Wednesday, 26 March 2014

gelateria primavera (spring st grocer), melbourne cbd

Gelati on a summer day in Melbourne, from Gelateria Primavera / Spring St Grocer.

Gelateria Primavera, out the front of Spring St Grocer (157 Spring St, Melbourne) is one of my favourite gelati places in Melbourne. Their ever-changing seasonal menu is always a delight, with fresh ingredients skilfully handled to create pretty, sensuous flavours.

Gelateria Primavera.

I've been here several times and have tried a number of their offerings. There is the summery brightness of strawberry mint, the delicate elegance of peach basil, the tangy floral loveliness of yoghurt rose cardamom, and the surprisingly rich intensity of the no-dairy choc cashew.

Sometimes there are more unusual creations, like rice pudding with lemon and bergamot, or prickly pear with pomegranate molasses, which I suspect don't come by often.

Then there are the popular items which can often be seen on their board - the beautifully perfumed cardamom-pistachio is usually around, perhaps one time paired with turmeric, another time with saffron.

But for all the fancy combinations, which I appreciate tremendously, my perennial favourite is the simple, yet absolutely luscious fior de latte (translation: "flower of milk"), which I could eat every time. This is an ambassador for the deliciousness of dairy, if there ever was one: pure, creamy perfection. And the cool thing is that, being a "basic" flavour, it's one that seems to be always on their menu. Just how I like it.

Gelati on an autumn day in Melbourne, from Gelateria Primavera / Spring St Grocer.

Also, despite their reputation and popularity, I like that I've yet to experience crazy queues or crowds with Gelateria Primavera, unlike some of the other trendy gelati establishments. Plus, they open till late everyday. What's not to love?

I've popped in to the providore section of Spring St Grocer as well, and it's worth the time to browse their fresh produce or gourmet treats, which you may just decide to take home with you. Additionally, my friends who work in the city tell me they like getting lunch at the "Rolls Ready" sandwich bar located inside. That's going to be my next stop, I think... and of course, I'll follow it up with their tasty gelati for dessert.

Gelateria Primavera on Urbanspoon

Spring St Grocer on Urbanspoon

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Sunday, 16 March 2014

baked lamb cutlets in kaffir chilli cider sauce

When I think about it, this is kind of a wacky dish.

These lamb cutlets are part of a meal, one that is a rather odd combination that strangely works. It's kind of an Asian fusion thing, paired with sauerkraut and spatzle-like egg noodles. A weirdness that is sort of Australian meets Thai meets German. It's not intentional - just a coming-together of ingredients when I want to use up a few things, and the nonchalantly cooperative part of my mind thinks, "That should do."

And it did well, for us. So here's the recipe, if you're feeling wacky enough...

6 lamb cutlets (each cutlet between 60 - 75g, or 2 - 2.5oz)
2 tablespoons apple cider
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
4 single kaffir lime leaves (or 2 twin leaves)

Mix all ingredients together, making sure the liquid thoroughly coats the lamb cutlets. You may leave them to marinate for a while, but it's not absolutely necessary if you're in a hurry.
Transfer lamb cutlets to a foil-lined baking tray, then pour the marinade over them.
Bake at an oven that has been preheated at 180ºC / 360ºF fan-forced (200ºC / 390ºF conventional) for 20 - 25 minutes, turning once mid-way.
Serve with salad, or try it with sauerkraut and egg pasta, like we did!

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Monday, 10 March 2014

a long weekend, and a mussel festival

Paella at the Port Phillip Mussel Festival, South Melbourne Market.

Just a hastily written post today, to mention the mussel-licious long weekend I've had!

The Port Phillip Mussel Festival (part of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival) was held at South Melbourne Market on Saturday and Sunday, where fresh mussels were sold by the bucket, and a fun variety of mussel dishes were on offer. And let's not forget - live music and a great crowd.

(I also witnessed a few people - one of whom was an almost-naked dude, save for his bright red underwear and bandanna - parading down the sidewalk while doing some kind of dance with whole, raw fish in their hands, and I have no idea what that was about. If anyone can solve the mystery, please do!)

But anyway.

I wandered around and found this bargain of a dish from the Turkish restaurant, Koy - mussels in tomato and feta sauce. It was $5 for a small plate, which is considered good value for typically pricey festival food in Australia. I was happy with what I got for my money. Plump, juicy mussels, at least half a dozen of them, in a spicy, tangy tomato sauce with feta cubes liberally dotted throughout. I lapped it up.

Mussels in tomato and feta Turkish sauce ($5).

But wait, there's more! We have a public holiday on Monday, and my friend Leon invited me over for home-cooked mussels in a chilli-kaffir-lemongrass coconut milk broth. We enjoyed that with steamed rice for a delightfully filling meal. Additionally, he treated me to creamy brie with some wondrous fig jam, plus Guinness beer; while I proffered fragrant Malaysian biscuits and a refreshing achacha beverage.

A merry food exchange this was, indeed.

Mussels cooked in coconut milk with chilli, kaffir lime leaf, and lemon grass.

How was your weekend?

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Thursday, 6 March 2014

black sesame quinoa porridge for breakfast, or, alternatively, a quinoa pudding dessert

Quick black sesame quinoa porridge for breakfast.

I'm new to the quinoa porridge concept, at least in practice - I mean, I'd heard of it, but never made it myself, until recently. This packet of organic quinoa flakes my sister gave me had been sitting unassumingly in the cupboard, and all this time I haven't really been giving it much attention, other than sneakily adding it to my savoury rice porridge (i.e. congee) from time to time.

Finally, I decided to make a proper quinoa porridge with it. After all, there were basic instructions at the back of the packet, and it looked incredibly easy. I didn't end up following those instructions, but I did successfully create a quinoa porridge in the end with the quinoa flakes. One with lashings of black sesame powder that my parents bought for me, plus ginger, rice syrup, coconut milk, and a pinch of salt. It was not bad, actually. Be warned, though - this does leave you with black sesame residues on your teeth, so brush after eating!

Organic quinoa flakes.

quick black sesame quinoa porridge with ginger and coconut milk
(serves 1)

1/3 cup quinoa flakes
1/4 cup ground black sesame / black sesame powder
1/4 teaspoon finely grated ginger
1 cup water
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 pinch salt
rice syrup, to taste (may be substituted with other sweeteners e.g. maple syrup, sugar, etc.)

Place quinoa flakes, black sesame powder, ginger and water into a saucepan and bring to boil, then turn down the heat slightly and let it bubble merrily till the quinoa flakes have absorbed the water and the mixture has thickened - this will take around 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix coconut milk with a pinch of salt.
When the gingered black sesame quinoa porridge is done, add rice syrup to taste. (I used 2 tablespoons - rice syrup is only about half as sweet as sugar, and this was a good amount for me to keep this dish just sweet enough while still being relatively healthy. You may use whatever sweetener you have on hand, to your liking.)
Scoop the quinoa porridge into a serving bowl, then ladle the lightly salted coconut milk over it.

I had this warm, but I suspect it would also be pleasant if chilled and served cold. Moreover, I would venture that one could turn this into sort of a quinoa pudding dessert simply by making it sweeter.

Quick black sesame quinoa porridge with ginger and coconut milk.

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