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In my kitchen…

…is a new porcelain tea bowl, handcrafted by Steve Sheridan in the Blue Mountains. It’s a magnificent gift from my sisters (in-law), Kate and Penny. I sip fennel tea from it every morning…

Whereas the one Pete bought me last month had a frog inside the bowl, this one has a turtle. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the back is delicately etched with hexagons to resemble a real turtle shell…

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In my kitchen…

…is one of Beth’s ethically pasture raised chickens. It took me a few days to track down, but it was worth the effort…

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In my kitchen…

…are two bags of Amedei chocolate callets, purchased from my friend Tania at Lario International. They’re essential for our World Peace Cookies

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In my kitchen…

…is a large batch of spritz cookies for my mum – they’re her favourite…

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In my kitchen…

…was a humungous basket of fruit and veg, an extremely generous gift from the wonderful Liz and Peter of Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things

Thank you so much, Lizzy and Peter!

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In my kitchen…

…is an adorable posy of little flowers from my lovely neighbours Jane and Bernie…

…and another from darling Penny and Kate. Both bunches were created and delivered by our clever friends at Little Flowers Sydney

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In my kitchen…

…I’ve been making sourdough bagels. Each one is boiled (“kettled”) before baking…

I had one for breakfast, topped with pan fried mushrooms, jamon and edamame…

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In my kitchen…

…is my weekend coffee fix – a double decaf macchiato with one sugar and a giant Nancy ice cube. Made with our Nespresso machine using EcoCaffe’s 100% biodegradable Decaf Supreme pods…

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In my kitchen…

…there has been quite a lot of comfort food, including a recent batch of Römertopf beef and barley stoup

…and a wickedly good Thai red duck curry…

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In my kitchen…

…was a huge batch of doughnuts. We made 65 in total, and they were all devoured the same day. We had a lot of help from friends and neighbours…

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Finally, in my kitchen…is me! Wearing my new bargain priced progressive glasses (that’s multi-focals to us old people), bought online from Zenni Optical. Zenni have an interface that lets you upload a photo and then try thousands of pairs of glasses on. It’s great fun if nothing else!

My multifocals ended up costing me just A$130 delivered. The lenses aren’t quite as high quality as my (much) more expensive pair, but they’re perfectly fine and the frames are very comfortable to wear. Thanks for the headsup, Valentina!

PS: If you’re thinking of ordering, Zenni have a 24 hour 20% off sale on – use code ICECREAM20 (I just received their promotional email!).

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Tell me, what’s happening in your kitchen this month?

If you’d like to do an In My Kitchen post on your own blog, please feel free  to do so. We’d love to see what’s happening in your kitchen this month!  Please link back to this blog, and let us know when your post is up, and we’ll add it to our monthly listing. Please upload your post by the 10th of each month.

An eclectic assortment of bits and pieces from the past couple of months…

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I recently found myself with a Wednesday morning free, so I asked Big Boy if I could keep him company while he ran errands. We chatted as he drove, and then we went and had a coffee. How often does life give you the chance to spend quality time with your adult children?

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I didn’t take the photo below, but Bethany sent it to me because she knows how much I adore Not-A-Baby-Anymore Grace. Small bossy girl decided she would put on an impromptu ballet performance for patrons of the Revesby Worker’s Club…

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We sat at St George Hospital for 22 days. It was a hard time. But the kindness of the nursing staff – their compassion and patience and competence – made things just a little bit easier. Robyn the physio took us under her wing and made Dad as comfortable as possible. We will be forever grateful to them…

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My beloved nieces live in Singapore, so I don’t get to see them nearly as often as I’d like. They’re both world class fencers. The youngest gave me the pins she’d received from the Sea Games (where she won a bronze medal), including the coveted red pin only given to competitors. I’m so proud of them that it feels like my heart might burst…

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My fossil collection has now outgrown the mantlepiece. A vintage crystal spider guards our treasures while we sleep…

Our latest addition is this 145 million year old ammonite in matrix from South Dakota. It’s hard to see from the photo, but the shell has a pearly shimmer to it…

The stunning specimen below isn’t in my collection (from memory, it retails for over $600), but lovely Tom at the Living Fossil Gallery was more than happy for me to take a photo of it. I think it’s absolutely magnificent…

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Happy Snack in Homebush West (formerly Flemington) make my favourite banh mi – it’s filled with pork balls, salad, paté and sauces, then toasted to perfection. My personal recommendation is to ask for chilli, then carefully remove every piece before eating (or risk spontaneous combustion)…

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Small Man and Big Boy, having a Garcia and De Niro moment. It makes me incredibly happy that they’re so close, even as adults…

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Our friend Will introduced me to Coffee Alchemy. They make the best decaf I’ve ever tasted…

Coffee is a very serious business at this little Marrickville café and roaster, and on Saturday mornings, one barista makes the shots, the other does milk. No food on offer, just elegant, perfectly crafted brews. Owner Hazel de los Reyes holds the Australian Cupping title (bean selection) as well as a variety of other barista titles. If you’re passionate about coffee, seek these people out…

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Big Boy took us to his favourite all-you-can-eat Korean barbeque. Wagyu House in Croydon is a hoot – $29.90 per person for all the meat and sides you can consume in a three hour sitting – served in a converted car yard on Parramatta Road. I really like that the meat is cooked over hot charcoal rather than gas…

I don’t get my money’s worth there, as I just want to eat banchan and side dishes, but Small Man more than makes up for me…

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Pete and I spent a sunny afternoon beachcombing at Warriewood recently. I picked up these pieces of pumice – it’s amazing to think that they were spewed out of a volcano half a world away. They’re as light as air…

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I hope you’re all having a lovely month! ♥

This isn’t the most successful bread recipe I’ve ever attempted. The potato slices on top all turned into crunchy crisps and fell off as the loaf was sliced.

But I’m blogging it because it was an enormous hit with my family. I took the focaccia (above) out of the oven at 11am. I then went out to errands for a few hours. When I returned at 3pm, the entire thing was gone. Smashed. Not a single crumb left. Pete didn’t even get a taste.

So the next day, I made it again, and this time kept my eye on it until it was cooled enough to slice…

Because I’d increased the hydration of the dough, the crumb was soft and tender, and the truffle oil added a delicious flavour to it…

  • 500g bakers flour
  • 10g dried yeast
  • 8g fine sea salt
  • 360g water
  • 40g extra virgin olive oil
  • truffle oil, for the top of the loaf
  • flaky sea salt
  • 2 medium sized potatoes

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and olive oil, then squelch together with a clean hand, or using a stand mixer with dough hook attachment.

2. Cover the dough and allow it to sit for half an hour, then give it a quick knead. Cover again and allow to prove until doubled in size. Preheat the oven to 220C with fan.

3. Turn the dough out onto a parchment lined baking tin (I used my medium enamel pan) and spread it out into a flat rectangular shape. Drizzle over the top with truffle oil, then sprinkle over the flaky sea salt. Now push your fingers into the dough, all over, pushing through to the tin, dimpling the surface completely. This pushes the truffle oil and salt into the focaccia, allowing the flavours to incorporate.

4. Allow the dough to rise again  briefly as you prepare the potatoes (don’t prep the spuds too early, or the slices will discolour). Peel the potatoes and slice them finely on a mandoline. Lay the slices over the focaccia. Drizzle a little extra oil and sprinkle over a bit more salt.

5. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for a further 10 – 15 minutes longer, until golden brown. Watch that the potatoes don’t burn – reduce the heat after rotating the pan if necessary.

The following morning, I found half of the second loaf, denuded of potato crisps, still in its bag in the kitchen. I filled it with salami, prosciutto, sundried tomatoes and English cheddar, then heated the whole thing up in the sandwich press. Perfect brunch fare!

It’s a joy to be baking again!

The last couple of months have been hectic, and I haven’t had much time to spend in the kitchen. I still don’t have the emotional reserve to be experimenting with new recipes yet, but I spent last weekend filling the freezer with rolls of frozen cookie doughs, including old favourites like Dorie’s World Peace Cookies.

I also indulged in a big batch of Chocolate Sablés. These are oh-so-good – crumbly, short and very moreish. I blogged about them in 2010, and they’re every bit as good today as they were five years ago. I haven’t changed a single thing in the recipe. Here it is again – I hope you enjoy them as much as I always do…

Chocolate Sablés
(adapted from a recipe in Fran Bigelow’s Pure Chocolate)

  • 240g (8oz) semisweet chocolate (I used Callebaut 811 54% cacao)
  • 250g (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 220g (1 cup)white sugar
  • 1 large (59g) egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used homemade)
  • 140g (just under 1 cup) plain (AP)  flour
  • 170g (1 cup) potato starch flour
  • 55g (½ cup) Dutch-processed cocoa
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • Demerara or raw sugar for decorating

1. In a medium bowl, sift the flour, potato flour and cocoa together. Even if you don’t normally sift, make an exception this time, or the cocoa and potato flour will be lumpy and won’t mix properly. I think the sifting also lightens the flour to create a crumblier cookie. Stir in the salt.

2. Melt the chocolate in the microwave on high – use short bursts and stir frequently, making sure you don’t scorch the chocolate. Allow this to cool, but not set up.

3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium until smooth and pale, then add the sugar and continue beating until smooth. Scrape down the sides often and expect to beat the mixture for a good 3 to 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

4. Beat in the egg and vanilla until blended.  Add the melted chocolate and mix on low to medium until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required.

5. Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed until just combined. Do not overmix. Finish by stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula if there are little bits of flour left unincorporated.

6. Put the bowl in the fridge for 10 – 20 minutes until the dough is firm enough to handle, but not too stiff.

7. Place a large sheet of parchment paper on the counter, and pour over a generous amount of Demerara sugar (about ¼ cup). Shape half the dough into a thick log (about 6cm or 2½”  in diameter)  and roll it in the sugar until the sides are well coated (leave the ends uncoated). Wrap the log in a sheet of parchment or cling film and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Repeat with the remaining dough. The logs can remain in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for longer storage.

8. When it’s time to bake, preheat the oven to 175C/350F or 160C /320F (fan assisted). Remove a log of dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature for about 10 minutes.

9. Slice the log into 6mm/¼” thick discs. Lay the slices onto parchment lined trays, leaving 2½ cm/1″  between each.

10.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until the cookies have expanded and move slightly when very gently prodded. Bigelow’s instructions say to bake “until the tops are dull”. Remove the sablés from the oven and allow them to rest very briefly before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool. They’re very fragile – be prepared to eat any broken ones!

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I made four rolls (a double batch) and froze three of them for another day. Each batch makes at least 50 cookies. I’ve packaged them in lots of five for sharing with the neighbours…

Hope you’re all having a lovely week! ♥

A brilliant new French restaurant has opened in our neighbourhood.

We locals were hoping to keep it a secret, but after just two weeks of trading, it’s already getting hard to make a booking. And that’s because every neighbour we know has already eaten there twice.

Chef and owner Jay is well-credentialed – he was the former head chef of Bistro Mémé and previously worked at La Grande Bouffe. Apart from being an incredibly nice guy, his food is excellent – well crafted, carefully balanced and delicious…

Charming Jeremy runs the front of house. His staff are well trained – the service is professional and efficient, whilst still being relaxed and friendly…

We’ve now eaten there at every sitting. At Saturday brunch, Pete had the Honey and Cinnamon Roasted Granular with Greek yoghurt and baked rhubarb ($13.50)…

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Jay’s Duck Liver Parfait with pickled cauliflower and onion jam ($17) is my favourite dish so far, and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve loved them all…

As Small Man is in the middle of his HSC trial exams, we took the boys down for dinner as a mid-week treat. The bread basket ($7) arrived and we demolished it. As you all know, I’m pretty fussy about bread, but this was that perfect French baguette that I just can’t seem to master – crispy with a tender crumb, served warm…

Soup of the week was a richly flavoured, slow cooked French Onion ($16), served in their trademark cocotte…

Pete and I weren’t particularly hungry, so we shared a few entrees. The Seared Panchetta Rolled Scallops with Leek Fondue and Saffron Emulsion ($19) was sublime

The Rabbit and Ham Hock Terrine ($18) was very good, but I think I prefer the Duck Liver Parfait…

Small Man was starving, so he had the Grilled Eye Fillet of Beef with Trumpet Mushroom Jus ($32). He ate every morsel on his plate…

For sides, we ordered Petit Pois and Lardon, Ratatouille, and a bucket of Pomme Frites ($7)…

Big Boy chose the Confit Pork Belly with Honey Apple Purée, Braised Red Cabbage, Fig and Chestnut ($29). He’s always been a fan of confit pork, but he declared that this combination of flavours was the best he’d ever tried…

For dessert, Pete and I shared the Apple Tart. Hmm…shared as in I let him have a couple of bites…

…and Big Boy raved about the Creme Brûlée, with it crackly caramel topping…


Bistro Cocotte offers a fixed price three course dinner (with a choice of dishes) for $55, as well as a $35 Tuesday to Friday lunch special (entree and main). Their full menus are available here – there are only a few vegetarian options listed, but if you advise your food preferences when booking, Jay will happily create to order. The restaurant is fully licenced, but BYO is available Tuesday to Thursday. We can now take our old bottles of wine, walk to a fantastic French bistro, eat glorious food, then walk home!

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Bistro Cocotte
78 Ramsay Street
Haberfield  NSW  2045
tel: 02 8964 1301
www.bistrococotte.com.au

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