Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Flour power more than just froth and bubble

Small clouds of Petra flour billow over the bench tops at both Pizzaperta at The Star and Da Vinci's Italian Restaurant in Summer Hill.  The product imported from Padova is a wholegrain wheat flour and highly nutritious, which is why chef Stefano Manfredi is so passionate about it.

One year on, this artist's rendition of Pizzaperta is a reality at The Star.
When Manfredi put his name to the hoardings of Pizzaperta at The Star one year ago he says it was with the intention of changing the public’s perception of good pizza. 

Manfredi says Pizzaperta at The Star embraces his obsession for quality produce and his fetish for the "finest quality Petra flours". Molino Quaglia, near Padova, Italy, is the only Italian industrial mill producing stone-milled flours with 100 per cent Italian grains and Manfredi was the first to import the artisan ingredient to Australia.

Mozzarella, cherry tomato, bresaola and rocket salad pizza at Pizzaperta at The Star.   Image: Supplied
“It was six years ago when I first tasted a pizza made using this flour. It was a revelation,” says Manfredi, who is known as ‘Australia’s Godfather of Italian cuisine’.

Manfredi’s says his passion for pizza made following traditional methods in combination with the unrefined, stoneground Molino Quaglia Petra flours began when he visited La Cascina Dei Sapori, in Rezzato, in Lombardy, owned by leading Italian pizzaioli Antonio Pappalardo.

Gianluca Donzelli surfed on the pro circuit in Italy. He is now carving things up at Pizzaperta.  
Manfredi invited Pappalardo to Australia to demonstrate the art of natural leavening to Pizzaperta pizzaiolo chef Gianluca Donzelli (a former pro surfer).  As well as sharing his knowledge about the flour, Pappalardo led the kitchen through the 48-hour fermentation process using the classic ‘biga’ method “resulting in a more easily digested dough”.  

“Our goal is simple: we want to make pizza
with the flavour of the grain, a texture that
is so soft and airy, dough that is easily digested
and a balance of flavours from the quality of the
ingredients,” says Manfredi.

As well as his penchant for using the special stone-milled flours, Manfredi says he and Donzelli like to play around with non-traditional toppings to better reflect the experimentation that is happening in Italy. Manfredi says he has curated a menu of classics and new wave options that he says ‘reflect the renaissance of pizza that is happening in Italy’.

“If you want a traditional pizza in Italy, you go to Napoli. But if you want to see something really exciting, know that there is a new wave happening in Italy and I’m interested in bringing that culture to Australia,” he says. 

“Pizza began in Napoli but it belongs to the world. I love pizza in Naples, but I also love pizza al taglio (by the slice) in Rome. I travel to Italy a lot and although the home of pizza is very conservative there are all sorts of experimental toppings being used around the country.

Pizzaperta is converting even the most ardent pizza purists with its inventive toppings.
Some of the most incredible toppings include crudo, raw scampi with a bit of thyme, or truffles with fontina. First we start with the perfect base. Then we bring these tastes of the Italian kitchen to the pizza,” he says.

Pizzaperta pizza made using the Petra flour feature more contemporary toppings than pizza via Napoli.

The name Pizzaperta translates to ‘we are open for pizza’ referring to the fact the 130-seat piazza-style eatery is al fresco. The sparkling centerpiece of the restaurant is Stefano Ferrara M130 handcrafted wood-burning oven. 

The team at Da Vinci's Italian Restaurant in Summer Hill - one of Manfredi's favourite inner-western Sydney haunts - have also converted to the sweet-scented flour with fantastic results. Future blog post alert: the restaurant rates in my Top 10 places for pizza in Sydney. And its gelato? Certainly rates in my Top 5 list in Sydney. Again, that's another story. Now back to that pizza...
Da Vinci's Italian Restaurant has converted to using Petra flours.     Photo: Carla Grossetti.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Turmeric: the ginger spice

Turmeric has long been lauded for its health benefits in Ayurvedic cookery.
Turmeric is one of the cornerstones of Indian cookery. But research also suggests that the bright yellow aromatic powder obtained from the rhizome of the Zingiberaceae plant is also one of the most powerful plants in the world when it comes to promoting better health.

British chef Anjum Anand was one of the first writers to create and write Indian recipes catering for the health-conscious cook. Anand’s Eat Right For Your Body Type adheres to the principles of Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu holistic practice of medicine based on the idea of balance in bodily symptoms.

Speaking from her base in London, Anand, whose parents migrated to the UK from the Punjab some 50 years ago, says the health-giving properties of turmeric has been gaining widespread interest in the scientific community as researchers discover what Indians have known for thousands of years: that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, could help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, prevent cancer, reduce the risk of heart attack and strokes, fight common cold and flu, aid weight loss and inhibit anti-inflammatory diseases.

“Turmeric is known as the ‘golden Goddess’ in India where Ayurvedic doctors have been weaving it into our meals for more than 4000 years so as to realise its benefits. They also advised simple home-style remedies such as using turmeric paste on wounds and bumps as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic,” says the 42-year-old food writer and TV cook and creator of The Spice Tailor range of sauces.

"As Indians, we’ve always added turmeric 
in small quantities to our meals and research
     shows it seems to have had a positive effect."  

"If my children have a cold, I add turmeric to milk with honey and to water with salt for a sore throat. It is also really good for the skin … before an Indian bride gets married she will spread a mixture of gram flour, turmeric, oil and water all over he skin. After a few hours they wash it off and have glowing skin on their wedding night,” she says.

Cancer researcher Ralph W. Moss, an expert on conventional and alternative cancer treatment believes that lifelong curcumin intake may explain why the cancer mortality rate is so low in countries such as India and Sri Lanka where curcumin is consigned to the daily diet.

He says his research confirms the Ayurvedic belief that turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, inhibits the growth of new blood vessels in tumours and is a powerful antioxidant. The American Journal of Cardiology has also found that turmeric extract reduces post-bypass heart attack risk by 56 per cent. Studies have also shown curcumin stimulates the gall bladder and produces bile, which helps to control weight gain and was proven to be as effective as Prozac in alleviating the symptoms of depression in a study of 60 patients.

You can grate turmeric, take it in supplement form or drops or use the dried powdered root. And while nutritionists claim it is difficult to reach the required dosage of curcumin by taking the spice in your foods alone, Anand recommends ingesting it both in its natural form and as a supplement but to do so regularly in order to get the real benefits.

Anand prescribes adding ½ to ¾ teaspoon to mashed, sautéed or boiled potatoes, into cooking rice and risotto, in soups, stews, stocks and curries, in a cheese sauce or soufflé. She also mixes it with olive oil and salt to marinate fish and adds it to scrambled eggs and frittatas, stir-fries and noodles, teas, hot milk and porridge.

Anjam Anand's book Eat Right for your Body Type adheres to the principles of Ayurvedic cuisine

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Healthy meals in a hurry

While the notion of having fresh produce or pre-prepared nosh delivered to your door is nothing new - it's been happening for decades in Australia - there are now a raft of companies that have taken things up a notch - from sourcing artisanal ingredients to doing your weekly shop for you and telling you what to cook and how to cook it. 

While I will always prefer the experience of mooching around a market and sourcing ingredients for myself, there are times in my life when finding food parcels on my doorstep feels like manna from heaven. Here are four home-delivery services I put to the test to help me get over those hump days.

Marley Spoon spoon-feeds you every step of the way with recipe cards and ingredients ready to go. 

Marley Spoon
The new kid on the gourmet home cooking service block is Marley Spoon, which has upped the ante by bringing a roster of celebrity cooks and chefs to the table to share their easy-to-prepare dishes. It's like someone has flicked through your favourite cookbooks and plucked out the best fuss-free recipes from chefs such as Michael Rantissi of Kepos Street Kitchen to Luke Nguyen, of Red Lantern. Each guest chef brings their own unique flavour to the menu, with Rantissi sharing his take on roast spatchcock with spiced lamb and pine nut stuffing and Everyday Gourmet's Justine Schofield sharing favourites such as the speck, porcini and pine nut pasta. The ingredients arrive in brown paper bags with 6-step illustrated recipe cards. There is even a cooking hotline for home 'kooks'.
BEST FOR: Cashed-up 20-somethings who want to take the guesswork out of dinner and time-poor cooks who want to be inspired in the kitchen.
HANDY HINT: Most of these dishes can be made in one pan and whipped up on a weeknight in as little as 30 minutes.
For more information, visit www.marleyspoon.com.au

Impress the neighbours with this dish'd dessert: heritage raspberry tart with butter shortcrust pastry.   Image: Supplied

dish'd food store

There are lots of reasons to love receiving your delivery of dish'd. Firstly, if you're going to get food delivered, then you want some of the hard work done for you. As well as offering free delivery on orders over $80, there are more than 200 dishes to choose from on the site. After 18 years of running his own restaurant, French chef Jacques Reymond has curated the dish'd menu, which includes dishes such as prawns en papillote with zucchini, edamame beans and lemon crème, green beans, romanesco, cauliflower and broccoli and potato Dauphinois with cheese. Never thought I'd be a fan of pulling food out of the freezer, but there was a great range to choose from and a few nights where dish'd saved my bacon. Fake it until you make it with one of Reymond's French tarts such as raspberry and pistachio frangipane tart with butter shortcrust pasty. Superb!
BEST FOR: Busy couples with dual incomes or single 20-somethings who enjoy chef-inspired dishes but don't know their way around the kitchen.
HANDY HINT: If, like me, you don't own a microwave, simply adapt recipes and use your stovetop to heat up your dinner instead. Oh and repurpose any single-use containers to hold herbs, nuts or seeds.
For more information, visit www.dishd.com.au

Steak and lentil delight from the HelloFresh range of recipes.            Image: Supplied.

Despite being a passionate cook, I'm often so busy during my working week that I feel like I'm preparing food from a bunker. HelloFresh took me by surprise in that it told me what to cook and shoehorned me out of my food rut. The delivery service arrives with recipe kits and a box full of fresh ingredients portioned out so I could plan my weekly cook-off. I loved being bossed about so I could just focus on the meditative act of chopping, stirring, searing and serving. I also love that by delivering the exact quantity of ingredients I needed for my weekly meals, there was no food waste whatsoever. Family favourites from the 'healthy' range included the harissa chicken with smashed chickpeas, cherry tomato, olive and goat curd penne and chicken soba noodle soup.
BEST FOR: Working parents who want to expand their cooking repertoire with ease and takeaway addicts who are hungry for inspiration.
HANDY HINT: New customers are invited to take the HelloFresh challenge by claiming back the cost of their takeaway dinner to the value of $40 so they can put HelloFresh to the test.
For more information, visit www.hellofresh.com.au

My Food Bag sources quality ingredients and tells you what to cook and how to cook it.
My Food Bag
Dinner can also be delivered to your doorstep courtesy of My Food Bag, which offers four different food bags to choose from. The first food bag comes with a recipe folder that you can fill with meal ideas from the Classic Food Bag (which feeds two adults and two teenagers or four adults), Family Food Bag (which feeds two adults and 2-3 young children), Gourmet Food Bag (for cashed-up couples) or My Own Feed Bag (for busy singles).   The service has teamed up with celebrity chef Miguel Maestre to help Australian householders find their mojo when it comes to making healthy home-cooked dinners. The recipes were also created in consultation with food nutritionist Nadia Lim so are beautifully balanced and nutritious, too. Hits in our household included teriyaki salmon with brown rice and edamame and radish salad as well as pistachio-crusted lamb with red cabbage, kumara and beetroot relish.
BEST FOR: Those who are too busy to do a weekly shop and want to avoid takeaway.
HANDY HINT: Despite the Family Bag being portioned out to feed two adults and two children, we found that we always had leftovers for lunch the next day.
For more information, visit myfoodbag.com.au

If you are struggling at the end of a working week, My Food Bag will help you through Hump Day. 


Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Taste of Coogee a trifecta of treats

Sample a Taste of Coogee at the annual epicurean event.                  Image: Supplied
Spring is about forgoing the duvet in favour of a feather boa, avoiding vicious magpies and admiring pretty blossoms in the garden. If Spring had a mantra it would be 'to see and be seen' and nothing will make you want to press 'eject' from your winter bunker more than the Taste of Coogee festival in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

As well as offering punters the triple whammy that is food, wine and ocean views, this year's free food and wine festival - held on September 20 from 10am to 6pm at the Goldstein Memorial Reserve - will create a moving tribute to the late cricketing legend and sports commentator Ritchie Benaud. Funds raised on behalf of Benaud will go toward the ongoing construction of the $100 million development of the Nelune Comprehensive Cancer Centre, to be completed in October, 2016.

Coogee Pavilion will pop up at the Taste of Coogee festival.                                        Image: Supplied
Another highlight of this year's event is a cooking demonstration by world-renowned chefs Geoff Jansz and Tony Bilson. Punters can also purchase a $20 package to sample one of the many award-winning beers and wines from Brown Brothers, Sydney Brewery, Petersons Champagne House, Wild Oats Barefoot and Twisted River wines.   

Little Jack Horner will be one of the local restaurants doing what it does best at Taste of Coogee.            Image: Supplied

On the food front, visitors can taste the best of the best in local cuisine from local restaurants such as Coogee Pavilion, Little Jack Horner and La Spiaggia. Mixologist Jason Crawley, of the Drinks Cabinet, will also be inspiring the consumption of cocktails and discussions on drinks to the tune of sunny beats being dropped on the beach by the Martini Club and the John Field Band.

Taste of Coogee Festival also includes live music such as The Martini Club.         Image: Supplied
The festival takes place in a sprawling outdoor space right by the sea and parents will be pleased to know the Fun with Franky show will keep the kids happy while they enjoy the communal vibe at Coogee. Finish on a cheesy note when you sniff out that food made from pressed curds of milk at the Hunter Valley Cheese Company.

WHEN: September 20, 2015
WHERE: Goldstein Memorial Reserve, Coogee Beach
TIME: 10am-6pm
ENTRY: Free. Food and wine tokens cost $20 for four, with all proceeds going to the Prince of Wales Hospital Foundation, Ritchie Benaud Fund.


Monday, 7 September 2015

Wrap-up of Good Food Guide Awards 2016

The Bridge Room was named Restaurant of the Year at this week's The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016 Awards. The restaurant, run by husband-and-wife team Ross and Sunny Lusted in Sydney's CBD, also won a coveted third hat at the awards and, in doing so, gained entry into an elite three-hat club comprising Quay, Rockpool est. 1989 and Sepia.

Les Schirato of Vittoria Coffee presents The Bridge Room's Sunny and Ross Lusted with their award.   Photo: Lucas Jarvis
The guide - the bible when it comes to restaurant ratings in Australia - also declared Pasi Petanen, of Cafe Paci in East Sydney, to be the Citi Chef of the Year, describing him as "a chef's chef and in possession of one of the most forward-thinking idiosyncratic food brains in the country".

Sydney's most anticipated opening of the year, Bennelong, housed under the soaring sails of the Sydney Opera House, also got a gong, taking out Best New Restaurant and debuting with two hats.

Pasi Petanen, of Cafe Paci, in East Sydney, named 2016 Citi Chef of the Year.     Photo: Lucas Jarvis
The shoebox-sized 22-seat Fleet Restaurant, in Brunswick Heads, on the far north coast of NSW, also gave us something to shout about, taking out Regional Restaurant of the Year, which denotes it is as a very good restaurant - especially considering the company it keeps.

In this year's guide, 100 of NSW and ACT's top eateries received a total 137 hats; of these, 36 were awarded in the regions. Interestingly, there are now more two-hatted restaurants than ever before. Chief restaurant critic of The Sydney Morning Herald, Terry Durack, says he's always more excited when the greatest amount of action comes with the one-hatted restaurants than the three hats.

Chef Peter Gilmore and team onstage with SMH chief restaurant critic, Terry Durack. Photo:  Lucas Jarvis.
"This means the quality of dining out is getting better from the ground up, not just from the top down, and that's what we're seeing reflected in the new Good Food Guide," he says.

Lauren Elridge, pastry chef at Marque, was also recognised as being one of the brightest young talents on the NSW dining scene as the fifth woman to win the Josephine Pignolet Award in its 25-year history.

The talent was more pronounced than ever this year in a dining landscape that the new editor of the Good Food Guide, Myffy Rigby, describes as "not so much competitive as collaborative".

The Ivy Ballroom was transformed for the Good Food Guide 2016 awards.     Photo: Lucas Jarvis.
"Chef collectives across all faiths have formed. It's bred a city with an irreverent streak a mile wild, seasoning Sydney with a Japanese-Italian flavour that's very often grilled over charcoal, woodfired over individual twigs and broken up with the odd bacon doughnut," she says.

The new stars on the drinks scene in the 2016 version of the guide include Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt, who won Best Bar for Monopole and Best Wine List for their CBD Restaurant, Bentley Restaurant & Bar. The latest edition of the guide also awarded Sebastian Crowther, Head Sommelier at Rockpool, the coveted title of Champagne Pol Roger Sommelier of the Year.

The teams that took out three hats in the Good Food Guide 2016.                  Photo: Lucas Jarvis.       
This year also saw the introduction of three new awards, with Best Cheap Eat going to Chaco Bar, a Japanese Grill House, and the People's Choice award going to the much-loved waterfront institution Catalina.

Rob Caslick was rightly overjoyed when he took to the stage to accept The Food for Good Award, which celebrates innovation, charity and sustainability. Caslick runs Inside Out Organic Soup Kitchen, which teaches young mothers and pregnant teens to eat well and cook for themselves, Two Good, which employs women affected by domestic violence and St Canice Rooftop Garden, run by asylum seekers providing produce to local business and the soup kitchen.

Chef Sean McConnell, of Monster Kitchen & Bar, awarded one hat in the GFG 2016.            Photo: Supplied
In other noteworthy news, Canberra finds its mojo with Monster Kitchen & Bar being awarded one hat as well as Regional Wine List of the Year while Muse Restaurant in the Hunter Valley retained its coveted two-hat status for the second year running with Troy Rhoades-Brown at the helm.

Muse Restaurant in the Hunter Valley rightfully retained its two-hat status.        Photo: Carla Grossetti 
To get the full list of winners and grinners, visit the Good Food website.  The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2016 will be available from participating newsagents and supermarkets for $10 with the newspaper on Saturday, September 12, while stocks last. It can also be purchased in selected bookshops and online at smhshop.com.au/smhgfg2016 for $24.99.

Carla Grossetti is one of 40 restaurant critics to contribute to The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.