P1150706I want to tell you about my favourite place in Sydney. It’s possibly my favourite place in the world.

The shortlist is quite long (Cliff bars of Dubrovnik, Yountville in the Napa Valley, Avoca Beach, Ammoudi in Santorini and Wailea in Maui all make cameos). But Freshwater Beach, or more specifically, Pilu at Freshwater, is my kind of bliss.

That’s where we went to celebrate our seven year wedding anniversary on Sunday.

(Still blows my mind that this was seven years ago. For a walk down memory lane and to see me recreate our wedding feast for our four year anniversary, go here.)

Last year we spent our anniversary anxiously milling about our old apartment in Waterloo as it went under the auctioneer’s hammer. The sale of it was the final clinch in our transition north. There was little time for hurrahs; The Hungry One was working 18 hour days and over the weekends and baby Will was keeping me up longer still. We were thigh deep in survival mode. This year, we felt fit to celebrate.

We could have headed across the bridges to any of the happening restaurants in Sydney; Momofuku Seibo, Nomad and Billy Kwong were all up for consideration.

But none of them are a four minute drive from our front door. None have a view like this.

IMG_7388And none of them meant that once we finished drinking espressos and eating shortbreads on a platter scribed with ‘Happy Anniversary’ in chocolate we could get changed out of our Sunday best and throw ourselves in the surf.

IMG_7397Lunch was nigh on perfect. There was a platter of Sardinian music bread to start, with house made ricotta glossed with truffled honey, marinated olives, fennel and salumi.

IMG_7389There was barramundi with a cloak of ndjua- that blisteringly spicy Calabrian pork sausage.

IMG_7393There was a sweet plate of pure summer; coconut pannacotta with passionfruit, mango and pineapple sorbet and cheeky cubes of boozy lime jelly.

IMG_7394But the dish that blew me away was a simple sounding starter; suckling pig terrine, chickpea foccacia and salsa verde.

IMG_7390Giovanni Pilu’s terrine makes terrific sustainable use of the pork not used in his signature dish of Melanda Park suckling pig. The salsa verde is sprightly as heck. The presentation as a panini in a rustic bag of greaseproof paper with an invitation from the floor staff to ‘use your hands- really get into it’; was charming. But it was the chickpea foccacia that I can’t forget.

Thicker than socca (the chickpea flour pancakes common to Nice which are featured here and also make an appearance in ‘Cut the Carbs!’ with smoked salmon and whipped curds), more plush than a yeasted bread, this foccacia, or cecina was stunning. It’s nutty, fragrant, crisp and comforting. And as it turns out, not that hard to make at home.

It’s a loose batter of chickpea flour (sometimes sold as ‘besan’ in the Indian section of your supermarket), water, salt and pepper. The batter is rested for a generous period to allow the flour to relax in the liquid.  The pan is glossed with a generous amount of olive oil and then baked until it is a cohesive mass.

Then it’s a simple process of invert, slice, choose your fillings and then toast.

It’s an express lane to a gluten free, slow carb foccacia feast – an age old comfort food staple that since I’ve tried to escape the crutch of white carbs, I miss the most.  (Though tonight, I’m going to toast cubes of it and toss it in a warm salad with slow roasted pork shoulder, fennel, balsamic, rocket and figs).

The real secret to a favourite place is finding a way to keep it with you always. This is now mine.

Pilu at Freshwater
“On the beach”, Moore Road, Freshwater NSW 2096
http://www.piluatfreshwater.com.au/

Chickpea Flour Foccacia Paninis

P1150706Makes enough for 6-8 paninis

Shopping/foraging

P1150643175 g chickpea flour/besan
2 cups/500 ml water
1 tsp sea salt flakes
grinding of pepper
1/3 cup/80 ml olive oil

Panini fillings; mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes, prosciuitto, rocket, salsa verde, tuna, aiolli- to what takes your fancy.

Method

1) Four hours before you plan on eating whisk together the chickpea flour and the water in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 3 hours.

P11506472) Preheat the oven to 190C/375 F. Whisk the batter again to emulsify.

P11506493) Pour the olive oil into the base of a baking tray the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Swirl around to coat 1 cm up the sides and around the base. Pour the batter over the top (the batter should be no more than 1 cm high. Gently transfer to the preheated oven.

P11506774) Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is crisp and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin.

P11506795) Run a knife around the outside of the tin and gently invert the contents onto a bread board.

P11506815) Slice into panini size portions and prepare your filling.

6) Preheat a panini press or a fry pan. Toast until the outside is crisp and the interior molten.

P11506887) Enjoy.

P1150703