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.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Recipe In Progress

It's Natalie's birthday today. No, I'm not gonna mention her age. That would be telling. But those of you who know me will be aware that for her birthday every year, I try to come up with a brand-new scratch-built recipe. Something nobody's done... at least, nobody I know about.

Past years have given us ricotta and pepperberry quiche; Yashmak Prawns (prawns slathered in a spicy coriander sauce, then wrapped in phyllo pastry with their tails sticking out, baked until the pastry is golden); Chilled Crab and Avocado Soup, and a bunch of others. Sometimes it doesn't work -- the scallops stir-fried with Cointreau were a bit ambitious, for example. Other times I get a real classic: Duck and Three Mushroom Pie, which I actually sold (as a recipe) to a Noosa restaurateur.

This year, I'm tackling a dessert. I'm calling it a Chocolate Mousse Slice, and so far, it works like this: you make a chocolate cake -- not too light. Has to have a fairly dense crumb. Slice it about two cm thick, lay the slices on a tray, drizzle with Frangelico. (Or Kahlua. Or maybe Baileys. But I like Frangelico.)

Meanwhile, you make yourself a wicked chocolate mousse -- all dark chocolate and eggwhites, with just enough cream to help it fluff up and stay together. Next, you chop your cake slices into rough pieces, and you fold the pieces into the mousse. Pour the whole lot into a springform pan with some baking paper across the bottom.

Theoretically, this will set up into a rich, soft mousse/pudding with moist, crumbly bits of liqueur-flavoured cake all through it to enhance the texture and flavour. In practice? Well, it's sitting in the fridge right now, hopefully setting properly to be served this evening after Natalie's favourite Thai Beef dish.

I'll keep you posted as to how it works out. I've got a few ideas on how it might be improved or enhanced - but I'm always open to suggestions!


No. Fuck it. No changes. I'm going to be immodest here -- instant classic. The moist cake crumbled in the mousse, giving the dish a texture a bit like cookie-crumb ice cream. It was bloody brilliant. Rich as hell, but smooth and chocolaty and with the liqueured cake bits all through the thing, it was definitely something special.