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Tag Archives: italian

Pan fried Salmon with Peperonata

Social media can be such a wonderful medium if you use it constructively. In spite of all the negativity that surrounds it, it’s a wonderful tool to communicate, work and meet new people if you use it in a positive manner.

I have made some amazing friendships and relationships over the years through social media; people who I would never have met otherwise. While many are still virtual friends, there have been others where the virtual relationships were quick to transform into real life friendships too.

This week, I got the opportunity to meet Natasha (@thegutlessfoodie) while she was on holiday in Australia. I have known Natasha for about 2 years now; our paths crossed on Instagram and we have remained in touch ever since. What drew me to her posts was not her medical condition and her inspiring life story (though there’s much to learn from that), but her sense of humor and positivity. Her food posts always bought me joy and put a smile on my face; and of course encouraged me to embrace wholesome homemade food always.

We spent a lovely evening with each other and our families, such a joy when you meet a virtual friend and realise that the love and respect you had for each other was not just an Internet thing but a genuine one. It’s a sigh of relief when that happens because more often than not, we always project the better side of us on social media without realizing that there’s more to each other’s life.

And while I wish we had more time to spend with each other, it was a great experience meeting her; one that is going to be cherished forever.

Time now to get to today’s recipe….

Peperonata is a classic Italian accompaniment. Often takes it place on the antipasti platter and is a great topping with bread and a good quality extra virgin.

Initially that’s how I wanted to try out this recipe. But as I was reading it, the flavours delighted me and I wanted to use it as an accompaniment with a protein for a complete meal. And of course, salmon came to mind as anything to do with roasted peppers are a delightful addition to seafood.

Pan fried Salmon with Peperonata - thespiceadventuress.com

Peperonata is an extremely simple side to prepare that can be made ahead of time if you are prepping for a party. This dish is all about the bell peppers so make sure you pick plump red ones which have the right amount of sweetness required. The peppers are first roasted for that smoky flavour and then sautéed off with onions, tomatoes and spices. But what really adds another level of flavour is the basil pesto.

Since the Peperonata is loaded with flavour, there’s not much that needs to be done to the salmon. Keep it simple with a marinade of turmeric and paprika. And of course, take care while cooking to get that crispy skin which is the best part of the salmon.

Pan fried Salmon with Peperonata - thespiceadventuress.com

Pan fried Salmon with Peperonata - thespiceadventuress.com

A healthy meal with really robust flavours, this dish is easy to prepare which makes it ideal for both weekdays and when entertaining too.

Ingredients:

  1. 4 Salmon fillets (with skin)
  2. ½ tsp turmeric powder
  3. 1 tsp paprika (or Kashmiri chilli powder)

Find the full recipe on Supreme Seafood website..

Pan fried Salmon with Peperonata - thespiceadventuress.com

 

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The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge

The Bank is located inside a heritage building on the popular Sydney Road, Brunswick.

Even though I had looked at the website, The Bank was nothing like I imagined it would be. Walking into the restaurant was like walking into a music academy. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the different instruments, the open stage and the music school (a small room nestled within the restaurant). Only after all this, would you notice that this place is also a café and restaurant.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

A chat with Sebastian Riggio (owner, chef, musician and much more….) gave us a deeper insight into why music was such an integral part of The Bank.

Sebastian not only has a passion for music but also for discovering new talent; train and set them up for the world stage. One of his protégé is Eva Kourtes (best female guitarist, 2014), guitarist, pianist, musician, songwriter and composer who will soon be going on a world tour with the music legend, Carlos Santana.

And when Eva is not teaching at the music school or performing with her band, Evaluation, at The Bank, she also dons the cap of the unassuming waitress who might be serving you while you are dining there. Much to learn and get inspired by from this 20 year old!

Coming to food, The Bank is all about fresh, wholesome and hearty Sicilian cuisine.

While I have eaten at plenty of Italian restaurants, there were a few dishes on the menu that were so classic Sicilian, not common in many other places.

The bar menu is basic; a few choices ticking of all categories like wines, spirits, cold drinks, hot beverages etc….

For drinks, we got a glass of house red, a sparkling and lemon lime bitters.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

We started the meal with Arrancini – deep fried rice balls, topped with fresh bolognese and parmesan. A classic Italian dish, but you will soon realize how the flavours are different depending on the region of Italy. I loved the fact that it was topped with bolognese; added so much flavour to the whole dish.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The second starter we tried was the Polpetti – homemade meatballs in a Napolitana sauce. I love Italian style meatballs and this is one dish that I always order. But I was surprised that the Polpetti was quite different to what I have eaten at other places. The texture was slightly dry and the meatball had a crusty exterior. It was served as one large meatball with the Napolitana sauce. I was told that this was the Sicilian style where instead of mince, it’s the sausage stuffing that’s used to make Polpetti. While the dish tasted good, I think I prefer the other style of meatballs compared to this one.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

We also ordered the Orange & Fennel Salad – served with extra virgin olive oil, spring onions, chilli flakes. A light and really refreshing salad, this was a good accompaniment with the Polpetti.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

For mains, we got Homemade Salsici – spicy sausages served with a garlic & onion tapenade. I cannot stop raving about this dish. I have never had sausages made like this before. Fresh homemade pork sausages in the most deliciously spicy garlic, pepper and onion tapenade. Absolutely blown away by the flavours and the dish of the day. Highly recommended!

When I asked more about this dish, Sebastian said that the secret lies in the sausages that are made in house. He was kind enough to even show me some. One of those dishes where you truly appreciate the magic that quality ingredients can bring to a dish.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

And of course we had to try out the artisan pizza range. While The Bank does regular style pizza dough,  it’s recommended to try out the artisan style pizzas that are native to Sicily. We chose the Caltagirone, a very traditional one topped with prosciutto, tomatoes, spinach and onions. It was clear why the artisan style dough stands out; the thin crusty base with a really good balance of toppings was perfectly delicious. Subtle yet so full of flavour.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

The Lasagna Siciliana – ham, cheese, peas topped with napolitana or bolognese sauce is another signature dish at The Bank. Though I didn’t try it out, I was kindly allowed into the kitchen to watch the making process. And I am sure I will be ordering it the next time I visit The Bank.

The Bank, Brunswick (Melbourne) – Restaurant, Café and Music Lounge - thespiceadventuress.com

In a nutshell, The Bank is a place where home style Sicilian cooking meets great music. Drop in for a bite or catch up with friends for a coffee in the lounge. But stay back for the music!

The Bank

840 Sydney Road
Brunswick
Victoria

Phone no: (03) 9383 1963 / 0418 996 321

http://www.thebankbrunswick.com/

Timings:

Thursday : 5:30 – 10:30pm
Friday – Sunday : 12:30 – 10:30pm

Disclaimer – I visited The Bank as a guest of AGFG, but the opinions are entirely mine.

The BANK brunswick Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Risotto with Dried Mushrooms (and Bacon Crumbs)

It’s ironic that close on the heels of a khichdi, I write about a risotto.

Not that there’s much of a similarity in origin or technique of preparation, but the fact that both are grain based with that unique consistency somehow puts it in the same category for me.

For those who thought Italian cuisine is all about pizzas and pastas, risotto can come as a bit of a surprise. Even at a fancy restaurant, the risotto still remains a rustic, comforting dish; quite true to its origins.

Risotto with Dried Mushrooms (and Bacon Crumbs) - thespiceadventuress.com

A risotto is best kept simple. In fact it would be a sin to crowd it with many ingredients. A single hero ingredient, a flavourful broth and the right kind of rice is what a risotto is all about. Of course cheese, if you must!

While Arborio is the variety of rice that most of us are familiar with, it is actually other varieties like Carnaroli, Vialone Nano etc… that are more popular in Italy. I have had risotto made with Carnaroli rice before and the texture is much better when compared to Arborio.

Even though Carnaroli is available in selected stores in Australia, I still went with Arborio as that’s the variety that’s easily and more economically available for most.

Dried mushrooms, simply because of its intense umami hit. It has that really earthy flavour that makes you want to keep eating. I soaked the dried mushrooms in the chicken stock to soften it again and the resulting broth was just mind blowing….

Risotto with Dried Mushrooms (and Bacon Crumbs) - thespiceadventuress.com

The bacon crumbs was really an afterthought, perhaps because I love bacon so much and somehow finds a way into many of the dishes I make at home. Not really a main ingredient in this risotto, but rather a garnish just to add another dimension of flavour…..more of that salty, delicious umami hit that makes this risotto the most ideal dish to huddle with on a cold night.

While a great risotto might require practice and experience, I believe a good risotto is achievable by most. As I mentioned, the stock is really important and a homemade stock is the most ideal. Use a store bought one only if you are truly busy yet crave a generous helping of this risotto.

Ingredients:

(Serves 6-7)

  1. 2 cups Arborio Rice
  2. 150gms dried mushrooms
  3. 2 litre homemade chicken stock
  4. 2 ½ tbsp unsalted butter
  5. 2 tbsp olive oil
  6. 1 small white onion; finely chopped
  7. 1 cup dry white wine
  8. 200 gms bacon ( I used streaky bacon); finely chopped
  9. Salt, to season
  10. Freshly milled black pepper; to season
  11. 2 tbsp parsley leaves; finely chopped
  12. Grated parmesan; for garnish

Method:

  1. Reconstitute the dried mushrooms by soaking in the chicken stock for 15 minutes. Remove from the liquid and chop into small pieces.
  2. Finely chop the bacon by hand or using a food processor. In a small pan, add the bacon pieces and cook on low heat (no oil required as the bacon has plenty of fat) till the bacon has browned well but not burnt. Drain the fat using a strainer to get crispy bacon crumbs.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat half of the butter and olive oil; add the onions and sauté till soft.
  4. Then add the mushrooms and cook for another minute or two.
  5. Next add the rice and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. When the rice gets a little toasty and begins to make a crackling sound, reduce the heat and add the white wine.
  6. Cook, while stirring continuously till almost all the wine has been absorbed.
  7. Next add one cup of broth and cook (stirring continuously) till the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add another 2 cups of broth and continue to cook. Repeat, adding 1-2 cups of broth and cooking till the rice has reached the al-dente stage.
  8. Then add the remaining butter and season with salt and pepper. Mix well to combine.
  9. Serve warm with grated parmesan, bacon crumbs and parsley

Risotto with Dried Mushrooms (and Bacon Crumbs) - thespiceadventuress.com

Risotto with Dried Mushrooms (and Bacon Crumbs) - thespiceadventuress.com

 

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience

Grossi Florentino, the restaurant, needs very little introduction and Guy Grossi, the Chef, needs no introduction at all.

Situated on the iconic Bourke Street, Grossi Florentino is the brainchild of Guy Grossi, a much celebrated Chef both at home and internationally. His cuisine and restaurants are inspired by his Italian heritage. Grossi Florentino has three different areas to dine in – Cellar Door, Grill and Florentino; all three integrated by Italian food and hospitality yet all three exploring the varied nuances of the cuisine.

This was our first experience at Grossi, and we had chosen to dine at Grill as a special birthday dinner.

Reservations are always necessary, especially for dinner as it’s a small space and it is definitely not a place to stop by for a quick dinner. Grill is open for lunch too, and offers a set menu; a more affordable quick option for the office goers or those catching up in the CBD for a quick lunch.

An open kitchen, dark wood paneling with gold accents, leather seating, Grill has a very relaxed yet sophisticated ambience. It’s an eclectic mix of tradition meets modern which reflects on the menu too.

The wine list at Grill is extensive, so unless you are sure of what you like to drink, asking recommendations is a great idea. The staff are extremely cordial and take care of your needs really well.

We decided to start with a glass of Domaine Simha ‘Simla Field Blend’ 2016 , a Riesling blend from Derwent Valley, Tasmania. I have wanted to try out the Domaine Simha wines for a while now, especially having written this article on Indian origin wine makers in Australia for Indian Link. Very refreshing on the palate and beautifully balanced, I would strongly recommend you to try this one out.

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

We began the meal with a plate of freshly shucked oysters with Chardonnay Vinegar followed by Kingfish Crudo, Capers, Horseradish. Both were excellent especially the kingfish, really fresh and beautiful light flavours to start off the meal.

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

The next two dishes we tried from the Antipasti section was the Zucchini flowers, Ricotta, Eggplant Caponata and Pickled Tongue, Salsa Verde, Radish. The stuffed zucchini flowers with ricotta is an Italian classic, one that we love ordering always. The crunchy deep fried zucchini flowers with a creamy ricotta filling is a match made in heaven; the addition of the caponata was new for me, but paired well.

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

Sam was a bit hesitant ordering the pickled tongue; it was the first time we were going to taste it but the staff assured it was gonna be delicious. And we were so happy we did, because for me, it was dish of the day. Perfectly chargrilled cubes of beef tongue with onions, radish and a delicious Salsa Verde to accompany, it was really amazing and highly recommended.

For the sides, we chose Italian Flat Beans with Tomato; delicious and different to the regular salads and potato wedges. And it paired well with the mains we had chosen.

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

For mains, my son chose an entrée sized portion of Taglierini, Prawns, Zucchini. The best out of the three mains we had, the pasta was perfect al dente tossed through the most flavourful combination of prawns, zucchini and herbs. Definitely a must try.

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

We went for a second glass of wine, this time a glass of Montesecondo Sangiovese, 2014 from the Tuscan region. Full bodied and rich, yet balanced, this was recommended by the staff and it was a great choice indeed.

I chose the day’s special which was a whole baby snapper with radicchio and tomatoes. The fish was cooked to perfection but somehow the combination with radicchio didn’t really work for me. Perhaps I didn’t enjoy the combination of the bitterness from the radicchio with the tomatoes, not really sure but definitely not impressed with the flavours.

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

For mains, Sam chose the O’Connor, Flat Iron,  Angus which was served with horseradish and Dijon mustard. The meat was definitely flavourful but not as tender as he had hoped it to be. Not a letdown, but not to the expected standards of the place.

Grossi Florentino (Grill), Bourke Street, Melbourne – a Tuscan Experience / thespiceadventuress.com

And since we had clearly overeaten, we decided to share one dessert amongst us so we went for the Beurre Bosc Pear, Honey Crunch Ice Cream. It was light and delicious, a great way to end the meal. But not before some coffee and Italian biscotti.

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To summarize, the mains didn’t excite us as much as the antipasti but there were clearly many dishes that stood out in taste and quality from the night. Service is excellent and definitely a place we would love to go back.

Grossi Florentino (Grill)

80 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone. 03 9662 1811

http://www.florentino.com.au/grill

Timings:

Monday to Saturday
Lunch from 12pm
Dinner from 5.30pm

Grossi Florentino Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a delicious Italian experience

AGFG (Australian Good Food & Travel Guide) is one of my favourite websites to visit for restaurant reviews, recipes, stories from the food and travel industry, dining deals etc… And this year, AGFG also bestowed the honour of Top 10 Bloggers, 2017 which was a great opportunity for me to take my work forward.

So when AGFG reached out to me to review the food at Thirty Eight Chairs, I was really keen because I had heard really good things about the restaurant and also, regional Italian cuisine is one of my favourites.

Thirty Eight Chairs has two locations – South Yarra and Carlton North.

Situated in a quiet, beautiful neighbourhood of Carlton, Thirty Eight Chairs is a dream come true venture for its owner, Gino Forlano.

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The South Yarra restaurant was a huge success but Gino always wanted to open a branch in Carlton because it has one of the biggest Italian communities in Melbourne. He wanted to have a dining space that was a reflection of both Italian hospitality and way of life. A space which is not hurried but where families and friends can sit down to good food and wine, engage in meaningful conversations and spend time with each other.

The ambience at Thirty Eight Chairs is best described as friendly. There are lovely streetside tables (great when the sun’s out and shining), a relaxed dining space downstairs and a large venue space upstairs. The staff are extremely friendly, very cheerful and was genuinely happy to help out with choosing from the menu.

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

I had the opportunity to have a chat with head chef Giuseppe Di Mauro. He told me that the food served here is classic Napolitana style, true to its origins in terms of flavour but care has been taken to present it in a contemporary style. They use a mix of local and seasonally available ingredients but also source certain ingredients from Italy which are not easily available here.

It was a warm day and all our drink choices were centered on that. I started with a sparkling while the others chose a Cosmopolitan, Mojito and a whiskey cocktail. There are also wines on tap (somehow I get very excited everytime I see this) and I chose a Prosecco to accompany the mains.

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

We had a selection of starters beginning with the ‘A Tunnat ‘e Mar (Peppered yellow fin tuna, crispy shallots, caper vinaigrette & micro herbs). Hands down, one of the best tuna dishes I have ever had. Presented beautifully and the flavours were simply incredible. Highly recommended!

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

No matter how many ever times I have had it, I simply cannot resist ordering ‘A Caprese (Fresh tomato, basil & buffalo mozzarella) when visiting an Italian restaurant. It’s a classic and an instant judgement of what’s to follow because this salad is all about freshness and quality of ingredients. Happy that I was not disappointed at all.

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Fried street food is also quite popular in Neopolitan cuisine so we also tried out ‘O Coupon ‘e Terra  – a mixed platter of pea arancini, potato croquettes, polenta chips, beer battered zucchini & salty dough balls. Absolutely loved all of it but my favourites were the polenta chips and beer battered zucchini.

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Thirty Chairs is quite famous for its pasta dishes as all the different types of pasta are made in house using traditional Italian methods. And what surprised me was the fact that there were so many pasta varieties that I still had no clue about. Don’t bother about the term ‘al dente’ here as that’s not the texture that suits fresh pastas!

The first pasta dish we tried was a signature dish that was highly recommended by the chef. ‘E Mafaldine ‘a Cacciator (long curly pasta, slow cooked duck ragú, porcini mushrooms & shaved pecorino cheese). The simplest of dishes yet the most complex in flavour as that duck ragu was slow cooked for hours to get the perfect texture and consistency. And the taste of freshly made pasta is simply out of this world.

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The second pasta dish was from the day’s special list. Yet another variety I have never tasted before. Mixed with fresh sausages, chillies and tossed through the most amazing sauce, this pasta dish could easily be one of the best I have ever had.

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The seafood lover in me had to try out the special seafood dish with cuttlefish, swordfish, scallops, prawns, clams, salmon and mussels unshelled in a delicious tomato chilli broth served with a side of grilled bread. Absolutely stunning flavours especially that bisque was just heavenly.

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Also ordered a light and refreshing Bietola e Caprino (Mixed beeroot, baby cos, snowpeas & goats cheese, in lemon dressing salad) which paired extremely well with the rich flavours of the other dishes.

Thirty Eight Chairs, Carlton (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

To summarize, the dining experience at Thirty Eight Chairs was a delicious and delightful one. I have dined at a lot of Italian restaurants yet discovered that there is more to the cuisine than I really knew, especially the differences between Napolitana style and other regional styles.

The freshly made pasta was a delight and clearly sets apart the pasta dishes served at Thirty Eight Chairs. And with a great ambience and customer service, it’s definitely a place you want to visit with friends and family.

Thirty Eight Chairs

651 Rathdowne St
Carlton North
VIC 3054

Phone no: 03 8383 4113

http://www.thirtyeightchairs.com.au/carlton-north/

Timings:

Tuesday – Saturday
Lunch: 11.30am – 3.00pm
Dinner: 6pm – 10pm

Sunday
Brunch/Lunch: 10.30am – 4pm

Disclaimer – I dined as a guest at Thirty Eight Chairs, but the opinions and views expressed are unbiased and entirely mine.

Thirty Eight Chairs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

Woodstock Pizzicheria has definitely carved a name for itself in the wood fired pizza scene of Melbourne. This award winning restaurant chain, built by the pizza champion, Tony Cannata is one of the best places in town to enjoy traditional Roman style pizzas.

I was invited a few weeks ago to the launch of their new menu and must admit, that this was my first time at the pizzicheria. The event was a brilliant and delicious one with an array of Sicilian style starters, cold cuts, cheese boards, pizza platters and of course a very impressive dessert platter.

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

I loved everything at the event; the ambience, food and service; so I decided to do a proper review for all of you by visiting Woodstock once again just like any other customer so that you have an idea of what to expect when you walk in.

The ambience and décor at Woodstock Pizzicheria can be best described as rustic Sicilian with a lot of fun elements and hints of contemporary thrown in. While the furniture and interiors have a very traditional feel, the bar is a contemporary addition to the space. The open kitchen is a hub of activity that adds to the appeal of the restaurant. It’s a place where you can spend good quality time with friends and family even when it’s packed to the brim.

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

And they seem to love Nutella quite a bit, there’s plenty of references to that as soon as you walk in!

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

The service at Woodstock will remind you of Italian hospitality. The staff are attentive, warm and friendly; quite happy to help you out with suggestions from the menu and also help out in choosing the right wine for your meal. The wine list is good and features many Italian wines, which you might need help with unless you are familiar. The cocktail list was basic but I loved the choices they had.

The menu is a small one and I am beginning to enjoy restaurants which do that because it means that they focus on producing high quality dishes. Pizzas rule the roost and is made the classic Roman way; the rest of the menu is more Sicilian inspired.

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

So my friends went for the 2013 Majella Shiraz (Coonawarra, South Australia) and I chose their signature Nonno è Vivo (Disaronno, vodka and Kahlua. Topped with soda water, lime juice and crushed ice). Both the choices were perfect for our meal. I loved the cocktail especially with that Kahlua which gave it that warm bittery notes.

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

We started the meal with Calamari fritti – calamari rings dusted in semolina with lime and black pepper, served with aioli. It was amazing; the calamari was so perfectly cooked, soft and melt in the mouth. The spices were subtle and the lime added a very refreshing flavour to the calamari. The perfect thing to munch on with the drinks.

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

The next starter we tried was the Polpette della Nonna – traditional Sicilian style meatballs made from lamb and pork mince simmered in a Napoli sauce. I am a huge fan of meatballs especially the Italian ones and this didn’t disappoint at all. The meatballs were soft and flavourful and that sauce was delicious, very tomatoey but with the right balance.

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

I will also recommend the Crocché di Patate – potato croquettes with Provolone cheese and Salsicce alla griglia – homemade pure pork sausages, both of which I had at the launch event. The sausages were just divine so if you eat pork, do try it out for sure.

Time for the pizzas! We tried out the Woodstock with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, caramelized onion, potatoes, zucchini, grilled eggplant, oregano and Pecorino cheese. It’s quite unusual for me to order a vegetarian pizza (I am quite partial to the meats when it comes to pizza) but I am so happy I did. The Woodstock had beautiful flavours; the base was light, thin and crisp and the smoky caramelized flavours of the onion was awesome. Mixed opinions about the eggplant but that’s because I am not fond of it but overall, a brilliant vegetarian pizza that I wouldn’t hesitate to order again.

The next one we tried was the Gamberi Piccante with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, tiger prawns, cherry tomatoes, fresh chilli and basil. The clear winner and highlight of the dinner was this beauty. Simplicity is best and this one is a clear example of that. Perfectly cooked prawns on a thin crispy base, with that beautifully flavoured tomato sauce, a mild kick from the chillies and the freshness of the tomatoes and basil. Spot on and highly recommended!

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

Woodstock Pizzicheria (Lygon St, Brunswick) – Launch of New Menu + a Review

Since I was out with friends, couldn’t do dessert as they wanted to check out another dessert bar nearby. But I would definitely go back for it since I ate some awesome stuff during the launch event.

In short, Woodstock Pizzicheria is a place you must visit if you love traditional Italian thin crust pizzas with really good quality ingredients. A beautiful ambience and excellent service completes the dining experience. Make sure to make a booking ahead!

Woodstock Pizzicheria
63-67 Lygon Street, Brunswick
Melbourne, Victoria
Phone no:03 9387 7770
http://www.woodstockpizza.com.au/

Timings:
Sunday to Thursday: 12pm-3pm / 5pm-10.30pm
Friday, Saturday: 12pm-3pm / 5pm-midnight

Woodstock Pizzicheria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – I was given a $50 voucher, the rest of the bill was paid for by me and my friends.

Squid, Prawn and Saffron Stew

Saffron – the posh spice!

Delicate strands of orange red hues that always evoke a sense of decadence and indulgence in my heart. A sense of luxurious mystery that transports me to far off exotic destinations like Persia, Spain and Kashmir.

Saffron - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Yes Kashmir – the Paradise on Earth, so much a part of my native country yet one which feels so distant to me. The wide expanse of breathtaking saffron fields is one I dream of and the desire to experience something like this is right on top of my bucket list.

Saffron or Zaffran (as known traditionally), is no doubt precious but what’s more precious for me is a dear friend who gifts me the best saffron from Kashmir. Supriya (or S, as I sometimes call her on my blog) is a friend who truly understands what food means to me. Beyond all the pictures and recipes, she understands my passion and the meaning that this blog has in my life.

And she is also the person who gets me authentic and traditional Kashmiri recipes like this Roganjosh, which you must try out. Nothing like the ones that you would find in most Indian restaurants and takeaways.

So before heading over to the recipe, taking a moment to say a huge thanks to S, for being a wonderful friend and my foodie partner in town.

Saffron always reminds us of decadent Indian sweets or the elaborate biryani preparations. But it need not be so; the unique flavour of saffron pairs beautifully with seafood too, delicious examples of which we can find in Meditteranean and Italian cuisine.

Today’s dish is a Squid, Prawn and Saffron Stew, inspired by Italian flavours.

Squid, prawn and saffron stew - an indulgent, rich and delicious seafood stew with saffron - thespiceadventuress.com

A rich, hearty and delicious seafood stew with fresh prawns and squid rings; this dish will make you look at saffron in a whole new light. Perfect for the weather, this warm and comforting stew has a rich tomato base, a hint of spices and the all too indulgent flavour of the saffron. And being a seafood stew, this one gets ready pretty fast which is exactly what you need for a midweek treat.

Spoon it over fragrant jasmine rice or mop it up with good quality artisan bread, this is one recipe you will want to make over and over again.

Bread - foodphotography - thespiceadventuress.com

Squid, prawn and saffron stew - an indulgent, rich and delicious seafood stew with saffron - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 300gms medium sized prawns; deshelled and deveined
  2. 300gms squid rings
  3. 4-5 tbsp olive oil

Find the full recipe here.

Squid, prawn and saffron stew - an indulgent, rich and delicious seafood stew with saffron - thespiceadventuress.com

Disclaimer – Recipe developed, shot and styled for Supreme Seafood. 

Rococo (St Kilda, Melbourne) – a Review

The first post of 2016 is a restaurant review, though I had wanted it otherwise. But a lot of eating out has happened in the last couple of weeks and very less cooking.

One of the restaurants we tried out late last year was Rococo, located in Acland Street, St Kilda.

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St Kilda can get a tad bit overwhelming when you aren’t sure of where to eat. Well that was exactly how we were feeling too. In spite of knowing a couple of good places, we wanted to try out a new place and so once again went with our intuition. And Rococo turned out to be a good find indeed.

Rococo serves simple yet good Italian food and this is pretty obvious from the quality of ingredients and the taste and texture of the dishes we had. It is always crowded so making a reservation ahead would be a great idea.

There is an al fresco dining area but being a balmy night, we preferred the cool interiors which were done tastefully with low lighting, plenty of mirrors and comfortable seating. We were seated near the bar area which again was a beautifully done up space and had a lot of cheerful vibe.

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I love antipasti and Rococo’s menu has plenty to choose from apart from salads, pizzas, pasta, risotto and Paninis. The drinks menu is also quite elaborate and ofcourse, the wine list is impressive being an Italian resto.

(Please excuse the low quality pics; I wasn’t carrying my camera and had only my poor old phone to click with).

We were not in the mood for any alcohol or just ordered a couple of lemon lime bitters to refresh our parched throats and went straight on to the food.

Since there is a large selection of antipasti, it is best to order sharing plates of a couple of these before progressing to the mains. The ones we tasted were;

Pan fried Saganaki with lemon, tomato, red onion, grape and parsley – totally delicious and we absolutely loved it. I even decided to include pan fried saganaki for my NYE party inspired by this experience. A must try for the cheese lovers.

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No Italian meal is complete without a traditional Caprese salad so we ordered a plate of really good vine ripened tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, basil, olive oil and balsamic. The flavour was really good but I would have preferred a tad bit sweeter tomatoes.

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And of course the Bruschetta which was absolutely fantastic at Rococo. Warm, crispy bread topped liberally with freshly chopped tomatoes, goat’s cheese, pesto di casa, garlic, basil and olive oil. Children would totally love this, well adults too!

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We fell in love with Italian meatballs at 400 Gradi and wanted to see if these guys did a good job of it, so we ordered the slow-cooked classic Italian meatballs. Tender, melt-in-your-mouth meatballs smothered in tomato sugo, pesto di casa and parmesan. It was delicious and comes a close second to the one at 400 Gradi.

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I was craving for some more rich comfort and for mains, ordered the Gnocchi Bolognese – delicious and pillowy potato gnocchi with a generous helping of the bolognese sauce topped with parmesan and fresh herbs. Loved it; I usually can never finish a gnocchi dish but this one was wiped clean.

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The hubby tried out the Tasmanian salmon risotto. He has quite high standards when it comes to a risotto and it did measure up to it. Creamy and flavourful, perfectly done risotto with flaky Tasmanian salmon, artichoke, leeks, fresh peas, lemon and black pepper. A winner especially for the risotto lovers.

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As we had plans for a gelato, we decided to skip dessert at Rococo.

Overall, a great experience. The food was fresh, delicious; a tad bit expensive but worth it for the price. Next time, I have to try out some wines for sure. The staff were attentive and doing the needful, especially being a busy night. Definitely going back.

My rating – 8/10

Rococo
85-91 Acland Street
St Kilda,
Victoria 3182
Phone no: 95253232

Rococo has another branch at Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn.

Website: http://www.rococo.net.au/

Timings:
Everyday – 8.00am to late

 

Rococo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – All the food and drinks were paid for by me.

La Cucina Di Sandra – a bespoke Italian cooking experience!

When I landed up outside Sandra’s warehouse converted apartment nestled unassumingly on a side street in Richmond, little did I imagine that I am about to experience a real taste of Italy, right in Melbourne!

La Cucina di Sandra is an Italian cooking school run by the very charming Sandra del Greco. I was invited to attend one of her cooking classes to understand and learn real Italian cooking and also experience a taste of the same through a delicious 4 course meal which included finger food and a glass of wine.

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Sandra’s home is warm, inviting and beautifully decorated. Her love for her home country and Italian cooking is obvious from the numerous cookbooks and travel books lined and stacked all over the house. A beautifully laid out table adjoining the kitchen is where all the delicious action happens. Decorated tastefully with colourful linen and cookware, Sandra’s kitchen is a prop lover’s paradise.

La Cucina di Sandra was born out of Sandra’s love for cooking, both traditional and modern Italian cooking. She has great respect for tradition and has always enjoyed cooking and entertaining for her friends and family. So in late 2014, she decided to leave her accounting profession and make her lifelong dream of a cooking school come true.

Sandra wants her guests to experience Italian cooking and hospitality at its truest, which is why she decided to hold the cooking classes in her home itself. Walking into La Cucina di Sandra is like being a guest in any normal Italian household. It is a whole package; great food in an equally great ambience with exceptional hosts.

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There are a variety of classes on offer at La Cucina di Sandra. There are both regional Italian cooking classes and customized bespoke private classes. The classes run for about 4 hours are either focused around specific ingredients like the pasta masterclass or around regions of Italy like Sicily, Sardinia, Abruzzo etc….

And if you are not interested in learning to cook, Sandra is more than happy to just feed you. A great alternative to going out to a restaurant….

All the cooking action happens at the kitchen bench. I loved the way Sandra explained each and every detail, also allowing plenty of time for me to clear even the silliest doubts so that I could replicate every dish back in my kitchen. After every course is prepared, it is bought out to the dining table to be enjoyed.

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Our evening began over a glass of wine and a plate of Biscotti al Parmigiano (Parmesan biscuits). While we snacked over these delicious and simple to make biscuits, Sandra briefly explained about her native Abruzzo, how the cuisine varies across different regions of Italy which I believe is the foundation to a real understanding of the cuisine.

Biscotti al Parmigiano (Parmesan biscuits)

Biscotti al Parmigiano (Parmesan biscuits)

For the first course, we learnt to make Gazpacho Siciliano or the Sicilian style gazpacho. Spanish gazpacho is a constant in my kitchen so imagine my surprise at learning the Sicilian style. Though the base is same, the flavours are so different especially with the addition of a ‘secret ingredient’ and crushed almonds. I don’t think I will be going back to the Spanish version anytime soon.

Gazpacho Siciliano

Gazpacho Siciliano

The second course we learnt to cook was Tortino di sarde alla Trapanese (sardine flan). This dish was a revelation for me and perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening. I am a huge sardine lover but a sardine flan was something that I have never read about or experienced before. A real gem of regional Italian cooking, I was so happy to learn this one. And loved every bit of it!

Tortino di sarde alla Trapanese (sardine flan)

Tortino di sarde alla Trapanese (sardine flan)

For most of us, an Italian meal cannot be complete without a pasta dish. Sandra seemed to have read my mind as the third course for the evening was Gragnano al pesto Siciliano (Pasta with Sicilian pesto). Before demonstrating the dish, Sandra gave us an intro into the vast world of pastas…..the varieties, difference between handmade and store bought, brands to buy etc….. And once again, the Sicilian pesto was a surprising one; I have never made or eaten a tomato based pesto so this was a great recipe to learn. Sandra also taught us the right way to cook pasta and mix it with the sauce, which most of us seem to get wrong at home. Learnt some great tips….

On request, Sandra agreed to share this recipe with all my readers. So scroll to the bottom for the recipe of Pasta with Sicilian pesto.

Pasta with Sicilian pesto

Pasta with Sicilian pesto

And the night ended on a very sweet note with this impeccably delicious Cassata Siciliana In singoli bicchieri (Sicilian cassata in individual glasses). Indulgent…that’s the only word for this beauty. Layers of sponge soaked generously in Grand Marnier with interludes of creamy dark chocolate ricotta and candied fruit finally topped off with homemade apricot marmalade. The layers….the flavours….the aftertaste. Sigh!

Cassata Siciliana In singoli bicchieri (Sicilian cassata in individual glasses)

Cassata Siciliana In singoli bicchieri (Sicilian cassata in individual glasses)

Address:

La Cucina di Sandra

62 Lyndhurst Street
Richmond
Victoria 3121

Phone no: 03 9421 1883/0419 503 805

Email: lacucina.disandra@ozemail.com.au

Website: http://www.lacucinadisandra.com.au/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/lacucinadisandraau

Sandra also shares several recipes on her blog, so make sure to check it out too.

Pasta with Sicilian Pesto

Ingredients:

1. 280 to 320 gm pasta (large shape)
2. 500 gm Pomodorini/cherry tomatoes; very ripe
3. 150 ml extra virgin olive oil
4. 1 garlic clove
5. 100 gms Italian Pecorino cheese; finely grated
6. Freshly milled black pepper
7. Salt, to season
8. 50 gms blanched, dry toasted and chopped almonds
9. Half a bunch of basil; chopped roughly
10. 150 gm fresh ricotta

Method:

1. Blanch the tomatoes in hot water; peel skin and deseed.
2. In a food processor or stick blender bowl, add the tomatoes, basil, chopped almonds, garlic, Pecorino and ricotta.
3. Pour half of the extra virgin olive oil and mix at low speed. Add more oil if necessary to get a creamy mixture. Increase speed if you need more smoothness. Season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.
4. Boil the pasta in salted boiling water and according to packet instructions. Cook the pasta just one minute short of the mentioned cooking time.
5. Just as the pasta finishes cooking, ladle a spoonful of pasta water into a mixing bowl, transfer the pesto into this.
6. Then drain the pasta and add directly to the pesto. Mix well to combine.
7. Serve hot with grated pecorino and a few basil leaves.

Note – If the tomatoes are not ripe enough or lack intensity in flavour, add 1-2 tbsp of good quality tomato passata.
You can use pine nuts instead of almonds or both.
Pecorino can be substituted with Parmesan.

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La Cucina di Sandra Cooking School Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Masala Chai Semifreddo served with Crushed Pistachios and Fresh Figs

Surprised seeing another dessert so soon? Honestly, I am too…..

This masala chai semifreddo is the result of inspiration striking from several different quarters!

First, there has been a lot of ‘semifreddo’ talk on Masterchef this season, and then there was this amazing masala chai ice cream by ‘A Brown Table’. But what really made me take this plunge finally was an event that I attended a couple of weeks ago – Melbourne’s first ever ‘Chai Festival’ hosted by T2 at their headquarters in Richmond.

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I am more of a coffee gal but I still wanted to attend this chai festival; to broaden my knowledge about this beverage and also play a little at the ‘make your own tea blend’ station which was the highlight of the festival. We came home with lots of special tea blends; my son went totally bonkers and I now have all sorts of crazy blends at home…..a Chinese tea blend with plenty of dried rosebuds (the aroma of this one is heavenly) and a spicy Indian chai spiced further by my son with loads of pink peppercorns.

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I tasted crème brulee tea for the first time ever (and here is a badly shaken picture of it!!)

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And how I envied this copper teapot….

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The idea of this Masala chai semifreddo just got stuck in my head and I really wanted to give it a shot. Had a small chat with the gorgeous girls at T2 who after hearing my idea, guided me towards their organic spiced chai blend. One of the girls got me a sample of the tea so that I could experience the taste and aroma before making up my mind. Little did she know that anything with spice gets me hooked!

So I did a fair bit of research on semifreddos and eventually today’s dish happened…..

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Traditionally, a semifreddo is made using eggs but I decided to try out this eggless version. The last time I made this no-churn icecream, there were so many readers who wrote to me asking for an eggless recipe. So this time, considering all those requests, here is my recipe for Masala chai semifreddo served with crushed pistachios and fresh figs.

If you have never made a semifreddo, seriously you need to give it a go. It is creamy, delicious, sweet, cold (yes, of course)…everything that you want from an ice cream but at a quarter of the time or effort. And what’s more, you can go completely bonkers with flavours…..get as creative, experimentative or wild as you like.

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For those who aren’t too familiar with the semifreddo term, it basically is the Italian name for a semi-frozen dessert which can be like an icecream/frozen custard/icecream cake……anything which has a frozen mousse texture comes under this class. Which means that there is plenty of room to play around in terms of flavours…….

Again, there is no particular shape to a semifreddo, though you are most likely to see it in a rectangular tin to scoop out like an ice cream. If you want individual portions, you can set it individual glasses or moulds. I wanted an ice cream cake sort of feel, so went for a circular shape.

So, here’s my humble dedication to India’s much loved beverage….a creamy, tea-licious masala chai semifreddo!

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Ingredients:

Note – This is not a sponsored post of any manner and my use of T2 chai is entirely my own decision. So please feel free to use your own masala chai blend; just make sure you adjust the strength of the flavour accordingly as the T2 organic spiced chai blend is really strong and full on.

(Serves 4-6)

1. 400 ml full cream milk
2. 400 ml condensed milk
3. A pinch of salt
4. 3 tbsp T2 organic spiced chai blend
5. 200 ml water
6. 250ml heavy cream
7. Crushed pistachios; to garnish
8. Fresh figs (optional); to garnish

Method:

1. Add the chai blend to water and bring to boil (adding the chai blend to cold water and slowly bringing the water to boil helps to deepen the flavours). Reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
2. Strain and return the liquid to heat; simmer for another 4-5 minutes to slightly thicken the infusion. Remove and allow to cool.
3. Place the milk, condensed milk and salt in a pan and bring to boil; stirring continuously. Reduce heat and add the tea infusion. I added one tbsp at a time, tasting after each till I was happy with the flavour. Since the strength of your tea infusion might vary, taste and add enough to get that warm chai flavour but not too strong to overpower the dessert. I added approximately 7-8 tsp of the infusion.
4. Continue to cook for another 10-12 minutes till it reaches the consistency of a thin custard. Allow to cool and then chill in the fridge.
5. Whip the cream into soft peaks and then fold into the chilled milk mixture.
6. Line the tin with baking paper and pour the mixture into the tin. Freeze for at least 4 hours or till set.
7. Garnish with crushed pistachios and serve with fresh figs on the side.

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