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.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Tasty, but fattening.

In a further addition to the post on just bashing together some ingredients and hoping, here is my dinner from State of Origin night. The pears were slow roasted in a bit of oil and balsamic vinegar and the sauce was a reduction of the marinade, with some lemon juice and butter. The pork was grilled on the bbq to finish.

It came out fantastic, the only change i'd make is to cook the pork slower and longer, but the footy starts at 730pm no matter what, so thats what i could do!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Breakfast of champions

Dr Yobbo here. I'd like to talk to you today about the art of eating for hangovers. That is, eating to both avoid hangovers, and eating to ameliorate their effects. The former is the reason for the existence of the late-night kebab shop, the less said about which the better. The latter has also spawned its own bespoke foodstuff: the all-day breakfast.

Because as we age, bacon and egg McArses don't cut the hangover mustard (or the grease) quite the way they once did - and because as we age the frequency of our hangovers necessarily lessens, with a concomitant exponential rise in their ferocity - most cafes around and about the place will do you a fairly serviceable breakfast of a weekend even once the sun is well over the yardarm and the Stella taps are a-calling once more. The epitome of which is what could generically be called the Big Breakfast - though usually slapped with a grandiose title specific to the establishment in question - and which generally parallels a high-end version of the traditional, time-honoured Anglo-Celtic morning fry up. Bacon, sausages, eggs of some format to be determined by the recipient, toast, possibly mushrooms, possibly beans, possibly roast tomatoes for some semblance of vegetation, probably hash browns, almost definitely indigestion, and a steaming flat white in the largest serving vessel the joint can provide.

But the problem with the Big Breakfast is this: it's almost always just a little bit shit.

It's always something. Not helped by being, shall we say, usually of limited patience due to certain over-indulgences the eve prior, but it's not just being a grumpy hungover bastard that's causative here. It just seems that what should be the easiest schtick on the menu - a big bloody fry-up - always gets buggered up in some way. Flavourless, powdery beige sausages made from innards and the stuff they make Gyprock out of. Not enough bacon. Ludicrously poncy toasted ovoid crusts of ludicriously poncy southern European breads, far too small to actually scrape any of the gluggy, watery egg onto. Hash browns leaking oil over everything like a starchy scale model of the Exxon Valdez. Not enough bacon. Or, as was the case the morning after the Highlanders/Shihad double bill at the 'Brook earlier in the year, turning a vibrant shade of Munter Green in the fifteen minutes between ordering and receiving one's meal, and being left to watch grimly as sleeting waves of nausea led to an untouched $18 breakfast becoming resolutely cold and inedible in front of one's own yellowed, bloodshot eyes.

Bloody awesome gig though. Ears rang for days. AND we stuffed the Crusaders, sux-nul, in possibly the worst game of rugby ever played.

Anyhoo I digress. Put all that on pause, because the search for the Big Breakfast Of The Ages (or at least of Dunedin's burgeoning cafe scene) is over. End Of. We can declare a winner.

Eggs: free range. Poached, perfectly, just so the white is done and the yolk still soft and malleable.
Toast: generous rounds of grilled ciabatta, crunchy and yet spongy.
Bacon: heaps. Enough to make an impromptu eggs benedict with, courtesy the...
Hollandaise sauce: an interesting variation. Creamy, saffron-yellow, not too bitter, just so.
Beans: absent. Thankfully.
Tomatoes: usually go straight in the skip but these were just right. Not broiled until catastrophic failure, not given the Niki Lauda treatment, just singed lightly.
Sausages: the trump card. No floury beige turds here. Rust-red chorizo, sliced diagonally and grilled. Bloody gorgeous.
Coffee: excellent. Not a 'name' supplier, but roasted well and barista'd very competently.

Finally, the perfect All Day Big Breakfast. So where, I hear you cry, can one find this stunning azimuth of breakfast deliciousness?

I give you the Mega Breakfast. The name's a bit of a giveaway, as much as the location is unlikely - the quasi al fresco cafe parked in a glassed enclosure within Mitre 10 Mega's garden section. Seems it's more than just the weekend sausage sizzles that the big box hardware stores are getting a gastronomic reputation for. After all, where else would you be able to get a big breakfast, a decent flat white AND a 12V Bosch cordless drill for under $140? That, as they say in the classics, is win frosted with more win.

The Doctor is OUT.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pasta Mk II

Here is a short vid of me making pasta.....

Thanks to Mr Pollock

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

That will be 100 bucks thank you very much...

My sister came to town on the weekend with her designer packaged husband. Now she is an excellent cook and used to own a little inner-city cafe-deli thing in the land of bridges and opera houses. Nowadays she is pretty much a full-time Mum though and an excursion to Melbourne without the kids is an opportunity to have some fun and there is usually a hell of a lot of eating and drinking involved...

They arrived on Friday and hubbie had to go off to some conference dinner or something so Sis met up with Sweet Thang for drinks and then I joined them later for dinner after my own work related drinkies.

So I was slightly sloshed by the time I arrived at the evening's dinner venue which was Fifteen. However that didn't matter because they were even more inebriated. So sitting down with a ravenous hunger we looked at the menu and ordered a range of things including the Steak Florentine (pictured).

Now this is one of those dishes that you see in cooking magazines, television shows and restaurant menus and never really order, but which has been on my mind quite a lot. It should be a huge thick T-bone steak that is covered with an anchovy based paste and then grilled to perfection and is usually served for two people. Apparently the place to order it here in Melbourne is Grossi Florentino Restaurant where it is the house speciality.

At Fifteen it came out and looked pretty impressive (better then the photo makes it look actually) and tasted great, but the price tag was pretty enormous as well. I can only claim that if I had of been thinking straight I wouldn't have ordered a steak that cost 97 dollars in a million years...

Which is probably how long it will take to pay off my credit card after this oppulent weekend.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Free Your Mind

A good mate of mine, who can cook stuff that matches anything I pump out, stayed with us at Lantanaland last week. It lead to an interesting conversation about something that I cooked for dinner. When pressed on the ingredients and the make up of the dish I gave a vague list and amounts. Kate thought this was a bit strange, she declared that she didn't have the confidence to play with the ingredients.

The thing is, every since I started cooking it hasn't been confidence that has taught me flexibility, it been bloody forgetfulness. Time and time again I forget something that I need and then I have to improvise.

It does free your mind a little and lets you experiment and reach beyond your recipes in your fancy cookbooks. It will have its downside, sometimes things will go horribly wrong and it's not a good habit to get into if you want to bake, where precision is god.

So here is what I had for tonight’s dinner, when I forgot the pine nuts on the way home. It would've probably been nicer with pine nuts, but there you go.

Pasta with pesto

Step 1. Go out the back and measure up your backyard. If you can fit a chook tractor in, go and buy chooks. If not, go down to the farmers market with the highest tree hugger population and befriend someone with chooks. Ducks are even better. Fresh homegrown eggs are the best for this as the flavour of the egg determines the flavour of the pasta. Even free range eggs from the store will be grain fed, whereas your own will feast on scraps as well.

Step 2. Buy a pasta machine. Don't be scared, fresh pasta is the easiest thing to make in the world and even if you buy 50c pasta at the shops this will be cheaper.

Step 3. If you can, hit your local baker up for superfine flour. This will save you lots of money.


In a bowl crack a few eggs and add a dash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Start adding flour in and mixing until it forms a dough. Keep adding a bit more flour and knead until it stops sticking to your hands and feels like elastic. Wrap in clingfilm and wack it in the fridge.

In a food processor add a big handful or two of basil, some parsley and chives, toasted pine nuts ( or cashews or macadamias if you forget to buy pine nuts on the way home), zest and juice of one lemon and a small handful of pitted olives. Pulse. Add a big handful of grated parmesan or pecorino. Pulse. Slowly add and pulse olive oil till it looks like pesto.

Put a pot of water on to boil. On your bench put a small pile of flour. Get you pasta ball and cut in half. Flatten and dust with flour. Put through the machine on the biggest setting. Fold in half and put it through again. Fold and put through a third time, then dust the outsides and work your way down the thickness settings. Don't worry that your pasta isn't a nice rectangle. When you get to the second last setting lay your pasta out and dust the top very well with flour. Fold in half and repeat until it's a rough rectangle slightly longer than wide.

Look at the cutter blades and put them in the back of the cupboard, in case you one day feel the need to make spaghetti. Cut the pasta into strips with a sharp knife, not caring about perfect straight pasta, then pick up and shake loosely, they should fall apart. Drop into boiling pot.

Place pesto in bowl and once pasta has cooked for one minute, lift into bowl with tongs. Don't drain it first, you want a little of the pasta water to loosen your pesto.

Toss and eat.

Now this post took longer to write than that did to make. If my mate can get his camera here this week I'll try for some video as well.

Mother Foccacia from the iPhone