When I asked on my Twitter account what I should do on my day off, I had quite a few people tell me to go on a chocolate tour of Melbourne (www.chocoholictours.com.au).
We were taken to four different chocolate shops, given a little spiel about how the chocolate was made, and of course got to eat plenty of chocolate! It was a rather enjoyable afternoon. I love all chocolate, but I am particularly fond of dark chocolate. Previously I had eaten chocolate which contained 85% cocoa solids (the higher the percentage, the more bitter and less sweet the chocolate is). I found some chocolate though which was 100% cocoa solids, and I had to try it, knowing that it probably wouldn’t taste great because it has no sugar in it!
Tasting the chocolate it was more savoury than sweet; but it was good to try and it gave me quite a few ideas about dishes I could make with it. Maybe soon I’ll pick up some venison and finish off a sauce with the chocolate, or perhaps make the Mexican sauce Mole. Some people say you shouldn’t put chocolate in Mole, some say you should. I’m no Mexican expert so I’ll just sit on the fence for this one!
One of the places that we went to to try the chocolate was Cacao, who not only have some delicious chocolate but recently won the Melbourne Macaron competition, with their tomato, basil and strawberry flavoured macarons. I’m sure some of you may know that I love a good macaron, and I couldn’t resist trying some of their flavours. The cassis was a personal favourite, although I was a little disappointed not to be able to try a tomato, basil and strawberry!
On Friday at The Press Club we did an exclusive function, which means the restaurant was booked out by a large group, all of which were eating degustation. This means that we had to get 800 plates of food plated in the night (100 people x 8 courses), it’s not hard to imagine the difficulty of co-ordinating the courses to go out at the same time! The service essentially ran like a production line, with each person being responsible for adding one element to the plate. It was quite interesting to see how it ran and it’s easy to see how without proper organisation the whole night could have gone pear-shaped very quickly!
We have a rather delicious zucchini flower and gnocchi dish on the menu at the moment. The photo below is the dish in its original guise, but has since changed and no longer has a stuffed zucchini flower. The flower is now separated, battered and deep fried. The flower stem is then chopped and added to the regular zucchini. It is also served with a black olive puree.
This is my version of the dish to cook at home (I don’t include golden beetroots as they are very difficult to find if you’re not ordering them straight from a supplier).
I have put my gnocchi recipe on the blog before (search gnocchi or potatoes at the top of the blog in the search bar).
Ingredients: (serves 4)
1 quantity gnocchi, blanched
4 zucchini flowers
1 zucchini, diced
1/4 bunch chervil, shredded
handful broad beans, blanched
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable stock
2 Tablespooons butter
goats curd and freshly grated peccorino, to serve
Separate zucchini flower from stem. Slice stem and tear each flower into three pieces.
Heat a non stick frying pan with a little olive oil. Add the gnocchi and fry on a high heat, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. The gnocchi is blanched, so you aren’t trying to cook the gnocchi too much, just warm it and give it nice colour. Remove gnocchi from pan and reserve. Wipe out pan, and add some olive oil. Add diced zucchini and stem to the pan, and cook until golden, turning on a high heat. Add the broad beans, then add the vinegar and stock. The pan should be quite hot so the stock reduces really quickly, to help steam the vegetables rather than stew them. Once stock has reduced to almost nothing, add flowers, chervil, gnocchi, and butter. Toss to coat everything with butter. Season with salt, then distribute between bowls. Serve with some goats curd spooned over and peccorino.
As cancer is something that has affected me personally, I’m supporting Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea (cancer council), which is held on thursday 26th of May next year. If you are interested in registering to host your own morning tea you can check out the website http://www.biggestmorningtea.com.au, where I’ll have my favourite morning tea recipe going up on the site soon.
Lessons learned this week:
- When you cook pasta, you want the water salted and on a rolling boil, however, when cooking gnocchi the water should be on a more gentle boil. Gnocchi rises to the surface of the water when cooked but if the water is boiling to rapidly it is hard to tell when to remove it from the pot.
- Organisation is the key to big functions. Be organised, everything will run smoothly. It would be very easy to completely lose the plot without adequete preparation!
- Practise doesn’t make perfect, it makes par. Having said that, the best way to get good at something is to do it regularly. I have noticed how much faster I have been getting at jobs that I was quite slow at initially.
- If you ever go on a chocolate tour, you are offered a hot chocolate and a chocolate mousse at the end. After eating chocolate for hours, I would advise on getting the mousse take-away. I wish someone had given me this advice!
I am rather happy to say that unless there is a last minute change of plans I am spending a day next week at Rosamond, the dessert degustation restaurant I spoke highly of in my last blog entry. I’ll try to take lots of photos for my next post!