vegetables

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In Italy, a bowl was something special. Often given at special occasions such as weddings or christenings, they would become part of the family. Each scrape of the spoon; another mark on life to be noted and remembered. Una ciotola è come amici – pochi ma ben scelti. As bowls were few, dishes tended to very simple affairs – a lasagne, for example, would be a simple combination of ragu and white sauce.  A salad – some lettuce with ripe tomatoes.

In today’s industrialised society, we have lots of bowls.  So why not celebrate by using a shitload of ingredients and and a whole cupboardful of the hemispherical fuckers?

Tadah! The multi ingredient lasagne for hungry pre-Blackwood Marathoners.

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My lasagne had the following:

- silverbeet steamed and then lightly tossed in a pan with chopped walnuts
- tomato sauce. Quarter two kilos of ripe tomatoes place in a roasting tin with half a head of garlic cloves, olive oil and salt. Roast at 150C until soft. Breakup in a frypan and run through a colander. Return to the frypan to mix through a couple of tablespoon of tomato paste and to cook down to the right consistency.
- smoked chicken breast, sliced. This is what helps to bring the chicken flavours up in the mix rather than just sit there like sauce-coated chewable protein chunks.
- similar amounts of raw chicken - thighs or breasts or both. Cubed and then lightly browned and cooked with 8 sage leaves.
- eggplant. Sliced into cm slices, lain in a roasting tray coated in olive oil. Drizzle a bit of the olive oil on top and allow to soften in the oven at the same time as the tomatoes.
- broccolini, asaparagus, and something that looks a lot like broccolini but is purple. Steamed and chopped.
- white sauce.
- button mushrooms. Sliced and cooked in butter.
- mozarella, parmesan, and butter on the top with white sauce.

Layer as you see fit. I actually can’t remember what went with what and the more I try, the more confused I become. I think the smoked chicken went with the mushrooms and the eggplant and some white sauce. And the chicken with silverbeet. I hate doing white sauce. For one, it takes forever. For two, it doesn’t help with cooking through the butter and flour if you don’t turn the hotplate on. For three, it makes me think of a thousand failed Home Ec assignments – really, it’s like walking on the bones of the dead. Beautiful fresh pasta was very nicely hand made for me – class.

Our crack team ‘The Mescaleros’ went on to rag tag glory of 23rd out of 84 horseless competitors. I reached my own personal cycling leg goal of a time somewhere between 40-50 minutes, not having a myocardial infarction and heatstroke, and not being overtaken by a mountainbike. Other features included swimmer getting lost, our paddler having his boat the wrong way, and our runner wearing a heavier t-shirt than perhaps he could have worn given the hot weather (that’s not all that interesting but I had to round it out a bit).

Lasagne was great. All possible nutritional bases covered and a lovely mix of meaty, crunchy, earthy, cheesey, fresh and acid tomatoey. Sure it’s a lot of faffing around but friends are worth it. Rhubarb clafoutis for dessert.

Well that was tasty. A providence dinner of sorts – I was given some freshly-picked broadbeans and some freshly-dug potatoes. I’ve actually, and this is both a personal embarrassment and an indictment of how stuffed up things are with food generally, never had a fresh potato.

The two make a nice pairing for a few reasons; colour contrast, different textures, slightly bitter and slightly earthy. I thought a mayonnaise would bind them together as a lush potato salad but then worried that the fresh taste would get swamped in fatty goo. So olive oil it was and some chopped leek for an aromatic and a bit of chopped coppa for the taste element meaty. And so…

4 fresh potatoes, diced
a cup of broadbeans (velvety pod goes but don’t strip it down to the inner pod)
a couple of inches of leek, finely chopped
a few slices of coppa, torn into small bits
EVOO

Boil the potato to cooked but firm and while you’re doing that you can steam the beans on top – they work out about the same time. Remove and rinse in cold water.
Sautee the leek in a good solid splash of olive oil and then add the coppa and cook until lightly brown but not crispy. Add the beans and potato and stir through until heated; gently mind, it’s not a stirfry.
Season and serve.

Meanwhile, in the freezer was some mackerel from my brother-in-law in Darwin. Being not quite so fresh, a bit of ornamentation was in order so it became a gratin.

two bits of mackerel, defrosted, skin removed and chopped into several pieces
a small red onion, sliced
clove of garlic
glass of white wine
a cup of panko breadcrumbs (redundancy noted)
tsp of paprika
a reasonable bit of feta cheese, cubed

Gently soften the onion and garlic in a suitably sized casserole dish. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add the fish, cover tightly and cook for 10 minutes in a 190C oven. Meanwhile, toss the breadcrumbs with the paprika. Remove the casserole from the oven and top the fish with the breadcrumbs and the feta. Return it to the oven and cook until the top is lightly browned.

Serve the two together next to each other on a plate and you can combine at will. It’s really rather good.

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macadamia crusted lamb


Clean-up of pantry (2006 was a busy year for shopping apparently) yielded a bag of macadamia nuts and hence.

Crust is equal parts macadamia nuts and breadcrumbs with some chopped parsley tossed in. Just press on top. You can brown, as I did, the rack beforehand if you like. Marinade is EVOO red wine vinegar, rosemary and smoked paprika.

Minikin is stuffed with couscous, butter, chicken stock, dried raisins, macadamia nuts and pepitas. Mixed together and placed in the cavity. As a handy hint; use a round biscuit cutter to cut a lid out of the minkin.

Underneath the lamb is slices of field mushroom and red onion.

All cooked in 180C oven for 25 minutes*. Rest the lamb rack for 5 minutes. Toss the snow pea shoots in some EVOO and good salt. Serve.

I was really just using stuff I had but it worked together nicely.

*Actually 25 minutes is more of an averaging, the pumpkins could go up to thirty and the lamb could get down to 15-17 if you were after something closer to rare.

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box of broad beans

Broad beans are in season. I was reminded of this when a red faced man came in to an art exhibition I was at with a box full of them. I couldn’t understand what he was
saying, but the other people could. This made me wonder if they really did understand him, or if they’d just got used to pretending to understanding him, and that if thats what I sounded like by the time I got to double digit drink figures. There’s always a look down like they’d written down what they were going to say earlier but couldn’t find it and then a blurt. He couldn’t understand what I was saying.

If you’ve struggled to reattach the choke cable on a bike’s carburettor or tried to send a text message, you’ll like broad beans. Broad beans are like peas but for people with big hands.

The pods also have a fetching green velvet interior. This may trigger issues. The broad beans will peel once more, revealing a smaller, shinier bean.
Starting with about half a kilo of broad beans,
Remove the broad beans from their pod and boil in salted water for five minutes
remove the outer skin from 20 of the larger beans to allow the inner beans to be scattered around as decorations.
Chop the remaining outer beans.
Peel and chop an equivalent amount of japanese pumpkin into bite sized pieces and roast in olive oil/vegetable oil until soft. Allow a little browning. Mash and add to the chopped beans
Sautee half a finely chopped spanish onion and add.
Roast some pepitas in the oven and add. Pepitas are pumpkin seeds and if you were being especially resourceful, you could have saved them from the pumpkin. They add a bit of crunch interest to what’s otherwise quite soft.
Season.
Shape into patties and fry on either side.
Place under a steak.

Additional notes: Roasting pumpkin makes it sweeter, as does sauteeing the red onions, the outer bean is a little bitter so there’s your balance right there.

Extra bonus broad bean pasta sauce:
-pan fry some sliced chicken breast in olive oil with seasoning and a squeeze of lemon and reserve.
-add some more olive oil and fry large some chopped up bits of mini-japanese tomatoes with a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves and a chopped red chilli. Let them cook and reduce a little and you can pick out any bits of skin if you’re bothered
-chop up some broccolini and baby courgettes. Dunk them in the boiling pasta water for a minute or so just to take a bit of the rawness off. Add to the frypan. and stir through.
-take the broad beans out of their pod and boil for four minutes. Add to the pan and stir through.
-return the chicken, making sure you add all the collected chicken juices.
-place on pasta (the sauce isn;t that saucy so you might wnat to mix a little EVOO in with the pasta after its drained) with parmesan.

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lamb and lentil braise


Technically it’s a braise and that’s often the cooking method of choice for cheaper and tougher cuts but that doesn’t exclude other cuts. The temperature is lower than an oven but the heat conductivity of the water, which surrounds the meat, is much more efficient. The connective tissue and collagen is broken down with cooking time is transformed into gelatin. Gelatin will thicken the sauce and give it mouthfeel. Bones are also good. So for this reason I grabbed some lamb chops out of the freezer and complimented them with shanks.
Dust the meat with flour and brown them quickly after or the flour goes soggy with juices. Much is said about sealing the meat but the browning adds flavour to the meat by a process known as the Maillard reaction which is a chemical reaction that occurs with amino acids and heat (like sugars and caramelisation) . I’m not entirely sure if the same happens with the flour the meat is dusted with but the flavours will disperse with the flour and the flour acts as a thickener. I’ve also heard that with fish, a dusting of flour will ‘dry’ the exterior so the fish sears in contact with the pan rather than steams. Remove and drain off any excess fat, much of the flavour is still stuck to the pan and this can be deglazed with a little stock and some scraping.
The similarity with a stock means that there’s a flavour base of aromatics – garlic, onion, celery and carrots. This is referred to in French as a mirepoix. The mirepoix was softened gently or ‘sweated’ in olive oil until soft. The size of the mirepoix depends on the length of cooking. A brief half hour fish stock will need small cubes but a longer cooking process can allow larger pieces which add to the biteable elements in the dish – celery and onion not so much but carrots yes.
The flavour gets a boost from adding half a litre of chicken stock and then topped up with water. You could do without it but a watery taste is to no-one’s liking and ther should be something for the lentils to soak up. The other flavour comes from a traditional bouquet garni combo of thyme, bay leaf and parsley. Personally I find popping out to the herb garden a wee bit special.
Added to the mix are kipfler potatoes, which keep their shape well. Potatoes are often mixed to stews for their carbohydrates but their starch also acts as a thickener.
Bring to the boil and skim off the scum and place in a 180C oven for an hour or so. The lid will increase the efficiency of cooking by raising the boiling point in a mild facsimile of a pressure cooker. It’ll also mean that the cooking liquid doesn’t reduce but that’s OK because you’ll need it for the lentils.
Lentils have long been a source of suspicion for transgression of established barriers on protein and meat (pace tofu). Green lentils, unlike other legumes,don’t require soaking before cooking just needing a rinse and then cooking until tender. This can vary but half an hour is good balance between chewy and mush. Add the lentils and continue cooking – if there’s excess liquid you can crack the lid open to allow steam to escape and the liquid to reduce.
At the same time, the dish lacks a bit of acidity and this could be wine (didn’t have any) or lemon (ditto) so I went with tomatoes. Just some cherry tomatoes pan fried with olive oil and basil until broken down for extra taste and mixed in at the same time as the lentils.

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lamb roast

Mag’s been put to bed so that means…Sunday roast.

A few helpful things:

Lamb
You can make a nice lamb stuffing with (roughly)
a cup of fresh breadcrumbs, a knob/thumb of melted butter, 1/3 cup of fire raisins, grated lemon peel, and 2 tbs of chopped mint and 2 tbs chopped parsley and a couple of sprigs of thyme.
The shoulder of dorper lamb had already been boned and netted – I carefully peeled back the net, unrolled the lamb, spread it with stuffing and rerolled and netted it. Just let it sit for a while in some EVOO and rosemary before roasting.
You could always debone it yourself or ask a butcher, anyway these are usually called “easycarve roasts”.


Roast Sweet Potato, Broccoli and Leek Pie (not pictured)

Bit like a quichey bastila (No!). Instead of shortcrust get some sheets of filo pastry and a springform tin. Rub the tin down with butter (just the inside) and then brushing one sheet at a time with butter, line the inside of the tin. Work around the tin 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock, 12 o’clock, rock. A little tearing is unavoidable but if you layer it enough there should be enough overlap so the filling doesn’t run everywhere when you put it in. You can trim it or scrunch it up for a scrunchy effect – I think I used about 10 sheets of filo pastry.
For the filling – sliced leek sauteed gently in butter, small oven-roasted cubes of sweet potato, chopped broccoli – ever so slightly pre-cooked in butter, goat’s cheese, toasted sesame seeds, some thyme, oregano and salt and pepper. 8 eggs and 300mls of cream (and if you’re using Bannister Downs cream, it’s good, make sure you give the pack a bit of a shake and a squeeze).
Cooks in about 20 minutes.

Potatoes Dauphinoise
Had this at Bouchon Bistro on Friday night (which is really good) so I made it at home. The trick is cooking the potato slices in milk with a bouquet garni and nutmeg*. You ditch the milk when the potatoes have been cooking for 15 minutes. Give the casserole dish a bit of a rub with butter and cut garlic cloves. then layer the potato slices, seasoning as you go along, filling with hot cream, and topping with grated gruyere. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes.

Roasted Beetroot
Roast beetroots until skins peels off by hand. Dice and then serve with sour cream and chopped mint.

Coconut, Chocolate and Vanilla Soufflé
This is close enough to the recipe to save me typing it out. While you’re boiling the milk add a sliced vanilla bean and about 2/3 cup of dessicated coconut.

Drinking notes: Don’t know what it is but Bishops Finger is just so right at the moment.
Possible jingle:
(to tune of “L-A-C-H-L-A-N”, Your Wedding Night)
Well guests they will linger
If you’re giving the Finger

chocolate coconut vanilla souffle


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Some salad

quail salad

iced berry sorbet

Following on the heels of last year’s New Year’s Eve Dinner party for 11 we thought we’d try again with 16 and a n extra course in there. Sue and Chook hosted and I did the cooking. This took a good two days – the idea was to prep before so I could sit down and enjoy the meal now and then. There was also the essential martini testing. It was a great deal of fun and it’s lovely to have an opportunity to cook for that many friends on an important night of the year. Not all went to plan but ah well. I think what I was happiest with was that there were a few things people hadn’t had before without alienating anybody.

All the photos are here on flickr and many thanks to Kate for taking pics for me.

Things kicked off well with a pre-guests-arrive bottle of Veuve Cliqout, which I could get used to.

quail and chorizo
Apéritifs
Assorted Martinis
Quail Eggs on Chorizo with Aioli

Chook became Mr Martini as guests arrived. They’re a great way to get things rolling. I mumbled stuff about them putting people into a state of deep booze, like REM sleep. The reality is, they’re just a respectable way of drinking straight booze. Oh I couldn’t drink a glass of vodka, oh what’s this? and olive. Popularised in the 50′s as a salve for losing the McClusky Sporting Goods Account and a pot roast not quite up to standards.
Peeling quail eggs is a complete bastard. Boiling them is easy, just pop them in a pan of water, bring it to the boil, and remove after one minute.
As seen at Maggie Taberer’s birthday party.

oysters

Appetizer
Oysters
with
Lemon-Lime Hollandaise
Crème Fraîche and Salmon Roe
Chilli Coriander Champagne Sorbet

Oysters are the best. Lemon-lime hollandaise is the one from summer from Forrest Hill winery. Crème Fraîche and salmon roe is a reappearance from last year.The chilli coriander champagne sorbet is completely made up and I was thinking of a frozen pho with champagne as the sour stock, a bit of sugar for sweetness and then chilli and coriander added. I was ready to ditch it but it actually worked well.
Nice thing was, every one of them was at least somebody’s favourite.

asparagus and gazpacho

Soup
Gazpacho with Crayish Mousse and Asparagus Bavarois


This was my – I will attempt something classically french and overly ambitious thing.
The gazpacho was for summer and was easy (peeling and seeding tomatoes does take time). Because it was dinner, I pulled back on the cucumber, and the capsicum as it didn’t want it too spicy. A few chopped tomatoes mixed in before serving added texture.
The plan for the bavarois was that I’d place a crayfish mousse in the centre. Initially I thought I’d go for a loaf shape and slice it but that shape was taken by the vegetable terrine.
A crayfish mousse is similar in principle to a salmon mousse. Steaming it in a tiny muffin muffin tin, it went to crap, I’m not sure why, maybe not enough egg white. Tasted alright and it would be covered up by the bavarois. Slightly flavoured with a simple bisque made from the head of the crayfish.
The asparagus idea came from dinner at Bouchon Bistro in Wembley, which is extremely good, and I couldn’t believe it’s just down the road from me and I hadn’t been before. A useful guide was in the Age. Gelatine is still a dark art and I feel it may have been a little on the soft side, although a busy fridge is less than ideal for setting. I use leaf gelatine because it’s got German on it.
Very tasty. It’s be a nice thing to master.

table setting

Vegetables
Roasted Vegetable Terrine with Vinaigrette


Sue made this and it was lovely. There’s nothing like the natural sweetness that comes from roasted vegetables.

champagne speck and scallop risotto

Entree
Scallop with Champagne and Speck Risotto


This was going to be a pork cheek and scallop salad after I got Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating but Wing Hong was all out so Toni suggested a risotto.
Made my own chicken stock to go with the champagne and it had a slighty smokey taste. It could have been the pork trotters but I think not straining it was have caused a few bits to catch and burn when reducing. No bad thing.

borscht sorbet

Breather
Borscht Sorbet


Beetroot is sweet so it’s not going to freak people out and it’s also savoury. Can’t remeber how I did this. Ahhmmm. Roasted beetroot for sweetness then peeled and grated it. A cupful cooked in some chicken stock, added back and them pureed with cucumber and a splash of vodka to keep it a bit runny and give it a bit of bite.
Remember to remove from freezer a little before serving.

wagyu

Main
Eye Fillet of Wagyu
Several Mushroom Clafoutis
Cannellini Bean Puree
and Jus


This is from down south in WA and I was a bit handy because the Graeme from Dorper Lamb dropped it off at my place. It was a monster piece – 3.4 kilograms. I wasn’t sure quite how to approach it so I divided it into three roughly equal pieces, one slightly smaller for the better done crowd.
I’d sear it and then cook it in the oven at a very high heat. The spell in the oven wasn’t quite enough because I was overly worried about over-cooking it so I sliced it into 16 portions, researed it, and then sliced each piece for serving.
Canellini Bean Puree was from Summer and is beans pureed with sherry vinegar and olive oil.
The clafoutis had field mushrooms, porcini and the ominous trumpet d’mort.It was like the cherry clafoutis earlier but without sugar.
I reserved the soaking water and added a little to the jus, which was a beef stock I made and then reduced with pan scrapings after deglazing with red wine.
A bit of crayfish on top for extra flash.
Time slipped away and thanks to the magic of Time Fixer -always fixin’ time – the clock mysteriously stopped for 20 minutes.
Sparklers, Poppers and Moet. More Martinis!

Cheese

I know french is poor form at New Year but it does make sense in meal sequence.

frozen berry souffle

Dessert
Frozen Berry Souffle


This is a Michel Roux Jr recipe (Le Gavroche is pretty much my where I end up in how to do things these days) and it’s kind of tricky. A kilo of berries pureed with 150g sugar, 80ml of whipped to soft peaks cream folded in.
Tricky bit was the egg whites. They’re beaten to bubbly and then 250g of sugar is boiled with 500ml of water up to 120C and then poured into the whites while the beater is running until the egg white has “cooled”. I had no idea what was supposed to be happening here but it did work. Fold in to mix.
Kind of interesting is that it takes ages to reach 120C. I thought the thermometer had stuck at 100 but realised it wasn’t until the water boiled off that the boiling point could rise – there’s a lesson in there somewhere. Keep in mind it’s facking hot and sticky – proper shoes, don’t lick the spoon etc.
It was supposed to pop up over the rameking with a wrap of greaseproof paper for the purpose but I miscalculated the volume not allowing for the volume of water boiling off.

I drank, bummed cigarettes and chatted to the sound of happy dishwashing before finding a sofa on which to relax and then that was that. Happy New Year all.

souffle finished


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pumpkin ragout


I don’t like pumpkin. The leverage required to slice through one says missing fingers and the name, because of joke I was once told, says hillbilly coupling.
As a result, this recipe has sat in my recipe book, undisturbed, for a good decade or so. It’s quite a good recipe – vegan from when I knew vegans. I’m sure they’re still around, we just don’t hang out anymore. I went my meaty way and they went theirs. Maybe I do know some and they’ve been keeping it from me. I obviously feel quite bad about this and maybe my circle of friends is too narrow. Hello! Vegans! Any of you like to be my friend? Maybe I should settle for pescetarians.
I think the recipe is from a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, or maybe the Enchanted Broccoli Forest or something.
The dish is a boon for those who would like to practice their dry roasting skills. The total skill set being – the ability to stand at a stovetop for a few minutes without wandering off to check email or see what’s on telly; and gentle shaking (of the pan).

1.5kg pumpkin – chopped into chunks; 1tbs cumin seeds; 2tsp oregano; 3/4 cup peeled almonds; 5tbs sesame seeds; 1 onion-chopped; 2 cloves garlic – crushed; 2 small dried chillies – chopped; 250ml of tomato juice; handful of coriander leaves

Dry roast the cumin seeds in a frypan until fragrant then add the oregano and continue for another minute. Grind in a mortar and pestle.
Sautee the onions in oil until soft, add chilli and garlic, and finally the organo/cumin seeds.
Add the pumpkin and tomato juice, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the pumpkin is soft.
Dry roast the almond and sesame seeds seperately, and grind finely.
Leave a little aside for garnish, add the rest with the coriander to the pumpkin, stir and heat through.
Garnish with ground sesame and almond and a little cream (or not).
You can use gazpacho instead of tomato juice if you happen to have some left over in the fridge.

And that’s it.

cherry clafoutis


I’ve always wanted to make a cherry clafoutis. No particular reason, I just like the sound of it. Same reason I’ve always wanted to go to Djibouti. It’s good value. It’s as easy as pancakes. Yorkshire pud without the dripping. You don’t even have to pit the cherries – the French don’t. Take pleasure in the reduction of the workload and that any guest who doesn’t thoughtfully enjoy a slice with sufficient care may lose a tooth or choke to death. A welcome change for the underappreciated kitchen worker. It’s so easy I’m not even going to pretend I did anything other than follow this recipe and decide to use the frypan because I used the pie thingy for the last post.

AND I think you should check out Saffy’s breakfast peach clafoutis .

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and once I got this right the rest was downhill


Mr Chubby d’Hubby of Singapore was in town for a wedding a little while ago and I insisted, *insisted* that he come over to my place for dinner in the spirit of bloginess and a sense of regional friendship that seemed to have been lost since Australia decided we’d be part of the Anglophonic Superfriends. If you haven’t been over to his blog ‘Chubby Hubby’, then off you go now. Great isn’t it? But eeek! from a I’ve got to cook dinner for this person perspective. On top of this the other three guests, his wife and two friends were all heavily involved in food in both work and leisure. The other thing is that Singapore is a very cosmopolitan and outward looking place so there was no – ‘as you may not be familiar with Bulgarian food type’ dodges. (sorry this isn’t making any sense is it?)

To cope with my I’m a bloggin’ fraud angstiness about these things, the plan was to have something which was really good but didn’t look like I’d tried to hard just in case it didn’t work out because I was like being all casual and all in a kind of faded jeans and cowboy shirt way (actually that’s what I wore).

Cold entree prepared in advance, rack of lamb (‘cos it’s Aussie), and rhubarb ice cream for dessert.

Cold entree ended in the bin, lamb rack became pork rack and rhubarb ice-cream became rhubarb ice-cream (but with cardamom – oooeee).

Pains to Spain
The entree was a facking disaster – a combination of orange roughy roe, ocean trout, and crayfish horns. Unfortunately I was working off a few different recipes so it was a cross between a terrine/mousse/parfait. The orange roughie roe did work, it’s not much raw but did make for a very nice pate – cooked in orange juice and then cream. This was the top row.
For the next part I smoked half my stash of ocean trout. Pan fried the other half and pureed them both. It then became apparent I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and ended up making a mousse and had a brief naff sixties flashback. Crayfish horns filled the inside.
Tried it the next morning and realised there is indeed a significant difference between smokey and acrid and this was the latter. Toni concurred and in the bin it went (not something I do lightly).
What to do. I still had some bits of fish and crayfish left and a fish stock I’d made; thinking I needed it for the terrine that became a mousse.

So, a kilo of mussels, and some smoked chilli squid legs and it was a paella with alioli. I’m pretty sure this was my first paella so being all experienced ‘n all – the secret is a good stock, chopping and deseeding the tomatoes yourself, and making sure you sautee them until they’re dryish. Do this and the lady from the cover of Surfer Rosa will appear as if by magic and dance the special dance for your entertainment for making such a fine paella.

The alioli was – one egg, four garlic cloves, salt, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp hot water – pureed and then EVOO added drop by drop then a stream while the wand is going until the consistency is right.

Mains
Went to Jeremy’s Butchers thinking lamb rack and instead saw a lovely 10 chop rack of Spencer’s Brook Organic pork and was sold. Did I mention butchers were good? Jeremy half cut the chops to allow better cooking, scored the top, and sent me away with the wisdom.
Oil it and salt the skin to dry it out the day before and let it get to room temperature. Raost at 220C to get the crackle crispy and then cook at 160C for about an hour and a half. And then rest in foil for 45 minutes. This seems a long time but it will retain a lot of heat and continue to cook the meat.

The ironic thing, actually more coincidental, but you don’t get a lot of ironic opportunities in food blogging is I swore I’d give the La Gavroche cookbook a rest, but found a recipe for rack of pork ribs that I resignedly followed – accepting the book is stamped on my brain in much the same way that every song I know play ends up sounding like I Wanna Be Sedated.
(And I’ve just realised that I’ve done virtually this whole dinner before *with* rhubarb ice-cream as well. Help! I’ve got dementia.)

The pork is cooked over root veges – in this case – 5mm slices of kipfler potato, parsnip, and white sweet potato. Along with garlic, sliced scallions, rosemary and thyme. The traditional way is to pour a cup of chicken stock as well and baste regularly. You can get the veges up to appropriate crisp while the pork is resting.

Apparently, legend has it, that in olden days, the ladies would use the local baker’s ovens and to save messing about – they’d do it all in one dish. Hence the songs of the time like:

Bad cooking woman
Given’ away her lovin’
That’s mah roots
In another man’s oven

[played to the tune of I Wanna Be Sedated – adagietto ]

The accompanying La Gavroche gravy was a tomato-based Charcutière sauce

Rhubarb on my brain
Rhubarb ice cream was this recipe for the rhubarb:
Rhubarb and cardamom tartlet
and then the rhubarb added to the creme anglais in the ice-cream maker and the juices and sticky used as a sauce.

rack of pork

The Meal
Well the meal was a lot of fun. Excellent wine was brought and the conversation was lively. CH & S actually got married in Perth and have a knowledge of the food and wine here that had me struggling to keep up. There’s something very nice about guests who are simultaneously very serious about their food but also very casual about the whole thing.
The paella was right tasty and the alioli managed to settle down from being like the breath of satan because of the much stronger local garlic – to something a bit more palatable. I was asked for seconds!
The pork was a bit dryer than I would have wanted, having left it cooking a little long, but the pork itself was great and the ribs proved very popular with at least one guest.
And then it was dessert and sticky and the night was over and away they went on their long journey north to Joondalup.

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clear soup mackeral

My significant other-in-law Chris runs a charter fishing boat out of Darwin. He has five top fish and not only refuses to keep any fish outside of the five for himself, but refuses to give them away either. Picky to be sure, but it meant we got five bags of immaculatey packed and filleted pieces of Darwin’s finest when my sister in law came to stay.

Mackeral in a Clear Soup
Mackeral is a strong tasting fish so the idea was to place it in a milder context of the mild fishiness of dashi stock. The dashi has mirin added to it for a bit of sweetness and soy sauce to fill in the gaps with a bit of meaty saltiness. The amounts of the latter two need to be tested with tasting. Dashi has a short cooking time so there’s more variance than with a stock that has a longer cooking time and a greater margin of error.
I was also happy to find katsuoboshi in a pack of 50gm bags at the small Asian deli next to Herdies Grower’s fresh. All that seemed to exist before were two kilogram bags, which is quite an amount of of dried bonito shavings. 50gm is also exactly the right amount you need for 1.5 litres of dashi, along with a 6x4cm square of konbu. Konbu is a large sea grass that contains glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is used as a neurotransmitter but also stimulates the umami receptors of our tongue. Umami is the mysterious fifth dimension of taste, which I find personally relevent as Age of Aquarius was the number one single in the year of my birth. It’s also the source of the much maligned MSG.
Traditionally, dashi is made with the water used to rinse rice but untraditionally, I didn’t have rice so normal water had to do.

Dashi
- Add the konbu to 1.5 litres of water and heat over a medium heat. Just before it comes to a boil, remove the konbu from the pot.
- Bring the water to a boil. Add 50gm of katsuoboshi and just as it starts to sink, strain the stock. I’m not sure of the exact degree of sinking and whether it’s as soon a one flke heads downward. Just don’t go wandering off.

Soup
The soup is based on a bamboo and prawn clear soup recipe from Kosaki and Wagner’s The Food of Japan. Theinteresting thing in this is the prawns are dusted with cornflour and quickly cooked in boiling water and then chilled. I’ve no idea what the cornflour does, it’s usually great for coating chicken for frying though. In this case, it did wrap the fish in an interesting texture.

- Add 5 tsp each of mirin and soy sauce for every three cups of dashi.
- Cut the mackeral into manageable pieces and cook as for the prawns above (there aren’t actually any prawns or bamboo in this in case you’re confused, because I replaced it mackeral didn’t I? And try getting fresh bamboo shoots at 6pm on a Sunday night in Perth).
- Add the mackeral pieces to the soup and heat through.
- Distribute the soup and mackeral pieces to the bowls and garnish with sliced chilli, steamed asparagus, and bean shoots that you’ll have spent 15 minuted trying to tie into four neat bundles with a lightly boiled bean shoot stem.

golden snapper


Golden Snapper with Artichoke Barigoule
Yet another Michel Roux Jnr recipe, I’d explain it in detail but I really think you should just go out and buy Le Gavroche Cookbook and get the Food of Japan while you’re at it. Artichoke barigoule is actually quite an old French dish. This one is best described as a mirepoix of roughly equal amounts of fennel bulb, onion, carrot, and diced and browned parma ham cooked in olive oil with thyme and garlic with two peeled artichokes in sixths added and then simmered covered with greaseproof paper with a glass of white wine, 60ml of warm water, and the juice of half a lemon for 15 minutes. Think of it as a nascent stock.
The fish is cooked in a very hot ovenproof pan in a very hot oven with olive oil, rosemary and thyme.
Serve on mash with the barigoule, garnish with freshly shredded basil leaves, a splash of olive oil and some of the barigoule juices.

Very nice. The snapper is fantastic and the only thing that can be “done” to it is stuffing it up, but a careful eye should prevent that. I liked the barigoule too, the finely diced pieces blended together without any particular one being dominant with the citric aspects of the wine and lemon juice matching the fish.

Bonus Motor Reviews:
00 V6 Holden Commodore Executive
If you’re an executive that makes his or her own cup of coffee and brown bags their lunch then you’ll appreciate the modest touches like non-electric windows and a cassette player. The steering wheel feels surprisingly like a stress ball, handy for times of refuelling, and connects to competent enough if uncompelling handling. The treasure though, is the engine which throttles the loaf-like sedan at a rudely entertaining pace, which, when couple with underperforming tyres allows for many squeal like a pig moments.

’06 620 Ducati Monster
Traditional no fuss naked home of gentler Ducati engines makes for simple biking pleasures accompanied by a beautiful Termignoni note. Sit up and beg riding position with wide handlebars allows for confident drop in cornering. Slipper clutch avoids traditional Ducati requirement on manly bear grip but does make for uncertain starts. Lower power requires more judicious gear selection than with larger torquier twins. Apparently the front shocks can’t be adjusted , so firmer springs and a bikini screen a good accessory choice.

’06 Volvo XC90 D5
Smooth spinning and with a creamily compelling engine howl, it handles as effortlessly as it does seat five with ample luggage space. Quick, quicker with autotronic, but be soothed by Nordic utilitarian design and soft lights.

Next Week! 240 series redux

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ratatouille on steak

I don’t think you can ask much more from a spring Friday than pulling out some chairs to sit in the last hour or so of sun with a few beers and the stereo set to very loud. And keeping with the simple pleasures, a nice bit of eye fillet for dinner.

There it is above, well camouflaged by a blob of ratatouille which may or may not believe was carefully formed in a dariole mould.

Steak – 500gm piece of eye fillet tied with my nifty silicon ties to keep its shape and marinated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary pestled together with ground pepper and a splash of balsamic. Seared all round in goose fat in a pan and then finished in a hot oven. Allow to rest and then slice. It wasn’t quite right so I finished each piece back in the pan.

Sauce – Pan deglazed with red wine with a very finely chopped eschalot. Reduced by a half and then I added a few tablespoons of cream with a couple of pieces of dried porcini ground down to dust. Reduce to taste and season.

Broad beans – peeled from the large pod and then boiled in salted water for 6 minutes then peeled again down to the inner pod and then cooked in butter before serving.

Ratatouille
– not a proper one, I hate capsicum, but same principle. One zucchini cubed and brown a little in some olive oil and removed. Sauteed one chopped red onion and garlic. Zucchini back in with some chopped asparagus pieces as well as four peeled and deseeded chopped tomatoes and a little tomato puree. Some chopped rosemary as well. Cook til it’s nicely cooked through without becoming mush and then season to taste.

I enjoyed this a lot. One of the busiest things I’ve ever made but it all seemed to pull together somehow – think meaty creamy tomatoey acidic earthy with a hint of vinegar. Sorry it’s a rather bright picture of it.

I’d also like to recommend frozen turkish delight bars for dessert. Highly amusing and the wrapper obviates the need for a PSP.

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beef wellington


Ha! The French, inventing a dish that used the favourite meal of the English, the rosbif, and then naming it after
a waterproof boot. Touché! as they say

This is an exercise in deciding how much faffing around you want to do with a meal, and in this case I had a day to idle away. Busier folk could simply wrap a log of spam in store bought puff pastry and then place it in the bin.

The recipe is a combination of a few recipes from my handy Le Cordon Bleu at Home and on the internets. This was actually one of my first fancy dinner party meals when I was at uni and for some reason I decided to make it in the middle of summer. Moving the table out to the back garden helped matters. Although I managed to offend two guests by describing new railway stations their friend has designed as “a large superphosphate shed and a greek temple for the gods of suburban blah”. Would I offend again? The weather was better though.

Features!
-homemade puff pastry (not something I do often/ever)
-shiitake duxelles
-a herb crepe wrap

welly wrap


I’m not going to tell you how to make puff pastry, I just diligently followed a cookbook but it is doable and give yourself a fair amount of time as it needs a couple hours of refrigeration in the process of making it. What is made is a large number of buttery layers with six rotations of a triple fold. So I guess it would be something like- three layers, nine layers, 27 layers, 81 layers, 243 layers, 729 layers.

Beef
I got the beef eye fillet (1.2kg for seven people) from Jeremy’s (and nice it was). Tie it in five places to keep its shape and sear on all sides for about five minutes. Place it on a chopped carrot and a sixthed onion and cook in a 200C oven for 20 minutes. Remove the fillet and allow to cool and then cool in the fridge. Roast the carrots and onion for another twenty minutes and then deglaze the tin with brandy and port. Keep the liquids and the solids to make the sauce later and scrape off any fat that appears on the surface.

Duxelles
I used a combination of 300gm of fresh shiitake and fresh field mushrooms and cooked in a pan for 15 minutes with two finely chopped scallions. Add half a cup of cream and a couple of tablespoons, chopped, of fresh herbs – parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme (stoppit) . Puree to smooth. It ends up looking like a pate which is interesting because one alternative to duxelles is to coat the fillet with pate (as in the liver paste) or fois gras and then warp it in pastry. Chill in the fridge

Crepes
I saw this on the net and then couldn’t find it again but then I found another recipe which suggested using rice paper so the pastry doesn’t get soggy. So I thought the crepe would do the same trick.
Just your basic crepe batter with the aforementioned herbs mixed in. I was going to add porcini dust but they didn’t have any at Herdies so no to that.

Assembly and Cooking
Remove the string from the beef fillet.
Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness and trim. Place crepes in the middle and spread a layer of the duxelles and place the fillet on top. Spread duxelles over the fillet. and top with a crepe. Fold the pastry over lengthwise. Seal the ends with a roller and fold the ends over. Turn the beef wellington over with the seal down and brush with egg wash. You can decorate with strips of spare pastry if you like and brush again with egg wash.
Allow to cool in the fridge for at least half an hour.
Place a metal cone (from a pastry bag or bong) in the middle to allow steam to escape and prevent it going soggy.
Place in a buttered baking tray. Cook in a 180C oven for 40 minutes and then allow it to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Sauce
Strain the deglazing liquids and then reduce in a pan with beef stock and red wine.

Parsnip, Sweet Potato and Leek Cake
A large roti that seemed to resemble coleslaw. Not as successful as I’d hoped as a cake tin dooesn’t allow for the right amount of crisping without burning that a pan does.
Julienne the sweet potato and the parsnips and parboil for a minute. Julienne a leek and cook in goose fat until soft and then add the parsnip and sweet potato. Mix through and season and add to a cake tin and cook along with the roast.

welly stovetop


Tasty although I don’t know what I was thinking with the application of the jus, Decided to go all Jackson Pollock, who liked a drink or two I hear.

Topless Seafood Pies


seafood things


These came to me in a dream. Not a very well detailed dream with a complete recipe and I can’t remember if in the dream the shortcrust shells were supposed to look like an ashtray made in year 3 art class. But the idea was pastry in a dariole mould and filled with prawns and scallops. The prawns and scallops and red emperor fillets were chopped into bitey bits.
Wan’t sure about the sauce but I found a crayfish head in the freezer. I removed the shell and the legs and crushed them. The flavour of the shells isn’t soluble in water, only alcohol and fat (mmmm) so the shells were sauteed with some celery as an aromatic, flambeed with brandy and then simmered in cream for 40 minutes.
I then added a few strands of saffron and seasoned. A small amount kept as a sauce and with the rest, an egg yolk and some finely chopped parsley and then poured over the seafood in the shells.

Rice Pudding
rice pudding

The rice to milk ratio is very small 4tbs of short grain rice to 800ml of full cream milk. Bring to a boil in a Creuset dutch oven with a vanilla pod and 2tbs of caster sugar and cook in a 150c oven for 90 minutes. Keep an eye on it or you’ll, as I did, run out of milk and scald the pot.
You’re supposed to then stir in some whipped cream but I forgot that bit at this blurrier end of the eveing but did manage to remember to mix in some fresh passionfruit pulp and decide to caramelise some caster sugar on top with the kitchen torch.

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lamb with tart


Yeah sorry not the best pic but hasn’t it been a while? A brief respite while the mag pops into a bit of a canter. Lamb backstrap, don’t know exactly which cut it is but it’s great – looks like a giant tongue.

Lamb backstrap rubbed down with olive oil and ras al hanout and left for thirty minutes. Seared in a cast iron pan on both sides. Popped in the oven to cook through – a mere 8 minutes, it could have almost made it in the pan. Rested, sliced.

Deglazed the pan with Manzanilla Deliciosa sherry, add a little beef stock, reduce, add cream, reduce and add a few strands of saffron.

The spinach tarts came about because of some short pastry in the freezer. Blind bake, For the filling – gently sauteed garlic, pine nuts, and torn prosciutto with blanched and finely chopped english spinach then added and cooked in a little butter. Mix in a little cream and add to the tart shells and cook for 8 minutes.

Tomatoes oven-roasted with olive oil.

That’s it – extremely good. Mental note of dark plate with light sauce.

Cocoa sabayon and berries for sweets.

scallops and beef with beer

I’m doing a cooking workshop next month on cooking with beer and have been doing a bit of experimenting to find something that’ll work. This is an attempt at something simple. The steak sauce being not dissimilar to the 60′s bachelor piece d’resistance Steak Diane with a deglazing fluid having cream added. I don’t know how impressive beer being that fluid would be, personally I think the retrograde element would have been as impressive to potential dates as a quick tour of the Chiko Roll poster collection but who knows, maybe we’ve moved on.

The steak is a bit of beef fillet, seasoned and seared on all all sides then popped in a hot oven until medium-rare. The cast iron pan is deglazed with a glass of Emerson’s Oatmeal stout with some chopped spring onions and some rosemary and reduced. It was reduced by a about half but still a bit gappy and the rosemary didn’t fill so much as kind of loiter there wondering what was going on. Strained and then 100ml of cream whisked in and simmer for a couple of minutes. Much nicer but still I feel it’s a bit of a creamy cheat. The mushrooms we’re already in the oven, doused with a bit of stout, waiting for the steak to join it.

The cabbage is steamed until soft in a saucepan with a glass of Jarrah Jack’s Pale (a new local brewery down in Pemberton). A bit of crisped up speck mixed in and a sprinkle of carraway seeds. The carraway seeds weren’t all that helpful, amplifying the bitterness that was already there enough with the beer.

The scallops, and I like putting scallops on things, were the nicest surprise. I reduced down a little rasberry lambic and before it was about to vanish, put the scallops in. There’s that nice red caramelised look and the sharp sweet matches well with the fleshy sweetness of the scallops.

Dessert was (summon the insirational powers of Le Gavroche) a rhubarb compote made using Leffe Blonde and a vanilla bean and topped with a raspberry lambic sabayon. Sweet, tarty and luscious with a faint whiff of beer elements – go you 60′s bachelor!

AND: Steph is entirely not happy at the fact that only two blokes have shown up at the last 10 parties. I know the internet is the last place you’d find single guys but come on fellers. With the above and the fact I drank the uncooked beer in a fancy glass, it’s not strictly within the rules but this post is indisputably – Man Food.

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spanakopita

Spanakopita [from the Greek spanos – spinach, and kopita – pie] it pretty easy. Lightly blanch a couple of bunches of spinach and chop up. Chop up a few field mushrooms, a clove of garlic and some spring onions and sautee in a little olive oil. Mix it all in with three free-range eggs, a grated block of feta cheese and a handful of chopped herbs – coriander, marjoram, dill, and parsely. Butter a baking tray, place three sheets of filo pastry brushed with butter on the bottom. Add the mix and then top with three more sheets of filo. Cook at 180C for about 40 minutes.

Jo’s moussaka added gravy like goodness with near dissolved eggplant.

Buggered if I can get a single sheet of filo pastry to not tear before just chucking the rest away in scrumpled digust. Is there a trick to this?

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porc a l'orange with braised fennel


Obviously I don’t blog everything I’ve cooked for the past week but in this case, apart from poached eggs, this is everything I’ve cooked. A stretch of long days getting the mag ‘to bed’ (sounds more romantic than it is) haven’t been very helpful to fixing dinners (or a general sense of calm, for that matter). Anyway, winter’s been bedded, more news on that later, and I could get back to messing about in the kitchen. Sorry for the average pic but the meal was much enjoyed.

The recipe is taken from these French recipes that pop into my email box each day. It’s a nice way to pick up some French cooking . You just go to Cuisine AZ and then, and then I’m not sure what you do, you’ll have to ask a French person, but eventually you’ll get a pork recipe from someone called Emmanuelle and that’s good, no? So the recipe:

300 g of pork fillet, sliced into 2cm medallions; 3 oranges – one with the rind grated and juiced and the other two segmented ; one leek, cut into 1cm lengths (the recipe calls for small white onions); butter; salt and pepper

For some nice prep practice, instead of of grating the peel, peel it without the pith, slice it into fine strips and finely chop it. Chop the ends off the other two oranges, remove the peel with a knife and then segment it by slicing between the membrane, avoiding any pith. Segmenting an orange is one of the three things you have to be able to do well before you can be considered able to do anything in cooking school. I forget the other two. Ah well.

Sear the pork in butter until it’s golden and then add the leek and the juice and the peel. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, season, then add the orange segments and simmer for another eight minutes. Remove the pork, the oranges and the leek and keep them warm and reduce the cooking liquid into a sauce – glossing it up a bit with some whisked in butter.

Found this Donna Hay recipe to go with risotto while looking for a way to slow-roast fennel. This recipe calls for braising. A few changes – I replaced chicken stock with beer, vinegar with white verjuice and dropped the amount of sugar back a bit.

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered; 1 cup of Bitburger; 1/3 cup of raw sugar; 1/3 cup of white verjuice; 4 sprigs of thyme.

Then, in an eerily familiar fashion. sear the fennel in butter until it’s golden and then add the other ingredients. Cover and simmer for 8 minutes. Eight minutes isn’t enough for tender, so possibly go for at least 15.

Plate it and that’s it. The citrus cuts nicely against slightly sweet and fatty pork and braised onions and fennel are your winter heartiness right there.

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tain provencal

Fack! A perfectly good post down the cyberhole after a frozen firefox. I think I’ll go and sulk and fill in the bits later when I get a moment/cheer up.

Scallop and asparagus tart with saffron sauce


Scallop and Asparagus Tart with Saffron Sauce


Leg of lamb medallions with garlic and tarragon cream sauce

Butterflied Leg of Lamb Medallions with Garlic and Tarragon Cream Sauce.
Served with a Tian Provençal (up top)

This was going to be a saddle of lamb trimmed into noisettes but a “didn’t have” became a “how about” and and I came back with a large piece of butterflied leg of lamb (the bone is cut out and the meat opened out, great for quick cooking after marinating). I trimmed it a bit and made some O in an OK sized rolls which I tied up with string. Seasoned, seared in a pan, cooked in a very hot oven to rare, and rested.
The sauce was made by roasting two heads of garlic then adding the pulp to double cream in a saucepan and reduced with fresh tarragon added. Roasting removes much of the garlic’s pungency and accentuates its sweetness.

This was served with a Tian Provençal which is kind of like a rataouille pie but without the capsicum, which is fine by me. It is also completely vegan, which is rather special. The eggplant is peeled into strips and blanched to make the lattice and fried strips of eggplant make up the sides of and the base. The filling is small cubes of zucchini sauteed with finely chopped onion, garlic and mint. A bit of baking paper in the base of the cake tin (or a tian if you’ve got one and then cooked covered with foil, like a creme brulee, in a water bath for 20 minutes in a hot oven. For a cooking note you might want to consider the effects of having a water bath while roasting something else. No? Inverted onto a plate. The topping is skinned and deseeded tomatoes and finely chopped spring onions cooked in a frypan until thick with the liquid gone. It looks a little like a chocolate cake which makes it perfect for disappointing children.

pear tart with fig and brandy ice cream

Red Extravaganza Pear Tart with Fig and Brandy Ice Cream

Jules in comments asks how I did the ice-cream. Righty ho then, by the looks of it, Jules knows her way around a kitchen but I’ll make a kind of general publicky kind of explanation. Custard was never meant to be the lumpy shite from a packet that you had on apple turnover but the starting point for ice-cream.

Creme anglais + ice-cream maker = ice-cream.

The inspiration for this came from J and her Macadamia Tart. As is quite clear, I wasn’t inspired, obviously enough, to make an immaculately presented dessert but noticed that if I made a batch of custard, I could use it for the the tart and then use the rest for the ice cream and save myself a valuable bit of arsing about time.
To make a creme anglais you split a vanilla pod down the middle, let it simmer in a cup of milk in a saucepan. Meanwhile whisk two egg yolks with 100grams (yeah yeah I bought a scale) of sugar until “it forms ribbons when lifted”. Take out the vanilla pod and then add the milk to the yolks in a steady stream stirring constantly. Put it all back in a saucepan and heat gently until it thickens “until you can draw a finger down the back of a spoon and leave a clean line”, stir constantly. If you don’t, and it never ever has, and you get some lumps, just run it through a sieve. That’s your custard/creme anglais.
Add a cup of thick cream and put in the fridge. If it’s cold it’ll work more quickly in the ice cream maker. Now for the brandy fig bit. Chop up two ripe figs and macerate them in enough brandy to cover for a few hours. You can then work off the alcohol by bringing the mix up to the boil in a fry pan. Add this to the creme anglais in the ice cream maker and watch it go round until ice creamy. You don’t have to watch it, but it is kind of compelling – more so than Dancing with the Stars.

The tarts… ahh pate sucree, bit of custard, chopped pear, in the oven blah blah blah.

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salmon salad


Salad salad salad. There are a lot of platitudes about healthy food but it does make sense. Every time we eat we have an opportunity to eat what will do us good or eat something shite. Better if it’s tasty shite, worse if it’s shite shite. If it’s good for you and tasty, then doubly plus good. Mucho macho delusion is at work. The movie running through the head is that unhealthy eating is vindicated by being oh so tasty and a willingness to stare death in the face to do it. In reality it’s a failure to develop reasonable adult tastes and an unwillingness to work beyond the hot, the salty, and the fatty as the pinnacles of food pleasure. The result is usually to work most of the way through it to justify getting it in the first place and then spend the rest of it wondering what you were thinking, case in point – the Whopper. Then it’s the useless loop of validation and the fruitless search for the taste that you thought you’d get. Not forgetting the whole forbidden fruit thing but it’d be nice if the forbidden fruit wasn’t forbidden froot, if you know what I mean. Perception: wildly pushing risk parameters on a thundering hunk of hot metal. Reality: riding Virago into back of vehicle while looking back at outrun Excel.

Why don’t I make more salads? I dunno. Salads are subordinate clauses to the controlling idea of meat and have the Tontoes about them. We rarely, if ever, make a course of them. The trick is to make them more like bongos and less like drum kits. Actually I hate bongos after many a perfectly good boho party in the early nineties was ruined by squads of percussionistas. Somebody had put a mirror on the lawn so you could like look at the stars and this vibe was demolished by a lumpen faux salsa chorus. Anyway this is a healthy salad and more meal in a bowl like the Vietnamese Beef salads and an amped up version of the token bits if browned bacony things in a Caesar, the Japanese do a nice line in a seafood salad. With the recipe I was looking for gone missing, I kind of made it up with repeated finger dipping tastings (not hygenic I know but better food poisoning than relying on some kind of palatal telepathy). As a meal you’ve got your meat, your veg, and your bread.

Wash and dry some lettuce – the further away from the nutritionally empty iceberg the better. Grape tomatoes and trimmed and steamed asparagus refreshed to a chill immediately after steaming in ice water.

Pan fry salmon cutlet in a little vegetable oil. I marinated the salmon in a little saké for 15 minutes. Flake it while it’s still hot (builds finger character) and make sure no bones get into the salad.

I was distracted and let the asparagus oversteam and become soft so I thought croutons would add a bit of crunch. Thick slice of sourdough bread, toasted in a toaster, and cut into cubes. The innovation was to quickly fry them in the pan I’d just cooked the salmon in to give it a nice coating of fishy flavour goodness

Dressing: 4tbs soy sauce; 2tbs lemon juice; 2tbs white vinegar; 2tsp sugar; 3 spring onion whites, finely sliced; 2tbs ginger, finely grated; 2tbs of white and black sesame seeds, lightly dry pan toasted. Pop in a jar and shake and pour over salad. The measurements are recollected guesstimates, accurately replicate it at your peril. If you want a bit of a guide, the soy sauce is salty, the lemon juice adds fresh tangy sourness, the vinegar a bit of spare sour fruitiness, the ginger and spring onions a bit of pungency, the sesame seeds add crunch and toastiness, and the sugar add sweetness to offset the saltiness of the soy. Adjust accordingly.

A fine addition to the mid-week warm weather repertoire that’s as healthy as it is tasty and as crusty as it is trusty with the cruton hitting the futon and the pisces balancing any nutritional crises.

Note: in a break from food photograph narratives, neither the book, garlic, watch, or mango were in the salad. Apologies for any confusion that may have resulted.

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lasagne

Lasagne. Potentially so much more than a vehicle for bolognese and cheese. I think it should be more regarded as a kind of baked pasta based dagwood opening up many opportunities for different fillings. This one was bechamel with parsley; tomato with majoram and basil; eggplant and mushrooms panfried in olive oil; spinach with ricotta and pine nuts; and then bechamel, parmesan and a few dabs of butter on top. Not a bit of meat to be seen. The lasagne sheets came ready to go in a plastic container. Bechamel is the only thing that takes a bit of care but I really can’t imagine lasagne with out it. Any thoughts on alternatives? Very nice and there was two or more days worth of food there which got better with each passing moment.

Back at Jackson’s hanging around and doing stuff again. Lovely to see everybody and my world has been rocked by the replacement of fennel salad on the menu by a peeled tomato and basil salad. Funny night, must have been international day of no seafood and gluten intolerance.

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bound


I’m backtracking here [cue waviness] but I should keep the recipe count up a bit and, as I didn’t get much of a chance after the New Years Eve dinner, I thought it’d be worthwhile going over the dinner in a bit more detail.

Chook and Sue and us decided two weeks before to have a proper dinner party for New Year at their place and the numbers were going to be from four to sixteen. They ended up being 11. The main concern was to allow the dinner to stretch through the evening so midnight would be part of it. This would be achieved by increasing the number of courses and this isn’t necessarily a hard thing to do. A cold soup can be made in advance. Seafood entrees are best left simple. Vegetables can be their own course. A sorbet isn’t too hard. A cheeseboard is just shopping and arranging, leaving only dessert and mains as the main concern. So seven courses isn’t much more of a stretch. They were:

Vichyssoise with a crayfish bisque base
Oysters with crème fraîche and salmon roe, ponzu sorbet, and champagne and chives sorbet
Sue’s Vegetable Terrine
Pear and limoncello sorbet
Spatchcock marinated in pomegranate syrup stuffed with lemon and thyme with poached baby pears, fig, and rosti
Cheeses
Gummo Trotskies – champagne zabaglione on pannetone with persian fairy floss and berry coulis


Chicken too dull, quail too small, pork too feasty, lamb too sunday, seafood too entree, venison to medieval, rabbit too pricey, pigeons too feral, steak too pubby, so this kind of left spatchcock. Spatchcock, poussin, is really just a young chicken and is a perfect size for mains with a surprising amount of meat. They’re also very reasonably priced at around $7 each. I thought I’d approach their cooking from a quail perspective and drew from a couple of recipes. I also decided to debone them, which was a considerable amount messy work, but good practice and it saves the guests from the pile of bones that shouts they’ve eaten a whole animal. And I then stitch them up again as if nothing had happened. The bones, handily become part of the stock. To compensate for the moisture giving properties of the bones, I bought some backfat and stuffed each one with half a lemon – and basted well. The only hiccup was the impossible task of finding kitchen string on NYE, which we ended up finding in a hardware store.

Spatchcock
Debone. This involves slicing down the backbone, working around the rib cage and dislocating each joint so there’s only one bone in each limb. If you come over to my place I can show you. The marinade is from a Moroccan recipe in the Delicious-let’s entertain (or just drink enough to give a semblance of) book that called for rose jam and since I couldn’t find any or had the disposition to make any, I used pomegranate molasses instead (sadly it was a month or so before pomegranates are in season). The amounts are for 11 spatchcocks: 6 crushed garlic cloves; 1tbs ground cumin, 1 tbs ground cumin; 3tbs pomegranate molasses; 1/3 cup of lemon juice and 1/3 cup of olive oil.

Once they’ve marinated for a few hours, stitch them up and truss them. You need half a lemon, a twig of thyme and a piece of backfat inside, and a piece of backfat over the breast.

Place them in the oven at 220 for 10 minutes and then lower it to 180 until cooked. I can’t recall how long exactly they took but I’d be surprised if it was as much as 30 minutes. Keep a sharp eye on them and give them a baste. They were done before the skin could brown which was a shame. In hindsight I could have browned them in a pan or given them a blast with the kitchen blowtorch.

Cherry Sauce
A Keith Floyd sauce and apparently good for all non-piscean white meat.
The chicken stock was already made so to complete the sauce: 250gm of pitted cherries, 3tbs chopped parsley, 1 tbs chopped dill, one glass of white wine and enough chicken stock to cover. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Thicken with mashed together 25gm of flour and 25gm of butter. Add bits of it gradually, stirring constantly. Boil rapidly for two minutes and then puree.

Poached Baby Pears
These were a great last minute find at the Innaloo fruit and veg shop. Peel the pears, slicing the end off to allow it to stand, and rub with lemon juice to prevent discolouration. Poach a saucepan in white wine and chicken stock covered with a sheet greaseproof until they’re tender without being mushy.

Figs
Slice vertically, just there for looks and vitamins.

Rosti
aka Potato Cakes. I saved myself a lot of bother by finding a kind of blini pan – looked like a very shallow muffin tray. I could then cook them all at the same time rather than cook each one in a frypan.

Grate the potato into fine strips. You’ll have to use the mandolin for this job so mind your fingers – losing half a spud is better than several stitches. Once grated you need to get rid of the excess water and this can be done my sandwiching it between two boards with something heavy on it, harmless depleted uranium shells for example.

Shape them it to the pan (must get very small frypan too) and roast in the oven with a generous dollop of goose fat on each one. You can heat the fat beforehand to give it a bit of a head start.

spatchcock marinated in pomegranite syrup stuffe with lemon and thyme with poached baby pears, fig, and rosti.

Arrange nicely on a plate, spatchcock on the rosti, a tasteful drizzle of cherry sauce, pears in three, and a slice of fig. Tasty. Very easy to prepare during the meal as it’s just stuff in and out of the oven and would make for a very neat small dinner party.

Oh and you may have noticed the green ingredients. I found a cookbook with someone else who just puts the ingredients in mid-dialogue but distinguishes them by doing them a different colour. He’s this mad wild haired speccy English guy who lives on a farm and goes on about back to basics produce. He’s got this fantastic big book out but I can’t remember his name. Anybody know?

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Faux-Filet Henri IV

This is straight offa page 266 of the Cordon Bleue at Home. It seemed like a nice idea at the time for Sunday dinner but it took forever because of poor planning and timing and a desire to keep the number of pots and pans to three. You’ll notice that the béarnaise sauce has de-emulsified because I had to reheat it and wasn’t paying attention – tsk.

The artichokes were prepared as per The Tart Heart of the Artichoke Folk and boiled in salted water for 20 minutes. The potatoes were parboiled and then roasted in a very hot oven in preheated vegetable oil and goosefat. The steak was scotch fillet and you can make the marks by cooking it on a very hot grill plate and then turning it 90 degrees and that’s it.

It’s actually called Coeur de Filet Henri IV. I would tell you what the name would be in French for using a scotch fillet but it was all too hard and frankly (if you’ll excuse the pun) Henry IV of France was much more interesting. Twice the man Henry VIII was and, in addition to helping end the religious war with admirable tolerance and dedicated to public works, was quoted as such:

Si Dieu me prête vie, je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon royaume qui n’ait les moyens d’avoir le dimanche une poule dans son pot.
(If God allows me to live, I will see that there is not a single labourer in my kingdom who does not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday)

Huzzah!
Sadly, killed by a loon.

pizza

A voice in my head said “make a pizza” on Friday night while driving home from Fremantle. It also said “make your own dough too“, “sleep no more” and “look out that car’s braking in front of you” as well as “mmm mmm black betty bambalam, mmm mmm black betty bambalam“.

I’m afraid you have to make your own pizza dough too. It’s not that hard: Basic Pizza Dough – Recipe Pizza Dough. It’s really good and you’ll never want for a prepared base again much less something on a piece of pita bread. Lovely little airy bits all the way through it. Make it nice and thin while you’re at it. Four a sauce I just used a jar of pasta sauce with some onion and garlic and marjoram. Toppings were mozzarella, basil, proscuitto, tomato, field mushrooms, eggplant, and anchovies in various combinations.

The trick, and this is why people use wood-fired ovens, is to get the base nice and crispy without overdoing the top. This requires a very hot base. What I do is use a cast iron bessemer pan that my Mum bought in the seventies from a woman that was convinced she was reincarnated from Mary the Queen of Scots that I get really hot* on a wok burner to get it crisp and then finish it off in the oven as hot as it goes.

Reviews are in: “delicious”

*the pan, not Mary Queen of Scots, or the woman.

Henry IV en admiration devant le blog de épice

confit of rabbit with beetroot wontons, rabbit liver pate, celeriac mash, parsnip, and a mustard cream sauce.

This is the main course for An Extremely Good Dinner Party

Let’s get the bits I didn’t like out of the way. Technically it’s not much harder to assemble than a double cheese burger and looks like it. Not happy with the bits hanging over the side, the mash is hard to see because the wontons are too large, what you can see looks too lumpy. The strips of parsnip could have been much crispier – temperature was too low. The chops also look a bit pale and more of a zap with the blowtorch could have helped. A little more consistency with the shapes of the pate would have been better too.

In the end that didn’t matter too much because within a few minutes it was in bits over the plate. There was a lot I liked about it. Firstly there was about three days of idle thinking about it in order to get a cohesive dish out of a number of factors hinging around a rabbit carcass. This is why there was an eep and, apologies in advance, when guest number five was going to be a vegetarian and a huzzah when they weren’t coming. There was also a good measure of serendipity in having stuff around like chicken stock and pasta dough. The other good thing was every last bit of rabbit that I had was used in some way. If I’d skinned it myself, I could have made an attractive hat.

Just to make things more logical in a Cooking For Engineers kind of way, I’ve done a flow-chart to simplify things [see also: Cassoulet de Castelnaudary flowchart]

rabbit confit map

Cutting up the Rabbit
Four is a difficult number for a rabbit as about 60% of the meat is in the hind-legs, which leaves an unbalanced serve if leeping it in pieces and two rabbits are to many. I decided to shred it. Stuffed was too wintery and boning it is too fiddly. To dismember a rabbit:
-remove the forelegs by cutting where you think the “shoulder” would be. There isn’t one.
-the rabbit has a kind of double backbone, so run your knife down either side of the middle. Then start trimming off the skin to get to the fillets, you should get four of them.
-dislocate the hind-legs and cut them off. You can shorten the excess bone at the end.
- for this I kept the rib cage intact and worked out double ribbed chops with a cleaver. You can french the ribs, which I believe is to work the meat off.

Marinate the legs and fillets overnight in EVOO, parsley, marjoram, thyme, salt and pepper. The rest gets saved for stock- including the kideys but not the liver, this becomes pate.

Confit of Rabbit
A confit is poaching meat in oil or fat. Originally the confit would have been preserved after being salted but these recipes are hard to find. More common are the unsalted recipes which will keep sealed in the fridge for a month. I was thinking a possible Christmas present but nah.

You’ll need:
1 onion (minced); 3 garlic cloves (minced); sprigs of thyme, marjoram, and rosemary; some sage leaves (chopped); two star anise; 10 peppercorns; white wine; 150ml of goose fat; and enough olive oil and vegetable oil to cover the rabbit.

Get a casserole dish or a dutch oven. Brown the rabbit pieces in goose fat, remove, sautee the onion and garlic and deglaze with a splash of white wine. Add the herbs and spices and place the rabbit pieces on top. I added a chopped stalk of celery form the celeriac as an aromatic. Cover with vegetable oil and olive oil and bring to a very slow simmer (i.e. a couple of lazy bubbles) and then place in a 150C oven.

The exact amount of time varies but mine took 40 minutes plus the time it took to cool. The goal is to get it cooked to the point where it will flake off and shred. Drain the oil and reserve and put the meat to one side and shred. Ideally you’d leave it to the last minute but I reheated it before serving in a little of the oil.

Mustard and Cream Sauce
Make a stock with the rabbit leftovers, bones and kidneys. Usual chopped carrots, onion, celery, parsley, peppercorns and white wine. Add a cup of chicken stock and cover with water. Simmer for a couple of hours. Strain. Refrigerate the stock and scrape the fat off the top when chilled. Reduce and season.

Add a heaped teaspoon of dijon mustard to the stock (adjust to taste) and then whisk in about half as much double cream. Allow to simmer for five minutes, stirring.

Rabbit Paté
Luckily the carcass included a bag with the liver in it. Trim the liver. Sautee half a chopped onion and a couple of chopped cloves of garlic in 50gm of butter and put aside. Sautee the livers until pink inside, add to the onions. Grind 6 cloves, 10 peppercorns, a teaspoon of ginger powder, and a teaspoon of szechaun pepper. Deglaze the frypan with a splash of tequila (no brandy) and then heat the spices though and add it to the liver and onions. Puree. Season to taste. I thought it was a little lacking so I added a splash of port which added a small amount of sweetness and filled in a few gaps.

Celeriac and Parsnip Mash
Boil one celeriac cut into pieces. The pieces should be the same size as the ends of the parsnips*. When soft, mash the celeriac and the parsnip and stir in about a cup in total of milk and butter. Season to taste.

*The remainder of the parsnips can be peeled into strips with a peeler and deep fried in the oil as a garnish.

Wontons
It’s not really a wonton but it also got the name pink pappadam which it isn’t either. All it is, is the other half of the beetroot pasta dough that I had sitting in the freezer, rolled out to a “7″ and then cut into circles. The they’re deep fried individually in the oil and fat from the confit. I used a potato masher to hold them flat while frying.

Assembly
I think that might be all of the ingredients. The timing meant I cooked the confit before leaving and taking it in the pot to Andrea’s place, leaving it to sit. The wontons can be done and kept warm once the oil is drained and it’s best not to leave the mash sitting around. All a bit hard to keep them all together and hot and that’s why it’s handy to have a few trays to pop in the oven.

Make a ring with bits of paté. I diligently tried to shape them with two teaspoons but ran out of time so just shaped them with my fingers. Wonton in the middle, top with wash, another wonton, then the shredded rabbit meat, another wonton, then the parsnip strips, then the rabbit chop (just cook them in the oil), and top with a thyme flower (which happens to be happening in my garden). Pour the sauce along the ring of pate, take a piccy, and serve.

Eating
Very good, once the niceties of presentation had been smashed it was all scraping up bits of rabbit and mash, catching some crunchy wontons and a little bit of pate with the sauce. I couldn’t have been happier with it. A lot of work but mucho satisfaction in thinking about how it all came together.

Also
A rocket salad and spinach made with a vinaigrette of EVOO, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and red horseradish (found it at Elmars).

Ahk that’s it. I’ll proof this later.

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kinda waldorfy caeserish salad


I don’t make a lot of salads, so it’s no surprise that I’ve kind of made several different salads in one. If it looks a bit busy, you’re right. All it needs is olives, avocado, and some rice. There are, however a few good tricks in there that can be applied generally.

Anchovy Mayonnaise:
If you’ve been paying attention, you should be able to make your own pasta, bone a chicken, dismember a rabbit, and make your own stock. Now I think you should make your own mayonnaise too. First reason is it takes about five minutes and second reason is that commercially available mayonnaise is sugary jellied crap. Plus if you’re making it yourself, you can mess around with different stuff.

The basics are an egg yolk, no more than one cup of oil per yolk, a teaspoon of mustard (helps emulsify), and salt and pepper. Try to have them at room temperature. For this one I used all of the above but the oil was a mix of 1/4 cup each of walnut oil, EVOO, and vegetable oil. Whisk the other ingredients together and then add the oil drop by drop, whisking continously. Build up to a thin slow stream but take a break before your arm drops off . Once it’s all blended in, whisk in a couple of teaspoons of hot water to thin and stabilise it. Season to flavour.

To this I added a teaspoon of anchovies, finely chopped and then smeared to a paste with the flat of my chef’s knife and whisked in.

Asparagus:
Cut off the tougher end – around the bottom fifth. These ones were quite thick so peel the bottom two thirds, slice in half down the middle, and then half again, and cook in butter. Keep warm.

Walnuts:
Roast in the oven (or in a pan). Keep warm.

Radicchio and Rocket:
Wash and drain and dry if need be. Those salad spinners are great but I don’t have one.

Croutons:
Chop bread into cubes and dry in a hot oven. Fry a couple of cloves of crushed garlic in olive oil and then toss the cubes in them. Keep warm.

Apple:
Core and then thinly slice. Squeeze a little lemon juice over them to prevent discolouration.

Goat’s Cheese:
Local stuff – Kytren. Very nice, you only need a little bit for that sour cheesy taste. Crumble over the top. I almost left it off for being a it gimmicky but no harm done.

Prep and Eating:
Mix the leaves, croutons and apples together with the mayonnaise. Then top with the walnuts, asparagus, and goat’s cheese and the flick a little of the mayonnaise over the top.

Great, it was a meal in itself and if it wasn’t the most harmonious of mixes, everything was well represented. Nice as leftovers with some bald-chin groper cooked in butter too.

And: Got my chef’s knife sharpened at Cut it Out on Murray Street (another bit of Jackson’s advice along with the mayonnaise and the smearing bit to make a paste). Well recommended, I had no idea my knife could be that sharp. Too scared to use it now, might slice the bench in half.

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Before I was taught how at work, every time I’ve attempted to do anything with an artichoke, I’ve ended up with just a pile of leaves and bits.

I imagined that they’re a kind of bleak French existential joke for the rest of us. You know the one where at the end of our quest there is nothing. Not that socialist nihilism is doing them too badly according to Ahmed Bouzid [thanks Brian Bahnisch] . Although one has to ask if the assumptions are all wrong and France has insufficient teen pregnancy and too high maths skills to aspire to God’s chosen free market. But I wander off.

Artichokes are, in short, where one of the truck drivers in Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear reveals to us, just before he dies, that behind the fence was nothing. (Nearly the finest moment in cinema) And what was it that Kurtz saw before his death? What does one see in the darkness? And if we cannot see it, is it there? Let me light a candle, dressed like Dorothy Lamour, and show you where the centre lies.

artichoke artichoke

First, make yourself a bowl of acidulated water with the juice of a lemon. This will stop the artichoke browning. Cut the stem of just as it begins to taper out to the base. Peel the stem back until the white is shown. Place it in the water.

artichoke

Lop the top third off. A bread knife makes it easier.

artichoke artichoke

Peel away some of the leaves and trim around the base to the white up to the part where it break up into individual leaves.

artichoke artichoke

Slice the rest of the top off and use a teaspoon to to scrape out the fibrous centre that is the choke.

artichoke artichoke

Trim the top. And tadah! Place it in the acidulated water and then do what you like with it. It’s traditionally tasty boiled and the placed on a steak with a bernaise sauce.

Unrelated but quite important: Thanks to Sue

and Saffy for pointing out I had a nice plug written for this blog in the Sydney Morning Herald. Hello if you’ve come from there. I’ll share one part: “tempting recipes that go well beyond the basics” . Which is kind of true but I’d hate to think people had the impression that they were difficult. I suspect it may be a lack of clarity in the instructions – so if you aren’t sure what I’m going on about, I’m always happy to explain further*. And cheers to whoever was responsible for the piece.


*assuming I know what I’m going on about.

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vegan delight


Viva Las Vegan with your neon flashin’
And your one armed bandits crashin’

Here’s something quick and late for IMBB 19 that I tricked myself into eating by using my left hand and pretending someone else was cooking for me (old boarding school trick).

Very large field mushroom roasted in EVOO with parsley, sage, rosemary, and ermm thyme, sea salt and pepper. Chopped up walnuts, EVOO over it all and roasted, covered with foil, until soft and juicy. Served on a bed of steamed silverbeet from the garden.

Thank you hosty Sam.

Tagged with: +

Also: It’s a busy dish and I think I fell into the overcompansating trap of making vegetarian dishes “noisy” to make up for the lack of meat. It’d be just as nice with just rosemary and some EVOO and there we come to the vorian-wide issue of paying attention to ingredients and where they came from. This is while I’ll take a thoughtful vegan over a chop burning omnivore any day.

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steak and mash skinny version

I quite like how deeeeelightfully ugly my steak and mash turned out. Part of a carnival of food monsters. Charming beneath it’s hideous visage unlike the meal below which, like rokurokubi , hides it’s beastliness well.

You know how to cook a steak. The mushrooms are roasted with rosemary and olive oil. The mash is roasted sweet potato – a bit of scorching gives it its colour – and cream butter and milk. The sauce is just some butter added to the pan while the steaks rested, some finely chopped leak, then a splash of wine, a bit of beef stock, a teaspoon of wasabi powder, and then some cream. All done over a high heat, stirring constantly.

Now for a bit of housekeeping-

Jacksons: I returned for some very accurate chip making, curly whirly squid slicing, potato peeling, aspargus prepping, lwob gnikaerb, vietnameses mint tearing, and rasberry and red wine sorbet tasting. The place was fully booked but it was an hour before and order came in. Much anxious standing around like in Das Boot, waiting for the depth charges while the destroyers passed overhead. Slamming was not to happen, 61 people fed in an hour and a half. Take that merchant ships. Periscopes up Oberfähnrich Mitty.

Meme #1: Mike of Shiraz in San Diego has, out of medium sized meditteranean city affinty, tagged me for a wine and food meme. I’ll do my foody half and nominate my wine friendliest meal of the past thirty days. This was Hal Hartley Pork Belly Braised with Fennel and Pears. Nothing in it that exceptionally cried out for wine but the fact that I expressly made it to match with a wine that I’d bought a year ago, is a gold star effort for me. I’d hope that we’re the reverse the case, there’s be a bit of wino head scratching in kind. I’m going to do a double twisty tag here and send off to mistresses of both wine and food Jeanne of Cook sister! (and bugger me she’s just done the EoMEoTE round-up) and Barabara in NZ of winosandfoodies.

Meme #2: Mrs D of the disturbingly-pet-filled-for-a-food-blog Belly-Timber has gotten me with the 23rd post fifth sentence meme, it is:

They then had to switch the island from driving on the right to driving on the left.

Hmmm take heart comrades!

Five is too hard, I’m sending this to the house of bones.

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pork belly with cabbage and pears

Poor result with photos leads to a grittier feel and the shift from narrative to character driven food post.

Pork Belly: Porky! Fatty! Schoolyard taunts bounce off this delightful slice of meat. Trim the skin off for crisping later if braising. Chopped in to bite sized chunks and the bones left on, cut through with a heavy cleaver. Sealed in a frypan. Left to simmer for three hours, removed from broth briefy crisped up in the oven and glossed with venison stock and butter before serving. A kilogram.

Pork Crackle: Deeply cut into strips rubbed with salt and a little oil and crisped up in the oven. Chopped into small cubes and added to the cabbage.

Fennel: Suggested matching at time of wine purchase last year at Talijancich. As this dish was put into play, the aniseed flavour became a worry and with excess sweetness in the dish, would it taste of licorice? All other ingredients chosen with this in mind. Stalks removed and the bulb cut into small cubes. Two.

Cider: Substitute form of the ever-present matching of porks with apples. Dry dry dry to combat licorice effect, which it did. 500ml.

Venison Stock: No particular reason other than I’d made a reduction of it last weekend. Bold and meaty. 1 cup.

Onion:
Finey chopped and sauteed. One

Rosemary, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves
First two from the herb garden and are common pork accompaniaments. Peppercorns for bite, and bay leaves for bitterness. A few sprigs, a few sprigs, 12, and two.

Pears: Taken from a recipe from ¡Delicioso! The man at the shop assured me the Beurré Bosc were firm for cooking and none too sweet, whipping out a slightly menacing pen-knife to slice me off a bit. Peeled, rubbed with lemon juice to prevent browning and left to simmer for twenty minutes in their height in red wine and two cinnamon sticks. Left to sit. Heated through in with the pork for the last 30 minutes but taken out and kept warm in the oven, sadly giving it a dry faded exterior. Two chopped up into small cubes and added in with the dish. The other four, trimmed at the base and placed on the plate. Six.

Walnuts, Garlic, Thyme:
Also cribbed and modified from ¡Delicioso! Brown the walnuts in the oven. Mince with the garlic and thyme. Added 30 minutes before finishing adding a somewhat murky effect to the broth. One cup, three, and two teaspoons.

Savoy Cabbage: Driven by the past. Chopped finely yet never finely enough. Blanched and then cooked in a little of the broth with the pork crackle. One.

Talijancich 2003 Viognier: A local. Clear and crisp but with a sweetness that reached the sweetness that the dish never made on its own. 750ml.

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lapindinner

Rabbit as meat evoke a number of different responses but my position is this, they are furry vermin and I have no qualms whatsoever about eating them. In fact, I looked forward to it.

The opportunity was number four (previously: Cassoulet de Castelnaudary; Bouillabaisse; Canard laqueau miel)of our reasonably regular French Dinner Party series on Saturday. I was to make the main again and Veronique would do entree and dessert. I chose a rabbit and tapenade recipe from Provence in the Culinaire Francais. The accompanying vegetables were left a little later being distracted and all by afternoon adventures with Robbie with a quick-cut saw and a sledgehammer. At the mercy of the half an hour til closing supermarket, working through budget shoppers, I had a rough idea and it obliged. Baby carrots, stuffed zucchini, and mushroom pouches.

Rabbit:

lapin filletWorking with a whole rabbit, the challenge is to get it into four fillets and a sheet of thin torso meat to wrap them in. The remaining bones become stock. I can only advise what I did and that is to work under the meat in the parts closest to the bone, popping bones at the joint to work the meat out. You should eventually get four largish pieces of meat from the hind legs and the side (the saddle). The sheet of meat around the torso require care so it doesn’t tear or pierce. Trim at the front and back and slowly work it off. It became two sheets as I couldn’t detatch it cleanly from the spine. It slow and fiddly, the bones are tiny and the sinews are like parcel twine. Any meat left will flavour the stock and you can also add small pieces to the fillet roll.

Season the sheets with salt and pepper and spoon tapenade over them (I used a local Wyening Mission Farm kalamata olive tapenade). Place the fillets inside and roll it up and secure with string.

The rabbit stock is much like any stock with carrots, leeks, and celery as the aromatics and a bouquet garni of bay leaf, rosemary, thyme wrapped in the green part of a leek. In this a glass of white wine is added to the ingredients, reduced and then water is added to just cover. Cook for 20 minutes and then strain. Reduce to taste, this will become the sauce.

sofacentral

Vegetables:

The stuffed zucchini were based on a recipe in the Cordon Bleu at Home and making an effort for visual presentation, they added a vertical element. Slice the zucchini into 5cm lengths and hollow out a tunnel that leaves about 7mm of wall. Keep the leftover bits for the stuffing and the ends to top. I made the stuffing by cooking finely chopped bacon, leek, parsely, chives and celery with the leftover zucchini and pumpkin seeds in butter and mixing it with fresh breadcrumbs and an egg. Parboil the zucchini in salted water for 5 minutes, rinse under cold water, and fill with the stuffing. Place vertically in a buttered bread pan and cover with foil.

The carrots were part elgiacally inspired by Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn:

Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal yet,

and part me being a vindictive bastard. Peeled with a few cm of the the greens left on. Traditionally cooked in Vichy water, I susbsituted with a suitably interesting Italian sparkling mineral water.

The mushrooms pouches are flash and easy. They would have to be considering the state I was in when I successfully made them at The Dinner Party that was a Complete Shambles about 12 years ago. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms in warm water and then mince with field/portobello mushrooms. Cook in butter with chopped chives and drain out the excess moisture. This will prevent the pouches from breaking. Cut filo/phylo/phyllo pastry into bread plate sized rounds. I used three sheets to get the required amount of strength. Fiddly stuff, my kitchen looked like writer’s block circa 1950. Place a spoonful of mix in the middle, gather the edges around, and tie with string. The string will be replaced with the green part of chives quickly softened in boiling water. Liberally brush with melted butter and place on a baking tray.

Bundle everything into the car with camera and tripod and off you go

Cooking:

The times all fit together nicely for minimal stress
-Bake the zucchini for 45 minutes, removing the foil to baste and finally brown.
-The rabbit is quickly seared on all sides in olive oil and then roasted for 15 minutes at 190c, basting regularly, and allowing to rest for 10 minutes.
- the mushroom pouches cook in the oven in 15 minutes
- the carrots take about 10 minutes to cook in the boiling mineral water.

Slice the rabbit into equal portions, place on the plate with the vegetables and pour the stock over.

Dining:

cheese-BEFORE-dessertVery civilised. Seemed to be a much shorter aperitif time so the poonk CDs stayed in their cases. I really enjoyed Veronique’s entree of pesto of flat leafed parsley and roasted garlic on toast. Should get the recipe. I was very proud of my mains. The vegetables rewarded me for the attention I paid them and after my misgivings about the doneness of the duck at the last dinner party, I was thrilled that the rabbit was cooked to juicy perfection. Given it takes about 30 minutes to get from bench to plate, it’s a good choice for a low stress dinner meat. Cheese followed, as is the custom I was told, then finally Veronique’s pear cooked in a vanilla sauce with double cream. My only regret was the Barwick Estates Pinot Noir, only made it as far as the entree. Light and tasty, it would have made for a great pairing with the rabbit. Ah well, I’ll just have to do it all over again.

poirelapin

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lambchopsandvegetablething

Not by way of nudge but more food blogging world’s rich tapestry, I just don’t get Sugar High Friday. Fridays press many buttons but not coming home and making sugared treats ones, no, nothing, no feeling, numb, algebra problems maybe, but sugar no. Animal fat. Yes. Friday is nosh.

Starting point was the fridge, as ever. Four lamb chops. Pumpkin and zucchini in the crisper, spuds and onions in the pantry. A vegetable layer thing seemed a good idea so thinly sliced potatoes and pumpkin. Saute thinly sliced onions with garlic, chilli and the zucchini thinly sliced. Made a layer of potato in a baking tin, greased with butter and duck fat, layer again with pumpkin, pour over the saute and layer again with pumpkin and potato. It would dry out in the oven so I placed bacon rashers on the top and covered with foil before putting it in a 180C oven for 40 minutes. Finished uncovered.

The lamb was waiting with some EVOO, pepper, and rosemary. I cooked them gently in EVOO and garlic until they were coloured and put a lid on the frypan to finish, turning off when very rare, and then allowing them to rest.

Onto a plate with the vegetables, big glass of red and it was nice.

vegetablething

Next Morning Postscript: That first paragraph, still seems a bit snarky. Hmmm. Must resolve dessert issues.

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daikonsalad

Precision is a bad thing. Unless specifically stated, I wouldn’t trust any of the measurements I give. Not that I said there was garlic when there wasn’t, but two teaspoons could have a margin of error of +/-1tsp. Can’t remember the last time I leveled a spoon. And it’s not that I’m cavalier about the whole thing either, but I don’t want to convey the impression of great science. If I say 1¼ cups of something, then it says that 1 cup was too little and 1½ is too much and because of the accuracy you’d think it was. “One and bit” and the authority dissolves and you can make your own mind up.
This frees us from the dictatorship of the recipe.
So, next time you’re at a friend’s house, take a marker pen and block out a few measurements in their favourite cook book. They’ll be angry at first, people fear autonomy and are reluctant to trust in themselves, but they’ll thank you later.

A few people turned to nearly a dozen on a Friday night I’m back catch-up. That was OK because I had an an easy prep in advance grazing plan. Charcoal burner in the middle of the table, pile of meat, guests cook it themselves, no problem.

Buy some Korean pork and beef marinade and then marinate some pork ribs and finely sliced matchbox sized pieces of rump. This left the chicken and an extra pile of beef that I’d bought as numbers grew.

The beef marinade was a combination of Korean chilli bean paste, vegetable oil, soy, and sake. The chicken was the same but with a splash of sesame oil and two crushed cloves of garlic. I bought one meat dipping sauce and made another of a simple ponzu by mashing in a mortar a couple of limes in 2 parts soy sauce and 1 part sake.

For vegetables, I thinly sliced some pumpkin and made a salad out of daikon. The daikon was thinly sliced on a mandoline into thin rounds with a dressing of rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and a small amount of the chilli bean paste and sesame oil.

Home straight. Cook up some koshi hikari short grain rice in the rice cooker. Put some kim chee and nori on the table and then fire up the charcoal. Leaving just drinking, chatting, and the steady cooking of small bits of meat.

koreanbbqtable

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harissasweetpotatoSantos has been on fire on all fronts of late. Her level of joy bringing brilliance has reached luminescence that can only leave me to fear that we’ll soon find her drowned in her own vomit, leaving the rest of us to plonk along like Eric Clapton. And that’s Wonderful Tonight Clapton.

Cribbing from her baked sweet potato with egg and harissa and modifying it for an impatient local audience. Diced up a sweet potato, microwaved it until soft and gave it a brief EVOO roasting in a pan in the oven in my kitchen in my house. Stir in two heaped teaspoons of harissa, and then pile it into four butter lined ramekins. Make a hollow, crack an egg in it, sprinkle breadcrumbs on top with a splash of EVOO and cook until the yolks wobble ever so slighly when nudged. Wooh!

What? Everyone likes Herman’s Hermits? Bah.

Momento Mori-san: Rakka tells us that Hideaki Sekiguchi from GuitarWolf died a few days ago from a heart attack. 38! Jostling for bassist position no doubt to follow. Watch for the smoke.

Garlic

Garlic

Gaaaaaarlic. G A R L I C.

There is the involvement of one Goody Garlick in this account from America of 2005 1680 of a witch trial, whose garlicky ways were brought up in her list of evil doings. 260 years later in Australia, Mediterranean migrants bringing garlic to a cuisine where bland was too good a word and a teaspoon of curry powder, dynamite. For their efforts, reminding us once again reactionaries are a) crap, and b) unfunny, they were called garlic munchers.

Garlic’s smell comes from a simple chemical reaction and the resultant active substance is allicin (diallyldisulfide-S-oxide). It’s part of the sulphur group and typically we associate it more with (egg sandwich) factory than olfactory. The smell/taste comes from the same way a cyalume stick creates light. Like many tiny cyalume sticks, cellular damage causes alliin (S-allyl-L-cysteine sulfoxide) to combine withthe enzyme alliinase. The reason for this (and I’m trying to avoid an anthropomorphic agency here) is to release the taste when the clove is eaten by an animal to repel it. The greater the damage the more intense the flavour, so in the kitchen, the more you chop, crush or grate, the more flavour is released. Pop a clove on you tongue, then try it with a spoonful of grated garlic. Yes? Relative strengths of garlic can be adjusted by how it’s treated. Most of us wouldn’t have it raw other than in a vinegarette, though it does make a kicking ramen condiment.

The medicinal effect are the usual mix of proven, unproven, and misinterpreted and overstated. It seems medicinal effects may not engage until after chopping and it’s been suggested that 10 minutes is a good amount of time for the beneficial effects of garlic to do their work. Garlic is a proven antibiotic (especially topical), and does have an effect of being an anti-coagulant, it regulates or lowers blood sugar and it does also have antioxidants and their associated effects. The right amount seems a clove a day or more but garlic, unlike chicken salt, is put on and in things which are good – fresh unprocessed foods. Use it regularly and the rest will follow.In a beautiful example of life’s trade offs, the goodness appears inextricably linked with the smell and the effective agent is too wily to isolate.

Now the smell. Well it can be helped in an obvious way. Islamic scholarship wisely reports that “whoever eats of [garlic and onion] should kill their stench by cooking them”. Now I don’t need to tell you that cooking, like for onions, mellows the garlic’s taste. Unless you burn it. I’ve been surprised after slow cooking a chinese dish using 20 garlic cloves, how mellow it was. Think also of the garlic used to lard lamb roasts. Slow roasted garlic, run through a sieve is superb. Or just eat it with a toothpick.

Getting it. I look for organic garlic as the simple fact is it’s better. Suggesting a more interesting life leads to a better plant. Dirt, Sun, and Water. Shouldn’t be too hard to spot the good one’s, though it’s hard to tell by smelling a whole bud, for reasons discussed and for these reasons it wiil keep. Storage is dark and ventillated but unless you’re off on a boat for three months, just buy a little often. Soft is bad, shoots are very bad. Local is good because the clock is ticking as soon as it comes out of the ground. Several months or no. Earlier, better. Grow your own. Plant the cloves at the end of summer, two inches deep, pointy side up.

It keeps vampires away no more than Ernie’s ear banana.

As for art, art has failed it. Few songs mention it at all, as every word it rhymes with it is rude (except for apparatchik and I don’t have my Billy Bragg songbook at hand). There is the scene in Goodfellas describing how to cut garlic thinly with a razor. I’m not sure if they were alluding to something here but razors will repel people if used properly (or improperly if using toilet paper to stop the bleeding and then forgetting about it).

Eat it. People don’t like the smell. Fuck ‘em. Next thing it’ll be nose hair.

Best use? Bruschetta. A rub on some toasted bread with EVOO. Snap, Crackle, Pop.

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Juice

Busy so I’m skipping articles. Busy life demands juicers but too many people see it as kind of gastronomic confession . I have friends who would spend 6 months on piss and eating crap and then go off to Thailand for one week of fasting and enemas. Now the latter is obviously dodgy (especially people who use them for administering hallucinogenic cactii in NZ) but whole purging concept is wrong and potentially dangerous. I actually think it’s based on faulty metaphor that body is something that can be flushed out. The damage is already done and what you’ve eaten or drunk has already become part of you.

More often better, even if it’s just Sunday recuperative. The major factor in irregular juicer use is that most are a pain to use, requiring mucho chopping in state or at time of day when knives should be given rest. Spend little more and get one with feed chute that can fit whole regular sized apple, I’ve got Breville one and it rocks.

Juice mixes are fairly random, remember to peel citrus fruits and kiwi fruits, and keep some celery chopped up and ready to go. Ginger is great for adding zing and taking away any muddy flavours. Adding something juicy like celery at end helps rinse out pulp for cleaning and the pulp can go in garden.

Yesterday, for example, was ginger, beetroot, celery, carrot, apple, and kiwi fruit. Took a few minutes. Nice, and with regular cycle of smoothies, and freshly squeezed OJ, keeps me hell away from Thai health spas.

One of the more unique features of Japanese is their love of onomatopoeia. Usually a two syllabled word repeated such as nuru nuru, bashi bashiand pika pika. The last one, for example, translates as “twinkle twinkle” and I would thank old ladies that said this to me as I gave my bike its weekly wax and polish. You can find a few more that feature in manga here.

My favourite is kari kari which is what you use to describe something crunchy, in this case my ideal pickle. They’re not hard to make and here’s how it’s done:

First

Take one large daikon and peel it, slice down the middle, and then slice into 5mm rounds.

Salting.

One of the main reasons for this is to draw out moisture. A fair assumption is that if the moisture comes out then the pickling flavour can go in. Place the daikon in a bowl, sprinkle with two tablespoons of sea salt. The more salt, the longer it’ll keep – this amount will keep it for a week or two. Rub the salt in and place a plate on top with a weight on it. The bowl must not be metal or it will taint the flavour. Leave for half an hour and then drain.

Pickling Liquid

1/4 cup of vinegar; 1/2 tsp salt; 1tsp of sugar; 1/2 cup of water Place the daikon flatly in a pickling jar, adding two small chopped chillies and 8cm of konbu (for that mysterious MSG flavour of umami). Fill with the liquid, topping up with a little water to cover.

Left it for four days and it’s nice and sharp and kari kari,

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Been reading Richard Olney’s Simple French Food, and while he’s no Major Les he does make for a good read as an inspring blend of bile, obsession, and love. Though I’m yet to find the point where he dots the “i” and realises the common trend of appropriation, softening and santisation as culture moves upwards in the social hierarchy (see Rock, Roll and; Ball, Foot). Anyway most of the dishes started there.

Lamb

One nice looking leg of Cramphorne Edge of Civillisation Saltbush-Fed lamb. It’s always good to adjust a few things to see the effects of changing ingredients but I got out to the herb garden and went mad with the secateurs.

Trimmed most of the fat off and then made finger sized pockets in the roast. I let it marinade in some EVOO, leftover sangiovese, and a splash of sherry.

Next I filled the holes with the herb mix – finely minced rosemary, garlic, parsely, thyme, green peppercorns, and a little sage with a bit of EVOO mixed in. Rubbed a little salt and oil over the roast and then placed it on a bed of quartered leek and lavender. In it went at 190C for 20 minutes and then down to 170C. Continued to baste over the course of the cooking and adding some of the reserved marinade as necessary.

Minikins

Pumpkins the size of a baby’s fist, made a few vents in the top and chucked them in with the roast, making sure they got a good basting.

Du Puy Lentils

Previous story on these is here . Rinsed and then cooked in enough water to cover with a bacon bone, a bay leaf, and a sprig of parsley. Simmered for 25 minutes.

Braised Fennel

Stalks chopped off, quartered, gently browned in some EVOO with four unpeeled garlic cloves for 30 minutes then placed in a small saucepan with some salt and 2/3 cup of water, covered and left to simmer until the water has reduced to a caramelized syrup.

Potato Paillasson

Thinly slicing some potatoes on the slicer for this and then that feeling of having done something very wrong and looking down at my right ring finger to see a patch of skin missing. Off to the sink to lose a bit of blood and then sitting down with a nonstick dressing and a paper towel wrapped around it. Assistant chefs took over under close unnerving supervision. Potato slices washed and dried then spread in a frypan with some duck fat in it. Covered and cooked until golden underneath and then flipped.

Finishing Up

Roast took a shade under two hours and was rested for 20 minutes under some foil. A quick and easy jus made with a splash of wine and some of the liquid from the lentils. Roast carved and served.

Meat was nicely pale and subtly flavoured by the herbs and well complemented by the veges and lentils. Did the lamb a great justice and the finger will be OK.

Not forgetting drinks. Started with beers including a quite sweet Caledonian Golden Promise organic beer Had a 2001 Mc William’s Hanwood Estate Cab Sav which had a hint of dark caramelly sherbert that I love, did I detect the ghost of a sherry in there as well?

Conversation drifted inevitably to the November elections. Pork gets fork.

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well how about

80% of Australians, including myself, would drop dead from hunger in the Australian bush. Now, not that I’m saying that turning a wombat into a tasty stew or a fancy hat should be part of the school curriculum but it does point to a certain disconnectedness with our environment on a fairly fundamental level. This is why this man, and not Richard Olney, is my foodie hero.

To quote the Major himself


All these creeks are named after people who died in the area. What I can’t understand is how a bloke could die with so much tucker around.

Negotiating the treacherous car park at Herdy Markets I found these Boab roots. Boab roots come from, as you may have guessed the boab tree. They’re from the North West and I’ve not seen them down here before but if you want to get a bit of background on them the I’ll point you to: The Prospect of Commercialising Boab Roots as a Vegetable . It’s pretty dry but it has proven to me that it’s possible to write at length about food without using gorgeous, marvellous, or sublime.

Ahmm oh yes what do they taste like. They have the crunchy texture of water chestnuts and none of the starchiness of potatoes. It reminds me of the centre core of a carrot in its crisp juiciness. This is good, now what to do with it?

Links for bush tucker: here and here’s a reason to get Windows.

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Quick crisper tray job this one.

Filling

one small onion -chopped, one clove of garlic-minced, 1 Zucchini -cubed, one tomato-diced, 5 mushrooms-sliced

In that order in some olive oil onion and garlic sauteed in a saucepan until soft, then zucchini and tomato. Cooked a little over a medium heat, finish with the mushrooms and season.

Omlette

6 free range eggs, 1 tbs of fresh tarragon – minced, pepper

Tried to beat a few egg whites for fluffiness but was having issues keeping the yolks out – poison for decent volumed whipping. I got them to a limp froth and folded in the remaining yolks and white. Added the tarragon and left for 20 minutes.

The tarragon was left over from the bernaise sauce. I’ve not had it in omlettes before but knew it was good for chicken so, well eggs, No? This may be a genetic fallacy.

The filling was added and covered with a single fold of the omlette. It was far better than I expected – best yet says in house critic. The tarragon added an element of unfamiliar familiarity which is no bad thing in food.