Wednesday, 31 October 2007
And then it hit me.
Heavenly, sublime, luscious, nectar-of-the-goddesses, exquisite. All the words in the world, all the sublime superlatives.
My Indian next-door-neighbour was cooking.... something.
I raced inside to get my camera. I HAD to capture than smell.. and all that greeted my in the viewfinder was my boring-as-batshit back yard. I waved the camera around madly, as the smells changed and eddied around me. I HAD to find a way of capturing this scent!!!
It was a Suskind/Grenouille moment.
I was so frustrated that my view finder only showed me the picket fence and a darkening sky.
I threw the camera aside and stood there, on the balcony, inhaling the heady flavours and tried to think of words for it.
I wished I was one of those people who thought of words in colour.
There is simply no way that I can translate my experience last night to you. Words are merely that. And that is the downfall of food writing/food porn. How can I share with you the amazing, almost orgasmic scents that pooled and changed and eddied and swirled and changed again. I wanted there to be colours in the air a la Ratatouille, I wanted there to be music. I wanted there to be fireworks.
So here, as best I can, is my description of the smell of my backyard last night:
But on my camera, all it looks like is a picket fence, grey clouds and a pittosporum.
Tuesday, 30 October 2007
And they're bloody easy to make, too.
500g shallots, peeled and left whole. (I had a couple of extra cocktail onions lying around and I added them too)
Bring a pot of water to the boil, Turn off as soo as it hits boiling point and throw your shallots in. Leave for 4-5 mins, drain and run under cold water to refresh. Allow to drain well.
In a wok, bring 4 tablespoons of sunflower oil to smoking point. Add the shallots, Fry for 3 mins, or until golden.
Add a grated 2inch knob of ginger and 4 tablespoons of honey. Continue tossing in wok for another minute or so, until shallots are glazed with thickened mixture.
My recipe says to serve straight way, but I left them to cool, and had them as part of an Asian-inspired tapas platter
Monday, 29 October 2007
So, Vale sushi banner.
Vale music player.
And best of all, Vale that freaking AWFUL Pepto-(a)Bismol pink background!!!
Sorry.. it was the closest to purple I could find. But it was really starting to piss me off every time I walked in here.
Seriously, who can cook in a kitchen decorated in lung-cancer mucous pink.
So, sit back and enjoy the lovely soothing colours of the new background.
Thursday, 25 October 2007
Read some futher ponderings here:
And before y'all accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon, here's what I want to know??
What does all of this mean, in the real life of real women? Those of us in the 'burbs struggling to make our kids eat ANY vegetable, let alone an ethical one?
Those of us living from pay to pay, with kids in schools, with mortgages and rents?
In short, how does one bring ethical issues in food and sustainability to Glen Waverley? Or Craigieburn?
Here's what I do:
I buy from Aussie Farmers Direct, who guarantee me that my milk comes from the Warnambool Dairy (thus supporting a co-operative venture and local dairy farmers), that my bread is baked in Dandenong.
I use the cardboard boxes from my orders to compost and grow veggies in. I currently have several boxes, down my sideway, where they get the run-off from the spouting, in which I am growing pumpkins, parsley and potatoes.
I water these with the collected shower water when they need it.
I ask questions. To my grocer. To my butcher. And if they can't tell me where they source their product from, I find one who can. If enough of us suburban mums ask our butchers "where does this come from?", maybe they'll start wondering why and THINKING about the products they supply us with.
I can't afford a green water collection system, but I CAN buy a couple of big plastic containers from Bunnings and whack them in the garden beds, to collect rainfall for the dry days.
I can go to a farmers market (and I am not naive enough to think that ALL foods there are SOLE food, btw), but I can buy cheaper and better and a lot more ethically from the Ferntree Gully market, than I can at Safeway.
I eat in season. I refuse to by tomatoes or lettuces or asparagus in winter. I refuse to by gas-packed meat from Coles or Safeway. EVER.
When I can afford it, I buy local meats. When I can't, I buy something that gives me the best return for my dollar, the best "bang for my buck".. a chicken that can be roasted, used for sanga's the next day and the carcass turned into stock.
I talk to my kids about the choices I make and why I make them.
I rob Peter to pay Paul. I buy home-brand flour, so I can afford recycled loo paper. I pay more for ethical, environmentally friendly cleaning products (and make some of my own), and pay it off by shopping at Aldi for dogfood and canned tomatoes. I buy an organic pineapple for a fruit platter, at my local green grocer, but I pay it off by using non-organic Coles cabbage in my stews.
I TRY TO BE INFORMED ABOUT MY CHOICES AS A CONSUMER.
So, tell me, dear readers. What do YOU do?? HOW do you do it? What more can WE do??
If you want to debate the ethics or the perceived "wankiness" of this movement, some of the links above are the place. What I want this post to be is a place where we can list places, ideas, THINGS that we can do, out there in Mortgage Land, out there in "do I pay the gas bill or eat ethically" land... out in the real world.
It can be done, I know it can. Eating ethically and sustainably on a normal family income, making normal family choice. It's NOT about eco-friendly larks vomit. It's about being aware, and making sure our suppliers of food, out in the 'burbs; the butchers and the grocers and the bakers KNOW that SOLE foods are not just important in the rarefied atmosphere of urban hippies, but to you and I as well.
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Gulp... The Bloggers Banquet!!!! What will I cook?? Oh my Goddess!!! I'm totally like cooking for people likes Ed and Elliot and Sticki. Cripes!! They'll find out I'm a fraud! Who am I to think I can cook?? I'm just a fat, middle aged suburban mum! This is too much!I'll fail. They'll hate my food. They'll hate me! What the hell am I going to cook for REAL foodies and gastronauts? Umm... is it too late to find a wow-them recipe that DOES include larks vomit? I bet people like them eat it all the time. On toast. For breakfast. With foie gras.
Maybe I can beg off? Nah.. I want to go.. but... but... what do I bring??
I bet they'll all be bringing things like organic truffled scallops stuffed with baby goat glands, served on antique china.
China!!! I need new serving platters!!! I can't serve ANYTHING on my crappy old plates. They'll laugh. Maybe KMH can send me some stuff. SHE'D know what REAL COOKS serve on.
Here's an idea. I'll get Shira Nui to do me up a sushi platter and pass it off as mu own. No, I'd never do that.
Quick! I have to start making better food. My food is crap. I am a failure in the kitchen. No-one is going to like my food. Oh! How did I ever get myself into this?? I'm throwing out the strog I made for dinner. I need time to experiment. Quick!! Race up to Safeway and get me some imported carbon neutral organic Non GM pigeon spleens. And a new mandolin slicer. This one is crap. I need to practice making real food.
No!!! No!!! Not pigeon spleens, WHALE MEAT!!! I bet no-one knows anything about Icelandic food!!!! THAT'S IT!!! I'll get a cuisine no-one knows anything about and pass myself off as an expert. That way no-one will know what a complete fraud I am!!
I am brilliant!!!
Whale meat with... with... umm.... Icelandic Vodka. Furry, pop by Dan Murphy's after you get the whale blubber from Coles, ok?? And some juniper berries. They're pretty "icelandic" aren't they??
You think I can get some yak's testicles to go with that?? THAT would really impress them!!!
And I'll serve it in individual bowls hollowed out from reindeer antlers!!!
Furry??? FURRY!!!!??? Where's your lathe??
Monday, 22 October 2007
After leaving the luscious Leonie at Tasting Station, Furry and toottled off up Boneo Road, planning to head for Red Hill. All of a sudden we saw the sign on the left.. I am a great fan of dodgy home-made signs. The can oft lead one to great and fabulous, artisanal wineries and olive groves and cafes and nosh ups that the Wankerazzi would eschew (which is a GOOD thing, BTW), So we slammed on the brakes and followed out noses. The bitchumen soon gave out and we drove, and drove.... and drove... and drove.... and drove some more.
Eventually we found another rustic, hand made sign, turned down a dirt path and saw this:
Rustic and interesting, but NOT somewhere I want to eat.
Our fears were allayed as we came across La Campagna Winery and Olive Grove.
Their L'Osteria is open from 10am to 5pm Weekends, but they don't actually serve anything but cake and coffee before 12ish. The do, however sell the most amazing rustic artisanal bread I have EVER eaten!!!
and there is always a platter of olives to snack on.
We got talking to Ted, the owner, who happily shared hints and tips on how to get the most out of our oven.
I ordered a Pellegrino to wash the dust away.
And after much discussion and merriment (I think Ted thought I was quite mad, snapping away with my camera!), we asked for a tasting platter.
It came with a selection of olives (I thought the black were sweeter and deeper that the green. Furry thought the opposite.. how convenient!!), a wood fired oven artichoke and onion pizza (good but not great, the base wasn't quite cooked to my preferred level of crispiness, some focaccia for dipping into the olive oil (heavenly!!! like liquid, oleaginous sunshine!) and possibly the most astonishing thing I have ever put into my mouth, Ted's mushroom bruschetta. The mushrooms had been gently sauteed in OO and I could taste dill, maybe some sage, some Italian parsley and black pepper and a touch of chilli. What lifted this dish to the sublime was the bread. A thick door-stop of his freshly oven baked loaf, smeared with a little OO and possibly popped in the oven for a second or two to crisp!!!
Hold yourself back from screen licking.... here it comes:
Furry is used to me moaning in ecstasy (in restaurants, if no where else!!!), but I did get a few odd looks from other diners.
To pair, our really wonderful waitress (who staunchly did not kill the jackass mother who had bought her snot nosed son to a freaking italian restaurant and then proceeded to quizz the waitress on what options were available with no milk/cheese/tomatoes/oil.. It's a freaking ITALIAN RESTO, lady... go hug a freaking tree and eat some bloody mung beans!!) suggested their 2005 Vino Bianco, a semillion/vermentino blend.
I thought this was a little too subtle for the flavours of the oil and the mushies, but Furry doth swooned over it.
We greedily ordered the lamb, roasted in the wood fired oven with feta and spinach.
It was moist and fragrant, the feta was subtle and it was a marvelous, paired with their 2004 Tuscan Red, a mostly sangiovese/merlot/trebianno blend.
We shared the flourless almond Tuscan Lemon cake. (good, but not great, but not much was going to WOW me after the bruschetta)
grabbed a loaf of bread and some olives and pottered, replete, back to Melbourne.
Rock on with your Molly Meldrum selves and do yourself a flavour. If for nothing else, the mushroom bruschetta. Beyond Heavenly!!
Seriously. Put down whatever you're doing and go here. NOW!!!! The Tasting Station has been around for a while, and Furry and I occasionally drop in to get a serious food porn fix. The source products from the Mornington Peninsula and showcase them all in one handy little shoppe. So, after a Saturday spent working in the garden, moving 3 tonne of soil and mulch, we decided to spend Sunday adventuring around our beloved Mornington Pen. Well.. guess who forgot it was the weekend of the "Around the Bay in a Day" bike ride???? With full and grovellish apologies to Mr Stickyfingers, whom I am sure is a thoughtful and talented bike ride (and was fueled up bu Mrs Stickyfingers Pasta alla Cabonara), I have to say I have never encountered a ruder, more arrogant group of "sportspeople" that the lycra-clad idiots that swarmed, like day-glo coloured maggots on the roads this weekend. A mob of Ecstasy-crazed rabid sheep would have been easier to avoid than some of the pillocks we encountered this weekend.
Ahem.. I digress..
So after deciding that Furry's blood pressure couldn't cope with a jaunt down the front road to Sorrento for Vanilla Slices, we popped by the Tasting Station for a coffee and some eye candy.
Leonie, behind the jump, wasn't at all phased when I asked if I could take a few shots. We talked about food and produce and mayonnaise olive oil and truffles. and the food paparazzi (now, forever referred to as Wankerazzi), I had found a soul-mate in her!!! We watched the lycra-clad budgie-smuggling tossers stream by, over a capuccino and had a most pleasant morning.
So, without further ado get some of this into you!!!
And it's a Tasting Station, so you can TASTE STUFF!!!
Get off the computer and GO THERE NOW!!!!
Sunday, 21 October 2007
Friday, 19 October 2007
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
For those of you that have any vague interest in why I use some of the terms I do:
I'm adopted. And apparently my heritage is Greek/Spanish (according to the record). I was raised by 2 beautiful, but totally non-food obsessive Aussies. As a kid, we lived next door to and Italian family, the Arstoni's (sp?) and I used to love climbing throught the hole in the fence, behind the lemon tree, and watching Mrs Arstoni cook. She'd feed me canolli's and gnocchi's and brodo and all sorts of luscious thing. And then I'd return home and wonder why Mater Beige didn't use garlic??
Mater Beige is the strongest, most resilient woman I know, I love her dearly. But a cook she aint. She does a fab lamb roast, an insane pav that I could never emulate. Her lemons snow is da bom, and her corned beef is my yearly birthday dish.
But she's also famous for her Cat's Vomit Stew (don't ask).
Her quote in the kitchen is "your great grandmother didn't live to 102 eating strange food with herbs in it. Good, plain, wholesome (read stodgy English and soups flavoured with Vegemite) is what made her healthy"
So my innate wogginess was apparent to me from very early on. My mother and wonderful father, The Hobbit, gamely smiled when I insisted on cooking crepes Normandy when I was 6. I had mastered Welsh Rarebit by 7. By 12 I was asking for ragu instead of bolognese (which I knew was NOT Mater Beige's ubiquitous "spag bog").
So, to one of my personally-coined terms: "over-wog".
Furry and I were hosting a wee get-together for 6 friends a few years ago. I had prepared bruschetta, stuffed mushrooms, pasta salad, Furry Balls , home baked bread, dolmades (sweet and traditional), bibi, san choi bow's, home made icecream, goi cuon (with bai), an antipasto platter, deep fried olives, baked ricottas, a stuffed cob loaf, a fruit platter, several dips, flattie tails and home-made mayo. There might have been some gremolata-stuffed chicken breast and a cous cous salad in there as well.. I can't remember rightly.
And I set the table, and saw it groaning under the sheer weight of food, and I did the mental calculations ( number of people x my innate need to feed + the embarrassment factor of people going hungry to the Nth power of my ego) and turned to Furry and said:
"I don't think we've got enough food, I'll just nip and and grab something for a cheese platter".
And he stopped cleaning the bench tops, wiped his hands, took my face lovingly in his hands, looked deep into my eyes and said:
"Darling, stop over-wogging"
I knew, in that moment, that genes will out, and I was destined to become a grandmother who pinched children's cheeks and moaned "you're too skinny. Come. I will feed you"
And I was perfectly alright with that.
(umm... I still went out and got the cheese)
What to cook when you've had a squiffy stomach and you're a food obsessive?? None of that plain rice or toast and Vegie... Here's a quick, easy and tasty meal that will fill you up, give you lots of goodies to settle the tum and still have flavour!!! Marinade some chicken tenders (the real thing, not that crap that is crumbed and frozen and made from ground up chicken carcasses). I used a tablespoon of oyster sauce, a tablespoon of Hoisin and a goodly whack of soy. Let it sit for about 1/2 an hour. Pour marinade and chicken into a hot wok with just a splash of sesame oil. If your wok is well seasoned, you shouldn't need more oil than just a splash. shale around until chicken is coloured and marinade begins to caramelize. Add more soy sauce if it starts to catch. While this is going on, rinse some Hokkien noodles under hot water and let them separate. Once your chicken is cooked, add the noodles, toss about and serve.
Good fer wot ails ya.
Tuesday, 16 October 2007
Ed Charles of Tomato is masterminding a Bloggers Banquet here in Melbourne, for bloggers, partners and aspiring bloggers. To be held in the St.Kilda Veg Out Community Garden, the old bowling club in Chaucer Street. You'll find it's next to Luna Park and one street back from Acland Street, where there is abundant parking and easy access to trams.
A number of Monday or Tuesday nights in November are on offer, when we will have access to the Garden's BBQ and Wood fired oven. The evening of Monday November 12 is the current favoured date. The plan is to bring a dish - what in the USA they call Pot Luck, I think - so you have a month to come up with a treat to bring or BBQ or bake in the oven.Holler back at Ed's blog as we need to confirm numbers, and why not post details on your own blog? It'll be great to meet you in the flesh.
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO COPY THIS AND PASTE IT ON YOUR OWN BLOG
Shamelessly stolen verbatim (but with permission) from the darling Stickyfingers
Monday, 15 October 2007
I would like to personally apologise for the way your access to Taste was severed last week. As you know I was responding to a complaint about your post, and in the light of that I had my PC hat on when I reviewed your other posts. There has been some lively debate back at the forum, and I can see I really missed the point, and you meant nothing derogative.
As to your access, I can see you meant no disruption, and the Admin at the time acted a little harsh. Your access has been restored, but I understand if you have had enough of Taste.com.au. If you want the rest of your posts removed, just let me know. Otherwise, there are many who’d love to have you back.
I will be personal posting a message in the forum too apologising.
I just received your reply, but I’ll let this one stand.
And sent back...
Well, well, well.... Anthony.. you have balls, my dear. Not too many people would apologise after the basting you gave me. (and the one you received from me **ahem**)
I salute you sir.
I shall pop back into to Taste later today and say a quick hello, to pour oil on waters, as they say. I have had quite a flurry on my blog, too.. I shall post it publicly there as well, in the spirit of better and more effective communication.
Friday, 12 October 2007
One of the wonderful things about living where I do, is the access to Crown Land. You can harvest mushroom, wild nettles, fish in dams and creeks, hunt and forage to your hearts content!!
Recently Furry and Master 12.5 discovered a dam on Crown Land, down near Chez Fur de Mer. We bought a yabby net, and last weekend my intrepid duo set off to catch me some yabbies.
They were beyond successful, returning home with seven yabbies at least 6 inches long!! The key to cooking yabbies, or any caught shellfish is to let them fast and clean themselves out. What you have to so is put them in the bath for 24 hours to "purge". Some people add carrot or lettuce to hasten the process of cleaning out the digestive tract, but I find that a goodly 24 hours in fresh clean water, changing it every couple of hours or so, does the trick.
Now, I tried to get some photos to show the size of these beauties, but the little buggers kept swimming around.. but heres not a bad one to show you the size and the colour of them, pre cooking...
Notice the "fuzz" on the legs and thorax of a yabby this large. This is pond scum and you DO NOT WANT THIS IN YOUR FINAL DISH, which is why you kill them and then segment the body, discarding the fluffy bits.
The smaller yabbies in the corner of this photo are white yabbies.. ones that have recently discarded their too-small shells. They don't have pond scum on them and can be added to the dish whole.
Kill the yabbies by bringing a large pot of heavily salted water to the boil and dropping the yabbies in quickly, one by one. Too many yabbies at the one time cools the water off and it's just not humane..
I killed the yabbies big ones first, one at a time, removing the yabby from the boiling water as soon as it had changed colour to pink. The large ones I removed the head and thorax, and also the hind legs and ran the remaining edible pieces under cold water to flush.
The smaller ones I left whole.
In a large cast iron pan heat 1/4 stick of butter, 1/2 a red onion very finely chopped and 3 large cloves of garlic, also finely chopped.
Bring butter to sizzling point, add the onions and the garlic, toss until onions are glassy and add the yabby bits.
toss the yabbies in the butter until well coated and a goodly shade of red..
Serve with a wedge of lemon or lime, on parpadelle, if you like!!
I am sitting here, literally PISSING my pants with laughter!!!!
A few weeks ago, I joined Taste.com, a collection of on-line food mags and a forum. I was pretty disappointed at how slow the forums moved, being used to Chowhound but hey.. it was Aussie and the members there were great!!!
So, to my crime... **insert suitably dark and minor keyed muzak**
I answered a post and described how my Asian grocer beamed with joy and greeted me, every time I walked into his establishment...
And subsequently get this email:
We have received a complaint in reference to your recent post on the Taste.com.au forum, under the “I love my Asian Grocer” thread, about your description of what your Asian grocer says to you. I have edited this post to tone down the offensive portrayal of the grocer. I did feel you could be a little more culturally sensitive in the way you reported what your grocer says, and not play up to stereotypes. I hope you can understand but we wish to encourage a community that is welcoming to all and that doesn’t make fun of someone language ability or accent.
I have reviewed your other posts, and also found references to “over-wogging” and “couldn’t be fagged”, which are also likely to offend. If I could please ask you be mindful of this type of colourful language use in the future.
Anyhoo.. that was my crime... but my hanging offence was this...What the idiot admins over at Taste don't realise, is that I run a phpBB board, so I know EXACTLY what goes on behind the scenes, and how a moderator can follow members around.
Bear with me, I'm getting to the hanging offence
Well.. after the email, I decided to no longer be a member of such a ridiculous site, and I logged in and began to remove all 87 of my posts. Stupidly, who ever set the board used the incorrect HTML tags for editing posts, so I had to physically return to all my posts and edit them individually. All I left in place of my previous post was :
I nearly busted a phoofer valve laughing, when about 10 mins into my editing, my post count started to drop!!! Some idiot mod/admin was following around behind me, deleting all my ed'd posts!! (Can't let the natives know that nasty things are afoot in the land of pretty flowers and singing birds, where every day is Spring and ladies don't say FUCK!)
I could actually HEAR the scurry of their tiny, ratty feet as they followed me around the cyberavenues of their precious, politically correct little corner of The Web, deleting my insidious and controversial "ed"'s!!!
So I got a bit snippy. I would have been happy with just deleting all my posts (some of which had personal info in them) and leaving then to their happy little place full of magical pixie horses and ladies who drink tea and don't swear, riiiiiiight up until then.
So I popped into my original introduction post, deleted my original post and put the following:
"Those of you with 1/2 a brain and a sense of humour know where to find me"
Well, bugger me backwards with a spoon, if not 2 mins later I was banned!!!
Can you IMAGINE the flurry of smelling salts that was going on in THEIR admin forum... the pm's, the swooning!!!! I swear I am almost aching with the laughing I have been doing. Can you imagine if they saw some of my posts at The Tav?? or at Chowhound!! (where I also described how a Sri Lankan woman used to talk to me, and my post was met with resounding applause!!!)
Pity tho, there were some wonderful women over there.... those with 1/2 a brain and a sense of humour!!!
Monday, 8 October 2007
What you want it a hot HOT fire that burns down to nice coals.
Once the coals are glowing, get a big stick and push all the coals to the sides of the oven. Wait a few mins for the dust and soot to settle...
Assemble all your ingredients.
Test out the temp of your oven by cooking something small... In this case, pasta dura spread with basil and pine nut tapenade and topped with baby boc's... and sprinkled with dukkah (after the cooking. the seeds in Dukkah don't stand up to the heat of the oven and burn rapidly and become all nasty and bitter.
This should cook off in less that a minute.
What we do, is lay out various ingredients on the bench and then let the kids and the guests run free.... This weekend, we had ham, salami, bocs, asparagus, eggs, chicken, Indian pickle, pasata, olives baby tomatoes, spinach and whatever other random things were lying around the fridge...
Here's one in the making... It's about 800c in there.. I burnt all the hairs off the back of my hand taking this shot!!!
You need to watch them carefully and move them around the oven, so that the centre ingredients melt and the crust doesn't sear.
And the final product!!!