Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rabbit Stew With White Beans And Chorizo Recipe

This post is Sponsored by Nuffnang.

Got you, you wabbit stew, you.

That's a quote from Elmer Fudd, and he's read my mind. I love all types of meat, and after I tried rabbit for the first time, I'm now a big fan of it. I've tried rabbit at restaurants in simple stews, as roasts and as part of very complex dishes. The meat is beautiful and has a slight game flavour to it. I've never cooked rabbit before so when I saw that John Cester's Poultry and Game at the Prahran Market had rabbit, I knew I had to make it. It coincided with my newly acquired Greg and Lucy Malouf book "Malouf", where there was an amazing looking recipe for rabbit stew.

I shopped my way through the Prahran Market to get all my required ingredients, including chorizo at Chaso's Gourmet Deli and all the required herbs, vegetables and spices.

The rabbit stew was extremely easy to make. It follows the same cooking sequence as a lot of other stews. You brown the meat, add the vegetables to sweat them a little, deglaze the pot, add the rest of the wet ingredients and back. I used my Le Creuset oven so that I could cook it all in one pot. So convenient and easy.

The recipe uses 1kg of rabbit, which is about one farmed rabbit or slightly more than one wild rabbit. I decided to buy the wild rabbits, which weighed about 800g. As I wanted to eat lots of rabbit, I cooked two and doubled the ingredients. The time to cook one serve is about an hour but I found it took nearly three hours to cook double the amount. I'd suggest turning up the oven heat to 200C if you are going to cook double the amount like me. Just check the pot every once in a while to see when the rabbit meat is tender and falling off the bone.

The stew was really delicious. You'll have to trust me as it's very hard to make brown meat look tasty in a photo. The rabbit was very lean but still tender and fell off the bones, of which there are a lot so you need to be careful eating it. The beans, mushrooms and chorizo combine really well with the tomato. I was worried the juniper berries and sage would be too overpowering but they weren't and really enhanced the dish. My favourite thing is the bursts of beautiful flavour from the whole garlic that get thrown in. I ate the stew with some crispy bread, which was perfect for mopping up the delicious sauce.


100g white bean, soaked overnight in 2-3 times their volume of cold water
1kg rabbit hind legs cuts in half, or rabbit pieces
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
60ml olive oil
1 tablespoon honey diluted with 1 tablespoon hot water
10 shallots
120g small button mushrooms, stalks trimmed
6 cloves garlic
200g semi-dried chorizo sausages cut into 1cm discs
100ml white wine
2 large ripe tomatoes (or 1 x 400g can), skinned, seeded and chopped
12 fresh sage leaves
1/2 teaspoon juniper berries, lightly cracked
zest of 1/2 orange
500ml good quality chicken stock
freshly ground black pepper


1. Cook beans in boiling water until just tender and then drain water off.
2. Preheat oven to 180C.
3. Season rabbit lightly with salt and pepper.
4. In a large ovenproof casserole dish, brown the pieces of rabbit.
5. When rabbit pieces are brown, turn up heat and pour in the honey glaze and saute for 30 more seconds until mixture caramelises.
6. Turn the rabbit pieces until they are coated in the glaze.
7. Add the whole shallots, mushrooms, garlic and chorizo pieces and saute for 2 minutes, covering everything in the glaze.
8. Add the white wine and stir to lift golden bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
9. Add the beans, chopped tomatoes, sage leaves, juniper berries, orange zest and chicken stock. Season with pepper.
10. Bring to the boil the cover the surface of the casserole with a circle of baking paper and cover with the lid.
11. Cook in the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes.
12. Remove from oven and check the rabbit is tender and the meat is beginning to fall off the bone. Return to the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes.
13. Serve the rabbit in a bowl, making sure to get a bit of everything.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Mexican Cousin - Modern Creole

My Mexican Cousin's journey so far has been quite surprising. With a number of food industry heavy hitters behind it's inception, it hasn't found it's feet as nicely as they would have hoped. There were cries of unauthentic Creole cuisine from the blogosphere and unfavourable reviews from traditional media. As a result of the various criticisms, the menu has been revamped a number of times. As I write this, it will undergo another revamp next week, with some items from the existing menu to stay and new items added.

I was invited to My Mexican Cousin to try out the food, and was excited to try what modern Creole cuisine was like. I will readily admit that I know nothing about Creole food. I've only eaten what I believe is Creole food at some Mauritian friend's houses and it was extremely delicious. However, I think the cuisine is very wide ranging and the dishes on the menu seemed more sophisticated that what I tried at my friends places. I guess the clientele the restaurant is trying it attract probably sits somewhere between a modern younger crowd as well as the Melbourne Recital Centre patrons.

Upon arriving at the restaurant, I was surprised at how small it was. A bar dominated the space, with seating both inside the restaurant around the bar and an open window outside where customers could also be served at the bar. I think when there are events on at the recital centre, the outside bar would see a lot of action for drinks and snacks. Inside, the dining tables wind around the exterior walls of the area, with a small open kitchen in the far left corner. I was seated a corner table for two, which was very cosy indeed. Luckily I'm a short Asian so easily fitted, but the Australia women's basketball team members would not fit into that table at all. The room lighting is bordering on dark and just acceptable for my liking.

We were served a selection of food chosen by Head Chef Simon den Boogert, who cooked at various restaurants in New Orleans to learn the Creole style of food. We kicked off our meal with a Smoke Tomato Soup with Basil and Cucumber Yoghurt. I'm not much of a fan of tomato soup in general but I did like this one. The chili kick in it and the smokey flavours really made it quite mooreish, especially on a cold night. I'm unsure if it needed the extra yoghurt flavour wise but maybe that's what is normally served in Creole style?

The next two entrees served were Oysters (natural and Rockerfeller) and Seared Scallops with Watermelon and Salsa Verde. You can never go wrong with a natural fresh oyster in my books and the salsa verde served with it was really good. The Rockerfeller oyster had a nice smoky flavour with bacon, cheese and herbs baked onto it. The Harvey Bay scallops were really delicious and worked wonderfully with the watermelon, salsa verde and chili. Who would have guessed that watermelon would taste good with scallops and chili. I must try this combination at home myself.

For mains, we first had the Beef Ribs with Red Cabbage Slaw and Jus. The ribs were divine. As they should be, the meat was soft and unctuous and the sauce complimented it really well. When eaten with the slaw, the flavour profiles all combined wonderfully. Next up, we tried the Seafood Jambalaya. This dish was a lot like a paella, which apparently is a close cousin. The dish was good, but didn't pack as much punch as a good paella. The seafood all seemed a bit bland and didn't have that umami sweetness. The rice was cooked well but needed more flavour. Even the chorizo didn't really taste of much.

Finally, we reach my favourite part of any meal, desserts. We got to try the Beignets, which were served with a Chantilly Cream, Salted Caramel, Strawberry Jam and Chocolate Chili Ice Cream. This dish totally blew me away. The salted caramel worked great with the beignet, but so did the strawberry jam. And even chili chocolate which I don't like much, went well with the beignets. We both scraped our plates clean to get the last bits of everything.

The food, was on a whole very good. As I said, I cannot vouch for how Creole it is. To me, it doesn't bother me as I just like good food and am not as fussed about a restaurant having to serve a certain type of cuisine. It's hard to even categorise most restaurants nowadays as they all contain so many influences, hence the "modern" tag.

While the food was good, I did have issues with the service, which was not every efficient and felt extremely awkward. I was left standing at the door for quite some time while waiters clearly saw me and went about cleaning glasses at the bar rather than attend to me standing there awkwardly blocking the doorway. Finishes dishes were left on the table for what seemed an eternity, it was hard to catch a waiters attention, the wait staff didn't know the dishes very well and they were all trying too hard to be professional such that clearing a plate turned into a magician's act and pouring some wine was so slow and exaggerated I wanted to grab the bottle and pour it myself. The pacing of the food was also extremely slow. I don't know if that is the kitchen not keeping up, the intent of the kitchen, or the slow wait staff. Whatever, the case, there were up to 30 minute breaks between the entrees. I like to eat slowly, but even that is a tad too slow for me.

The Age review discussed how the dishes were quite pricey and if the servings I received were the normal size, I would have to agree. The Beef Ribs is $26 and I easily demolished that with lots of room to spare even though I'm not a big eater. The prices are probably verging on the high end of a mid priced meal and getting into fine dining costs if you eat enough food to fill you up.

Overall, I really liked the food as the flavours were really good but the service could be improved and the value aspect I would also question.

I dined courtesy of My Mexican Cousin.

My Mexican Cousin on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Wayside Inn - Gastropub Food

Lately, I like simple food much more than complicated fancy food. When I read Agnes' post about Wayside Inn, I knew I had to go try it out. I was looking forward to trying out the Seafood Platter, but my friend that I went with doesn't like most types of seafood besides fish. So instead we ordered a few items from the menu.

We decided on three entrees and one mains to share, with some sides of salad and chips. For the entrees, we ordered the Smoked salmon with blinis, Yellowfin tuna with apples and verjuice and the Octopus with chorizo, olive oil and Pedro Ximenez. The two fish dishes were nice but not as good as I expected. The smoked salmon was good but wasn't as exciting as I had expected. The octopus with chorizo was really to my liking though. I love octopus and since I see it so rarely on menus, I always order it whenever it's available. It paired nicely with the chorizo and was given a nice flavour with the Pedro Ximinez.

For the mains, I couldn't go past the Suckling Pig. The pig was so delicious, with soft meat and crispy crackling. I'd definitely recommend ordering it.

For dessert, we were both really full so just had a Canele each. It was a lemon canele, which I've never tried before. I'm not a big fan of lemon desserts but this one blew me away. The canele was excellent and the hint of lemon really worked.

The food here was very good but I didn't feel very comfortable in the restaurant. The staff were friendly but it was the layout and lighting of the restaurant that I disliked. The layout of the tables are quite weird so that that they feel rather isolated and the room didn't feel comfortable. The lighting is also super dark, which I really hate in any restaurant.

I do like the food here and would go back for more, but the room was very uncomfortable for me at night time so I'd probably go for lunch. Price wise, the food is sitting at the higher end of pub food and would sit in the "gastropub" category and be around the $50 upwards mark for a whole meal. There are a number of choices in this price range and I think Wayside Inn is one of the better ones worth trying out.

Overall Rating: 13/20, .

Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20:Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.
Wayside Inn on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Henry and the Fox - Good Simple Food

In a previous blog post, I was pondering about how restaurant names come about. At Henry and the Fox, at first thought you would think it was from the children's book, but owner Paul Mathis made it clear that it's actually derived from the name of his assistant Clair Henry and executive chef Michael Fox as they were struggling to come up with a name for the restaurant. I was invited to a bloggers dinner at Henry and the Fox to try out their food one Tuesday night.

Paul Mathis, the man behind a number of Melbourne's restaurants gave us an introduction about Henry and the Fox, saying that they do moderately priced meals (mains going at $25) to try and serve the clientele in that price bracket who want something good without going full on to fine dining. He also said that with Michael Fox at the helm (The Age Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year 2011), he knows the food is good but needs a little help to spread the news about the restaurant. This frank statement instantly gained my respect for him. Let's face up to the reality of how tough the restaurant business is, and to gain any more publicity would hopefully help the business to succeed. Let's also note that while blogs are nowhere as influential as a traditional newspaper or magazine, they do attract a very specific audience, those who not only love food, but who also dine out at restaurants a fair bit. Yes, other food bloggers read food blogs, but it's also those food bloggers who are eager to try out new restaurants. So I think it's very honest of Paul to say that he would like to spread the word about his restaurant, which is currently a little quiet. Ultimately, the food will speak for itself and no amount of glowing review by one or a few bloggers will mask bad food and service. People will know, and with social review sites, anyone can post up their feelings. A food blogger's view is merely one of many, and yes, the meal eaten at an invited event may be especially attended to, but if a restaurant doesn't keep up that standard, they are merely doing a disservice to themselves.

On that night, I think we tried nearly every item on the menu, and I'm glad to report that most of it was good or excellent. Some items were a miss for myself personally but I would expect that of any restaurant. Starting with the entrees, while the Croquettes and Zucchini Fritters were nice, the highlights for me were the seafood entrees. The Seared Scallops with Apple and Celeriac Remoulade was an excellent dish. The dollops of raisin puree really lifted that dish. The two fish salads of Cured Kingfish with Mandarin; Confit Ocean Trout with Salted Cucumber and Radish were light and bright and very refreshing. Lastly, the Roast Moreton Bay Bug Tails with Cauliflower Puree was tasty, but far too salty for my liking. Some final entrees that we tried were a Goats Cheese and Beetroot Salad, and a Rabbit Terrine. Both dishes were very nice.

For the mains, there were alternating dishes of Pork Belly, Pan Fried Mulloway and Poached Chicken Breast. I was uttering a Tibetan prayer under my breathe that I would get the Crispy Pork Belly with fennel, dill and orange. I struck gold and got my wish. The crispy pork belly was good, with a crispy skin and soft meat. The accompanying elements also worked well. The orange helped to not only cut the fat of the meat, but to also help soften the saltiness of the dish. Even with the orange though, I found the pork too salty for my liking. The Pan Fried Mulloway with avocado, chickepeas, chorizo and red peppers was really nice. I'm not a big fan of cooked fish but this Mulloway was seared nicely so it was crispy outside but still moist inside. However, it was also too salty for my liking. Lastly, the Poached Chicken Breast with quinoa, pistachio, fig and sorrel was a solid dish, but it's hard to make poached chicken breast really stand out. I found the chicken was cooked well but obviously not as tempting as the pork belly.

As we were all almost falling over from too much food, desserts came out and everyone somehow found a second wind. As I'm sure you know, desserts are my favourite part of every meal. And boy, the desserts are sensational. The donuts were fluffy and beautiful and served simply with a chocolate sauce. The Quince, Pear, Custard, Coconut Crumble and Coconut Ice Cream was as delicious a mouthful as the length of the dish name. I was going "wow, wow, wow, nothing can beat this dish" but before I finished uttering those words, I was repeating them again and again. The next dessert of a Deconstructed Passionfruit Cheesecake, Passionfruit Mousse, Jelly, Granita, Yoghurt Sorbet was even more stunning. It was an awesome explosion of flavours but still definitely tasted like a passionfruit cheesecake. I definitely thought this was going to be dish of the night, but then an unsuspecting dark horse turned up. The Chocolate Pannacotta, Strawberry Cream, Strawberry Sorbet and Popping Candy didn't excite me much from the looks or the name. Somehow in my mind I just imagined chocolate pannacotta to taste quite strange. But was I in for a wonderful surprise. This was without a doubt the dish of the night. The flavours were sublime and mixed together so well that I kept going back for more, and more, and more and pretty much cleaned up most of the shared serving. A definite must order.

That wrapped up a very enjoyable and delicious night. For me, I felt the highlights were the seafood entrees and the desserts. They were superb and I'd definitely go back for those. I felt the mains were good but all a bit salty for my palette.

The restaurant has a really nice feel, with the seatings mixed around with tables along the sides of the restaurant as well as a central long table which overlooks the open kitchen. It has a casual feel mixed with a bit of sophistication. Obviously it is hard to judge the service, but I can say that our waitress had personality, which is cool. From what I sampled, I would recommend that you go and try out Henry and the Fox for yourself.

You can read reviews from other bloggers of the night, because even if we all ate the same food, we do have different opinions and like different things. It may give you a better feel for what you may like, or not like.
Off The Spork
Iron Chef Shellie
The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua
Popcorn and Toast
Almost Always Ravenous
Nouveau Potato
The Hungry Caterpillar
Mel Hot or Not

I dined courtesy of Henry and the Fox.

Henry and the Fox on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 06, 2012

Eat Street 2012 - Charity With A Delicious Side

Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend Eat Street 2011. It was my first time attending this wonderful event and I had such a great time. I was once again lucky enough to get an invitation to attend this charity function. This year's function was supported by UXC and proceeds were donated to Redkite. Redkite is an entirely community funded charity that supports young people affected by cancer. They provide financial and emotional support to the young people and their families and help them through this tough period in their lives.

To help make the event as successful as possible, top restaurants all over Melbourne, as well as food and drink suppliers donate their time and money to put on a wonderful foodgasmic event. Once again, this year's event was held at the Sofitel Hotel Melbourne and spread across the ballroom, main lounge area and an upstairs area. I went along to the event with social butterfly I-Hua.

We met in the foyer area and discussed our strategic plan to eat everything delicious. We would start early in the main ballroom before moving upstairs and then the lounge area. We executed the plan perfectly as we managed to sample so many wonderful things. We were some of the fortunate ones to try the Hellenic Republic pork belly souvlakis, which were amazingly good. The soft pork meat contrasted with the wasabi mayo, crisp chips and pork crackling. Heaven. As I-Hua doesn't eat beef (or veal or ox as some restaurants don't seem to know they too are also of the bovine variety), she was worried she couldn't eat a lot of dishes. However, this year seemed to be the year of the pork belly. There was pork belly overload such that we had to stop eating it. I couldn't believe that I was defeated by the number of pork belly dishes. Two outstanding ones were from Ezard and Taxi Dining Room, both tender, served with a sticky sweet sauce and a crisp tangy salad of some form. Perfection.

While I-Hua can't eat beef, I most certainly can and indulged in The Point's beautiful Wagyu Shabu Shabu. Executive chef Justin Wise personally served me (and everyone else but it sounds like I'm more important if he just served me) the delicate bowl of broth with the wagyu meat immersed within. I loved the beautiful clean flavours and the tender meat. The pork cigars from The Point were also really good.

We meandered our way through so many dishes that I can't even recall all of them clearly. They were all very good and there wasn't anything that I didn't like. Of course, we also sampled lots of alcoholic beverages along the way to partner the food. Whilst I-Hua stuck to cleaner Pinot Gris' and Sauvignon Blancs, I went for Pinot Noirs and Shirazs (is it Shirazs or Shirazes or just Shiraz for multiple). My favourite wine was the Scotchman Hill Pinot Noir.

You can't finish a meal without desserts, so desserts we found. There were beautiful fresh donuts with jam, macarons from A La Folie, chocolates from Ganache Chocolate, heavenly salted caramel ice cream with peanut brittle and chocolate brownie from St Katherines and lastly a most wonderful Salted Caramel Profiterole that my bro Pierrick Boyer from Le Petit Gateau had given me.

It was an absolutely awesome night and for a wonderful cause. If you haven't been to Eat Street before, I enthusiastically encourage you to go along next year as you'll eat some amazing food while also helping with a great cause. A win win for everyone involved. Congratulations to all the people from UXC who helped organise the event and all the wonderful chefs and companies who help make the event possible.

I attended the event as a guest of AMPR