Pomegranate, Kingston – trying the Banquet Menu

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Ever since I noticed Pomegrante’s Banquet menu, it’s been on my Wishlist to try.

It wasn’t perfect timing – I’d not long finished an amazing lunch – but I couldn’t let that deter me.

Having said that, it could have been a lacklustre appetite, the lack of good lighting, or my determination not to be too annoying to my friends, but I do have to apologise up front for the following severely sub-standard photos.

Please do use a little imagination and know that my pics don’t do justice to the quality or presentation of the dishes.

Our $62 per person banquet began with

Chilli, humus and eggplant dips with bread and assorted olives

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Then came a selection of entrees…

FRITTERS Zucchini and fetta cheese fritters with garlic yoghurt dressing

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CHARGRILLED FIELD MUSHROOM with rocket salad, tomato salsa and fetta cheese

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CHARGRILLED QLD KING PRAWN Wrapped in thin pastry strings, served with tomato relish & tahini yoghurt

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….and a variety of main dishes with a side salad

BABY HIROSHIMA KINGFISH with braised leeks and carrot

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MILDLY SPICED CHICKEN BREAST sliced, served with Dijon lime mustard dressing

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CHARGRILLED COWRA LAMB CUTLET

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LEAF SALAD

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Mix of radicchio, cos lettuce heart, roquette, goat fetta cheese,walnut & tomato slice, dressed with balsamic dressing

We finished with dessert which was my highlight of the meal – a delicious…

SEKERPARE Almond, Semolina pastry soaked with honey syrup, served with Tahini Helva & Cardomon icecream

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But others at my table chose a la carte so I can show you more…

Entrees a la carte

PRAWN MUSAKKA served with chargrilled eggplant, tomato relish and tarama-salata
 $25

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BALMAIN BUG-PAN sautéed ,braised baby fennel,lemon yoghurt &shitaki mushroom $30

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Sardines with panko crust

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Mains a la carte

Spatchcock, marinated with mild chilli paste and spices served with baby veg & cracked wheat pilaf
 $33

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Chargrilled Cowra lamb cutlets, served with Saffron Cous Cous
 $33

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Baby Hiromasa Kingfish with braised leeks and carrot and Dijon mustard dressing
 $33

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WAGYU BEEF SIRLOIN with mash potato, exotic mushrooms, beef jus & truffle mushroom puree 
$36

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Slow cooked lamb shoulder

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MIXED NUT ICECREAM with cinnamon crunch and caramel sauce $14

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Everyone enjoyed what they’d ordered.

But I think, as the standout for me were the seafood and fish dishes and the desserts, next time I’d skip the banquet (great value that it is) and order a la carte.

Lovely decor and excellent service.

 

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

Pialligo Estate – excellent for lunch in the Garden Pavillions

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Pialligo Estate is one of my three favourite Canberra spots for fine dining.

It is blessed by the most gorgeous setting, so close to town.

And Pialligo Estate does food and wine so well, enjoying it’s own vineyard, winery and smokehouse.

I especially love the Garden Pavillions that truly make the most of Pialligo Estate’s assets.

So I was especially pleased to be there to try a group set menu lunch, a new experience for me at Pialligo.

Our delicious meal began with…

Three Mills Sourdough, Pialligo Estate Olive Oil

Pialligo Salmon Gravlax, Dill Pickles

Burrata, Early Season Tomatoes & Rocket Pesto

Smokehouse Meats, Condiments

…progressed to….

Spit Holmbrae Chicken, Pazanella

Whole Roasted Lamb Shoulder & Chickpeas

Potatoes in Olive Oil, Rosemary

Leaves in Aged Vinegar

…..and finished with….

Cheese Platter & Condiments

Vanilla Panacotta with Coffee & Chocolate

This pannacotta was the most lovely I’ve ever had and the star of the meal.

I will need to enjoy  that again!

The set menu we enjoyed is excellent value at $70 per person for three courses with sides and cheese platter

This was beautifully complimented by a great selection of wines

I do love all the innovative things Pialligo Estate gets up to.

They are currently renovating the Farmhuse Restaurant and Rohan has more plans in mind.

The new Masterclasses are on my wish list.

So exciting to see the offerings from Pialligo Estate  constantly evolving with new delights.

Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Canberra Wine Week – showcasing the best of the region!

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Canberra District Wine Week has just finished up with the Harvest Festival on the weekend!

And what a great line up of dinners, tastings and hands on experiences!
My week began with Matt from Long Rail Gully and Fergus from Mt Majura Winery, who were first to host after work wine tastings at Ostani, Realm Hotel.


I learnt that Canberra has great Rieslings and Shiraz and I agree. They were definitely my favourites along with that gorgeous Long Rail Gully SC dessert wine – yes, it would be perfect over ice cream.
But the Rieslings and Shiraz continued to be wonderful as I had the lovely job of planning a ladies lunch for five old school buddies in town for the weekend!
Along the way to the wineries we called in at Hops & Vine in Hall


Not only is Hops & Vine the cellar door for many regional wines, it has great tastings of local fudge, balsamic vinegars, olive oil and Dukkah! But the shop is full of gorgeous treats.

My favourite was the Murrora 2016 Riesling – so good!


I had consulted the Food & Wine Marshall and trawled the Liquid Geography website for the best spots for lunch.

A hard task, as so many wineries were offering music, food and….wine!
But Barton Estate ticked all the boxes!

Close to town…

Art….

Music by the very talented young Nama….

A lovely family run business that Bob and Julie, both plant biologists, started in 1998.

They now have children who are involved in the winery like Georgia, whom the Estate’s Shiraz is named after.

And Marty!

Luxurious tastings to narrow down our choices for lunch and again, it was hard to beat the Shiraz – Georgia’s Shiraz!

A wonderful $25 lunch including our choice of wine and either a Harvest Platter with chicken and pork terrine, prosciutto wrapped figs on haloumi, selection if fine cheese, Barton Estate olives plus more!

Or we could have chosen with our wine the Tuscan rustic sausage and bean casserole served with bread…

Julie insists on doing everything with style. I love that thoughtfulness and attention to detail. There’s no paper plates or catering here, everything is home cooked!
And then for $15 we could have finished our meal with one of the Individual Cheesecakes with an Autumn Berry Coulis, Riesling Jelly and edible flowers and a glass of delicious Elva Late pick Riesling….


But we were off to Robyn Rowe Chocolates to try the $8 desserts on offer there.


Our favourite was the Lime and White Chocolate Mud Cake with Candied Lime Zest and whipped cream or icecream….


But the Prune and Hazelnut Torte with Frangelico Cream and icecream ….

….and the Date Meringue Gateaux with Chocolate Mousse filling served with whipped cream or ice cream, were all good choices.


What a perfect day, full of the company of gorgeous old friends, delicious wines, lovely food and the warmth and friendliness of local wine and chocolate makers, cooks and local purveyors of fine foods.
We are already looking forward to next year!

Unpacking the Indian Lunchbox with Cooking Circles Canberra and Joy Indian Restaurant

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This week Cooking Circles Canberra‘s hosted their biggest ever event at Joy Indian RestaurantUnpacking the Indian Lunchbox.

Shafique and his lovely wife Farhana, proud owners of the recently opened Joy Indian Restaurant, generously welcomed over 50 Canberra women and taught and prepared some of the dishes that go into the Indian lunchbox.

Some had come along last year to Shafique’s Cooking Circles Bangladeshi workshop at Taste of Bangladesh in Manuka. Last year it was delicious so Cooking Circles regulars were expecting equally wonderful food from Shafique this time.


But before we started cooking, we needed to know the amazing story of the Indian Lunchbox….


Mumbai has an incredibly efficient and economical lunch delivery system that is over 125 years old.


Six days a week, 5,000 Dabbawallahs collect over 200,000 home cooked meals, deliver them to offices and then return the lunchbox or dabba to the cook at home charging only $10 a month.
It all started in 1890 when Mahadeo, like many others, arrived in Bombay seeking to make his fortune.

Mahadeo quickly realised that those who did have work, found it particularly tricky to eat the kind of home cooked lunch they wanted.

It was hard for the home cook to have the rice, bread and curry ready by 7am when their menfolk left for work and if they did get up super early, it would all be cold by lunch time.
So Mahadeo recruited 100 men and started the now famous Bombay lunch delivery system.
This is how it works. Office workers leave home around around 7 o’clock…

….when their wives, sisters and mothers are busy cooking.


Then the Dabbawallahs start work around 8:30 after a quick road side Chai with their mates.
They are easily recognisable by their white cotton Kurta pyjamas and their Gandhi style cap.
Dabbawallahs are organised into groups of 25 who work together all their working lives.
If someone leaves, they recruit a friend of relative, which means that most Dabbawallahs are from the town of Pune. It also means they are great friends!

About 9 o’clock each Dabba wallah picks up around 30 different lunches from home cooks and then by bike takes them to the nearest train station….

…. where they get coded and sorted by another Dabbawallah who loads them onto the train.
Then they are taken by another Dabbawallah to the end point station.


The lunch delivery system all depends on Mumbais amazing railways, and timing is tight to fit with the train timetable.
There’s about 30 seconds to load or unload at stations.
Needless to say, no Dabbawallah gets to eat his own lunch until well after everyone else.
The lunchboxes are often carried in wooden crates on Dabbawallahs heads.

The coding system uses colours shapes and numbers.
The code identifies the Dabbawallahs at each stage of the process, the collection neighbourhood, office building and floor. The colour of the bag identifies the office worker.
At the end station, a local Dabbawallahs collects the lunchbox and delivers it to the right person in the right office by 12:30. Mistakes are incredibly rare, 1 in 8,000.
The office worker enjoys a lovingly cooked home made meal just the way his wife, mother or sister knows he likes it!

Then at 5pm it all happens in reverse. And the dabba or Lunchbox gets safely delivered back to the home cook.

The dabba wallahs also have started a system where any uneaten food can be identified by a sticker and taken to feed those in need, all at no cost to the client. This is a service to the community by the Dabbawallahs.
Dabbawallahs consider their work to be worthy and noble. They are serving God by delivering healthy, nourishing food and will be blessed.
And to it was to Shafique who told us more about the foods that go into the Dabba!


We tried our hand at rolling roti and learnt to cook it in our home frypan.


We also learnt to cook lentil vegetable rice….


….and Chicken Kadai all typical dishes that might be found in many an Indian lunchbox!

And finally we all sat down to enjoy a fabulous meal together.


We all left a great evening with new friendships, new recipes and new experiences!
Many thanks to Kirsty Young for her photos.

Check out this 3-minute video that explains everything about these amazing lunch boxes

Catch ‘The Lunchbox’ movie free to watch on SBS On Demand.

Photo sources http://sonyclassics.com/thelunchbox/dates/ and 

Continental Delicatessen, Newtown – old Sydney done well!

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I love the restaurants of Ben Milgate, Joe Valore and Elvis Abrahanowic -, they are my favourites in Sydney – Porteno, Bodega and my favourite in Sydney so far….Stanbuli

What you dependably get is a good time!

Theatre, pizazz and waitstaff full of personality.

But each restaurant has its on distant theme.

Portenos is Argentinian and spit roasted meats. Stanbuli is middle eastern meyheme bar!

Continental Deli is European old Sydney.

It captures the strong influence of European immigration on Australian colonial-style cuisine.

It’s like a family owned Old Sydney corner store full of continental meats, cheeses and tinned fish.

 

It fondly takes me back to Uni days in Newtown and I love the feel of happy memories.

But it Continental takes it’s theme to a new level, adding great style and chic.

A cross between a deli and a bar there’s an…

Upstairs bistro but like Stanbuli…

…the downstairs bar is so much more fun.

Having regretted not choosing the chef’s menu at Stanbuli, it’s on my Wishlist for 2017 at Continental Deli.

For $65 per person it’s good value, offers dishes I wouldn’t have chosen for myself that I loved and surprisingly is not too much food.

Continental sourdough & olive oil – per person $3.50 is an extra, but boy is it worth it.

The platter of meats was surprisingly excellent with the Hot sopressa, Jamón serrano and thinly sliced Mortadella (really good!!)

I was not as much a fan of the fish plates…

Don bocarte anchovies with pickles

Raw kingfish, finger lime, curry leaf oil and bottarga

Really good were the…

Steak tartare, parmesan, gaufrette potatoes

Heirloom tomatoes, pickled green tomatoes, stracciatella, grilled sourdough

Octopus, sobrasada, corn and jalapeno

Roasted chicken with pot-au-feu vegetables

Fantastic was the Strawberries, fennel seed caramel & creme anglaise – a wonderful way to finish!

It was a memorably great meal!

Looking forward to a return visit!

 

Continental Deli Bar and Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Veggie Inspiration – Top Hacks for Everyday meals

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I love reading magazines full of beautiful recipes and dining out on beautiful dishes.

But neither does much to help me eat the five serves of veggies I need a day!

And I’m not alone. Most of us in Australia (93%) are missing out on our veggies!

It’s a shame, because not only are veggies full of great nutrition, fibre and phytonutrients, they are naturally low in energy to help balance out the kilojoules from all that dining out and gourmet cooking. They also help balance out the budget.

Happily, I have three tips that keep me on track.

  • I buy my veggies from someone who loves their vegetables
  • I have my three easy ‘go-to’ hacks for creating salads, sides and soups that wow!
  • I make enough for dinner to eat veggie dishes for lunch too

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The Fyshwick Fresh Food Markets work for me. They’re close and convenient.

And my favourite shop, is Farm Fresh!

I can park out the back, nick in and be back at work within a lunch break.

I always come away feeling well connected with my community and inspired to cook!

I think it’s Mohamad, Farm Fresh’s ‘fruit charmer’ who calls out encouragement to passers-by and praises the wonder of the season’s offerings.

It could also be the banter with fellow shoppers like Bruno, a supplier to Canberra’s restaurants, but today shopping for ‘the boss’ – his wife!

But it’s also the variety and quality on offer, well displayed and well cared for.

I often don’t know what I will be taking home until I see it, but I do know it is destined to become a salad, side or soup!

We are wonderfully in between seasons so salads still work beautifully.

I start with a base of leafy greens and then build up layers, working towards the most colourful and enticing on top.

I keep some emergency ingredients in the freezer like roasted pumpkin and frozen baby peas to add if I’m caught short. I also have have tinned chickpeas, corn kernels and baby beetroot on hand in the cupboard.

My ‘star’ ingredients on top always add:

  • Plenty of colour – like capsicums, tomatoes and red onion
  • Something tasty and salty like feta or blue cheese, olives, baby capers, anchovies or sun-dried  tomatoes.
  • Contrasting textures and shapes like creamy avocado, crunchy blanched snow peas or asparagus and always but always, toasted seeds or nuts.

If I don’t add the dressing, the salad will last until the next day to take any leftovers for work.

By the way, my go-to dressing is a mix of equal parts of mustard 2 tsp (I like Dijon or wholegrain) and something sweet like brown sugar or honey (2 tsp) then about three times as much balsamic vinegar (3 Tbsp). I add a good splash of oil (1 Tbsp) and mix well.

To make it a main meal salad I just add a protein food like tinned legumes or a quickly pan-fried or oven baked piece of fish, chicken or meat.

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Sliced often works best, perhaps marinated, smoked or warm. I like warm thai beef or tandoori chicken, smoked salmon/trout/ham/chicken, boiled eggs, cubed or crumbed cheese, prawns or other seafood or warm marinated tofu.

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Some good bread on the side or a base of tasty grains like quick couscous or cooked wild rice, barley or quinoa from the freezer ready to go, completes the meal.

Then there’s the very versatile and deliciously caramelised roasted vegetables that work well as a side dish, on top of fish, chicken or steak.

But it’s also good with cheese on top of pizza base or pita or Turkish bread or stirred through pasta. Almost anything, except high water salad veg like cucumber or leafy greens, roasts well. I love mushrooms, eggplant, capsicum and tomato. But cauliflower, zucchini and broccoli work well too. I always like to add a tin of drained chickpeas.

And I like to eat it with a dollop of Greek yogurt, made into raita if I have time with red onion, garam Marsala, a pinch of chilli, sugar and salt to taste and any mix of fresh chopped coriander, mint or dill.

I just chop the vegetables into bite sized pieces, stir through a little oil and some spices and roast them until tender and charred.  I like to use cumin seeds (or ground) but smoky paprika or sumac works well too. I cook plenty and freeze batches.

But the cooler weather also welcomes in soups. I’ve been using Annette Sym’s recipe for years. It works well with any vegetable from tomato through zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli to carrots or pumpkin.

It freezes beautifully and is my favourite quick winter lunch or dinner, with some extra leftover cooked veggies, chickpeas and again, Greek yogurt or raita. With crusty bread of toast it’s perfect.

I often serve small portions as an early course at dinner parties or lunches and it’s even been popular as a canapé served in small dishes or shot glasses.

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It’s hard not to plug the ultimate instant veggie dish – Kimchi! It takes an hour or two to prepare but it lasts for months.

Great as a side, on top of oven poached fish or stirred through cooked pasta with grated cheese – so many ways!

Cooking vegetables this way means food waste is small, because anything I don’t use gets frozen after being blanched or steamed.

Ready-to-go veg from the freezer is perfect to add body to soups or to add to quick fried curry paste and stirred through with mango chutney and Greek yogurt to become a delicious rustic pie topped with a sheet of puff pastry from the freezer.

As I write I am struck by how easy veggie salads, sides and soups can be – flexible and versatile.

But also, how important it is to be inspired by someone who knows and loves their veg.

Thank you so much Mohamad!

Welcoming in the Persian New Year – my first Nowrooz

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Last Tuesday 21st March was Harmony Day, when Australia celebrates our rich cultural diversity.

But perhaps more deliciously, that means we are now in the middle of Taste of Harmony fortnight. Taste of Harmony encourages people to bring others together around a meal, to celebrate Australia’s rich culinary diversity.

So it really was very special this week to be invited by gorgeous friends to join them to welcome in the Persian New Year, a very important day in the Persian calendar that always occurs on March 20th or 21st.
It was my very first Nowrooz so there was much to learn!
Important is the traditional ceremonial table display set with seven traditional symbolic foods, all starting with the letter ‘S’  in Persian, that express hopes and wishes for the new year.

These seven traditional foods were sprouted lentils, a thick sweet caramel made from wheat, dried lotus fruit, garlic, apples (one per person in the family), sumac and apple vinegar. These foods symbolised life-rebirth, health, happiness, prosperity, joy, patience, and beauty.
Also with the seven foods were coins, goldfish and a coloured egg representing similar hopes and wishes, as well as the Quran and poetry by Hafez.

A traditional dinner for Nowrooz often includes fish, which represents abundance.

But our dinner was different – full of carefully, prepared traditional Persian lamb dishes – absolutely delicious.

We started with a glass of Shiraz and olives marinated in pomegranate paste, walnut, parsley and mint.

Then we enjoyed a fresh Shirazi Salad (reminding me of a Kachumber salad eaten in India!)

A 5,000 years old recipe, Ghormeh Sabzi with lamb and preserved lemon

Gheimeh Nesar, a dish from Qazvin City made with almonds, pistachios, barberries and lamb

A very flavoursome and beautifully textured Saffron Rice made with a costly Persian rice variety sourced from Iran – this was one on my favourites. Who would have known that a simple rice dish could taste so good!

We were also treated to Musk Willow Syrup, used like a cordial to flavour water

Plenty of tea with a Perppermint Distillate

..and a beautiful dessert.

Lastly, we were introduced to a very old tradition – the Hookah.

This is a water pipe that is used to smoke specially made tobacco that comes in different flavors, such as apple, mint, cherry, chocolate, coconut or licorice.

Now that is an experience!

How blessed I was by these precious friends who shared such an important occasion so dear to their hearts.

And I think my hosts felt a little less far from family and old friends by sharing this moment with new friends.

One of the wonderful things about living in Australia are times like this!