Archive for month: March, 2010

Yabbie Dabbie Doo

29 Mar
March 29, 2010

yabbies 3

I am beginning to write this post before I actually do the deed of cooking the live yabbies which we purchased this morning at the Sydney Seafood Markets.  I went into this project quite gung ho and thought that it wouldn’t effect me.  I am wrong.

I love animals, very very much.  I can’t watch a Lassie or Benji movie.  I balled my eyes out in I am legend when Sam got infected and killed (please feel free to insert any similar movie plot line).  I don’t kill spiders I relocate them and I shoo bees out of the house.  Every time a possum, goanna, blue tongue lizard or any other animal, bird or reptile graces my back yard I am like an excited five year old.

I am not a vegetarian.  I love cows, I find them a gorgeous animal with giant brown eyes, but I also find them delicious, medium with a good béarnaise sauce.  I accept and am happy with the fact that humans kill animals to eat, to kill an animal for just shear pleasure, because if annoys you or to get your kicks I have serious issue with.

I have eaten at restaurants where you walk around, choose your live seafood and it is then cooked for you.  For some reason this is a little different, but I am not sure why.

The yabbies have been home for about an hour now, living in the kitchen in an esky with a little water in it and I have already started to get attached to them.  Crazy, I know!  There is one guy in particular, every time I look in to the esky in the kitchen he looks up at me.  He almost seems to be trying to say, “Hey, I am a really nice guy and we could live together quite happily.  I am no maintenance, really, and would be the perfect pet.  Please don’t eat me”yabbies 1 Esky Yabbies

On the other hand he could be looking up at me each time and saying “Hey bitch I am going to get you before you get me” and planning his great escape.

Now you are all probably saying, “why on earth did you buy live yabbies, ya ning nong”.  Well I could not find them already cooked, nor have I ever seen anything but the live ones.  I assume like other crayfish or crabs, once cooked and sitting around they start to loose their sweetness and taste, these crustaceans are best eaten just cooked.

Also I don’t believe there is a very high demand for cooked yabbies like there is for crabs and lobsters and therefore nor would be the turn over.  I can purchase yabbie meat like crab meat in a jar, but I wanted the whole yabbie.  Live was my only option.

I have been wanting to try them at home for quite a few years.  I have had foods with yabbie in them, but never had whole ones before.yabbies 2Esky Yabbies

So now I am contemplating on how I am going to cook them with as little stress to them (and me) as I can possibly manage.

Option 1:  Place in freezer for 20 minutes to put to sleep and then drop into rapidly boiling water.

Option 2:  Steve Manfredi suggests via an article he wrote back in 2005, to place in fridge for an hour or so to make them sluggish and sleepy, then drop into the rapidly boiling water.

Option 3:  Dump a bag of ice in the esky to put them to sleep and then drop them into rapidly boiling water.

According to Stephanie Alexander in the Cook’s Companion, “yabbies can not be alive and screaming as they hit the hot cooking liquid.  If they are, they will thrash about and struggle and, even ignoring any possible psychological trauma to the cook, the yabby flesh risks becoming pasty.  As yabbies go to sleep when they are cold, chill them for an hour or so before cooking.  They will slide into the cooking liquid and die instantly without suffering and without loss of condition”.

Good God!  If just reading about the  thrashing and screaming wasn’t enough I continued reading what she had to say “Because the yabbies one buys are already purged there is not much grit in their intestines.  In Europe it is common practice to extract the intestinal thread of freshwater crayfish by twisting it out of a live creature, which is held firmly while this bit of torture takes place…”  No twisting of my lil guys it will be cold induced sleep for them.

I then referred to my cooking bible “Larousse Gastronomique”, but as I thought yabbies do not get a mention.  This is fair enough as “yabbie” is an Australian term.  Yabbies are an Australian fresh water crayfish so I referred to the crayfish section.  Lots of lovely recipes but no reference on how to humanely cook them.

I decided to try two methods of sedating them before cooking.  One lot were placed in the fridge for over 2 hours.  More than an hour is needed, after an hour they were still moving about plotting how to get out.

I then placed the other half in the freeze for 20 minutes.  This turned into more like 35 before they were “asleep”.

The Cooking

The time to cook them arrived.  I had a big heavy based pot full of water on the boil with some added salt.  Once it reached rapid boil it was time.

Junior and I were checking the yabbies to see if they were ready for the pot and all looked quite docile.  As for me I have sent Mac down to the bottle shop for another bottle of wine and was pacing around the kitchen a little beside myself.

The yabbies in the fridge were the first batch I cooked.  Fridge method worked well with all yabbies asleep.fridge yabbies Fridge Yabbies

As soon as they come out of the fridge I try to get them into the pot as quickly as possible.  I don’t want them warming up and waking up.  Some of them do start to.  Once they hit the water of course they cool it down and my rapid boil dies.  I panic as I want them not to suffer as much as I can manage.  It took what seem forever for the water to come up to a full boil again.  I was cooking seven yabbies in this batch.

Yes they do move when they are in the pot initially.  Reflexes?  Waking up with a rude shock?  Nervous system?  Trying to scramble out of hot liquid to live?  (okay there wasn’t any scrambling as such).  Some of them did these little wiggle movements, air bubbles are released and then they start to turn orange.  It was at this time I wished I had a lid which was not made of glass.

They don’t take long to cook at all.  Three minutes on boil and you are done.  i had a sink full of ice and water ready to plunge them into to stop the cooking process.  The first batch rested in that while I sent Junior to the deep freeze downstairs to grab the other yabbies Yabbies Cooking

While he was doing this I changed pots to another large one which didn’t have a heavy base on it in the hopes that the water would regain its boil quicker than last time.

Junior had the next batch, there were eight in this group.  All bar one of the yabbie from the freezer batch were asleep.  The one that I think has been eyeing me off all afternoon is sitting on top of the others and still looking up at me and moving just, he is a determined little fighter. So quickly these guys went into the water for round two.  A couple did wake up a little bit more than the previous lot before they hit the water.  I continued forward and into the pot they all went.

Junior was drying off the ones which had already been cooled in the sink and the new batch were quickly added to the sink once they were cooked.

I think the fridge method worked better than the freezer one.

The Eating

We plated them up as one side from fridge and the other from the freezer.  I was interested to know if there was any difference separated the yabbies.

By touch there was a difference, the yabbies that had been in the freezer were more ridged than the ones from the fridge.

In taste both fridge and freezer yabbies tasted the same.  None of them were pasty which was a relief, more for the fact that they did not stress than anything else.

The taste was lovely.  Slightly sweet and mild flavour, a little bit like their larger cousins.

I served them with a choice of lemon mayonnaise, saffron mayonnaise and basil/macadamia nut pesto.  The pesto was too strong for the delicate flavour of the yabbies and the saffron mayonnaise was the favourite choice.

In the end I only had a few and Junior only had one.  For both of us we had lost our appetites a little bit by the time the whole process came to an end.  They tasted lovely that was not the issue.  Mac on the other hand loved them and scoffed the lot.

The Overall Experience

For me it was a harder journey to get them on the plate than I initially felt when we purchased them at the markets that morning.  It was that step where I play God that I think I had trouble with.  Happy with somebody else to do the “dirty work”, and shame on me for saying that.  I did it though, and funny enough that sort of makes me a little proud as well as, hmmm, not sure what, of myself, but it is a confused feeling.

As mentioned above I only had three of them (equivalent to three prawns).  I ended up having some warmed up left over pizza from the freeze to supplement dinner, to the amusement of some.

Would I do it again?  I can’t answer that with a definite no or yes.  Jury is still out on that one, but we are not having them next Sunday for Easter as originally planned, i need a little time.

Sara xxx


Hot Cross Bun Ice Cream

28 Mar
March 28, 2010

I was inspired to create a recipe for hot cross bun ice cream after my visit to WD-50 in New York earlier this year. On the menu Wylie Dufresne has a dish called Everything Bagel which has a mini ice cream bagel incorporated in the dish. It was his process of making the bagel flavoured ice cream that inspired my recipe.

The end result tastes like a hot cross bun. Just something a little different for Easter.

Once done mix through the reserved sultanas and place in the freeze until ready to use, enjoy!

Sara xxx

Hot Cross Bun Ice Cream
You will be amazed at the taste.
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 2 hot cross buns
  • 300ml low fat milk
  • 300ml cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • a hand full of sultanas
  1. Break up the hot cross buns in a bowl and pour over the milk and the cream and give it a stir through. Place this mixture in the fridge for a few hours.
  2. Use a fine sieve to gently strain the mixture and then place the left over soggy bun mixture in muslin/cheese cloth or even a new clean chux and gently squeeze out the excess liquid. Discard the left over soggy bun mix. You do not want any of the bun in your milk/cream.
  3. Bring the infused milk/cream mixture and vanilla bean to the simmer in a heavy based saucepan.
  4. In the meantime whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and combined.
  5. Whisk milk/cream mixture into the egg mixture and then return to the saucepan and to the the stove top.
  6. Cook over a moderate heat continually stirring until the mixture thickens and will coat the back of a spoon.
  7. Strain mixture into a bowl, add a handful of sultanas and place in the fridge to chill.
  8. Once chilled strain out the sultanas and reserve before placing the custard mixture in to the ice cream maker. (This just allows the sultanas to plum up a little)
  9. Churn the mixture in your ice cream machine as per the manufacturers instructions.

Time Out Sydney Taste Test

25 Mar
March 25, 2010

There is something I find inspiring, joyful and uplifting when I witness passionate young talent showcase what they are capable of doing. When you put this young talent and food together it makes my heart sing.

Call outs happened a few months ago for apprentices to submit a dish idea to Time Out in order to secure one of six places to showcase their dish on a degustation menu and a chance to win the Sydney Time Out Tate Test and take the title of best apprentice chef. The event was held over three evenings at Bistro CBD in conjunction with March in to Merrivale.After a disappointment of missing out on tickets to what I thought would be a one night event, I put my name on the waiting list in chance that somebody may not be able to attend. I was totally thrilled when I received a call advising that the event was now going to take place over three nights. I was lucky to secure tickets for Mac, junior and I to the finals.

TOTT1 Read more →

Daring Cooks’ Challenge March – Risotto

17 Mar
March 17, 2010

The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Master chef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

I was extremely excited by my second Daring Cooks Challenge, but it was a harder decision than I thought to come up with a flavour for my Risotto. I even asked a impromptu question to my friends on facebook. Consensus to that one was that asparagus and mushroom were big favourites in flavours people like in risotto.

Sooooo I didn’t want to do that :p Therefore would I go seafood? Vegetarian? Or would I follow Heston Blumenfeld’s lead and do something left of centre? If you haven’t seen his episode on risotto in his “In Search for Perfection” series I suggest you do so, hey then again watch the whole series it is fantastic. Just think anchovies, instant coffee, chocolate discs and uni – just watch it!

I decided on something simple and I will admit which I saw on the UK series of Master Chef Professionals, risotto with truffle and brown butter. Read more →

Daring Bakers Challenge Feb – Boo Hoo Nomisu

16 Mar
March 16, 2010

Some months you should just never get out of bed. I am totally back to posting after having a bit of a bad run. Sorry for the delay in posting my DBC for February, but as you will read it was a bit of an epic fail.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Aparana of My Diverse Kitchen and deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from the Washington Post, Cordon Blue at Home and Baking Obsession.

Those of you that regularly read my blog and follow me on Twitter will know that I went over to the USA in January and besides a extra suitcase full of purchases I brought home a horrid bug. It was a flu type thing which had me coughing non stop day and night and lasted a month despite antibiotics and numerous visits to my doctor.

Therefore my initial ideas of spun toffee, hazelnut praline and other such fantasies which filled my head quickly disappeared when it actually came to the task involved – seriously I felt like a walking talking corpse.

D day came and I got up bright an early on the Saturday morning determined to create something at least edible and I started with my mascarpone cheese. Yah that is where it all just started to crumble around me and my sleep deprived fragile little brain just could not cope.

I attempted the mascarpone but sadly when it came to transferring it to the cheesecloth lined sieve it all just ran through, it hadn’t thickened enough. That’s when my face fell and I took a deep breath, my heart was not truly in to it. So I decided okay, one process a fail, just buy the damn cheese and carry on. So that is what I did, I ventured out and bought mascarpone as well as the other groceries I had to pick up.

My enthusiasm had completely gone by the time I got home with bags of groceries and the cheese. I felt run down and not too well at all and thought to myself “why am I doing this?” “why do I do these challenges?”. I do them because I love doing them, it is for totally self absorbed reasons, but this month, sadly not. So I thought just do one other thing. I went for the zabaglione.

It worked in all it’s taste and brilliance. I doubled the mixture and halved the marsala as I knew It would be eaten as a stand alone dessert not as part of the tiramisu.

My confidence was back and the cough had subsided a little and I thought, okay lets just try one more thing from the challenge. Savoiardi biscuits it was to be.

They worked, omg, bum dance around the kitchen, they worked. I even made a few hazelnut ones which I sprinkled with demura sugar.

phone pics 049

The final product ended up being dessert for junior and I of zabaglione topped with cream and grated dark chocolate, savoiardi biscuits on the side and a shot of espresso.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 pics 046 Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Sara’s notes: I don’t think I left it to cool long enough, and I also wish I had my thermometer as I don’t think I reached the correct temperature.

Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.


2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the pics 047In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

Sara’s notes: I doubled everything in this recipe except the Marsala – NOTE – In Australia we are no longer allowed to call it Marsala, it is called Crema All ‘Uovo.

(Source: Recipe from
Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner’s sugar,

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
phone pics 050Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

phone pics 055

So yah this challenge was a bit of a fizzer for me, but next month should be a totally different ball game.

To make the month complete my lap top died and it took over two weeks for the replacement to arrive so that delayed my post being put up.

On the bright side, I have so much to share with you guys. Numerous posts to come on my trip to the USA, some other epic fails, some brilliant successes and super foodie happenings that have been going on in Sydney of late.

So till next time, which will not be too far away, I promise.

Sara xxx