Having grown up in cooler climes and despite the heat in Brisbane I can’t help yenning for a little tradition at Christmas. So every now and again I test the nether limits of our air conditioner and yield to a little yuletide indulgence.
This year it was Manu’s roast beef with red wine reduction (from Manu’s French Kitchen) that had me hanging out for some of those perfect little puffy pillows of heaven – aka Yorkshire puddings. By Manu’s own admission, the French stole their roast beef from the English, so the two work stunningly together and despite being ridiculously easy, it’s a perfect Christmas dinner-party pleaser.
Be warned though – it’s all about the timing. Trust Manu when he says DO NOT cook your beef past medium-rare. And absolutely DO plate your beef before slicing (general rule is to plate for half the time it took too cook). I served mine with simple roasted pumpkin and baby peas soaked in boiling water (I never actually cook them).
So if you’re in for a little post-Christmas last gasp (or if it’s your turn next year), here’s my bullet-proof, easy as Yorkie recipe …
Ingredients (makes 12):
285 ml milk
115 g plain flour
a pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 230°C and mix the batter ingredients together.
Preheat a Yorkshire pudding (or muffin) tray with 1 cm of oil in each section. After 10 minutes, remove from the oven and divide the batter into the tray. Don’t be alarmed if it looks like it’s curdling – this is dead right. Cook for about 30 minutes until crisp. Do not open the oven door before then or they will not rise. If you want to save yourself the trouble (and don’t have a pyrolitic oven), a handy tip is put wax paper on your full-sized roasting tray and place your muffin tray on top of it so it catches any oil spillover.
You’ll find Manu’s roast beef recipe on page 117 of Manu’s French Kitchen. This is one of my favourite recipe books, albeit French cooking is generally loaded with love (aka butter), every now and again there’s nothing like it. You can get Manu’s books here. His latest (Manu’s French Bistro) is number one on my wish list and if you haven’t seen any of the Boy’s Weekend series, they’re great fun to watch.
Somebody recently sent me a link to a great new online publication, The Weekend Edition (WE). I immediately subscribed and once a week on a Thursday I get an update of what’s on in Brisbane, from new restaurants and bars to events, movies and hot shops for men and women.
Early December WE showcased a great new foodie destination in Brisbane – Eat Street Markets at Hamilton Wharf, Northshore. Adjacent to Portside Wharf, the Asian-inspired market consists of a myriad of pop-up restaurants, a couple of wine and coffee bars and a few crafty shops – all housed in converted shipping containers and offering a staggering variety of international cuisine.
Happily, this is to be a permanent fixture but is only open on Friday and Saturday nights from 4pm until 10pm. A centre stage offers free live entertainment and it’s easy to while away a couple of hours soaking up the great energy and balmy summer nights.
It’s pretty hard to choose from the fabulous 50 or so food stalls and your nose will undoubtedly have you teetering between many, but if you want a dead cert go for Chitty Banh Banh.
Owned and run by Jake and Elle of My Kitchen Rules’ fame, it’s funky, exciting food, served generously and well. My husband and I both chose the Banh Mi chilli caramel pork with pickled carrot (it looked way too good to consider anything else), so I can only write about one main but I can’t imagine anything being better. A fabulous Asian influence on a thoroughly contemporary dish of pulled pork with pickle, topped with crispy shallots, peanuts and a sauce that brings it all together with surprising sophistication. I can’t say I was wild about the lotus root chips (personal taste only) but their lime and lychee ice cream could start a war. I’ve also heard about their Thai basil ice cream and might just have to go back and sample this after some betel-wrapped Wagyu.
And maybe on my third and fourth visit I’ll get to some of the other great looking grub – there’s Malaysian, Hungarian, Greek, Korean and many, many others to sample. It’s a great way to eat cheap, with a generous side of atmosphere and lashings of fresh air.
This is not my first visit to this exceptional establishment, it’s my tenth. But it’s my first since I started writing and my nod to its excellence is well overdue. Set on a peaceful lake amongst a lush tropical garden, Spirit House is not just a restaurant – it’s an experience. The exceptional presentation of exquisite contemporary Thai food, served with subtle elegance in the most tranquil of settings makes it so.
I can recommend pretty much everything on the menu, but today I start with the tamarind chilli soft shell crab with minced pork and Asian celery. I love tamarind and its sourness in this dish is in perfect harmony with the hit of chilli. The light crunch of the shell gives way to delicate, sweet flesh and finishes well with the dusting of nuts.
My husband has the pork belly to start and it’s as good as it always is (yes, he almost always orders it). The rich crispy skin, sweet citrus caramel sauce colludes with the ginger and mint salad to bring him back for more every time.
The massaman seared lamb loin is nice and spicy – delicate heat comes through the sweetly caramelised sauce. The Kipler wafers are beautifully light and crisp and the pickled garlic adds a nice contemporary twist.
The star dish today is the green curry pork loin. Spice crusted and served with (yes, more) pork crackling, shavings of apple, Thai celery and shredded kaffir lime leaves, it’s fresh, punchy and incredibly moreish.
Over the years I have had the very great pleasure of not only eating at Spirit House, but also attending their cooking school. It’s great fun, really hands on and both Kelly Lord and Annette Fear are great teachers. I have yet to join them on one of their culinary tours to Thailand and Vietnam but look forward to it immensely.