Tuesday, January 24, 2012

'B' is for....banana spice ice-cream

It's a little on the late side, but here is my second "Cooking A-Z" ice-cream post. On the menu today? Banana spice ice-cream. I've thrown together some ripe bananas and various spices from the rack, a handful of brown sugar, a few eggs, a splash of vanilla and a sprinkling of walnuts to make what I think is an excellent mélange of "yum". This recipe could be taken to the next level if the vanilla extract was substituted for half a vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks took the place of the ground stuff (clearly I need to shop...like urgently!). In any case, this is a quick, easy ice-cream that will certainly please any banana cake lover!

Banana spice ice-cream
Serves 6-8
2 ripe bananas
1 cup milk
250ml cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 whole star anise
3 egg yolks
a handful or two of walnuts

In a saucepan, mix together milk, cream, vanilla and spices.
Blitz bananas in a food processor until smooth and add to spiced cream mixture.
Heat until boiling (stirring regularly).
Take off heat and set aside for around 30 minutes to allow the spices to really penetrate through the mixture.

Put mix back on heat and, when hot, stir through egg yolks. 
Whisk constantly over a low heat, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat and force the custard through a sieve.
Chill mixture. For really hungry people (like me!) this process can be expedited by placing the custard container into an ice bath.
Once cool, pour mixture into an ice-cream machine and churn according to manufacturer's instructions (approximately 10-15 minutes), adding a few handfuls of walnuts (as desired) to the mixture at around the five minute mark.

Then, as a turkey would say: "Gobble, gobble, gobble!" 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coda Bar & Restaurant

Where: Coda Bar and Restaurant
What: Two pre-show meals in one week
Rating 17.5/20

Coda has been one of those Melbourne eateries that has been on my radar for over a year. However, until this week, I hadn't managed to get to the venue. In fact, at the start of the week, I had no intention to have one, let alone two meals there in the space of six days.

Let's rewind. Some months ago, I was fortunate enough to score tickets to see Ira Glass live (if you don't know his podcast, you *must* check it out!) thanks to an equally fanatic girlfriend. We initially trundled off to Movida, but were advised that, largely thanks to the Australian Open crowds, the venue was full. A very astute staff member recommend that we head to Coda. Excellent recommendation!

Before mentioning the food, I must start this review by stating that the service at Coda was truly outstanding. The waiters and bar staff were friendly and jocular, while maintaining an in-depth knowledge of food and an excellent level of professionalism - a fine balance that is rarely achieved in eateries.

The food at Coda tends to fall into one of two categories - South East Asian or Mediterranean. The former makes up most of the small dishes on the menu and both are offered in the more substantial menu options. On our first visit we were spoilt by fresh and aromatic spanner crab in betel leaf; a crispy rice paper roll, complete with Vietnamese condiments; perfectly cooked pork belly (a current special that I wholeheartedly endorse should you get to the restaurant in the next little while); duck liver parfait; and a salami, buffalo mozzarella and olive platter. All excellent, though the pork belly was a standout.

Only six days later, my beloved's family were in the country (visiting from Dubai) and we were set to attend another show in the CBD - this time, stand up comedy. In keeping with the theme of the evening, our second visit to Coda was a more relaxed affair. We asked the waiter to bring a selection of dishes. A favourite this time was the crispy prawn and tapioca betel leaf. Just as well there was only one per person or I may well have eaten my body weight in them! Once again, flawless service and delicious food made the meal memorable for all diners.

Both of our evenings at Coda were balmy and humid. As such, I opted for either G&Ts or beer. We were approached by (presumably) a sommelier asking if we'd like any advice about wine. We declined, but I suspect that wine is something that Coda does well...like everything really!

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Coda. It is very "Melbourne" - tucked away in a lane, understated and minimalist. It doesn't need to be any more than that. The refined cooking, affable staff and great location make this place (pardon my basketball analogy) a "triple threat"!

  Coda on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 5, 2012

'A' is for...avocado ice-cream

Today marks my very first "Cooking A-Z" post for 2012. Where better to start than with avocado ice-cream? Well, that's what I thought. My beloved did not share my passion for converting this typically savoury ingredient into a milky dessert. He spent the good part of half a week trying to convince me to start the A-Z challenge with apple ice-cream, apricot ice-cream, allspice, almond....you get the picture. I persisted, maintaining that, while I had never eaten the fruit in ice-cream form, it makes a deliciously lush, thick smoothie and a velvety mousse and thus *must* make for a delectable ice-cream. For my sake (and that of women the world over, right?!), I was correct. Not only was the ice-cream a hit with my beloved (who has asked me to "make it again...and soon"), but my parents are tempted to make this dish an entry requirement for our regular dinners. This is an incredibly simple recipe (using all store bought ingredients and requiring no cooking) and was made with lactose-free milk and cream, both of which were low fat varieties. The rich, creamy flavour was not at all compromised and my farty lactose-intolerant other half was thrilled.

Avocado ice-cream
(Serves 6-8)
3 ripe avocados
1/2 lemon (juiced)
1/2 cup sugar
300ml cream
1 cup skim milk

Remove flesh from avocados and blitz with lemon juice and sugar in a food processor until smooth.
Transfer avocado mixture to a bowl and add cream and milk. Whisk until well combined, like so:

Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours and then churn in an ice-cream maker for around 10 minutes or according to manufacturer instructions.

Enjoy either immediately in "soft serve" form...

...or freeze for a couple of hours for a more solid consistency:

Rich, luscious and creamy goodness - perfect for a balmy Summer evening!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A brand spanking new year

Hello 2012! Am I glad to see you?! 2011 was far too dramatic for my liking. However, I suspect that 2012 may not be so different. There's a trip to Hong Kong, our wedding, the completion of my MBA and a new house on the cards, but you want to know the fabulous thing about all of this? They are "good-dramatic". None of this knee reconstruction business, thank you very much!

So, what's on the cards for this blog? Well, there will of course be more eating, reviewing, recipes and travel in 2012, but I'm pleased to inform you that I'll also be taking part in a year-long (yes, you read that right - eek!) A-Z cooking challenge conceived by fellow Melburnian, Laura and friend. There are 26 fortnights in a year and 26 letters in the alphabet. It is thus only fitting that each fortnight in 2012 I shall endeavour to cook something starting with 'A' and then 'B' and then...okay you know the drill!

My A-Z recipes won't be any old food, oh no! Instead, I shall attempt to create an index of ice-cream, an alphabet of affogato, a gazette of gelati. Why, I hear you ask? Because I was lucky enough to receive this brilliant, albeit admittedly somewhat lurid, ice-cream maker from my beloved for Christmas.

Check out the Cooking A-Z project here and feel free to join the party! What will my first ice-cream be? Apple? Apricot? Almond? Nope. I'm going to keep you guessing for just a little while longer!