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