What I Love – Great About Perth Edition

When I was brainstorming a list of people what I wanted to talk to for this series, I knew I wanted people who were passionate, full of knowledge, fun and enthusiastic about our great city. Sitting at the top of that list was the person I’m delighted to introduce you to today, the brilliant Renee from Great About Perth!

What I Love with Renee Bergere

Renee pic 2

Who are you/what do you do?

My name is Renee. Once a mountain-loving Seattleite, I’m now a proud, passport-holding Aussie (sans accent, unfortunately) living in Freo. I work at Scoop Publishing and wear a few hats: Deputy Editor and Food & Wine Editor of Scoop magazine, and Editor of Perth Guide. In my free time I do a bit of freelancing for Gourmet Traveller and update Great about Perth‘s social media pages. I’m constantly overeating and overdrinking, but I love what I do – regardless of how annoyingly fattening it is!

Why Perth?

Cliche alert: my husband is an engineer. We moved here in 2009 after a two-year stint in Melbourne where I did a masters in publishing. When I first arrived, everyone told me I’d hate it. So I made a concerted effort (and a blog) to focus on what’s actually great about this place. Turns out, there’s a lot!

What are you looking forward to in 2014?

I’ve started this 365-day photo project which I’ve called #PerthyGreatness. It’s should certainly keep me busy in 2014! I’ve also got a few trips planned for the year. Visits to family in the States and Italy and, if the stars and schedules align, then a trip to Argentina too.

What would be your dream food day?

Growing up, my grandfather would take my family on fishing trips in Alaska each summer. So my dream food day would be spent catching, cooking and devouring king salmon, halibut and crab.

What’s the best thing you ate recently?

The first things that spring to mind are Must‘s incredible caramelised fig salad, The Public House‘s Dr Pepper Ribs and the Baharat Grilled Lamb Rump from Habitue. Restaurant reviewing does have its perks!

What ingredient can’t you get enough of?

Mozzarella di Bufala. You can’t find anything in Perth that even comes close to the deliciousness of the mozzarella made in Campania. Sometimes I dream of moving back to Italy just so I could eat it on a daily basis. My other current food obsessions are artichokes, fennel, dill, popcorn and fresh coconut.

Where do you love to go to eat?

My absolute favourite once-in-a-blue-moon restaurant is Restaurant Amuse. If I don’t feel like spending much, then the Bathers Beach Markets or anywhere Comida do Sul happens to be.

Where do you love to hang out?

Home – only because I never spend enough time there!

Have you discovered anything recently (activity, ect.) that you’re enjoying?

Succulents! I’m obsessed with them. I recently transformed an abandoned 144-bottle wine rack into a vertical garden filled with nothing but succulents. Then I topped it with pots of more succulents. I worry it’s a sickness. I’ve also recently jumped on the Instagram bandwagon – yup, I’m officially the slowest adopter ever!

Everything you see, I owe to pasta.

I mean, who’s going to argue with Sophia Loren?

There is no magic in this world quite like pasta. A staple of the family dinner table; the quickest dinner in any of our repertoires; the first thing we learn to cook. For something so simple (eggs, flour, salt, traditionally), you could go your whole life without making the same recipe twice.

Although I eat very little pasta in my day to day life, I get a kick out of making it when cooking for others. I weirdly feel the need to prove myself, that I can make more than mac and cheese (not that there’s anything wrong with mac and cheese!), or fusilli with a jar of pasta sauce and tinned tuna; my go-to uni student meal.

This is total restaurant quality stuff. It’s incredibly flavourful and moorish, and a great thing to plate up when you’re wanting to impress someone. Yeah, I’m calling it. Date food. Write it down.

Beef Short Rib & Mushroom Orecchiette

From Delicious

20g dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup sunflower oil
2.5kg beef short ribs (I only used 1.5kg)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 bay leaves
400g orecchiette
20g butter
200g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
Parmesan, to serve

Heat the oven to 180*c.

Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2/3 cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, keeping the liquid, and halve the mushrooms if they’re large.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large flame proof and oven proof dish. Season the ribs really well with salt and pepper, then add to the dish and cook for 12 minutes, turning until well browned. Place the ribs on a plate and set aside.

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Add the carrot, celery and onion to the dish and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until soft.  Turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic and thyme. Cook for a minute, stirring, until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste, cooking for a minute.

IMG_7997Add the wine, stock, bay leaves, porcini and the reserved liquid. Add the ribs and resting juices to the dish, then bring to a simmer. Cover the dish and place it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender.

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Remove the dish from the oven, and remove the ribs. Leave them to one side to cool slightly. Place the dish over medium high heat and bring the liquid to a simmer for 5 minutes until it thickens a little.

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions in a pan of salted water. Drain.

In a large frypan, heat the butter, then add the mushrooms and cook for 4 minutes until golden.

Remove the meat from the ribs, throwing away the cartilage and bones. Tear up the meat into small pieces, then add the meat and mushrooms to the sauce, along with the pasta. Toss together thoroughly, then season with salt and pepper.


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Semplice Italiana

When I first moved out of home, I didn’t really know how to cook.

I struck a deal with my housemate that he’d drive me to and from work, if I did the cooking. Sounded like a pretty sweet deal to me! Except for the whole cooking thing, due to the not knowing how. That was a pickle. So, I walked into a supermarket, I picked up a food magazine and chose an appropriately show-offish recipe. I labored over that meal for hours (I had zero knife skills), and at the end of it all, narrowly avoided giving my new housemates food poisoning with semi-raw chicken. Uh, whoops. Sorry team!

Let this be a lesson for all of you: Don’t run before you can walk. Basics are basics for a bloody good reason.

Less food poisoning, mostly.

Even now, I find myself realising that while there are many things I can do (yay me!), I know very little about the basics. They’re worth knowing.

So here we are, at Italian. Namely, carbonara. Turns out, it’s nothing like that gluggy, clumped together mess that you get served in all of those restaurants along the cappuccino strip in Fremantle. It’s silky, delicate, and actually cream free, if you do it right. Today’s recipe isn’t super traditional, there is cream in the mix, but there’s nothing wrong with breaking from tradition. If you want the whole experience, try this.

If you’re a champion multi-tasker, you can have this on the table in less than 20 minutes. Eat that, Jamie Oliver!

Spaghetti Carbonara

From Delicious Magazine

400g pasta of your choice
1 tbs olive oil
200g bacon or pancetta, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 eggs, plus 1 extra yolk
100ml thickened cream
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve
2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta according to instructions.

While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a pan, and cook the bacon or pancetta for a couple of minutes, stirring. Toss in the garlic and stir for a further 30 seconds, then set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, extra yolk, parmesan and cream and season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, return to the pan and then quickly pour over the egg mixture.

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Toss together with the bacon and parsley, and serve.

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Advice for those playing at home: Keep the sauce off the heat when you’re mixing it with the pasta. If you cook the sauce too much, you end up with scrambled eggs, and that’s just not cricket.

As fate would have it…

Some meals are like serendipity.

It’s been a long weekend. Sadly, not in a ‘I’ve had 4 days off’ kind of long weekend; it’s just that I haven’t stopped yet. Between birthdays and dinners, markets and movies, rugby and one seriously large puppy play date… I barely had a minute to stop and realise it’s completely pouring with rain outside. Perth’s first day of serious rain all year. It was gorgeous.

My first stop on a Saturday is always the Subiaco Farmers Markets for my week’s shopping. I love getting advice from the farmers as to what they like best, or product recommendations for anything I plan on cooking.
Stopping to see The Beef Guy, I was quickly sold on some beautiful, slightly fatty mince. I didn’t have plans for it but just couldn’t say no.

As fate would have it, Saturday afternoon brought a delivery from Urban Locavore. This month’s box features some gorgeous fresh pasta from Golden Ravioli. My impulse beef mince was quickly becoming a cold weather feast of classic comfort food – bolognese.

Simple Spaghetti Bolognese

1 tbs olive oil
20g butter
2 brown onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
500g beef mince
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine
2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes
1 tbs dried oregano
3 dried bay leaves
375g  spaghetti

1) Cook onion and garlic in the oil and butter in a large saucepan, stirring, for 3 minutes or until onion softens. Add the mince, breaking up any lumps, for 5 minutes or until the mince changes colour.

2) Add the tomato paste, wine, tomato, oregano and bay leaves, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring from time to time, for 1 hour or until sauce reduces and thickens. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

3) Cook the pasta to packet instructions. Drain

4) Divide the spaghetti among bowls and spoon over bolognese sauce. Grate over the parmesan and serve immediately.

Pizza. The Swiss Army Knife of food.

Pizza is one of those funny things.

We all know it in its simplest form. Dominoes, deep pan, enough oil to call for George W Bush to send in the Marines. You never know, pizza might have WMDs. It’s totally possible. Right..? Guys..?
Nothing fancy, right?

No.

Pizza, when done well, is nothing like this.

Luckily for us, we live among pizza genius. Some might say that it’s a slight overstatement, but to them, I say, to hell with it.
Haaaaaave you met Ted Theo?
Theo Kalogeracos owns a place called Little Caesar’s, you may have heard of it (is it weird that one of the reasons I moved to Leederville is to be closer to pizza? Wait, don’t answer that.). He’s also the 2010 World Pizza Champion. Not bad for a Perth boy, huh?

When it comes to making pizza in our house, his book is our bible. Everything from making your own dough and sauces, to the toppings featured in his own businesses is featured. You’ll quickly discover that pizza’s range can be extended from simple ham and cheese, to an entire meal.

Making your own dough is a fairly simple, fun-for-the-whole-family affair. Because, let’s be honest, if I can do it, anyone can.

Basic Pizza Dough
From Theo & Co

1kg of “00” flour (you can pick it up in supermarkets)
10g salt
10g sugar
20g dry yeast or 40g of fresh yeast
660ml cold water (really important that it’s cold)

Start by mixing all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Gradually incorporate wet and dry ingredients by slowly pouring in cold water, gently moving the water into flour mix.

It may take a couple of minutes for the dough to come together. You may not require all the water, and it’s always better to add more water, than to have it too sticky (though you can rectify this by adding more flour).

Mix

The kneading process involved consistent movement of the palms and heels of the hands, pressing down and away from the body, and turning clockwise after every pass.

Dough

If 1kg is too much, cut it in half and do it in batches. We’re aiming for a smooth ball of dough. It should be able to stretched quite thinly.

A roughly 200g ball of dough will can be made into a 25cm pizza .
Shape the dough into a round shape, and cover with a tea towel to keep from drying out. Leave to rest for 10 minutes or so (magical food science is happening to help it keep its shape), if it doesn’t take this time to rest, the dough with shrink once rolled out.

To get it round, dust your bench top and a rolling-pin with plain flour to prevent sticking.
Ooooor, you also get to practice Everyone’s favourite pizza dream. Throwing. God speed.

Yeah... Pizza making means you get to do this

After that, comes the fun part. Because just about anything can be put on a pizza (Theo’s famous for his lasagna pizza), and experimentation is how we learn, right?

So, wanting to get our vegetables, we made a Greek style pizza, consisting of kalamata olives, onion, roasted capsicum and bocconcini.

Greek Vege

We also made pizza Bianca (with additional potato), which is thinly sliced potatoes with rosemary, and once it has come out of the oven, sprinkled with salt. For the sauce, we used some carbonara pasta sauce.

Pizza Bianca

To finish it off, we had a chorizo, cherry tomato, onion and bocconcini laden delight.

Chorizo & Tomato

If you make pizza with any kind of frequency, do yourself a favour, and buy a pizza stone. It gets the base all crispy and awesome like nothing else. Otherwise, cooking on a wire rack is fine. If you’re going to use a stone/baking tray, sprinkle a bit of semolina on it first to stop the pizza from sticking.

Heat your oven to 250*c, and pizzas should probably only take between 5 and 10 minutes to cook, so keep an eye on them!

Then, came my time to throw one together.

After a trip to the Fremantle Markets over the weekend, where I couldn’t pass up the rows of fragrant, ripe berries, I knew dessert pizza was their destiny.

We just used the same base, however, you could sweeten the dough with some honey.

Melting a block of dark chocolate, I spread it thickly across the base of the pizza (nutella would also work well), and simply scattered the finely chopped strawberries and whole blue berries across the chocolate.

Dericious.

Once it came out of the oven, the pizza was dusted with a little bit of icing sugar, or could be drizzled with honey/more chocolate in you prefer.

Tadaaaaaaa!

How easy is that?

I shouldn’t need to warn you that it comes out of the oven piping hot. However, when you consider how quickly it got snatched up, and the cries of “Ow. Ow. Owowowowowowowow. That’s bloody hot” that followed, apparently, I do.
CHECK YA TEMPS.
It’s a problem, guys. A tasty, delicious problem.

*Sidenote:
Having capsicum fall off said pizza onto oven elements? This happens.

Bad, with a side of smoke inhalation. And hilarity.


Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.

A friend once commented on one of my Facebook statuses that “your life is like a real life version of Friends.” (thanks Josie!)

This is because there seems to be this trail of hilarious accidents that lay in my wake. And they are mostly hilarious, well, because if you don’t laugh, you’d cry.
Friday night was one of those times.

One of my best friends, the gorgeous Natalie, is moving to Melbourne to be with her partner. So, the girls and I were off to Barolo on Beaufort in Mount Lawley to say goodbye. With pasta.

Nicole, my bff, was picking me up. Between the two of us, we couldn’t find somewhere to park. It’s important to note here, that Nicole drives a VW Golf. It’s adorable, much-loved, and we call him George. He’s never failed us, no matter what we’ve thrown at him. Good George.
So when the only conclusion we could come to, to solve our parking dilemma,  was to hop a curb, cross a footpath and park on a sandy patch, along side a 4wd and a couple of utes, we had complete faith in his abilities. We might have grossly misjudged the situation.

And by ‘might’, I mean ‘completely and utterly’.

Turns out, that sandy patch was not level with the footpath. I blame the grassy weeds. That’s called entrapment, you sneaky bastards!
What did happen, was we managed to get poor George perfectly balanced across the chassis on the edge of the footpath, so that none of the wheels touched ground. We were well and truly stuck.
Much panicking, some high-pitched whining, and one desperate phone call later, our friend Jan arrived on the scene. While Nicole and Jan debated the best way to tackle moving the car, I was banished to further up the footpath, as apparently, the giggle fits I experience when nervous, were not helping the situation. Nor was the photo taking.  Worst. Friend. Ever.

I was about to give in and start Googling for a place we could hire a crane at 8:30 on a Friday night, when up pulls a car. Out of said car, piles four strapping lads, who were ready for a night out. No, seriously. I’m not making this up. They say truth is stranger than fiction.
“Nicole! Are you seeing this? It’s better than Christmas!” I hissed. Apparently, she was too distressed to hit on boys. I didn’t know that was possible, but severe psychological trauma does odd things to us all.
So after some round table discussion with Jan (and Nicole pleading that she’s normally a better driver than this – she is, really), our now five Supermen managed to lift/drive/scrape the car off the footpath, and to safety.
Cheers, fellas.

Ooopsies.

Oh right, dinner. So, once we made it (albeit 35 minutes late) to Barolo, the other girls were waiting. Our waitress, an utterly delightful American, was unfaltering in her politeness, despite our lateness.
The other girls had plenty of time to work out what they wanted, and Nicole and I had been emailing during the day about our individual cravings (we started talking about dinner the morning before. What of it?), so we ordered in record time.
While the humming kitchen got to work, we handed over leaving gifts to Natalie, recounted the car story, caught up on all things gossip and generally had girly chit chat. Our fabulous waitress appeared frequently to top up wine glasses and make a charming fuss. Before long, dinner was served.

Two fish specials, tagliatelle bolognese, pollo alla locatell, and a gnocchi sorrentina later, and silence fell across the table for the first time (Can’t talk. Eating.) Who said girls don’t eat???

Gnocchi

I love gnocchi. I really really love home-made gnocchi. And you can always tell, the pillow softness of home-made gnocchi has no parallel. Lucky me, Barolo most certainly make their own.
Dressed simply in a cherry tomato and bocconcini sauce, it proves Barolo’s ideology that good produce speaks for itself with uncomplicated, traditional recipes, the hallmark of Italian cookery.

With embarrassing speed, I inhaled that gnocchi. It was simply, good. Not as in good-but-not-great, but GOOD. Kind of warmed the soul, good. Once I finished, I listened to the girls murmuring appreciation for their own dishes.
Nothing remained.

Empty dishes were quickly (but not too quickly) whisked away, and dessert menus laced in front of us.
Barolo are famous for their tiramisu, which was being split between a couple of the girls, and I couldn’t drag my eyes from the chocolate torte on the table next to me, served with pure cream. Yeah, that was happening.

As we waited for dessert, the conversation got a little animated. Gloria, normally the controlled one of us, smashed a red wine glass into her own lap. *sigh* Not drunk, we promise.
Again, the wait staff were unfaltering. The mess was cleaned up in the blink of an eye, a glass of soda water and napkins were quickly produced to blot out the stains in her dress (handy tip, for those playing at home), and not a single eye was rolled. Brilliant.

Chocolate Torte

Dessert quickly followed. My chocolate torte was a thing of great beauty.
Then followed the tiramisu. Except… There was a candle in it.
Our waitress, seeing us handing over presents, had assumed it was Natalie’s birthday, and with no prompting from us, proceeded to find a candle for her dessert, and wished her a happy birthday. We ran with it. We sang happy birthday.
THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is service. 

Tiramisu

Conclusion?
The food is good. The service is brilliant. And you really can’t take us anywhere.