Scallop Sashimi, Shiitake, Chorizo

If you're like me, getting back into the swing of things in the new year has been hard. I returned to work just after the holidays only to find that the office was a ghost town. A lot to do, but not many people around to get things done. That might be an indictment of how much *I* actually do, but that's another story.

So on the Friday of my week back I decided to work from home. There was a lot of prep and reading to do, and for the first time in ages I didn't have any meetings! As soon as the Gourmet Female heard she demanded that I cook dinner and that she be regaled with a massive seafood fest. Enter my riff on a Dan Hong recipe, scallop sashimi with shiitake, chorizo, and spring onion.

This recipe is dead easy. The hardest part is finding an Asian market for the ingredients... And the only cooked component is a chorizo... Which can be done a few hours in advance... So you have NO excuse for not making someone an amazing seafood dish this summer!

This serves two people. You'll need:

  • 1 chorizo
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 raw scallops, sliced in thirds
  • 3 small shiitake mushrooms, very thinly sliced
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 1/4 tbsp shiro-dashi
  • 3 1/4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Fry or BBQ the chorizo until done. Put aside to cool.

Mix the sesame oil, shiro-dashi, soy sauce, honey, and lemon juice and whisk together to combine. Slice the cooled chorizo thinly.

Place the scallops around the plate. Add the shiitake mushrooms, chorizo, and spring onion. Pour the dressing around the plate and serve! Now don't you look like the Gourmet Male?!

Beetroot, Chickpea, and Fetta Salad

Admittedly, I am not exactly a salad specialist. And I am probably the farthest thing from a vegetarian that you can find. But, as is the custom in my wife's family, I was asked to bring a salad to last year's Christmas Day - and that meant the search was on for something unique and tasty that fits our Christmas-in-summer climate. 

Almost a year ago, through a recommendation by Pepe Saya, we popped over to Kitchen by Mike for lunch and tried a few different dishes that they had. The focus that day was mussels but we were intrigued by their roast chicken with harissa and the variety of salads on offer. A few days before Christmas we popped by and had an amazing lunch - we both had the chicken but I had their beetroot salad. And was intrigued. 

I believe that Mike actually might cover this salad in his book but I decided to wing it on my own - part of my stop-following-recipes-to-the-letter resolution. I think it turned out pretty good and I found a nifty little secret with the beetroot that allowed me to put this together in under five minutes of effort, flat.

This should serve about 8 people. You'll need:

  • 1 packet packed baby beetroot (the secret weapon)
  • 500g can chickpeas
  • 200g creamy Feta cheese (probably Danish)
  • 1 bag spinach leaves
  • 1/2 red onion
  • red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1tbsp dijon mustard

Now here's the lowdown on the beetroot. Usually, you would roast the beetroots, remove the skins, cool, and then slice. This could take close to an hour and is error prone and messy. Enter the pre-prepared baby beetroot packets cropping up all over Australia. For $3 you can avoid all the whole roasting debacle and you'll end up with pretty much the same result. Nice!

First, macerate the red onion by cutting it in half and then slicing, and covering with red wine vinegar in a cup. Let it stand for 30 minutes. Remove the beetroots from the packet and cut each beetroot into eight pieces. Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly.

Combine the balsamic, olive oil, and mustard with a pinch of salt and pepper and whisk or shake to combine. Set aside.

Add the spinach to a large salad bowl and then pour in the chickpeas. Remove the onion from the vinegar and scatter over the salad. Crumble and sprinkle the feta on top and then add the beetroot pieces. Cover generously with the dressing and mix. Voila! An amazing summer salad. And I bet you won't miss roasting those beetroots...

Bourbon Pork Belly Bites

If you follow Gourmet Male you'll see that I've been doing a lot with pork belly recently. A-FREAKIN'-LOT. Mainly, I've been making my own maple smoked bacon. Over the Christmas break I wanted a try a few new dishes with pork belly, like chicharrones and pulled pork, but never imagined through a stroke of luck that I'd end up with more pork belly than I knew what to do with. A mate of mine was about to rush off to the Gold Coast for Christmas and was given a kilo of belly as a present - so guess who ended up with it when he ran out of time to cook it?! ME! 

Now, I'll have to admit, I've seen a version of this recipe somewhere before. I'm not sure if it was in one of my cookbooks or on a website, but I made it with what I could remember as well as some elements of "winging it". I ended up making it twice - the second try at New Years' Eve cemented my position as one of the resident top chefs in my group of friends!

Make sure to give yourself a couple days to make this. It sounds onerous but it actually helps if you have a big event to cater for - most of the work is done in advance and really all you need to do is heat it up on the day. 

This makes enough bites for about ten people. You'll need:

  • 1kg pork belly
  • 12 hand-crushed juniper berries
  • 300ml bourbon whiskey
  • 4 tbsp spicy tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp organic honey
  • 1 lime
  • 1 padron pepper (or jalepeno)

Preheat the oven to 160C (140C fan forced). Pour half the whiskey (150ml) into a rectangle baking pan and add the juniper berries. Salt and pepper both sides of the pork belly and add to the pan. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Add to the oven and cook for 3.5 hours.

Remove the belly from the oven and chill in your refrigerator overnight. You can keep it there for an extra day if you need to. 

Mix the tomato sauce, soy sauce, honey, the rest of the bourbon, and some salt and pepper. Cover and place in the fridge.

Remove the pork belly from the fridge and place onto a cutting board. Carefully remove the skin from the top of the belly and set aside (or use for crackling later!). Make sure to leave a good portion of the belly fat. Then cut the belly into bite-sized chunks. Return the chunks to the pan.

Now you can chill the pieces for a few hours if you want to take with you somewhere. Either way, when you're ready, heat the oven to 200C (180C fan forced). Add the pork belly bites to the oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until they start to brown and sizzle. 

Meanwhile, heat the sauce mixture on medium-high heat and simmer down for 10 of the minutes that the pork belly is roasting. Remove the pork from the oven, cover all the pieces with the sauce and then put back into the oven for 10 more minutes.

Remove the pork belly from the pan and place on a serving platter. Chop the pepper roughly and sprinkle over the bites. Cover the bites with the zest and juice of one lime. Serve with toothpicks and you're done! Trust me, this is one dish that doesn't take much work but is sure to impress.

Seminyak, Bali - A World of Amazing Restaurants

If you haven't been to Bali recently (or at all), things are really heating up in the local culinary scene. There's been an influx of local and international talent (with a good number of Aussie chefs) breaking new ground with Indonesian, Asian, French, and Italian cuisines and it's pretty much to the point where you can spend a full week's holiday hitting an amazing restaurant every night.

Back in November we popped over for ten days to celebrate our wedding anniversary and I made it my mission to find out just what the fuss is all about. Here are the standouts from our trip. And a word of warning: they all require bookings and you'll struggle to get into most of them with less than a day's notice. 

Enjoy!

Merah Putih

(photo by Merah Putih)

(photo by Merah Putih)

If you're looking for top authentic Indonesian cuisine, Merah Putih is one of the top places. We are always happy to hit the local cafes and "warungs" but we decided to see what was being done with local dishes in one of the top restaurants on the island. And we weren't disappointed. Firstly, the space is simply wonderful, with its expansive interior and runway-like raised platform from the kitchen. It's air conditioned, which helped after a long, hot day at Potato Head. And the service was just right - friendly and inviting but professional. 

We had the Jangkang (fried soft-shell crab) and the Krengsengan Sapi (slow roasted beef cheek) amongst some other dishes. Have what you like but at this location and at these prices I'd recommend you save space to try a number of the dishes. Highly recommended.

Sarong

(photo by Sarong)

(photo by Sarong)

This was our second time to Sarong, the first being back in 2012. Not much has changed in that time and to be honest, that's a great thing. We booked a couple weeks beforehand for our anniversary dinner as we knew it was one of the standouts we wanted to visit on the trip. 

Sarong is the sister restaurant to Mama San, the brainchild of Chef Will Meyrick. I'm not sure it's their intention but, in my view, it's a bit more formal than Mama San but the food is quite different. There's a great mix of Asian infused dishes and some top cocktails to go with it. The grilled scallops were really good but the standout for us was the betel leaf with tuna tartare. It was so good that I bought Will's cookbook on the way out to recreate it at home!

No aircon as it's open air but that's not a drama if you take a taxi there - and if not, quickly start with an ice cold cocktail to cool things down. As always, book in advance.

Metis

(photo by Metis)

(photo by Metis)

Metis was an interesting one. On one hand, we read some reviews that questioned the appropriateness of French cuisine in the hot, tropical climate - one was even flummoxed as to why you'd have a foie gras menu in Bali. But a friend and his partner went earlier in the year and they recommended it, so we gave it a try.

When in France, eat escargot! I loved them, although I still can't get the Gourmet Female to give them a go. There are a number of great options on the menu but I moved in on the dish that gets all the rave reviews - the 14 hour pork belly. I'm a massive pork belly fan, so I'm an easy mark but this was one of the best I've had globally. Definitely a standout dish and definitely worth the trip over. And the best part? An after-dinner wander through their rice paddy to enjoy the night breeze and the enticing view back into the restaurant. 

Gado Gado

(photo by Gado Gado)

(photo by Gado Gado)

Admission: Our dinner here was included as part of our package at the Double Six Luxury Hotel. But to be honest, we left feeling quite happy that we visited (walking through the rain, no less!) as it wasn't on our radar going in. And I was very impressed that Chef dropped by a couple times to see how we were going and what we thought of the food. He obviously takes pride in what he does.

As I mentioned, we went at night in the rain so we missed out on the spectacular view of Double Six Beach. So if you do get a chance to book a table around sunset, do it! There are a lot of good options on the menu but the standout for me was the "pork three ways". Did I mention that I have three pork related t-shirts in my wardrobe?

Seminyak Italian

(photo by Seminyak Italian)

(photo by Seminyak Italian)

Seminyak Italian is another one that we probably wouldn't have visited if it wasn't in our hotel (and one dinner was included in our package). Besides the fact that we also had breakfast each day there included, we went on our own for a second dinner - so you know it's pretty good.

First, the breakfasts. We loved them. A great array of egg dishes, fruits, and other types of international day-starters. I made it a point to begin each one with their espresso granita, which is worth the visit by itself (but probably a culprit in my 2kg addition). 

Now, you're probably looking more for dinner options in Bali than breakfast and you won't go wrong by adding Seminyak Italian to your itinerary. I'm always a bit dubious about doing Italian in Asian locales but with Robert Marchetti designing the place, you know it's going to be authentic. 

So, people, here it is. The non-Indonesian dish of the trip, “Granchio alla Veneta”. That's hand-picked crab meat, with a hint of chilli, mascarpone polenta and lemon. This is cry-with-joy-that-you're-alive-and-can-enjoy-this good. I've spent hours trying to recreate it at home and I'm still not there. Please, when I die, cover me in this. 

Mama San

(photo by Mama San)

(photo by Mama San)

As I mentioned earlier, Mama San is the sister restaurant to Sarong, designed by Chef Will Meyrick. I found it to be a more laid back place, with different but just-as-amazing Asian fusion dishes. It's air conditioned, which is great after a day walking around shopping.

There are great things here, from the soft shell crab to the crispy pork ribs and we tried a number of them. The standout was “Dhania ghost” lamb, which is cooked with green chili yoghurt and fresh coriander. If you've been to Billy Kwong in Sydney you know where this place is heading. 

I did leave thinking that I wished they had that betel leaves with tuna tartare dish from Sarong...

Ginger Moon

(photo by Ginger Moon)

(photo by Ginger Moon)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I've saved the best until last. Ginger Moon. If you're in Bali, you MUST make your way over and try out Chef Dean Keddell's food. We happened upon the place through a couple blog reviews but in retrospect, no one really captured just how great this place really is. 

I'll admit, we didn't try the pizzas on either of our visits (we went twice!). And I'm sure they're great. It's just that there's so many other great Indonesian-inspired dishes on the menu that we saved our pizza tasting for home. We tried so many of the dishes I forgot all the ones we ordered! But two were absolutely knock-outs... First was the Babi Gulung buns. If you haven't had Babi Gulung, it's Indonesian roast pig and this is one of the best ways we've ever had it. You get three in a serve and I was tempted to order many times that. Just awesome. The second? The "Ayam Betutu", or Balinese smoked chicken in spices with cassava leaves. If Seminyak Italian was the non-Indonesian dish of the trip this was far and away the Indonesian dish of the trip. Love, love, love it. So good we went back again. Now to recreate it at home...

The best part of Ginger Moon was their hospitality. As I'm known to do, I tweeted to the Chef after the meal to pass on my thanks and compliments. And I got a little bit of courage (see Mugaritz) and asked if I could buy one of their cool aprons. Much to my surprise, they obliged on our second visit. And now I have a little tangible gem to remember the place - beyond all those tasty memories.