the complete pie spectrum

In a mere 72 hours, I have eaten pies from both ends of the spectrum ~ hideous and exceptional and conclude there is one I will never eat again and the other I would happily have again for dinner.

Sunday night just gone; the day went by in a flash. Sydney experienced a lovely flash of summer with the sunshine out under clear blue skies. Somehow organisation also flew out the window and it was suddenly 8pm and apart from baby ELG, no one had eaten anything since lunch. Opening the pantry to peruse options, I remembered that I had succumbed to a running joke and bought a pie in a can the week before at Coles. I first heard of this unimaginable creation from a girlfriend at work. Her Dad loved them and to be honest, it was a case of disbelief, dismay and plenty of laughter that a steak and kidney pie could survive in a can, let alone be eaten and enjoyed. I have since discovered that this dust-collecting bottom shelf pie, Fray Bentos has quite the silent following of fans. There is even a Facebook page named the Fray Bentos Appreciation Society and I am not surprised to learn it is a Brit thing. A good friend also has several stocked in the pantry and in the case of when no one can be bothered to cook, the oven is preheated to 230 degrees C, the can opened and 20 mins later dinner is ready. As this good friend is quite the food connoisseur, I finally gave in and placed one in my trolley. Following the instructions and opening the oven after the set time, the pie in the can has a lovely looking puff pastry top and is oozing steam. Surprisingly it is actually looking ok.

Ten minutes later and I know I have spoken too soon. There is an oily residue in my mouth and I start to wonder just how long the pieces of kidney have been there. Not wanting to think about it too much anymore, the rest is binned and at least I can say I tried it but never again!


Fast forward to today and I am reminded that fresh is always best. Midday has passed, the tummy is whispering “what’s for lunch” and I just happen to be passing Black Star Pastry on Australia Street in Newtown where there is that familiar buttery pastry smell wafting out. With not much room inside for my stroller but plenty of room for sourdough olive baguettes, raisin cobs, macarons, pastries and a selection of pies and sausage rolls, I make a quick purchase and resist the urge to have a crazy in-the-car eat attack and make it home just in time. My lamb shank pie is literally glowing as I stare at it in its box. Licking my lips, I drizzle tomato sauce across the top and this pie is devoured in seconds.

Thankfully the pie in a can has not scarred me permanently and my pie love affair continues. The Fray Bentos experience is now long forgotten and instead, I wonder when can I go back to Black Star again?

And one last thing…are you a secret Fray Bentos fan?

 

Black Star Pastry @ 277 Australia Street Newtown, NSW 2042

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 5:46 am  Comments (1)  
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Destination: 2050

No, this is not a post of me yearning to be 70 years old in 2050 but the mere postcode of where the ELG family live; otherwise known as Camperdown. When asked the question of where I live and I say Camperdown, the usual response is “ohhh near RPA hospital…” or “oh, near Sydney Uni..?” Both replies are correct but since residing in the 2050 area for the last 14 months, I now know it is much more than the suburb of both a major hospital and university. Situated in the thriving inner west of Sydney, surrounded by Annandale and Leichhardt on one end, Glebe as you stretch closer to the city and Newtown as you head past the hospital to colourful King Street, it is a suburb that I have come to love with its fabulous places to eat and other haunts to go! So, I feel it necessary to update you on the top 5 hotspots of postcode 2050:

1. Franks 

When Mr ELG and I moved into Camperdown, a friend of mine said that Franks was the local place to go to for pizza. A cheap and cheerful number and she recalled that the price of a large pizza was around the $12 mark. She was not wrong there. A family size pizza is $15. In an old fire station house on Parramatta Road, Franks serves up pizza and pasta to go and I almost always order “Franks Special”. Most nights, people pack the place from 6pm and the weekend lunch slots are equally as busy with family lunches packing the tables. Service is quick and the pizza is hot; a terrific combination most can’t go past and I certainly don’t!

2. Deus ex Machina

Part motorbike shop, part restaurant; this phrase from their site sums them up beautifully “Motorcyles for the postmodern world – silk purses out of sows’ ears.” This place also situated on Parramatta Road but closer to the city screams blood, sweat and tears. Oh and great food thrown in for good measure! Deus is iconic in Camperdown and you will likely find Mr ELG, BIT (baby in tow) and I there on a weekend for their spot-on breakfasts. They do a mean eggs hollandaise with Tasmanian salmon, baby spinach and asparagus. And when I wake with a sweet tooth to satisfy, I order the strawberry and lemon pancakes. Out the back there is the shop selling motorbikes (classics and new), clothes, leather jackets and accessories and if your bike needs a tune-up, there’s also a workshop attached. So don your leathers and get to Deus for a bit of grit, noise and bloody good coffee.

3. Butch

Discovering this place with BIT en route to Mothers group one morning, I bought a quick coffee and returned hours later to feast upon one of their homemade pies after spotting it earlier on. If you have read past posts, you will know about my love of pies and this one went above and beyond. Butch is a bit of a hole in the wall, at the bottom of a terrace, on a narrow street in Camperdown and when the winter chill is about, their cafe is one of the only locals that have a cosy fire burning to warm the hands while their food warms your soul.

4. Chef and the Cook

Ever the foodie on the hunt for the right tools to master my trade, this place hits the mark in every regard. I’m sure many a cook would have been in their kitchens at one point wishing for a utensil that somehow was not in their drawer or repertoire whether it be kitchen string to tie a chicken’s legs together before a roast, a piping bag to ice a cupcake, a peeler that leaves your fingers in tact afterwards or a balloon whisk to get enough air through egg whites. I have always thought to buy kitchen string instead of using the string Mr ELG bought at bunnings that’s blue and dreading a Bridget Jones blue soup kitchen moment and last week I finally purchased some along with some flat scales to accurately measure my ingredients. Just recently Chef and the Cook have also started stocking food for sale and have a wonderful Herbies spice selection amongst other jams, couverture chocolate, coloured sea salt and oils galore. So when you can’t be asked to fight the crowds at Peters of Kensington and need the perfect wooden spoon, head to Chef and the Cook for a great selection of tools and industry advice.

5. Camperdown Cellars

At the end of my street is a wonderful thing; Camperdown Cellars. Now there are bottle shops and then there are bottle shops. Not pretentious with their exhausting range of alcohol, top shelf reds and whites, aged whiskys, Penfold Grange and the best cider ever – I think the owners there must look at me with BIT and think; well frankly I can only imagine what they think! OK let’s get back to talking about the cider. One word; Rekorderlig. Mr ELG first tried this drop at a quaint Balmain pub and came home raving about it as if it was the best thing since sliced bread and well I agree with him as it most certainly is! Refined, crisp and clean; the taste of this cider is heavenly and at $8 a bottle is somewhat on the pricier end but well worth it. Served over ice on any afternoon; it is just a little bit of heaven. With flavours in pear, apple, strawberry-lime and a winter version, I recommend heading to the cellars just for this or to satisfy my other two cravings…there is always Pastabilities and tubs of Ben & Jerry’s in their freezers too. So you now know where to find me at 5pm too on any given day when I have no idea what to cook for dinner and I don’t want to go to Coles.

Now, I know I said top 5 but the new mum in me can’t help but add one more and rave about the bright red and green toystore at the end of my street (opposite the Cellars and across the road from Chef and the Cook)  – Kidstuff. A treasure trove of toys for kids of all ages; it stocks all the big brands as well as the obscure and unique. Whether your child is at rattle stage, building blocks, painting, gaming or just plain playing, you never walk out of this store empty handed. And one of the best things is that they do free wrapping with rainbow ribbons.

So type 2050 into your GPS or catch a bus down Parramatta Road and come visit, come play and always go where your heart desires.

Franks @ 137 Parramatta Road, Camperdown NSW 2050

Deus ex Machina @ 102-104 Parramatta Road, Camperdown NSW 2050

Butch @ 130 Church Street, Camperdown NSW 2050

Chef and the Cook @ 28-32 Mallett Street, Camperdown NSW 2050

Camperdown Cellars @ 140 Parramatta Road, Camperdown NSW 2050

Kidstuff @ 101 Parramatta Road, Camperdown NSW 2050

Hats off to this one

2009 and what a steaming hot Italian summer it was shaping out to be. The train was just pulling into Naples and Mr ELG and I had finally located our pensione and off-loaded the luggage. Feeling ravenous and with a few tips up our sleeves from the local who checked us in, we go on the hunt for a true Napoli pizza; arguably where it all started for the flat and round doughy phenomenon. Up a narrow alley where Fiats are squashed nose to nose on the pavement, there’s a hole in the wall and a waft of steamy goodness coming out. Six or so men with red aprons are milling around a kitchen as the day has not yet fully started. They hear our Aussie accents and between us, our pigeon Italian language, some pointing and the locals laughing their heads off, we somehow manage to order two large pizzas of which we know that at least cheese will be present. 10 minutes later and the two of us are perched on some neighbourhood stairs, pizza boxes on our laps, salivating no longer as the pizzas live up to all expectations and an eat moment is banked in my memories. I also recall thinking to myself, nowhere could come close to this at home. There’s pizza and then there’s pizza!


Enter Cappello. Situated on Darling Street, Balmain East – past all of the hype and hoopla of the main part of Darling Street. In a quaint sandstone terrace Cappello do a early and late seating; perfect for those that still want great food even though there’s a highchair in your booking and suitable for those duos who are after a bit of late dinner romance. Offering a small menu where each offering hits the spot, I can never go past the homemade tagliatelle ragu and Mr ELG nearly always orders the gnocchi with lashings of gorgonzola. Straying away from pasta, the pizza Cappello make fresh from their woodfired oven is the closest thing I have tried out of Naples. Thin yet still doughy in the middle, crisp with a variety of mouthwatering toppings. Taking the less is more slant in terms of ingredient combinations, you won’t find ham and pineapple here but more gutsy taste sensations where the biggest decision of the night will be “which one?”

If you make it past the pizza and pasta, the desserts will entice, be desired and and again make the choice hard! Not really much of a chocolate fan, Mr ELG seldom goes past Cappello’s chocolate mousse. As for me, the pavlova with poached pairs sitting in a reduced raspberry sauce sends shivers down my spine now as I hark back to when I went to Cappello last.

So while I’d love to own a lear jet and have a tree in the backyard that grows the green ones so I could just swing by Italy more than just once in a while – the reality is just 10 minutes drive away, I can satisfy my cravings born out of a hole in the wall in a back lane of Naples.

Cappello @ 79 Darling Street, Balmain NSW 2041

Published in: on August 18, 2011 at 7:13 am  Leave a Comment  
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Wintry waffles and perfect pancakes

After a glorious spate of sunshine in Sydney, we’re back to the last of the winter days  for 2011. As I look out the window and see slanted rain, cool wind and grey skies I can only think about warming my hands around a hot cup of tea and scoffing down a stack of buttermilk pancakes with crispy bacon on the side.


Mr ELG, baby ELG and I recently traveled down to the snow with my sister and her family. On any road trip that includes children, it’s hard not to bring all but the kitchen sink with you and to an observer witnessing us try to load on bag after bag onto the ski tube up to Perisher, I’m sure they would have been having the last laugh! Included in the loaded luggage was the only appliance (apart from the hairdryer) to make the trip – my brother-in-laws trusty waffle machine! As soon as I saw the Sunbeam invention, I started salivating over the thought of golden hot waffles drizzled with maple syrup, homemade hot chocolate sauce and scoops of vanilla ice-cream. As it was unpacked, he explained that he had had to resort to bringing a pancake bottle shake mix instead of carrying eggs up to make his usual creamy concoction.

We raised eyebrows together and this kick-started a conversation over the huge pros always outweighing the cons of the Betty Crocker/White Wings-style powder mixes. At the end of the conversation we both agreed that making your own waffle/pancake mixture from eggs, flour, milk and any other additions was the the #1 preference 100% of the time despite the convenience and ease of the so-called bottle mix on holidays and we were both eager to see how the waffle machine married up to this second-rate powder mix.

In answer to that, it didn’t. The waffles were a shadow of their usual self and the shake ‘n’ bake resulted in soggy smatterings of waffle slivers. And so once we were back in Sydney, my cravings were subsided by whipping up a batch of fluffy blueberry buttermilk pancakes doused with icing sugar and lashings of syrup. Meanwhile I heard that the waffle machine also made a welcome back appearance somewhere in an upper north shore home and we both vowed never again would we succumb to Betty Crocker. Now, where did I put that maple syrup…..?

 


Published in: on August 12, 2011 at 6:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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