Macarons from Crema Fine Food, Berwick

Macarons from (Cafe) Crema Fine Food, Berwick.
I believe I remember exactly when and why macarons started becoming a "craze" amongst Australian foodies... MasterChef. It all began when Adriano Zumbo walked into that MasterChef kitchen and challenged the contestants with a macaron tower. Before that very moment, a lot of us never even heard of macarons (nor did we know how to spell it correctly or pronounce it correctly!) let alone TASTE these little babies.

Today, macarons are everywhere. Zumbo's Patisserie is still the place to go in Sydney. I've only been there once and had to be in a queue for at least 20 minutes to get to those macarons.

Macarons from Zumbo Patisserie, Balmain.
 I have since then tasted, blogged and took photos of lots of macarons, as well as feature a macaron recipe from a guest blogger. Don't believe me? Here are the links:
Cafe Crema (Crema Fine Food) located at Blackburne Square, Berwick
Of course, most of my foodie indulgence adventures happened before I had my son Micah. 6 months ago my lifestyle completely changed. I have gone from a full-time marketing coordinator in a software company based in South Melbourne to a full-time mum based in Berwick. I don't miss working and travelling to the city everyday, but I do miss the food - easy access to restaurants and cafes in the city where all the "hype" is and all my foodie friends on Twitter are congregating.

Which is why I was recently pleasantly surprised to know that in my very own local suburb deep in the heart of Berwick at Blackburne Square, there is a cafe that serves great coffee and delicious inhouse made, macarons. The lady who made my coffee when I went in for a visit was the friendliest person ever. I did not get the chance to meet Scott the owner, but apparently he is responsible for all of the lovely macarons they sell. I was recommended by a friend to try their Salted Caramel macarons but unfortunately they had sold out of those while I was there. Thankfully my friend went back later the same day and behold a freshly made batch of macarons were generously sponsored for my delightful tasting.

Salted Caramel Macaron
Delighted I was, it was just the right balance of sweetness and slight saltiness of the caramel. Perfect crunch on the outside very firm to touch but absolutely crumbles when you bite into them. The caramel filling was deliciously gooey and within seconds it was gone... (I love macarons but hate how quickly they disappear!)

Turkish Delight Macaron
I am usually not a huge fan of Turkish Delight but the Turkish Delight macaron was absolutely delicious!! I think I ended up liking this one even more than the Salted Caramel one... which is a big deal for me because I just wouldn't have even bothered getting them if they weren't given to me to try! It was a wonderful surprise, and I will definitely go back for more.

The other flavours were Banana, Blueberry, Chocolate Orange and Mint - and they all had great distinct flavours in them. You can definitely tell which is which, and that's when you know it was well made. There's nothing worse than tasting something and not being able to specifically pinpoint the actual flavour because it's not strong enough to tell! I also loved the balance of sweetness in each macaron - it was just right - I really don't like macarons that are overly sweet it makes you sick. These were all just the right amount of sweet.

Because (Cafe) Crema Fine Food is just a local cafe in Berwick, these guys don't really have a strong online presence. They do have a Facebook Page although not quite active and they are located at 14 Blackburne Square, Berwick VIC.

Roasting Pork on the Rotisserie

We finally have our BBQ set up! To see photos of our actual BBQ on our actual decking, please visit my other blog - it has actual photos of it fully set up plus a post on our first BBQ when we decided to "christen" it and cook up a BBQ lunch for some friends.

Coming up in July, we're expecting 40 people mostly family and close friends at our house for lunch after our son Micah's Baptism to celebrate the occasion. Now that we have the BBQ and decking all set up, I thought what better way to celebrate in the middle of winter than a hearty Spit Roast lunch! Most importantly, I wanted to attempt something I've always wanted to attempt... the Whole Suckling Pig.

Of course, because I've never done this before I just couldn't risk "winging it" on the day without testing out the rotisserie first. I needed to understand how it works, how quickly it cooks, and whether or not I can get the skin to be as crispy as I really would like it to be to make the perfect pork crackling.

Meet our test subject - the Boneless Rolled Pork Leg from Tasman Meats. This baby is about 2.8kg. The whole suckling pig I plan to purchase will be AT LEAST 15kg. The key to prepping this meat is to make sure it is fully dried and all the moisture has been absorbed using a paper towel. Rubbing it generously with a lot of salt helps dry the meat out as well. I've also stuffed some dried Thyme herbs into the meat for just that little bit of flavour.

Once the meat is prepped, it is skewered onto the rotisserie.

For the first 3 hours, cook the meat covered in foil in low 120 degrees heat. We only turned on the 2 burners directly underneath the meat. I also decided to put a baking tray below the meat to catch all the fat so it doesn't drip onto the BBQ and the flames below... much less cleaning for afterwards! Close the BBQ lid and keep a close eye on the temperature.

After 3 hours, remove foil and turn off the 2 burners underneath the meat. We then turned on the backlight burner instead on HIGH. The BBQ lid was then closed again. After about 15-20 minutes you can actually HEAR the skin "popping"!

About an hour later, as you can see the skin is turning nice and golden brown.

You will know it's done when you "knock" on the skin and it's nice and hard! Perfect crackling! The roast has been cooked perfectly. Turn off backlight burner. Allow to cool before removing roast from the skewer.

The crackling also comes off the meat so easily and we got a generous bowl of crackling! It was sooo amazing. Super crunchy and the fat underneath was deliciously juicy and flavoursome.

Test pork roast was a success! Can't wait to do this all over again in July with a whole suckling pig. Stay tuned!!

Crispy Skin Salmon with Chilli Lime Sauce

A couple of months ago, hubby and I went "fishing" at the Australian Rainbow Trout Farm and caught some massive salmon. Yes, I know it's not exactly "fishing" when it's a FARM and who goes to a trout farm to catch salmon anyway?! Well, we did. We caught some trout too but decided to take extra salmon home and store it in our chest freezer for future dinner parties.

Well one of the "future" dinner parties happened last weekend. I was really, really hoping we'd get our brand new BBQ aka Outdoor Kitchen set up on our deck before our guests arrive so I can cook the salmon whole, but unfortunately we ran out of time. Also, we have a problem which is our back door is too small to fit our BBQ through... so we would've had to wheel our BBQ all the way through our side gate down the side of our house to our backyard and carry it onto our decking... which is why we ran out of time... but that's another story...

This is the BBQ we bought brand new off eBay and would've looked awesome on our decking once it is fully assembled and set up (and if we can fit it through any door leading towards our backyard!)
So, left with no option to cook the salmon whole (it wouldn't fit on any of my oven trays and wouldn't fit in our oven anyway, it was THAT huge!) I had to *gasp* fillet a fish for the very first time. Thanks to MasterChef Australia and Matt Moran showing the contestants how to fillet a whole salmon in last week's episode... I had at least an idea of how to attempt it. It wasn't too bad actually! I got 8 decent sized fillets out of the whole fish and I saved the fish head for me to cook separately and snack on the next day, hehe. I love fish head!

So that was how I had to change my original menu plan of cooking a whole salmon served with a few other individual dishes to make a "banquet" ... to cooking salmon fillets with simple sides to make a plate of "main meal". It was very, very simple and easy to cook and very quick to prepare.. which is ideal for me because I don't have much time to prepare complicated meals these days while looking after a 5-month old baby!

Ingredients (Serves 4):
4 salmon fillets
4 tbsp vegetable / canola oil for frying
3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp honey, melted and stirred thoroughly with 2 tbsp hot water beforehand
1 tsp butter, melted (for the sauce)
6 medium sized potatoes
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp butter (for the mashed potatoes)
1 tbsp sour cream
1/4 cup milk
200g green beans
Water for boiling and steaming

Boil potatoes until they are soft and crumbles when stabbed with a pork. Strain all water and roughly mash potatoes. Add salt, butter, sour cream and milk to potatoes. Mash until it becomes smooth textured. Set aside.

Steam green beans until just tender. Set aside.

Heat oil in a frying pan until hot. Fry the salmon fillets, skin down, for approx. 4-5 minutes or until the skin is crispy. Flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes.

To make the sauce, mix  together sweet chilli, lime juice, melted honey and water, and butter.

Serve on a plate with mash potatoes first, followed by green beans on top, followed by panfried salmon and drizzle with chilli lime sauce. Too easy and so simple! (But looks pretty as a picture)

Osso Buco (Veal Shanks)

As winter approaches I am starting a collection of hearty meals. This dish although requires a lot of cooking time, is very easy to prepare. The ingredients are pretty standard and are most likely to already be in your pantry. 

"Osso Buco" is Italian for "bone with a hole", a reference to the marrow hole at the center of the cross-cut veal shank. Although veal shanks are known to be pretty tough, braising it for almost 3 hours makes it nice and tender. This recipe is perfect for a busy mum like me, as I can easily prepare this dish whilst the baby is sleeping during the day and just leave it slowly cooking in the pot for 2 and a half hours. By dinner time, it will be ready!

Hubby and I both loved how the flavours of this dish turned out. I'm so happy and can't wait to cook this again! This recipe is going to be bookmarked as a classic favorite this coming winter. What's great also is that veal shanks are only a fraction of the cost of lamb - economical and tasty!

4 thick slices of veal shanks
1/4 cup plain flour
2 tsp salt
1/3 tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped

  1. In a shallow dish, stir together flour, salt, and black pepper. Coat meat in seasoned flour. In a large skillet, melt butter with oil over medium heat. Brown meat. Remove meat from pan, and set aside.
  2. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to drippings in pan. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in can of chopped tomatoes, beef stock, white wine, basil, thyme, and parsley. Return meat to pan. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Cover, and cook for 2 1/2 hours. 
  4. Serve on a bed of mashed potatoes.

Roasted Zucchini Boat with Chorizo Stuffing

Roasted Zucchini Boat with Chorizo Stuffing
I have recently "acquired" an extra large, giant zucchini............ OK fine, our neighbour's zucchini plant started creeping onto our side of the fence so we kinda pinched one out of MANY... hey, it was on OUR side of the fence! (Hope our neighbours aren't reading this..)

I don't normally buy zucchinis. I don't know why. I just don't cook using zucchini and now I am left wondering why. Seriously I still don't know why. I might start buying zucchinis more often now, but I will be quite disappointed at the average size of zucchinis from supermarkets. I want this GIANT sized zucchini ALL the time it is very COOL!

Giant zucchini
So what do I do with this giant zucchini? I surfed the internet for some ideas and decided that roasting it with my own stuffing seems like the best idea with the highest chance of success. Surely it can't go wrong with one of my favorites - Spanish Chorizo sausages. You all know I am a big fan of meat, so I had to make sure there was sufficient meat content in this recipe for fail proofing.

Not that vegetarian dishes fail of course... I'm just not that good at vegetarian dishes!

So this recipe ended up being quite a success! The only problem was I wasn't sure what to eat this with. Do I serve it with rice? Salad? Eat on its own? Bread? I ended up putting a big loaf of garlic bread in the oven to go with it. Break up the meat pieces, scoop up the mushy zucchini and top the garlic bread ala bruschetta. Oooo... sinful much?! I suppose this would also go well mixed through with cous cous. It was yummy! Also like the fact that it looks pretty :-)

Served on top of garlic bread
1 large zucchini, cut in half
4 Spanish Chorizo sausages, skin removed
1 medium brown onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp parsley flakes

Slice the side of half a zucchini and scoop out some of the insides of the larger side to form a "boat".

To make the stuffing, mix together the sausages, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, butter and parsley. Generously stuff the zucchini boat.

The ingredients for the stuffing. I forgot the garlic. Please don't forget the garlic!
Stuffed zucchini ready to go in the oven
Cook in preheated oven at 180C for approximately 35-40 minutes. 

Serve with bread, or cous cous.