Black Toro

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Images: Georgia Haynes

In Glen Waverley, a place far away from the enthusiastic food-consuming fervour of inner city hipsterville, lies Kingsway, a bustling strip lined with delicious, but predominantly Asian restaurants. Bang-smack in the middle of the Vietnamese and Chinese eateries is the slightly out of place but extremely palatable Hispanic offering, The Black Toro.

Glen Waverley locals Garen Maskal, Aret Arzadian and Sasoon Arzadian come from Armenian backgrounds, the cuisine manifestation of which can be found at The Black Toro’s sister restaurant, Sezar. These experienced foodies began the Spanish fusion establishment after travel inspired them to bring a high-end dining experience to their area.

Black Toro boasts friendly, helpful staff at a time when more weight is placed on a good restaurant fit-out and a trendy postcode than on superior customer service. With a happy buzz coming from surrounding tables and Booker T Jones playing in the background, I was in the mood to enjoy good food.

The Spanish feast began with fresh guac and crisp tortilla chips, and a delicious cocktail aptly named “El Matador” – a heady mix of Canadian Club, peach puree, fresh mint, lemon and apple juice.

To set a higher brow tone to the meal, the smoked kingfish tostada with avocado-yoghurt, chives and avruga appeared. The smokiness of the kingfish was paired well with the rich avruga caviar, the creamy avocado and crunchy tostada. Chives brought freshness to this dish. The combo of flavours was spot on.

Following this, the grilled octopus was a very Spanish dish that rivalled my best-ever summer tapas experiences in Barcelona. This was business-end Spanish – crispy pieces of hash brown much like the patatas bravas seen all over Spain, very tender barbecued octopus, morcilla sausage (a blood and pork combination) bringing some creamy, slightly musky richness to the dish, and a tangy garlic aioli. Even if you think blood sausage isn’t for you, this dish will change your mind.

From here on out, the dishes became a bit more American diner-ish, and less Spanish, but they were so delicious that you wouldn’t hear complaints about the deviation from the theme. The braised lamb ribs were cooked for 12 hours overnight, the result being a tender meat that fell off the bone and melted in the mouth, the fat rendered down perfectly. The beef brisket sliders – the brisket in which had been cooked the same amount of time as the ribs – were a revelation.

The achiote spice used in the meat was musky like a Spanish-spiced brisket should be, and the Japanese kewpie mayonnaise a delicious and brave twist.

What followed was a dessert platter that consisted of five indulgent treats. I advise you to get this baby to share, unless you’re greedy like me. The platter’s three standouts were the vanilla sponge, caramelized pineapple and coconut and lime trifle, the deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake and the banana sandwich.

The trifle was a light combo of citrusy lime tang, meringue, dehydrated crunchy pineapple, toasted coconut and creamy coconut gelato. I snaffled that down and swiftly moved onto the cheesecake, which consisted of peanut butter and chocolate gelato, chocolate cookie biscuit crumbs, peanut brittle honeycomb and peanut butter fudge. I’ve noticed incarnations of frozen peanut butter desserts have been popping up on menus everywhere in the last few years, and with good reason – they’re bloody delicious. The banana sandwich was a beautiful caramelly combo of aerated bread, dulce de leche, cream cheese gelato and a hint of cinnamon. It was just like a frozen banoffee pie. I could have had ten more, but that would have been embarrassing.

Black Toro is the full dining experience – great food, good service and a warm atmosphere. I wouldn’t hesitate to venture out to Glen Waverley to experience it again.

www.theblacktoro.com.au

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Recipe: Pho

Making pho at home isn't as daunting a prospect as you might think.

Making pho at home isn’t as daunting a prospect as you might think.

Phó is a fragrant Vietnamese noodle soup that originated in northern Vietnam and was popularised in the French colonial period. A versatile, cleansing dish with steaming, clear broth, it has since become a staple dish throughout Vietnam and made its mark on the rest of the world.

My love of phó developed when I was a kid. My parents used to take me to Victoria Street on a Sunday afternoon for a noodle soup with all the delicious trimmings. Even as a kid, there was nothing so appealing to me than this huge bowl of broth (I have always been a big soup person), and the freedom to add as many garnishes and condiments as I pleased.

For me, Victoria Street is the heart of Melbourne’s Vietnamese food culture (although there is some amazing phó in Footscray and other places scattered throughout our city). This colourful corner of Melbourne was the inspiration for this dish.

Don’t be afraid like I was initially to create phó at home – just use a HUGE pot to get the most out of your stock components, and hit up the Vietnamese supermarket or grocery store nearest to you and you’ll find everything you need for this recipe.

Also, don’t be afraid to change it up – I’ve only loosely stuck to a traditional phó and tailored it to suit my own tastes. For example, you could dry roast all the spice pouch ingredients before adding the pouch to the stock if you wanted to. Just as long as you cook the broth for at least an hour with lots of different things to flavour the broth in the pot, you’ll be good to go.

Ingredients

1 kg chicken or beef bones (I use chicken, but you can use what you like, even a combo of both), washed
500g beef brisket
2 chicken breast fillets
400g dried rice stick noodles
1 large onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 6cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
½ cup fish sauce
2 teaspoons beef or chicken powder stock
Cracked pepper and salt, to taste

Spice pouch:
(You can use an oversized tea strainer or a square of muslin cloth for this)
3 star anise
3 4 cm sticks cassia bark
2 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons peppercorns

For the garnish (measurements to taste):
Spring onions, chopped
Vietnamese mint
Bean sprouts
Red chillies, sliced
Hoi sin
Fish sauce
Soy sauce
Sriracha
Coriander
Lime wedges (at least one wedge per bowl of phó)

Method

Rinse the beef/chicken bones and brisket in cold water. In a large pot, cover the bones and brisket with water and add the ginger, garlic, onion, stock, fish sauce, brisket, a bit of salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface of the liquid, and do this throughout the cooking of the broth to ensure the broth is clear.

Lower the heat so the broth is simmering. Add the spice pouch to the broth and cook for at least an hour (can be up to two hours, or even longer if you adjust the heat).

Remove the bones from the stock and discard. Take the brisket out of the broth, cut off any fat. Thinly slice and add back to the stock.

Add the chicken breast fillets to the broth, cook until no longer pink and translucent in the middle.

While the chicken is poaching in the broth, add the noodles to boiling water and cook until soft and no longer chewy. Drain and divide the noodles between four large soup bowls. Remove the chicken from the broth and shred.

Top the noodles with the broth, and then the chicken. Sprinkle phó with the spring onions, sprouts, mint, chilli and coriander, and add any or all of the condiments listed above along with a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!

Touchwood

Image The breakfast salad at Touchwood – delish

It is often in Melbourne that a new brunch spot will emerge, hype will spread and suddenly you’ll find yourself perched like a massive hipster on a milk crate, waiting half an hour to be seated because you couldn’t possibly go anywhere else, and neither could the rest of your suburb.

Touchwood in Richmond is one of those places – it also has the advantage of being in an area that is in dire need of a food culture makeover. As such, Touchwood is currently enjoying a popularity on Bridge Rd that is bordering on the hysterical.

Being five metres from my abode, Touchwood has become somewhat of an institution for me, and as a result, I have sampled many of the breakfast dishes served there. The three standouts for me are as follows.

The tequila and citrus cured salmon, poached eggs, smashed peas,
dill, lemon creme fraiche, sauteed endive and sourdough toast is a really fresh way to start your lazy Sunday. The combination is great and I have very little to say that is bad about this dish – the house-cured salmon is always fresh, light and delicious without being like the overly fishy, salty standard smoked salmon that you might finding in its place at other breakfast joints. You can’t go wrong with cured salmon and herbed creme fraiche as a combination, either – and the smashed peas are an ingenious addition. I always hold the bread, though – I feel it’s an unnecessary addition to the smashed peas.

The morning grain salad of quinoa, freekeh, wild rice, rocket,
toasted almonds, chai-soaked raisins, cumin yoghurt,poached egg and grilled bacon is a really great dish that I would like to see an equivalent of at many more cafes – the salad reminded me of the freekeh salad served at Cumulus, but the raisins in the Touchwood incarnation make it a bit sweeter. I am normally wary of the addition of dried fruit to food in any capacity, but the sweetness and tartness of the raisins offset the salty, smoky grilled bacon and the creamy egg yolk really well here.

But the piece de resistance for me at Touchwood is definitely the braised mixed spiced beans, lentils, cotechino sausage, basil,poached eggs and marinated feta and flat bread. This is a Spanish-flavoured dish with really authentic-tasting sausage so if you have been to Spain and loved the food, you’ll most certainly love this.

Some might complain that on busy days, the service at Touchwood can be a bit on the slow side – but the staff are friendly, the poached eggs and coffee consistently good, and the environment a pleasure to inhabit. I don’t know about you, but those are really my weekend breakfast priorities, even if I have to wait a little longer than the average for my food/coffee fix.

http://touchwoodcafe.com/

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Midnight Pie (a.k.a. Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie)

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You may be wondering why I have called this recipe “midnight pie”. Well, friends, that’s because this pie takes a while to make, I’m not gonna lie – when I finally get around to serving this baby, it’s probably past everyone’s bed time. We’re not in Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals territory here, folks.

I make the pie when I can devote enough time to it, because it is quite a process – so it tends to be made on a Friday night with an accompanying glass of wine. Or three.

There are lots of short cuts you can take – buy the herbs in those squeezable tubes, buy pre-grated cheese, chuck everything in the food processor and hope for the best etc. I just find the process cathartic when I cook, so I tend to make it more dramatic than it needs to be.

You don’t have to cook the components in any particular order, other than blind-baking the pastry at the beginning and the pastry top at the end. The filling can be prepared any which way; so long as all the components are cooked through, you’re good to go.

Also, the quantities aren’t an exact science. If you like cheese, use as much cheese as I do (which is probably more than the average cheese consumer) or omit the bacon if you don’t like bacon. But other than the chicken and the pastry quantities, do what you want, guys.

That said, I strongly don’t recommend you use any MORE of anything, because no one is as greedy as I am and I pack this pie full to the brim with heart attack-inducing delicious stuff. If you can fit more butter/cheese/bacon into this recipe, then my hat goes off to you, sir.

I serve this motherload of pie with mash, peas and gravy that I’ve made with equal parts of roast meat gravy and chicken gravy powder (amount to taste in terms of seasoning/thickness), combined with the juice from the chicken poaching liquid and some of the bacon fat (no holds barred, people – if you’re looking for a light and modest meal, then this is not the recipe for you).

Anyway, enjoy! This serves about 8. It’s a damn huge pie. It’ll keep for a couple of days in the fridge and tastes even better the next day, so you could just be like me and make it for two and eat it over the course of the weekend. Delish.

INGREDIENTS

PIE

– 1 tbs olive oil

– 2 tbs butter


- 6 (about 850g) chicken breast fillets, cut into 4cm pieces


- 600g bacon rashers, rind removed, coarsely chopped


- 2 leeks, ends trimmed, cut into approximately 1cm-thick slices


- 5 garlic cloves, crushed


- 50g (1/3 cup) plain flour


- The leaves of 8 large sprigs fresh thyme (at least – I also supplement this with a few squeezes from a tube of pre-cut thyme. I like it to taste REALLY thymey)

– 1 cup chopped fresh continental parsley (about half a bunch)


- 6 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed


- 1 egg, lightly whisked

– Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste (I wouldn’t be adding any more salt to this though, just pepper)

– 3 cups poaching liquid (see below)

– Around 2 cups full cream milk

– 400g tasty cheese, grated

POACHING LIQUID

– 1 cup white wine

– 2 cloves garlic, peeled

– Loads of freshly cracked pepper

– 
 500ml (2 cups) chicken stock (I just use two stock cubes or two tbsp powdered stock dissolved in boiling water)

– Half a cup time leaves/ a couple of squeezes pre-cut thyme in a tube

-Half a bunch of parsley

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Grease a round, deep pie dish (if you don’t have a pie dish – never fear! You can use just about anything in place of a pie dish – as long as it’s oven-proof and large enough to fit the filling in, and you adjust the quantity of pastry sheets you need (I tend to have extra filling left over which I chuck in a soup bowl and cover with pastry, then bake it in the oven when I’m baking the larger pie). Cover the base and sides with pastry so that the inside of the dish is completely concealed. Blind bake until lightly golden (NB: You can get special heatproof beads to fill the dish with as you’re blind-baking to keep the base from rising, but I don’t think this is necessary).

2. In a large, deep fry pan, saucepan or even a wok, place all ingredients of the poaching liquid and give a good stir. Place chicken fillets in and poach until cooked through – you can check by cutting into the chicken with a knife and fork. Cut the fillets into chunks and place in a food processor; pulse on a low setting until the chicken is shredded. Don’t forget to pulse, stop and check – you don’t want the chicken to turn to mush! If you don’t have a food processor, just pull apart using tongs and a fork – this’ll take longer, but what you gonna do? Reserve poaching liquid for the gravy and to add to the pie filling mixture.

3. Add the bacon to frying pan and cook until the bacon pieces are crisp.Remove bacon from pan andreserve the residual bacon fat for the gravy.

4. Add butter to a large saucepan and add the leek and garlic, stirring for 5 minutes or until the leek and garlic soften. Add flour and cook, stirring for 30 seconds. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in a cup of the poaching liquid and a cup of the milk until well combined. Add chicken, thyme and parsley to the pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes or until the mixture thickens and comes to the boil. Taste and season with pepper. Add cheese and cook for a further one or two minutes, or until cheese has melted in. If necessary, you can add more milk or poaching liquid if the mixture is too thick and dry.

5. Spoon the chicken mixture into the blind-baked pastry-covered pie dish until full. Cover the top of the pie with more of the frozen pastry (I made mine a little slap-dash in these photos, but it still tastes delish). Press the edges to seal the pie. Brush the top with the beaten egg.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until puffed and golden. Set aside to cool slightly. Boild potatoes until soft and mash with butter and salt; blanch some peas by covering some frozen peas with bloiling water and draining. Serve pie with mash, peas and gravy.

You’re done! Probably took at least an hour and a half – sometime takes me three hours because I stuff around – so no doubt you’re exhausted. Well, have another glass of wine and eat another piece of pie – you deserve it!

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Ice Cream Cake Recipe

The sweet sweet choc ripple deliciousness

The sweet sweet choc ripple deliciousness

I made this delicious cake in September for my birthday, based on my comrade/dessert genius Ruby’s recipe. It’s exceptional and quite easy to make!

RUBY’S ICE CREAM CAKE

3 Litres vanilla ice cream, softened
2 packets Chocolate Ripple biscuits, crushed
1/2 packet raspberry jelly lollies, chopped to absolute smithereens (or you’ll be chewing on frozen jelly lollies for hours)
2 cups thickened cream
A few drops pink food colouring
20 raspberry lollies for decoration

1. Grease and line with baking paper a large round cake tin.
2. Mash 2 litres of the ice cream with the crushed biscuits, and freeze half the mixture. with the other half, press into the tin and then place in the freezer.
3. Mash the remaining ice cream with the finely chopped lollies, then press that layer into the tin, on top of the 1st biscuit layer. Place again in the freezer.
4. Press the remaining biscuit mixture onto the top of the other two layers in the cake tin. Place again in the freezer and leave to set for at least an hour.
5. Once cake is set, gently ease out of tin and onto a plate (may need extra pair of hands for this part), and place in the freezer again for at least an hour.
6. Whip cream until soft peaks form, adding the food colouring to the desired colour. Spread over cake, then decorate with raspberries and place immediately in the freezer to set.

Voila, you have your ridiculously delicious ice cream cake.

A FEW HINTS:

– Make sure your freezer is on an extremely cold setting. Every chance you get at any stage of the process, place the cake in the freezer because it melts very quickly.

– Chop the raspberry lollies as finely as possible. When I made the cake, I cut mine into sizeable chunks and I think they may have caused a few root canals.

– Get someone to help you with taking the cake out of the tin. I guarantee you’ll need their assistance.

Enjoy, brosettes and brosettas.

cake 2

Truman

Having not been particularly impressed with the breakfast joints in Albert Park to date, and having given the area plenty of second chances, I wasn’t excited to venture down to Truman, the newest joint around the traps. To my surprise and delight, this kitschy but fresh-looking cafe on Montague St turned out to be a winner.

I’m always a fan of a varied breakfast menu with lots of savoury options, and Truman has versions of all my favourite brekkie dishes – Connie’s Eggs, which are eggs poached in a Napoli sauce with spinach and chorizo (yum) and sweet corn fritters with poached eggs with salsa, avocado and coriander.
What was most joyful was that eggs benedict featured on the menu, which I haven’t seen for many moons in a cafe’s brekkie repertoire. I think this is because the ol’ eggs benny is considered a bit of a has-been and has been shafted for the home made baked beans and shakshouka egg options you see at all the trendy inner city cafés these days. Not one to be deterred by uncoolness and armed with a healthy obsession for hollandaise sauce, I chose the Eggs Benedict with ham, and a side of mushrooms and avocado.

The eggs benny was served with white baguette bread which was delicious, no doubt, but difficult to manoeuvre due to its size, outer crunchiness and inner fluffiness. Regardless, this texture went incredibly well with the buttery, creamy hollandaise, which was abundant and didn’t disappoint, like the more vinegary, drier, less creamy invocations I’ve had at other, lesser cafes.

The ham was off the bone and tender and delicious, and the poached eggs, while not at the Mixed Business standard of perfect consistency, were pretty good, if a little overcooked. The mushrooms were incredibly flavourful and infused with balsamic and rosemary, and the smashed avocado was incredibly creamy, which instilled plenty of faith in the Truman owners’ ability to select quality produce.

So the verdict: good, varied menu, charming kitschy décor, a sound selection of specials that change on a daily basis, excellent coffee and an understanding of produce. They need to work on the friendliness of their service and maybe finesse their poached egg process, but apart from those tiny hiccups, Truman are well on their way to becoming a Melbourne breakfast institution.


http://www.facebook.com/pages/Truman-Cafe/179962718735189

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