Pantry Staples

  • POSTED ON 14 Aug 2013

If you've a well stocked pantry, fridge and freezer, the first step to pulling together a fast and fresh meal is complete. We're looking at products we love, starting this week with pantry staples -  items we always have on hand that form the basis of our mid week dishes, or add a little something extra to really elevate and enhance. 

1. Maldon Sea Salt

We're never without a box of these beautiful sea salt flakes. They're from the UK and contain no artificial additives, so just a tiny bit packs a punch. A real seasoning saviour on all your dishes. Once you've started using it, you will not go back. 

2. Dukkah

Perhaps not a classic choice, but dukkah can be used in so many ways, apart from dipping bread into olive oil and then dukkah, which admittedly is delicious. Sprinkle over soups or salads, not just for taste but texture. We love on boiled eggs! 

3. Passata

So many uses and the basis of any good tomato focused dish. Makes for a quick and simple pasta sauce, just by sweating off onions, garlic and chilli in  olive oil, before adding the passata and cooking for around 5 minutes. 

4. Mustard 

Particulalry when it's dijon! Yes, you can serve with meats, but is also key to the easiest salad dressing- just shake together 1 teaspoons worth with 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Instant salad lifter! 

5. Olive Oil

This is really a given, but good olive oil is king and to not have any on hand would be a shame! Gives meals an instant lift, just with a drizzle atop. 

6. Tuna 

Really good tinned tuna is amazing. Combine with mayonnaise and chopped up red onion for a great tuna mix, serve either as a dip or spread into sandwiches. Otherwise, toss together with freshly chopped tomatoes, olive oil and just cooked pasta. 

7. Paprika 

Such a stalwart when it comes to spices. This Spanish one holds a smokey, slightly sweet flavour, and is incredible when sprinkled over chicken before grilling, or scrambled eggs. 

8. Onion Marmalade

It's no secret we love Philipa's products, but this is a truly exceptional condiment. Pass along with your steaks or roast beef. Include a tablespoon in a frittata, or use atop pastry shells come canapé time. 

9. Pasta

Again, this is another given, and if you take a peak at our previous post, you'll see how quickly it can be transformed. And even if you think you've got nothing on hand, you can always find butter and cheese to make cacio e pepe. 

10. Balsamic Vinegar 

How could we not include? Yes, you can drizzle over tomatoes, dress salads etc, but adding a little bit at the end of cooking a dish, heightens the flavours. 

All of these featured products are available from Milton our Milton location, and most from Spring Hill. Next week we're looking at what to keep in the freezer! 

Something new! Introducing Il Locale

  • POSTED ON 08 Aug 2013

You might have heard... we've started something new and we're beyond excited! Il Locale will open this week in Brisbane's Rosalie - just down the road from our Milton cafe/deli. It's the culmination of concepts, cool design wares, and menu ideas we've collected the past few well as a great deal of hard work!  

The menu is shaping up to be beyond tantalising. There'll be slow roasted meats, suckling pig and 12 hour slow roasted lamb shoulder.

You can also expect handmade pastas including pizzocherie (below is a shot from our family tasting night) and a selection of plates to share with friends and family like chargrilled quail with broad beans and lemon. 

And that's forgetting the pizzas! They'll be wood fired and thin based, care of our young pizzaiolo, Leandro D'Angelo, who is originally from Florence. The wood fired oven is truly something to behold! 

For the drinks, mostly Italian wines of various price points can be purchased by the glass, 375ml carafe or bottle. We've installed a carbonated water purifier, and for a fixed price per head, you can enjoy unlimited frizzante. Economical and environmental! 

Il Locale opens this Friday August 9, a holding page for the website is now up, and be sure to check out our Facebook and Instagram pages too. 

Quick and Easy Pastas

  • POSTED ON 30 Jul 2013

We're keeping it "simple stupid" and looking at three pasta dishes you can get on the table well under twenty minutes. They're ideal for a mid week dinner or when guests pop in for a drink... which then turns into dinner... 

The ingredients used in these dishes are ones you'd generally find in your pantry or somewhere in the fridge. We've shone the spotlight on some of our favourite products to keep on hand... starting with a good base - the pasta! Pastificio Venturino is the best dried pasta on the market (in our opinion!), with many shapes and sizes available. 

#1 Puttanesca 

Admittedly, 'puttana' in Italian means whore, and reportedly this southern style dish gets its name as it's 'quick and easy' to put on the table. Common pantry items, olives, anchovies, capers and tinned tomatoes, combine to create a beautiful, somewhat slightly, chilli spiked sauce. We think this recipe c/o Nigella Lawson is true to origin but we'd stick with the chill flakes over the jalapenos (that said, if there's no chill on hand, by all means!). 

From the deli?  We love using the Russino anchovy fillets and our own brand of Lilliput capers, either salted, or in brine. Both give the sharp salty kick this dish needs, and is known for. The Pastific Venturino Passata di Pomodoro, provides a dense tomato base. 

#2 Carbonara

Classically a Roman dish, it references the Italian word for coal carbone. It is said that the dish was prepared for the hard working coal workers, the carbonaro, and was named in their honour. It's reported too that the flecks of pepper within represent the coal. This recipe from Gourmet Traveller has all the makings of a great carbonara - eggs, a great Italian cheese and guanciale (although pancetta is a more than suitable and commonly available substitute). 

From the deli? Stock up on flat Montecatini pancetta from the Milton store. 

#3 Tomato, rocket & parmesan 

This doesn't really require a recipe and the quantities are up to you. Just take freshly cooked and drained al dente pasta, combine it with chopped tomatoes (this would work beautifully with heirloom tomatoes from the market), torn rocket leaves, gratings of parmesan and a glug of good olive oil. That's it! It's a great example of 'keep it stupid simple' and lets your ingredients shine. It'll become one you turn to time and time again. 

From the deli? Good cheese in this dish is a must! Naturally, Reggiano Parmegiana is our choice. Buy a large wedge, store well, and it will be on hand for sometime.

Mastering Risotto

  • POSTED ON 22 Jul 2013

Risotto might well be the ultimate comfort food, particularly when the weather turns a little cooler. It's a pot full of warmth, and what we love (creamy goodness aside) is that once you have mastered the basics, it's easy to add in other flavours, particularly when you've a few items in the fridge fast approaching their due by date!

Sometimes, risotto can be seen as a difficult dish to execute. This happens mainly, as careful consideration isn't given to the principles. When this happens, the results go a little awry and the insides of the pot are left containing a somewhat gluggy mixture. For us, there are 7 key principles to remember when making risotto, and we promise that if you take all into consideration when next creating yours, you'll have a smooth over stodgy result.

Principle 1:  Good and hot stock

You must have your stock warming on the stove, as adding cold stock interrupts the cooking process and can lead to hard, uncooked kernels in the center of the rice grain. We make our own stocks and sell them at both Milton and Spring Hill. Once you've tried a handmade stock over a store bought variety chances are you won't go back...


Principle 2: Saute don't brown...

When you are cooking your onions (and/or garlic) be careful not to brown. You need them to be translucent and soft - if you begin to really brown them, the flavour will impart onto the rice, and also, the texture will be thrown off. 

Principle 3:  The rice...

Use good rice! We carry two varieties from Melotti, their Vialone Nano is our pick for most risottos but we prefer the Carnaroli if making a seafood one.  You must toast your rice, just until the perimeters of the grain are translucent. This also assists the kernel in retaining structure throughout the cooking process while still absorbing moisture.

Principle 4: Deglaze!

As with most dishes, when you are adding to a sauteed vegetable mixture deglazing is key. It allows all the flavour that's been imparted onto the bottom of the pan to once again join the dish.When making risotto you will often deglaze with wine, but using stock too is fine. 

Principle 5: One ladle at a time

Good things come to those who wait... and adding a ladle at a time is a labour of love. This also is key when bringing out the starch in the rice, to achieve a creamy consistency. You add your next ladle when the contents of the last are beginning to disappear.

Principle 6 : Bringing it together

This might well be the best part because you know something amazing awaits. Be sure to have your parmesan finely grated, and your butter (if using) cut into smaller pieces. This allows them to integrate evenly into the dish, and you won't be over beating to incorporate. 

Principle 7: Immediacy 

Serve immediately, and onto warmed bowls, so as not to undo all your hard work! 

Feeling ready to try your hand at risotto? Try this one using beetroot, asparagus and feta. 

The Perfect Cheese Board

  • POSTED ON 18 Jul 2013

One simple, yet elegant way we're entertaining guests this Winter is with a well-sourced and curated cheese board. Not only because we adore high quality cheeses (one of life's great pleasures!), but also as it's a generous gesture that's always a hit, and with a variety of cheeses presented, all taste buds are catered for. Serve it at five when the neighbours call for drinks, or at the conclusion of a dinner party instead of a sweet dessert. We've created a guide for the perfect one, and thrown in some tips & tricks too. 

A perfect one has great variety thereby presenting your guests with tastes ranging from mild to intense, and textures from soft to hard. The easiest way to achieving variety is by serving a blue, washed rind, hard, soft and goat's cheese.

Blue cheese will most likely be the strongest you'll serve, and the blue veins within are the result of an early inoculation with mould. Classic examples would be a French Roquefort or English Stilon, and our pick is the Blue d'Auvergne, from south-central France. The mould is spicy, and works with the well-integrated salt.

Washed rind cheeses have been through the process o

f 'affinage'. They're washed with brine, sometimes wine and generally are 'stinky' and quite flavourful. We love either the Le Rustique Petit Munster or Chaumes le cremier. Both hold a luscious golden centre under their buttery pale coats.

Choosing your hard cheese can be the easiest, as many varieties fall under this category including cheddar, Parmigano-Reggiano and manchego. We really can't go past a good Comte Gruyere (and once you've tried you'll see why it's the highest produced cheese in France). The taste is strong and slightly nutty. Alternatively, try the Quickes English Cheddar, as a stalwart.

For some, a soft cheese is the highlight owing to the creamy composition. A French Camembert or Brie, with their superbly cream centres are both made from cow's milk but do have their differences. Camembert hails from Normandy, while Brie (cut from a larger wheel) is from the Ile-de-France. Either the St Andre triple cream, Le Rustique Camembert or Coeur de Lion are sure to please.

For the Goat's cheese, we love either a soft chevre or ashed pyramid from Australia's Meredith Dairy. A goat's cheese incorporates a slightly acidic taste to your board, owing to the higher acidity found in the goat's milk.

Tips and tricks!

Serve at room temperature, so take out of the fridge up to an hour before serving. Cover with a barely damp tea towel to prevent drying out.
Don't place your 'stinky' cheeses near the milder ones.
Different cheeses suit different wine, so no matter what each guest is drinking there will be something to match on the board.
Never cut the tip or 'nose' of the cheese off! It's the best part, and each slice should have a little incorporated.
Present fresh crusty bread or crackers. We adore our range of Lavosh bites and Falwasser wafers.
Introduce some sweetness via finely slice fresh fruit (apples, pears or figs), dried fruits (South Australian candied cumquats or muscatels) and a fruit paste or jelly (we love the Spanish quince paste!)

Note! Until the end of July we're offering 20% off whole wheels of French cheese, making it even more tempting to put together your perfect cheese board! You'll have to be quick, it's only until stocks last.

Bastille Day Cheese Special

  • POSTED ON 10 Jul 2013
We are stocked to the rafters with French cheese in preparation of Bastille Day. We are offering 20% off* whole wheels of French cheese till the end of July or while stocks last - get in quick. Select from: St Andre triple cream, Le Rustique Camembert from Normandie, Le Rustique Petit Munster- washed rind, Coeur de Lion camembert and triple cream Chaumes le cremier washed rind.
*Applies to units of cheese, not cut wedges<

Laguiole Knives

  • POSTED ON 08 Jul 2013
Laguiole cutlery is hand crafted in France and exquisite to use. We have a range of Laguiole cutlery available at our Spring Hill Trattoria.

Quinoa the Super Food

  • POSTED ON 08 Jul 2013
This super-food is not only ridiculously healthy but also very delicious and versatile. You can now pick up red and black quinoa in very handy resalable 300g bags. Try our recipe for Quinoa Salad here.
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