Sunday, August 9, 2009

Signature Dish Lunch at Chef Lex's

A signature dish. What makes a dish your signature dish? Chef Lex was holding a special lunch at his house to celebrate the launch of his very own blog, vue de cuisinier, and he asked all of us to bring our signature dish to share. My first thought was, 'Shit. I don't HAVE a signature dish. Do I?' This really bothered me, after all the damn cooking and baking I've done over the past few years, shouldn't I have a signature dish? This was pondered and pondered and pondered many times over until the weekend of the lunch, held at Lex's house, which had enviable water views and an even more enviable cookbook collection. Along with me was Shez, Suze, Richard and Simon.
I have major cookbook envy *steals*
Look, I knew straight away whatever I made was probably not going to be savoury. I am a lazy cook when it comes to savoury. I want it easy and quick with minimal ingredients and I haven't really gone past the basics and the hearty homey stuff. So I stayed in my comfortable baking zone and left the savouries up to everyone else. I was well-prepared with an empty stomach because I've been to enough food blogger meet-ups and read enough blog entries to know that there was going to be a lot of yummy food.
Salad and sourdough
Blue swimmer crab miso soup (Lex's recipe here)
Mmm this soup was really really lovely. Delicious crab & miso flavours and firm bits of seaweed, this was simple but impressive. Since he's posted up the recipe, I really want to make this myself! We also enjoyed some fresh oysters and fried haloumi and chorizo. Oh man, I am so addicted to haloumi at the moment, mostly thanks to David Tsirekas and that plate of haloumi was sitting right in front of me so I ate piece after piece.
Coffin bay oysters
It was particularly entertaining watching Richard hoover up about half of these oysters in about half a minute, haha now that's a champion stomach!
Chorizo and haloumi
I was shocked to find out the other day that my poor boyfriend had never heard of haloumi before so I had to run straight out and buy&fry him some. We are both a little bit addicted to it.
Cauliflower and broccoli soup with garlic infused olive oil and garlic bagel crumbs (Shez's recipe here)
You can read on Shez's blog about how this soup became her signature dish and after tasting it, it was easy to see why. Rich and creamy with a lovely contrast of colours from the vegetables and texture from those yummy garlic bagel crumbs, I could eat a lot of it!
Japanese bento
Simon unveiled his bento box and it was so fantastic looking and so cute with those little sauce bottles! Along with the pork and prawns there was salmon sashimi, and tamagoyaki (fried egg roll), lettuce and tomatoes. I particularly enjoyed the crunchy king prawns dipped in the Japanese mayo. I love Japanese mayo just a little bit too much. Richard's chicken marylands were so appealing and I happily sat there for ages working my way through one of those enormous pieces.
Tullabung pork tonkatsu & king prawn ebi furai
Honey soy chicken
Last of the savouries but definitely not the least, Chef Lex whipped up this brilliant dish of pork belly smoked with maple, including a wonderful glaze which included mandarins, star anise and cinnamon. My mouth started watering a teeny bit while watching him chop up the pork belly, the crackling made a very satisfying crack as it was broken up.
Lex chopping up his pork belly
Pouring the extra glaze over...mmm...
Maple smoked pork belly with szechuan mandarin glaze
Oh it was so good. Incredibly juicy with crunchy crackling and I really enjoyed the citrus, spices and sweetness from the glaze. Cinnamon and star anise are always winners with me! He also served this up with some creamy potato mash.
On to desserts! Haha it was finally time for me to contribute a bit to this feast. I have to admit I was a bit nervous and intimidated to be serving up my baked things to people other than the usual suspects. I was also super excited to try everything else on the table.
Chocolate & orange blossom water layer cake with pistachio cream, butterscotch pear insert and bitter chocolate ganache (Shez's recipe here)
Fig cheesecake and raspberry & white chocolate cheesecake
There was a huge selection of cakes to try, I loved the fig cheesecake that Richard brought and am determined to try baking one myself now. Shez's cake looked gorgeous and indulgent with all those layers.
Raspberry jam-filled toasted coconut cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream (my recipe here)
Eep, my turn. During my many moments of worrying about what to do for this lunch I mentioned it to my friend who jokingly said, "You should make raspberry cupcakes, har har!" And then I thought, why not? I know, cupcakes are not very exciting and not very technical, but they are what I've done the most and what my friends seem to know me for so why not? I had minor disaster making these, but more on that later.
Cocoa nib biscuits with salted dulce de leche (my recipe here)
I also couldn't resist pulling out my new favourite recipe, the salted dulce de leche biscuits. This time I reduced the amount of cocoa so they were less bitter and I was pretty happy with their taste and texture. Unfortunately it was just way too hard to make them open faced like the original recipe, because I would have no way of transporting those sticky bastards. So they were sandwich biscuits this time, which sort of survived the trip, but were oozing out and sticking to everything a bit by the end of it.
Dulce de leche brownies (Suze's recipe here)
Just in case you weren't completely sure whether we were fans of sweetened condensed milk, Suze's brownies should make that obvious. Oh these were so sweet and SO good. Biting into a section that had a big glob of dulce and I was in happy land. I wish I could have fit more of these in my tummy!
Frozen kiwi lollies

A final sweet treat from Lex were these adorable frozen kiwi fruit on little sticks. Fun, cute and yummy, I thought there were a little bit of genius. It was a sweet way to finish a yummy day of eating. A huge thankie to Chef Lex for hosting the party at his place, and go check out his blog please!

Oh and before I forget, the minor disaster with my cupcakes was that I was an idiot who left icing the cupcakes until early on the morning of the lunch and in my sleepy state managed to hugely stuff up the white chocolate buttercream and so I had to remake it and it was still a bit runny and too buttery. I realised later it was probably because I used thickened cream instead of single cream, it was all I had in the fridge. Dammit! I had a lot of left over white chocolate buttercream to eat my way through after that.
cupcake house
Oh well, I hope they tasted okay, I was reasonably happy with how they looked (except for the some of the stupid frozen raspberries which 'bled' on the icing and made them look a bit creepy), including these gorgeous Vestli House cupcake paper samples that I had sent to me thanks to Meaghan of Cupcake House. Thanks again Meaghan :) I'm still not completely sure if cupcakes are my 'signature dish', maybe give me a year and I'll get back to you.
cupcake house
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  1. Oh my oh my. What a feast. Looks so indulgently good! I actually am on a mission to find my own signature dishes, so hopefully if I get an invite like that one day, I'll know what to make! :)

  2. Ahhh your cookies were nothing short of amazing! Was fun hanging out with you!

  3. Looks like a wonderful feast indeed! :) Love the look of those ribs too-how magnificent!

  4. how lucky are you! everything looks finger licking good!! I would have to pack a second stomach just so I could get another bite of everything!

  5. oh wow. that pork belly looks sensation. all looks extremely delicious!!! coffin bay oysters are one of my favs!

  6. the cupcake papers are so pretty! everything looks so delicious, and plentiful. win win!

  7. oh man your biscuits were so awesome! with their salty flakes of salt...

  8. That was an awesome day ^^! And your cupcakes were a very fitting dessert along with those sweet/salty biscuits mmmmm

  9. Oh wow... what a fantastic spread of food! I love your cupcakes and biscuits.

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  11. Errm.. oops!...
    Ooh, looks like an awesome arvo of feasting! Your cupcakes look so pretty, and I am drooling at pretty much everything!

  12. I was in the same boat looking for a signature dish. Just settled with the first thing I was happy to make at the time.

    Both the cookies and cupcakes were real nice :)

  13. You can make cookies and cupcakes for me aaanyday they were definately the highlight for me ^_^

  14. Oh Wow! What a great spread. Mmmm eyeing the crispy skin pork. Btw I have major cook book envy as well =D

  15. Julia - It was very indulgent! Oh I bet your signature dish would be something amazing!

    shez - Aw shucks thank you! Was fun hanging out with you too :) Oh and thanks for my tupperware boob hehe!

    Lorraine - the pork was great, I wish I could have been sitting in right front of it like Simon was!

    Maria - Oh trust me I tried to fit in a lot but still failed compared to others!

    Simon Food Favourites- Yeah I agree, go Chef Lex! Hehe

    Helen - I know hey? I fell in love with them as soon as I saw them! Sigh, if only I could eat like that every weekend!

    chocolatesuze - Hahaha yay I'm so glad you liked them! Esp with your biscuit overexposure hehe. Salty flakes of salt for the win! :D

    FFichiban - I agree, it was great hanging out with you again! Thank you :)

    Anita - Aw thanks! We were definitely spoilt for choices

    Betty - It definitely was. :D Thank you! They were such a headache to ice!

    Simon - Your bento box was great! I ate so many prawns :) Thank you!

    lex - Hehehe no way your pork was the stand out for me for sure! Thanks again for having us :D

    Linda - The skin was super crispy, mmm. I know hey, I couldn't stop staring at all of the pretty cookbooks...


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