Wednesday 27 June 2012

Aria Restaurant Review (Chef - Matt Moran)

For S' birthday in November we wanted to do something fun and indulge in going to a beautiful restaurant being the foodies we are. We decided to take a trip to Sydney and I immediately knew we had to visit Peter Gilmore's Quay, as I had been dying to try their infamous snow egg ever since I saw it on MasterChef... look how pretty!!! Alas you have to book months and months and months in advance to get into Quay so it was on to Plan B. Plan B was quite the good alternative though, being Matt Moran's Aria.

I didn't know a whole lot about Aria, apart from Matt Moran being the head chef, but that was enough for me! For starters, the restaurant has the obvious bonus of being in one of the best locations in Sydney (if you don't mind the Opera House and Harbour Bridge of course) have a look at the view from our table, magic!

The feel and atmosphere of the restaurant is terrific and I highly recommend paying a lunch time visit to Aria as it's a treat for both the eyes and the mouth. Forgive me if I don't remember all of the precise names of the dishes it's been a few months. 

The appetiser that was brought out first was a shot of Thai Sweet Potato Soup with a Coconut topping. First things first I had to get my head around the fact that I was going to "shot" some soup rather than some alcohol, and that the top looked strangely like cappuccino froth, but can I tell you with each little sip I was wanting more and more of it. It was like nothing I had ever tasted before, so delicious!

For entrees we had the scallops and pork belly. The scallops were cooked to perfection (and I'm not a scallop lover) they were so moist and delicate. The pork belly however was not the best I have had, but nonetheless still enjoyable, it just lacked that punch of flavour that I would normally expect from pork belly, however the meat was deliciously tender.

For main course we all settled on the steak (boring I know) but I was curious to try it, having dined at Gordon Ramsey's Maze Grill and wanted to see how they compared. Well my foodie friends, this steak was the best steak I have ever had in my life (big call I know!) From memory I think it was a grain fed Angus and it was delectable! This was the kind of melt in your mouth steak, hardly any chewing required. The jus it was served with also complimented it beautifully as did the brocollini with lemon juice and toasted macadamias.

After lunch and a glass of lovely Italian Riesling we were too full to have dessert (shattering I know) and we were about to leave when the lovely waitresses knew we were celebrating a birthday and brought us over this gorgeous little plate of chocolatey goodness. Oh my, I don't even know what they were or what was in them but they were bite-sized pieces of chocolatey heaven.

Check out the beautiful birthday girl with the plate of chocolatey fun!

Overall, Aria is a winner in my book in terms, of service, ambiance, atmosphere and of course the food. Make sure you book well in advance and ask for a table with a view, you won't regret it, it's a fabulous dining experience!

ARIA Restaurant Sydney • 1 Macquarie Street, East Circular Quay, Sydney NSW 2000 • Ph: +61 2 9252 2555

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Fudge Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

Fudge Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

150g butter
400g eating chocolate (dark, milk, mixture, doesn't matter, I used milk)
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain flour
140 grams of dark chocolate (either chips or chopped up)
1/2 cup of sour cream
3/4 cup of hazelnuts (not essential or you could always substitute by using some of your favourite chocolate with nuts in it)

125ml cream
200gm dark chocolate 

1. Bring cream to the boil in a saucepan.
2. Pour hot cream over chocolate pieces and combine with a fork until smooth.
3. Set aside until cool and of a spreadable consistency. 

Brownie Method
1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius (fan-forced) and line a shallow baking tray with baking paper and chop up or break chocolate!

2. Melt butter and chocolate in a saucepan on low heat until combined and smooth. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. (Cooling is important as you don't want the eggs to scramble in the chocolate, ew)

3. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla and proceed to slowly fold in flour. Add dark chocolate bits, sour cream and nuts.  

4. Pour mixture into prepared tray and bake for 40 minutes. The brownies should be covered with with foil for the last 20 minutes of baking.

5. Cool for 10 minutes on wire rack and then wrap tightly in glad wrap for an hour.
6. Once cool spread ganache over.
7. Serve and enjoy!

Chefette's Take on Gâtéau Opera

There's something about a French Gâtéau which just screams, class and sophistication. I had never tried making a gâtéau of any sort before, but the other day I was looking through some cook books and then I remembered the delectable cake made by those beautiful Italian boys on My Kitchen Rules a few months back. It looked tricky, time-consuming and too delicate for my style of cooking and that's exactly why I wanted to try it out. 

The Gâtéau Opera was made famous in Paris of course, by Dalloyau Patisserie in 1955. Cyriaque Gavillon from Dalloyau, wanted to created a new cake shape with visible layers and for which only one bite would give the whole cake's taste. It was named "Opéra" as a tribute to an Opera prima ballerina. The Opera is a rectangular cake composed of three layers of "Joconde" biscuit soaked in coffee syrup and garnished with coffee butter cream and chocolate ganache. (source)

Yum, I'm not much of a fan of strong coffee tastes in cakes and desserts, but this Opera Gâtéau is like the snobby (and delicious) cousin of Tiramisu!

I adapted the recipe slightly from the good old Women's Weekly Classic Cakes Book and although my version does look slighly shabbier and less refined than it should, I think the flavour was quite good and I LOVED baking and plating up this little beast! So here's my adaptation of the Gâtéau Opera.

Gâtéau Opera

Almond Sponge
1 ¼ cup almond meal
1 cup icing sugar
1/3 cup plain flour
25 grams unsalted butter
4 egg whites
2 tablespoons caster sugar

Coffee Butter Cream
¼ cup milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons instant coffee (I used Nescafe Espresso)
1 egg yolk
125 grams unsalted butter

Coffee Syrup
1/3 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 ½ tablespoons instant coffee

160 grams dark eating chocolate chopped
1/3 cup cream

1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease and paper line to square cake tins.
2. Beat eggs, almond meal and sifted icing sugar with an electric mixer until  creamy, then slowly add flour whilst beating transfer to a large bowl and stir in butter.
3. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, add caster sugar.
4. Fold almond batter into egg white mixture slowly in three batches.
5. Divide mixture between the two pans and bake for 7-10 minutes until sponge springs back and skewer comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool.

Coffee Butter Cream
Stir milk, sugar and coffee in a small saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool for a little and gradually add in whisked yolk. Return to low heat ensuring mixture does not boil, continue whisking until mixture thickens slightly (allow to cool). Beat butter in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, gradually add the milk coffee mixture and beat until combined. Coffee butter cream should be thick and glossy, mixture is a bit too runny a small amount of icing sugar can be added to stabilise the coffee butter cream.

Coffee Syrup
Combine all ingredients in a cup.

Stir ingredients in bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until smooth and combined.

Putting it all together!
1.Place one of the sponges on the plate you will serve on and generously cover the sponge in Coffee Syrup with a pastry brush.
2. Spread half of the butter cream mixture over the sponge so the cake is nice and flat.
3.Place the second sponge on top and repeat steps 1 and 2.
4.Spread ganache on top of the final layer of butter cream so it is smooth and flat, a rubber spatula will help you achieve this finish.
5.Allow to chill in the refrigerator and remove and allow to rest for about 20 minutes before serving.
6.Serve with desired ingredients, I chose to serve mine with vanilla bean ice-cream, cherries, strawberries and toffee.
7.Bon appetite!

Monday 25 June 2012

First of hopefully many "foodie" posts

Hello and welcome to my blog! I decided I should start an entirely new blog, separate from my personal ramblings on Keeping Up With The Kalafiore because I realised I always had a lot to say about what I have been cooking and where I have been eating. Being raised in an Italian family, food just isn't about eating a pizza in front of the TV, it's about celebration, togetherness and enjoying the company of one another over a meal cooked with love. So join me in my cooking quests and restaurant adventures and remember to eat, drink and be merry! Buon appetito! xxx

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