Monday, June 27, 2011

Chicken, Leek and Tarragon Pie

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Chicken, Leek and Tarragon Pie
Home Cooking

One day, I was feeling very domestic and decided I wanted to bake a pie. Byron and I argued and argued about what should/shouldn't be in the pie. I thought I should have authority on the matter since he doubted the chicken, olive and lemon pie I made but it turned out awesome.

I ended up going with my instincts and started brewing the filling after work. It was hard to restrict the title because the pie doesn't JUST have chicken, leek and tarragon. It's also got bacon, mushrooms and lemon zest.

Pies are the best thing ever for this weather. I made a huge one and we picked at it on the couch, munching away through MasterChef. I also made a couple of mini pies that were baked for lunch the next day.

Chicken, Leek and Tarragon Pie
Serves 4-6

  • 4 chicken thigh fillets, cubed
  • 3 bacon rashers, diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 40g butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 250g cream (I used Philadelphia Cooking Cream)
  • zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • butter puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten

1. Brown the chicken in a frying pan with a bit of olive oil. Add the bacon and shallow fry for a while. Set aside.2. Fry the onion and leek in the same pan. After the veggies have softened (around 5min), add the mushrooms and tarrgon. Cook for another 2min or so.3. Add the butter and flour and stir until the veggies are coated.4. Add the stock gradually, while stirring constantly. If the sauce is too thick, add water as neccessry. Don't make it too runny because you'll be adding some cream.
5. Stir in the cream. Add the lemon zest. Taste and adjust as necessary.6. Cool the filling to room temperature before pouring into a pie dish.
7. Preheat the oven to your puff pastry manufacturer's instructions (usually about 200 degress Celcius).
8. Lay the pastry over the top and fold over the edges. Use a sharp knife to cut some steam vents in the pastry and brush with egg wash.
9. Bake the pie in the middle of the oven until the pastry has risen and the filling is warmed. Serve hot!

I was really pleased with this flavor combination. Philadelphia Cooking Cream is something I'm really liking for savory food. It's creamy and slightly sour. I think that using pure cream would be too heavy for this dish. Maybe a combination of cream and sour cream?

The pie was pretty easy to make too, just a matter of stirring together some ingredients. If you're interested in altering the filling, I'm sure that's fine too.

Vista Restaurant in Toowoomba

Vista Restaurant
39 Margaret Street, Toowoomba

This post is long overdue because I didn't write it up straight away and Melbourne interfered. I went to Vista a couple of weeks back with my work mates. To avoid the confusion of saying 'one work mate ordered blah and another ordered bleh', I'm taking the initiative to get creative with some aliases.

One I've named Pizza because she makes good pizza. One is Pony because she likes horsies and her boyfriend came up with a rad name for himself, which we've all forgotten so I'm calling him Starfish... for no good reason.

Pizza and I chose the restaurant. We're from Brisbane so we don't need an explanation for how we pick places to eat in Toowoomba... we'll try anything.

Vista is located at what I like to think of as the far end of Margaret Street (of course it depends on where you're coming from). It's part of Comfort Inn and when we parked outside, I was amused to see a tour bus. A tour bus in Toowoomba? Harharhar.

Upon entering the restaurant, we noticed half the tour group tucking into dinner. Honestly, that made up about 90% of the client base. We were definitely in the minority as walk-in diners.

The menu wasn't too bad. I spotted a few things that I wanted and settled with the fish. I pictured Byron's disapproval (apparently every time I order fish, it's a disaster) but disregarded it, as you do.

Lemon lime bitters

We waited quite a long time for the food and a good 40min or so into it, Starfish voiced our concerns and we were told they were busy doing room service meals. No breads were offered and we got real hungry.

Baked barramundi - with king prawns, caper white wine butter sauce and beer-battered chips and garden salad

Finally, the food came. Well the fish was really poor. It was a bit like... shagpile carpet in texture. Dry dry dry. Prawns were boring. Chips on the other hand were SUPER. They had a great crunch and were nicely seasoned.

Mushroom bacon fettuccini carbonara

Pizza picked out the carbonara. It was a large serve with decent amounts of chicken. She said it was good and creamy.

Fillet mignon - premium eye fillet wrapped in bacon, with potato and fresh seasonal vegetables

Pony enquired about the harrisa lamb but the waitstaff warned it might be spicy so she went for the mignon. It was a nice piece of meat with some veggies (boring veggies?) and potato bits.

Pork chop - with potatoes and vegetables

The pork (Starfish's order) looked very similar to the mignon, plating-wise. Similar boring vegetables and similar shape of meat. Starfish said the pork was very tender.

Sticky date pudding

What I really wanted throughout the whole meal was sticky date pudding. I spied some of the oldies from the tour group eating sticky date. Then, I couldn't find it in the dessert menu. Panic ensued until the waistaff reassured me that there was still some left. Phew.

Chocolate mudcake

Pony and Starfish ordered the chocolate mudcake.

The desserts were actually pretty good. Nice for the kind of weather we were having at the time. Gooey, warm with sticky sweet sauces and ice-cream.

I won't pretend Vista was a glamorous restaurant. The atmosphere was casual and 'safe' to be polite, but what it really felt like was a quiet RSL cross nursing home. The food was homely and my horrible fish was made up for by a sticky date that really hit the spot.

Melbourne June 2011 - Dinner at Melbourne Vietnam Noodle House

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Melbourne Vietnam Noodle House
251 Swanston Street, Melbourne

Our last meal in Melbourne was one we tried to make the most of. We circled throughout the CBD, passing many restaurants over and over again. During this time, our appetites were ruined by intermittent snack breaks (we had pork jerky and bubble tea) and so, enthusiasm for food decreased.

A dash through Hardware Lane left Byron and I feeling frazzled and harrased. I know that it's normal for restaurants in Asia to have people out the front trying to lure/drag people in with hot specials but it doesn't happen in Brisbane and I was surprised to see it in Melbourne. Restaurant after restaurant launched their offers at us to try to get our business.

It was a shame because until those acts of desperation, I found the restaurants appealing.

We retreated back to Swanston Street and were on the way back to the hotel when we finally decided to pop into Melbourne Vietnam Noodle House.

It seemed nice when we walked past in previous days and it looked very popular.

We had a simple meal with 2 dishes and a couple of drinks.

Green mango smoothie

Byron got the mango smoothie after first being told they couldn't do it and then being told they did have mangoes after all. I noticed that green mangoes were used and the drink was actually pretty good. It had a fresh, tangy, yogurty flavor and was nice with our dishes.

Iced coffee

My pick was the iced coffee. I was hoping for a condensed milk-packed sweet drink but it had a strong coffee flavor. That in itself was alright (though I would've preferred milky sweet) but I didn't like how big shards of shaved ice were used. Just a personal thing.

Sweet and sour chicken

I didn't understand why Byron ordered sweet and sour chicken at a Vietnamese restaurant but it blew my mind. It was totally different to the takeaway Chinese style of sweet and sour. There were mini drumsticks and wings that were slightly caramelized/crispy and the flavors were great. There were big chunks of pineapple and capsicum, which I loved. I've never had a Vietnamese dish like this before and it definitly exceeded expectations.

Assorted Vietnamese plate

I chose a dish that was, in my mind, like a Vietnamese nasi lamek. There were a few elements on the plate and I wish I knew what it was called but I didn't even read it. There was a piece of grilled pork (good), fried egg (normal) and some other bits and pieces. I was excited about this but a bit let down because it was OK but nothing more.

We didn't mind Vietnam Noodle House. There was a good variety of food. I would have said that it was average and that nothing blew my socks off but I have to admit the sweet and sour chicken really impressed me.
Melbourne Vietnam Noodle House on Urbanspoon

Melbourne June 2011 - Yum Cha at Dragon Boat

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Dragon Boat Chinese Restaurant
203 Little Bourke St, Melbourne

Lunchtime on Sunday was a bit annoying for me because I didn't actually 'plan' it (i.e book anything) but I had sorta... planned it, with an idea of where I wanted to go.

My intentions were for either Cumulus Inc or Hardware Societe but after dinner at Grossi Florentino the night before, and crepes in the morning, we were put off the idea of an overly 'involved' lunch. Something light and casual seemed much more appealing than sitting down to a menu.

DeGraves and Center Place were on the cards but nearly every restaurant/cafe was packed so we found ourselves back in Chinatown. This is very much like what we do in Brisbane actually... plan to go to lots of different and new places but end up at old favorites in Sunnybank.

We noticed Dragon Boat and got sucked in by the printed dragon on the window. There we go, I said it. I'm susceptible to marketing tactics.

Dragon Boat has an upstairs and downstairs seating area and it looked pretty full to me.

Too late, we realized it was yum cha time. I didn't spot any trolleys circulating around and asked to waitress 'how do we order?' thinking maybe things were different in Melbourne. She looked at me like I was crazy and indicated a trolley off in the distance.

We waited and eventually it was proven that they weren't lying to us because a yum cha trolley did stroll over to our table.

A selection of mini steamers were chosen and so we began.

Braised tendons

Pork meatballs

Prawn dumplings

Fried prawn wonton

Inside of fried wonton

Overall, the food was OK but nothing special. It did taste fresh though, which is a good thing. There wasn't enough variety/new things to excite me.

Byron and I have had terrible luck with yum cha and I think we know why. We're both the type who inhales our food and can't really nibble and pick bits and eat slowly. The only thing that helps me in fine dining situations is the fact that the courses are spread out so I can't eat everything in one go even if I tried.

With yum cha, it's all about self control and we have none. So the pattern is we tend to grab whatever looks appealing on the first trolley that we see and if anything better comes along, too late we're already full and ready to move on.

I didn't mind the service at Dragon Boat. Compared to the heinous service we get in Sunnybank where we have to jump up and down just to get extra sauce, it was refreshing to have our teapot topped up without requesting it.
Dragon Boat on Urbanspoon

Melbourne June 2011 - Breakfast at Harajuku Crepes

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Harajuku Crepes
L1 Shop 148 Knox Place, Melbourne

Because I stuffed up the hotel booking, we weren't staying as tucked into Melbourne CBD as I would have liked. The result is, we did a lot of walking. Everytime we walked past the train station, this amazing aroma of cream and pancakes drifted out.

It put Byron to mind of churros so we ended up getting some from San Churro (already blogged this so didn't bother to do it again). They were good but they weren't IT.

We finally decided to peak into the alleyway and spotted a crepe store. We were full at the time but bookmarked the place for breakfast the next day.

I literally had trouble sleeping because I had crepes on my mind. Yup, I'm nuts.

Morning finally came and because we were on holidays, it easily turned into noon. I was super hyped up for crepes by then but it became more of a prelude to lunch than actual breakfast.

Harajuku crepes is a tiny little shop with very attractive plastic crepes on display. Everytime we walked past in the afternoon/night, it was packed. Morning seems to be a bit quieter.

Strawberry crepe

Byron ordered a strawberry crepe with cream and ice-cream. I chose nutella and almonds. I was a bit jealous of him because I wanted ice-cream on mine but after trying both, I decided that crepes go better without ice-cream because the hot/cold combination creates lukewarm.

Nutella and almond crepe

My nutella and almond crepe was amazing! It looks boring and simple but looks are deceiving.

Inside of nutella and almond crepe

The crepe is wonderfully thin and crispy and the nutella was warm and oozy. That coupled with crunchy almond flakes was perfecto.

I wanted to grab crepes again before we left but there just wasn't enough stomach room. What was also great is the girl made my crepe in about 30 seconds flat. Amazing.
Harajuku Crepes on Urbanspoon

Melbourne June 2011 - Dinner at Grossi Florentino Grill

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Grossi Florentino Grill
Ground floor, 80 Bourke St, Melbourne

We did make it to one restaurant that required a booking. I can't remember why I chose Grossi Florentino. Something along the lines of not wanting a really swish, fine dining venue but also not wanting upmarket Asian. The Grill seemed fitting and it was located conveniently in the city.

It was a bit confusing once we entered the door. I knew they had an upstairs restaurant and the Grill was supposed to be downstairs, but even so, as soon as you step in it's very crowded. I just headed towards the nearest door and stood there looking puzzled until a waiter kindly informed me I was in the right place and found us our table.

The restaurant isn't too big and it's very fast paced, but which I meant the waiters literally stomped past at high velocity.

We were given a couple of giant menus to look through and a basket of bread was flourished onto our table.

After a few moments, Byron informs me that he couldn't read the menu. Indeed, it is only about 40% English. We fumbled through it using the cartoons as a guide and ended up choosing the shared wagyu as a main. I felt painfully 'wrong' not ordering any starters so Byron allowed me to get a salad on the side.

Complimentary bread

We waited and chatted and munched on the bread. The bread was a standard sourdough type thing but the olive oil was amazing. If it's Guy Grossi's own I'm very impressed. It had a beautiful strong, fresh, 'green' flavor.

Grisini sticks and olive oil

There were also a couple of grisini sticks on the table and I had a few snaps.

Scamone di manzo “Wagyu” - Rangers Valley 400 day grain fed wagyu rump cap fat score 7+

When our wagyu arrived, I was a bit underwhelmed by the size. I guess it should have been expected because wagyu is always served in small portions, given it's fat content makes it highly filling. This was a 7 score and by the time I finished, I was definitely satisfied.

"The better to eat you with..."

It was Byron's first time having proper wagyu and though he's a harsh critic with food, he found it lived up to the hype. My favorite description he used was that it was like 'beef salmon' because of the rich, oily and melt-in-the-mouth texture.

I thought the meat was a bit too 'cool' on presentation but we decided that it was too technically impossible to have it 'hot' yet still med-rare. The meat was served with a bean puree and we were allowed to choose from a selection of condiments. I had a bit of dijon mustard with mine but really, the meat was beautiful on its own.

Insalata mista - mixed leaves, salted ricotta, Grossi extra virgin olive oil

You'd expect the salad to be a complete non-event after the beef but I was impressed by it. The leaves were fresh, crisp and bitter and provided a nice refreshing flavor after the heaviness of the meat. It also made me feel just a bit healthier.

While we were waiting for our food, I spied a few other tables getting souffle. I searched through the dessert menu and couldn't find it. The waiter told me it was from the restaurant upstair's menu but they could bring it down for us. I said 'yes please'.

Technically the souffle is from Grossi Florentino's fine dining restaurant but I ate it at the Grill so what the heck. It was something else that Byron had seen numerous times on shows like Masterchef but always suspected it was more fluff than actual goodness.

Valrhona chocolate soufflé - with malt ice cream and chocolate sauce

In the end, he liked it even more than I did! It was a plain chocolate souffle with ice-cream (the waiter told us to put the ice-cream in a hole in the center of the souffle) and chocolate sauce.

Another angle

It was light, airy and all the things souffle should be. Byron really enjoyed it and commented that it was like under cooked self-saucing pudding (the kind we buy in packets from Woolies). I thought that was selling it a bit short but I could see where he was coming from.

Grossi Florentino Grill was great for us. We liked the food and the service was so pleasant and friendly. It was a lovely overall experience.
Grossi Florentino on Urbanspoon