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.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Gifts for foodies on Father's Day

Forget soap-on-a-rope or a three-pack of bright-red underpants this Father's Day. If you have a Dad who delights in donning his apron and getting in the kitchen, then choose from my Top 5 cookbooks for patriarchs who know their way around the pantry. Alternatively, buy the book for yourself and spoil Dad with a Father's Day feast.

The Gourmet Farmer Goes Fishing
In the Gourmet Farmer Goes Fishing, former food critic turned farmer Matthew Evans teams up with cheesemaker Nick Haddow and pig farmer Ross O'Meara to celebrate all that our rivers and oceans have to offer. As well as inspiring Dad to catch a bucket full of writhing mullet or skipjack, the book details how to prepare and cook everything from abalone to sea urchins. It is just the sort of book that fisherfolk will find useful as it demonstrates the way flavours can be combined as well as highlighting the lesser-known species we should be eating. There’s also an important message: while we like to eat fish, we don’t want to destroy our eco-system with what we catch and cook. The Gourmet Farmer Goes Fishing, by Matthew Evans, Nick Haddow and Ross O'Meara (Murdoch Books, $49.99).

Does your Dad like to play with the lint in his belly button while watching Friday night sport? Does he approach a buffet with military precision? Is your Dad Homer Simpson? Donuts have come a long way since Dominique Ansell scored a hole in one with his trademarked cronut. Forget, for a moment the deep-fat fryer version and think proper home-made donuts that range from fancy options - ice cream donut sandwiches and blueberry donuts - to stand-by sugar-coated basics. Author Tracey Meharg even includes a paleo donut in the mix of Donuts: 50 Sticky Hot Donut Recipes to Make at Home, which is a decadent compilation of intense pleasures. Dote on dad and feed him a dozen donuts dusted in sugar and crammed with jam until his eyes glaze over. Donuts: 50 Sticky Hot Donut Recipes to Make at Home, by Tracey Meharg (Murdoch Books, RRP: $29.99)  

My Street Food Kitchen
Perfect for the well-travelled Dad who is stuck in suburbia. Encourage Dad to break out of his three-meat-and-veg rut and recall those halcyon days in his 20s when he was drifting around the globe with dreadlocks. With My Street Food Kitchen, it doesn't matter if your passport has expired. The book will transport you and satisfy your appetite to travel with recipes that roam everywhere from America to China and Morocco. Turn your kitchen into an international food court and get the whole family involved in preparing tacos, curries, dumplings and souvlaki while Dad recounts stories from his travels. Yes it's cheaper than a plane ticket, but this authentic street food has inspiration enough to shoehorn you out of your midweek slump.
My Street Food Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce (Murdoch Books, RRP $39.99)

East: Culinary Adventures in South East Asia
From street food stalls in Thailand and Malaysia to bustling markets in Vietnam and Indonesia, East is the sort of book that will either remind you of your travels or inspire you to go in search of the sights, smells and flavours of Southeast Asia. East, by Leanne Kitchen & Antony Suvalko is such a vibrant beautiful book, with colours that pop like a spice palette used for a curry paste.  The writers' attention to detail is obvious on every page and, better still, East will make you want to begin cooking immediately. From Balinese pork parcels to laksa or fried Nonya chicken, there is no doubt that the book's heart belongs to Asia. East: Culinary Adventures in Southeast Asia, by Leanne Kitchen & Antony Suvalko is published by SBS (RRP: $39.95)

Food + Beer
Grill-seekers unite: Australia's King of the Grill Ross Dobson has travelled to Morocco, Italy, China and India in the name of research. But the inspiration from this book came from his travels to Bali, where he became excited about the connections between food and beer. From wings and burgers to Brazilian fish stew (moqueca) Chinese BBQ pork (char sui), Moroccan pan-fried pawns and crispy karaage (Japanese fried chicken), Food + Beer will serve as a bible for both barbecue and beer aficionados. The book includes a history lesson on culinary favourites and beer matching and suggestions for perfect pairings.
Food + Beer, by Ross Dobson (Murdoch Books, RRP $45).