A clumsy ode to Spice Temple’s heavenly facing chilli and sichuan peppercorn dish.
Since eating at Spice Temple a month ago I haven’t been able to stop thinking about those feisty little peppercorns. I was chatting to a friend of mine on the phone the other night while cooking this so it got a little more crispy than intended but it just added to the intensity of flavour on the skin. Tongue numbing, aromatic, mouth watering.
I have seen Kylie Kwong toast sichuan peppercorns with sea salt in a hot pan until aromatic and then grind them up to a powder in a mortar and pestle. This is essentially what I did and then added a little smoky paprika and sugar and rubbed it into the skin of an organic chicken, added a little oil to the bird with a few cloves of unpeeled garlic inside and whacked it in a hot oven. Oh, and I threw in a few dutch cream potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks. I normally go for 220°C fan forced, 20 minutes each on its side, on its other side and on its back. I sound like Samantha from SATC.
The end result is a moist chicken with a crispy skin, with potatoes that taste more like wedges as they have absorbed all the chickeny goodness and are lightly flavoured with sichuan.
Next step is to try this with quail, or maybe duck…and I don’t think it needs the smoky paprika or sugar.
Just to stress the point, this is a roast that takes just an hour to cook, plus preparation time. So maybe realistic for a weeknight when you don’t get home too late.
Neil Perry’s Spice Temple is located underneath Rockpool Bar & Grill on Bligh Street in Sydney’s CBD. At first we walked past its plasma screen door, assuming it was an advertisement with its virtual shimmering silk curtains. Once we discovered that it was actually the front door we glided down the circular staircase to the industrial looking bar area. The restaurant area however couldn’t be more different. The room is warm, cosy and dark, with the centre of each table lit by a hanging light, so that each dish can be viewed clearly. This ambience is comfortable and relaxing. You can see your dining companion and food but feel bathed in shadow. Very sexy.
The Sheep and the Monkey. I meant to have just one cocktail and then move to a civilised wine. Mmmm. The cocktails are dangerously good. Be warned. After three cocktails I thought perhaps it was time to pause.
The Horse and the Tiger. The Tiger is my favourite. If you are not familiar with the term ‘pistachio fat-washed whisky’, do ask. They’ll tell you how its made. An amazing depth of flavour uncommon in most Sydney cocktails.
Spinach and Sesame Salad. Sweet and tangy.
Crispy pork belly. I don’t really have words to describe. Too good. Must have. Oh ok, found some. Sticky, salty, moreish. Feel bratty, want some now.
Stir fried king abalone mushroom with garlic and chives. Thick, meaty, almost squeaky. Such a filling vegetable dish, delicious.
Fish drowned in heaven facing chillies and Sichuan peppercorns (apparently Sichuan, Szechuan and Szechwan are all acceptable spellings). My favourite choice for drama alone. This dish was covered with many more dried chillies which were removed by the waiter using a spider (large wire spoon). The real star is the Sichuan peppercorn which numbs your tongue and teases you.
My only negative comment I could say about Spice Temple is the double seating. If you prefer to relax into the evening then book the later seating rather than the early one. With some restaurants you are happy to leave at a given time, but here I think you’ll want to linger a while.
10 Bligh Street, Sydney
A few weeks ago we went to Filicudi, an Italian restaurant that came highly recommended by a colleague. So highly recommended in fact that discussion of my future firstborn arose. Don’t worry I didn’t promise anything.
Fiore di Zucchini. These were beautiful and cheesy, but starting with garlic bread and then these was not really a good plan considering we ended up having three courses.
Gnocchi Ragu- tender succulent gnocchi with a simple sauce studded with meat chunks.
Penne Granchi (blue swimmer crab in a ‘pink’ sauce is how this dish was described). This was probably my favourite dish, it absolutely tests the love in your relationship- if you’re willing to share this one then you know you’re on to a good thing.
Costolette d’Agnello. Marinaded lamb cutlets (garlic, rosemary and olive oil?) grilled to the customer’s liking (medium to medium-rare) on a bed of soft polenta that was neither dry nor bland.
Baileys Creme Brulee. With enough Baileys added to the mix so that you can actually taste it. The top was satisfyingly hard and shattered on a firm whack of the spoon.
Written up on the specials board quite simply as ‘Mascarpone’. Described by the waiter as a house special, it was magnificent, a rich, creamy, liqueur-laden tiramisu. I want to go back and try the Pere Filicudi- poached pears.
I also think the pizzas are worth trying as we saw several people walk past, arms laden with pizza boxes looking quite pleased with themselves.
BYO is accepted, and for $2 per person is fantastically reasonable.
11 Ramsay Rd, Fivedock
I have long been a fan of Martelli’s fruit market at West Epping just on Carlingford Rd at the top of the hill near the primary school. It used to be on the way to work. I have also become a semi-regular shopper at their Cherrybrook Shopping Centre store. The Cherrybrook store has the added convenience of a decent fishmonger, a great butcher and a fabulous deli. Along with a supermarket and liquor store it makes my work a whole lot easier when everything is in the one place, but unlike the average supermarket, the quality of the produce is outstanding, fresh and reasonably priced. I say average as a disclaimer, as I know there are some supermarkets where the range and quality are fantastic, but on the whole this is what I find in the Sydney suburbs. I am still hoping in vain that one day our local IGA will become as fantastic as the one at Haberfield. Moving to Haberfield right now is not a financially viable option. 🙂
Anyway, I was at a baby shower the other week and got to chatting about food, again. Rouse Hill shopping centre came up and Martelli’s was mentioned. Until today I hadn’t been to the Rouse Hill Martelli’s as it is not ‘on the way’ to any of my usual destinations but is actually not too long a drive. I was surprised by how big the shop was. A wide range of fresh produce not always easy to find, all in one location. A smallgoods counter, plenty of cheeses and dairy, olive oils, jams, bread etc. plus a wide range of quality frozen goods too. They even stock a few ‘Essential Ingredient’ items such as duck fat. Good to know, if ever I am in dire need of chips cooked in duck fat. Try it sometime.
Ok now you can tell I have been watching Julia Child. I am recommending our nation eat more duck fat. Oh well. 🙂
Just for a little bit of Meta-blogging…
I managed to persuade Dave to see Julie & Julia the movie last night. I’d read the book which wasn’t all that well written (in my opinion) but still enjoyable for the food factor. The movie however, was highly entertaining, with several moments when I realised I was probably laughing a little too loud. The best bit was when I looked over and realised Dave was enjoying it almost as much as I was.
I was aware of Julia Child’s book ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’, but hadn’t actually seen any of Julia Child’s shows before. So I didn’t fully appreciate Meryl Streep’s brilliant work until I watched a few YouTube clips of Julia’s cooking shows. Streep nails her voice and mannerisms perfectly. I highly recommend watching the movie, if not for the chick flick factor then definitely for the food porn.
Julia Child is a wonderful teacher and such an eccentric person, she’s a pleasure to watch.
On the corner of Avoca Street and Belmore Road is a special piece of Randwick’s (and my) history. Once a butcher, a post office, and numerous other establishments including a lovely little cafe called Al Dente where I used to work while at Uni.
A favourite place of mine to go for the food, the service, the ambience and the memories. They still do the Pre-Ritz special where you can have two courses plus tea/coffee for $55. I found it to be as good as ever, excellent value and a fantastic night out.
A leek and potato veloute to whet the appetite
Entree of white asparagus with poached egg, celeriac and manchego
Braised veal shin and spring vegetables
served with roast sweetbread, smoked bone marrow and pearl barley
Macleay Valley rabbit and trompette pie with a ballontine of saddle and baby carrots
A generous serve of Firstlight venison with spiced quince, red cabbage and parsnips
Pear tart fine with prune and almond ice cream
Marscarpone and rhubarb mille feuille with a short rendition of ‘happy birthday to you…’
Restaurant Balzac 141 Belmore Road Randwick NSW 2031 Ph: + 61 2 9399 9660
Tues to Sat – from 6pm
Friday Lunch only – 12pm to 3pm
Last Sunday of every Month – from 6.30pm (Seasonal Degustation only)