Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Mince Pies

Christmas tarts? My friends and I after a few too many G&Ts, yes. But for the purposes of this post, I mean the fruit mince variety.

Mince tarts are one of my favourite things about the weeks leading up to Christmas. They become my staple coffee treat and I like to compare them from different bakeries, much to the amusement of Mr LP. He is so over them.

I keep meaning to compile a collage to compare them all but they never last long enough for a photo.

I have been making these buttery babies - stuffed with fresh cranberries, plenty of booze and walnuts, for my cafes for nearly five years and they are now a Christmas favourite.

In other news, Little Pudding is now supplying treats to Joe Black X in King St, near the new Louis Vuitton store. They are stocking my banana bread, brownies, lemon curd tartlets, salted caramel peanut tarts and friands.

If you live in Sydney and work in the CBD, check it out. Grant and Bec make fantastic coffee using Toby’s Estate.

Larissa x

Mince Pies

250g plain flour, sifted
50g icing sugar, sifted
125g cold butter, diced
1 egg, lightly beaten
Dash of milk

Fruit mince
½ cup port
½ cup brown sugar
2 cups mixed fruit
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
½ cup raisins
½ cup dried cranberries
Zest and juice of one orange
One granny smith or Bramley apple, peeled and grated
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ cup brandy
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 180C.
Place sifted flour and icing sugar in a food processor.
Add butter and process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and milk and process until the mixture comes together as dough.
Place dough on a lightly floured surface and shape it gently into a ball (do not knead it).
Cover in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 mins.
Roll pastry dough out on a lightly floured surface to even 1.5mm thickness. Use a medium-sized fluted cookie cutter to cut out tart rounds and place into a 12-hole tart or standard muffin tin. Put this into the freezer for 5 mins. Cut out stars with remaining pastry.
Fill the tarts with a generous dollop of fruit before placing a pastry star on top.
Brush the star with egg wash (one egg whisked with a dash of milk) or plain milk to help brown during baking.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.
Serve warm, dusted with icing sugar and try to stop at one! I like them with brandy cream as well but it is widely acknowledged that I'm a chops.

For fruit:
Place all ingredients except vanilla and brandy in a large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 30 mins until rich and fragrant. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to “mince” the fruit or if you prefer a smoother filling, blitz for a couple of seconds with a hand-blender.
When the mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the walnuts, vanilla and brandy.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Golden Door Masterclass

I’m not really in the business of cooking healthily.

And I’m not one for rising before the sun, especially if it has nothing to do with a crying baby.

But if The Golden Door is involved, well, that changes things.

A couple of Sundays ago I dragged myself out of bed before 6am and pulled on shorts, T-shirt and sneakers to go for a walk with a bunch of other spring chickens and the Golden Door Health Retreat crew in the Sydney Botanical Gardens.

A couple of times each year, the crew from the GD’s retreats (Elysia in the NSW Hunter Valley and Willowvale in the Gold Coast hinterland) visit a few capital cities to lead walks and reacquaint past guests with the GD way of life - like cooking without sugar and butter and greeting the sun each morning with Tai Chi. Perfect. Did I mention the clincher? No caffeine.

You might ask how a cake-baking coffee hound like me survived two week-long stints at the GD?

It’s largely due to the chefs and the incredible food they serve. You really don’t realise you’re missing the bad stuff (ok, except coffee). Tip: detox before you go to avoid migraines.

Anyhoo, I was pretty excited when the GD announced they were bringing head chef David Hunter down to Sydney with them to teach a cooking master class after the usual walk.

My fellow GD devotee, Mum, rustled up a group of us and we made a day of it, beginning with Tai Chi before a 45min walk around the gardens.

If you’re going to greet the day it may as well be on a gorgeous, sun-drenched morning like this one.

Some of the local scenery, little sister walking and Poolside Cafe

On the home stretch, the lure of coffee at Poolside Cafe above Boy Charleton Pool was too much and we snuck in for brekkie (yes, poached eggs and house made beans. Sorry, I wolved it down before I thought about taking a photo. Guess that’s a good sign).

We reconvened a couple of hours later at the Sydney Seafood School at the Fish Market for the cooking class.

Cooking demonstrations are part of the GD program and are interesting to watch but it’s always more fun when you can have a go at preparing dishes yourself.

After watching David cook prawn and spinach mousse parcels, an aromatic snapper curry with a carrot and almond salad and a dessert of carob verrines with cashew cream, we divided into groups to recreate it all for lunch. Recipes below.

The snapper curry was the standout for me. Like a lot of GD recipes, the ingredients list is a bit daunting (a whole page) but cooking it was quite simple. Admittedly, we did have our spice mix and measurements all pre-prepared for us.

To save on time, David suggested grinding the spice mix in advance so it was ready when you need it. Also, once prepared, the curry can be frozen which is always a bonus for anyone with time issues. Lord knows, I’m one of them!

For this recipe, we learnt how to pan “fry” a piece of fish achieving a caramelised, crispy skin using only lemon juice, salt and pepper. Amazing!

Mum, Jan, Dani and Steph in action

Dessert was equally fabulous. It was like a healthy trifle with chocolate flavoured custard, nut crumble and delicious cashew cream. This too was quite easy to do although shopping for some of the ingredients would involve a trip to the health food store and some research into other uses for things like coconut nectar, which I foresee sitting in my pantry for years untouched, less two tablespoons for this recipe.

When our benches were clean and we had dumped all of our dirty pots and pans onto a trolley for someone else to wash up (love it!), we took our lunch into the dining room and sat with the GD staff who happily sampled our efforts over a glass of crisp white.

We had a blast, learnt loads and went home with full bellies and takeaway containers crammed with curry and salad, which Mr LP gratefully tucked into.

It was definitely worth getting up early on a Sunday. Bring on the next one!

Larissa x

The Golden Door’s Fish Curry
With Brown Rice and Quinoa

(Serves 6)

Spice Mix
6 Cloves
3 tsp yellow mustard seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cardamom pods
3 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp caraway seeds
3 tsp black mustard seeds

Lightly toast the spices in a fry pan until they start to crackle and are fragrant. Remove from the heat and place in a blender or mortar & pestle and finely grind. Makes ½ cup (this curry takes 2 tsp).

250g leek
150g pumpkin, diced
150g tomato, diced
150g pineapple, diced
3 tsp red or green curry paste
1 tsp coconut nectar or palm sugar
1 tsp each of fresh coriander, ginger, garlic, kaffir lime leaves and chopped lemongrass
2 tsp spice mix (above)
50g cashew nuts
1tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp lime zest
Juice of half a lime
600mls vegetable stock
200mls coconut milk
Fresh herbs to serve, like coriander and basil

Vegies and fish
150g cauliflower florets
½ onion, sliced
1 bulb of baby fennel, sliced
Handful of baby spinach leaves
700g fresh snapper fillets
Juice of half a lemon

Brown Rice and Quinoa
300g brown rice
50g red quinoa
750ml water


Preheat oven to 180C.

Place rice and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 mins.
Add quinoa and cook for a further 10 mins. Drain and rinse before serving.

For sauce, place sliced onion and fennel on a lined baking tray and bake in the oven for 10 mins.
Place all ingredients except coconut milk, veggie stock, herbs and lime into a saucepan.
Add 100ml of veggie stock to ingredients and bring to boil.
Cook for 5 mins then add rest of stock and continue cooking for a further 10 mins.
Add coconut milk, lime and herbs and cook for a further 5 mins.
Place sauce in a blender and blend until smooth.
Return to pot and add spinach and cauliflower, baked onion and fennel.
Bring back to the boil and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.

Place lemon juice in frying pan with a little salt and pepper. Bring to heat, then add fish and cook for approx 2 mins or until juice is slightly caramelised.
Deglaze by adding a small amount of water and turn fish. Cook for another 2 mins, approximately, then place lid on pan and turn off heat. Allow to stand for 1 minute then place on a bed of rice and quinoa. Serve with curry sauce and carrot salad (recipe below).

The Golden Door's Carrot and Bean Sprout Salad with Seasoned Almonds

4 medium carrots (julienned finely)
100g slithered almonds
3 tbsp tamari (thick soy sauce)
200g bean sprouts
100g snow pea sprouts


Preheat oven to 180C. Place slithered almonds on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Put in oven for 3-4mins until slightly golden.
Remove from oven, sprinkle with tamari and leave to cool.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add sliced carrots and blanch for 1 minute. Remove, drain and place into cold water.
Place remaining ingredients into a serving bowl (bean sprouts and snow pea sprouts). Drain carrots from cold water and add to salad bowl with sprouts. Mix seasoned almonds through vegetables.

The Golden Door's Carob Verrines with Coconut, Date and Nut Crumble, served with Cashew Cream and Berry Coulis

Carob Mousse
500mls Rice Milk
100mls coconut cream (or coconut milk for a lighter option)
3 Cardamom pods, cracked
½ tsp cinnamon
Zest of a small mandarin
2 tsp coconut nectar
2 tbsp carob powder
2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla pod
2 tbsp cornflour

80g figs, finely chopped
80g dates, finely chopped
100g Brazil nuts, finely chopped (I would use pecans here instead)
30g shredded coconut

Cashew Cream
1 ½ cups raw cashew nuts
220mls coconut water
3 tbsp maple syrup or coconut nectar
1 tsp vanilla

Berry Coulis
300g berries (eg. Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
Juice of half an orange
1 tsp maple syrup
Fresh berries to serve


Soak raw cashews in coconut water for at least 30mins then blend cashew cream ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Crumble – place all ingredients into a food processor and blitz.

Berry Coulis – place all ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth. Pass through a sieve and set aside until ready to use.

Mousse – Combine all ingredients except cornflour in a saucepan.
Bring to the boil and simmer for appx 4 mins. Mix the cornflour with a little water and add. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens.

To serve, place a generous spoonful of the berry coulis into a serving glass. Add a little crumble then a layer of mousse. Finish with a dollop of cashew cream, then sprinkle on more crumble and fresh berries on top.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Escape to the Hunter Valley

I love a good wedding, especially when it involves great mates and a weekend away.

On a recent Friday, after working like a mad woman all morning to get my deliveries out, Mr LP and I packed up the car and set off for the beautiful Hunter Valley.

Sam and Meredith’s wedding would be our second in the Hunter. The first was our own in April 2009 when Sam was a groomsman.

Needless to say, it’s a special part of the world for us and I was pretty excited to be going back for a friend’s wedding...and all the trimmings. Like glamming up for the night and letting my hair down and chattering to friends we haven’t seen in ages and drinking lots of fabulous wine and eating too much cheese.

Here is the dashing Sam and his lovely bride walking towards their reception at The Mill restaurant.

As with most fun weddings, the night passed in a blink and we had concrete heads in the morning. Mr LP also had some unexplained injuries and grass stains on his suit that were possibly related to his dance moves.

But this is a food blog, so enough about the nuptials (although special mention goes to the chocolate pudding dessert which was the subject of much jostling between couples at the “Zorro” table).

While away, the Breakfast Club found a new haunt.

Some people go mad for a big buffet. I am not one of them, so we ditched the hotel and drove instead to Enzo, a funky little sandstone cafe with a beautiful courtyard at Peppers Creek.

My mum, who generously came up with us to babysit our 15-month-old for the wedding, discovered it on a recent trip.

We didn’t have a booking but it was easy enough to get a table outside behind the huge old fountain.

The brekkie menu was short & sweet with Campos coffee, Byron Bay muesli and fresh fruit, house-made banana bread and a few hot options. I like this sort of menu. Too many choices = confusion, indecision and often food envy.

While I went with my staple of poached eggs with smoked salmon (no beans on the menu), Mr LP ordered the Eggs Benedict which came with delicious maple glazed bacon, spinach and creamy hollandaise. Rich, yes, but yummy!

The service was efficient and friendly and a highchair was readily available for our toddler who tucked into the banana bread with gusto and very much appreciated the Pinocchio picture book that Nana’s tea was served on.

Inside the charming house, I found the sweets cabinet.

And original works by Australian artist Kristy Holt for sale.

Mr LP found David Hook wines next door and bought a couple of earthy reds to take home.

Enzo is also open for lunch and it would be a beautiful choice of venue for any function or wedding. www.enzohuntervalley.com.au

These are a few of the other places on our list of essential stops whenever we visit the Hunter.

v  The Hunter Valley Chocolate Company for raspberry bullets. Along with strewn rose petals, we found a bowl of these in our room at Tower Lodge on our wedding night. They are the best! This visit, I also bought some chocolate coated peanut brittle.

v  The Smelly Cheese Shop. I picked up a creamy gorgonzola, red label smoked cheddar, French brie and a mandatory jar of Binnorie Dairy Co labne in rosemary and garlic oil. We had a carpet picnic on Sunday afternoon while the baby slept.

v  Tower Estate. To go with the picnic we picked up a lovely crisp Riesling and a supply of Shiraz for home.

v  Roberts Restaurant. It’s our old favourite and where we held our wedding reception. We didn’t get back there this time, but we will soon. Ditto for Tower Lodge. We just have to convince Nana to extend her generosity for a whole weekend!

Larissa x

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Macarons: How hard can they be?

Pretty *(%#*&^ hard actually. My toddler has added a few choice words to his vocabulary in the past two weeks since I decided to try my hand at these French morsels.

It all started when my friend Siobhan generously bought me back a beautiful little box of them from Laduree in Paris.

They were salted caramel heaven.

I needed more.

But instead of crossing the harbour to La Renaissance or inventing yet another fake excuse to visit Balmain (oh look, there’s Zumbo, may as well sneak in while I’m here), I decided to have a go at making them myself.

This madness coincided with a dinner party I was planning for my aunty’s birthday and while flicking through a few cookbooks and mags with Mum, we found a Donna Hay recipe for vanilla macaron and raspberry ice cream sandwiches. Dessert solved!

Here’s what I was aiming for:

Here’s what happened:

My first batch turned out like big chewy wafers. They spread into each other and stuck to the sheets of baking paper. It’s a special talent of mine, making things stick to non-stick surfaces. Ask Mr LP how many friand tins I ruined in the first few months of my little business venture.

The next attempt didn’t produce enough macarons for our dinner party of eight so while they were resting to form their “skins,” I made another batch. Exactly the same ingredients, exactly the same method, vastly different results. Some stuck, some not. Some lovely and plump with perfect little feet, some flat as pavers.

There was only one constant throughout – meringue up my arms, in my hair, on the mixer, obscurely on the upper cupboards...

Getting the shits now.

The fourth batch was passable for a family dinner and dessert was a hit (with a lot of help from my little sister’s delicious raspberry ice cream. Thanks Dani!)

Determined not be defeated, I abandoned Donna and went instead to the source. The French don’t take shortcuts, sorry Donna. I am a big fan, but these babies cannot be whipped up in under an hour.

My research taught me the following critical tips:

v  I needed eggs that weren’t super fresh. Leaving the egg whites out overnight is a good substitute

v  The Italian method of making meringue using a hot sugar syrup is the best for macarons as it produces a more stable meringue

v  When using colour or flavouring, boil it down with the sugar syrup to avoid upsetting the moisture balance by adding too much liquid at the end

v  Leave your piped macarons on their trays for at least 30 mins to form smooth skins before baking

I’m pretty comfortable making Italian meringue. It’s what I pipe onto my lemon tarts several times a week so I was quietly confident going into my fifth attempt at les macarons.

 I wanted to use a few different fillings without having to make several batches of macarons so I added a half teaspoon of vanilla extract to the sugar syrup to give them a versatile base flavour.

And they worked! Joy. Relief. Triumph! The recipe I used as my guide is from Baroque Bistro's Macaron Masterclass, posted here by Not Quite Nigella.

Now for the fun bit.

I had some salted peanut caramel (recipe at the bottom of this post) left over from a batch of tarts so I blitzed it with a stick blender until it was smooth. 

Traditionalists say to pipe fillings onto your macaron halves and then sandwich with the remaining halves. I say a modest dollop with a teaspoon works just as well.

Mr LP, self-appointed quality control officer and chief taste-tester, approved. “Good chew,” he said.

For the next dozen, I made a white chocolate ganache and folded in some raspberries (recipe at the bottom of this post). I dusted them lightly with icing sugar and gave this lot away in little boxes of four as pretty gifts.

For the last batch, I mixed up a dark chocolate ganache (recipe at the bottom of this post) and spread one half of the macarons with that and the other half with a smear of delicous rose petal jelly from Sugar Daddy’s Confectionery www.sugardaddysconfectionery.com.au

Sandwiched together and dusted with icing sugar, they are a thousand times better than any form of Turkish Delight I’ve ever had. These, we kept.

Larissa x

Salted Peanut Caramel

170g caster sugar
125g cold butter, diced
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
1/2 cup double cream

Place caster sugar in a heavy based saucepan and melt slowly over medium heat without stirring. Swirl the saucepan to make sure all the sugar is incorporated in the melting mass.
When the sugar is all melted it will turn a dark caramel colour and begin foaming. This will happen quickly so don't take your eye off it.
Take the saucepan off the heat and immediately stir in the butter (be careful, the mixture will spit), followed by the peanuts, salt and cream. Stir until smooth and glossy then transfer to a heat-proof bowl and place in the fridge to cool.
Use as a sauce for ice cream or a filling for tarts or macarons. For the macarons in this post, I blitzed about 3/4 cup of the peanut caramel with a stick blender until smooth and sandwiched in between vanilla macarons.

White Chocolate and Raspberry Ganache

50ml cream
100g white chocolate, chopped  
1/4 cup frozen or fresh raspberries, lightly crushed

Heat the cream in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until almost boiling. Add the white chocolate and turn off the heat. Wait for the chocolate to melt into the cream (about 5 mins) then gently stir until you have a smooth, glossy ganache. Place in the fridge to cool for about 15 mins, then gently stir through the raspberries. 

Dark Chocolate Ganache

50ml cream
100g dark chocolate, chopped

Heat the cream in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water until almost boiling. Add the dark chocolate and turn off the heat. Wait for the chocolate to melt into the cream (about 5 mins) then gently stir until you have a smooth, glossy ganache. Be careful not to overmix. Place in the fridge to chill for about 15 mins or until cool enough to sandwich between macarons. Don't put it in the fridge for too long or it will harden.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Breakfast Club

Not Molly and Judd. Rather, me and C reading the newspapers over coffee and poached eggs while the baby (ideally) has his morning sleep.

There is really only one variable each weekend and that is the venue.

Our needs are simple: good coffee, eggs with runny yolks, sourdough (two pieces – yes, there are stingy buggers out there who really serve one slice) and beans (preferably house-made).

Any return visits hinge on the above criteria. Second chances are rare.

The club gets around, so I thought I might share whenever we come across a good find.

Sunday morning medicine
On a recent Sunday, one much warmer and drier than yesterday’s sodden excuse for a grand final day, we went for brunch at Pony in Neutral Bay. http://www.ponydining.com.au/pony_neutral_bay.htm

As mentioned, it was a gorgeous day for being outside, so I wasn’t surprised to find the few tables in the sun taken.

No matter, the light from the signature stained-glass windows was pretty and warm inside, where a waiter helpfully made space for our stroller and took our coffee orders straight up. Tick.

The menu is impressive, with light options like a seasonal fruit plate with smashed raspberry yoghurt or bircher soaked in pear and pineapple with fresh almonds. Closer to summer, these might sway me from my usual. But not today!

I was ready to try the Turkish-style baked eggs with slow cooked beans, house made labna and chilli butter but it was going to take 20 minutes and I didn’t want to push my luck with a sleeping baby.

So I went traditional, with poached eggs on char-grilled sourdough, roasted tomato and a side of cured salmon which was citrusy, herby and delightful. C, who was out the night before toasting (many times) the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony, tucked into the Pony Breakfast (two eggs, bacon, chipolatas, mushrooms and roasted tomato). The chipolatas were good good good and the eggs oozed beautifully when cut into. More ticks.

Poached eggs with cured salmon at Pony

There was only one slip up when C’s order of a second coffee was forgotten, but it was quickly fixed.

While Pony is a local, it’s a slick, sexy local, so when it came to the bill I was prepared to pay “occasion” prices. But we left with change from $50 which I think is more than reasonable for the quality of the food.

It’s definitely a keeper and they take bookings. Tick!

Larissa x

Other BC tips in the same area if Pony is booked out:

v  Thelma & Louise, Hayes St (at the ferry wharf), Neutral Bay http://www.thelmaandlouise.com.au/

v  Jago’s, Miller St, North Sydney http://www.jagosonmiller.com.au/

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A Taverna Lunch in The Hills

My mum has just returned from a trip to the Greek Islands and because I don’t go much further overseas than the harbour ferry these days, I am borrowing the recipes in this post (and some gorgeous pics) from her.

This is her in Mykonos in the “Greek mama” dress she had to buy when Qantas left her luggage behind. No one can say the Greek economy didn't get a boost that week!

I don't think she was too bothered by the mix up. Look at that view!

When she got back, the family crowded around her table on a Sunday, as we do, to gossip and share a fantastic taverna lunch of Prawn Saganaki and Kefthedes (recipes below), with an Aussie twist of Sydney rock oysters to start.

We cook a lot of Italian food, but hardly any Greek except for the odd lamb dish, so it was great to try something different like the feta crumbled and grilled on top of the Saganaki.

Keeping the prawn heads on was a tip from a Greek friend and colleague of Mum’s. It gave the dish an authentic taste of the sea but if you prefer your seafood a little milder, I’d leave them out.

Mum always brings back a few “presents” for the house, like this cute, bright bread basket and beautiful silk table runner.

Not so sure about the matching shirts she bought my husband and baby boy!

Larissa x

Prawn Saganaki
Serves 4

1kg green prawns
2 brown onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 shot glass of ouzo (Greek liqueur) – if none available use white wine
250g Greek feta
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Peel the prawns, leaving the tail (and head if using) intact.
Preheat your grill.
Heat a large oven-proof pan and add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the onions, garlic and chilli and fry for a minute or so until fragrant.
Add the prawns and saute for 1-2 mins, then add the tomato, ouzo (or wine) and season to taste.
Simmer for five minutes before stirring in the parsley.
Crumble the feta over the top and place the pan under a hot grill until the feta melts and browns slightly.
Serve in the pan on a hot-plate at the table for guests to help themselves.
If you have the authentic “saganaki” ceramic bowls, even better!

Kefthedes (Greek meatballs)
Mum found this recipe on Honey and Spice (www.honeyandspice.wordpress.com) and I have adapted some measurements to suit.

Serves 4

For the meatballs:

½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
¼ cup milk
½ onion grated
1 garlic clove crushed
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp parsley chopped
250g minced lamb
Olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

410g can crushed tomatoes
Pinch sugar
1 bay leaf
½ onion, finely chopped
Handful parsley
Salt, pepper

Mix together the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl. Add the onion, garlic, cumin and parsley. Season and stir well.
Add the lamb and mix until all incorporated. Form tablespoons of mixture into small meatballs with wet hands (it’s easiest).
Fry the meatballs in a large pan on medium heat until browned and cooked through (about 5-6 minutes). Set aside.
For the sauce, place tomatoes into the same frying pan with the sugar, bay leaf and onion and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the meatballs and simmer until they are warmed through.
Scatter over the parsley just before serving.
Again, we served this in the pan straight to the table for everyone to dig in.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Pizza e Birra: Recreating Vito's

Last Rugby World Cup, my husband and I were living in London in a snug one-bedder with no cable TV. Hence, we spent quite a few nights making ourselves cosy in front of the enormous flat-screen at Vito’s, a tiny Italian bar at the end of Northcote Road in Clapham. 

In 2007, it wasn’t much more than a few tables, a bar plastered with posters of Italian football heroes and that huge TV which, when not playing sport, would provide hours of entertainment in the form of retro MTV. It was a little nook with awful tiles on the floor but loads of character and seriously good pizza!

I can’t remember much after some of those WC matches, particularly the night the Wallabies lost in the quarters to the English, but I do remember the pizzas! Simple, piping-hot and glommed at the bar with a tall glass of Peroni. There was no way I would be a rugby widow when these were on offer!

My web research tells me that Vito’s and its adjoining ristorante have since been razzed up with dark wood, leather seats and mood lighting. Shame to lose all that tacky charm, but at least the pizzas seem to have stayed.

Back in Sydney, in our slightly larger, still cableless apartment, it was only fitting that we recreated Vito’s in our living room to cheer on the Wallabies in their first WC 2011 match against Italy. We made mushroom pizzas with fresh oregano and basil (recipe below) and served them with tall glasses of Peroni. Simple, not too large and very delicious!

A toast to the Wallabies who won the match and a special cheers to Nina and Jon who owe us a bottle of Veuve if the All Blacks go down to the frogs for a third time!

Larissa x

World Cup Mushroom Pizza for cheats

2 x your favourite pre-made pizza bases
½ cup Arrabbiata pasta sauce (or tomato passata simmered with garlic and chilli)
1 cup grated quality mozzarella
1 ½ cups of sliced Swiss Brown mushrooms
Handful of fresh basil leaves torn
Handful of fresh oregano leaves picked
Black pepper
Quality olive oil
Optional, pitted olives

Preheat oven to 220C.
Place pizza bases on oven trays and slather with pasta sauce, leaving a 1cm rim around the edges.
Sprinkle half the mozzarella over both pizzas.
Top with mushroom slices and scatter over the mixed herbs (and olives if using).
Finish with a liberal grind of black pepper, the remaining mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.

Serve as a snack for hungry, football-mad husbands (and yourself of course!) or more sensibly for dinner with a crisp green salad. Enjoy!