Wednesday 30 July 2008

Chicken Thingamy Whatsit

Yup. Yest another "recipe" that I'll never be able to create again. **sigh** We had some wonderful Toolangi Chats from our delivery last week, so I cut 'em up and gave them a goodly slurp of Nabali Olive Oil and sea salt and McCormick Middle Eastern Spice Mix. Let them sit for about 30 mins, Placed them cut side down in a non-stick pan and left them to brown.. about 30 mins on med low heat.

In the pan went some sliced chicken, some red capsicum, a handful of baby spinach (also from our AFD order) and then things got weird.

I had started off with a Middle Eastern flavour profile, but I had used the last of the home-made sugo, and didn't even have a bottle of the dodgy stuff on stand-by.

So here's kinda how my thinking went... Middle Eastern, Hmmm.. that's Morrocco, right? Which has a French Influence, yes?

So to the 'fridge, and in went some dijon mustard, the juice of a whole lemon, some creme fraiche!

Voila! More Funky Fusion Food from PG!

Transformation complete in 3...2...1

Yup. Furry's been out shopping again!

Thursday 24 July 2008

Spag Bog

Blogger is doing weird things with photos today, so I'll have to skip the first few photos from this post, and pic it up in the middle.

Spag Bog. Every home has got a recipe, This is mine. It's not fast.. but it's worth it. I usually make mine one night, and let the flavours marry overnight in the fridge, to serve on bucatelli the next evening. It freezes well (if there's any left over!) and it's a great way out of getting 6 adult meals out of 500g of mince!

Finely dice a couple of rashers of bacon, fry until crispy. Add 500g lean premium beef mince and brown. Even though I use a non-stick pan, I like to add some of the oil from the semi-sun dried tomatoes that will be added in later. I also added the last of the roasted marinated caps from my haul of peppers last year. Add some oregano, basil and garlic and a glass of red wine. Simmer slowly until it has absorbed all the liquid (as in the above photo)

Add 1.5 cups of milk, again, simmer slowly until all the milk has been absorbed.

Add one can of Italian Roma tomatoes, a handful of semi-sun dried tomatoes and a whole jar of sugo (I have used the last of my bottled stuff from Summer, so I use La Gina brand)

(photo taken the next morning)

Simmer for 2 hours until thick, glossy and unctuous. Allow to cool, return to a simmer to heat and serve over fav pasta with a grating of Peccorino Romano.

Sunday 20 July 2008

The House of the Lurgy.

Yup. The kids have it. That's the beauty of having kids.. when you get sick, they become the gift that keeps on giving. And as I get over the lurgy from Hell, Furry's kids have come down with it. Well, actually Ya-Ya Superstar has glandular fever.. it's Els who has the lurgy. And Madame Mouse. Without putting too fine a point on it, we're the House of Snot. Of discarded tissues and Dimetapp. Of middle-of-the-night coughing fits and knocks at the bedroom door asking for Codral. No-one has slept much, and everyone is a leeetle cranky.

So I pulled out another old stand by. I am a huge fan of congee when I am sick, but the kids don't like the porridge consistency, so my other old stand by is chicken and sweetcorn soup. It goes down a sore throat nice and easy, and contains enough nourishment to sustain the sickest of kids. And it just tastes bloody good, too!

(I know this looks a little like something you'd find INSIDE a used tissue, but a close-up of the end texture is important!)

pg's Asian Penicillin.

soak 3 ears of corn (leaving on the husks) in cold water for 30 minutes. Remove a couple of the outer husks and set aside. Peel the rest of the husks back and remove the silks. Re-wrap the corn in the husks and use the discarded ones to tie a knot in the top of the husks. Roast, steam or grill for 30 mins until cooked.

Remove the corn kernels.

Roast a whole chook. Don't get too fancy.. it's ending up in soup. I just stuff the cavity with a couple of orange halves to impart a flavour and keep it moist. Set aside until cool enough to touch. Remove all the meat and skin from the carcass. Roughly chop meat and skin.

Into a large pot place 2-3 litres of water. Dice an onion or leek and place into the water, along with a good knob of ginger, a star anise some Chinese cooking wine (or dry sherry), a couple of Schezhuan peppercorns, the chicken and the sweetcorn. Add a goodly slurp of light soy.

Simmer for about 2 hours, or until the chicken flesh breaks down into individual fibres.

Remove the knob of ginger and the star anise.

Make an egg flower by mixing 3 eggs in a bowl with a splash of light soy and a couple of drops of sesame oil. Turn the soup off the heat, give it a swirl and slowly dribble the egg mix in.

(another trick is to add a can of creamed sweet corn at this point, which further thickens the soup)

Serve with soft bread sticks, or slurpy noodles, and you've got the cure-all for the lurgy.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

The ethicurian dilemma?

The ethicurian dilemma? SOLE? Localvore?

What does it all really mean?

The blogosphere is humming with the buzz of what this is all about. And like any issue, you'll get as many responses as there are people with opinions. But here's how I see it.

Unless you have become one of those weird Air-ians, we've all gotta eat. And in my house, I want the best I can get for my buck. We are NOT a wealthy family.. we're just a normal fam in the 'burbs. And I mean the 'burbs. We live in the 'burbiest of 'burbs. So when I spend money.. ANY money, I want value. With 5 kids and 2 dogs THAT is at the heart of my decision to buy SOLE.

So, to restaurants. I WILL NOT PAY MONEY FOR CRAP. I get crazy cat-lady mad about places that serve swill.... This is not because I am a particularly great cook, but I do know what is good and what is not. I will NEVER pay $30 for a serve of bangers and mash, or corned beef, or pasta, NEVER. To me, that just isn't value. I'd rather got the parma and pot night at the Red Hill and Dromana RSL, and pay $10, knowing EXACTLY what I am about to get. I WOULD pay $30 for a plate of SOLE cheese, though... or considerably more for a fine dining experience that I couldn't do at home.

When I eat out, I expect the food is not just as GOOD as home... but substantially better... either taste or value wise.

So, to the food I purchase. I don't shop SOLE because I am a paid up greenie, or a hippy (altho I DO burn nag champa regularly!). I don't do it because I think that Elvis and JFK are beaming gamma rays down from the Mother Ship on my tomatoes.


It's not hard, guys! Stop drooling into your faux Chanel handbags, while you listen to the piped-in bad 70's porno muzak at Slaveways and WAKE UP!

Who in their right mind buys a sachet of "Italian Herbed Potato Sprinkle" for $2.50 a serve?

Look at the ingredients, go the the herb aisle and buy a jar of oregano, a jar of thyme, a jar of rosemary and do it yourselves!! Save money, get Italian herbed taties, and have ingredients left over for another night.

Better yet, get a herb garden!!!

Get online... get good, ethical, local, sustainable food delivered. Hell, you don't even have to risk some nuffer scratching your beemer's duco by going to the shopping centre. And I guarantee you, that what you get will be better, AND CHEAPER that gas packed Slaveways crap!!

BE INFORMED.. Just because something has "organic free range fair trade" on it, doesn't make it so... again, get online and find out what all those funny little stamps Coles are using on their "organic" produce actually mean!

You don't need to drive 400kms to the Collingwood Free Range Children Market For Inner City Pretentious Wankers. You just need to ask a few questions. And be a bit organised.

You want good quality SOLE vegies? Get informed about what's in season and ask your fruiterer some questions. There are now Farmer's markets in almost every region of Melbourne. Make it a date with your sig other, or your kids. Or yourself. If your burning all those nasty fossil fuels to get there, see what else is around. We pass at least one Market every weekend on the way to take the kids to sport. Why not leave home an hour early and make a trip to the market garden, or the farmer's market part of doing something else?



And it's not about changing your diet from "normal" to some weird lentil-based fusion food.

You can have a lamb roast and all the trimmings SOLE, You can have SOLE bangers and mash. SOLE steak and salad. SOLE pasta.

With the Hollow Men predicting petrol at $86 a litre by close of business today, we are all watching our bottom lines. SOLE isn't just a hippy-dippy way of life. It is a real and viable way of shopping to SAVE MONEY!

So next time you wonder why potatoes cost more than truffles, just remember that reaching for that single serve sachet of gravy... or Cook-in-the-pot sauce... or Pour-on-Cheese has contributed to the rising cost of EVERYTHING.

Let's get back to basics. And save some money while we're about it

Friday 11 July 2008

Char Kway Teoh.

Char Kway Teoh is a classic Singaporean Hawker dish. There are as many variations of this as there are noodles in a serve. I've seen ones with oysters rather than chicken. It's a dry noodle dish, you want to sauce only to coat and adhere to the ingredients, it's not a "saucey" dish, I particularly like the little bits of char that adhere to the noodles, when you cook them at this higher temp. We had some bits of red capsicum left over from the night before, so I added them as well.

I'd wax on more lyrically about it, except Blogger.. or maybe Mozilla is in a mood today, and I've lost and reclaimed this post three times now.

Best I hit "publish" before the Moofies strike again.

Char Kway Teoh.

500g kway teow (fresh flat rice noodles)
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
a handful of fresh bean sprouts
2 baby bok choys, cut into strips
1 Chinese sausages, thinly sliced
8 medium sized prawns, (fresh is best, pre-cooked if you have to)
1 onion cut into strips
1 chicken breast, steamed and cut into strips
2 eggs, beaten
2tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp sweet dark soya sauce (Kejap Manis)
1 tbsp sambal chilli paste (or Sambal Oelek)

Heat a large wok until very hot. Add a splash of cooking oil (I used peanut for this dish) and fry garlic until fragrant. Add kway teow, onions, chicken, prawns and fry, stirring constantly for about two minutes. Push the ingredients to the side of the wok, forming a well in the centre. Add the beaten egg, allowing it to set slightly before mixing it with the noodles. Add the Sambal Oelek, the bok choy, the fish sauce and sweet dark soya sauce and fry all ingredients together for another one to two minutes before adding the Chinese sausages and the bean sprouts. Toss to combine. Serve hot.

Wednesday 9 July 2008

More evolution!

Our youngest has often been a "problem child" when it comes to food. When I met Furry he was 6, and frankly, had no interest in anything other than chicken nuggets and frozen pizza. If Furry and I were never going to be compatible in our relationship, our children's attitude to food was going to be the primary cause of any disaster.

We have always, from the very beginning, always talked about OUR kids. We went into therapy very early on, knowing we basically had one chance at "blending" our families. It's not the sort of thing that if you bugger it up, you can turn around and say "oops.. sorry about that, we'll try again next week"

So it's always been OUR kids, never YOURS or MINE.. except in the food department. My kids grew up with Kalamata olives as a treat for being good, with a food obsessive as a mother, with rarely a meal cooked from anything but fresh ingredients (which was more about me being a single mum at full time Uni, rather than any SOLE notions, BTW!). My kids were restaurant-savvy by 5.

Furry's kids had table manners that left MUCH to be desired, thought chicken came in little squares from a Black and Gold box, and refused to believe that Cos was lettuce "cos it doesn't look like it". Without a word of a lie, the first time I served a whole roast chicken, the food was first sniffed and then rejected, as it "didn't look like chicken".

Jump forward 6 years, and we'll bypass the tears and the tantrums and the threats (mostly thrown by me), to last weekend. When OUR youngest declared that he wanted Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls for lunch.


Firstly, we got out the rice paper, and prepared it to soak.

Then we steamed and sliced the chicken. Daddy did all the vegetable prep on the mandolin. As chuffed as I was that Master 12.5 wanted to cook, the thought of sending him home to his mother sans a couple of fingers, was more than I could bear.

Little 12.5 y/o fingers get ready to rock and rice paper roll!!

Furry father fingers give a hand

And voila! the finished product. Served with either sweet chilli dipping sauce or a light soy, rice vinegar and lime juice dipping sauce.

While Maccas and hot chips still feature heavily for Master 12.5 as his preferred fave food, I can now proudly say he has been to Yum Cha with me, has cooked pizza from scratch with me, asked for a chicken Makhani curry from me, has rejected Kraft Singles in favour of marinated Fetta, likes to order roti Channai at Nudel Bar and now has mastered his own "sig dish"

He still gets grossed out when I eat chicken's feet, but does like to tell his mates that he's REALLY seen his Evil Step-Mum eat them ("It's like, totally gross, dude. She hold's 'em in her chopsticks and waves them at me, shouting "It's the CRAW!!")

The tunnel has been VERY long, and VERY dark, but there definitely light ahead.

Oh, and as a side note, when his 16y/o sister said she didn't want any, I have to admit I felt quite vindicated when Master 12.5 looked crestfallen and said quietly "... but I made them myself......"

Saturday 5 July 2008

Congee. Good fer wot ails yer.

Congee, the Asian equivalent of chicken soup, Jewish penicillin, whatever it is that you cook for your loved ones when you're sick. And, as previously discussed, I am a sickly pg at the moment. With my taste faculties destroyed by the lurgy, eating has become a chore. And I need to get the most bang-for-my-buck, nutrition-wise. My sore throat precludes anything crunchy, or hard, so congee is the answer to getting something... anything down my throat. It's chock-full of goodies as well, so I made a big pot of it last night to feast on this weekend. And the Furry's kids lost their beloved Nannu (Maltese for Grandpa) on Thursday, so we're all in need of some home cooking comfort.

Congee is a traditional Asian breakfast, but is also a very tummy-soothing dish to serve after an illness. It's so digestible, that it is often served to babies as their first "real" food. There are a thousand variations of congee, Cantonese, Japanese, with rice, with beans, with pine nut flour, with vegetables. It's not terribly quick to make, but it IS easy. Here's my take on it.

In a large saucepan/stock pot, boil 2 cups of white rice (I used long-grain) with 6 cups of water and 1 litre of beef stock. Add a handful of dried shitakes, diced fresh brown mushrooms, 2 pork=belly spare ribs, cleavered into bite-sized chucks, 2 x 5cm strips of orange peel, 6 szechuan peppercorns and star anise. Boil until rice grains break down and form a porridge consistency (Mine took about 1.25 hours). Stir regularly, particularly towards the end, as it thickens, or it will catch.

You can use broken rice to cut the cooking time down, or even use cooked rice, whizzed up in a food processor.

IN another bowl, break 3 eggs and beat them with a fork. Add a couple of drops of sesame oil and a couple of drops of light soy.

Turn the heat right down, until the congee is gently simmering. Pour the egg mix into the congee in a slow stream. You will end up with ribbons of egg throughout your mix (egg flowers), Serve hot, topped with sliced raw spring onions and a smattering of crispy deep fried shallotts.


Thursday 3 July 2008

I has no Flava...

Much is being said about taste and flavour and ageing and whatnot over at Gobbler's little nook at the moment. And it's odd that I should have the head cold from Hell while we're discussing taste (or lack thereof).

Simply, I can't taste a thing.. nothing.. nada. Which is good, when you consider that Strepsil's Zinc lozenges taste like cheap cask wine after you've brushed your teeth. The down side is that NOTHING has flavour, but I can still experience texture.

And that is seriously weird. And very off-putting. I revisited Tuesday night's pork belly Rogan Josh last night, and Gobbler's discussion was very much on my mind, so I focused on the mouth feel of the food, rather than the taste.

And I got to tell you pork belly chunks without flava are naaaaaaasty. This dish, which I would normally use all sorts of wanky superfluous words like "sumptuous" and "unctuous" becomes a very unpleasant experience. The pork skin is rubbery and chewy, the fat leaves a greasy mouth feel, and the bits of meat are akin to rolled up pieces of paper. It was like chewing on a condom filled with tissue scraps and lard.

A bag of potato chips (Salt and Vinegar) becomes a mouthful of wood chips that disintegrate to soggy cardboard and another greasy mouthfeel.

A pear is powdery, and leaves you feeling like you've coated your tongue with rice flour.

Noodles are nauseatingly slippery, as they scuttle across your tongue, with no flavour to give them any anchor in a food experience.

Same for green vegetables (in this case some brocollini). It was fibrous and chewy, and with no taste factor was like masticating a green twig.

Which is pretty much what brocollini is!

Slow braised chunks of beef feel like a wad of tissue paper is slowly disintegrating in your mouth. The individual strands of muscle become tasteless pap and the FEEL of the fibres is quite unpleasant.

Think about what our food LOOKS like... try and take away the flavour... and that's pretty much what it FEELS like.

It is any wonder then, that people in hospitals and care facilities lose interest in food? (and thus lose weight). If this is what awaits us as out taste buds deteriorate, either due to medication, pathology or aging, then it really is a worry.

Without flavour, foods, even my usual favourites, have become nauseatingly hard to digest. I know I needed that beef, vegie and noodle soup last night, to combat my lurgie but chewing on a fibrous wad of nothing, or slurping up soup only to have your cheeks coated in an oleaginous film, is NOT my idea of a food experience. Not matter HOW much I know I need it.

I can only hope that the antibiotics kick in soon, and I gets my flava back.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

I 'av a col in by doze.

I very rarely get sick. I am VERY accident prone, and regularly hurt myself (there was the Great-Pole-Dancing-On-Vodka disaster on 2005 and the Fall-Off-My-5-Inch-Heels foot fracture of 2007), but sick? Not so much.

And as I am a nurse, I am also officially World's Worst Patient.

Poor Furry does put up with a lot on the rare occasions I come down with the lurgy.

Well, this one is a doozey. I can't breathe, I can't smell and I certainly can't taste. So the post I had planned about last nights pork belly Rogan Josh is useless. The pics are great, but the whole thing tasted like some weird molecular gastronomy dish.. it had texture but no flavour. Maybe I can make it fly as "Au du Strepsils Throat lozenge formed as Sauteed Pork Belly with jus"?

And a small note. Strepsils Throat lozenges make even the BEST wine taste like panther piss filtered thru the rotting caul of a baby alpaca. With a hint of honey.

My throat is lined the industrial grade sandpaper, and I am in a foul mood. Think PMS on speed, ok?




We will shortly be returning you to your regularly scheduled pg, but in the mean time, I would like you all to send me some Jewish Penicillin and something with flava.

Bah Humbug.