Sunday, 29 December 2013

New Year New Shop at Sweet Greek

When Kathy Tsaples does something, she does it in a big way.

She first mentioned she was writing a book a while back and I imagined a paperback, home-photocopied kind of job. And when I saw the Sweet Greek cookbook I was blown away - a truly stunning cookbook, filled with beautiful photographs and recipes, linked together with Kathy's own story.

Fast-forward a couple of months and Kathy began tackling another project, the remaking of her Sweet Greek shop, to resemble her vision of a working kitchen in the Market and a shop that showed her favourite dishes and products.

It was a family affair, diagrams and floorplans discussed from every angle over the kitchen table.  And when it was complete, Kathy's husband and son could be found in the shop, tools in hand, supervising every copper pipe, every tile to be laid.

And now, Kathy can be found shopping for her produce in the Market (she gets her meats from Gary's, she gets her fruit and vegetables from Pino's) and walking straight to her shop to make delicious Greek savouries and sweets.

Here are a few of the new dishes on display, now that Sweet Greek has expanded facilities. The cakes have been particularly popular, with many being gluten and dairy free. Simply because wheat and milk were often scarce when these recipes were being developed.

And now Kathy's making her New Year cakes, each with a lucky coin baked inside, bringing good fortune for the next 12 months. Just like Kathy, may each of you find your coin.

Happy New Year from the Prahran Market Team

Friday, 20 December 2013

Getting Ready for Christmas

Four days. You have FOUR DAYS LEFT. 

By now you've missed the boat on being super-organised and it's way too early for the last-minute panic. So let's have a look at what can be done, over this weekend leading into Christmas, to get you ready for the big day.


Think about when you want to hit peak ripeness - will you be assembling a nectarine and peach trifle on Christmas Eve or topping French toast with plums on Boxing Day? We're lucky enough to have some fruit arriving here in just-picked condition, dropped off to greengrocers by the farmers who grew it. But others, particularly the stone fruits, need a little time to ripen into their prime. Look at your menus and think about picking up some fruit in advance this weekend. If you do have to leave it until the last minute, place the green fruit in a paper bag with a ripe banana - the ethylene will speed up the ripening process.


However stern our Bracher Arcade traders may look about cut-off dates, most of them will still take orders for Christmas Eve. Check out this list of festive specialties and put your name down for anything you must have gracing your table.


Unless you're using citrus on raw fish, a long lead-in time with marinating is an excellent idea. Note: am not suggesting you marinade a leg of lamb for four days at room temperature a la Julia Child, but whipping up your marinade ingredients and tossing your pork roast or eye fillet in it will add to your flavour impact come the big day.


The steeping of dried fruits in brandy for cakes and puddings traditionally begins months in advance.  But if you're left it until now, I suggested heating your brandy over a gentle flame and then adding the fruit. This will plump out and absorb the brandy. Once cool, you can use in your own Stir-up Sunday reenactment.


Now is also an excellent time to purchase any supplies for homemade gift-giving. The paper baking moulds from the Essential Ingredient add a lovely touch to homebaked cakes, plus you don't have to worry about retrieving your cakestand later.

If you are making chocolate treats or putting together a platter for a party, disposable trays and wicker baskets from Donnally's Party Supplies are heaven sent. (Small baskets are also heaven-sent for throwing together a quick hamper for the unexpected guest who drops by with a gift.)


Most of the feast will be picked up and prepped on Christmas Eve but there are plenty of things you can get in advance - small batch sodas, sparkling wine and craft beer, crackers, nuts, potted poinsettias, cured meats and cheeses.

Gingerbread House

Jaspers Coffee and Abla's Patisserie stock ready-to-display gingerbread houses. But if you'd like to make your own this weekend, I suggested dotting it with some interesting jewelled fruits and nuts from 53 Degrees East and the Sweet and Nut Shop. Baking this weekend will also mean that your house of cake won't get too brittle and hard before the sweet, sticky demolition.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Boxes with Bows

Boxes tied with bows, stuffed stockings, hampers bursting with goodness, isn't that what Christmas is about? Part of the delight for Melburnians is that we celebrate in the summer, when our paddocks are full, our orchards abundant with trees, bowing to the ground with fruit.

There is so much glorious produce and when it comes to sharing your festivities, a basket, box, a trolley even, of the best Victoria has to offer can be the most heartwarming way to say Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or just Gosh I'm Glad I Know You ...

Now this is one of the handiest options - a lovely insulated bamboo trolley from Naheda's Choice.You can pick one up from Naheda for $14.95 (bargain!) or, if you buy over $100 of choice items, such as her rose petal Turkish delight, she will throw it in free.If you are worried about filling this up, add a bunch of flowers or a bunch of celery. Celery is big.

Heritage Chocolate have some lovely wrapped chocolate selections, which are just perfect for a large family. The kids can eat a Santa while parents check out fancy praline fillings.

La Biscotteria are new to the Market this year and have swept me away with their fresh, handmade Italian biscuits. Just in time for Christmas they've introduced selection boxes which you can have made up with your own choice of Baci di Dama, Ossa Mordere and Ricciarelli. The fresh fruit and nuts in these biscuits really stand out and beat a tin of Danish butter cookies hands down.

Here's one of the quintessential Christmas gifts, the presentation box of cherries. Trust me, there is never a house where this is spurned, left to sit under the tree until it gets tossed on January 6. You can find presentation boxes from different growers at our many fruiterers, including Koala Country which came top in Epicure's Christmas Cherry Road Test at F & J Fruiterers and Reliable Fruit & Vegies.

Above, Damian Pike shows how to store a cherry box, lid on, and upside down until you're ready to serve. This preserves the beautiful presentation of the top layer. (Apparently this also means you can help yourself from the bottom of the box without anyone knowing but I didn't tell you that!)
Spanish Paella Kit from The Essential Ingredient
We have shopping baskets at Prahran Market Hardware and wicker ones at Donnally's Party Supplies that you may fill with what your heart desires. Or stop by the Essential Ingredient for one of their indulgent hampers, including personalised chalkboard crates.

And if you're after the uber-local, Shannon at Swords has a selection of Victorian craft beer packs, including this one brewed in Brunswick. It's hard to get nearer than that!

Coffee hamper from Jasper Coffee

Any of our traders will be happy to help you put together a wonderful combination of treats and treasures for your loved ones. Mix and match, fill it high, make it wonderful. It is Christmas after all and it only comes once a year.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Visions of Sugar Plums

You don't just have to have visions of sugar plums dancing in your head ...

Whole glacé pears at 53 Degrees East
When putting together a Christmas feast, despite being very much in the twenty-first century, most of us hark back to older times. How many people do you know who will sit down to molecular gastronomy inspired dinners and how many will have Nan's pud? I ask you. Honestly.

However fancy we may get at the rest of the year, at Yuletide, everyone seems to want to go back to something traditional, something cosy. Something positively medieval.

Sugar plums actually came about in the seventeenth century. Not necessarily dried plums (aka prunes) they were dried fruits mixed with spices and sweeteners and given a hard coating. The coating process was long and dull and led to an end result with a hard shell - like sugar almonds or (more prosaically) M&Ms.
Glacé whole clementines at the Essential Ingredient
Glacé cherries at the Essential Ingredient

You can still find sweets like this today - known in the confectionery world as dragée. Or you can plump for the soft sweetness of glacé fruit, a fourteenth century staple. We have an amazing selection here at the Market. Wandering through the Essential Ingredient I found whole clementines! Pear quarters! Cedro! And dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries.

And at Pete n Rosie's Deli, you can select your precise weight of sour cherries. Incidentally, these are perfect atop Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes and are almost impossible to find elsewhere in this natural state.

Cherries at Pete n Rosie's Deli
The Sweet and Nut Shop stock a wide range of Australian and imported glacé fruits, including ginger, pineapple, apricot, pear, peach and kiwi! Glacé kiwi - did you ever see such a thing? You can truly make a downunder festive cake!

Glacé peaches at the Sweet and Nut Shop
For best results, you must steep your fruits in alcohol months in advance. Most hard core CWA types will stick to maturing it in brandy or rum, me I like fig liquer. But some of these more unusual glacé offerings are so light that it would almost be a shame to drown their delicacy with a heavy, cloying liquer.

Fruits can be mixed into plum puddings, mince tarts, fruit cake and the perennial Australian favourite, ice cream pudding. With Melbourne's changeable weather, you never know what you might need to have on hand!
Glacé Fruit Gift Pack at the Sweet and Nut Shop
So pop in, stock up and steep. It's going to be a sweet, sweet Christmas ...

Glacé fruit at 53 Degrees East