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Water. Air. Food. Sex. The essentials in life. The first two? Leave them in their natural state and they'll look after you just fine.. The later two? Fun to play with. Get a little creative with. And if the mood strikes you, mix the two... Food and sex have been linked throughout history. Think about it. I mean really think about it. Is there anything more sexy than good food? Chances are others think the same thing. These recipes are not just about seducing that special someone (or someones) but seducing yourself. Its easy to forget what a pleasure food can be. So take a knife, some nice ingredients, and get Seductive in the Kitchen.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

At Last! Breakfast at the Gunshop Cafe....






There is a little cafe in West End that is renowned far and wide for its fantastic breakfast. And although I worked in West End for almost a year and although I have attempted to eat there many times.. I have always been thwarted.
I was beginning to think perhaps there was a bane laid apon me...
Many a time me and my boyfriend would venture all the way to West End, our stomach's rumbling and then simply be too hungry too wait in the line for seats.



Or once we arrived just in time for them to change to their lunch menu...
It was to be breakfast or nothing at all!
And then, miracle or miracles, one morning, after a friends housewarming, a little hungover and a lot hungry, we took a mission to the Gunshop Cafe.
We waited patiently in line and then we got a seat. At last. Our bane was lifted.
Oh joyous day!




I got a chai latte to start.. and in came in a teapot. Wonderment.
It was a balmy late morning and the sun shone in through the spacious windows, adding to the lovely bustling ambiance of the place.
Even though it was packed it had a laid back vibe and we sat in a perfect spot to see the colorful street life of West End passing by.
It is by no means a place to blow you away but rather the cafe you feel you could come back to time and time again.
I guess I do understand why it was voted Australian Cafe of the Year last year.
Nice vibe, good food, cheerful, laid back but professional service and above all it feels a little like you are being welcomed back, rather than staying for the first time.
Perhaps I am being a little whimsical.
Breakfast was simple, but beautifully made.
A classic with a twist..


I got vodka-cured salmon with locally made sourdough toast, poached eggs, baby spinach and hollandaise...



Perfectly poached eggs...




My boy got potato the potato and fetta hash cakes with herbed sour cream and tomatoes... It was perhaps a little sparse but delicious none the less...



It was, I think, worth the wait...
I will be going back.
Check out their website here if you are in the area...




Poached Eggs on FoodistaPoached Eggs

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hugs

Meet my lovely salt and pepper shakers.. Unfortunately one of them recently broke his arm.. Alas!

Oh no! I broke my arm....






Hugs!



Hugs make everything better...

(I apolagise for the outrageous cuteness of this blog... Hugging ceramic figures have that effect on me..)

All night long - Slow Braised Lamb Shanks with Soft Polenta, Broccolini and Shitake Mushroom Sauce






In this day and age every cookbook and its mum is about quick food, food in minutes, week night cooking... And dont get me wrong, I love quick effortless food.
But just as quickly prepared, quickly eaten is satisfying, there is something quite indulgent about taking some time to put love and effort into your food.
Cooking for the sensual pleasure of the preparation of the food, rather than just the satisfaction of the eating.
The slow food movement is sweeping the globe.
I would love to see giant billboards displaying the scintillating words, 'WANT LONGER LASTING DINNER?' or 'MAKING DINNER? DO IT... LONGER.'
Given the way many of us live these days it is not possible every night to spend hours preparing our meals, or that we will even want to.
But sometimes you want to just get in the kitchen and lose yourself in there for an age. Put on some sexy salsa music, pour yourself a glass of whatever you fancy and create something fantastic.
Make a thing of it, if you want. Invite some people round for dinner. Or don't.
In her Nigella Lawson's fantastic book How To Eat she fabulously quotes Woody Allen in relation to making food just for yourself - 'Don't knock masturbation.' He once said. 'Its making love to someone I love.'

On that note lets slip off our shoes and get in the kitchen...



For the shanks;
12 lamb shanks
1 large brown onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
2-3 bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smushed with the side of your knife
vegetable oil
2-3 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
Enough stock to cover - 1-2 litres
200 ml red wine
Sprig of rosemary, torn off the stem
4-5 stalk of fresh thyme, torn of the stem

For the Polenta;




1200ml of Chicken or Vegetable stock
1200ml Milk
400gm Polenta
100 gm Butter, cubed
Seasoning
Your favorite whisk
Your nicest pan, preferably with a thick base
200 gm grated cheese of your choice - I prefer Parmesan here




For the Shitake Mushroom Sauce;



15-20 dried shitake mushrooms
hot water
1 Brown or spanish onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1tbls oil
1tbls butter
splash of white wine, if desired
1-2tsp corn flour
seasoning
smoked paprika, if desired
+
Broccolini, to serve

To cook the shanks;
Preheat your oven to 140c - 150c.
Give the shanks a good season all over - nobody likes a bland shank. Now is the chance to use your pepper grinder. Get carried away, I won't mind.
Heat a little oil in a couple of large pans till quite hot then carefully place your meat into the sizzling pans and cook, turning occasionally until they are well browned all over. Don't be tempted to turn them too often as color equals flavor. And flavor equals wonder.
Remove with tongs to a deep sided baking tray.
Fry your vegetables (onion, garlic, carrot, celery) in the same pan; they will soak up any lamby flavor left in the pan. Fry them till they are quite golden...
Tumble the vege over the shanks and return the pans to the heat. Pour in your wine if you're using or a little stock if you are going nonalcoholic and stir with your wooden spoon till all the delicious bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan release their hold and become one with the wine/stock.
This is called deglazing.
Add this damn fine liquid to the shanks.
Heat stock in a pan till it comes to the boil. Pour it over the shanks until it covers it by a centimetre or so. Place in your herbs, peppercorns and bayleaves.
Cover tightly with foil and bake for 3-5 hours.
I did mine for 5 hours and they were literally melting off the bone.
Give them a check after 3 and see how they are doing.
Go occupy yourself for a few hours.

You can make the sauce in advance to make your life easier and
simply reheat it when your ready to go.

For The Shitake Mushroom Sauce;

Place the mushrooms in a bowl and cover with 500ml of boiling water. Leave to sit for a good half an hour to plump and infuse the water with their wonderfully unique taste...

Heat oil and butter gently in a pan. Add onion and garlic and fry till translucent and caramelized.
The more flavor you achieve now, the more flavor it will add to the sauce. Don't let the garlic color as it will change the flavor..
Season and add the smoked paprika if you are using.
Fry a little longer.
Chop shitake mushrooms into thick slices and add to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Add a splash of white wine if desired. Pour in 300ml of the shitake soaking liquid and 200ml of either some shank braising liquid or some chicken or vegetable stock.
Simmer until reduced by half and the flavor is rich and aromatic.



Mix corn flour in a small bowl with 4 tbls water to make a smooth paste. Trickle into your sauce, stirring constantly as you go to avoid lumps.
cook until velvety and no longer tastes of raw flour.
Serve or put aside to heat later.

Note - this sauce is also beautiful if you replace the corn flour with cream and reduce a further 10 minutes to make a lush shitake cream sauce.
About 30 minutes before they are ready make the polenta.

To Make the Polenta;

Heat the stock and milk with some seasoning until simmering.
Get your parmesan grated, your butter cubed and your whisk ready.
Rain in the polenta, whisking as you go. It will seem like a lot of liquid. Trust me - it will come good.
Turn down the heat and keep whisking until it starts to thicken. You want to cook it out for a good 15 minutes or so for it to become beautifully velvety. Add your butter as you stir gently. There is no need to tired out your arm once the heat is turned down. Just stay with it and whisk gently. Add your parmesan (or cheese of your cheese) and adjust seasoning to taste.



Whisk a little more. Add butter as needed and a little cream if desired.
Remove from heat and cover with foil to keep warm.

To Serve;

Steam broccolini until just cooked and still beautifully green. Season.
Spoon soft polenta onto plate.
Top with two shanks, on or off the bone. Garnish with steamed broccoli and drizzle generously with sauce.
Taste and remember why sometimes going the extra miles is worth the effort...




Meltingly soft polenta...







Uniquely rich shitake mushroom sauce...




And Lamb so tender it literally falls off the bone...


Careful... It may be too tender to stay on your fork...


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sumptuous Paprika-Spiced Warm Cannelini bean Salad




I had unfortunate urges to name this salad after many bad puns on cannelini and cunnilingus - but fortunately for you - I did not.
Sumptuous is the correct term for the sum-uppance of this wondrous warm salad. I have been eating it once to twice a week for some time now.
It is healthy, comforting, fresh and absolutely scrumptious.
A lovely combination of peppery leaves, smoked paprika-spiced cannelini beans, sauteed garlic zuchinni and a wonderful crumble of goats cheese or soft fetta.
It is a little whimsical. Refreshing in summer, warming in winter. Well perhaps Australian winter.. I apologize to all you people freezing your asses off in snow climates...
Make some heat on the couch in front of the fire. Cook a stew.
It will be delicious.
This is my current favorite salad, hopefully it can be yours too.

A good couple of handfuls of a peppery salad leaf, such as rocket or watercress
1 x 440gm tin of cannelini beans, preferably a nice organic one
1-2tbls vege oil
1 tsp smoked paprika (see above blog)
1 small brown onion, roughly diced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Small knob of butter
1 small zuchinni, cubed to approx. the same size as the beans
A nice melting brie or some soft fetta, goats cheese or labna
1 ripe tomato, diced
Splash of vege stock or hot water



2tbls balsamic vinegar mixed with 2tbls olive oil and shaken or a lemon wedge - for dressing


Heat oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and saute onion and garlic till aromatic and soft.Tumble in your zucchini, sprinkle over the smoked paprika and fry till zucchini is soft - but with a little bite.
Everyone loves a little bite.



Drain and rinse the cannelini beans and pour into the pan.
Have a toss.
Add a little vege stock or hot water.
Toss some more.
Add the butter to the pan and melt all through.
Taste. Adjust seasoning as required.
Remove from heat and mix through tomatoes. You want them a little warm but not soft.





Arrange salad in two bowls or one large bowl for sharing. Pour in the bean mix. Drizzle sexily with balsamic and oil vinaigrette or simply a squeeze of lemon. Crumble over your cheese of choice.
Munch to your hearts desire.