Monday, July 19, 2010

Cooking July

Potts Point is a relaxed sort of place on a Sunday morning. Cafes brim with city-dwellers lingering over brunch. People sun themselves for hours in Fitzroy Gardens while they read the newspapers. Others just mindlessly dawdle and daydream around the boutiques and shops.

Daniel and Natasha crack open the Rococo

But this Sunday morning, relaxation, dawdling and daydreaming were definitely not on the agenda for the Cooking Your Calendar team. For one, we were tackling our cooking nemesis, polenta, a dish we have failed to impress with so far this year. Even though Melissa De Bortoli’s Roasted Rosemary Polenta Chips recipe seems simple enough, in our experience you can never underestimate polenta. So we were already a bit nervous about whether we could do justice to Melissa's dish. We also had a series of “small plate” tapas-style starters to prepare by mid afternoon to accompany the polenta chips. Unexpectedly, however, it turned out we had a few crises to deal with first. To start with, Drew couldn’t find any fresh sardines fillets which he planned to lightly crumb, pan fry and then serve with a homemade gribiche sauce. After much pacing and deliberation at the fishmongers, Drew decided to make the recipe using fresh flathead fillets instead, and simply forge ahead.

Rachel re-enacts the meatball meltdown

Rachel had decided to bake a full round of Camembert cheese. But, in addition, she bought some pre-made gourmet meatballs from a local butcher to cook ahead of time, as a way of quite literally “beefing up” the meal. Oh dear, bad idea. After an hour of watching the meatballs disintegrate in the fry pan into nothing more than saucy mince (which, mind you, Daniel happily ate for lunch) Rachel was in an apoplectic rage. Livid and running out of time, she gathered up the remaining uncooked meatballs and marched back to the butcher to demand a refund. Witnesses later said they had spotted a furious Medusa storming down Macleay street with a Tupperware container of mince in her hands at about 1.20pm. So it was back to the drawing board for Rachel too.

Special guests arrive

With our menu plan hastily re-jigged, we arrived at the glorious Art Deco apartment of our friends Natasha, Michael and their adorable daughter Saskia in desperate need of a glass of wine. First stop was Natasha and Michael's roof top terrace for a glass of bubbles to unwind, catch-up and have a laugh about Rachel's meatball meltdown. Two rainbow lorikeets joined us to watch the sun set over the city from what surely must be one of the best vantage points in Sydney.

The baked camembert moments before its annihilation

Back in Natasha and Michael's apartment, Drew and Rachel then got down to business, turning out each tapas dish in turn. First we served the baked Camembert cheese with some warmed marinated olives. This was the first time Rachel had tried baked Camembert cheese, but it certainly won't be the last. It is essentially a fail safe and utterly decadent fondue that is worth every single calorie.

Drew rates his flathead fillets a perfect 10

Next came Drew’s delicious crumbed flat fillets with the gribiche sauce. Technically speaking, fish isn’t a dish you would serve with red wine, but since there are no rules when it comes to wine and food Drew wasn't worried about serving his dish alongside De Bortoli's Will's Hill Shiraz.

Saskia minds the bar while the grown-ups toast

For our third course, in lieu of meatballs, we served slices of panfried chorizo speared with warmed dates together with the crispy Roasted Rosemary Polenta Chips. And this time, hurrah, our polenta was a success. We all agreed that the herby flavour of the chips went particularly well with the soft and rounded Will's Hill Shiraz.

The Roasted Rosemary Polenta Chips are served

But it didn't stop there because Natasha and Michael had very kindly prepared dessert. This was beautifully sweet marinated strawberries served with rich vanilla ice cream, as well as a cheese plate of gorgonzola cheese and crackers. Our humble night of wine and tapas had turned out to be quite a feast.

Saskia presents her playlist of cabaret showtunes

By the end of the evening we had been treated to some Liza Minnelli cabaret classics and collectively tried to revive John Farnham's career, thanks to two-year old Saskia's very mature taste in music. After tucking Saskia into bed, the grown-ups debated the merits of the current "Paths to Abstraction" exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW and pondered that age-old question - can a good book ever be made into an equally good film? Drew's suggestion that The Exorcist was a better movie than it was a book, was perhaps the only example that didn't warrant debate.

But waking up this morning, another question loomed large in our minds. And that is: Where is Will's Hill? Does it have nice view? Can it cure our shiraz hangovers?

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