Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Well howdy

I have many weaknesses. Asian cooking. Growing potatos ( stop laughing Mr Flinthart, this isn't Tasmania.) Keeping up this blog, judging by the date on the last post, I mean Xmas is about food, you'd think I'd have enough material. And bread.

I've had a crack at bread from a few books, but never satisfactorily. During a recent back and forth over sausages or vege's or something food related with the knowledgeable Silverbeet from Twitter I was recomended this. The Handmade Loaf. And joy upon joy I got it for my birthday. At Xmas, but then that's the way things go when you're born in December.

Imagine breadmaking as religion. Breadmaking as I'd known it was like catholicism, very hands on, lots of to and fro. Well Dan Lepard's method is the buddism of bread. Put it together, go away and contemplate the state of the universe. Knead very lightly and leave until you have found inner peace. Knead very, very lightly and leave to rise. Invent a new form of Kung Fu...... Maybe I've pushed this too far.

The fact remains though that this method is much, much less kneading and pushing around of the dough. It requires precise measurements, something that binds and constricts my soul but I have made the best bread that I've ever made, still not what I'd call top quality but good enough that I'll keep on trying. The sour dough starter will be ready in a day or two and in keeping faith with the blog tonight I am going to make ham and mushroom foccacia!

MF from the iPhone

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm ba-ak

Ok gentlemen - sorry for the break in transmission there for a bit. You know, work etc.
However, I have a mission for you if you choose to accept.

I have purloined a duckling. I need the best damned duck recipe you have - with the exception of confit - time is of the essence here - lunch on the weekend.

Your time starts now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ahh grasshopper, take the spring roll from my hand.

Two restaurant reviews from me in a few weeks, something is going on. The something in fact was a late game of footy and a lovely balmy Brisbane Monday evening gave me an excuse to try out a new Asian restaurant in Tenerife, Grasshopper Kitchen.

For those of you who follow chefs like celebrities in who weekly, check out the proper food reviewsfor all the essentials, I was simply interested in the food, especially the Chinese BBQ pork I'd picked from the online menu, still longing for the crispy pork ribs I'd had at Sichuan House. But I was denied, it had been dropped from the menu after the chef and owner weren't satisfied with the final dish. While I admire the ruthlessness of menu selection it left me searching the menu fir more porky goodness.

Since The Wife and I were both playing footy in a few hours we were only after starters, which was a shame, there was some beautiful sounding mains. We settled on the starter dish and some Asian greens in soy. We got four little serves each. Each was perfectly presented and a discussion between The Wife, our host and myself broke out on what to start with.

The kingfish was first off the rank, diced bits of fish with a beautiful gazpacho sorbet on top. I thought I could taste little explosions of citrus and wondered if they were using the fantastic Aussie ingredient, finger lime. The gazpacho was bursting with flavour, I wanted to lick the small bowl out. The Wife declared she'd happily come back and have that as her main next time. The finger lime suspicion was confirmed when we moved to the scallop, which had a small mound of green finger lime bubbles on top. If I could make a suggestion it would be to find the finger lime with the pinkish flesh. It has larger segments and more of a taste explosion when you burst the little balls. They were silky smooth and with subtle flavour, I'm not a scallop fan but these were delicious.

A shot glass full of peking duck consomme with shitake mushrooms and a green soy bean in the bottom was next up and straight down the throat it went. I love duck, to the point where I raised and killed my own and this was top notch stuff. The last dish was Sang choi bao, pork mince on shredded lettuce. It was packed to the brim with flavour and out of all the ones we tried it was the dish I would most like to replicate at home.

The food was delicious, real restaurant style, with great care taken on presentation and the balance of the ingredients. In fact the food was much better presented than I was, dressed for a football game, but i felt relaxed and comfortable on the wide cool deck with the breeze off the Brisbane river. In fact the styling is spot on, the funky lime green decor matches the tone of the food and surprisingly doesn't clash at all with the reassuring solidity of the woolshed in which its housed.

It was a Monday and 530 pm, but our host was more than happy to chat with a scruffily dressed customer about the food and what was good to eat, you couldn't have asked for better service. In fact, they were so slick that by the time I had left the mistake on the starter menu had been fixed on the website. Now that is on the ball.

Like I said earlier, I'd only bother to replicate one of the meals at home, but anytime I want a fresh vibrant and interesting feed of asian inspired food, I'll be back to the Grasshopper.

MF from the iPhone

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A relationship through food.

I'm no fancy food critic so I'll let these photos tell the story of our dinner.



The Wife and I went out for dinner on Tuesday to celebrate 8 years of being married. Not too shabby. When we first got married for our anniversary we would go to somewhere like Maleny or Montville, get ourselves a lovely little cabin and relax for a weekend.

A feature of the weekend was food. Because the money for the trip was tied up in the cabin, I would try and cook something special. I think the best dish I'd ever cooked was some Spatchcock, stuffed with new potatoes. I'd picked this recipe because rather than the traditional oven all this cabin has was a toaster oven. I showed some mates on the back deck the night before we went. "what the FK are those?". "Baby chickens". The boys fell on the deck laughing at my tender little birds but they tasted delicious.

Once we purchased lantanaland the need to go for a weekend away with beautiful natural views and a spa dissipated somewhat, considering that sums up our place nicely. So we started going out for dinner someplace nice. Songbirds up the mountain at Tambourine was our first pick and it was a spectacular meal, with a setting and service to match.

This year I returned to a restaurant Birmo had suggested for a place to take some clients to for lunch, Fellinis. It's on the water just near seaworld and the view with the lights over the boats, with the flicker of lightning in the distance of the massive storm on it's way was very romantic. The service from the middle aged Italian gentlemen was polished beautifully. I loved the way he politely dealt with the typical coastie wannabie high flyers by gently rebuffing them for trying to scam a window table "those are reserved sir, perhaps here would do." He was then treated like a blow in. "I've been on the coast 14 years and never seen you mate!" "well sir I have lived on the coast for twenty years and I've not seen you either."

We got some duck ravioli to share as entree. I always worry when I make ravioli that the pasta on the edges are too thick texturally, but they are exactly how the chefs here did them. The butter and sage sauce was devine and they took the edge off nicely.

My spatchcock and The Wife's veal with mozzarella and eggplant was for mains. This spatchcock could only be described as brilliant. It had a salt and pepper crust and had been cooked in some type of press but was still fantastically succulent. I devoured every bit except for the one which I swapped for the veal. The veal was tender and the eggplant and cheese silky. I immediately wanted to come back to have that as well.

In fact Fellinis is like that, one of the places I read the menu and not struggle because there is only one or two things I like, but I struggle because I'd need a week of dinners to have the things I MUST try. I like trying new places, but if I just want to take someone out for a nice feed, I'll be coming back here.

The night was finished off nicely with an insanely thick and rich mocha from the chocolate cafe next door. Worth every overpriced cent of six bucks!

MF from the iPhone

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

An Odd Ingredient

I've got a mate who lives for the fishing down here in Tas. He is, not to put too fine a point on it, mad for the trout. Loves it.

The thing is, he loves stalking the things and catching them more than he loves eating them. Not that he's averse to fanging the odd salmonid, no -- but that sometimes, he hooks one or two more than he can readily eat on his own.

Thus it was that this morning, roundabout 0930, my mate John E swaggered proudly into Chez Flinthart bearing a plastic shopping bag with a couple fish in it. One of the two was a respectable half-kilo or so of trouty goodness. The other was a very fine kilo-plus piece of fish, and John was of the opinion that there was no way he'd be able to do justice to the big bugger.

So, for the price of a decent cup of coffee and some friendly conversation, I acquired one very fresh, wild, lake-bred Rainbow Trout. I promised Natalie I'd cook it for her that evening, after I got back from ju-jitsu training. She was well chuffed.

Unfortunately, I forgot we'd raided the larder heavily for the visit from Dave Sag the night before, so I had to improvise a little. And yet -- when the regular ingredients aren't to hand, is that not when the really good cook starts to improvise?

And so I repaired to the herb garden:

That would be nasturtium, right there. A beautiful, vividly coloured flower that grows rapidly in many climate conditions, on a creeper endowed with broad, flat leaves. The flower itself is edible, as are the leaves, which possess a very nifty sort of peppery, lemony kind of flavour. It's quite strong on its own, but you can do all kinds of things with it if you're careful to balance it out.

I grabbed a half-dozen leaves or so. Then I pulled some lemons off the tree, and went back inside. First, I threw some basmati rice in the cooker, with a little turmeric for colour and flavour. Next, I chopped up an avocado, a few leftover roma and cherry tomatoes, a little chili, and a nice spring onion. That lot got mixed together with a bit of balsamic vinegar and just a dash of sesame oil, and set aside.

The fish itself, already nicely cleaned by John, I stuffed with a mix of shredded nasturtium and spring onion, and a layer of lemon slices. Then I lay some nasturtium leaves on a piece of aluminium foil, and put lemon slices on that. I salted the fish nicely, and lay it atop the lemon slices. More lemon slices on top of the fish, and more nasturtium leaves over the top. Wrap the foil around nice and tight, pop the fish in the oven to bake at about 170 for... umm... long enough, and the result?

Well, I peeled back the foil and the fish smelled fantastic. The nasturtium leaves had formed a tight wrap, holding the lemon slices next to the fish itself, helping to steam the whole thing. The pepper flavour of the nasturtiums combined beautifully with the salt, the lemon and the spring onions to provide a really fine lift for the tender, flaky fish itself. Placed on a bed of yellow rice, topped with a generous helping of the improvised avocado salsa... and yes, I had just enough leftover Dalrymple chardonnay to wash it all down.

Life's good. Grow nasturtiums: they're cool.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Belated Melbourne post

Been very, very slack on the writing front, so much so that I hadn't written up one of the best meals I have ever had. I had to go to Melbourne for work, we ran a competition for some butchers and they had a day of touring shops and manafacturers in Melbourne and I hit up some Burgers for a meet, greet and feed that night.

Guru Bob and Barnes suggested a little Sichuan Chinese place in one of Melbournes iconic laneways, convinently placed about ten metres from our hotel. When we got there Barnes was jumping out of his skin with excitement, promising hot and spicy dishes galore. The butchers were not so sure, they liked anglofied Chinese, but this seemed a lot more challenging. Naut arrived about the same time as the first beers and we got down to ordering.

If like me, you like spice and pork, you would have been in heaven. There was a lot of pork on the menu and I think we ordered four differrent types. Slivers of warm pork in a soy and sesame dipping sauce was a revelation, just warmed through and beautifully tender. The milder twice cooked pork was a favourite of my butcher mates and the dried fried beans were popular with everyone.

However the top dog was the spicy pork ribs. Tender in the middle with a crisp cumin and chilli crust it was unlike any pork I have ever had and I've eaten a lot of pork. Barnes and I tucked in like zombies at Stephen Hawking's house.

I've had a good surf of the web and can't find a definitive recipe. One of the folks on Twitter suggested a recipe but I must be missing something because my attempt was a long, long way from what I had in that little laneway.

It was fun to see the Burgers, even though Havock quarintined himself, unsure if contact with my long hair and beard would give him a dose of QLD FKN FERALS disease.

The next day I went for a wander though the Viccy markets. Wow. I can see why Melbourne looks down its nose at us when it comes to food. Brisbane has nothing like this, not even close. Most of the delis at the markets looked like they had superior range than most Brisbane delis, at least in the area that I can comment on, smallgoods. The fresh fruit and veg was of the standard of the Powerhouse markets, but this was an ordinary Thursday morning, not a Saturday. Having this type of standard would definetly foster a greater food culture, hell I found it inspiring after a 14 hour day and four hours sleep.

The one thing that dissapointed me about Melbourne? The coffee. It wasn't bad, just no different to Brisbane. The best one I had was almost as good, but not quite as what I'd get at the hole in the wall at the Merlo factory. And I went to a coffee shop reccomended by Bob and another local coffee nut. Where was my liquid gold in a cup dammit!

MF from the iPhone

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brisbane bloggers, assemble.

When I ran the live music venues I would talk the ear off anyone about live Australian music. Blah, blah, blah, if you weren't into music I'm sure I was very boring company. Last Tuesday, EatDrinkBeKerry organized a meeting of brisbane's finest food bloggers at Bar Barossa and the people running it are as passionate about wine as I ever was about live music.

Kerry and Darren had organized a great night, a winemaker, Marco, and a wine wholesaler ran us through about eight wines, talking about the type of wine, why this wine differed from others in the same category, what winemakers looked for in their grapes and in their wines and other tasty little tidbits. I was much more interested in the fact that Marco and his family make their own prosciutto, which I am very keen on trying to do myself, despite the challenges of a qld climate.

To me honest Kerry and Gastronomy Gal have a much better write ups on the wine than i can attempt. The food was OK, nothing in the same league as the Sichuan Chinese i had the next night (more on this later), but it was the passion for the grape that will keep people coming back to this venue and if have any, any interest in wine, than make the time to visit, chat to the staff and be prepared for a lively discussion.

It was great to meet the varied group of people interested in food and writing about it. We all came from different angles and have different ideas but the shared ethic of sitting round a table and eating is pretty strong. I've put some of the blogs in the blog roll so check them out if you are into food and if I have forgotten you, let me know and i'll add it in.

Heres to the next meeting, Natascha Mirosch has already suggested a field trip!

MF from the iPhone

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Food Of Wanaka

The night on the Cold floor was matched in culinary terms by the thing Air New Zealand like to call a shepherds pie. I mean, it shouldn't be hard to get right, some half decent pastry, lamb mince, but no, it was so bad it didn't even come close to the "pie at the footy" standard. The beer failed the same standard, being lukewarm and in a redbull can for some bizare reason. Perhaps airlines think if they can crush the spirits of terrorists with the food, they won't bother doing anything.

By the time we had got to Wanaka, about an hours drive out of Queenstown, I was tired enough and hungry enough to almost, but not quite, be happy to see another Air NZ meal. Thankfully we found a great little cafe, Lago, just in behind the pubs and I got stuck in to one of my alltime breakfast favourites, eggs benedict. I can be pretty harsh on these when i buy them out, mainly because I can make a great one at home, my own duck eggs and smoked salmon give me a certain edge i'll admit. This one, maybe because of the hunger, was 10 out of 10 good, not to mention a coffee i inhaled. Oh, and they had these great little rostis too, loved them.

I had a few hours before the bucks party, so we decided to go check out a local mediterranean foodmarket and the local butcher, with the nip in the NZ air i had a hankering for lamb shanks. The foodmarket was everything the waitress at the cafe had promised, I bought one of the best loaves of soy and linseed bread i have ever had the pleasure to smear unhealthy amounts of butter on. One of the other things i love about NZ is that they treat the potato with the respect it deserves. I could have bought heaps of different varieties, but they also had four different types in these big 10kg paper bags. A whole weeks worth of potatoes!

The lamb shanks went into a big steel pot with some tinned tomatoes, carrot, onion, garlic, a bottle of Montieths Apple Cider and some mushrooms and was whacked into an oven that had the least useable interface i have used. I took me 20 minutes of beeping to wrestle it on at the right temperature. After running round firing weapons with the bucks, a few beers then a nap, lamb shanks in front of a wood fire went down exceedingly well. Mashed potato of course.

The next day, rested and refreshed, we were wandering down into town for a coffee when we noticed a little odds and ends shop, Jumping Tangents that also sold chocholate. We tasted a whole heap, lime and chilli dark chocolate, sea salt chocolate and they were all really, really good stuff, enough that i shelled out for lime and chilli dark chocolate. Cathie also shared her fabulous hot chocolate recipe with me.

In two litres of milk add a few bay leave and some chilli. Bring to just under a simmer and leave to infuse. Make a ganache by melting 200g of the best dark choc you can buy in 300mL of cream. Strain the milk into the ganache and mix. That's it! No sugar needed or added. She told me the incas used to add a flour to thicken, as they used it for their armies as a type of energy drink when marching, but she like the normal consistency. It was very warming, with just the hints of the bay and chilli, a subtle added note. Delicious

We also did go for a coffee and i was drawn straight to the kitchen and these 80+ year old copper cookware hanging up. The chef told me that in all the time she had worked there i was the first to wander over and have a good look. Cookware like this is part art, part functionality, but I was disappointed to learn that they never cook with them.

We had a roast chook for dinner, a huge bird that must have won a chicken body building competition before going to the butcher and then the wedding on the saturday. Wedding food can be a funny thing but the food at this wedding matched the quality of the venue, the weather and the bride and groom, top class! Good sushi, rare roast rib fillet, new potatoes in butter, salmon, risotto and asparagus. I could go on, but my mate Davey sums it and the whole Wanaka food experience up much, much better.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Recycled Meals 101

A culinary challenge I like to set myself is to see if I can get two different meals out of one cooking effort. No, not because I'm lazy in the kitchen; on the contrary, I find cooking a complex dish quite relaxing after a long week in the salt mines. (I don't cook much during the week, but during the weekend I do the bulk of the cooking in my household.)

It's partly because I like the economy aspect. I think it is something I picked up working at a large multinational food company that prides itself on not wasting anything. (Apart perhaps, from the souls of the hapless munters who find themselves working there long enough to get excited about products like canned dogfood. No, I'm not kidding.)

Anyway, any by products or seconds / rejects from the manufacture of one product would become an ingredient for another, known as "rework". So the best products, from the company's perspective, are the ones that can share key ingredients with another. This is why the nougat inside a Milky Way bar (the Australian variety), seems vaguely familiar - it's a reworked Mars Bar (again, the Australian variety) that didn't quite make it.

Unfortunately, they never found a way to recycle those sickly strawberry flavoured Milky Way bars, other than to sell them cheap to the hapless munters toiling away at the sister company's dogfood cannery at the other end of the state.

So armed with this insight into economical food production, I like to find ways of reworking leftovers into meals that are as different as possible. So, I'm not talking about leftover taco mince becoming mince on toast, or chopping up leftover roast dinner and frying it up to make bubble and squeak, although those things are good. I'm talking about a different meal.

Example one. Leftover risotto isn't just good for spackfilling the cracks on your stucco walls. If you have any large inclusions (pieces of meat, vegetables, etc), hook them out and chop them finely. Then add back to the risotto, along with some finely grated hard cheese like a parmesan or reggiano. Next, make the risotto into small balls, wrapped around a small piece of the same hard cheese (about 5mm cubed). Then crumb the balls (you can take a short cut here and use Krum-in-one or you can do it the old fashioned way. You decide.) and deep fry them until golden brown. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Arancini. Serve hot, with a cold Italian beer like a Peroni or a Moretti.

Example two. Yesterday I slow cooked some lamb shanks in an Italian-style sauce with a tomato base, which I served with mash. They were scrumpdiddlyumptious, and after 8 or so hours in the slow cooker the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender. I had a few shanks left over, so this morning, I whipped up a quick and easy white sauce, chopped up the remaining lamb shanks and the carrots keeping the lambykins company in the slow cooker and made a lasagne. Its in the fridge at the moment, ready to whip out and stick in the oven for about 30 or 40 minutes tonight, when the hungry hoards arrive. I plan to serve a cheeky lambrusco with it, for the alliteration value alone.

That's how I roll, gentle readers.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Random thoughts.

Been over at Fraser Island this week, which brings out a subset of a subset of cooking, camping cooking but without a fire. It worked out pretty good, including a lamb and pork roast in camp ovens for fifteen people. The highlight was getting up at half past five on Tuesday morning to go to have a chat with the fantastic Mr Birmingham during his local ABC gig. You can get the audio here. Many thanks to Birmo for getting us on. Apologies to Abe, the producer attributed the English Breakfast post to me, once again i steal his glory!

Once I got home and chilled out I was hankering for smoothies, one of my favourite things in the whole of the food kingdom. After waiting for Sunbeam to replace part of my stem blender for the last four months I gave in and bought a new one. It created this.

Mulberries off the tree in the duck pen, banana, yoghurt, ice, ice cream, milk and lantana gold honey. Mmmmmmmm it was a mighty fine breakfast. Of course as soon as I had used the new blender the part for the other one turned up.

MF from the iPhone

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Best Full English Breakfast Ever, Except Maybe for the Next Day's

Greetings, gentle readers.

I have been travelling recently, and my travels took me to the Ol' Dart. When in Rome, I like to eat cotechino, as the Romans do. So what else could I do in England but try the Full English Breakfast (FEB)? In the space of a week I managed 3 FEBs. All in the name of research (and for the make good of the glorious sausage empire back home) of course.

The first of these FEBs was at the Mountbatten Hotel in Monmouth St, Covent Garden. It just happened to be free, in compensation for my room not being ready when it was supposed to be. And just as well it was free. A feeble buffet jobby, barely kept warm and with black pudding that had the taste and consistency of sawdust, so the less said the better.

The second and third were from the same venue, Brown Betty's in St James Street, Nottingham. You see the first one was SO good, I had to go back the next day to see if I had just managed to fluke a good result - a flash in the pan, if you will.

But the second was a carbon copy. The only difference was that I asked the chef to make the black pudding a little crispier and he happily obliged. That and it came with a bit of lip after the night before's cricket result at Trent Bridge.

Imagine my surprise when I checked out the BB website to find that the sample pic of their FEB looked EXACTLY like the meal I had. It wasn't put together by a stylist, but a good ol' fashioned English cook who really knows what he's doing and doesn't mind obliging travelling Aussie cricket fans who like their black pudding bronto crisp.

Anyway, the FEB consists of toast, bacon, sausages (a nice English pork variety), black pud, stewed tomatoes, baked beans with onions and more bacon, fried potatoes and mushrooms. Plus tea or coffee for all of a FIVER. A FIVER, I tells ya!

And it is HUGE. In fact, if you are heading off to Trent Bridge for the cricket, I STRONGLY recommend that you load up with a Brown Betty's FEB before heading off, to save yourself getting bent over the table for a GBP 6 grotty roast pork roll!

And if you're really lucky, the motherly proprietor of Brown Betty's (I'm guessing her name is Betty but I didn't ask) and her two sons will keep you entertained with their friendly bickering and impromptu singing and dancing to the radio. They told me the Aussie cricketers eat there too, so it must be good, although I didn't see any of them on my two visits. And they were staying around the corner from all reports. (Betty's Boys thought I must have been a fan of Merv Hughes, given my moustache was an obvious homage. Right again.)

So when next in Nottingham, take a short stroll from the main square towards Maid Marian Way along St James Street and tell 'em Kevin sent you.

(They kept calling me "Kevin" as I was wearing my KEVIN 70,000,000,000 t-shirt. I tried explaining, but it didn't really work, so I agreed that Kevin was my name and that 70,000,000,000 was my popularity rating.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quick And Dirty Dessert

Desserts, so far as I'm concerned, serve one major purpose: they are used to bribe small children into eating properly.

Not every dinner needs to have a dessert, no. And most nights, if they're pining for some post-dinner treat, you can either tell 'em that they should have eaten more of their nasi goreng if they're still hungry, or offer 'em a piece of fruit.

But it pays to keep the little bastards off balance, so a repertoire of easy, tasty desserts that you can pull out of your sleeve at short notice is incredibly valuable. Once, maybe twice a week, you listen to the inevitable barrage of complaints about whatever you've put on the table... then you arch an eyebrow, shrug, and say "Oh, well. I suppose you won't be wanting any dessert, either."

Heh. I admit it. I love watching the conflict on their faces at that point.

Anyway, last night was one of those nights. We had another long day of rain and fog, kids trapped indoors. They were pretty well behaved on the whole. We put up some insulation in the shed. There was practice of musical instruments. There was extensive dishwashing and laundry. There was Wii gaming, and reading of books. And come dinner, Elder Son asked about dessert.

Well, I hadn't planned anything. But I did have a few croissants, and some dark cooking chocolate.

The French do this thing they like to call petite pain aux chocolat. The Yanks call it a chocolate-filled croissant. I like to use the nancified French label just to see my kids try to wrap their heads around it. But the truth is that it's so quick and so deadly simple to do that it's almost an embarrassment -- except that it tastes marvellous.

You slit your croissants. You stuff in three or four squares of good dark chocolate. You wrap the pastries in foil to prevent burning, and put 'em in a moderate oven for about five to eight minutes.

When they come out, the croissants are soft and moist, and the chocolate has melted into a divinely gooey mess. It's absolutely fantastic -- and the kids will line up and jump through flaming hoops for it. You could probably get creative, pair it up with some sliced fruit and whipped cream or whatever... but why bother?

Melted chocolate. Warm puff pastry. It doesn't get better than this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mission tart

MISSION - to make a dessert to use the following ingredients. Duck eggs (I have heaps at the moment). Half a tin of caramelised condenced milk that I had left over.

THE PLAN - make a caramel, choc and walnut tart.

As has been mentioned before, I have not the temperement for cakes and desserts. Too half arsed. So I approached this a little scientifically, not what The Wife would call scientifically, I didn't go out and sample a whole bunch of people who have my half arsed approach to measure cooking. No, I read a few different recipes to try and get a feel for the chemistry involved. I then made some of Maggie Beers most fantastic sour cream shortcrust pastry. Then I washed up. The bloody kitchen was a mess from the dinner prep and The Wife gets testy if I leave it ALL for her.

Once it was chilled down, rolled out and in the dish I blind baked it for a bit. Then I tipped in the tin of caramel and scattered the walnuts in and returned it to the oven. Now for the experimental bit. I creamed equal parts of sugar and butter. While that was happening I melted some old dark cooking choclate I had in a cup of milk. I then slowly beat in three duck eggs to the butter/sugar mix, then a tablespoon of corn flour and about half a cup of plain flour. This was followed by the melted chocolate mixture. I was going for that texture that's between a cake and a cheesecake, with the layer of sticky caramel and nuts between that and the crunch and crumble of the shortcrust.

I pulled out the tart base, the caramel had bubbled and spread over the base and slowly poured in the choc mixture. Dropped the heat in the oven and baked for about ten minutes until firm.

Unbloodybeliveable. It came out perfect, just like I had imagined it. I thought all this cake stuff was all perfection and ratios. Maybe I just got lucky but I would have to check, check and check again to achieve that result normally.


MF from the iPhone

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Something without numbers

Girlclumsy had a little rant today on Twitter about News Ltd (evil TM.) and Fairfax both running fairly tabloid headlines regarding women on their websites. The News one dealt with the rise of the "bigger" model and whether this was actually an unhealthy role model as well, the gist of it being "see, she's big I don't need to exercise I can sit on the couch and eat another pie." It lead to a bit of a chat about BMI ( body mass index) and whether it's a useful measurement for what's healthy, compared to using the dress size method of healthiness.

It also allowed me to complain that exercising six days a week and a ten month absitence from hungry jacks ( I gave up on all the other chain takeaways a decade ago, but couldn't kick the HJ habit) had not dropped a ounce of weight off my body. Sure I've changed shape but no weight loss. The Wife looks at me with the moral superiority of a doctorate and tells me that it's my diet. To which I reply, bullshit. You see The Wife is a child of science, tempered in the long, long fire of university and thus she places faith in that witchcraft they call dietetics. I however take a different veiwing of science and in particular the way dieticians peddle their beliefs. (if you ever meet my wife, aak her about the patented apple test for randomization of a sample into two groups.)

Take tonights dinner. Pasta with pesto, feta and mushrooms. If you bought all that from the shop it would differ wildly from the meal we had tonight. Why? Because my meal had no numbers. I made the pasta. I made the pesto. The ingredients were all whole foods with no preservatives or emulsifers or stabilizers. People have been eating whole foods for years but most of the chemicals that replace fat or sugar or increase shelf life have been around a very short time and we really don't know what they'll do to our health in the long term. Yet a dietician would veiw my pasta no differently to a pasta and pesto frozen lean cuisine.


Another mate of mine reckons I'm not getting enough numbers. He's currently living off fitness supplements and is dropping weight like breadcrumbs in a fairytale with a wicked stepmother.

The Wife might have a small point on my diet though. My dad was passing through on the weekend and being Fathers Day I made him this in honour of his love of sweets. Lime and caramel tart. Only 100g of sugar, but 8 eggs and butter and cream and mmmmmmmmm.

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ginger Beer Trick

The Wife has entered me in the Masterchef thingy. Which is cool, despite me despising reality TV in general and having watched about 20 minutes of Masterchef this year in particular. The chance to accelerate my learning in the kitchen and get exposure for the possible commercial future of Lantanaland is not one to pass up for simple snobbery,

The Wife did all the entry forms and they questions they asked and the bit I did watch this year leads me to believe that I would struggle in one key area – accuracy. I mean that in presentation and in recipes that require minute accuracy and attention to detail I just fall over. This is why the beer brewing kit that The Wife bought me has sat there unused for four years, because beer requires accuracy and attention to detail to be any good. It is just chemistry.

This early summer weather though has wakened a desire from the last year of high school. No I’m not chasing anything that moves in a short skirt and knee high socks, but if The Wife wants to dress that way I won’t complain. In the last year of school my mate Motts and I brewed the most fantastic ginger beer you will have ever tasted.

We used the traditional bug method, which as I found works off a different bacteria than a yeast based brew, using lactobacillus cultured from leaving some fruit free of pesticides in water out in the sun for a few days. You then add sugar and ginger every day for a week to create the liquid gold for your flavour base. When we made it in high school we loved experimenting. More lemon, less sugar, opening the bottles half way through brewing and adding a shot of rum, we tried it all. Of course we had the explosions that anyone who brews ginger beer experiences. The last bottle that we left behind was opened by Motts dad, it exploded across the yard behind the bottle top and in true loony tunes fashion he tipped the bottle upside down and a single drop came out. I shudder to think what might have happened to Gladstone’s best surgeon if the bottle had succumbed to the pressure before he knocked the top off.

In keeping to form though, I am going to replace the sugar in the recipe with Lantanaland Gold honey, and will balance that with limes instead of lemons. There is nothing better than a mildly alcoholic ginger beer on a hot day and this bloke even has a few tricks for getting round the exploding bottle problem. Read his tips here and I’ll report back with the results!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Organic Lamb

Wednesday was show day in Brisbane, but I have to say it wasn't the hardest days work I've ever done. I took a couple of my customers from Silverwood Organics lamb to lunch at an Italian restaurant at southport, the fantastic Fellini.

Silverwood is run by Andrew and Maree King and if I am accused to giving them a bit more time then I'll happily stand guilty. I've only ever talked to them on the phone but over lunch discovered that they have the same practical approach and attitude to food as I do.

In the middle of the drought things were so bad they had to put down most of their existing Merino stock. The wholesalers were offering to take the sheep at no cost, basically because they knew the primary producers were in such a hard place. Determined to break free of this cycle, they went in to Dorper sheep, a hardier, slightly larger breed that drops it's wool rather than having to be shorn. They also bypassed the wholesaler and sold direct to the public online.

I'm a big fan of this, because you can ask questions of the primary producer that your local butcher in most cases won't be able to answer. It's good gear too, evidenced by their blue ribbon at the Royal Brisbane show.

The lunch went down fantastically well. I've been mining JB for tips for eating out, as I rarely do it and on this he was spot on. I had a crusted rack of lamb, which led to Andrew and Maree striking up a conversation with the owner, which might lead to their lamb making it onto the plates at the restaurant.

So if you live in QLD and you like lamb, check these guys out, because primary producers like these deserve every bit of support we can give.

MF from the iPhone

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Beginner's luck

In keeping with Your Correspondent's theory that cooking is really just experimental science, and with my philosophy that if an experiment's worth doing it's worth doing once, dodgily, and published before anyone asks too many questions, we present a new semi-regular (if not highly irregular) series on the MoFo entitled Beginners' Luck, when unfamiliar dishes will be attempted for the first time and quasi-live-blogged in Almost Sort-Of Real Time so you can watch the disaster unfold before your very eyes.

I've always wanted to have a bash at a paella. As distinct from having a bash at a pinata. Anyway that's a shit joke so I'll move on. Paella is a Spanish rice dish, not too far from a risotto, which originated from the Valencia region which had the key ingredients of (a) nearby ricefields (b) sources of seafood (c) excess cured extract of pig and (d) the intent and willingness to combine the above in the pursuit of Culinary Win. You can make paella out of pretty much anything - other than cardboard or old car tyres, though some Spanish restaurants have presumably tried - but the most familiar form to most folks is the 'mixed' paella of seafood, chicken and pork. This is my shot at it - not necessarily what you should do, but what I did.

Key ingredient: paella rice, specifically known as calasparra or bomba rice, which is a very short grain rice originating from the Valencia region which can absorb three times its own volume in liquid. You'll probably have to go looking for it and it'll cost a bomb, but it's worth it. You could probably try substituting some other form of short grain rice instead, but only if you want to fuck it up.

Key weapon: the paella pan itself, a big fuck-off cast-iron jobbie designed to be fit for purpose. Which you won't have, so substitute any big fuck-off cast-iron pan, whether flat-bottomed or wok-shaped. Or anything big enough to take the volume. The following was attempted using an electric wok. Which limited one's options ref. finishing the bugger off in the oven, but you get that on the big jobs.

As ever, quantities are an estimate, a best guess or just a complete bodge.
500g paella rice (bomba or calasparra)
3 chorizo sausages (~160g) cut into chunks
300g chicken breast fillet, diced
300g bacon pieces - Kiwi bacon is less cured than Aust, any combo of cured oink would do (pork, bacon, pancetta, proscuitto etc)
400g prawns/shrimps, shelled and deveined, preferably precooked
500g (8-10) greenlip mussels in shell, precooked
2 cans whole cherry tomatoes in juice (any canned or fresh tomatoes will do)
1.5-2L liquid - made up (in this case) of:
500mL chicken stock
375mL fish stock
375mL dry white wine (used a NZ sauv blanc)
- plus the various liquid phases of the canned tomatoes, mussels etc
large handful fresh parsley, shopped
1 tbsp crushed garlic (~4 cloves of fresh stuff)
1 tsp crushed chilli (less if cooking for kids)
1 large red onion, chopped
1 each red and yellow capsicum, seeded and chopped into strips
tbsp each of paprika and thyme
2 tsp fresh oregano
100g frozen peas for colour
Vast quantities of GOOD olive oil. Spanish if you want to be picky about it

Battle plan
Panfry onion in decent splash (1/4 cup) olive oil, chilli and garlic until soft.

Add chicken, cook until just no longer pink.

Throw in bacon and chorizo, cook through.

Then likewise with capsicum.

Take this lot out of the pan and set aside. (Not essential, just makes getting the rice underway a bit easier.)

Add more oil (>100mL) and bomba rice. Sautee until rice is coated in oil and translucent.

Then add liquid - fish and chicken stock, white wine, juice from canned tomatoes, liquor from mussels.

Bring to low simmer.

Add meat/onions/capsicum mix, prawns, tomatoes, herbs, peas.

Keep on low heat while rice absorbs liquid. Will take 20-30 mins depending on temp.

Towards end of absorption add mussels and chopped parsley.

Be astonished at how much liquid this stuff can soak up.

Serve with lemon wedges, or if you can't be arsed with that, just whatever's left of the dry white.

Pretty bloody decent. Except the dry white, that was a bit arse. Though what do you want for six bucks a bottle on special at New World. Subbed off for something a bit less astringent.

Seems a pretty simple, robust sort of dish. Ingredients regimen could handle quite a bit of buggerising about with, so off you shoot and let me know how you get on.

The Doctor is OUT to sample more of the proceeds.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Same old, same old.

You know, I can go weeks without cooking anything particurlarly groundbreaking or new. Little variations on lamb cutlets or Flintys wonton soup or lasagne. I mean I cook these things very, very well and they taste good, so what's not to like?

Then I get in a mood like last weekend. It started when I was driving along and was struck with the mood to make marmalade. The mood was infectious, beacause I dropped into the fish wholesaler on Friday and came away with these instead of the three steaks I was going to buy.

I figured I'd whip something up with the smoker, so I cut my fresh pieces off, then lightly cured the fillets in salt, brown sugar, pepper, dill, garlic and ginger. I left it overnight and it extracted a surprising amount of liquid. I then patted them dry and popped them in the smoker for a day.

My plan was to blend the smoked salmon up with a bit of cream cheese and sour cream and lime juice, with a spoon of guacomole on top, to have as pre dinner food with drinks in the spa. The results were ok, until we introduced some crackers, then it was nibbles heaven.

It was a bit of a seafood night. We also had ryanos favourite dill and butter prawns on the BBQ, a bit of squid and some scallops.

The next day I had the salmon paste on those lunch bikkies, with sliced tomato, avacado and worcestershire sauce. Then I had it again and then some more, then just another one. Wish I'd had a bit of fresh chilli.

I have three of these left in the fridge, they were smoked a full 24 hours more and this week I am going to have a bash at making some cream cheese at home to go into my salmon spread. Looks like the mood hasn't left me yet.

The cold smoker is quickly turning into the best food project I've ever done.

MF from the iPhone

Saturday, July 25, 2009


We have all these glass jars. I asked for donations when we got the bees and they've just kept something. There is something in my personality that says if we say "enough", we'll never get them again, so I keep taking them. Besides, they are useful things to have, in case you are driving along and have a random and sudden desire to make marmalade.

I think it was because the last marmalade I bought was a bland, consistent, boring mass. That not to say I am gaurenteed to do better because jam, like cakes, needs a degree of measurement and I missed that gene when I was born.

So I juiced 3kg of oranges, two limes and five or so red grapefruit. I chopped up half the orange peels and the limes and grapefruit. I also added a thumbs full of ginger chopped finely.

To that I added about a litre of water and boiled for two hours. The rinds were chopped very unevenly but I was unsure whether it would turn out at all so I wasn't worried overly.

Once the rinds were nicely soft I added two kg of sugar and 25g of jam setta as I have no ability at all to naturally set jam.

The results are fantastic, a beautiful taste with varied textures from the rough chopped pith.

Bring on breakfast!

MF from the iPhone

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

More money shots

Recently one of my favorite Melbourne restaurants featured in Anthony Boudain's food show in the USA - the deadly Dainty Sichuan apparently made one of its heated appearances. It also had a sign up on the front door recently announcing that it will be moving from the CBD to the more 'well-to-do' suburb of South Yarra. So here are some images from this den of iniquity and some other Melbourne food shots...

The ever dapper Struggers and Barne's hand and chopsticks at the Dainty Sichuan.

A huge bowl of chillies with some chicken included (actually this is very mild compared to many of their dishes).

The anipasta tray at Florentino's (upstairs) where we went to celebrate Sweet Thang's birthday in style.

The only way to eat tofu - bury it in pork and chilli at Dainty Sichuan.

Some fresh sangers and rolls at GAS in South Melbourne.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Marshmallow Madness

What the FORK is wrong with you, O manufacturers of marshmallowy goodness? Have you lost your senses? Are you simply deranged, or is there a deeper, more sinister plan at work here?

Um. Wait. Slow down.


I quite like vanilla. The flavour is subtle and strong and elegant, and the scent is — well, I knew this woman once... she didn’t wear perfume. Just a dab of vanilla essence on her wrists, and behind her ears. And oh, my: I could have, would have eaten her alive if the opportunity had presented itself.

Vanilla smells good.

Now, coming into this from another angle here: it’s winter. And in Tasmania, at least, winter is worth celebrating, particularly on a dim, dark, dreary day of rain and fog and icy mist. It’s a fine, fine thing in its own right, and it only gets better when you crank up a wood fire and make yourself a dose of deliciously decadent hot chocolate — with real dark chocolate melted into cream and hot milk and brandy, all perfused with cinnamon, with whipped cream on top and shaved chocolate and nutmeg and one, just one, lovely, soft, tasty-sweet gooey marshmallow melting gently amongst the creamy goodness of it all.

A goddam VANILLA marshmallow. Not one of those pink cancerous-looking globs that tastes horribly like eau de toilette. Not — and this is an adamant absolute — one of those piss-yellow hunks of phlegm that smells like something a Barbie doll would shit, if they ever manufactured Shitting Barbie. (Barnes! Are you reading this? You’re a chemist, you bastard. Go into your lab and INVENT A BETTER ARTIFICIAL BANANA FLAVOUR! The one they’ve got tastes and smells like the Nazis won the war and made Ersatz into a mother-humping RELIGION. I’m sure you can do better: I mean, you could hardly do worse without Homeland Security arresting you for the manufacture of WMD, so go for it, baby. If you can create anything that tastes more banana-oid, there’s bound to be a fortune in it.)

So why not just go and buy some vanilla marshmallows? Because I FARKING CAN’T, that’s why. All they sell any more are those packets of stomach-churning Mixed Nasty. You can get packets full of vanilla and tumour-pink. You can get packets of vanilla and tumour and pus-yellow. (I assure you, those are the proper IUPAC names for artificial strawberry and artificial banana.) You can even get packets of vanilla and tumour and pus and Bile-Vomit Orange (which is meant to be some kind of artificial orange flavour, I think. But you really, really don’t want to know what I think of their efforts at synthesising an orange flavour. How can anything be so completely unlike oranges without actually BEING a combination of axle grease and S-bend?). But you know what you can’t buy around here?

A single goddam packet of plain, wonderful, ordinarily delicious VANILLA GODDAM MARSHMALLOWS!

Can’t you just eat the white ones and give the coloured crap to the kiddies? I hear you ask.

No. No I can’t. Aside from the fact that I’m constitutionally opposed to poisoning my children even when they’ve been bad, the fact remains that they, too have palates. They won’t eat the marshmallows that taste of tumour, pus and bile. They just look at me with their big, tear-filled eyes and beg: not the coloured ones, dad! Please, no! Anything but the coloured ones. (Anyone overhearing the conversation would swear they were little KKK Dragons in the making.) Even the Mau-Mau, who will eat or wear almost ANYTHING that is vaguely pink in colour, spits out those tumorous globules with a look of venomous hatred.

Worse: vanilla is, as I said, a subtle and lovely thing. Artificial strawb, banana and orange — these things are not at all subtle. They are pungent. They are penetrating. They are hideously putrescent. The poor little vanilla bastards, left in a sealed packet with all that creeping, Lovecraftian evil, become... contaminated. Unclean. Vile! They become zombie marshmallows, doomed to reek eternally of the unholy chemistry with which they have been imprisoned. Eating them is like eating all those other version of nasty at once: disgusting beyond my meagre powers of description.

Of course, I can make marshmallow. It’s easy: bit of gelatine, bit of sugar, bit of vanilla, some water, maybe some powdered sugar and cornstarch, and off you go. Thing is, even though it’s easy, it takes time. And it’s sticky, and messy, and the cleanup sucks. And I don’t want to have to manufacture a half-kilo of marshmallow every time I want a cup of hot chocolate — but every time I do make real marshmallow, there’s no hope of saving it because my poor marshmallow-deprived children hoover it up and scream for more.

The situation is intolerable, I tell you. Something MUST be done. Bring back the good old days: practice Marshmallow Apartheid once more!

Mister Flinthart’s Unspeakably Decadent Hot Chocolate:

This recipe makes enough for two, because it’s too hard to combine all these ingredients in one small serving. Beware: contains calories.

  • Three cups whole milk. (There is no place for low-fat, skim, soy, or any other such bullshit in hot chocolate. If you imagine for an instant you can do this recipe with any of that watery crap, go and hit yourself over the head with one of those giant-size souvenir blocks of Toblerone until you recover your senses.)
  • One cup whole cream: half to help with melting the chocolate, half for whipping.
  • One pinhead-size drop of purest cinnamon oil
  • One teaspoon of vanilla-seed gel, or one vanilla pod.
  • One dessertspoon brown sugar
  • One half cup of decent brandy
  • Whole nutmeg for grating
  • 100gm dark chocolate for melting
  • 50 gm or so dark chocolate for grating
  • One plain VANILLA marshmallow.

1) Divide the cream into two parts. In a small clean saucepan or double boiler, put half the cream along with your melting chocolate, properly smashed up. Put them over a low heat, and turn to the next task

2) Whip the other half the cream with some brown sugar, and half a teaspoon of vanilla gel. (Or the seeds, scraped from the vanilla pod. And save the pod.)

3) In another saucepan, gently warm your milk and brandy, and add your tiny drop of cinnamon oil. Plus the rest of your vanilla gel. Or the vanilla pod, if you’re doing it that way.

Now: when the chocolate has started to melt in the cream, stir the stuff until all the chocolate is combined with the cream to make a rich, dark chocolate ganache. Keep it over a low heat — NOT TO BOIL! — until the milk and brandy have reached your optimum drinking temperature. Gently pour the ganache into the hot milk, whisking all the while. As soon as the mixture is an even colour and texture, decant it into your drinking mugs.

Put a marshmallow into each mug, and top with a dollop of whipped cream. Grate chocolate and nutmeg over the top. Drink. Exclaim over the wondrousness of a universe in which such diverse substances can come together into a marriage of elements surely fore-ordained by some kind of beneficient uber-chef on high -- a sort of Celestial Jamie Oliver sans appalling Cockney accent, or maybe a Heavenly Nigella, except with better hooters and the ability to remain very, very quiet when not in use...

  1. Can’t get cinnamon oil? Meh. You should. One tiny drop will perfuse the entire creation with cinnamonly glory. But if you can’t then just... I dunno... sprinkle cinnamon powder over the top, with the nutmeg and the chocolate. Don’t bother putting cinnamon quills in the milk while you warm it up — the milk won’t get hot enough, and the quills won’t be there long enough.
  2. Can’t get vanilla gel? Don’t care to spend the bucks on a vanilla pod? Yeah, okay. Substitute a little vanilla extract, then. But use the alcoholic kind. The other kind sucks.
  3. Not chocolatey enough? Okay, fine. Increase the amount of dark chocolate you melt with the cream. But it’ll take a bit longer to melt, so be careful with your timing. You really don’t want to boil the hot milk/brandy mix.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bacon is smallholder heaven

Out of all the food projects I've done at Lantanaland, for pure pleasure, you can't beat the satisfaction of home cured and smoked bacon. It is the slow process that the bacon demands that gives me such a thrill.

Like all my cooking it's never been done the same way twice, but here are the consistent bits. Into some salt I mix brown sugar and a pile of herbs and spices banged in a mortar and pestle, juniper, bay, fresh rosemary, Tasmanian pepper, fennel seeds, whatever takes me at the time. The spice blend/sugar is mixed about one to five with the salt, then rubbed into the pork belly. This then goes in the fridge for ten days, with more salt being rubbed in and the liquid drained off every couple of days.

The next step is firing up the cold smoker. This time I am using woodchip from work but any sawdust free of chemicals will do. The first time I used the woodchip I bought from the tree contracters who pushed back the trees from the road and mulched it. I'm also going to try and get some sawdust from a mill that does ironbark trees.

The bacon gets smoked for four days relatively non stop. I fill it up before work and then when I get home. The cold smoking gives it a much stronger, dryer flavour, unlike any bacon you could buy. After the smoking it goes in the fridge for a few days before I take it to a freindly butcher, slice it and cryovac it.

This gives me a good supply of an ingredient that will change any recipe that has bacon in it to a class above. Quiche, filos and especially breakfast will never be the same.

All in all it's about a 18 day process and you get more than amply rewarded for time put in. The only way better is to raise your own pigs.

Wanna sell me a pig?

MF from the iPhone

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Drug Paraphenalia

One of the things which tea drinkers get to enjoy but which us bean addicts miss out on is all of the paraphenalia and ritual associated with drinking tea properly. There is the tea pot, the strainer, the extra hot water etc etc. Admittedly there is none of that if you are the sort of person who likes their tea in a bag, but when you drink it while out and about there is usually some sort of extra equipment required in order to just drink the stuff. It is probably just to make you feel better for paying three or four bucks for something which you could brew yourself for two cents a teabag...
For us coffee drinkers there is none of that hoopla - you order your flat white and it comes out in a cup and if you are lucky you add sugar - no longer no we have paraphenalia of our own...
I recently read about the supposed phenomenon of Siphon Coffee in the local rag and lo and behold what do I find the next week at a new spot we were trying out for brekkie - but the very equipment on offer. Of course being a long-addict of the bean I had to try it out for myself.
The result was described by the 'barrista' as nutty, honey smoked blah blah blah...
Overall it was an okay cuppa - missing some of the bitterness of expresso and definitely an improvement on that awful stuff that comes from those machines in offices and American cafes.
However I am still ambivalent about whether it is worth all of the time and effort of a small scientific experiment....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mullet II

I had the mullet frames from the filleting the other day, the chooks, cats and ducks got the guts, but always hesitant to waste stuff, I made a Flinthart inspired Asian fish stock.

Last night I fried off a teaspoon of cumin and fennel seeds in oil, then sweated off a diced carrot and onion. I added all the fresh tomatoes I had in the growbed, plus a tin of diced tomatoes, filled up the pot with the stock and gently simmered.

The way Flinthart does that stock really makes a soup like this and it was a beautiful, light, tasty soup. It was not as fish flavored as I expected either.

Leftovers at it's best.

Hook em and cook em from the iPhone

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Went away to the Sunshine Coast for the weekend and ran into a bit of good luck. The Wife and her mate went for a walk and saw some guys fishing for mullet. While I'm unsure of the sustainability of dragging for mullet, five fresh mullet for five bucks is hard to pass up.

I scaled and filleted them, then dropped them in a marinade of soy, lime, oil, zest, chilli and brown sugar, then grilled them on the BBQ. Tasted bloody fantastic. You just can't beat having a line straight to the guy getting it off the land or sea. Knowing someone like Squire Bedak for a cow or even just a neighbour who gives you a few eggs, well that's ten times better than knowing your bank managers name.

Mother Foccacia from the iPhone

Monday, June 22, 2009

Very important news

Those of you who haven't seen the most important food news of the year, go here, now

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Best Meal Ever (warning, contains vegetables)

JB started a nice freindly rant on his Blunt Instrument blog the other day about vege's, which was continued on Twitter. Much disparaging comment was made, including a paritucarly harsh comment was made about asparagus. Being a man of principals, I had to interject. Excuse me sir, I tweeted, but my best ever meal contained asparagus.
My parantage was called into question. It was suggested that I perhaps had been let out of the asylum a touch early or that my blood alchohol levels were too low or too high. I forget which.

The fact remains and there is a simple explanation for it. You see asparagus, unlike a good bottle of red, does not like being stored. In fact the ideal time for transporting asparagus is the time it takes to walk from your asparagus patch to the frypan or saucepan full of boiling water. Any longer and it turns into a different vegetable. Asparagus, like corn, starts packed with natural sugars, but the minute it's picked, those sugars start converting to starch. Nasty floury starch, which is why most asparagus you buy tastes like cardboard flavoured with cats urine.

So to the recipe. What I did see, is dreaming of a future Lantanaland I was reading a lot of permaculture, cooking and gardening books in anticipation and desire. Asparagus takes about three years to really start producing and I saw a bedragled seedling at a nursery and bought it and potted it up. Every time I passed that pot I thought of what sort of place I'd like to make it's permanent home. (10 acres of Lantana was never envisioned, but there you go.) After two years in the spring I got a crop of about ten usable spears. I wandered up the back and got four eggs from the Chooks. I put on a pot of water for poaching eggs and made up a hollandaise sauce. I melted some butter in a pan. I went an picked my aspargus spears and while they were gently frying in the butter I poached my eggs. Aspargus spears, poached egg on top, bit of hollandaise on the side.

My god, the TASTE! Sweeter than an fresh snowpea. Un-belive-able. Since that day the plants have been found a permenant home near the kitchen and this year I should get my first real crop. I tell you, spring is a good time to drop in on Lantanaland.

Mother Foccacia from the iPhone

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good gravy

I don't know how you guys all feel about this silly looking guy who appears on the television all the time, but I have to admit that his recipes in his last two books have actually been bloody good. The Jamie Oliver at Home one is full of some great feeds and may also have some appeal to our more rural members such as Flinthart, Squire Bedak and Ms Hughes with it's romanticised look at rural rustic cookery and the Ministry of Food is just chockers with good old fashioned nosh up meals.
The weather down here in sunny Melbourne is partuicularly cold and crappy at the moment and lends itself to the old Sunday roast so on Sunday I tried my hand at this gravy recipe from the latest book, which had taken my imagination.
It was truly awesome - I can't stand the old tinned gravy powder stuff and always make a gooey hash of it when I try to make it the traditional way. What you do for this recipe is add an extra layer of veges underneath the roast as a 'trivet' and then after you have cooked the meat, put it aside to rest, take out the veges you want to include in your meal (I actually cooked them seperately) and then mash the hell out of the ones that have been sitting right underneath the meat - in my case that was a lot of old garlic, onions and a couple of taters. Add flour, mix in some wine and put over the heat - you then add some stock and cook until it all thickens up. Stain the liquid through a strainer and hey presto you have the most awesome gravy ever...
It ain't rocket science as they say - although you do end up with some mushy mess to chuck in the compost.
If you want a truly amazing roast meal try this recipe as well - although you need a good oven and lots of time...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Kitchen Kit

When we were looking at houses two years ago, we had an upgraded version of our share housing checklist. The share house was a simple list, must have a deck (The Wife) and must have a gas stove (me). They were the deal breakers. We once moved in with two likely lads that brought their own, a wooden toilet seat and a tin roof for listening to Brisbane's summer storms. Since i'd been cooking in the worlds smallest kitchen, with a dodgy oven to boot, I started a new checklist, one of large expansive kitchens with bench space and pantries and ...... Alas not to be.

I managed to move into a house with an even smaller kitchen and a electric oven. Damn. Considering the trade off, 10 acres of land, fantastic view, I'm not that unhappy, especially as a realization dawned on me. "this kitchen has no redeemable features, its small, uneven, the sink is the wrong size, no bench space, no storage space and if it was a ships galley in the 1700's the cook would have led a mutiny." But that means that it gives me a perfect excuse to tear it down and start again, which has led to many a daydream, what would my perfect kitchen have, given no financial or guilt constraints?

The Bench - I do a lot of pasta and pizza, so half the bench tops would be marble or stainless for kneading and rolling those brilliant floury creations. The other half would be end grain hardwood timber, something that i could use as one giant chopping board. I already have a home made butchers block that is similar, you can see it in the pasta clip and it is the best thing I've ever made.

The Knife - I have ok knives, the best is one i gave to my mate and steal back every time i sharpen it for him, but I'd really like one of these. I've handled one and it's not just pretty looks, the balance and feel is extraordinary.

The Oven - I cant decide between this or an ex commercial oven. This looks pretty sweet, but they are way over priced. With a decent oven though I can teach myself to bake so I'd need a...

Mixer - I know that some people find this a bit wanky, but i love a bit of kit that you can leave out as art instead of having to put away. These Kitchenaid mixers are bloody well built, but check this out, its taking it to the next level.

I've also been looking at some old cream separators on ebay that would fall into that category. Beautiful

The Larder - I'm hoping to start the cheese crusade this year, so a big walk in, earth sheltered larder for storing home made bacon, cheese and prosciutto in.

The Coffee Machine - Got this one, a nespresso, because it pumps out quality, consistent coffee without me having to do a barista course.

Hanging Rack - If possible I'll have as much as i can up top. Its so much easier to get to. A mate of mine a pretty handy with a welder, so it will be a spec job, which will probably end up a tenth of the price of one off the shelf.

I already have my commercial grade pots, a good nonstick frypan would be handy i guess.

The Wife - No, i have a wife and she works quite well, but she wants a dishwasher and microwave. I can concede the dishwasher, but I hate microwaves, but not so much I'd risk the wrath of The Wife. Besides, if I can hide it in some tricked up cupboard, I'll never know its there.

There is heaps i would have forgotten, so toss some ideas in the pot for me, what would you like in your kitchen?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Money shots

Curry platter at Flora after the Dali exhibition opening...

The tira misou at the Public House in Richmond...

Spag Bob on the boil at Sutton Grange.