Tuesday 27 January 2009

Big Day Out


Yes. it's Dromana's favourite festival. Australia Day. Where the Lady Lionesses man the scones and jam stall, the local CFA provides egg and bacon rolls for free, the Coast Guard turns up and lets the kids play all over the boat.

The local high school choir provides a rousing rendition of "Australians all and ostriches" and the kids get their faces painted.

While it might not be BDO, it's Dromana's BDO, and for me, it sums up everything love about being part of a small seaside town. Everyone gets in and lends a hand, the food is dodgy but free to all, the main drag (read: the pier) is cordoned off and people walk around smiling widely.

The sea really IS that blue, there are young women in hiijabs enjoying the petting zoo, Italian opa's are teaching kids how to fish from squid off the end of the pier, and the local Koori tribe has been honoured before festivities begin.

Best.. or worst of all, some poor sap is wandering around in the 37degree Celsius weather, wearing an electric yellow pig suit. Made of foam. As you do.

THIS is Australia at its best.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Win a $30 gift voucher from Menulog

My cooking, like ANY passion can sometimes wane. I am currently experiencing my annual post Ex Mousse slump. I can't bear the thought of preparing another chicken breast, pork.. even with crackle.. leaves me cold. Ham?? Don't even speak its name. Even the dogs, Stella Bella Bottom Smeller and Mrs Peaches are turning up their noses at ham.

There are just times, lets face it, when even the most passionate foodaholic just wants some dodgy Indian takeaway delivered straight to the door. It's Summer. The weather has been crap, I am sick to death of salad, and despite currently holidaying in one of the top gourmet regions of Victoria, I have a seriously jaded palate.

Berries are boring, cheese is cheesy, bread is dead, I have no achin' for bacon. Hell, even a top T-bone on the BBQ leaves me MEH.

Menulog, Australia's largest online home and office food delivery service have offered one of my dear readers a $30 gift voucher. And far from being only about dodgy Indian take-away. it's got over 500 different restaurants on its books, Aussie-wide.

Australia's most comprehensive online home and office delivery service.
  • Delivery in as little as 30 minutes
  • 500+ restaurants to choose from
  • All cuisines - Indian, Chinese, Italian / Pizza, Thai and more
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All you have to do is reply here, in the comments section, about how do YOU deal with a jaded palate. The answer that makes me laugh the most wins. Obviously it's only available for Australian citizens, but hell.. if you're an OS reader, drop me a line anyway. Competition closes on Wed 28th Jan 2009.

Monday 12 January 2009

Butter Chicken

It's that time of year again... the two weeks when Furry and I have most of the kids for our annual holiday at the beach. This year we have all 5 visiting sporadically and a few extra hangers on, given that they girls are now old enough to have "boyfriends".

I have been thwarting all of Furry's attempts to buy a pickled penis. He wants to display one prominently.. on a wall.. or the mantelpiece... and nonchalantly refer to it as "What was left over after the last boy broke my daughter's heart"

What this all means is that I have no idea who and what will be available for dinner.

And the weather here in Melbourne is crap. Seriously. Crap. It's the middle of Summer and we've barely seen a day over 23C, and it's as overcast as all get out.

So we've been eating a lot of curries and stir fries. Things that can get frozen, or eaten then next day for lunch, if any of the kids get a better offer..... or can be eeked out with rice, if assorted, random friends-of-friends drop in.

In Melbourne, I have an extensive range of herbs and spices. I can whip up almost anything from a Makhani to a Vindaloo, from scratch.

At Dromana, not so much. We're only there a couple of day's a fortnight and we usually eat out, or light the pizza oven, if we're having friends, so my range of herbs and spices is pretty limited by what can be garnered at the Dromana IGA.. which is to say, not much.

For so many, being on holidays means eating out or "dumbing down" your food. Who's going to buy a block of belachan or a bottle of fish sauce just for one night's dinner? So people often resort to either a) the bare basics of mince and a bottled pasta sauce, or b) buying flavour sachet mixes to tart things up. And even food obsessives like myself sometimes would rather spend our holidays reading a dodgy novel than hand grinding curry spices.

Enter the Saucy Spice Company. I have written about them before, when I found them up at Merimbula, and while my hatred of pre-fab foods is legendary, these guys, and their products are VASTLY different from a Maggi cook-in-the-pot mix.

Butter Chicken is a staple in our house. It's quick and easy and everyone in our house likes it. And when you consider we've got 5 kids.. that in itself is a rarity.

My normal recipe is a cinch when you've got a well-stocked pantry. But here's when The Saucy Spice mixes come into their own. They are all pre-mixed and weighed, in a convenient sealed sachet. I took a bout of about 10 of them away to Chez Fur, which means we can have dishes as varied as Butter Chicken to Seafood Laksa without buying 37 different sachets of herbs. SS co don't add any nasty anti-clumping agents, or fillers, so what you are getting is the real McCoy. For their Butter chicken mix, you even get a separate sachet of fenugreek leaves!!!

The end result is as complex and rich as a Mahkani cooked "from scratch". I used yoghurt instead of cream, as I am currently competing for the "Fatest middle aged woman in Australia" title, having put on nearly 9kgs since giving up the fags.

I am too scared to go to the beach in togs this year, in case someone mistakenly calls Green Peace, or wants to wrap me in hessian and tries to keep my blowhole clear. I am reduced to furtively sneaking around the back yard in my sarong and bra, pretending to garden, in the hope of tanning, all the while listening for cries of "Mein EYES!!! Mein EYES!!!" from over the neighbours' fence. And while it's not trendy to tan, I am working on the premise that black is a slimming colour, so the darker my thighs are, the smaller they will look.

But I digress.... Get yourself online and grab a few of the Saucy Spice Company's fetching little sachets, support a wonderful Aussie business and dispel the myth that being on holiday means you have to dumb your food down, or rely on nasty Maggi cheesey potato bake sachets. And while ANY flavour sachet will never match fresh herbs, the Saucy Spice guys come pretty bloody close. 'Cause on my holidays, sometimes it IS all about convenience.

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Rosemary Cashews.

I first made these late last year, for a Ex Moose get-together with friends. I don't usually make a new recipe... sight un-tasted, if you will, for friends, but this was so quick and easy, I couldn't resist it.

It proved and enormous hit.. but here's the thing.

I don't like them.

The flavour profile just isn't my thang, but every other person I've served them to pretty much swoons over them.

I am pretty sure I got the recipe off Chowhound, when all the Yanks were posting Thanksgiving recipes, but it is originally an Ina Garten a.k.a Barefoot Contessa recipe, inspired by the bar nuts served at Union Square Cafe in New York City .

Her original recipe is here.

Here's what I did:

650g unsalted roasted cashews.
2 tablespoons fresh finely minced rosemary
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or sweet paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon rock salt
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter.

Whack the cashews in a serving dish. Whizz all the dry ingredients in a blender/pulser/stick blender for about 10 seconds to roughly combine.

Pour over nuts.

Melt butter in microwave and pour over nuts. Stir to combine.

I make mine the day before I need them, and refrigerate. A quick couple of minutes in the microwave to warm them and voile.. world's easiest and (for everyone but me) yummiest snack.

Tuesday 6 January 2009

POM review.

I was recently sent some of the above product as a "thank-you", and also asked to review it. I was rather chuffed.. My little corner of CyberSpace has really quite blossomed. So, to POM Wonderful.. which, really, I am sorry to say, is POM Meh. It's chock a block full of all sorts of goodies, that will improve cardiovascular issues and kill off all those nasty free radicals, and apparently even help with erectile dysfunction. You can read about all the scientific stuff here.

I have a soft spot for pomegranates. They are steeped in Goddess lore, and are thought to be the original Forbidden Fruit from the Garden of Eden. They are associated with eternal life, Unicorns, Persephone and they were one of the first five domesticated crops along with olives, grapes, figs and dates.

So my little bottle of POM had a lot to live up to.

The marketing is slick, a funky bottle, slick logo.. all stuff I am hardly qualified to comment on, but the overall effect is that it looks pretty schmick.

By itself, the juice is not nearly as hearty as the deep, luscious colour would have you believe. If you're expecting the meaty kick that the colour implies, you'll be sadly left wanting. It is however, 100% natural, with no additives, like flavour enhancers.

It does, however, come into its own as a mixer. Think Grenadine, and you've got it. The first thing I did was concentrate it. 2 bottles of POM, 250g of white sugar, in a saucepan and simmer until reduced by half. This took about 20 mins. Let cool, and I was left with a lovely viscous cordial/syrup. Of course, I probably undid all the health benefits (particularly those erectile ones ;) ) by doing this.

Now, my delightful Furry bought me a new camera for Ex Moose, and of course, all my POM photos were on my OLD camera, so you are just going to have to use your imagination.

I used the syrup as a glaze over this cheesecake. And it was AWESOME!!!! The tartness of the syrup was a perfect foil to the richness of the cheesecake. The Chai spice added a whole new dimension, which was subtly enhanced by the syrup. This one was a HUGE success.

For some reason, pomegranates and ginger are an absolute winner for me, so I also added it to out Ex Moose's Family Punch.

1 bottle lemonade
1 bottle dry ginger
2 cups black tea.
1 can orange/pineapple juice
50ml POM syrup.
1 small handful mint, ripped.

strawberries and other assorted floaty fruity things to garnish.

To de-virginate this punch, add a splash of white rum, and sun 1/2 a bottle of Malibu for the can of juice.

I have some syrup left over, and I am planning something with dragon fruit, POM syrup and sorbet.

SO, to sum up. On its own, POM Wonderful, is more POM Meh. It is, however, pretty bloody good for you. It becomes POM Wonderful the moment it gets anywhere near ginger, or is reduced down to a syrup.

The only problem is, that stuff is 100% imported from 100% USA. It's got a carbon footprint the size of Uzbekistan.

So there it is, readers.. my first review.. warts and all. Make of it what you will.