The ultimate steak sandwich

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There’s a lot about this recipe that gets me excited. A crunchy Asian slaw and a sweet and peppery shallot salsa, the best possible grass-fed flank steak, which is packed with even more flavour that your popular fillet, plus it’s cheaper. I make a batch of the herby salsa every couple of weeks. It’s used up in a matter of days but when I have it I dollop it on everything. Sandwiches, grilled chicken, a warming homemade chicken soup, there’s very little I won’t pile it on. I toast a couple of slices of sourdough for extra crunch. A tip on that if you’re not a massive bread eater like I’m not: When you pick up a new loaf, slice it thickly, put the loaf back together, wrap it tightly in a leftover plastic bag and freeze it. When it’s time for toast, and we all have those times don’t we, just pull a couple of slices out and toast them to crispy golden perfection. Here’s my recipe for the ultimate steak sandwich.

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Garden to table

Growing your own food takes locavore to a whole new level. It’s paddock to plate, garden bed to salad bowl, in a matter of minutes.

For the green thumbed amongst us, it’s hard not to be scornful of those who wait for a theoretical right time in their lives to garden. Growing your own lettuce, for example, belies the one-day-I-will promise, just because it’s so incredibly easy to do.

While it’s less work and more cost effective to buy some things, say potatoes at the store or farmers’ market, growing many fruit and vegetables is a thrifty and satisfying connection to the land. I buy my own Be Natural porridge, a reassuring and healthy daily routine, but I grow whatever I can on my balcony, in the small space I do have. I do garden to table every day.

Even if you lack outdoor space, you can grow something. Basil and rosemary do well in a sunny window, and lettuce will flourish in a pot on a balcony. Beginners should avoid filling the garden or available space with a vast variety of temperamental plants, it’s better to do a few things well. Lettuce is perhaps the easiest thing to grow. Then, all it takes is a squirt of vinaigrette and a lunch is on the table.

cos lettuce

Planted as seedings in a sunny spot, lettuce will take the culinary gardener into winter in many Australian climates. Go for a variety of lettuce, mix up textures and flavours for their various gastronomic qualities. Cos, one of the best nutritionally, can be turned into Korean bo saam in the kitchen – palm-sized cups to hold thinly sliced seared steak, a knob of steamed rice, sriracha and a dot of soy sauce. {READ MORE}

Chilly harvests

Apple trees heavy with fruit, fat pumpkins ready to be picked from the earth; late autumn harvests, with their reckless abundance and promise of feasts to come, are ready.

Even though warm duvets and hot tea in bed seem like such a good idea at this time year, mornings can be better spent with calico bag on shoulder, traipsing through farmers markets to source the best local produce the cooler months have to offer.

In colder climates and for our northern hemisphere peers, many farmers markets close in the chilly season. There, tents are dismantled and tables collapsed for winter. But in Australia, a steady trickle of indoor and outdoor markets stay open. Year-round access to farmers markets means our fingers can stay on the pulse when it comes to which fruit and vegetables are in their prime.

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{ recipe } duck bresaola

My fridge is not just for food storage any more. Punnets of yoghurt, bunches of kale, they’ve all been shoved aside to make way for a new culinary experiment: meat curing. Armed with a recipe from Uccello head chef David Lovett, I have four duck breasts hanging, trussed and tied to wooden spoons inside jars, and now all I have to do is wait three weeks for a duck bresaola bounty. I’ve posted David’s recipe for duck bresaola after the jump.

recipe duck bresaola

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The recipe is completely simple. Basically it involves making a salt and sugar herby rub, tweaking the amount of chilli for your taste, and including other sturdy herbs if you have them available. Cure the duck in an airtight container for 4 days (I did 5, woops), and then hang it. One kilo of duck is about 4 duck breasts, and make sure you use free-range duck, the taste is far superior and doesn’t cost a lot more. If you’re going to make the effort, it’s worth getting the best duck you can find. As you’ll see, I left the herbs and chilli off one breast just to see how the herbs impact the final flavour, I’ll keep you posted in three weeks..

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{cookbook} around the world in 80 dishes

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Pulling this divine cookbook, Around the World in 80 Dishes by David Loftus, from my shelves this morning, I felt so completely inspired to cook and reinvent, play with more produce, different produce. Too often we write about and review just the newest books, and some cookbooks deserve more attention than that, a bit of longevity. As we know, David Loftus is the main guy behind the lens in Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks. He brings that messy magic to those gorgeous books. In this cookbook, Loftus collects recipes from cooks and chefs from around the world and shoots the recipes himself, following of course that fabled journey of Phileas Fogg. It makes me want to pack my suitcase armed with a saute pan and repeat Fogg’s journey, and the even more appealing one that Loftus takes.

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{eat out} North Bondi Fish

North Bondi Fish

Just because the chill is (very, very slowly) setting in doesn’t mean we have to settle for cushions of stodge and fat-laden things. As this seems as good a time as any to jump into the invigorating waves and stick to the more virtuous health kick we started in summer, I found my way to North Bondi Fish to sample its new winter menu. Here’s a sort-of review.

The sparkling Bondi world makes its way in this rather new fit out, which kind of melds Beachy chic with Scandinavian interiors. The marble tables are fresh without being cold, and the cane chairs and booth seats at some tables make it comfortable and sophisticated in one. It’s all fresh and light and breezy, perfect for ‘wintery’ Sydney right now. And so is the food.

My Instagram snaps on the day (yes, one of those annoying customers) barely do it justice, but you get the gist. If this is winter, bring it on.

No.01/ Grilled snapper with fresh broad beans and radish. A perfect share plate.

No.02/ The Matt Moran/ Peter Sullivan establishment features incredible ceramics throughout – both under the food and on the walls. Thank goodness for a move away from white. Instead these bright colours (the sea green glaze under the snapper, for example) make the food pop. I love the fish-shaped ceramics schooling their way up one wall.

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{recipe} Persian yoghurt dip

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Persian yoghurt dip recipe

This recipe tilt on the Persian yoghurt dip mast-o-khiar introduces dried cranberries in place of raisins, and roasted almonds for a pleasing crunch. It takes the cucumber, yoghurt and herbs stalwart, but amps things up with textures and sweet and nutty additions. The result is an easy, tart and sweet dip, a healthy rendition of anything store bought. This dip calls for lots of herbs, well-toasted nuts, good-quality yoghurt and a bit of tweaking to suit your taste.

1/2 Lebanese cucumber
1 ½ cups low-fat Chobani Greek Yogurt
¼ cup chopped fennel fronds
1/3 cup dry-roasted almonds, roughly chopped
1 small French eschallot, finely chopped
3 tbsp dried cranberries, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground sumac
½ tsp sea salt flakes
Extra virgin olive oil
crackers or chargrilled bread for dipping

Halve the cucumber lengthways, scoop out the seeds and finely chop into 3mm pieces. Spoon the yoghurt into a serving bowl and scatter over cucumber across the dip. Scatter over fennel frond or dill, almonds, eschallots and cranberries. Sprinkle over sumac and salt, then drizzle over extra virgin olive oil to serve.

Offer crackers or charred bread for dipping.

TIP: If you don’t have access to fennel fronds, dill works well in this recipe. Substitute fennel for 1 tablespoon chopped dill.

ALSO: Serve with thin slices of fresh bread for dipping. Heat a chargrill pan over a high heat, drizzle the bread with olive oil and grill until toasted and a little charred on both sides.

* I’m delighted to have worked with Chobani yoghurt as part of their #PlainInspiring campaign to bring you this recipe. Enter the #PlainInspiring competition to win a trip to New York!!

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MAD butchery

Descended from a long-line of Italian butchers, Dario Cecchini runs a butchery, Antica Macelleria Cecchini, alongside three restaurants all in the small town of Panzano, Chianti, Italy. In this presentation from MAD3, Cecchini guts a pig and discusses the importance of craft, of love and of respecting the animals we consume. He says growing up, a butcher’s children ate what other people didn’t want, so he thrived on pancakes made from pigs’ blood, pigs intestines and cabbage in soup, and a dish involving pigs liver and fennel. “every day was a party,” he remembers. “Every day I had a chance to learn new ways of cooking and eating simple foods. I grew up never eating a steak. I grew up never eating a fillet. My first classic fiorentine steak I had when I was 18 to celebrate my birthday.”

Check out this inspiring video. Dario Cecchini: “Carne e Spirito” from MAD on Vimeo.

{giveaway} Chef, the movie

More than a few foodists I know admit to getting choked up while watching the new film Chef, in cinemas 8 May. Written and directed by Jon Favreau, and starring Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson and Jon Favreau himself, the film follows chef Carl Casper (Favreau), who falls from grace thanks to a stoush with a food critic and so moves to Miami. I’m giving away two double passes…

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There’s a rather excellent review on Eater that covers what Chef got right:

“There’s an early montage in Chef where various kitchen prep actions are being executed with professional skill. A zucchini is sliced in super speed. A pig is broken down with precision cuts. Herbs are chopped at 1500 rpm. And the man doing it is a chubby fingered actor named Jon Favreau, the actual guy… What’s great about Chef is it was clear he cared. {READ MORE}

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