Sunday, July 5, 2009

A weekend getaway

M had a couple of reason to celebrate this month. We usually celebrate our big events with a nice night out dining in some fancy place. However, this month he has two big things that is wothy of a big celebration, one is his birthday, and the other one is a new job. In this economy, I'm considering myself lucky enough to still have a job, but for M to be able to find a new full time job with a hefty pay rise is a definite bonus. We were planning to try some fancy restaurant like Half Moon in Brighton or Andrew McConnell's newest restaurant, Cutler & Co. Since I was completely drained out from cramming for exams and working in unGodly hours (you see, my work has been CRAZY this past weeks, just in time with my exams no wonder I'm sick right?), fine dining will not sufficient enough to rejuvenate my spirit. So I propose a better outlet, a weekend away.

Staying in wineries always a good way to invigorate, but due to winter, I don't think the wineries will be that attractive. It will be just dried up branches. And a couple of good places I found online was devastated by the recent bushfire. My boss sugested a place in Lorne where she recently stayed in. They're doing a great deal at the moment where you pay $195 for Saturday night, and add $5 to stay on the Friday night. Sweet! Lorne is such a beautiful place, there's the beautiful beaches, waterfalls, farms, and a couple of little wineries. Our place sets out in the middle of the bush. The cottage is sooooo beautiful. The area offers seclution and tranquility. It was quite scary when we first got there. It was pitch black, we can barely see the road leading up to the cottage. But the crackling open fire that Sarah, the cottage keeper kindly got going for us was just.... bliss. Morning time, we can see that our cottage is actually surounded by a lot of houses, so there's no need to worry.

I packed up quite a lot of food for the both of us. We want to spend as much time with each other with no distractions and interuption from other people so eating in by the fire seems like the best way to go. It made me realize how changed I am this past year as a cook/baker. A year ago, when going on a road trip, the main thing on my mind is what clothes to bring and what DVD or game should I pack to entertain myself. Now, I planned menus, wines to bring, weeks before the trip. I even created a detailed rundown of food to prepare, when to cook it and what can be done beforehand. And I'm not just talking about one or two meals here, it's all the meals including breakfast, lunch, dinner, after dinner, even some practical food to eat on the road.

In preparation, I made a tomato ragu for the baked eggs, pancake mix (dry and wet ingredients separated), marinate my lamb, salad dressing, and facon & egg sandwiches with perinaise for our dinner on the road. We didn't want to waste time having dinner before we go, so we can get to Lorne before 10pm.

Baked eggs with parmigiano soldiers

We actually went on this trip about two weeks ago, but only now after I am fully recovered from my flu that I actually had time to blog about it. I actually started to get sick on the Friday night when we went to Lorne. Started out with light fever and a bad sore throat. But I popped enough vitamins and echinacea to not let it ruin my weekend. I guess my body just finally gave up after I torture it with sleep deprivation and lack of nutrition for more than a month. By monday last week, I completely lost my voice. My doctor said I sounded like a frog, but I refer it as my sexy voice =p. Can't say the same about the runny noise and the all night coughing though. Well I gues it's just nature's way of telling me to rest, and that I did, I didn't work for three days and was fully rested.

lamb chops with rosemary and red wine jus

Pear & rocket salad
So here's the menu that we had:
Friday - facon, egg, cheese, lettuce & tomato sandwiches with nando's perinaise
Saturday - Tomato & feta baked eggs with parmigiano soldiers, Minnestrone soup (ready
made) for lunch, Rosemary lamb chops with red wine jus with baked potatoes
and pear & rocket salad, Cheese platter for after dinner
Sunday - Was going to make pancake, but left the pancake mix, so we had breakfast in the
local cafe and went for some tapas lunch at BaBaLu bar

cheese platter

Baked eggs with parmigiano soldiers

Parmigiano soldiers:
1 loaf of crusty white bread or sourdough
good quality parmigiano regiano, grated
2 eggs
dash of milk
oil for frying

Cut bread into 1 cm x 1 cm thick soldiers. In a shalow bowl/dish, beat eggs and milk. Soak the bread in the eggy mixture and coat it with the cheese. Deep fry until golden brown. Preheat the oven to 180C. Soak up all the oil with a paper towel, and put soldiers in a baking pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes until crispy.

Tomato base:
3 vine ripened tomatoes
beef sausage
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 rosemary stalk
Olive oil

With a sharp knife make an X marking on the tomatoes. Boil water and pour it into a large bowl. Soak tomatoes in boiling water until the skins come off. Once the skins comes off, peel tomatoes and put in a baking tray. Season with freshly cracked pepper and salt, and drizzle with olive oil. Roast garlic, rosemary and tomatoes for 30-40 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Once it's soft, mash with a fork or if you like your tomate base to be smooth, blend all the roasted ingredients in a blender/food processor until smooth. In a large pan, saute onion with a dash of olive oil until fragrant and slightly transparent. Add the tomato puree and cook until it boils. Take the beef sausage and with a sharp scissor, snip the skin off one of the ends. With your fingers, squeeze out about a teaspoon of the sausage filling and round it into a ball and cook it in the tomato sauce. Voila, a quick meatballs in tomato sauce. Sometimes I like to add 1/2-1 diced fresh tomatoes for added texture to the sauce. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly. This sauce is also great as a pasta sauce.

For the baked eggs, put tomato sauce on an ovenproof ramekins. Preheat oven to 170C. Crumbled some Greek feta. Carefully crack two eggs and bake until the desired doneness. I like my eggs hard, so I cook it for around 15-20 minutes, M likes his runny, so 10 minutes should be perfect.

Lamb chops with pear & rocket salad

Pear & rocket salad
1 green pear
Greek feta
Toasted almonds or walnuts
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

For the dressing, whisk olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt & pepper to taste. Slice the pear thinly. Mix rocket, feta, pear & almonds in a salad bowl. Lightly dress it with the vinegar dressing.

Lamb chop
6 french cut lamb chops
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
bunch of mint leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
olive oil
300 g of chat potatoes, roasted with rosemary

red wine

Marinate lamb chops with the olive oil, garlic, rosemary and 4-5 mint leaves for at least 30 mins. Season with salt & pepper. Preheat oven to 180C. Chop finely the remaining mint leaves. Infuse about 30ml of olive oil with the chopped mint leaves. You can do this way ahead of time to get a stronger mint flavoured oil. Brown the lamb chops for about 1 minute on each side. Transfer to the baking tray immediately and roast for 10-15 minutes until cook through, but still pink in the middle. De glaze the pan with the red wine and cook until it reduces slightly. In a plate, arange the potatoes in a circle, topped with the lamb chops. Drizzle the red wine jus and the mint oil.