to many family and friends, resulting in children all over the world eating a “Jackies”. Perhaps she deserved the 100 bucks after all!

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Once again it is a very simple melt and mix recipe and the fudge icing makes a good topping. Its dense and flavoursome, and though lacking the intensity of the melted chocolate flavoured cakes, the 5 years don’t seem to mind!

Enjoy! TBH xx