Sunday, March 22, 2009


213 Barkly St St Kilda,
VIC 3182
ph. (03) 9534 1282

The logo looks like it belongs to something on Southbank, the interior looks like it belongs to Smith Street (pre Anada and Gigibaba). So what is a diner to expect when they walk into the St Kilda Claypots?

Firstly, it is highly likely that the restaurant will already be full, unless you’re dining on a Monday or Tuesday. They will suggest you have a drink in the side bar which again will already be full. The side bar is an intimate space with panels along the side of the wall which they call seating. We were on a forty minute waiting list for a table and the appeal of sitting in what really is a thoroughfare was not particularly pleasing however others seemed quite happy there. The bar man noticed us walk out and commented “if you have to wait for a table you’re spos’t to drink here to kill the time” – the truth is so refreshing sometimes!

Forty minutes later I get a call from the restaurant to say a table is ready for us. We get ushered to the front of the restaurant. The place is divided into two dining areas, one at the front that looks out to Barkly Street, and one at the back that looks out to not much. There is a chiller display in the centre that showcases the catches of the day – behind this is the kitchen. The seating is a mix of square tables, circular tables and booths. If possible I would suggest you request a seat at the front as it has a bit more atmosphere and better lighting.

Noticing the wine we bought in ($10 BYO) we were promptly provided with glasses, complimentary breads and taken through the menu which is on two chalk boards. One with a variety of dishes predominantly fish/seafood focused, the other with the claypots. The waitress happily talked us through the menu although was a bit brief on explaining how much would really be needed for a party of three. On the contrary, my friend went in the following night and said their waiter was very helpful.

We did pick up from the waitress that dishes are made to be shared. Our first course was the king prawns, one prawn per person. They were huge and exceptionally meaty so I did feel like I was getting my money’s worth. The prawns were cooked in a hot Asian oil dressing and presented sitting in the pan with bread wedges sitting half in the oil. This acted as a perfect sponge to mop up the gorgeous flavours. The freshness of their seafood was evident.

Two claypots were ordered, Malay Tagine and Moroccan Tagine. This was the perfect amount for three people – if you were with big eaters though I would suggest one each (that is, if you were going light on entree). The Malay Tagine was set on sticky rice and then topped with bok choy, chunks of fish and mussels. It was well drowned in a stunning sauce that had a great kick to it and can best be compared to a green curry. There was enough fish and mussels in the dish to not have to secretly scoop an extra few out when no one was looking. The Moroccan Tagine was a blueprint of the Malay Tagine except rice was replaced with medium sized couscous and egg plant was the main vegetable. It sat in a tomato based sauce again, with fish and mussel. What I liked about these two pots was that they arrived in the claypot itself which stayed warm as you slowly picked your way through the contents. The serving was generous but not ridiculous and there were plenty of juices and flavours right to the bottom of the pot.

All claypots are priced at $20 and the fish dishes range from $18 to $45 from memory. One prawn followed with claypot goodness, washed down with a couple of glasses of wine and I was well satisfied, totalling a recession friendly $23 each.

- I will go back to Claypots
- I will recommend Claypots
- I would not put it on my must-eat-at list

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Choux Pastry - the how to guide

1989 we are in the car; I have a glass plate on my lap with chocolate éclairs on it. The once glossy icing has now muted and cracks are starting show, this is ok though, because unlike our modern day oh-so fancy ganache, this won’t stick to the cling wrap.

Fast forward to 2009 and I am looking through Karen Martini’s book ‘Cooking at Home’ and bam! It’s an éclair! While I had long since buried éclairs into the ‘that’s so old fashion mum’ pile, Karen has done an outstanding job at bringing this 80’s icon into the modern day.

Often one to interpret the ‘now to make the pastry’ as ‘now to pull the pastry out of the freezer’ I was surprised to see that I was subconsciously doing a stock take on my pantry to see if I could indeed make this. I did, and I suggest you do to.

Below is the recipe, straight from Karen (via me) to you. A couple of things to note that you old pastry hags may scoff at but I wish someone had told me;

Only EVER put one tray in the oven at once – don’t stack them unless you have a tried and tested fan oven that will distribute the heat PERFECTLY...

  1. Cook them a little longer than you think, they develop a lovely golden tan and if undercooked, they really do taste like uncooked pastry
  2. If you have a kitchen wiz use it, the result is just as good as hand mixing and twice as easy
  3. Get jiggy with the fillings, try stewed apple with a caramel sauce and crushed pecans OR custard and nutmeg...
  4. And when you brag to your guest that you indeed made the pastry yourself be sure to correct the uneducated that it is shoe...not chux

Choux Puffs with ice cream and hot honey sauce

As mentioned above, roam free with the fillings although this is a good one to start with. Left over puffs should be stored in the freezer as they will mould quickly otherwise.

Serves 6-8 (one per serve)

100ml water
100ml milk
80gm unsalted butter
1 teaspoon castor sugar
1 teaspoon salt
120g plain flour
3 free range eggs, lightly beaten
6-8 large scoops of vanilla bean ice cream (or flavour of your choice)

Honey chocolate sauce

200g dark chocolate
100ml pouring cream
3 tablespoons honey
25g cocoa powder
4 tablespoons water
25g unsalted butter, chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla essence

To make the honey-choc sauce, place the chocolate, cream and honey in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until smooth. Place the cocoa powder and water in a bowl and stir until smooth. Add the cocoa to the chocolate mixture and stir constantly until almost boiling. Remove from the heat, add the butter and vanilla essence and stir until smooth.

Preheat the oven to 230dg. Line two or three baking trays with baking paper.

To make the choux puffs, combine the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until boiling. Add the flour and stir quickly with a wooden spoon over low heat for about 5-8minutes or until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Transfer to an electric mixer and using the paddle attachment, slowly add the beaten egg, mixing well. Alternatively, slowly add the beaten egg and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and elastic. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate.

Place tablespoons of the mixture on the baking trays and bake for 6-8min or until puffed, then reduce the temperature to 185dg and bake for a further 15minutes or until cooked inside.

To serve, cut the choux puffs in half and place a scoop of vanilla ice-cream in the centre. Replace the tops and pour hot honey chocolate sauce over the top. Serve immediately.