Stir-fried Crabs with Chilli Jam

Last night we made Stir-fried Crabs with Chilli Jam, from the Longrain book Modern Thai Food.

Preparation for this dish was made simple considering we had already made Chilli Jam for Longrain’s Tom Kha (this was over four months ago!). The book recommends that the Chilli Jam is kept for up to 2 months, but I think it can be kept for about 6 months no problems. They are probably just covering themselves against a lawsuit I guess!

We bought four Blue Swimmer crabs from Prahran Market – which ended up costing us $18 – less than the cost of an entree in most restaurants. Once we had the crabs, we went to The Essential Ingredient to pick up some seafood crackers and crab / lobster forks so that we could make the most of the feast we were about to indulge in.

First, we steamed the crabs for 7 minutes. Once they had cooled, they were ready to be cleaned up. This involves ripping the top part of the shell and the “tail” off, cleaning, and cutting them in half.

The dish is surprisingly straight forward. Fry off the garlic, chilli, and kaffir lime leaves, add the chilli jam & stir fry sauce, add the crabs, cook for a few minutes, then toss through the spring onions and some thai basil.

…one a penny, two a penny…

As I sit down (finally) to write about hot cross buns I begin to reflect on the fact it’s taken me nearly two months to write about my baking experience…. it sure does highlight the fact that I’m the worlds greatest procrastinator – but enough about me!

We didn’t have any plans for the Easter long weekend this year so I decided I was going to make my Good Friday count and bake my own (sultana free!) apple cinnamon hot cross buns – yum 🙂

My recipe came from the April issue of Gourmet Traveller and was quite easy to follow – my only complaint was that when measuring out the ingredients first you ended up in a bit of a pickle as you progressed through the recipe because the whole portion measured out wasn’t necessarily required for that part of the dish! Why not make it simple & mention this at the start?!  (Shhh – no it’s not up to me to read ahead & measure accordingly from the start!!)

Vin Cellar

We had dinner at Vin Cellar on Friday night. This was Ritsy’s second dinner here, and my third, thanks to an awesome work function last year.

We sat down in front of the open fire at the back of the restaurant, and started proceedings with a couple of glasses of Veuve Clicquot. There are not many places in Melbourne that you can get a glass of champagne for $16.50, let alone Veuve Clicquot. This is the Vin Cellar style.

Their wine philosophy is probably best explained by quoting their website:

At VIN we love our wine. VIN boasts one of the most prolific wine lists in Melbourne, ranging from Old World Burgundies and Bordeaux, to back vintages of iconic Australian brands such as Giaconda, Rockford, Wendouree and Bass Phillip. All our wines are offered at competitive bottle shop prices, with an additional cost of $5 per bottle to drink in.

Melbourne Food & Wine Festivities

With the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival over I thought it timely to review our experiences of festival 2010.

This year we didn’t actually go to many events – I’m not sure whether it was just a case of bad timing or whether the programme was all a bit meh?

So let’s begin with the positive –  Five Course Cocktail Degustation at Der Raum $70 p.p

It’s no secret that the folk at Der Raum know how to make a damn fine drink and it’s probably also no secret that they know how to organise an event – but this was a new discovery to us!

We were pleasantly surprised to enter the venue where we were promptly shown to our 2 seater bench far removed from anybody else (score!). The menu was explained to us and waters were poured. It wasn’t long before the last guests had arrived and first course was served.

Critic Critique

With the launch of The Age Good Food Guide (AGFG) 2011 just a few months away,  I begin to hope that they overhaul (or more appropriately, fix) the method in which their restaurant rankings are calculated.

The AGFG ranking system is significantly different from the most revered guide in the world, The Michelin Guide; and I am not simply talking about Hat’s (AGFG) vs. Stars (Michelin).

The AGFG gives Hat’s out based on a score out of 20. A score of 15 – 15.5 rewards a restaurant with One Chef Hat. A score of 16 – 17.5 awards Two Chef’s Hats. A score of 18 or above awards the full Three Chef’s Hats.

Fat Boy in the Kitchen

Update: See here for our revisited review of the Fat Boy

Dissatisfied with the retail selection of “culinary” blowtorches, most of which need to be refilled using a butane cannister, and most of which range between $50 and $90, I went searching to find something more suitable. My good friend (not that he knows it), Thomas Keller, recommended that I purchase one from a hardware store.

Enter: The Fat Boy. I picked this supersized and superpowered blowtorch up from Bunnings.

The cost? Around $30AUD. The verdict? Awesome. The sugar on my porridge? Caramelised. The cheese on my omlette? Perfectly melted. The hot cross buns? Slightly burnt – perhaps I was getting a bit carried away 🙂

Not So Ad Hoc At Home….

With the odd cooler day gracing Melbourne we felt it an appropriate time to get our soup on and what better way to start the soup season with a “simple, satisfying” chicken soup with dumplings from Tomas Keller’s Ad Hoc At Home.

A relatively new book to our collection we’d only made one other dish – the most delicious rubbed & braised pork spareribs. Aside from the long cooking time this was a very simple and straightforward meal to prepare so I thought to myself  ‘well… if Mr. Keller says that this chicken soup is simple then let’s do it’… how wrong I was!

Admittedly we had planned to make the soup over the weekend but like all good plans something came up & the soup got relegated to a Tuesday night dinner.  Knowing there was a fair bit of prep involved I got stuck in to cutting the carrots, leek, onions & celery the minute I walked in the door. Donny & I worked on separate areas – he looked after the choux pastry and chive dumplings & cooking the chicken while I looked after the vegetables & stock…

My Ten Favourite Kitchen Gadgets

Kitchen gadgets…some are useful, some remain sitting in the bottom of the drawer for all eternity. Without further ado, I present my top ten favourite kitchen gadgets, in no particular order.

Microplane(s)

I own three of these now – that’s how good they are. I mainly use the zester for things like zesting citrus fruits, and grating rhizomes like ginger and galangal. The medium ribbon microplane is what I use when I am grating hard cheeses (Granna, Reggiano) and palm sugar. The more conventional one (Extra Coarse) I use for potatoes, carrots, and soft cheeses. Microplane makes my life in the kitchen easier – I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

Saturday Night Festivities

A beautiful balmy Saturday night with no other plans meant only one thing for us… a bbq dinner in our courtyard 🙂

Donny was craving meat so he found an awesome looking recipe for grilled beef with a spicy dipping sauce from Neil Perry’s book Balance and Harmony (a purchase inspired after a memorable dinner at Spice Temple last year). Now that the protein was sorted I set out to balance Donny’s desire for meat with some kind of vegetables… I suggested we serve some of the pickled cabbage we’d made a while ago (also from the balance & harmony book) and the cucumber relish from David Thompson’s Modern Thai Food, as we’d been served this as an accompaniment to the much-loved egg net rolls at a recent visit to Longrain and it was quite yummy!

Cats and rhubarb don’t mix

Having decided that growing tomatoes is too water intensive for the low yield of fruit we achieved last year, I thought I might try my hand at rhubarb this year.

In September we went to Bunnings and purchased a rhubarb crown for a couple of dollars and within a week of planting we had our first new shoot. Success!

I was pretty chuffed at the growth, but the plant seemed to be in the path of Peaches & her favourite sleeping spot so any new growth kept on getting snapped off 🙁

I decided to invest in a plant guard but I fear it’s too late as there hasn’t been any sign of life for over a month.

I’ve done a bit of reading & hope that perhaps the crown is laying dormant in the hotter weather & will spring back to life in the cooler months.