Watching an advertisement for Criniti’s while at the movies didn’t make me want to eat there. However, somehow I developed a raging appetite at the hairdresser after many hours of being analysed, foiled, washed, rinsed, treated, massaged, cut, heat protected, blow dried and styled. My hairdresser mentioned a great meal she’d eaten at Criniti’s about a week ago- lots of fresh seafood, a garlicky tomato sauce and bread for dipping. Then her assistant piped in about the 1m long pizza. I was sold, the greedy beast had won. There would be no healthy Friday night salad, who am I kidding, when do I ever feel like salad on a Friday night?
So we went to Criniti’s Parramatta last night. Called to book at 6:15pm and got a table for 8:30pm. Not a worry, had a bottle of McLeish Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (wedding research) and some washed rind and blue vein cheese at home which was a nice way to spend the time. We found a free parking spot down the road on George St and got there five minutes early and had to wait a few minutes until the table was ready, but were quite happy with this as there were people queuing up outside.
Once we were seated we soaked up the buzzy vibe of Parramatta on a Friday night. Unsure of serving sizes, I went for an entree size of the Zuppa di Pesce, a thick seafood ‘soup’ of large scampi, prawns, vongole, scallops, crab and calamari in a rich tomato sauce with two slices of fresh white bread on the side. This is definitely not first date food. I am a big fan of seafood served in the shell, and have no problem getting in there with fingers, teeth, whatever, to get at the luscious tender meat, but others may think this too messy for eating out. I was worried about splashing tomato sauce on my new scarf so had to make a bib of my napkin. Sounds attractive no? A Chinotto was perfect with the food.
Dave had Fettucine Boscaiola, also entree size.  It was tastier than your average Boscaiola, but not bursting with flavour. A nice, comforting, creamy dish if that’s what you’re in the mood for. It didn’t leave much room for pizza to follow so we had leftovers for lunch the next day.
I’m looking forward to trying the gelato for dessert next time, and am thinking this is the best pizza crust I’ve found west of Haberfield. A crisp but tender thin base with a little extra thickness at the edge and the distinct aroma of the woodfired oven. Addictive.
Recently, Crust Parramatta has been getting regular business from me, and now their only edge over Criniti’s pizza is that they deliver!
Criniti’s Parramatta
291 Church St, Parramatta
9635 0311

A friend recently posted on Facebook that she has eaten her bodyweight in cherries over this Christmas period. I would like to raise her quite a few kilos of cherries and state that I believe I am now officially supporting my local greengrocer on my purchases of cherries alone.
I started the season somewhat modestly, watching the price, waiting for it to go down and become ‘reasonable’. I bought the little trays on special, that either lacked a little in flavour or size and was slightly disappointed, not being very reassured by the fact that I was getting a bargain. So it wasn’t long before I began buying the more premium cherries, seduced by their plump roundness, deep purplish red hue and shiny skin. I even started hand picking them, making sure my pennies wouldn’t be thrown away at the sight of a split or mouldy reject.
The final straw was this afternoon when the patriarch of my local greengrocer said with a big grin that I must like this place. I had been in that morning buying ingredients for work. I had to own up that I was really just there for cherries, all the other items in my basket were a cover story. At least it’s out in the open now – Albino the Italian grocer, who is as excited for me about our European holiday as I am knows my weakness and is ordering a new delivery of cherries right now.

This is a wholemeal spelt sourdough using an organic white flour starter culture as the only raising agent. The shape of these loaves is called a ‘batard’.
This is a light rye loaf made with a blend of organic white and organic rye sourdough starters plus a little additional fresh yeast for a lighter texture. Also, I used a loaf tin to try to create a more easily toastable bread. The little slices of the first loaf were hard to get out of the toaster!
1. One of the most prized parts of sourdough is the chewy crust and to create this you need steam in the oven. To create this I crank up the oven (I did about 220C fan-forced) with a tray of water sitting on the bottom of the oven. By the time the oven heats up and is ready for the bread to go in the water is normally bubbling and you have your steam to create your nice crust.
Julia Child has a different method, she uses a piping hot brick which she adds to the tray of water to create a real burst of steam.
2. I find that the loaves burn quite quickly in my oven so I put the racks as low as possible and turn the heat down to 200 or 190 if the bread starts to brown too much. If it looks like it is going to go very brown you can cover the loaf with alfoil.
3. Bourke St Bakery’s cookbook recommends using filtered water and organic unbleached flour.
4. There is a trick that I haven’t used yet but am keen to try. Julia suggests using a terracotta tile to bake your bread on which you pre-heat, like when making pizzas the Italian way. This is meant to give an extra push from the heat underneath the loaf and help give a higher loaf.
Next step is to try some raisin bread, and some lighter fluffier loaves too…

I have been experimenting with Sourdough starters or ‘ferments’ for a while. A while because for months now I have been feeding  flour and water to ‘the baby’as it has come to be known and have only just made my first successful sourdough loaves. November and December were a little busier than expected which is why I’ve been so quiet.
My first attempt at making sourdough last year was very dense as I ignored the suggested rising times and this is not the time to be making up the rules! Once you are proficient, sure, but in the meantime I am taking advice from the Bourke St Bakery cookbook for good notes on making a successful starter culture using just flour and water and Julia Child’s very detailed notes on troubleshooting when baking. Very helpful.
So I made some wholemeal spelt loaves, which were nutty and delicious, though still a little dense so I think I may have under-proved them, but I am looking forward to today’s batch of light rye which in addition to the traditional sourdough starter also employs some fresh (compressed) yeast to make for a tasty bread with a lighter texture. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find fresh yeast but I bought some at the deli in Carlingford Court!
A home oven is not ideal for making bread, but with some tricks you can have success. I am only just finding my way at the moment but I promise to post some pictures if these ones turn out decent 🙂
More soon,
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.