Friday, May 29, 2009

Baby Food

There's about a zillion different opinions as to when baby should cop to his (I'm gonna stick to the masculine. Hell with the progressive PC stuff. I'm tired.) first so-called solid food. I don't care to argue with the medical community on this, so my official formal advice is: consult your doctor or paediatric nutrition specialist, eh?

But informally? You'll know when it's time. The little bastard will be sitting on your lap at the table, and he'll be watching every... single... bite... you... take. Every one, from the plate all the way to your mouth. His beady little eyes won't miss a moment of the action, and if that cutlery gets anywhere near the increasingly wild waving of his stubby little arms, you and he both are gonna wear a forkful of lasagne. Or whatever.

Likewise, there's about a million things that apparently you shouldn't feed baby too early. Take bourbon, for example: who would suspect that an 18-month toddler would be so fast off the goddam mark that between putting your glass on the table in full view of six adults at same table and turning back with the ice in your hand, said toddler could seize the glass and gulp a mansize mouthful? I certainly didn't expect it, and none of the people at the table were actually quick enough to intervene -- not even his mum.

He blinked, and coughed a bit - but luckily, I was drinking Wild Turkey, so he didn't get the full pencil-shavings-and-methylated-spirits effect which makes cheap bourbon such a delightful experience. Anyhow, that's off the track. Point is, apparently kids shouldn't get into gluten too early. And honey's full of allergens. And dairy products can cause all sorts of issues. And so forth.

Once again: consult your paediatric nutrition specialist, okay? This particular item is aimed at achieving two things. First, it will help you produce baby food your child will actually eat and enjoy. Secondly, it will set you on the path to raising a kid who isn't afraid of different foods -- one of these nigh-mythical 'not picky' children who eats fruit and veg and fish and nuts and all the good stuff without blinking an eye, or demanding a free pass to McFoodland in exchange.

From experience, the sooner you can start your kid on eating food that tastes like food, the better. The kids agree with me on this, by the way. You can test this hypothesis for yourself: go buy a jar of baby food -- something involving chicken and corn ought to do -- and present it to the new eater in spoon form. The universal first reaction is a pursing of the lips, followed by a spectacularly wet raspberry which distributes pureed chicken and corn across the scenery. This may or may not be accompanied by wild arm-flapping, but since such arm-flapping is the regular response to any new event, I wouldn't be too concerned.

What has happened is simple: baby has rejected his first solid food. What happens next is vital. Some folk recommend that you spoon a bite into your mouth, smack your lips, and say "ummm!" to encourage the little beast. My personal recommendation? Spoon a bite into your mouth. Screw up your face. Blink once or twice. Turn your head and spit the hideous, tasteless pap violently into the nearest receptacle while coughing violently. Put the lid back on the jar and hurl it into the garbage, swearing never to abuse your child in this fashion again.

That's how it went for me, anyway.

Wanna know something which is apparently a secret? Babies like flavour. No. Really. Baby food manufacturers apparently think otherwise, because though I tried about five different brands and a dozen different flavours during the course of raising my three little creatures past this initial stage, I never found one that actually tasted of anything other than cornstarch and blended rice. (Oh, there was the 'World Traveller' series, which purported to have chunky tandooris, curries, laksas, etc.... several of them had a vague hint of tomato, and once I think I caught a whiff of turmeric, but I may have been mistaken.)

You wanna feed your baby well? Throw away the commercial baby food. The stuff looks like somebody ate it once already, and it tastes like it.

Buy yourself a decent hand-held blender-on-a-stick. Get some ingredients. Go crazy.

You're going to have to obey those health rules, naturally. Plus any other rules you've decided you're going to impose. (Ha. Like they're gonna last. Enjoy your illusions while you got 'em.) And naturally, really strong or spicy flavours are going to distress your baby. But within those parameters, go wild.

Elder Son's first meal was an entire ripe avocado, mashed with a little lemon juice and a little salt. He sputtered at the first mouthful, but that was because he didn't yet have a grip on this 'mastication' process, not because of the flavour. The instant he hooked into that yellowy-green goo, he was like one of those laughing clowns at the show -- the mouth open, the head going from side to side, following the spoon. I used to play 'remote control baby head' games just to make Natalie laugh... cruel, I expect, but damned funny.

Early favourites? Cherry tomatoes. Spring onions. Tinned salmon. Tinned tuna. Mild coconut-curried chicken. Coriander. Rich bolognaise. Roast capsicum. Raw capsicum... in fact, just about anything that Natalie would let me put through a blender went down the kid's neck.

Mostly, you start with a base of rice. Overcook the rice so it's gluggy. In the beginning, I went with about 70% rice, 30% flavoursome ingredient, but that very rapidly dropped away to 50%, and then even lower. By the time Elder Son was a year old, one of our Tasmanian friends used to wait until the boy had finished his evening meal, then snaffle the remainder so he could use it as a sandwich spread. Flavour, folks. It makes a world of difference.

Here's a few recommendations for your blenderfying enjoyment. In all cases, add enough overcooked rice to the mixture to satisfy yourself that the kid's getting his carbs. Otherwise, simply adjust by taste. And remember: if it tastes like bland, boring crap to you, you'll probably wind up wearing it when the kid gets ahold of it.

1) Salmony Happiness: small tin of salmon. Four or five cherry tomatoes. Two spring onions. Four bushy coriander seedling things. Half a teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper. (Yes. I'm not joking.)

2) Chickeny Capsicum Goodness: roast one capsicum, peel the skin. Add a squeeze of lemon juice, a little salt, two or three onions, and a little garlic. Sprinkle a breast of chicken with smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Put maybe half the chicken into the mix. Put the other half on a sandwich, and steal some of the blended capsicum stuff as a spread. You can get really hungry doing this stuff.

3) Fishy Wonderful: small piece of white fish, steamed or grilled. Turmeric powder. Half-cup coconut cream. Squeeze of lime juice. Teaspoon brown sugar. Half a spring onion. Salt to taste.

4) Vegetable Va-voom: Put a little olive oil in a heavy pot. Coarsely chop in a capsicum, four cherry tomatoes, half an onion, a couple of mushrooms, a little garlic, half a zucchini, and some baby fennel. Fry them, stirring, until they're nicely soft. Add a wee bit of salt and some pepper, and maybe just a touch of tomato paste before you blend hell out of the mix with your rice goo.

As you can see, there's really nothing to it. Trust your palate. Play with your favourite ingredients. If you stick to tasty, fresh, healthy items and you don't over-season or over-cook (except for the rice) you can hardly go wrong. And believe me: it's worth every second of the work. Knowing exactly what goes into your kid's food in advance is brilliant -- it saves any amount of time and effort looking up different preservatives and colourings, and wondering whether 'Food Enhancer 666' is monosodium glutamate or just some kind of Satanic prank.

Plus, of course, the look on other people's faces when they taste the food your kid is eating is bloody priceless. Especially when they look back down at their own dinner, and kind of whimper, just a little. I love that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Creepy crepes?

This is a poached pear and custard crepe from this little place attached the to GPO centre in the middle of Melbourne. I gave in to the urge to eat something sweet at lunchtime yesterday and the siren call of this crepe lured me into its dark embrace.
I have a friend who claims that she dreams about the crepes from this place and every time she is down from Brisbane we have to go and get one.
There are few meals which I would feel are worth driving a couple of thousand kilometres in a truck for (which is how she gets here) but apparently these crepes are one of them?
My memories of crepes are usually associated with late night visits to the Pancake Parlour in Brisbane when my friend Richard used to work there. They certainly didn't have the allure of this place...

Starting Right

Been meaning to do this for a while, but I've been kind of busy. As in 'lacking two consecutive minutes to call my own'.

Your man Beeso has assembled a right crew here. I'm downright intimidated by the sheer culinary power of this fully operational death star... I mean food blog. Yeah.

Anyway. I figured I might start at the beginning, myself, and address one of my primary interests, issues, and problems in cooking: my kids. Your kids too, if you have any.

Cooking for kids and feeding kids is a bastard of a job. You can produce the best, most interesting, most nutritionally perfect meal in the world, and the kid will push it around the plate like a large, ugly toad had just died there. And they'll do that even though the love every single individual ingredient of the meal, dammit.

It's as though the act of assembling all those tasty ingredients into 'food' suddenly turns them into Kryptonite for kids. Raw capsicum? Love it. Pickled capsicum? Love it. Roast capsicum? Delish. Capsicum on pizza? Whoa, Dad! Back the fork up there, for a moment, big fella -- I'm not eating that! It's poison!

Anyone ever tells you cooking for food critics is a tough gig, give 'em a knowing smile. Food critics rate you in stars. The better your food, the more stars you get. And sure, getting all three or four or five or however many your local food critic likes to award could be trick. But if your food is basically good and served well, the critic will acknowledge that.

Kids have only two settings: all or nothing. Either it vanishes off the plate, or it's a battle royale to move even a scrap. And I don't think I've ever heard of a food critic who was willing to whine, scream, cry... or stuff peas up his nose in the hopes of being allowed to leave the table.

So. By and large, I'm gonna talk about feeding kids around here. My expertise? Well, I've got three of my own, and they delight in: fresh vegetables of all sorts, all kinds of fruit, fish, squid, pickled octopus, mild curries, Vietnamese food, Thai food, Chinese food, Malay food, sushi, cous-cous, and so forth. The children are eight, six, and three years of age. Their tastes have changed as they've grown, and I expect them to keep changing. I still have my battles with them, but I'm happy to say that on the whole, they'll try 'most anything foodish at least once.

That's the intro, folks. Next time you hear from me, I'm gonna talk baby food. Believe me: that's a thing which needs a whole lot of work.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Best Cheeseburger in Canberra

A few months ago, a little red caravan appeared without fanfare in Bowen Park, Barton (just Southeast of Kings Avenue Bridge). As I zoomed past on my way home each day I thought at first that gypsies had moved in, but as the little van was lit up with fairy lights each night, I subsequently figured it unlikely to be populated by vagabonds, as in my experience, they tend not to draw attention to themselves with brightly coloured caravans adorned with flashing lights. So recently I plucked up the courage to investigate the strange goings-on on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin and was pleasantly surprised with the best burger I've had in yonks.

This was no flash in the pan, however, as today after a nice stroll around to Reconciliation Place, the Frellmans sampled cheeseburgers and chips from the rather quaintly-named 'Brodburger' van. The Boss Lady and I tried the beefburger with swiss cheese and the mini-Frellmans tried the chips. Now the burger was an old fashioned beef burger that I had long since given up on finding again anywhere other than in a country town milk bar. It came on a beautiful crusty roll that really made it sing in my mouth. Although the beef patty might be one of the best you'll find too (outside of Chez Bedak of course). Nice and meaty. Yum.

The chips were just something else. These were nice thin french fries - nearly as thin as McDonald's chips, but that's where the similarity ended. These puppies were beautifully cooked and seasoned and could be the second best chips I've ever had. (The best were sitting next to a steak I had in Paris about 5 years ago. But that's a long way to go for chips, granted.)

I'll go out on a limb and predict that we are witnessing a Canberra legend in the making. In years to come I predict no trip to Canberra will be complete without a trip to Brodburger, like no trip to Sydney was complete without a trip to Harry's Cafe de Wheels in times past. I also predict that once the journos and pollies discover it, no Wednesday night in parliamentary sitting weeks will be complete without a late night Brodburger binge after a few dozen lagers.

My only complaint is that they seem to struggle with volume. Once more than three or four customers have their orders in they seem to not want to take orders until they get on top of the queue. This can be a little bit of a pain when it's cold outside - it would be far better if you could put your order in and then wait in the warmth of your car while it's cooked, Arnold's style. In fact, if they had a little light-board that they could put order numbers up on when they were ready to be collected, I'm sure most people wouldn't mind waiting in their cars a little while, listening to the radio and watching the moonlight dance on the lake. 

Hmm ... makes me wish I hadn't sold the Sandman.

Anyway, try Brodburger- open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday to Saturday. On Sunday they're open for lunch only (but until 4pm for the late starters).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The new "Tomahawk" beef cut

As the bulge in my trackie-dacks attests, not since I invented a thing called the "Eight-Sided X Steak" have I been as excited about a cut of beef as the new "Tomahawk". Unlike today's batch of rural advertorial types, I don't simply adapt a press release and pass it off as my own work in order to sell the odd quarter-page of advertising space. No. Here at Mother Foccacia you can read every glorious blood-dripped word from the blurb yourself.

22 May 2009

MLA releases the 'Tomahawk' – a cut that hits you right between the ribeye

A new experience in shared eating known as the ‘Tomahawk’ was launched by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) this week in Adelaide.

The Tomahawk is one of the largest rib eye steaks in Australia, weighing from 1.3 to 2.5 kilograms, and takes its name from the 30 centimetres of rib bone that is left on the meat while cooking.

According to Bill Lindsay, MLA’s South Australian Business Development Manager - who co-hosted 87 of Adelaide’s finest chefs and food media at the lunch launch - the steak is designed to be brought to the table, then carved and shared between four to six people.

“We hope that chefs will take it up as a piece of theatre and some fun in their restaurants,” Mr Lindsay said.

“Because it is a new concept, consumers should ask their butchers and restaurants to order the special cut. It would make a great conversation piece for a dinner with friends.”

Lachlan Bowtell, MLA’s Marketing Manager – Trade, said it was a case of tackling the current economic climate head on.

“With the Australian foodservice sector experiencing a bit of a downturn due to the global economic crisis we are taking the bull by the horns (or the ribs) and adding some excitement to the beef scene.

“We already have a firm commitment from South Australian several outlets looking to menu the item, along with wholesaler support. We are also talking to a number of processors to get the specification in the boning room changed to accommodate the increased bone length, and so far we have received some real encouragement by two processors in particular.

“So in these times of ‘a selling down’ attitude in foodservice, we have done the opposite with a novelty steak giving the customer what they want – nutritious, delicious beef coupled with a unique experience.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Puffy Crumpet

Being a drought-fucked cattle-baron (for at least the rest of this week at any rate), provides one with the chance to explore the insides of many fabulous hotel restaurants. Sometimes, even as a diner rather than a lurker with a knife waiting to slice the fat throats of eco and agri politico types.

Permit me to qualify my remarks from the outset. I'm of the Tism point of view on most things, but most, most decidedly on matters BFW or Big Fucking Whoopee. A great BFW Tism-ism correctly observes,

"When you can sit around on your crapulent crack and lazily whine on about someone else's cooking, then you have reached the very acme of the BFW shitheap."

This observation is very true. But more so for telly than the written word. And neither come close to being there.

The itchy violent projectile vomit of an asparagus roll towards one's hostess, has, once scratched, much more impact than a cutting bitch about a half-a-chef's-hat as determined by some pulseless prick, except Birmo, who still works for the Herald, Age or insert wanna-be ACP magazine. As such wankers usually marry or partner those involved with real professions, so they tend to have the luxury of focusing on style rather than substance. Not that anyone other than the disposable income, sodomy-and-opera set listens to their mayfly flutterings anyhow.

The essence of the Acme of the BFW Shitheap remark is also the universe of difference between the greatness of the late Sam Orr of the late Nation Review and the dickwit Pyney pettiness of A.A.A.Gill. But who or what instructs our unclean ears to hear the pitch of the more pretentious food-fucker, than the occasional wisdom of the cabbie or drunken letch at a bus-stop waiting for a bunch of blonde fifteen year old girls to get off?

We urbane Australians now too easily insist that the uncultured slob is incapable of discernment. The old lunchtime Pie Beer & a Root for $50 has been replaced with working through lunch hours, tweeter-searching masturbate in the hope of some cold vicarious entertainment, and smoked eel california rolls at three bucks per ambphibous morsel delivered by the office christmas beetle.

Paying to gain the information we defer to must also play its part. Studies have been conducted demonstrating that we generally dig the stuff we pay more for. Why? Also, genuflecting to an expertise makes us feel better that as canteen beasts, the cocksuckers describing which beaujalais is best used in a coq au vin has earnt our buck-and-half fair and square.

This is especially true when the information is stolen and the price is paid with goldtoothed rat-cunning.

I am reminded of a secret advertising agency I used to run with a few mates which involved us targeting highly-specialised parts of Sydney CBD to have our conversations overheard. We dressed up to look like our prey and stalked them into lifts, bars and bus-stops. We got people into theatres that would otherwise have been empty and did our bit to get stocks to move this way and that.It was a secret advertising agency I ran in '93 called 'Woman'..which stood for the Word of Mouth Advertising Network, but I digress.

Is my cattle-baron's view of beef any better than the chick flipping burgers at the Gumly Gumly truck stop, or the trucker who lives on burgers? Can having a vagina somehow dictate that secret ability of making the perfect souffle? In a complicated world, yes probably up to a point. Yet when you're eating, the last thing you want to discuss with your mouth full is the food.

Which brings us the long way around to where I wanted to be discussing and recommending something involving the simplest of simplest pleasures.A winter's sunset just after rain? The Collingwood supporter just after losing to Carlton? Eating a mango on packed bus? Nay. I wish to sing the praises of something so simple, that next to kippers or oats it's one's preferred brekky of choice.

As stated, simplicity's the key.

Possibly, my favourite fuck off garcon just bring me what I want brekky by way of a pair of Buttered Crumpets with salt & pepper. The ritzier the resturant, the greater the impact.

It will never be the next jus de jus in a ragout of jus if properly marketed. But that's the bloody point. It's probably little better than army rations, but can somehow rise through the ranks. Salt and pepper crumpets are so genuinely good fare which is so utterly fucken ordinary in its creating, they're unarguably the pinnacle of good taste. Try it. Crumpet with butter. Salt & pepper. Eat. Don't like it? Fuck off. Do like it? Get another. Simple.

Admittedly, this tucker is to the casino buffet brekky what the a guy in a chamois safari suit is to a Gen-Y BMW saleschick handing out out watercress on water-crackers. But could such a 70s deity get a Ronny Coote simply by asking the FTV babe if she's got any Jatz & cheddar?

Probably not if he's interested in paying for anything less than an M5, but I think perhaps optimistically, any pair of undies can be yours for the taking with a Chocolate Paddle Pop dessert provided you're smart enough, rich enough, sincere enough, or all three. An experienced salt and pepper crumpeter could easily pull it off, whereas salmon omelette brekky guy still has elements of try-hardiness no designer stubble could ever overcome.

Unless he already has the new Bentley of course.

Trust me gents. Salt and pepper is to crumpets what the puffy nipples of any hippy chick was to the 1970s bedroom poster. Timeless, near costless, a thing of wonder which can be pondered during the silences in your mind when your accountant starts discussing Family Tax Benefit B with your wife and your mind wanders helplessly.

What was I talking about again? Oh yes. Crumpet. Oh yes. Oh yes.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pasta alla Yobbo Grande

I am part wog. In fact, 51.25% Italian* by my maths, which is majority ownership by most measures. Pasta was the first thing I learned to cook properly, and if a clueless pre-pubescent muppet can learn to make decent spag there's no reason you lot of scruff can't either.

Now you'll see a lot of pasta served in a lot of poncy nosheries swathed in complicated creamy sauces and drowning in oil... see, nah. That's not how we roll. Pasta is simplicity. Good ingredients combined correctly is everything Italian cooking is about. Emphasis on good. Almost everything good in Italian cooking is based around good quality olive oil and good quality garlic. Likewise pasta - the Home Brand stuff might be a buck cheaper but the proper Italian stuff is Worth It. Head to your local Italian deli and stock up on the unpronounceable genuine article. Or if you're unlucky enough to live in a Godforsaken Anglophile white-bread backwater like Tamworth, Ballarat or (ahem) New Zealand, wait until Barilla comes on special at Woolies. Fresh pasta is great but not really worth the massive premium over top notch dry stuff in my rarely humble opinion - unless you make it yourself of course.

Breakfast of champions
Bacon and eggs? How about spaghetti carbonara? Forget the cream sauce. Leave that amateur crap to Fasta Pasta. Believe me, this works. Particularly as a hangover cure.
300-500g good pasta - any shape but fettucine or tagliatelle would be my picks
200g bacon, chopped into matchbox slivers
3-4 free range eggs (depending on size), warmed to room temp
heaps of grated parmesan
ground black pepper
1-2 crushed cloves garlic or jar-derived equivalent
splash of olive oil (just enough to dampen the garlic)
Heat the oil and the garlic, fry the bacon until it begins to 'reduce' (i.e. the fat renders and liquifies). Cook the pasta. Beat hell out of the eggs, throw in the parmesan, grind a bunch of black pepper through it. Drain the pasta, then quickly thro the bacon and oil, and the egg and parmesan at it. Stir like buggery. The egg will cook just enough and the cheese will melt just enough to serve as a just-creamy-enough sauce. The single most beautifully conceived concept Italy has produced since Maria Grazia Cucinotta.

Something a bit more complicated
For a basic tomato-based sauce, panfry your new best friends olive oil and garlic with finely chopped onion, then simmer through a can or two of chopped tomatoes. That sounds so simple as to be trivial but I promise you it ain't. You can use that simple sauce as the basis for all manner of death-defying acts of derring-do, or even derring-don't-but-sounded-good-anyway. Such as:
  • Panfry peeled prawns (or calamari, or even marinara mix) at ludicrous temp in olive oil, garlic and chilli (teaspoon or two each per 300g ocean bounty) - as dry as you can keep it, don't let them stew in excess liquid - then add your pre-simmered tomato base and freshly cooked pasta for astonishingly good garlic chilli prawns. If this doesn't get you laid you are rubbish and should join a monastry, if only for the beer.

  • Thicken up your sauce with half a jar or more of commercial pasta sauce (Dolmio et al - it's not cheating, honest) for a bit of extra body in a spag-bol-on-steroids - 250g each beef and pork mince, some portabello mushrooms, and a good cupful of drinkable red, preferably something smooth and round like a cab merlot. Remember - and I do mean this - never to cook with wine you wouldn't be prepared to drink. If it tastes of arse in the glass, it'll taste of date on the plate.

  • Tonight's effort (for those taking notes): 400g premium beef mince, bit of bacon, bit of chopped Milano salami, panfried in olive oil, set aside. Do yer tomato sauce thing - two cans of chopped tomato, rinse can residue out with glass or so of red, use remainder of red to improve own world view. Cook pasta. Throw together. Grate parmesan thereover. Eat. Write about it on internet.

  • Don't be afeared of playing around with your combinations and your variations. Try adding olives, more chilli and spicy salami for a punchy arrabiata style sauce. Or more tomato and roughly torn-up fresh basil. Or Romano cheese grated into the simmering sauce to smooth out the sharp tomatoey edges. Just don't try on everything you've bought at once, like the culinary equivalent of a Double Bay trophy wife.
Good luck with it, and as the Italians say... [makes series of obscure and possibly obscene thrusting gestures before being led away by La Polizia]

The Doctor is OUT.

*There was a Swiss-Italian great-great-grandsomething somewhere on the old man's side. Apparently.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Consider the Oyster

Sorry I've been remiss guys - flat out. But I thought I'd send you to a site I love - How to shuck an Oyster is by Australian fiction authorine Charlotte Wood (who is totally brilliant BTW). There's plenty to trawl through there.
Off you go then! Click Click.

Friday, May 15, 2009

My kind of Drive In Food

Off to a double header at the drive in tonight, Star Trek, followed by Wolverine. This lets me indulge in one of my favourite picnic style treats. It's a Jamie Oliver classic and I'll pull a variation out whenever I get the chance.

Chicken in Bread

One whole free range chicken
Salt and pepper
Some type of woody herbs, thyme or rosemary
Plain flour
Olive oil

In a bowl place the flour, chopped herbs, dash of oil, zest of one lemon and salt and pepper. Add water until you have a pizza dough consistency. You can pretty much put whatever seasonings you like in the dough. Roll out to about 2cm thick. Prick the lemon and place in the chook cavity. Wet the edges of the dough, then wrap the chook up in it so it's sealed. Bake for 2 hours or so depending on the size of the chook at 180 degrees.

This will stay hot for up to about four hours out of the oven. To eat, just tear off some of the bread crust and a bit of chook, add some salsa and sour cream and eat. It'll be the softest, most scented chook you'll ever eat. Crack it open in the middle of a picnic miles from the nearest oven for maximum credibility.

Mother Foccacia from the iPhone

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Corned beef

If you know of a good butcher that does Wagyu Beef, ask them to try getting in some wagyu silversides for corn beef. I love this stuff, the slow gentle cooking renders that lovely marbling into the meat to give you the most delicous piece of comfort food you've ever had.

Wednesday night is footy night and I'm looking for food that The Wife and I can eat at seperate times, as I can't eat before playing. So stuff like stew and lasagna are the go on Wednesdays.

I had a butcher who I was getting this king of corned meat off, but I got the shits with him and had been looking round for another supply, but today down The Tweed, Jack Spratt Butchers were doing that and some other pork goodies that I'll write about later.

So what I do is very, very complicated. I bring my dream pot, a type of slow cooker used by campers, to the boil with the water just covering the corned meat, once boiling whack in the carrots, new potatos and onions or sweet potato or whatever veg you want. The dream pot then keeps it at just below boiling for up to four hours if I can get in early enough.

Just before I serve it out I make a white sauce, but instead of milk I use the water from corned meat and teaspoon of hot english mustard and big dollop of sour cream.

For such a simple meal this is one of the best payoffs I can imagine. The last tip is to let the meat cool in the water for the best cold meat the next day.

I love this dish and especially as Lantanaland is getting down to temperatures like a Tasmanian summer, this is a great autumn dish.

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why blokes should cook

Thanks heaps to Beeso for the invitation to contribute.

Anyway I've never really understood the mentality that girls should cook and guys shouldn't. Cooking's at heart an experimental science, and men, history tells us, make fairly decent scientists - whether because of the global patriarchal conspiracy keeping Tha Sistahood out of the lab-coated higher-ups, or just because we fullahs tend to be more into busting stuff up to see how it works, having a fiddle about to see if we can improve it, then hiding all the leftover broken bits under the couch and pretending we didn't break it in the first place.

And that's cooking (sort of) - the combining of stuff in some sort of quasi-random order until it starts tasting less rubbish than previously, as determined by the grown-ups involved. This was the general philosophy passed down to me by my old man, who took over the family kitchen after he'd packed in teaching. He married a second-gen Italian girl but after years of trial and error cooked better Italian than most of his in-laws, largely based on a plan of throwing unfeasible amounts of garlic and olive oil at any problem he came across. Following on from this, I have adopted, adapted and improved upon his methodology in my own way.

Tonight's recipe from the Australasian Yobbo's Weekly Test Kitchen: hoisin pork chops. Which go a little bit like this.

Pork loin or forequarter chops, 3-4, > half inch thick, keep the rind on (you're a man dammit.)
Marinade/glaze - combine the following in Some Sort Of Order. This is for you to figure out by your own volition, but ballpark proportions:
4 tbsp hoisin sauce (any brand of supermarket hoisin sauce but the Asian-sounding stuff's best)
2 tbsp plum sauce - if you don't have any, substitute something else fruity and sugary - even orange marmalade can work (tested this evening, worked surprisingly well)
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (brands as per hoisin comments above)
Splash of sherry - decent Spanish stuff if you can get it, domestic OK, just not Golden Gate Cooking Sherry as preferred by your seediest mate at high school parties back in the day. The sherry is there to add flavour and sweetness but also to help penetrate the meat (ooh err Matron.)
Splash of lime juice - unless you're Uamada - or soy sauce depending on whether you want it saltier or sweeter - or sesame oil or anything you fancy really
1 tsp ea of crushed ginger and garlic - out of a jar is fine
1-2 beers - for marinating the chef
  • Glaze the meat repeatedly with the marinade - that is get a brush and smear the stuff all over it. (Hence don't make it too watery or it won't stick.) If no brush just dole it on with a spoon and smear it over. Make sure you get that stuff all over the rind because what you want to do is crispify and reduce the rind - could even take a bit of the marinade, mix in some salt and put this direct on the marinade to get that crunchy pork crackling effect. Salt draws moisture out and will help 'reduce' the fat of the rind.

  • Preheat your grill. This can be anything from a BBQ grill to the grill in your oven, depending on what you have. If the latter, >200 deg Celsius preferable. Not Fahrenheit. Celsius.

  • Grill the bastard, checking semi-frequently to top up the glaze as it burns. You want it to burn, a bit anyway. It's full of sugar so it'll caramelise and blacken up nicely without burning the meat under it - this is a bit delicate ref. timing so don't bugger off and check the cricket score while this is going on, keep an eye on it and take the batteries out of the smoke alarms otherwise the bleeping will incite you to violence. Once the glaze is blackened, flip and repeat process for the other side. Don't over-do it obviously. Noone likes dried out, overcooked, nasty old pork. Well, maybe Hef's girlfriends.

  • Serve with Something Asian. Zhang Ziyi preferably. Mmmm. If not available at your local supermarket, steamed Asian greens, stirfried bok choy in oyster sauce, or even instant fried rice out of a packet will do if you can't be arsed with anything complicated.

  • Put the batteries back in the smoke alarms.

  • Eat.

  • Steal the rind off your girl's plate cos it's the best bit.

  • Let her take you to bed to reward you for being so fricken awesome etc.

To conclude on my original point, cooking combines all the things we as blokes pride ourselves on being good at. It's a creative process, it's experimental, it rewards ingenuity, bravery and inventiveness, it involves the burning of meat on a heat source, and it's a bloody good excuse for drinking beer. And besides, the ladies dig a good chef. And if, like Your Correspondent, you have a head like a smacked arse, you need all the assistance you can muster.

Baking, though... baking's for chicks. Definitely.

The Doctor is OUT.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Eat you heart out, Ian "Beefy" Botham...

I have just arrived home to chilly Queanbeyan, from God's country (Queensland), where I spent Saturday wandering around in a t-shirt and shorts. While I had some great ribs on the Gold Coast at an early mother's day celebration, the gastronomic highlight of the week was undoubtedly a carpet bag steak I had in Rockhampton on Thursday night. More on that soon. 

Yes, your intrepid sausage correspondent was in Rockhampton this week doing some research that just happened to coincide with Beef Australia 2009 - or "Beefweek" to the locals. Beefweek is one humdinger of a trade fair. It only happens every two or three years and it leaves other regional fairs I've seen, like the Henty Field Day or Kalgoorlie's Diggers and Dealers, for dead.


Because you can't eat dirt and/or gold.  

Yes, it's all about the meat. And not just any meat. But the king of meats. Beef. 

Am I wrong, Mr Bedak? 

Imagine, 50,000 or so like-minded foodies, committed to producing the best beef they can, crammed into a town of 70,000 people for a week. Now slap on a few thousand Akubras and enough RM Williams to shoe an army and you're getting close.  

As for the steak? Well, it was a rib fillet taken from a Laglan Pastoral Co. Brahman, stuffed with half a dozen fat Pacific oysters, drizzled with a red wine jus and served with vegies and mashed tatties at the Great Western Hotel. What an absolute cracker of a steak. I just had to wave my knife in its general direction and a slab of gelatinous goodness would fall away faster than a Treasury Department revenue forecast. Sure the vegies were a bit on the overcooked side, and the mash was a little lumpy, but let's face it, the vegetable items were there either for decoration or to assuage the Catholic guilt that comes from eating 400g of pure ecstasy-inducing, buttery, beefy goo.  

So when next in Rocky, I can't commend to you strongly enough to get along to the Great Western, where you should order the biggest steak you can find. You can't miss it. It's the big pub on Stanley St that has an indoor rodeo arena attached for your viewing pleasure. Next time, I'm sampling the place on a Friday, to see the bullriders in action... that's what I call an interesting take on "paddock to plate".

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Welcome, Welcome

Those that know me even a little bit know that I am obsessed with food. However through correspondence with Mr Flinthart in the last few months my culinary palate has expanded considerably.

Thats the thing about food, it needs that interaction, that spark from other like minded people. So here you'll find a loose group of people who are interested in food, how to grow it, cook it, eat it, kill it and find it.

Those refugees from JSpace will recognise some of the names here. Flinthart, Bedak, Abe Frellmen, GuruBob and Hughesy. But there will be others dropping through as well, starting with my mate Mr Bailey.

There is an open invitation here, if you love food, bookmark us, come visit and comment, to keep that food spark kicking along