Thursday, 22 March 2012

Two more sleeps

I've been baking non-stop at home over the last few weeks.  Trying out recipes and rejigging new ways to make them.  I had fried doughnuts coming out of my ears last week.

Why am I going nuts?  Because there's only two more sleeps till I work in a bakery.

A couple of weeks ago, Jay floated the idea of baking a few sweet treats at his bakery, on weekends.  I thought about it for all of... 2 seconds and agreed straight away.  A bakery!  For real! 

I'm so nervous I can hardly sleep.  Actually, it's making me feel a little nauseous...  I've been on a roller coaster over the last few weeks, flipping between sugar highs and then depressing lows when experiments inevitably failed.  I feel like an imposter more than ever.  What the hell am I doing?
I've been to the bakery earlier this week and am pretty excited.  There's a big shiny deck oven where all the baking will take place and can't wait to see it in action.  There were a few presents too: a kickass rolling pin, cookie cutters, one fine pastry brush and a deep fryer.  Soon, there will be a mini fridge for cookies and a bench for me to work on. 

I'll be behind the wooden doors at the Pigeon Whole Bakers (I love the name so much) this Sunday, selling amazing sourdoughs and a few sweet treats.  These cookies will be featured, and Jay has a few other cookies on his mind.  Who knows what we'll make on the day?

Here's the details on the grand opening:

Sunday 25th March
9am - 1pm

Pigeon Whole Bakers
138 Hopkins Street

Hope to see you there :]

Monday, 12 March 2012


I had a busy long weekend, cooking endless donuts and helping out at the Agrarian Kitchen's MoMA stall.  Jars of jams and pickles were on offer, including quails eggs from Stacey's dad, John.  But the item that stole the show was the goats milk dulce de leche.  No photos of them I'm afraid, as I was too busy eating it out of the jar serving customers.  It was gone all too soon!

If you were at the market, then you would have seen these giant tomatoes, currently nicknamed "Richard's mystery Italian tomatoes".  They were used to make the tomato ketchup and the same ones we used in the pasta masterclass.  I bought a bottle and am dreaming of the perfect pie to have it with.

It was a complete success -- only a few bottles of sauce and pickles left by the end of the day, so packing up was pretty quick.

Not such a bad way to spend Saturday, listening to music and talking to people about food.  It's one of my favourite markets to visit and will surely miss it after April.

Please, please, please bring it back next summer.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Handmade Pasta at the Agrarian Kitchen

When the opportunity to go to the Agrarian Kitchen for the handmade pasta masterclass, I quickly asked for, and gratefully granted, a day off work.  I was so excited to be invited back in the kitchen.

I think pasta is a bit underrated.  Think aisle of bottled sauce; blandly cooked pasta; cafeteria-bain-marie pasta swim-a-thon.  Bleh.  But when it's done right, it's so simple and so amazing.  Needless to say, I love pasta in all its forms.

The menu had 5 pasta dishes, a great showcase of the variety of different ways you can make pasta: gnocchi, tortellini, lasagne, tagliolini and pici noodles.

We started off by making a simple fresh pasta dough: eggs, flour and a tiny dash of water.  I love cooking at the Agrarian Kitchen --  we used eggs so fresh that they were still warm.  I've been suffering from chicken envy for a while now, it's about time to get a few chooks for my garden.  They are the ultimate food bin, converting scrapings into delicious eggs and food for the garden.  Soon... soon I hope.

While the dough rested, we had a look around the garden and harvested some fresh and tasty vegetables for lunch.  The garden was full of life.  There seems to be a different herb in every available space, and plants, plants everywhere.  The polytunnel was full of trestles of tomatoes, with eggplants, chili and cucumbers that smells incredible.  We nibbled on fresh, super sweet and juicy corn off the cob as we walked through the garden.

There are tomatoes, and then, there are these tomatoes (it's an Italian variety, but I can't recall the name now), grown specifically for making sauce.  They are unlike anything that I have eaten before.  Sweet without any of the tartness in like a cherry tomato with a dense texture.  Slicing them with a knife gives a satisfying feel and they make a brilliantly red passata. 

Do you know what a carrot smells like?  I didn't until we dug some out from the garden.  There was this unmistakeable waft of carrot.  As daft as it sounds, it tastes exactly like how it smells.  It was another one of those moments when I realise how disconnected I am from food.

We got back into the kitchen and got started with cooking.  First was learning to roll out the dough with the pasta machine for the saffron tagliolini.  Instead of using the usual herbs like coriander, we opt to use some shiso (the purple bush in the above photo).  It was a bright and fresh pasta that was the perfect introduction to our long lunch.

It was followed by gnocchi with heirloom tomatoes, and tortellini with agrodolce burnt butter.  The gnocchi was really soft and comforting.  I think I might make some of that during the colder months.  The tortellini was great too -- I mean, you can't go wrong with butter, freshly made ricotta and butter.

A small break and then it was to the heavier dishes: the best lasagne and pici noodles with a lamb ragu.  The pici noodles was great fun to eat.  The texture, as one of the guests had commented, was similar to udon.  Unlike other pasta, it wasn't lost in the thick lamb ragu -- it was as much a part of the dish as the sauce.  Maybe that's why I liked them so much.

I had a rather full belly by the end of lunch.  But before we went home, we said hello to the farm animals.  The goat is so cute! 

Thank you again to Severine and Rodney for inviting me back to the Agrarian Kitchen.  I always, always learn something new.