Bistro Molines interior

Winter is coming

Game of Thrones has a lot to answer for. The last 6 weeks of my life has been a repeat of eat, sleep, work, GoT, eat, sleep, work, GoT. The downside of having completely caught up with the latest aired episode is that I now have to wait a very long, anxious week before I can watch the next episode rather than just flicking it over. I just might DIE!

But now that I’m completely caught up and am waiting for the next episode, I suddenly have time to do other stuff than just eating, sleeping, working, and GoT-ing. This freeing up of my schedule just happens to coincide with a lovely warm, dry spell here in Sydney. It’s well and truly autumn (as the Starks would say, winter is coming) and temperatures are still in the mid-20s, around mid-70s℉.

Taking advantage of the blue skies and warm weather, this weekend the White Russian and I rode our motorbikes up to the Hunter Valley, around 2 hours north of Sydney. We found a few twisty roads, and also found ourselves on a dirt, unsealed road, which made me feel a bit nervous.

While we were in the area, we dropped into Bistro Molines, which shares a scenic spot with Tallavera Grove wineries. If you’re lucky and book ahead, you can snare a table on the verandah which overlooks the valley, marked with rows upon rows of vines. Or if you aren’t so fortunate, the tables inside still have the beautiful panorama thanks to the open dining area, which is filled with lovely fresh cut flowers and warm, rustic decor.

Bistro Molines view

Bistro Molines verandah

 

Bistro Molines pass

We were served a simple but delicious taster of cherry tomato, olive and buffalo mozzarella, and the bread was served with a rich aioli, an interesting but slightly strange change from the usual butter or olive oil.

Bistro Molines - cherry tomato and mozzarella snack

As a starter, we shared the charcuterie platter of a rich, creamy duck liver pate and a delicious rabbit rillettes served with a garden of pickled treats.

Bistro Molines charcuterie

Bistro Molines charcuterie close

The White Russian had the special of roasted rabbit served with speck and white bean puree. I may have encouraged him to order it since, when do we ever have rabbit at home? He said it tasted like chicken. My baked figs with gorgonzola and prosciutto were a nice combination of sweet and salty, soft and crisp.

Bistro Molines rabbit

Bistro Molines roasted figs

Unfortunately we couldn’t fit in dessert without risking a food coma on the long 2 hour ride back to Sydney, so we gave it a miss. Instead we ordered a caffeine hit and scored some bittersweet chocolate tartlets to finish a splendid lunch date.

Bistro Molines chocolate tarts

Bistro Molines exterior

Bistro Molines on Urbanspoon

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Church Point

A hidden piece of Sydney

Owning a motorcycle means that you are more likely than most people to just go out cruising around without actually needing to go somewhere. The benefit of this is that you end up exploring some wonderful roads and areas that you would normally never think to visit.

One of the places that I discovered was Church Point, up the northern end of Sydney. After a ride through the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park to the West Head Lookout to check out its lovely views over Pittwater and to Palm Beach, a lunch at the Waterfront Cafe at Church Point is a nice way to enjoy a sunny Sydney weekend.

 

Sitting on the deck at the cafe makes you feel like you a thousand miles from the city, when you’re only 32km away. Boats bobbing about on their moorings, and you can enjoy the views to Scotland Island and the Pittwater activity.

Church Point waterfront cafe

The menu here is pretty extensive, which is usually a bit of a red flag. It spans Italian classics such as veal saltimbocca, pizzas and pastas, to burgers and steak sandwiches, fish and chips, a mezze plate, and seafood platters. At least there will be something for everyone!

The mezze plate comes with 5 generously proportioned servings of dip (beetroot, eggplant, olive, roast capsicum and avocado) and is served with a cheesy, garlic pizza.

Meze plate

The bouillabaisse is a delicious serve of seafood in a tomato-based broth. Be prepared to get your hands dirty working through that crab.

Boullabaise

The burger comes stacked pretty high, which can make it a challenge to get your mouth around. The bread is thick and crusty, which is a change from the soft, brioche buns that are the latest trend.

Beef burger with chips

The fish special is pan fried dory, which was served with wilted baby spinach, roasted potatoes and a fresh tomato sauce.

Pan fried dory

Sadly we were pretty stuffed and didn’t have room for dessert (who would’ve thought this possible?) I can’t even explain the pain of regretfully turning down a sweet finish when the selection which came out on a long paddle to tempt us. However, despite our early misgivings, the food here is decent and it’s well worth the trek up here to enjoy a relaxing lunch with friends, family and the spectacular views.

Waterfront Cafe on Urbanspoon

Cheese souffle

Experimental Sundays: cheese soufflé

I always thought that soufflé was really difficult to make. It has a reputation for requiring considerable care and attention, lest the thing collapses and causes embarrassment in front of your dinner guests. Having said all that, a soufflé is just wondrous. Whether it’s a savoury or sweet, it’s like eating scented, flavoured air.

The first time I made a soufflé was at a dessert class a few years ago. I was struck by two things mainly: how incredibly easy it was to make this classic French dish; and how whisking egg whites to stiff peaks by hand is very effective at giving you a dead arm. In the spirit of Experimental Sunday, I thought I’d try whipping up a savoury cheesy soufflé.

Searching for a recipe, I found this simple one which was incredibly light yet rich. I actually halved the recipe to cater for the two of us, and ended up with perfect results.

Cheese soufflé
Recipe from SBS Food
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
60g butter
60g flour
500ml milk
200g grated gruyere
6 eggs, separated
Salt and pepper to season
Freshly grated nutmeg

Step 1
Move oven rack to the centre of the oven and preheat it to 200C. Butter either a large soufflé dish or 4-6 smaller dishes, depending on their size.

Step 2
Make a roux by melting butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the flour and stir around for a few minutes. The mixture becomes a nice nutty brown colour. Using a whisk, gradually add the milk and whisk together until it thickens into a smooth consistency, and then remove from the heat.

Step 3
Whisk in the grated cheese, which will slowly melt into the mixture. Then add salt and pepper to taste, grate in some nutmeg, and finally add the egg yolks.

Making cheese souffleStep 4
In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they form stiff peaks. If you fancy an upper body work out, do it by hand by whisking side to side really quickly. Swap arms if necessary, and confident in your wrong arm coordination!

Whisking egg whites to stiff peaksStep 5
Spoon a little of the egg white mixture into the cheese mixture and fold through to loosen it a bit, and then tip it back into the bowl with the rest of the egg whites and fold together. Spoon the combined mixture into the soufflé dish(es), smooth the top, and immediately put into the hot oven. Bake in the centre for 10 minutes before turning the oven down to 180C and baking for another 25-30 minutes for a large soufflé or 15-20 minutes for the smaller soufflés. They should be well risen and golden brown on top.

Cheese souffle before ovenStep 6
Serve it immediately with a salad and enjoy!

Cheese souffle with spoon

Experimental Sundays: home made pizzas

Sprinkling cheese on pizza

When we’re after a quick and easy weeknight dinner, “home made” pizzas are always popular. The White Russian’s daughter always goes for her favourite ham and pineapple topping, and we load up delicious salami, artichokes, olives, ham, and feta. Our usual cheat is to use pre-made Lebanese bread as the base, which makes a super crisp, thin base pizza, but in the name of Experimental Sundays, I tried making the dough from scratch.

I didn’t have a pizza stone, so cooked the pizzas on oiled trays in my gas oven on the hottest setting. The result was a light, crisp base that didn’t go soggy in the middle, however I couldn’t help but wish I had a wood fired oven where I could get some nice charred and smoky crust!

We had dough left over after feeding three adults and a child, which we wrapped up in cling film and froze. A week later, we defrosted some of the dough to make pizzas again, with the same great result. Not a bad idea to keep some dough on hand in the freezer, and despite it taking considerably longer than pulling Lebanese bread straight out of the packet, it was well worth the effort!

Pizza dough
Adapted from SBS’s perfect pizza dough and Jamie Oliver’s pizza dough recipes
Makes 6-8 medium sized pizzas

Ingredients
1kg Tipo ’00’ flour
2 x 7g dried yeast sachets
1 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
650ml lukewarm water

Step 1
Combine the warm water, yeast, sugar, salt and olive oil in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Turn the mixer onto a slow to medium speed until these bits are combined.

Pizza dough in mixer

Step 2
Slowly add the flour, saving a little of the flour to dust the bench and your hands later. Keep mixing until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Step 3
Flour the top of the dough and cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Leave the dough to rest at room temperature for at least a couple of hours. The SBS recipe recommends leaving the dough to prove for 24 hours!
Pizza dough

Step 4
When you are ready to cook, tip out the dough onto a well floured bench. Flour your hands and knock back the excess air out of the dough. Divide it into 6 to 8 smaller balls of dough.

Pizza dough balls

Step 5
Roll or press out the dough on well oiled trays or pizza stone. Top with your favourite toppings and pop into your oven until the cheese has browned and the crust is crisp.

Pizza dough flattening

Home made pizza result    Enjoy!

Older couple making spring rolls

Taipei’s Shilin night markets

On our recent trip to Japan, we stopped over in Taipei for a night of feasting at the famous Shilin night markets. The markets first opened in 1899 and has a huge variety of delicious Taiwanese street food and snacks. During the day, the streets are empty and quiet, devoid of food carts, but come nighttime, it’s jam-packed with hungry people throughout the night.