October 27th, 2010

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

This Week's Column - The Cook's Bookshelf / Time to Aperitivo

Published in the Inner West Independent and City News.

The Cook's Bookshelf

Bill’s Basics [RRP $49.99 Harper Collins]
by Bill Granger
Rather than a guide to cooking basics, this collection is restaurateur Bill Granger’s essential recipes. It includes his Double-Baked Goat’s Cheese and Leek Soufflés, Laksa and Baked Whole Fish with Roasted Tomato and Pineapple Relish. The recipes have been pared down to suit our modern, time-poor lifestyles. Create no fuss, produce-driven dishes from easy recipes compiled with an eye to Australia’s multicultural tastes. Great for those nights when it’s raining and you really can’t force yourself out of the house and into a restaurant. It’s okay... we all have them.

5 Ingredients 10 Minutes [FREE www.thestonesoup.com] by Jules Clancy
Since we’re talking about simpler recipes, I’d also like to point you in the direction of a pared back Sydney food blog I read called The Stonesoup. Jules Clancy is offering a FREE downloadable (or printed for the price of materials) collection of 131 recipes that you can make in a flash. Jules is a minimalist; like most of us, she’s pressed for time. Her solution includes less ingredients, shorter shopping lists and faster cooking methods. As someone who is trying hard to return to using fresh broad beans, some things grate – like Jules' use of canned potatoes. That said, it’s a beautifully photographed collection of original, time-saving food ideas including starters like Smashed Broccoli Dip with Crackers; clever snacks like Potato and Rosemary Pizza Muffins and meal ideas like Spiced Lentil Soup with Yoghurt and Spanish Chicken with Chickpeas and Almonds. The food is healthy, so you will find brown rice, lentils, chickpeas and ancient grains well represented. Jules has also just launched the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School where you can take an online cooking class too!

Mini Cakes [RRP $24.99 Capricorn Link] by Noga Hitron
Strong, bold designs are a great vestige from Noga Hitron’s days as a graphic designer. Her bright and whimsical ideas work really well on small cakes. You should note that this book uses imperial measurements, and is based around 6-inch diameter cakes. If you prefer decorating bigger cakes, Noga’s previous book, The Art of Cakes is where to go looking. The instructions are clear and easy to follow, but they do probably assume that you will have the basics of cake decorating down pat.

Bake Me I’m Yours… Cupcake Celebration [RRP $24.99 Capricorn Link] by Lindy Smith
Get the edge on the competitive cupcake game by making sure your tiers are full of beautifully decorated masterpieces. From butter-cream swirls to sugar-paste with stencils, this book assumes you are a dedicated cupcake queen, with a reasonable selection of cutters, paintbrushes and moulds. Australian buyers will like seeing metric measurements, plus explanations for products with differing names in different countries. Did you know white vegetable fat is called Copha here, and Crisco in the USA? There’s even a Sydney-based supplier where you can purchase any missing tools. Definitely not for beginners, but if you have the patience, this will put you well ahead of the other yummy Mummies.

Time to Aperitivo

The concept of aperitivo is spreading around this city faster than a bushfire, but one of the first people to jump on it successfully was Giuseppe Zagari. His restaurant by the same name, Aperitivo, popped up on Norton Street about a year ago. If you’re behind the times, the idea is basically an Italian version of happy hour, where instead of cheap drinks you get an array of complimentary appetisers. Giuseppe himself is on hand each evening to guide your foray into Italian Aperitivi – trust him, if you’re new to Campari it’s better with orange. The Aperol Spritz however is good in anyone’s language. I’ve already revisited since my latest review – their pizza is addictive! www.aperitivo.com.au

Trendy Darlinghurst bar Pocket has also introduced aperitivo, though since it’s all about value for the punter, they’ve called it: The People’s Hour. If you pop in any evening between 5-6pm you’ll enjoy a selection of Italian style nibbles to complement your cocktail… just the thing to tease your taste buds but still leave you hungry for dinner.

Finally, after a minor naming hiccup, Momenti Peroni has been launched as a pop-up bar at 304 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst. Enjoy aperitivo in a space inspired by Italian designer Antonio Berardi. The menu of bite-sized Italian morsels is in the hands of former Buon Ricordo chef Massimo Bianchi, which bodes well. You have until the 19th December to enjoy your own moment with Peroni, so reserve a table now: (0449) 574 163.