Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Berta in Sydney

When a restaurant delivers on price, quality and quantity. You know it’s a keeper.

And while I could mention the back alley Berta is located in, or the hidden black doors you could pass by unknowingly, but it’s not about that. At Berta, it’s all about the food.

Every Tuesday, Berta offers a four-course sagra menu. The menu features a seasonal ingredient that is disclosed on their website. For example, on one occasion it was all based around tomatoes; pickled, roasted, confit, or different varietals, it was all about the tomato.

Each course arrives and is settled in the middle of your table for sharing. On the night, tomatoes were featured in a chilli granita with diced celery on top of rock oysters, a tribute to a Bloody Mary oyster shot.

Or the confit cherry tomatoes with fennel seeds, fried capers and salsa verde, which was rich and at the same time, delicately flavoured to bring out the sweetness in the tomatoes.

Although my personal favourite was the fresh tomato sauce that was served with the bass groper. The sauce had a richness and depth that was extended by the generous amount of good quality oil, while the tomato maintained its fresh, sweet and slightly acidic taste that so complemented the fish.

And never to end on a bad note, the dessert was a perfect finish of prosecco poached peach, green tomato molasses gelato, dried tomatoes, white pepper crumble, all topped with a few rosemary leaves. The green tomato molasses gelato had an earthy note that went well with the white pepper and rosemary, while the poached peach added a fresh sweetness to the dish that left you feeling good. 

During the meal, head chef O Tama Carey comes out and greets diners and explains the menu and the concept of her dishes. It leaves you with a sense that this night wasn’t just about a routine dinner but more of an event, a celebration of seasonal ingredients, aptly named a sagra.

The four-course menu is $55, with an optional wine flight for an extra $40. Sittings start at 6 or 8.30pm.

17-19 Alberta St, Sydney, 2000
02 9264 6133

Rock oyster, celery, tomato chilli granita
Arancini, tomato saffron sauce, mozzarella

Confit tomato, fennel seeds, deep fried capers, salsa verde

Cherry Oxheart tomato, mint, cucumber

Parmesan, pickled green tomato, tomato focaccia

Linguinie, tomato, garlic, basil

roasted cherry truss tomato, white beans

Bass groper, mussels, anchovy, tomato, chives

Prosecco poached peach, green tomato molasses gelato, dried tomato, rosemary, white pepper crumble

Berta on Urbanspoon

Monday, 28 October 2013

Brining, the small step that makes a huge difference

Not many of us think to brine our meat, but I'm sure we must all have an idea of what it involves, salt and water. What I think many don't understand though, is just how much better it makes meat taste. Try it once and you'll be sold, like I was.

To explain it simply, brining is soaking meat in salt water. The higher concentration of salt and the water seeps into the meat making the meat salty and keeping it moist during cooking.

The bigger the meat, the longer the brining time. I think the rough guide is about an hour for half a kilogram of meat. But for the funny looking 1.5kg chicken in the picture I soaked it for about 5 hours. If it's pieces of meat, such as drumsticks or ribs, then a few hours should do.

Use 1/8 of a cup of table salt for every litre or if you're using sea salt flakes, use 1/4 of a cup because sea salt flakes aren't as compact.

When soaking the meat, the water must be cool or room temperature so it doesn't cook the meat. Also remember to place the container in the fridge because keeping meat soaking in water out at room temperature for long periods of time seems pretty gross to me.

You can add anything into the brine, peppercorns, lemon rinds, rosemary, thyme, garlic, onion, cloves, beer, sugar, honey, whatever flavours you can think of that you want to impart onto your meat. But just remember that your meat will burn quicker if there is a higher content of sugar.

Try it and let me know what you think!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Buffalo Dining Club in Darlinghurst

As much as I love buffalo mozzarella, every time I go to Buffalo Dining Club, I always go for the burrata. The creamy cheese that oozes out when you break the skin is just so... delicious.

Their range of sides are always fresh and light, so it doesn't really matter which you choose but a matter of personal preference. The Iberico jamon served at room temperate with fat that melts in your mouth is full of flavour but not overly salty. 

With the weather getting warmer, these antipasti plates make a great lunch.

Buffalo Dining Club on Urbanspoon

Monday, 14 October 2013


The best part of a tiramisu, in my opinion, is that luscious mascarpone cream. The way it is light but creamy at the same time. You could pretty much flavour it with anything and you've got a new invention. Oh the possibilities! 

I got the recipe from here, but I added less sugar.

3 eggs, separated
1/4 cup of castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
250g mascarpone, softened 
300ml thickened cream, whipped to soft peaks
2 cups of black coffee
1 shot of brandy, optional or try another liquor/liqueur 
1 packet of sponge fingers
cocoa for dusting

1. Beat egg yolks, sugar and vanilla until pale and thick then add in softened mascarpone and fold in whip cream
2. In another bowl, beat egg whites until soft peak and fold into the mascarpone mixture, set aside.
3. In another bowl again, mix coffee and brandy
4. Dip the sponge fingers into the coffee mixture and place a base layer in a ceramic or glass dish. You could also make individual ones in glass cups.
5. Add in a layer of cream and then another layer of coffee soaked sponge fingers, basically just a layer of each with the top layer being cream and finish it off with cocoa powder.
6. Try let it refrigerate for at least 2 hours. It also taste great if you make it a day before!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Season for Sowing

Back earlier this year I tried my hands at gardening but to no avail. The clay underneath the top soil meant that two weekends of heavy rain left my garden looking like a rice paddy.

Now that it's spring I have new motivation to give it another go. I decided to use pots and a raised garden bed instead of directly planting into the soil. The mixed herbs and the rosemary in the little pot have been growing wonderfully for the last few weeks. The parsley I have been using frequently in my pastas, the thyme when making sauces and the mint when I make fresh fruits juice, it's also great in sparkling water with lemon.
I sowed seeds in little pots so that I had them ready to plant the moment my gardening bed arrived. It took 600L of soil, a bag of pea straw mulch and a 3cm thin layer of rock to fill it all up. Along with some light labour to assemble the beds, and my garden was finished.

I chose vegetables and herbs that I couldn't readily get at supermarkets or ones that are quite pricey, so its worthwhile to grow it at home. Things such as shiso, or land seaweed (okahijiki), ice plant, stevia, sorrel, salad burnet, heirloom tomatoes and heirloom spring onions. The only ones that didn't germinate were the stevia seeds, such a shame. 

You can purchase all sorts of AMAZING seeds online, and even plants that come safe and sound to your door step. Its quite incredible! I ordered a finger lime tree online and it arrived a few days later, intact. It will probably be at least two years before they bear any fruit...
So far everything's been pretty good, but I guess we'll have to wait to find out if the next batch of heavy rain will kill them!! 

If you have any tips to share, please let me know! I'm learning from online research and trial and error!