Monday, September 27, 2010

Recipe: Chewy Chocolate Chip and Almond Cookies

When they won't let us eat cake.

Mama*’s got a fabulous toy – and it’s brand stamping new!

*For those sadly uninitiated with Tyra-speak (a.k.a. the language formerly known as 'ghetto slang'), mama refers to me and not, literally, my mama who, much to the deprivation of my childhood, has little interest in stamping, baking, or cookies requiring more effort than a queue for half-offs at closing time.

Which is why when I bake cookies, I have a tendency to fall back on my Ol’ Faithful of a recipe. It’s not glamorous, but it’s very reminiscent of the chewy soft cookies I grew up chomping – Mrs Fields’!

Warning: This recipe is very easy, but makes for an insanely huge quantity of cookie dough. I usually (a) give away plenty; (b) consume enough to power small countries; and (c) freeze the leftover dough in tubes, for continuing cookie comas in the weeks (oh alright, days) to come.

Wouldn’t it be more economical, you say so cleverly, and healthier too (insert grimace), to simply halve the recipe?

Clearly, my friend, you are not in possession of a beautiful mind. As long as you have an electric mixer to hand, and I personally wouldn’t attempt this recipe (again) without, the effort of mixing a half-portion of dough is the same as mixing a full amount. So for an equal measure of energy, I produce twice the output. It’s a simple mathematical equation.

Yes, I drew this.

But that makes no sense, you say, you still have to consume considerable effort and money purchasing twice the ingredients and then to locate large vessels in which to do your mixing (I recommend a huge bowl or a basin even) and post-baking you’ll have the added problem of making space in your freezer already entirely too full due to your inability to reduce the portions of anything else you cook. At this point I interrupt you and say you’ve gotten extremely droll will you please leave me in peace to bake my cookies otherwise you shan’t have any and then you retreat into the corner and the world can move on.

You can view the original recipe at the link above, but as it's American, I’ve converted the recipe (with my modifications) to metric. I also like doing this because it means I get to take my digital weighing machine out to play; it just tare-s me apart how good-looking and intelligent this baby is, and it can crunch my numbers anytime.


560g all-purpose flour (or 4.5 USA cups)
2 teaspoons baking soda
455g butter (or 2 USA cups)
330g packed brown sugar (or 1.5 USA...well you get the idea)
100g white sugar (or ½ USA cup)
2x 3.4 ounce packets instant vanilla pudding mix (I used Cottee’s Instant Vanilla Pudding, 100g each)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
670g semisweet chocolate chips (or 4 USA cups...but I chuck in as much as the dough can take – in this particular exercise, this amounted to three bags of Nestlé Choc Bits: 375g+250g+250g)
244g chopped walnuts (or 2 USA cups, and you can substitute for any nuts you like – I used almonds this time)


1. Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.

2. In a (very!) large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

3. NOT in the original recipe but which I think is imperative: CHILL THE DOUGH BEFORE USING. Otherwise your cookies will just spread everywhere. And that is just as unattractive in cookies as it is in people. I usually just leave mine in the refrigerator for 4 hours to overnight.

4. When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius.

5. Drop the cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. (As the dough typically becomes quite solid from the cold, I usually put on plastic gloves and scrape out balled chunks. If you have children around, they are partial to such activities and make for excellent sources of labour. I would never say free labour because as everyone knows, that would (a) make them slaves, which is a crime; and (b) children don’t come cheap. I expect you expected a joke about politics, but both parties are doing a fantastic job of that all on their own.)

6. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown. Note: Even when cooked, cookies will still be as soft as ever - just leave them to cool and they'll be perfect!

***If using a cookie stamper, you should use golf-ball sized chunks of dough, flatten them slightly and then give it all you’ve got. Unfortunately, this appears to be the wrong sort of cookie to be using a stamper on:



Oh well – I suppose that’s the way the cookies crumbles! (You knew I’d get that in there somewhere, didn’t you?) And you can’t be disappointed at all with a jar (and freezer) full of cookies, can you?

I know I'm not!

In case you were wondering what makes these cookies so darn, tootin’ awesome - the proof of the pudding is in the eating (i.e. keeps the cookies soft and chewy)!

Santa never had a chance.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Papa Goose: Move over, golden eggs.

Papa Goose
91-93 Flinders Lane
(between Russell and Exhibition)
Telephone: 03 9663 2800

Opening Hours:
Lunch: Tuesday - Friday
from 12:00pm
Dinner: Monday - Saturday
from 5:30pm
Loose Goose Bar:
Tuesday - Saturday nights: from 5:00pm to late

Growing up, I like to think I was terribly generous. The 'candy' kid (sour tape, Apollos and Choki-Chokis - dentists and diabetes be damned), the 'chocolate chip' teenager (muffin tops galore in every sense of the word), and in my first year of college - the 'cookie' neighbour (one sleepless night, I made a thousand to glut and to give).

Needless to say, much of my clothing was also very 'generous'. I then became a food blogger, and my sharing of food now extends beyond the physical.

But everyone has selfish moments. Da Vinci wrote his inventions in mirror-image cursive, Magnolia Bakery's recipes never taste like the original, and Vanessa Paradis snared Johnny Depp.

Downstairs function room

So these are my selfish moments:

No 1. When I was twelve, my mother bought a giant bag of Hershey's Milk Chocolate Kisses with Almonds for my class party. I hid it in my closet, brought the tiniest packet of crisps in, and my entire school holidays that year was a blur of sweetly secret melted goodness.

No 2. For my fourteenth birthday, I received a carton of Haagen-Dazs Macadamia Nut (which remains my favourite flavour of ice cream to this day). To avoid having to share it with my grabby siblings (to say nothing of my dessert-a-holic mother), I wrapped it with newspaper and pushed it to the furthest end of my freezer (the corner with dubious and forgotten cuts of meat). The next two nights, my aunt was convinced we had rats; much furtive scrabbling was heard from the vicinity of the kitchen.

No 3. I really didn't want to write this post.

Because I loved Papa Goose. And love is such a dated, hackneyed word.

Also, (like many a romantic comedy heroine) I had absolutely no plans to fall so hard. Not because I am inherently critical (and not, of course, because Anton Ego is my favourite misunderstood non-villian villan ever), but because we were dining as guests of Papa Goose. And credibility, in my opinion, is better than anything you can get for free.

Two ducks (or geese perhaps) sitting in a window.
There's a joke in there somewhere.

As far as Internet geeks go, I'm as stalker-ish as they come. I'd done my research on Papa Goose; a 100% (revision: now 95%!) rating on Urbanspoon, with reviews so glowing they're as neon as China, Larissa Dubecki's blurb on its opening in July, and Chef Neale White's ridiculously impressive CV (buzzwords include Pure South, Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Sydney, etc.).

Upstairs function room

And so - great expectations were in order.

I am a big fan of bread. This bread is a big friend of mine.

An intense seafood velouté with a lightly creamy base. A fabulous scull.

The first entrée, a confit Huon ocean trout, avocado, cucumber, watercress, horse radish, tomato vinaigrette.

This dish is the epitome of having your sashimi and cooking it too. Glazed in lemon oil, vacuum-packed and placed in a warm water bath for 20 minutes; it tasted fresh, but with a firmly-layered texture. And the lick of avocado and little pearls of apple? Genuinely exciting.

A tiny mound of margherita granita posing as a palate cleanser.

Little hint of salt at the precipice.

Second entrée, a twice cooked quail, puy lentils, radicchio, saffron quince, pomegranate reduction.

Finger bowls were provided so we could use our hands. I didn't need a second invitation.

This was a slightly sweet dish, very reminiscent of Chinese barbecued pork. I liked that the quail was still moist and tender; lean birds can be so mean and dry (oh the entendres) and the lentils were lovely and crisp.

If I had to pick just one, I'd go with the trout, as I prefer my appetizers delicate rather than robust.

Our main was a hybrid of two dishes currently on the menu; Char grilled Hopkins River beef and braised oxtail with silverbeet, root vegetables, chervil, and salsa verde.

That hunk melts hearts.

I'm a 'rare' kind of girl (impressively well-rested; not a drop bled onto my plate) and I could barely speak from carnivorous joy.

I'll also be terribly torn the next (ten) time(s) I come here, as the oxtail was meaty, unctuous and not at all chewy.

A swallow of sorbet.

And desserts to make Willy Wonka weep.

Eskimo’s pie, ‘hot chocolate’

This was mine. In fact, it still is - hands off! My greatest regret with fine dining is always the pretty but petite desserts; little goslings you should introduce to your parents and carry down the aisle. This is the carnal antithesis to holy matrimony: a voluptuous, curvaceous figure of pleasure dotted with hazelnuts and praline sporting a full head of curly caramel tuille. Hello dolly, goodbye sensibilities.

And the polar opposite; a steamed mandarin pudding, warm citrus salad, blood orange ice cream.

I avoid citrus puddings usually. Like bad speeches, they are often heavy, bitter and never seem to end. This was neither of the first two, and unfortunately, not the third either. It was feather-light, almost spongy, and very moist. Juicy segments of fruit means you can tell mummy about this one.

And a third dessert I didn't get the name of; it had pumpkin, rhubarb and...I was very sated

Would I return, for a fully-paid meal? Undoubtedly.
Should you? Only if you are not competing with me for a reservation (I'm being perfectly truthful - selfish moment No. 4).

When you do go, tell them I sent you. Thanks are owed to Alison Hulm, General Manager, for my invite; you will recognize her by her fantastic haircut and wit. And as for Chef Neale White; if you're lucky enough to run into him, buy him a drink, loosen his tongue, and let the good times (rock and) roll.

The Loose Goose Bar

Also in absolutely charming attendance:
The boys from The Black Pearl Bar, Fitzroy
Robert Erskine, CEO Rely Culinary Technology (their kitchen gadgets are manic!)
Chris Bolden, Coombe Farm Wines
James Young - Torbreck Vintners
Damien Hardiman - Huon Aquaculture
Adam North - Hopkins River Beef; and
Andrew Natoli, Sofitel Hotel

And I'm still a little tipsy, so here's a rhyme.

This Papa Goose is good and cooked,
I am clearly very hooked,
So go but if it's fully booked,
I'll hunt you down, and you'll be f...

Papa Goose on Urbanspoon

Lastly - this is completely irrelevant to food or the post above - but if anyone has registered for the Melbourne Marathon's 5.7km run and would now like to pull out, please shoot me an e-mail ASAP as I'm keen on taking your place (and reimbursing you too)!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jousting with Jacques Reymond

Jacques Reymond
78 Williams Rd
Prahran VIC 3181
Telephone: 03 9525 2178

Opening Hours:
Lunch Thur-Fri: 12:00pm-1.30pm
Dinner Tues-Sat: 6:30pm-9:30pm

Clearly, apologies are in order. Yet with all the audacity and heedlessness of a negligent mother, I beg that you disregard my inability to nurture a healthy, breathing child and instead celebrate my attempts to resuscitate it.

And celebrations were indeed the order of the night, with my coy companion at its crux; and surely, surely there is no better place to bring out the balloons than at Victoria's 'Best Fine Dining Restaurant'?

No, I didn't think so either. And indeed the night began exceedingly pleasantly with some puffs.


Or cheese puffs, for the uninitiated. And excited I was, having first admired them in here.

As I made a point of boasting to the waiter (yes I am that sort of customer), I also remembered that they'd been described as an 'appetiser served for 27 years'. For such old ladies, they were very light and sprightly!

Happily, the bread also arrived warm. I put great store by great bread, and these were lovely.

Sadly, they would be only the specimens that we would receive over a dinner spanning almost four hours. But more on that later.

And oh, it was such a good dinner. We opted for a three course from the 'Carte' menu ($98), and one Degustation ($170).

The Ocean - flounder and oysters, fresh wasabi.
warm flounder ‘sashimi’ with fresh grated horseradish and togarashi, a natural oyster and sea water, a warm oyster with wasabi dressing, crispy tempura of white anchovy

Interestingly, I believe the 'sea water' in question was not simply sea water but a refreshing sorbet (that green there, look!). Do not, in your excitement, attempt to salvage any that drips over the oyster's shell into its bed of salt. A spoonful of salt, sadly, does not help anything go down. Personal stupidity aside, I enjoyed the warm oyster better (steamed I was told it was). The flounder was delectable (the celebrated one said it had pop!) but the anchovy crisp, unfortunately, was just that - a crisp. Had I not known it contained anchovy, I would never have guessed. If you do not care for anchovy, this is probably a good thing as it was texturally perfect!

From the degustation:

Lemongrass, spinach and rock lobster soup, fragrant Tiger prawn, sweet potato and turmeric ice cream

Like a good book, you are advised to dig in from left to right. The soup was an excellent example of a laksa, but quickly forgotten, as the prawn was fabulously fresh with a juicy, yielding bite. The ice cream was very mild despite its intimidating ingredients. For this, I was actually quite thankful, having once sampled a very unsuccessful curry ice cream at Sofitel's No 35. Let's just say, Maggi would have been proud.

Making a reference to paella
black rice unctuous, parmesan snow egg, wok of squid, crustaceans, chicken brisket and giblet, broken juices and saffron oil, smoked peppers

I liked this, but I would not have described this dish as making any reference to paella beyond "This is clearly nothing like a paella."

The black rice was a good savoury throwback to 'pulut hitam' if you've ever had it. I think the words 'snow egg' gets everyone's blood pumping post-Masterchef; in this event, it was nothing more (or less!) than a light meringue. The medley of seafood and chicken was the superstar of this dish, and tasted much like an extended explosion of the previous prawn. I am not ashamed to say I wiped my finger on the plate and licked it. I am probably a little ashamed I used more than one.

Second course of the degustation:

Sandwich of spanner crab, mirin and fresh wasabi jelly, lacquered Petuna ocean trout, black bean and sweetcorn dressing

I always like crab when it's been shelled for me! I think this dish worked well because of its amalgamation of textures. The crab was smooth on the lips, the lacqured trout was as crisp as suckling pig skin (indeed, that is what I thought it was at the time), the bee-ish beans were cooked well and the wasabi jelly was much less confronting than expected.

Third course of the degustation:

Wild barramundi, almond and bush mountain pepper caramel, yoghurt and black garlic, kaffir lime and lemongrass espuma

I am always deeply suspicious of anything that arrives with foam. It stems from the disbelief that my 'food' is literally disappearing before my eyes, which is always a problem when your photography skills are less than expeditous. However I won't begrudge the fact that it did impart the subtlest of flavours to the fish. Also, I shouldn't talk, really, having declared pompusly that '[t]he sauce has so much butter!" only to be informed by my long-suffering companion that it was in fact, yoghurt.

Sweet and sour pekin duck like tucupi
a spiced nougatine of flaked salt and ginger, a lemon sauce, sourness of wilted sorrel and crispy duck skin salad, four pepper squid and yoghurt

This was the last of the three 'Carte' dishes. There's nothing in here I didn't like, although I did find it slightly pretentious that the batter for the pepper squid was rolled inside the squid, as you can see here.

But the duck was very tender, and the redness in the picture is quite misleading; I might actually have preferred it a little less cooked!

The remaining dishes are from the degustation.

Pekin duck and Hervey bay scallops, peking juices, spiced marshmallow like a crêpe, ginger sesame and pandan oil

The duck was very similar to the one on the 'Carte' menu (I might even go as far to say that it was identical), and the scallops were adorably chubby. The most intriguing item on this dish for me was the marshmallow, which I did not realize one could manufacture outside a factory, let alone in a kitchen. I have since been enlightened by my knowledgeable friends Google and

Highland venison like a warm carpaccio, horseradish mustard dressing, butternut pumpkin with honey and bitter chocolate beignet

My absolute favourite dish of the night as I am a carnally craving carnivore and chocoholic. And if you thought you spied something with your little eye, you're right.

Truffle. Two grams for twenty-five. Terrific. Tantalizing. Tumultous. Pardon my thrilled tittering. It was very, very good. I might even say, very very wicked. Also, this was my first foray into venison. I don't know why I always thought it would be tough on the teeth. It turned out terribly tender. And yes, I'll stop now.

Western plains suckling pig and tamarind, celeriac and bitter almond,
dashi apple veil, dancing bonito flakes and rosella chutney salad, cavalo nero

Sadly overshadowed by the preceding dish, I still really liked the pork, though I was disappointed by the absence of crackling. The bonito flakes were an interesting addition, as I've never had it paired with pig. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure it added much in the area of flavour, but it was certainly very pretty!

I also liked the accompaniments; they were very reminiscent of the dependable piggy sides of apple and cabbage.

And finally, desserts!

Pacific Rim martini of pineapple, passionfruit and banana, liquorice ice cream and honeycomb

Millefeuilles of chocolate: white chocolate mousse, pure Caribbean chilli ice cream, dark chocolate mousse and praline ice cream

And petit fours, of course:

Now for the disclaimers. I loved the food, it was faultless. And I am such a groupie foodie that I almost swooned when Jacques Reymond himself stopped by to say hello. I might even have asked for a photograph had it not been for the strange events that punctuated our dinner. And I will list these from the nagging niggling to simply startling:

1. As I said previously, we were never offered more bread, even when we were clearly picking at the crumbs.

2. There was an actual need to pick at crumbs. Our first few courses took absolute ages to arrive; I would estimate a good 30-40 minutes or more between the first three, and it was already 10pm (we arrived about 7.40) by the time we received the third appetizer. No explanation or apology was received, but I am quite certain that this was because of a function that was taking place upstairs.

3. It was very loud. Not because of the other patrons, nor the function, but because the kitchen door was left open, and there was a great amount of shouting going on throughout the night.

4. The shouting was not of the typical kitchen type (or perhaps it is, and I am simply oblivious to the foibles of the business). At several times, it was of the aggressive and dare I say abusive variety, e.g. "IT'S BEEN HALF AN HOUR M------, THAT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH!" and "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Very Gordon Ramsay-eque, but less entertaining off the screen. Interestingly, the wait staff did not bat an eye.

So I'm torn. Definitely not the best of fine dining experiences, Victoria Awards notwithstanding. But it was clearly a very unusual experience and I suspect the kitchen was having a really bad night. And the food was outstanding even so.

As far as revisiting goes however, I'm not sure I'd risk it. Like the unfortunate M, it just wasn't good enough.

Jacques Reymond on Urbanspoon