Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Taste of Tasmania.

On our Tasmanian trip there was two objectives, lots of pretty scenery for The Wife to take pictures of and lots of good food for me to eat and cook. It kicked off last night in fine fashion, with potatoes I'd never even seen, let alone cooked with. They were strawberry creams, a starchy potato with pink skin and like a pink juice when cut. I mashed them, which was completely wrong, but I'm going to take some home and try them as a roast spud.

Today though was like speed dating for food, the Taste of Tasmania festival. It was blazing hot, so a beer with the best slogan ever (Moo Brew, not suitable for bogans) went down very nicely. We kicked off the food with a rosti, with mushrooms and goats cheese and chutney. The rosti could have been crispier but the goats cheese and chutney was fantastic.

We followed that up with some garlic mussels which everyone else said were very tasty. Seafood is a bit wasted on me, so I wandered off to get some real food, pork belly. Soft and succulent, with probably the best apple sauce I've ever eaten, it was very hard to share.

Maybe I didn't share enough, because Dave came back with a dozen oysters which The Wife claimed were the best she has ever had. The Wife has eaten a lot of oysters.

I went for more beers and when I returned Marj had braved the huge line for tempura mushrooms. They were nice, but I pride myself of being pretty good at tempura so wasn't blown away like I was with the pork belly.

After a walk to look at the maxi yachts and settle our stomachs down we got stuck into the fruit. A raspberry and ice-cream sundae just blew my mind, maybe because raspberries are not something we see a lot of in QLD, but these were BIG raspberries and so juicy and rich. We'll be visiting a raspberry farm tomorrow. The raspberry pudding was nice as was the waffle and mixed berries and strawberries and cherries and chocolate fondue. The chocolate fondue was very nice but Sarah was very disappointed that we didn't drink the leftover fondue straight from the cup like she had the day before.

All in all a great start to a culinary holiday!

- MF from my iPad

Location:Princes wharf, Hobart.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dairy has endless possibilities.

I have really only scraped the surface of making cheese and other dairy products. The soft cheese is on hold till I procure an old fridge to use as a substitute for the awesome railway tunnels and caves in use all over Europe. That or I bury a shipping container under Lantanaland and use half for cheese and the other half as headquarters to rule the world.

This week has been a bit pressed for time to make cheese, so I was after something quick and simple to utilize the available milk. Making yoghurt is easy, but fiddly to do in small batches. Yoghurt in a large batch is easy thanks to the dream pot, essentially a stock pot wrapped in a large thermos.

Sally Lynch, cooking school guru, herdsharer and tastetrekker makes labneh, a middle eastern soft fresh cheese from yoghurt and had mentioned how good it was made from Lantanaland yoghurt so I thought I'd give that a go. All you do is set the milk into yoghurt, which i do for 12 hours in the dreampot. Then ladle into a cheesecloth bag and let drain for another 12 hours.

The taste? Wow. A tart cream cheese. Fantastic spread on a muffin for a morning snack. I'm also wondering what it would be like in a set cheesecake. Or in a spinach pie. The possibilities are endless (and I'll take recipe ideas in the comments if you've got them).

It will definitely be a fixture in the fridge here from now on, that's for sure.

- MF from my iPhone

Location:Needham Rd,Luscombe,Australia

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Love My Job

Sometimes you just can't believe how lucky you can get. For those that don't know, I work for a butcher supply company, which gives me access to a whole bunch of interesting small goods manufacturers and butchers, not to mention bulk spices and other things I can use in the kitchen at Lantanaland.

We have a small test kitchen at work, with a mincer, hand sausage filler, brine pump and slicer and I have enjoyed learning and experimenting with our products at work. The chorizo fresh sausage would have to be my favourite.

Recently we managed by a bit of good luck to score a second hand commercial oven, and the GM decided that it would be good for myself and Spud the machinery manager to learn how to cook everything that could be cooked in a smokehouse. This is the older model of the smokehouse we sell, so it would benefit the company greatly for us to have this knowledge, but I was not exactly reluctant to try everything out.

So far we have done, boneless ham, 4x4 ham, frankfurt, kabana, franksy (made when I acccidently combined the kransky and frankfurt mixes together), cooked mettwurst salami, smoked and brined chickens and chilli beer sticks.

Just because we had the smokehouse there, I've done two big batches of smoked tomatoes as well, which add a depth of flavour to lamb shanks, bolognese or a pizza sauce that has to be tried to be believed.

Next week we will be trying a full leg ham and for an experiment, lamb ham, a pumped cured and smoked leg of lamb. Cant wait for those sandwiches next week.

Yep. I love my job.

- MF from my iPhone

Location:Vadals Test Kitchen

Saturday, September 4, 2010

My Own Personal Beef Week...Jesus!

Greetings, gentle readers. It's been a while, I know. I've been busy saving the world, one sausage at a time. But I thought y'all might like to know of a recent trip I took to Rockhampton.

Now you might recall this is not my first trip to the Beef Capital of Australia. My last trip was in Beef Week in 2009. You can read about the best carpetbag steak ever, here.

This time was just a day trip, unfortunately. But after some wheeling and dealing in the morning your correspondent clocked off and took a long lunch at Cassidy's, a local steakhouse. Here I sampled the very excellent local Teys Brothers Black Angus rib fillet, cooked to a perfect medium rare and didn't it go down a treat with a New Zealand Pinot? Well, yes. Resisting the urge to have a post luncheon Highland Park from the extensive choice of single malts at this fine establishment, my colleague and I made our way cross town to Wiggo's fine meat emporium at Allenstown shopping centre, where I stuffed a Woolies esky bag full of about 8 kgs of beef and a couple of kilos of ice. Craig Wiggo looked after me like an old mate (which he wasn't. Although one of my brothers used to buy his beef there when he lived in our nation's beef capital) and salted my ice down and chilled my meaty selections down in the freezer for half an hour while we downed a couple of beers at the pub before our long flight(s) home.

Resisting the urge to sneak said beef onto the flight as hand luggage, I fessed up to the check-in chap. Unfortunately (and here is the really important moral of the story folks, so read up, get yourself educated and BE PREPARED) the way to ship any foodstuffs like raw meat or seafood is to bring it in a foam box with a lid, but leave the box unsealed. The ground staff are happy to do the packing and sealing for you, but you must check it in and it has to be in a foam box. This left me with a problem, as I had no foam box. So I left my colleague behind and raced out to the taxi rank, where a local cabbie agreed to drive me to a fruit and veg store to find me one. Sure enough, after explaining my predicament to the checkout chap at Tancred's fruit and veg, I was just about to buy the broccoli box he produced when my colleague rang from the airport to tell me that the helpful Virgin Blue guy had found me a polystyrene box.

Sweet, I thought, as I raced back to the waiting cab, leaving the checkout chap somewhat relieved (5 minutes of tapping on his machine had not revealed how much he should charge me for an empty foam box) and $30 later I made it back to the airport, where I was greeted by the beaming Virgin Blue man again, proudly holding the world's smallest polystyrene box.

The look on my face must have been priceless when I revealed the 8 kilos of beef I had stashed in my little esky, as I told him I HAD HAD THE RIGHT SIZED BOX IN MY HANDS ONLY 5 MINUTES PRIOR at the fruit and veg store.

Luckily, he agreed to have another look out the back and to my great relief, he returned 5 minutes later with the right box. He then proceeded to pack my beefy package and I made it into the departure lounge with about 5 minutes to spare. I still don't know whether the whole song and dance routine was just to terrorise the shiny bum visitor (and to stimulate the local taxi industry) or whether he was just trying to be helpful, albeit a little slow (given he had seen the size and weight of my esky).

Anyway, the first leg of my homeward journey was uneventful and I could feel my blood pressure returning to a more reasonable level. Later, in Brisvegas, I watched the baggage handlers loading up the luggage for the Canberra flight. They must have heard from their collegue in Rocky, as they saw me watching them and pretended to make off with the well marked and well wrapped box of food. They must have thought it was a great joke to see me jumping up and down upstairs behind the glass as they kept putting the box on the loading device and taking it off. Putting it on. Taking it off. Over and fucking over.

Eventually they took pity on me and packed my fucking meat.

After the world's longest 80 minute flight I made it home with said meat. God knows how I didn't get a speeding ticket driving along Pialligo Avenue, but all was fine as the meat was still chilled when it arrived home some 5 hours after leaving Wiggo's house of fun.

Now after tonight's roast rib fillet of Black Angus yearling from Nolan's, served with roast chats and carrots, and a pear, rocket, parmesan and balsalmic salad, I'd have to say all the hassle was worth it.

I still have a little bit more meat kicking around the bottom of the fridge...some Nolan's eye fillet, supposedly from their Brisbane Exhibition display (not sure if it was from the 'before' or 'after' display, as I was too excited to ask Wiggo) and some Nolan's Black Angus rib eye.

Not to mention some 3.5 kilos of Teys Brothers Rib Eye, which I'm planning to roast up for a dinner party in the coming weeks. (BOTTOM)

So there you have it, folks. If you're planning on flying with beef, remember to take a polystyrene box and some double bagged ice to the airport. The check-in staff have all the big bags and gaffer tape you need and will want to pack it themselves to ensure you're not carrying a dismembered body. So learn from my own mistakes how NOT to do it, gentle readers. And save your blood pressure for eating the beef, rather than just getting it home. Mind you, I've always wanted to conduct a public auction in an airport terminal, but I guess that can wait for another day!

Rockhampton Beef: Good enough to make a man blog again!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Food for the ill

I was pretty crook this week, with a virus or flu or something similar. I didn't bother to check. It was bad enough that I went five whole days without wanting a coffee and considering I think a blood/caffeine balance of about 50/50 to be appropriate I gauged I was pretty damn crook.

The funniest thing with me is my appetite when ill is almost nonexistent. All week I lived off a variant of Flinthart's awesome Asian soup/broth that he uses for wontons. Some sort of chicken, chilli, ginger, fish sauce, a sugar (I use honey), salt, onion, carrot, garlic, bay, lemon or lemongrass, bring to a simmer and turn the heat off and let infuse.

I use a whole chook and just tear the poached chicken off at the end. That was dinner, and lunch, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday I felt a bit better so I roasted off some pumpkin and used the leftover broth to make pumpkin soup.

What scares me is the lack of appetite, the lack of willingness to cook and explore flavors. It's such a big part of my life that the thought of ever having a terminal illness or something that took my hunger away for a long period of time is truly frightening.

I know a few crook people through twitter and my one week with a virus made me reconsider how much of a struggle it must be, just to deal with those little things that we all take for granted.

- MF from my iPad

Location:Riverside Dr,Tumbulgum,Australia

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Duck season

Dr Yobbo here. Duck is usually something I'm all over if I see it on the menu on my now-rare restaurant sorties. Amphora in St Lucia used to do (probably still do) an excellent one, likewise a short-lived but awesome place in Yamba called Beachwood. My Italian farmer relatives from up the back of Lismore also used to put on some fantastic duck dishes when we had the inevitable family get-together barbeques up at theirs. Never actually had a crack at prepping roast duck myself, so when the local supermarket had them on special I figured why the hell not. Now, obviously, this being a Serious Food Blog, using frozen duck is blasphemy and you should be getting only free-range, organically farmed fresh-killed duck raised on a diet of love and sustainably grown tofu, but as usual we've taken lazy shortcuts, so frozen duck it is. Looks a quality bird though, raised on a farm on the Canterbury Plains. Just like half of the current All Blacks. Works for them. This size 17 bird was $20, reduced from a budgetarily implausible $30. No idea what it'd be in your part of the world. Probably less.

Now the thing you need to remember about duck is that it's not chicken. That's not entirely the cretinous statement of obviousness that it looks. Ducks are longer and thinner of frame, carry more fat under their skin as waterproofing insulation (being waterfowl), and less bulk about them around the breast compared to chooks. As such you need a bigger bird to feed the same number of heads. They also dry out more easily, so you need to baste them regularly to retain the moisture. Beeso confits his. As with most cooking stuff there's a bunch of recipes on the web, including this one from Hugh Fairly-Twattingballs from River Cottage Thingie, but the general process is about the same. I'm actually going to do mine at a lower temp than Hugh, then ramping up in the final phase. Reason for that is I want to use that rendered duckfat runoff to roast some 'taties, but I don't want to have to leave the duck out to get cold and old while I do it, not for too long anyway.

Preheat oven to 220 C. This will only be used for the fat-rendering part of the roast, not the main cook which will be around 160. Have seen anything from 190 down to 120 (250 F) suggested. The latter for VERY slow roasting (3-4 hours).

Prep the bird. Rinse and pat dry, remove any large fat deposits, and pierce or score the skin (only lightly, not through to the meat - just enough to allow the fat to run off.) Am actually using a Stanley knife for this. Season with salt and pepper. I'm also sprinkling over some wild rosemary the old man recently discovered in the garden, because I can, and we have shitloads of it.

Render the fat for around 20min in the 220 degree oven, then take it out and turn down to 160. Baste the bird with the runoff. Do the same for the next 2 or so hours every half hour or so. For some reason my lads like souveniring my silicon basting brush from the second drawer, so even finding the bloody thing is an achievement.

Parboil some potatoes, just to get ahead of the game and shorten the final roast time. I like red jackets with golden flesh (is that the right term for potato innards? for the taste, the texture and the aesthetics of them. Lop them into rough cubes - I tend to leave the skin on, partly for the health benefits, partly because I can't be arsed peeling them - chuck them in boiling water - you know the rest.

Duck season? Rabbit(oh) season. I mentioned we ran the Tigers down last night? Yeah? If not, we did. 34-30 with a try in the last minute of golden point. After trailing 28-12 midway through the second half. Every All Black cloud has a silver (or coachwood and myrtle) lining.

Anyway - strain the runoff, combine with a bit of crushed garlic and chopped rosemary, over the parboiled 'taters and into the dish the duck came out of. Fire it up to Crispy Temp (220-250). Serve with Something Else. In our case corn because the eldest monster refuses any meal that doesn't include corn. Seriously. We had to order a kiddie-sized corn pizza on Friday.

Verdict: Excellent. If a bit fatty. Actually, a lot fatty (still slightly queasy.) Can't underemphasize just how lardy duck is. Which, I suppose, is why it tastes so fricken AWESOME. Give it a crack, if you can find it at an agreeable price, just keep it moist and avoid too much of the lardiness. It's a winner. As voted unanimously this evening - the only thing left over on Monster v1.0's plate at the end was... corn.

The Doctor is OUT.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Food Bloggers Assemble! At Moo Moos

The latest catch up of the Brisbane food bloggers was at Moo Moos, a fairly upmarket grill inside the Marriot hotel in Brisbane city. As most people who read this blog know, I'm not that big on restaurant reviews, mainly cause I just love doing the cooking, partly because I forget the incredible amount of work that goes into a kitchen like this and get snippy over small things.

Nights like the food bloggers nights and the Burger meet ups are massively enhanced by being surrounded by people who just want to discuss and dissect food, tech, current affairs, you name it. It's never boring. Neither was the entree, a tasting plate with four small portions gracing it. I'm not a big seafood fan, but i had to do a double take at the scallop, it was so soft and pleasurable it was like eating flavoured textured air. Divine. The pork belly was excellent, wouldn't make my top five, but that is a very, very long list. There was a superb piece of dry cured meat on a cracker and a deep fried zucchini flower filled with goats cheese. I love these and this one was done beautifully, creamy and crunchy.

The main course was a sirloin on mash with asparagus. Now I'm going to say up front that I'm stupidly hard to please when it comes to beef. I work in the butcher industry and I know how to cook a nice piece of beef. Don't always get it right, but I cane myself just as hard when I don't. Because beef is something that when you do get right, is mind blowingly good. This sirloin was OK. The mash was just OK and the asparagus was pretty tired. Again, I have my own asparagus patch and no restaurant can ever compete with the fresh picked stuff, but this asparagus was not that fresh. I could have had the fish, but why go to a grillhouse and have fish?

The dessert however was on another planet. There is no way I'd be able to cook that at home without a bit of practice. A small chocolate brownie, topped with some vanilla ice cream and dusted with crunchy, tasty honeycomb, with a little side dish of hot fudge ready to be tipped over at the last second. It was the tastebud highlight of the night for me, a non sweet tooth.

It was great to catch up with all the different people that I interact or watch on twitter and in blogland, the conversation was sparkling and interestin and I'm looking forward to the next one already.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Awesome food blog

Crash Test Kitchen was recommended to me by some friends a while ago and it is definietly worth having alook at...

Monday, July 19, 2010

Brunch on weekend

I went to brunch at my mate Nick's place on Sunday - he and his wife don't have a television so while we are sitting around watching Masterchef - they seem to spend a whole of their time actually cooking and baking...

I forgot to take a photo of the bread they had made but apparently this book has changed their life - it is called Artisan breads in five minutes a day - they bought it off the interweb and they said that it is totally awesome - well worth buying.  The bread they made certainly backed up that claim because it was better then a lot of the so-called artisan bread you can pick up down here.  

This was the other special delight of the day a BABKA - apparently an old Jewish recipe - a yeasty baked treat with heaps of chocolate and nuts and totally delicious. The closest thing that I could find online was this recipe here.

New Toy

I picked up this slow cooker on weekend and left it at home full of lamb shanks, red wine and various other bits and pieces on a low heat - I put it all together this morning and then headed off to work.

I hope that after 9-10 hours of cooking we get something very yummy out of it when I get home...

I will keep you posted.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Warm chunky soup.

Hey, gees, cough, how'd it get so dusty in here. Open that window. Have we got some onions? Yes? Garlic and carrots? Oh well, we'll make do, let's get cooking.

My apologies for the absence. Lantanaland has been taking up a bit of my time, but this weekend, against all sanity, we are going camping in the rain and the cold ( for QLD) on North Stradbroke.

The Wife has requested a soup I do in the dream pot for this sort of camp. For those of you who don't know the dream pot is a big pot that has a case like a thermos. You cook up some soup or stew and put it in and it loses heat very, very slowly. I have had soup from it too hot to touch ten hours after it came off the stove.

This is a hearty thick peasant soup. Sweat off some onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Add water and some bacon bones from a butcher that smokes his own ham. Cook until all the soft bits have fallen off the bones. Remove the bones and add a cup of dried soup mix and a cup of pearl barely. Stick it in the fridge. All the excess fat will solidify on the top and you can easily remove it.

Chop a few potatoes and mushrooms up and add to the mix along with a bottle of dark beer or white wine, depending on your tastes. Cook slowly for as long as you want and serve with good fresh bread and lots of butter.

Hope it keeps me warm.

-- MF from the iPhone

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sunday Ceviche Sessions

Sunday Ceviche Sessions

It is a gorgeous day. A beautiful blue sky contrasts gloriously with the golden sun, as a pacific sea breeze sweeps gently across your skin. Your anticipation has been building for days, although it seems much longer. A deliberately tiny breakfast has left you wanting. It is your first time. He stands before you with a knowing smile. And with great pride, places their crowning jewel before your eyes. Tentatively you lift your fork and slowly, ever so gently, place a piece into your mouth.

It´s fresh, sharp, yet cool, with a subtle chili kick. It literally melts in your mouth. Time stands still as your stare absentmindedly into the opposing wall, with a ridiculously stupid grin on your face. Welcome to a new world. You may wonder what has just happened, if it were a dream, perhaps a vision. No. It was real. Behold good people, the Ceviche experience. Welcome to Lima and welcome to Peru the reigning food capital of Latin America.

There are numerous food wonders to be experienced in Peru. I could waffle endlessly about tacu-tacu (a rice and bean mix usually served with fresh seafood in ricotta source...yum), sushi (it is amazing here), lomo saltado (a traditional meat, tomato and potato stir fry dish...a fusion of traditional Chinese Peruvians cuisine (note: a large number of Chinese people have been immigrating to Peru since the 19th Century) and tres leches (a simple yet addictive desert, satisfaction guaranteed). However for me, it´s all about the Ceviche, the most amazing seafood experience in the world, simple, fresh and perfect.

In order to be able to replicate this experience for myself, I enlisted the help of a local Ceviche addict to mentor me in the ways of the Ceviche. And so under the blue Arequipan sky, Ceviche Sunday was born.

On a basic level Ceviche is raw fish marinated in a lime based mix and served cold and fresh with boiled sweet potato and corn. Traditionally, Ceviche is a lunch dish and as such it´s an early rise for the freshest ingredients...First stop...Pascados Mercado's (fish markets). There are a number of fish varieties which can be used in Ceviche such as, Perico, Langueard, Corvina or Ojo de Uva. For those of you not living close to Latin American piscados, basically you need a fish (corvina, halibut, sea bass, tilapia, sole) with a strong texture, that won´t fall apart too easily and light flavor (so the fishyness (technical term) doesn´t overpower the lime/chili flavors). A trick is to cut the fish pieces (cubed approx 2 x2 cm) on an angle. Experts and addicts’ believe this assists in the absorption of flavors. Other ingredients include, a whole lot (about 10 limes) of freshly squeezed lime juice (3/4 squeezed, apparently you don´t squeeze the last bit of juice out of the lime as this is too acidic), garlic, red chilies (please remember to refrain from any none Ceviche related activities before washing your hands ;), a red onion, coriander, aji-no-moto (found in all good Chinese superstores) salt, pepper and boiled sweet potato's and/or corn to serve. While not going into the finer details of the recipe, I would strongly advise to drop via Lima (numerous restaurant recommendations can be provided) and taste before attempting this at home. I´m delighted to say that Ceviche Sunday was an absolute success! A very leisurely Sunday afternoon was spent on the rooftop of an inner city Hostel; gazing out onto the nearby snowcapped volcanoes, while enjoying ice cold beers and mountains of delicious Ceviche. Yet again the power of simple fresh ingredient's combines to create a national food obsession.

Note: Please excuse food presentation in all photos, as on each and all occasions I was unable to refrain from eating long enough to take a before shot.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Considering how anal I can be about where ingredients come from and taking things back to first principles (irritatingly so), I completely suck at measuring for recipes. I just can't seem to grasp the idea. But with icecream I tried, I really did. I could think of nothing better than home made icecream, every person who'd made me icecream was held with the same acclaim as Greek Gods and it was all fantastic. I however, suck at icecream. Can never get the right consistency, never get in frozen enough, just not right.

So The Wife s away adding to the greater knowledge of the world this week and I felt like some desert. Comfort food. I threw a few egg yolks and some sugar and a touch of cornflour into a bowl and whisked it up. While the potatoes boiled I put another a dish over the top and heated some cream. Mixed it all together and put it back over the potatoes. As I mixed it thickened nicely and I threw in some sultanas, feeling some unnatural optimism in the way it was all progressing. There was some dark chocolate in the fridge so that went in too. It was really nice thickness now so I took it off the pan and whisked in a touch of rum.

I then reclined on the couch and sampled some of the awesomeness that is Jason Statham taking his shirt off every five minutes to kick some badguys arse. I took the custard out of the freezer every ten minutes or so and gave it a bit of a stir. Heaps less stress than using an icecream machine. Strangely I seemed to be able to easily pick up the plot of the movie despite my absences.

Just before bed it looked to be just right. I tasted. I fell to the floor in rapture, thanking the O mighty Crema, goddess of puddings and sorbets, who must have been watching over me.

It was that good.

-- Post From My iPhone

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Food & Wine blogging tips

Apparently the recent Melbourne Food & Wine Festival included amongst its many offerings a special get-together for food-bloggers. While I only made it to a few token events (mainly the freebie ones) and definitely didn't get to this one - they do have some of the presentations available online thanks to the amazing interwebby thingie...

Just click here!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Get some pork on your fork

Doc Y here. I do a fair amount of weekend roasts because they're cheap, they're simple, and let's face it, the weather in the Deep South of NZ is usually conducive to it. The folks and bro are over here at the moment and I have a big leg of pork to do today, but the standard issue roast pork/gravy/apple sauce/roast veg combo isn't really doing it for me. Even crackling isn't selling it to me, even though once a man is tired of crackling, he is tired of life. So I'm going to have a stab at doing it Chinese style. Never done it before. Little idea how. It's another train wreck in slow motion from our series (if a series of one previous entry counts as a series) where Dr Yobbo liveblogs the assembly of dishes he has no idea how to make and everyone ducks and hides from the flying shrapnel.

This is a mashup of a bunch of Chinese roast pork dishes on the Magical InterGoogle; the authentic Cantonese dish is siew yuk (which sounds like a three year old's response to boiled sprouts) and is usually made with nice lardy pork belly. Here I'm also lacking a few other authenticators like rice vinegar and red fermented bean curd - your local Asian supermarket or the international randomness aisle of Woolies should see you right if you want to go proper legit like. I'm just going with the traditional Macgyver School Of Cookery approach where we bodge it together from whatever stuff is in the cupboard.

Leg thereof, a bit over 2.3kg. Around 6 grownups to feed, less one conscientious objector - it's Jesus-On-A-Stick Day after all. As such I've managed to annoy the Catholics, the Jews and even (given that this isn't particularly halal) the Islamabads with this dish, so if you have any friends with imaginary friends to cook for today, I might be giving this one a swerve.

Smashing together a marinade around midmorning - just in the baking dish the pork will eventually roast in, for want of a better location. It'll rest in the fridge most of the day. These are large volumes because it's a large slab of oink, reduce proportionally for smaller cuts.

3/4 cup soy sauce - half dark and normal, since that's what I had
1/3 cup honey
2/3 cup hoi sin sauce
1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce
2/3 cup dry sherry (here subbing for the rice vinegar, should result in a more caramelized flavour)
1 tbsp crushed garlic (say 3-4 cloves)
2 tsp crushed ginger
1 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder

Whisk it all up and drown the bastard. Chuck in the fridge, turning every hour or two.

Have a coffee while you're waiting.

While that's marinading I'll tell you about a recipe I bashed together with help from the old man the other day. By help I mean... well, we had plans to make a big lasagne and he said he was bringing over some Italian sausage to use for the meat. What he brought over was Italian flavoured supermarket sausages. Hmmm.

Worked, though. Helps that NZ supermarket mystery bags are actually pretty bloody good (as they'd want to be at $10 a kg or more.) The Italian ones are mostly beef (ish) with lots of garlic, chilli and spice in them. Grilled them for a little while just to firm them up enough to dice finely, then threw them in the electric wok with some finely diced onion, zucchini (bit of random greenery for fibre) and portabello mushrooms. Bit of mince to bolster the snaggage. Set all that aside, reduced some canned tomatoes with some pasta sauce and half a cup each of leftover cab sauv and pinot noir, reintroduced the goods, bit more chilli and garlic, chopped capsicum and fresh herbs as late as I could get away with, then once that was more solid than liquid, layered out a lasagne using a commercial bechamel (you can make your own if you want to waste your time pointlessly), Barilla lasagne sheets and grated cheddar/mozzarella, with a bit of grated parmesan to crisp up the lid.

Bloody noice.

I'll be back to finish the Chinese roast pork story later today or tomorrow, but til then - The Doctor is OUT.


Howzit. Dr Yobbo here, taking up the story from where we left off yesterday.

So, get your big slab of pork out. Of the fridge. Drain off the marinade, keep it for basting purposes. Get the oven preheating - you'll need to keep the roast temp down a little to account for the burnable sugars in the marinade, it'll inevitably blacken a bit but if you shove it in at 180 it'll look like the BBQ snag which fell into the campfire and was forgotten until sunrise. 165-170 (Celsius) should do it, figure 40 mins per half kilo at that temp, basting regularly with the residual marinade. You can reduce it down into a glaze for serving if you want to.

Vegies to go with? I went with red kumara, which I understand isn't as common in Australia as it is over here (or as is the more prevalent orange varieties.) This has a deep brown-red-magenta skin and a creamy yellow flesh, often with purple vein structures through it. It's a little less sweet and starchy as the orange varieties, and tends to be cheaper as well. Given that the pork locked us in to a lower roast temp than maybe you'd want, I went for fairly large bits, basically just halving them. Gave them a bit of a slosh-around in some oil with paprika and salt - more typically I'd go for olive oil, garlic, rosemary etc but didn't figure that'd work with the Asian elements of the pork - and in for about an hour or so. That, and some nice broccoli to offer a bit of greenery.

Verdict: Went well. If I was to do it again I'd probably roast it at lower temp for longer - outer edges were quite dry, yet not entirely cooked at the bone - and add vinegar to the marinade to aid penetration and bitter-up some of that residual sweetness. That said, there were no complaints. Put it this way - even the conscientious objector decided to forget it was Good Friday for the purposes of this lot. Mother Focaccia - food worth going to hell for.

The Doctor is OUT.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Fat Belly Everyone

The Wife's dad turned 60 last week and we all headed off to Brunswick Heads to stay together in a house, drink beer and coffee, eat and generally celebrate the occasion in a low key way. At least thats what Neil wanted. The Wife knows how much he likes seeing his family and friends though, so using the fully operation awesome power of Facebook, organised for them all to be in Brunswick for dinner on the Saturday night.

The Wife organised dinner at fatbellykat, which by pure fluke happened to be across the road from our house. Kat's is a greek resteraunt, with a strong emphasis on shared food, so after much consultation The Wife decided on the following menu.

1. Natural Oysters
2. Hand-made Spring Onion Flatbread with Dips
3. Smoked Fish Fritters with Tomato Marmalade + Creme Fraiche

1. Layered Dish of Marinated Pumpkin, Eggplant Chips + Herbed Sheep's Milk Labna
2. Confit Duck & Kipfler Potato Dolmades with Orange Yoghurt
3. Shredded Lamb Filo Pastries

1. Kataifi Crema topped with mastic flavoured custard and finished with cream, cinnamon and almonds
2. Greek donuts soaked in honey syrup served with hand-made vanilla bean icecream and praline
3. Chocolate Mousse

At this point i'd like to point out that The Wife, who after 10+ years of scientific training can make a chinese military unit look disorganised and the head of the spanish inquisition feel like he can't get a question in, was very impressed with the level of service and the speed of response times. Little things like a suggestion to change from on big cake to three small desserts showed an attention to detail and understanding the individual customers needs, that you don't always get.

On to the food!

Having grown up with oysters straight off the rocks, I don't have the love affair with them that some people do. The consensus was that they were very fresh and had great flavour. The fish fritters were light and very tasty, but the winner of the entree and for me, the whole night was the flatbread. The texture! The flavour! The dips, mmm oh so garlicy. I will be having a crack at flatbread again and again till i get it right, because i could think of nothing better than having a few mates round with some cold beers and getting stuck in to a plate of this.

The mains sharing plates came out and i hit the only down note of the entire evening. I love pumpkin, especially when you slow roast in and caramelise all those natural sugars. I'm not sure what the marinade was but it just didn't sit well with the pumpkin, though to be fair this might be traditional greek combination and other people on my table loved it. The duck confit dolmades were a win, but then you'd be pretty hard up if you ruined something with confit in it. I loved the soft lamb in the crunchy filo pastries, though a few people weren't fans, but i thought they had a great balance of flavour and i love the texture of a good filo done right.

By the time dessert came around I was pretty full, but the dainty three desserts on the plate were tempting enough to dig in. The mousse was first and it was light and rich, then i tried the honey soaked donut. WOW. I need that recipe. It was something else, not sickly sweet, with a fantastically doughy texture, I polished it off and sadly the custard was left behind.

The staff at fatbellykat were superb, there is no other word for it. When i ran The Alley and we were on form it was like this, the staff genuinely wanted to make your night as enjoyable as possible, Damian made sure that we had everything we needed and it all ran smoothly, he even encouraged The Wife to get up and do a speech. We weren't the quietest bunch, but the staff and owners obviously enjoyed the communal atmosphere, there were no dirty looks or a feeling that we should tone it down.

The food was great, thanks Kat, the staff and the night were likewise, if you are in that part of the world, check it out!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Comfort Food

I have a new Asian cookbook, purchased to find the recipe of the legendary Sichuan Crispy Pork Ribs. Unfortunately it didn't contain the right recipe and the whole book is freaking me out a little, mainly because I have about one in ten of the ingredients and can recognize about four in ten. With The Wife invalided with the flu and feeling the start of it myself I went with something for dinner that I can cook blindfolded, comfort food.

Comfort food is a pretty broad church. Could be a uplifting Asian broth or fried eggs on toast. As long as the flavours and experience are like and old treasured coat, welcoming and soothing of the soul.

I cooked lamb meatballs in a tomato sauce. Lamb mince, with thyme, ginger, garlic, a blitzed bit of bread, onion, an egg, lots of cumin, chilli, tomato paste and salt, all mixed up into little balls then fried off in a heavy casserole dish until brown. Take them out and whack in a diced onion and some mushrooms, sweat off a little then hit it with a good slosh of red wine. Put the meatballs back in and a tin of tomatoes then bake for half an hour. Tear some mozzarella over the top and turn the heat up in the last five minutes. If you have access to buffalo, spend the money on that beautiful silky cheese. Serve with mashed potato.

Best when crook or living in Tasmania or NZ.

MF from the iPhone

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Looking at cooking...

I haven't posted anything here for a while, what with moving house and everything.  However the big move across town has meant a couple of delightful changes.

One thing is that we are now able to drop into Footscray pretty regularly for a big bowl of pho (pronounced 'fur') at a huge range of Vietnamese places. To date our favorite is called Dong Que VN on the main drag there - it has that really authentic feel without being grotty. There are always a couple of older guys sitting there eating who look like they were ARVN regs who escaped the fall of Saigon on the last chopper out as well as some babealicious younger Vietnames hotties. Plus you just can't fault a place when their spring rolls are just totally awesome. The pho is delicious as well, coming out with a huge pile of bean sprouts, fresh basil and chopped up chili and lemons that you add to your fragrant beef broth.

Another is that we are also very close to the fantastic Station Hotel (also in Footscray) which has to have the best steaks in Melbourne. I had the most enormous and delicious angus t-bone there on my birthday in February, washed down by some very nice Torbrek shiraz.

The best thing though is that after having 'made do' with an electric stove for the past 2 years we once again have a gas cooktop. We still need to put some time, effort and money into building a new kitchen but we decided that we could probably live with the existing 1930s-40s era cupboard size set-up for a while. We needn't have worried - the old stovetop puts out a ferocious heat and works a treat. I don't know how I lived without gas for so long - it just makes cooking better somehow...

On the weekend I went to the Footscray Markets and picked up some fresh salmon and prawn meat and then we went to a pretty fabulous farmers market at Williamstown, so I don't think we will be suffering in the food supply department.

Unfortunately the new homeowner cash flow situation  has meant that I haven't been able to take in as much of the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival program as I would like. There are  a few freebie events but most of the activities require an outlay ranging from 50-100 bucks per person and we can't justify that at the moment. We have a weird installation type thingie in front of work and had a pretty good event today with a bunch of people talking about different eras in food in Melbourne. Guy Grossi from Florentinos was ths stand-out talent, I went to his restaurant last year for Sweet Thang's birthday and it was truly excellent.

On another note I thought that this sounded like a pretty good cookbook (pictured)  for the person who has everything - although I have to admit that I still haven't cooked anything from my Kinky Friedman cookbook - so never sure how useful a novelty cookbook actually is...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A nice surprise.

Last week we went out to dinner for a mates birthday. I knew we were going out to a restaurant but had no idea where it was or what type or quality. Turns out it's a restaurant that I've always wanted to visit, from the old days when it was Tables and in it's current incarnation as Brents.

I don't eat out that much, partly because I sink all our extra cash into Lantanaland, a night out might buy me eight fruit trees or half a cow and partly because I back my own skills in the kitchen.* But it's good to go out, to be inspired by truly exceptional cooking and to spark your own inspiriation. Brents was such a night.

There was 21 of us so it was a simple three choice menu. I moved my napkin to have a look and immediately said "I know what I'm having". The Wife had a look and laughed, because the first line read "crispy pork belly" and I didn't need to read past that really. It came with a mustard ice cream and that worked amazingly well, the cool icecream worked really well with the tender crispy pork belly.

They then had a nice little pallette cleanser after all that tasty, tasty fat, a passionfruit sorbet. It was simple and delicious and one of the girls passed hers over and I doubled up it was that good. The main choice was not quite as easy. Normally I would jump on duck confit with pork belly swiftness, but I was tempted by the slow cooked beef cheeks, mainly because fellow food blogger Natascha Mirosch was so passionate for it a few weeks back. I went with that and I'm glad I did, beautifully cooked meat, falling apart with a smooth mash. I'd usually share a taste with The Wife so we can sample all the dishes but I'd cleaned my plate before she could even offer some of her salmon. I did manage to snaffle a bit of confit from one of the boys and it was also very, very good but I was glad I went with the beef cheeks.

Dessert was a lovely cream brûlée. The serving throughout the night but I doubt anyone would have walked away even a little hungry. Check out the cheese board that some of the crew got to finish off with, great cheese and a superb quince paste.

All in all a fantastic night, Brents would have made a bit of cash from the drinks bill, which I hoped made up for the fact they had to ask us to keep it down a touch about three times. Anyone who says that the Brisbane food scene has nothing worth going out for is kidding themselves. Both Brents and Grasshopper Kitchen are top class feeds and if you are getting poor food or service then you need to do your research better and support the places that do food like this.

*if I come off as being a bit arrogant about my cooking, considering I have no chef training, I had my faith in my skills reaffirmed this morning at breakfast at Mooloolaba. I got my favourite eggs benedict. For some reason there was four muffins, they need to find a supplier that sell decent ham and it doesn't have to be five layers thick and their "home made hollandaise" curiously had no flavour at all. If I served that to you at my place I'd be embarressed. But I wouldn't, because I've never made that dish that badly. The cafe wasn't that busy so it wasn't like the chef would've been snowed under. Of course when the waiter asked if I was enjoying my meal I said yes. Doh.

MF from the iPhone

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fresh is Best II

After 4 years of living in a shoe box in Brisbane when I moved to Hobart last year, my girlfriend and I had a list of 3 things we wanted in a house. Sunny position, sunny position, and a garden.

I wouldn’t say I love gardening in itself, but I do love growing my own food. Apart from the freshness, you can’t get any fresher than picked and walked straight to the kitchen and the satisfaction of knowing what you are eating is from your own hard work. The taste is incredible.

We planted Pink Eye potatoes last spring and have been gradually eating our crop since around mid December. Now I like spuds, any spuds, I’ll eat them any form, chips, crisps, roasted, mashed whatever. When we had our new pink eyes, they were by far the best tasting spuds I have ever had. So much so that we have only eaten our own spuds the one way. Lightly steamed, so they are cooked but still firm, with some butter and chopped oregano (also from the garden). The taste of the potatoes was so nice that we wanted to enjoy the taste of the potato itself rather than mixing it with too many things. I had not tasted a spud like it. Maybe next year when we grow some more we’ll do a few more things with them, but for now its just enjoying fresh tasting spuds.

I have a friend that tends to grow the vegies that are more expensive in the shops. Spuds are really cheap in Tassie, but I will be growing spuds every year, no matter how cheap they get. Fresh definitely is best!!

Not from an iPhone

Fresh is Best

Fresh is best! We have a new contributor here at MF, Davey from Tasmania, making Tassie by far the biggest segment of our writers. Until he gets his permissions all sorted, here is his first posted by him above

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pumpkin Soup

If you live in south east Qld you'll have noticed it's been raining a bit in the last month. A bit! My shiny new ride on has barely been touched and the grass grows and grows, time for some geese as a fall back plan I think. The problem with all this rain has been the heat that has come with it. Sticky, humid heat.

Because what I really crave in this weather is comfort food, big hearty roasts and warm soup. With the last lot of rain the temperature has plummeted to about a hot Tasmanian day, just enough for me to do pumpkin soup.

Dice a fair chunk of pumpkin into about 5 cm chunks. Cut the bottom of a whole head of garlic. Deseed a few chillies. Toss the lot in a very light coat of olive oil, salt, cayenne pepper and rosemary or thyme. Bake in an oven about 130 deg until the pumpkin is soft and a little caremelised.

Melt one of your blocks of pork trotter stock in a pan, add the pumpkin, chilli and squeezed out garlic and blend with a stem blender, slowly adding pure cream until you have the consistency that you want. Keep on low heat until hot, try not to boil.

In the roasting pan, fry off some cold smoked belly bacon finely diced, then add diced bread, fry until crisp, spoon over soup with some finely chopped chives.

If only we had a real winter.

MF from the iPhone

Friday, February 19, 2010

Triple Link - the dark art

Butchers will triple link their snags, but most home sausage makers struggle so I did a quick video of me doing it, verrrry slowly, for @silverbeet on Twitter. The trick is to make an indent in the sausage before you loop it back under.

MF from the iPhone

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I got the pox from what's in the box with the dots

The Italian migrant diaspora has given us a lot of things. Decent coffee, for example. Or Your Correspondent for that matter. However, the influx of Italian migrants into America hasn't been quite so packed full of win. Italian-American society has taketh away far more than it hath giveth. (Sorry about the thpeach impediment, I have a blogged node.) For every Joe di Maggio or Mario Andretti they giveth, they also giveth us Madonna, bad Mafia films, Jersey Shore and crappy American pizza.

There are few greater travesties - few more heinous examples in cuisine of Europe giving us something wonderful and America ballsing it up - than crappy American pizza. Aside perhaps from crappy American coffee, but that's a post for another time. Deep-dish, cheese-slathered, inch-thich-base oozing with emulsified lard, lined with processed mystery meats, dubious sauces and Things That Cannot Be, slung into a soggy cardboard box and delivered lukewarm to your household in 30 minutes, or the projectile gastric's free. There is no place for American-style pizza in modern Australian cuisine, aside from out the back in the skip. Particularly because decent pizza is an absolute piece-of-piss-a (see what I did there?) to make. Now, as with many things in a culinary 'space' I'm a rank amateur at DIY pizzadom compared to the likes of Flinty, but I do know what I like, and the following is it.

Decent pizza, to my way of thinking, needs a couple of simple elements. (They're elements which completely escape any pizza joint I've found in Dunedin, but that's another story.) One, it needs a thin base. NOT one of those big fuck-off lard-sponge jobs and definitely NOT infused with liquid cheese impersonating polymer. Two, less is more. It needs as few toppings as you can get away with. Three or four different ingredients, well chosen to complement each other, is perfect. And the same goes for the cheese - less is more. Unless it's less of course. In which case it's still more.

What I've just actually described in the above is the blessed output of what was always my favourite pizza joint in Brisbane, the Schonell Pizza Caffe at the Uni of Queensland. And not just because you could order them at the uni bar bistro downstairs and they'd bring them down to you, piping hot, while you smashed ales by the jug and talked absolute crap with your peeps. They were brilliant, authentic bits of gourmet gear. Sure the menu itself was a tad on the wanktastic side - each pizza was named after a particular director, actor, film or other element of Italian cinema, in tribute to the indie art-house cinema which the Pizza Caffe was attached to - but each was brilliantly conceived. And the place was licenced, much valued during the long, dark period of black-evil-crap-ed-ness between the closure of the Rec Club in the late Nineties and the opening of the new uni bar with the series of stupid names (then Red Room, now the 2nd Degree or some minging shite) in the early Noughties. And pizzas were only eight bucks for students! Of course at this point someone older and crustier than I, with UQ alum status that dates back beyond the turn of the century, will point out they were five bucks back in the day, or two, or free, and the Rec Club would sell you a dozen pots for a buck fifty, and it were all trees roon' here lad, aye. Good on you, and good to see the elderly getting out in the community. $8 pizzas were pretty fricken sweet back in the Noughties. Personal faves were the K (Killer Fish - the pizzas inevitably became known by their initials rather than their slightly punishing names), a marinara pizza lightly dusted with chilli; P (Pasolini), a compelling combination of pancetta, potato and rosemary; and Q (fuck knows, can't remember), which was prawns, tomato and fresh basil leaves. Simple flavours, simple ingredients which set each other off brilliantly. That, my friends, is pizza. Not a quintuple cheesegasm lardmeister super supremo from Pizza Slut that looks like a melted puddle of Jabba the Hutt.

And so to the practical component of today's lab class, which is: recreating Pizza Caffe WIN in your own home. Here I've had a bash at the Q and P pizzas, because I could. Obviously, commercial bases and a standard kitchen oven aren't about to recreate the win that homemade dough and a proper pizza oven would, but stuff that.

Commercial base, commercial pasta sauce with a bit of crushed garlic blended through.

RHS - Quo Vadis replica; tomato, basil and prawns.

LHS - Pasolini replica, which sounds more like a '70s Ducati than a pizza; proscuitto (pancetta not available in the Anglo white-bread stronghold of D-town), thinly sliced new potatoes and fresh rosemary.

Ready to roll. With probably too much cheese, given the above rantage. Oven cranked to As Hot As It Will Go.

Waiting. It's thirsty work.

Not ready yet.

More waiting then.



And good it was too. Not as good as the genuine arsetickle, but the latter's as much a ghost of the past as KB Gold and flared slacks. You'll notice in the above that all references to the FKNAWSMness of the Pizza Caffe's work are in the past tense. This is deliberate. The last time I went there, about two years ago, the uni beancounters had been through. Prices had been jacked to Christ and, worst of all, inferior ingredients had started slipping into the pizzas. The marinara mix used for the K pizza was worthy of burley, little more. The pancetta tasted like Woolies ham, and the fresh basil on the Q pizza was freshly shaken out of a Master Foods bottle. EPIC FAIL.

You can never go home again.

The Doctor is OUT.