dessert

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Since I know people who take photos for money and stuff, I’m a bit reluctant to be HERE’S HOW IT’S DONE BITCHEZ! but since I’m very experienced at not knowing what I’m talking about and a few desperate lucky ducks got cameras for christmas and had to resort to me as some kind of authority, here is my explanation I can point to.

Actually before I do, a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, I realise this may qualify as a ‘here you are’ shot and to deflect any criticism, it was shot live so it is in fact ‘un moment decisif’. As an experienced adult educator, I feel the need to come across as incredibly patronising. OK we’re good.

If you’re Ansell Adams and you’re at Yosemite Park and you see a nice cliff, you may want to see everything. When you take photographs of food there are bits you want to see like a prawn; and bits you don’t want to see so much like boring lettuce, or a wall; or you want to hint at like a contextual saucepan, the bottle of wine you’re incidentally having, or the KitchenAid you’re a bit embarrassed about but still want everyone to know you’re got.

So you can signify this hierarchy of importance in you photo by using focus. The things which are important are in focus and the ones that aren’t so important are out of focus. How much is in or out of focus is called depth of field. The above photo has a shallow depth of field - you’ll see the spoon, index finger, and narrow line of almonds are in focus. Watch, wineglass, elbow, etc are out of focus. This picture would therefore be for Spoon Monthly or Pudding Almanac rather than Elbow!

So, how can you get this shallow depth of field thing?
First you’ll need to change your camera to aperture mode. This is usually indicated by an A.
Then you’ll need to understand aperture. Aperture is how much light is let in by the camera. A large aperture lets in lots of light and a small aperture lets in a little bit of light. Aperture is represented by an f-stop e.g. f/2.8

Here is the mind bending bit: small numbers mean a large aperture and big numbers mean a small aperture. f/2.8 large aperture. f/22 small aperture.

In an olden days camera you’d adjust the aperture to get the photo exposure right. Bright and sunny – less light in; bit dark – more light in.  A by-product of this is that aperture also affects focus. A pinhole camera will be in focus from the pinhole to infinity and then as the aperture increases from the size of a pinhole, you have increasingly less depth of field.

Lets recap: A larger aperture, represented by a smaller f-stop, will let more light in and also give you a shallow depth of field which will mean less of the picture is in focus such as in the above photo.

Other things: 

Shutter Speed
In low light situations you increase the aperture so shallow depth of field is a great double bonus for food shots, which are often indoors. Eventually you’re going to get to the other side of the light trade off – as the light decreases your shutter (opening) speed has to decrease to allow more time for light to get in. 1/60 of a second is usually seen as the point to stop for good hand held shots and the 1/30 second and below for resting your hands or something or a few hand-steadying pints.

Film Speed
I love you digital film speed. In the olden days you could get slow film, which was beautifully detailed and enlargeable but needed lots of light. If you were shooting say, Herman’s Hermits at an indoor ‘gig’, you’d use a fast film, which needed less light but looked ‘grainier’ when enlarged. To do both you’d have to swap film or have two cameras.
With digital cameras you can just find the ISO setting/button and increase the ISO until you get the exposure right. ISO 200 is the standard slow and ISO 1600 is fast.
The trade off is there’s more noise and grain but if you’ve got a good new camera or a digital SLR, the pictures are large enough to not worry about grain too much. If you do want to take the perfect shot that’ll be 6 feet high in MOMA, you’re not going to do it with a flash on top of your camera anyway, so use ISO.

Focus
Do I need to tell you you need to have the right thing in focus? No. But if you’re not aware that your camera has a grid of focus sensors and you can choose which one to use, then you are now. There are other ways but journey of self discovery begins now.

To summarise: Depth of field can be used to emphasise parts of a photo and this can be exploited by using your aperture setting.

ladybird cake

slow cooked lamb roast [pending]

Imagine if you could to a full day of driving around visiting wineries and such and then come home to find your roast waiting for you like an expectant puppy. Imagine no more. Enter the amazing world of slow roasting.

I’ve been doing a lot of slow roasting recently as a respite from the ‘is it ready yet?’ world of skewer checking. This particular one was cooked for about 7 hours in a gas-fired pizza oven the lowest setting of around 130C.

The prep for the meat is unsurprising and involves making deep cuts into the lamb with a butchers (or paring) knife to make pockets for a sprig of rosemary, a piece of garlic, and a salted caper. Rub liberally with olive oil and season.

Put a cup of chicken stock and/or white wine in the pan and cover with a lid (or foil). You might like to lift the lamb of the base and out of the liquids with a sliced root vegetable, a leek or a rack, but I didn’t bother. The size of the roasting pan keeps things nice and shallow.

Leave in the pizza oven undisturbed. Keep a lazy eye on the fluid levels but as the lid sealed well and the meat does chuck out a good level of juice itself, it wasn’t necessary.

Allow to rest and then carve. And by carve, I mean flake. It’s more like meat from a confit.

As a bit of a bonus, I made a sort of barigoule with it. About half an hour from finish, I popped in some chunks of fennel, capsicum, zucchini, and whole cherry tomatoes with a bit more EVOO splashed OTT. These cooked away for another half an hour while the meat rested.

Make a sauce with it of course.

Dessert was pears, poached in red wine in the pizza oven while we ate. A good piece of advice for poached pears is to make sure you really do reduce the poaching liquid to a thick syrup for an intense flavour – just keep the pears warm and to one side.

If you were wondering about the trip. I stayed at a friend’s house that he’d just built himself (he’s a builder so it wasn’t like one of the less successful efforts on Grand Designs) in Busselton on a canal. The indoor-outdoor kitchen is a really handy combo and I’m trying to bag myself some more cooking there. I’m sold on outdoor pizza ovens and gas just seems so much less hassle than wood. True, it lacks the wood-fired cred and moniker but gains in likelihood of use. Pizza’s made the night before easily passed the droop test and were churned out in quick succession. Need to see if a goat will fit in there.

A bit on the quiet side in Margaret River for the school hols. Lovely lunch at Xanadu and picked up a great bottle of chardy and one of their catering sized bottles of dry red at the always good Cape Mentelle.

Next day was Pemberton – super good bottle of pinot and a chat about Valiant utes at Salitage, marron dinner at the pub, visit to an espalier orchard being built, bit of German V8 hooning and getting stuck on logging roads. Tasty pork pie at taste of Balingup, a visit to the world’s biggest playground when you’re 18 months in Donnybrook and then back home

ash and moo's pad

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Sincere congratulations to America. Coinciding with the feeling of having an old friend back, I had an actual old friend over for dinner, last week* The main course was a deeply symbolic with the zucchini, freshly flowering, representing birth and growth; the pancetta a tribute to that distinctly Chicagoan measure of value – the pork belly; and in turn the use of pork and shellfish as a triumph over religious constriction; and the linguine as a well-wishing metaphor for long life. I would have had I not simply decided to make this at the suggestion of an Italian chef and student during a particularly quiet and hungry moment.

Broad Beans with Cacciatore
Take the beans out of the pod and boil them in salted water for a minute. Drain and cool under running water. No need for second shelling.
Poach a pork and fennel cacciatore sausage in dry sherry and then slice thinly. Brown a little in olive oil in a pan and then add the broad beans. Stir well until the beans are heated through and the sausage is golden [hello Mark Faga] sausage IS GOLDEN![/hello Mark Faga]. Season and serve.

Zucchini Prawn and Pancetta Linguine
Dice a zucchini very finely and then finely grate a couple of tablespoons extra. This will spread itself more widely over the pasta. Cube cigarette packet sized block of pancetta. Chop up about 300 g of prawn meat and leave a few whole tails for garnish.
Heat a generous combination of clarified butter and EVOO. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned. Add the prawn meat, toss and then add the zucchini until it’s all cooked through.
Season and serve with linguini. Mix most through and then garnish the top of the pasta with with the remainder and place a prawn tail on top.

The zucchini was provided from the garden of the photographer who does all our wine shots for the mag (his site’s here). He’s also got one of these, which is pretty cool. They were supplemented by a few baby zucchini from my garden – they still have a way to go.

Tarte Fine aux Pommes
It’s my lazy favourite.
If prepping ahead, thinly slice apples and then mix in the juice of a lemon and some sugar to keep them going brown.
Roll out a sheet of sweet and cover with the apple slices.
Mix an equal combo of butter, sugar, and calvados and heat without burning.Pour over the apples.
It is, after all simply an apple pizza.
Cook in a very hot oven.

*[The parallels kind of stop there as I don't think my friend mounted a deceptive hostile invasion of a nation resulting in millions dead, displaced, or wounded; tried to bring torture back; validated gross levels of stupidity and anti-intellectualism; stuffed up an economy; behaved like an ass over international treaty efforts; or did stuff all while people drowned. And its part America didn't start going out with a really nice guy who used to be in cover bands]

First in a series of recipe cards from around the world - the souffle


Keith Floyd – he’s alive! ALIVE!! Sure we were curious as to what happened to that large boulder and were dead impressed when he offered us to pop our fingers in the wounds all the while casually emptying a couple of bottles of Pouilly Fume but really we were just happy to have him back. What we really liked about him (apart from being the only person apart from Mark Oliver Everett that can wear a bowtie and not look like a berk) was his humanity. A weakness for booze, rubbish at finances, and a deep and sincere need to be loved. He also had the improbably rock star name shared with greats such as Keith Richards, Keith Moon and Keith Urban.

So the Keith Floyd tribute dinner of Smoked Trout and Cucumber Souffle with Rice Pudding based on second-hand Cornish scuttlebutt was not so much a time for mourning but celebrating. He had, much more so than my souffle, risen. While the miracle of birth is one thing; forgetting what it was like being a kid and being genuinely surprised when you actually woke up is another; it’s to have, to lose and to get back that’s the real trick.

Here’s his Real Rice Pudding recipe – it’s simple so don’t skimp on the vanilla pod, the milk or the cream. It’s an unseemly luxury for its simplicity.

3tbs short-grain rice; 600ml full cream milk; 1 vanilla pod; 25gm caster sugar; 150ml of double cream – whipped until softly peaky

Bring all the ingredients, except for the cream, to the boil and then put in an ovenproof dish with a lid and cook at 150˚C for 2 hours. Remove the pod, allow to cool slightly and then fold in the cream.

UPDATE

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ducklava

Birthday necessitated dinner party as part of week long ‘festival of birthday’.

Ducklava
Don’t know where this idea came from. I guess if you read enough recipes, things start to click together. Ultimately it was the answer to a question that was how do you make one entree for seven people with one duck.
Where to start? The basics of it is that it’s [from bottom] filo pastry; pork rillettes; filo pastry; chopped pine nuts; filo pastry; duck rillettes; filo pastry; chopped pistachios and duck rillettes; filo pastry.
This is all baked in an oven for thirty minutes and then covered with melted butter and truffle flavoured honey. The pork fillet and pork belly and the duck were all cooked together in duck fat as a confit i.e. very slowly cooked submerged in duck fat. Pork and duck aren’t usually confited together but I like the pork and duck meat combo at Chinese BBQ places, so why not?

The pork belly was cubed and the pork fillet cut into one inch pieces. Delimb the duck with a cleaver and remove the breasts with the skin attached with a knife to cut through to the bone between then breasts. You can then work the breast out carefully.
To get the duck fat for the confit place any bits of excess skin and fat in a frying pan to render out the fat (you will be amazed). You can also render the bones (but be less amazed) and then use the carcass to make a duck stock (that gets used for the sauce).
In the bottom of a Le Creuset place a slice of orange, two sprigs of thyme, a star anise, and a sprig of rosemary. Tightly pack the duck peices in the bottom and top with the pork. Add the melted duck fat (or goose fat) and then top up with some vegetable oil to cover. It’s then covered with a sheet of greaseproof paper and cooked very slowly and lowly in the oven – it shouldn’t come to a boil. Once it cooled it’s just a matter of shredding the meat.
Line a small loaf tin with foil and then follow the procedure for baklava, three or four buttered sheets cut to size, topping, and so on up to the top. Cook at 180C for thirty minutes or when the top is nicely browned.
Melt a knob of butter and a couple of tablespoons of truffle honey (a jar from the Manjimup truffle farm that I managed to snaffle) and pour over.
Remove the baklava by lifting up the foil carefully and then slice.

For the sauce, reduce the duck stock down add a third as much port and then reduce down until nice and thick. Serve with grapfruit segments as something fresh and sharp to counter the fat and the richness.

Overall, it worked very well. Crisp, hot, crunchy, ducky, porky, and nutty – presentation could be tidied up a bit as the nuts are a bit unruly. Actually a lot of work for something that’s eaten in a few minutes but hey.

osso bucco ragout


Osso Bucco and Venison Shanks with home-made Saffron Fettucine
Osso Bucco is slices of beef shin and there’s one recipe for it and it seems to be osso bucco. Plenty of recipes out there but basically it’s a combination of diced onion, carrots, celery and garlic; followed by peeled and deseeded tomatoes, orange peel, thyme rosemary and bay leaves; then wine and beef stock. Make sure the meat is lightly dusted with flour (work quickly after you dusted it to keep the flour dry) and seared. Then it’s a couple of hours of tightly lidded cooking.

What results is a nice thick sauce and melted meat that you can shred for the sauce. Lots of shredding for this dinner. Just to loosen up the sauce a bit I cooked some field mushrooms in red wine and stock and the cream and added it to the meat and sauce.

The saffron fettcine is because saffron rissotto often goes with osso bucco milanese. It was only after four minutes of kneading that I wondered why my hands were red and then remebered I was allergic to handling saffron. The vegetable are strips of carrot ,zucchini , and leek; blanched and reheated in butter and then mixed through wth the pasta. It’s nicked form my Michel Roux Jr book as it’s customary to nick at least one thing for it for a dinner party.

It’s really well worth learning how to make your own pasta, if you learn properly then it’s quite straightforward and a good trick when guests arrive. My other trick involves slicing bits of my fingers off.

Apple Flan with Calvados Cream
As you’d imagine, thinly sliced (transverse to stem) apples on sweet shortcrust pastry. Served with cream with a bit of calvados whipped through it.

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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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Mango Pancakes

mango pancakes


Lots of things go through my head mustreplytoemailfromtwoweeksagowhatsthenameofthewomaninphwoarridingbiketotokusukaairbaseheylookthatsatoranaI’dlikeoneofthoseonedayha!yesfathertedeurovisioncontestsongahwasthataredlighthmm100%ofyourlovemangopancake

And then I go: good mango pancakes and here they are,

Follow the bouncing ball from this Curtis Stone recipe (bless him for trying to balance what’s become a $8.2billion celebrity chef trade deficit with the UK – there was a time when we made our own Rick Steins, just out of Sydney and then Australia was one of the few places to have a Nigella Lawson assembly plant outside of Europe). Just forget about the blueberries and the sugar and replace with a large mango and 1/3 of a cup or so of desiccated coconut. Makes sure you get ‘bits’ of mango to add to the pancake along with some mush, then you can puree (or mince if you like chunkier feel) the rest with some vanilla honey to out over the top along with icing sugar if you can be bothered.

That’s it. Tasty.

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pork terrine


Duck Liver and Pork Terrine

A terrine is a nice enough way to get back into cooking and it gave me a good reason to give my 70′s moulinex a bit of a run. Porky joy yes and I decided to partner it with apples (sauce) and figs (always nice with prosciutto). Pork belly because it needs some fat. Duck liver because there wasn’t any pork liver available.

mincer

Ingredients are approximate: 500gm of pork belly; 500gm of pork meat (taken from chops); 500gm of duck liver; 1 cup of bread; 2 Granny Smith apples (peeled, cored and finely chopped); 5 dried figs (soaked in 1/3 cup of calvados) – not fresh sadly; 1/2 cup cream; a few chives and a few sage leaves (finely chopped); salt and pepper. 8 rashers of bacon. Sprig of thyme for non sequitur garnish.

Run the meat, liver, and bread through the mincer. Finish with the bread, it doesn’t make cleaning any easier but it does mean you don’t have to scrape out bits of viscera. Actually best keep the whole thing a bit quiet, I had it all packed up by the time Toni got back. Liver looks the mincer had an unfortunate incident involving some surprisingly cheap seafood.
Mix all the ingredients together. Line a bread tin (or a terrine if you’ve got one) with foil and then give it a good oiling. Line the tin widthways with strips of bacon, fill with the mix and then drape the strips over. Cover with baking paper – greased with butter.
Cook in a steam bath in a 180C oven for two hours.
To make a steam bath, get a roasting pan and fill it with warm water so it reaches 2/3 of the way up the terrine. Fergus Henderson has a nice hint to place a teatowel on the bottom of the roasting tin so the bottom of the terrine isn’t in direct contact with the oven heat.
Take it out, place a weight on it and leave for 2-3 days (yes you’ll have to wait).

Very rich, the amount of liver brought it close to being pate. There was room to be a bit bolder with the amount of fig. A very filling entree that will keep guest happy for an hour. Served with local Pickled Pink Apple and Roasted Beetroot Relish, which is very nice and offset the terrine nicely – too nicely in fact, you don’t want the thing you didn’t make outshining the thing you did.

lunch
Arrosto di Agnello al Ginepro

There is lamb and then there’s lamb. According to Marcella Hazan, my 80′s authority on Italian cooking, there the spring lamb, abbachio, taken straight from the teat and the there’s your regular ‘mature’ lamb which we usually have. For mutton, it must feel like not only somebody not knowing your fave ever band but then realising they hadn’t even been born – shoot me now.
So for the mature lamb, it gets the casserole in her recipe for Arrosto di Agnello al Ginepro – lamb roasted with juniper berries. Juniper berries seem quite the thing, or at least they were when I last checked. Anyway, this recipe is, as they say in Italian, unfuckupableio.

1 leg of lamb; 1 tbs chopped carrot; 2 tbs of chopped onion; 1 tbs chopped celery; 250ml dry white wine; 2 crushed cloves of garlic; sprig of fresh rosemary; 2 tsp juniper berries; salt and pepper.

Put everything into a heavy casserole and simmer covered on a low heat for 2 hours. Turn the leg every 45 minutes. Then increase the heat slightly, put the lid askew and simmer for another 90 minutes. The juices should reduce down to a nice thick jus and the meat should be cooked and very tender.
Let the leg rest under foil.
Spoon off as much fat as possible, strain the jus, and then you can extend it a bit by returning it to the casserole after you’ve deglazed the casserole with a glass of red.
Very tender and very understated on the juniper.

Served with sausage and black eyed beans and a salad.
The sausage and blacked eye beans is just the onion/celery/carrot/garlic mirepoix upstairs – sauteed in olive oil in a casserole dish. Tin of tomatoes added with juice and simmered for 20 minutes. Then 4 or 5 pricked continental sausages added and simmered for a further 15 minutes. Then 4-5 cups of black eyed beans. Top up with water, bring to a simmer, cover and leave in a 180C oven for 90 minutes – check liquid levels occasionally. Season.

dessert

Crostata di Uva

Thank you Mrs Medici – my 90′s authority on Italian cooking. A very uncomplicated tart – even the custard doesn’t bother with vanilla. Very dependent on getting beautiful fresh crisp and cool white grapes. Just a sweet shortcrust pastry made with the zest of one lemon and cooked into a tart shell. Then make a three yolk custard, adding a tablespoon of flour to the milk as a thickener. Pour the cooled custard into the chilled tart shell then fill with grapes

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Apple Mousse

Ooooh isn’t it nice and green. This is part of dessert recipe by Neal Jackson that’s going in the mag. This particular pic isn’t because I did shot glasses last time (as pics, not drinking vessels). A few things:
Food styling breaks my heart. I suspect it may be because I’m not that good at it and give up in a gah! of hamfistedness. I feel like King Kong adjusting Jessica Lange’s dress. If anybody has got a book on dessert decorating they can recommend….
The recipe itself is a great example to how complexity can be generated out of a few elements. Were you to find yourself trapped in a kitchen (I’m not sure how – blizzard maybe, surrounded by light-sensitive mutant albinos) with a large bag of apples, sugar, flour, eggs, butter, cream, a bottle of calvados and a few sticks of gelatine. Out of this you make apple and calvados jelly, glazed poached apple, apple glaze, and an apple mousse with sponge cake that combines egg yolks, apple puree, apple juice, whipped cream and egg whites.
Taking the most part of a Friday evening, I’d suggest going to see a band instead or something, maybe leave it for an afternoon perhaps.
Bugger me if it isn’t tasty though.

*And if you find yourself trapped in a garage with a guitar and a practice amp – twelve bar blues baby! Tonic, Sub-dominant, Dominant. 1 4 5. D G A; E A B; A D E… Why didn’t I think of this before?

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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Lemon Meringue Pie

lemon meringue pie

The reason I don’t do a lot of desserts/baking is because I always imagine them as dour, precise exercises in tablespoon levelling and scale taring. That they may be, but a lemon meringue pie, at least, seems to work on shifting realities. Three basic elements and I don’t think I saw two recipes that were the same. Not just different amounts of ingredients but in procedures as well. So either there is only one true recipe or people are just making it up as they go along. I took comfort in the latter.

First thing, ignore any recipe which use cornflour. It’s just wrong. Don’t ask me why. No wait. I’ll tell you why. Because it’s lazy. So there. You’re using cornflour because you can’t do 10 minutes of stirring in a bowl over boiling water. Make enough and you can put it in jars and make a half-way decent Christmas present. Ignore key lime pie. It contains four ingredients – pie base, condensed milk, key limes and cream – and perpetuates an internet-stuffing variety of recipes from canned food dependents.

The two main I used were recipe were from Stephanie Jaworski at Joyofbaking, who has a great name for crime fiction, and Delia. Delia really just for the pastry instructions and then not much, so don’t bother. The ingredient amounts at Joy of Baking were pretty good though.

Pastry
Half butter, half lard (’twas a saint in the city of angels that turned me to the lard – not the easiest thing to buy these days, the packaging just says ‘lard’, I think methylated spirits gets fancier labels)

210 gms all purpose flour; pinch of salt, 60gms unsalted butter and 60gms lard at room temperature; 50 gms white sugar; 1 egg yolk lightly beaten; 1tbs cold water

Sift flour and salt, mix in egg yolk with sugar, then work in some flour and start to rub in bits of butter and lard tio make crumbs and then work into a dough. Don’t overwork, finish off with a splash of cold water to a smooth ball and then put in the fridge wrapped in greaseproof paper for an hour.

Roll to a circle, fold into quarters (thank you Marg) and then unfold into a buttered pie thingy (I never realised I had one, pie thingy that is). Don’t stretch the dough. Blind bake (greaseproof paper weighed down with rice) in a 210C oven for 10 minutes then remove the greaseproof paper and rice and continue to bake until light brown.

Lemon and Passionfruit Curd
Juice and zest of two lemons; two egg yolks; one whole egg; 3/4 cup white suggar; 60gms unsalted butter; pulp of one passionfruit.

Place juice, eggs and sugar in a bowl. Place bowl over boiling water to make a double boiler and stir until thickened to the consistency of thick cream or hollandaise – about eight minutes. Whisk butter in in small pieces. Stir in the zest and passionfruit pulp – you can add as many seeds as you like, it does add crunch.

Important point! Can’t remember where I saw this but if the curd is hot when you put the meringue on, it won’t detach later.

Meringue

3 egg whites; 1/2 a cup of sugar – double for an impressively high pie.

Whisk until stiff peaks form, but you knew this.

Finishing
Place curd in pie and spread evenly.

Spoon meringue on top, covering the curd. Make pointy bits by dabbing the meringue with a spoon and lifting.

Cook in a 170C oven until the meringue has nice golden browny bits (10 minutes) remove and allow to cool.

That’s it. Fabulous! You’ll love yourself and so will your guests.

lemon meringue
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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croquembouche


Back when I was catering in the early nineties, my business partner Nic would always talk about making a croquembouche one day. “It’s gonna be three feet high,” he’d say. “Yeah Nic, it’s going to be three feet high and sparkle like gold,” I’d respond knowing there was no way we’d ever be able to afford to make one with the money we had. But I didn’t want to to crush the dream that kept him going.

After a while it was all he talked about, croquembouche this, croquembouche that and it all got too much and I just had to tell him straight that there was never going to be a croquembouche. I’d never seen him so angry as he pushed past me and ran out the door, grabbing the keys to the limited editon Group A Walkinshaw Camira I’d been working on to try and raise some more money. He was half was down the street before I could get my shoes on. Back then, during the recession and before flexible home equity financing, there was only one way you could get your hands on money quickly – speedway racing.

I must have used all 10 speeds on my bike getting to the track, only to hear the sound of metal. Pushing my way through the pits, I got to Nic just as they were pulling him out of the crushed body of the Camira. “I guess I screwed up pretty badly this time,” Nic whispered, trying not to put pressure on his broken ribs. “No Nick, you did great. Now try to relax.” “It’s gonna be three feet high…” and with a smile Nick said his last words. And in the middle of the track I cried hot tears that day, fifteen years ago – so this one’s for you Nic, we finally made it.

Some notes:
- choux pastry is, funnily enough, like a roux but with egg yolks incorporated.
- crème pâtissière uses milk rather than cream. For this one I flavoured it with passionfruit pulp passed through a sieve to remove the seeds and dark chocolate.
- if the chocolate isn’t melted properly it will block the pastry bag and cream will come out the other end, onto the bench and cookbook and then floor.
- melted sugar is facking hot so wear shoes
- for fine golden threads, put a little of the hot caramel on a puff and pull the spoon back and stretch the thread.
- you don’t need a cone, although it helps
- I’d like to try a savoury one with pate.

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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tapioca

Sinful. Unless it refers to torturing chickens to save a few cents off the price of an egg (and I’m not sure that actually is a sin), it’s a naff word to use in regards to food. And if a supercreamy tapioca pudding is someone’s idea of a ticket to their own circle of hell then we all have much to worry about. Actually I’m sure the high point of my own stygian repose would be being able to listen to wails of “But Lord, it was but one Milky Bar!” as they reached up to a particularly smug group of lactose intolerants. The circles of dairy hell are:

low-fat milk
havarti cheese
cafe latte
prurient thoughts regarding milkmaids
milk
chocolate
600ml choc-milk
whipping cream
chocolate mousse
double cream
double brie
triple brie
mascarpone
Nestle Infant Formula


Anyway tapioca, in the hunt for a recipe sometimes you think it’d been invented by ‘Grandma’ who had a prediliction for jello and cool whip (They still talk about it in Normandy). The others involve eggs and I don’t remember tapioca involving eggs. Well there’s a recipe
here, that’s merged it with zabaglione,hence the marsala, and that made sense. I also learnt what ‘half and half’ is when it’s not half lager, half ale. I substituted vanilla and port for the marsala

- soak 1/3 cup baby tapioca pearls for two hours, drain
- add to 2.5 cups of half cream and half milk and bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Stirring often with a whisk (or constantly if you can be bothered and you’ve got a heater and a telly in the kitchen)
- add 1 tsp vanilla essence and a shot of port. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
- whisk one egg and one egg yolk with 4 tbs of sugar until combined and light in colour.
- add 1/3 of the tapioca mix to the eggs, stirring constantly.
- return to the saucean and over a low heat, stir constantly for five minutes.
- pop in a glass and top with berries and whipped cream.

Sadly you can’t see the multi-coloured eyes of tapioca gazing out and the $1.50 ikea glass looks like a $1.50 ikea glass (and I didn’t iron the placemat) but it was independently assessed as ‘the yummiest tapioca ever…creamy and dreamy’ . So there you go.

Bonus pic is the Kylie Kwong steamed oysters that I had in a not very successful thai dinner. They tasted nowhere near as nice as they looked – largely due to a poor decision between Malaysian cooking wine and a four day old of bottle verdelho (it was fine on Tuesday before POTC). I chose the latter and as a further blow, the oysters weren’t steamed enough to be hot, but rather not quite cold.

steamed oysters

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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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wagyu beef with a red wine and shiitake jus, roasted sweet potato, fried crab claws, asparagus and greenything

Hello. Yes I’m in Japan and my first night didn’t end up at an izakaya or shouting at people but since my friend Andrew had a nice new apartment and Danny promised he’d bring a bottle of French Sparkling Rose, and Uyen would talk loudly and keep us amused and I had a litre bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask, perhaps I could dinner and I did. A stop in a Tobu Department store got us a fillet of katsuo, a slab of squid, ten crab claws, and four 50gm steaks, a sweet potato, some shiitake and a few greens. The katsuo was seared just on the outside and sliced, the squid scored and lightly cooked and then that went on a bed of lettuce and spanish onion with a dressing of soy, mirin, cider vinegar, ginger, garlic chives and sesame seeds.

wagyu with the thoughtfully added lumps of lard


The sweet potato was diced and slowly roasted with olive oil and rosemary. The asparagus and the nanohana(?) was boiled and tossed with a little seasoning. The crab claws were dipped in milk and then dredged in flour with salt pepper and togarashi and then deep fried. The wagyu steaks handily came with cubes of lard and it was cooked in that a bit close to medium than medium rare. Sauce was a jus made by sauteing spring onions and two finely chopped shiitake mushrooms in butter and then reducing some red wine and straining. To bring up some bite and for a geographical nod I grated a little fresh wasabi in there and glossed it up with a little butter. Assembled as above and it was quite lovely. The nanohana had a slight bitterness, the sweet potato was, well sweet, from slow roasting and crunchy, the steak was unspeakably tender and the crab lifted it all from being meat and three veg. The steaks sizes weren’t going to impress anybody at Sizzler but you have to wonder if we couldn’t just eat less and enjoy it more. No? Uyen has great fractal eating habits and would reduce the plate to ever decreasingly sized but equally proportioned servings which was impressive.

tastiest strawberries ever


Dessert was perfect strawberries with a splash of balsamic and yes well it was an evening without fault. Andrew captured it better than me and he’s got a few lovely pics amongst many here, here, here, and here.

It’s a good thing, and it’s all good, and it’s a good to have friends, and its good to enjoy good things. But you know this.

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Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach roasted pork belly with charcutiere sauce rhubarb ice cream with ginger peach compote


I love this book. Le Gavroche is the London restaurant started by the Roux brothers and now run by Michel Roux Jr. After a couple of months staring googly eyed at it, I thought it would be a good candidate for a straight up no messing about recipe following. It’s good to experiment but it’s also good to find out how things are meant to turn out.

Saturday dinner for my sister, who’s batching with her husband away in Quebec, and my neighbourhood doctor, who keeps me supplied with anti-reflux pills and Papua New Guinean savoury biscuits. Seafood and meat. Albany mussels were looking great, I’m always happy to have pork belly, and I was keen to try a new ice-cream. So,

Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach


Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach

A good way to fancy up mussels. A step up from the shells and the finger bowls – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s a shame to see a food typecast as casual.
Cooked in white wine, cooking liquid gets added to a finely chopped onion sauteed in butter with two teaspoons of marsala curry powder and bouquet garni herbs. Reduced by a third. Double cream is then added and then reduced to a “light sauce”. It’s always very important to taste. For some reason the sauce was very salty so I added a little more cream to adjust.
The spinach gets washed carefully and dried – I cut out all the stems. Softened in olive oil and seasoned.
The Mille-feuille is an easy way of stacking. Stab a sheet of puff pastry all over with a fork and then cook until golden in a hot oven. The stabbing will stop the sheets puffing up. You then just cut them up into equal rectangles.
No picture in the book so I made the stack with two layers of mussels and spinach and then made a ring around the stack with the extra mussels and poured source on the layers, on top of the stack and then over the mussels.

roasted pork belly with charcutiere sauce


Roasted Pork Belly with Charcutière sauce

It’s actually for a rack of pork but I didn’t read the recipe carefully before I headed off to the butchers. Ah well.
The pork is roasted with potatoes, whole garlic cloves, thyme, and bay leaves. I used kipfler potatoes and cut them into bevelled rounds for practice. The pork belly is scored, rubbed down with butter, and jusy before it’s put in the oven, given a rub with sea salt. Leaving it to the last minute will stop the salt drawing out the moisture and then not crackling properly. At least this is what I was led to believe, the book recommends leaving the salt on for 90 minutes and brushing excess salt off. Another thing realised after the deed.
The cooking sequence is interesting, 30 minutes at 190C; 15 minutes at 150C; and then rested for 45 minutes.
The pan is deglazed with white wine and a little vinegar and then cooked with veal stock, shallots, and cracked pepper. Reduce by two thirds and then finish with whisked in butter and mustard and diced peeled and deseeded tomatoes.
Again no picture in the book so I placed the pork belly in the middle and had the potato and garlic kind of loitering around it.
Instead of the traditional cornichon, I fried up some scallops in the roasting fat and placed one on top of each serve of pork belly.

Rhubarb Ice-cream with Ginger Peach Compote

This has nothing to do with the cookbook but just a thought that since ice-cream is just frozen custard, and rhubarb and custard is a a classic combo, then rhubarb ice-cream would be good. It turned out there was a recipe for Rhubarb Parfait with Ginger Apricots.
The ice-cream was the standard recipe for vanilla ice-cream and the rhubarb was a compote. To make a compote, you chop up 5 stick of rhubarb (the leaves are poisonous so, no) and then add it to a fully dissolved cup of water, half a cup of sugar, and the juice and zest of one lemon. Bring to the boil and allow to cool, covered. Add as much to the ice-cream maker to get the ice cream as rhubarby as you think you’d like it.

Ginger apricots, became peeled and finely diced peaches, enough white wine to cover, sugar to taste and because I didn’t have any preserved ginger, four slices of peeled fresh ginger. I left it to simmer in the mix until there was the right amount of ginger tatse.

Nothing fancy. Ice-cream in the middle, and the excess rhubarb compote and ginger peaches around.

Meal

Mussels were great, although the appeance of the mille-fieulle reminded me a little of when I’d have smoked oysters on crackers as a kid. No bad thing. Toni liked the stack and the spinach with it. The curry was very mild.

The pork was typically tasty and crackled up nicely. The garlic mellowed and the potatoes were crisp. The sauce looked a little thin, actually near translucent. I should have reduced it by the recommended two thirds, but the taste was robust enough as I’d already reduced the stock I used.

Dessert was great. Nice matching with the ginger apricots. Adulty.

Could I live with a car like this?

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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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Lamb Rack with potato salad, slow roasted tomatoes, onion jam, and jus


Fucking great, really great. Yes it was.

There’s not anything particularly original or new here but I liked how a lot of different things came together making it a very personal dinner party menu for two good friends from England. Tasty too.

dhufish in phyllo


This is the dhufish wrapped in phyllo pastry. Jo gets Gourmet Traveller and didn’t know what dhufish, which is a great shame, so I chose this for the entree. I like it with just butter but this recipe fancies it up without overwhelming the fresh sweet taste. The recipe is pretty much taken straight out of the Second Simple Cookbook by Athol Thomas. The book has been a great help in cooking Western Australian seafood.

Make a herb butter out of 125gm of butter with one tablespoon of green peppercorns and the juice of one lemon. Place the butter on each fillet and wrap each one with a sheet of phyllo pastry, sealing underneath with some melted butter. Put in a well buttered baking tray and cook for 15 minutes at 200C.

The sauce is a reduction of white wine with a tablespoon of tarragon and then whisked some cream in. I’d made a bisque earlier that day (like you do) and added a tablespoon to the sauce and then added a few small pieces of butter.

Lamb Rack with potato salad, slow roasted tomatoes, onion jam, and jus


I revisted this recipefor the lamb rack. I left out the mushrooms as being summer something cooler would be nice. To accompany it I made a warm pea and potato salad with a tarragon, parsley, and chive two yolk mayonnaise. Thinking of bernaise sauce, I briefly boiled the vinegar for the mayonnaise with a tablespoon of tarragon before adding it to the egg yolks. Once the mayonnaise was made I added a tablespoon of the parsley and the chives. The kipfler potatoes were cut into small cubish shapes, they do this at Jacksons with a higher order of precision but it’s a good idea. Several smaller pieces will have more surface ares than one larger area [I'm sure there's some way of working out how much more but ermm help - no wait if it was four cubes it would be the existing area plus the addition of two sides of area for the horizontal and vertical cut so additional area=a x (n-2) where a=the area of one of the original sides and n=the number of new pieces] and this means more area for the mayonnaise to rest on. The size also balances nicely with the peas. Peas are in season at the moment so I shelled and cooked them until cooked without being soft and refreshed under cold water. [ Slight digression I made a nice pasta sauce for rigatoni the other night with freshly shelled peas, pancetta, EVOO, asparagus, garlic, and plum tomatoes] Alll Mixed together with a couple of chopped spring onions.

Instead of cooking the red onions with the lamb, I made a relish out of it. Cook the onion until golden and add 3tbs of raw sugar and 3 tbs of white wine vinegar and cook, stirring, until thick.

The cherry tomatoes were cooked with EVOO, salt, and rosemary in a 200C oven for 10 minutes and then cooked at 150c.

The sauce is a mix of beef stock, red wine, and a little cream whisked in for colour.

For cooking the rack, sear the sides in duck fat and then roast in an oven at 180C for 12 minutes on each side. This allowed it to be cooked evenly through but cut back to maybe 20 minutes for a rare finish. Allow to rest in foil for 10 minutes.

Watermelon Mojito Sorbet


A break from ice-cream due to non dairy dessert preferencing guests. Get about four cups of watermelon, puree it and take a cup and heat it with a third of a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of basil. Heat until the sugar had melted and strain. Add to the rest of the puree with the finely chopped rind and juice of two limes and a third of a cup of white rum (I’m not sure how much exactly – just what was left in the bottle). Popped in the ice-cream maker until nice and frosty. You can alternatively use the freeze stir and bash method. The alcohol is what gives it a bit of mushiness, maybe a little too, no just right.

Apparently in England, if you hit an animal with your car you can’t claim it, but the following car can.

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rabbit and pork terrine

Well that’s that done then. Just a quick food round-up.

The rabbit and pork terrine was for Christmas brunch and to put it briefly – the rabbit is quartered and simmered with a mirepoix for two and a half hours and shredded. It’s then replaced by some pork belly and a couple of pork chops which are also simmered for two hours. The stock is then reduce with some rosemary and the clarified using eggswhites, parsley, and leek before being strained through some muslin with the addition of a few teaspoons of gelatin. It does seem a long way about doing a stock but it’s really just adding flavours as you go along. The kidneys and liver are cooked in rabbit fat and brandy and then chopped up finely.

I reheated the meat in a pan with the pistachio nuts in a pan with a little of the and then packed in a wrap lined bread tin with boiled leek green on the bottom for decoration. Fill with the aspic and then placed a foil wrapped piece of cardboard on top with a beer bottle for a weight. Refrigerate overnight.

For a treat for the nieces I made some cherry ice-cream and placed in it a silicone snowman ice-cream tray. Topping up the mould with couveture chocolate gently heated with a little cream and sugar.

Finally the brioche had me up past midnight and was an interesting experiment. I think they’re supposed to be light and delicate but I just seemed to have this buttery sludge for dough which turned into a quite heavy kind of cake. More to be done on this baking thing.

We had the terrine with cornichons and italian bread and pumpernickel (forgot to bring the brioche) and the ice-creams went down well. Late lunch was over at Brand and Jo’s with the full Delia turkey with all the roast veg and trifle for dessert followed by Father Ted and Doctor Who. No reason you can’t have the full roast dinner in Oz, none whatsoever.

With the sun going down quickly, we made it to Leighton beach to watch the sun go down, with a bottle of beer and a cigar and that was that for Christmas. Hope you enjoyed yours.

rabbit and pork terrine A glass of very clear rabbit and pork consomme cherry snowmen


jo and me christmas lunch down

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Bastani Akbar-Mashti on Baklava


It is, sadly, not enough to just have ice-cream anymore. There has to be an extra carbohydrate bit so I thought I’d lump the Middle East together in one handy package and use a baklava as a base for this Persian variation on vanilla ice-cream.

I almost stuffed the ice-cream completely by just giving the ingredients a quick glance and not looking at the instructions. To clarify, the stages are
1. Heat milk with split vanilla pod
2. Whisk sugar with eggs
3. Pour hot milk slowly into sugar and eggs while stirring
4. Add cream when cooled.

and not pour all the ingredients except the eggs into a saucepan and start heating and then wonder that the eggs looked a little lonely in the bowl and have another look at the recipe. But, as Mark at work kindly pointed out when my line of tapenade had a slick of olive oil around it making it look like an overexcited black slug – ‘all can be fixed.’

There was nothing I could do about the getting the cream or the sugar out of the milk, so I just added a little sugar to the eggs and whisked, and then just poured the milk/cream slowly in as if nothing had happened. I then added two teaspoons of rosewater, as part of my quest to finish the bottle, which was to taste. It is strong so advance a little at a time. I also added two teaspoons of honey, which I regretted as it provides an overly harsh note of sweetness. Put in the fridge to cool, before adding it to the ice-cream maker. You can then chuck little neatly cut cubes of turkish delight in as it goes around and marvel as they get drawn into the icy vortex.

Place in three dariole moulds, smooth over the top and leave in the freezer until ready. If you had some kind of tube thing, that would be quite good too.

Baklava is easier than it looks and is no harder than making a lasange, a tricky dagwood, or a voltaic pile. Phyllo pastry can be a bit fiddly but if you work with small amounts, it shouldn’t give you too much trouble. I wanted it to match the ice-cream so I cut rounds out of a similar size to the dariole moulds three or four sheets at a time by using a cutter ring and giving it a good whack with a rolling pin. I used (buttered) ramekins for each individual one and you stack it like this. You’ll need to brush each round of pastry with butter as you stack them. A lovely assistant is a boon.

4 rounds of phyllo pastry
nut mix nut mix nut mix
3 rounds of phyllo pasty
nut mix nut mix nut mix
3 rounds of phyllo pastry
nut mix nut mix nut mix
5 rounds of phyllo pastry


Heat sugar the sugar syrup over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and the allow to simmer uncovered without stirring for five minutes to get it syrupy. Pour over the baklava and then bake for about 30 minutes in an 180C oven or until goldened. Allow to cool in the fridge – time does help the flavours.

Assembly:
Remove the baklava from the ramekin, heat the dariole’s in warm ater briefly and place carefully on topon the baklava, top with a little of the nut mixture, decorate with turkish delight and serve.

Well it was fantastic, really fantastic. Ice cream makers are the best. Admittedly I wanted it a little sharper than a slighty tilting truncated pine tree but not to be. I’m convinced Keiko has some kind of robotic lathe that she picked up from an outsourced Japanese precision engineering firm, it defies my competencies. Nevertheless project Become Quite Good at Dessert progresses well.

Bastani Akbar-Mashti:
250ml of full cream milk; 100gm sugar; 2 eggs; 400ml of thick cream; one vanilla pod; 2tsp of rosewater.
Baklava:
packet of phyllo pastry. Nut mix: 1 cup of chopped cashews and walnuts; 1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon, allspice, and cloves; 100gm butter (plus extra for the pastry). Sugar Syrup: 1/2 cup of caster sugar; 1/3 cup of water; juice and finely grated rind of half a lemon.

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Plus que ca change

Bastani Akbar-Mashti and Baklava

The desert is Bastani Akhbar-Mashiti (a Persian variation on rosewater ice-cream) on Baklava which I made for dinner on Wednesday, apropos was the Smoked Duck in a Szechuan style. Aussie Aussie Aussie, 150 years young.

Elsewhere:

  • Ed’s gone and done us all a great sevice with the Tomatom Definitive list of Australian food bloggers.
  • Masterchef Noodle Cook has left several Olympic games looking shabby by comparison in hosting Paper Chef.
  • Trevor Cook has done food bloggers proud with “Eater’s Digest” – Food and Wine blogging and podcasting
  • give the gift of a goat.
  • Bugger I’ve gone and missed EoMEoTE #13. A very special suggestion for the next one from a reader next time, promise.
  • still doing my Thursday night duffering. Managed to get off to a swell start by taking the the amount of water in the bread as gospel and spending 30 minutes kneading it into something resembling bread. Deboned 12 quails in what seemed like as many hours. But was called in to do the sauce for plating up on the mains for 6 plates. Kinda facked it up a little but it was like getting to drive the tractor. The coconut souffle is rather good too.
  • Plus: You should get over to Pim’s to raise some money for UNICEF and win some great stuff
deep fried peaches stuffed with mascarpone

I hate peaches. Their fuzz reminds of the cheap hard plastic toy animals from sideshow alley or cheap jewelry boxes. They also remind me of boarding school desserts and on that note, their association with buttocks creates psychosexual issues ill-suited to a food blog. I was going to use figs but sadly peaches are in season so use them it was.

The recipe is an original creation by Antonio Carluccio in his book Southern Italian Feast. In his recipe he uses the more humble ricotta and I’ve gone and spoiled the principle by using the luxurious northern equivalent of mascarpone. Much of southern Italian cuisine relies on this kind of humble alternative to northern ingredients. Instead of parmesan cheese, they’ll use breadcrumbs. Instead of tomatoes, they’ll make balls out of papier mache and paint them red with paint scraped from postboxes. Not a small point of opprobrium. Visitors from the North of Italy, dodging cars made from two vespas strapped together will shout out the windows of their Maranello sourced cars mangiatori della cassetta postale, abbiamo rinforzare! before roaring off into the trompe l’oeil that pass for tunnels. I feel somehow complicit in this cultural marginalisation by choosing this recipe just to change it, but the recipe does call for three hard boiled egg yolks to be mixed in, which is unusual I think you’ll agree and worth a try.

Here’s how it’s done with slight variations on the original:

Blend 150gm of caster sugar; 220gm of mascarpone, 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, and three hard boiled eggs yolks together to make a smooth paste and chill for an hour or two.

Slice four large white fleshed peaches in half and scoop out the stone and make an extra cavity, mix the scooped out flesh with the mascarpone mix. Fill the peach halves with the mix, levelling them off. Crumb in three steps of flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs. And then deep-fry in olive oil until golden. I’m not sure of the exact temperature but somewhere just below smoking point (which is lower for live oil than other oils) worked well. You can adjust with the heat or if it’s out of control a little more fresh oil.

Also from the book was vino cotto which they recommend as a sauce. Take 500ml of robust red wine, add 200gm of granulated sugar and reduce over heat to a third. Pour in a jar and chill. I used a Virgin Block 2002 Shiraz, which has a virgin on the label, which is quite refreshingly literal when you think about it. They should have a little caption box with “it’s not you, it’s just I’m not that kind of girl”.

For decoration I mixed equal amounts of mascarpone and cream with sugar to taste and added finely chopped vodka-preserved cumquats. They ended up being a bit dissapointing in appearance, just getting coated with cream rather than being interesting specks of orange. It looked a bit like lumpy toothpaste. My cack-handed use of the piping bag didn’t help matters and surely I can do better than a (punctuated) swirly spiral. Can anyone point me in the direction of a book or a site on doing nice patterns with cream and syrup on a plate?

Quite nice indeed, I think smaller peaches would help with daintiness. I did get my teeth set on edge by the peaches which took away some of the enjoyment. Maybe I’ll use figs next time.

dessert = 'appy punters



green tea ravioli with red bean paste

A quick apology for the rather low standard of presentation but I really can’t be arsed by the end of a dinner. Not that this is any excuse for a lack of skills in this regard. I should learn to do the swirly thing with the satay stick or something.

chotda pack uh oh

A little while ago I was lucky enough to receive a package from kindly Santos of Guam. Her generous efforts at a stretching my parameters were sadly confounded by our strict quarantine laws. I’m happy to announce Australia is still free of the scourge of banana flowers and medicinal bark. Apparently if you want to get food past customs you tell them it’s delicious with mayonnaise. Don’t bother with a Bhudda statue. The lesson is – send cash. Anyway I was left with rice paper and Korean green tea flower (which given my current embarrasing social habit, I was surprised I didn’t start chatting in Japanese with it). I could have combined the two but had a different plan.

My first one was to make green tea beignets and then stuff them but I thought the red bean paste I wasn’t to use wasn’t fluid enough for the task. Instead I was inspired by the fried chocolate ravioli I helped with on Thursday and thoought I’d go with a variation of that.

eggs and green tea flour green tea pasta roller ravioli cutter

The green tea pasta was your standard pasta recipe but with the addition of a tablespoon of sugar and the use of green tea flour. I’m not going to tell you how to make pasta, instead you can go here. The green tea flour wasn’t totally amenable but the pasta maker takes a bit of practice and I don’t think I’ve used mine more than twice this century. Ruggedy ragged edges aren’t too much of a problem if you’re just going to stamp it out anyway. Run it through to a 5 thickness.

The red bean paste – an freezes quite happily and was left over from IMBB#15 Mizu Youkan – detailed making instructions to be found there including showtunes.

Well then it’s rather easy. Cut out enough pasta for the ravioli stamp to fit comfortably, add a teaspoon of the bean paste, place another piece of pasta on top and, after squeezing out any excess air, stamp. Repeat. Deep fry until crisp at 180C and serve.

It was served with a gamache mix of half cream/half dark chocolate melted over a double boiler. Some cream for the plate and a slice of frozen custard apple as an afterthought. Santos has the goods on custard apple aka atis.

Well it was good. I would have liked a little more bean paste in my mine but it’s not to everyone’s liking. The green tea flavour was quite mild and the ganache nicely in unsweet unison. The custard apple, which I’ve never had before, and suspect it may not have quite been right.

Now as for the rest of the meal. I’d asked a couple of friends and a bit after 4 Toni asked me what I was making and I realised I had no idea. So a quick trip to the shops just before they closed at 5 had me sorted for guests at 6:30.

spanish mackeral

This is the spanish mackeral caught by Local Man Catches Large Fish who would be joining us for dinner.

The spanish mackeral was in cutlets and it’s just a matter of removing the skin. Using my tip from the Kaiaseki workshop, I coated it in salt for half an hour and rinsed to remove some of the fishy smell. Cooked in nice hot slab of butter with the addition of flat leafed parsley and tarragon and a splash of vinegar and served with aparagus mixed after cooked with lemon peel、parsley, tarragon, and butter.

A lovely piece of fish it was.

chicken and walnut fettucine with chilli pesto

Since the pasta maker was out, I made some plain fettucine as well. Not too hard but I hanker for a plastic pasta hanger as it was a bit of a tangle. Actually comes apart quite nicely when cooking which happens in about four minutes.

For the pesto – one chilli, deseeded and chopped; two crushed cloves of garlic; pinch of salt; handful of toasted pine nuts; and handful each of parsley and parsely; process, adding EVOO until it gets to the right pasticity. Stir in some grated parmesan cheese.

Chop us some chicken thighs, marinate in pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil and cook in a pan. Toast handful of walnuts. Add to the pasta and the pesto and serve.

A swell mix of textures and home made pasta really is better.

So that’s WTFDYWMTDWT kinda done for now, lasts month’s IMBB-fried has been done but a bit late; and with green (carbohydrate subjected to heat) eggs and an, I’ve done EoMEoTE#10.

Goodnight.

Hey! check out what’s at An Electronic Restaurant by Masterchef “Noodle Cook” and Oslofoodie has made pancakes.

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banana delight

Kate, who makes a very nice paella I must say, has tagged me as to who would play me. Trickier than it appears when I’m not even sure if I’m actually playing myself all the time. Michael Ironside seemed appealing. I think I’d be great with a robotic hand.

Also very tempting was Christopher Walken, he’s running for President you know. Personally I think this is an unnecessary ploy for my affections – Adam Sandler playing yet another idiotic yet loveable man-child would be a preferential candidate to the current idiotic yet dissembling and cowardly war criminal man-child. I’d love to have ludicrous hair yet retain dignity and be able to switch into a tap dance or a karaoke spot. Yet it wouldn’t be right, playing roles isn’t what he does best. What I’d love is Christopher Walken playing me in someone else’s movie so “I” could walk on say a couple of lines. People could go “wow! who the fuck was that” and then I could wander back to the kitchen and check my gravy.

So it’ll have to be Daniel Auteuil. Despite actors being some enhanced projection of self, he seems to be resolutely the everyman. Not handsome but interesting and prone to the absurdities of life, faced with a light and appealing touch. He also gets to throw knives But then again, I’ve seen barely a tenth of his films and I’d hate to pretend I’m an expert on his work, should my bluff be called.

So I’ll have to go with Owen Wilson for his good humoured faintly crap taoic ambivalence maybe and at the very least for his spectacular car crash in the Royal Tenenbaums. But then again the more anxious anal aspects of Ben Stiller certainly…

Ahh fuck it Michael Ironside will play me and if you want to caramelise bananas just slice them, coat them in a mix of raw sugar and cinnamon. Pop them in a very hot pan and turn when caramelised. You can release the sugar in the pan with some butter.

Oh tagging three people, if you would like someone to play you, let me know. First three.

Oi!; and speaking of Kate, she’s nicely remembered to remind us about Perth blogger awards at the Brass Monkey tonite! People will be there and speaking of whom, Crafty has just given me an idea. Oh wait java script polls don’t work in blogger posts – bugger! And it makes my text all small if I put it in the sidebar. Gah!

Two Words: Jackson’s and RODD.

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chai panna cotta

“But we brought cream…
and scones”

I hope someone else remembers that line from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, a 70′s British WW2 comedy set in India. A much less smug observation than the more familiar “but what have the Romans ever done for us?” on the give and take of imperium. And what else does tea make me think of? Not much. In the greater scheme of beverages, it wallows. Currently it’s serving as a kind of methadone to get me off unthinking reflexive coffee drinking. I’ve become rather fond of the tea, spice and milk combo of chai though. It’s my new king of milky drinks, without peer (yes including latte), and its spicey complexity seemed a good opportunity for translation into a not so sweet dessert.

chai ingredients

Good luck finding a definitive chai recipe. I don’t think there is one but this is with good reason, it’s endlessly variable. Chai would make for an excellent platform for appreciating spices and understanding what each one does. A lifetime of fine tuning could be done with possible variations for time, quantity, and grinding of spices to reach the right balance. The first challenge is to get the taste of the tea right as it’s the dominant flavour. After about 10 minutes of simmering, I got there and then strained the milk. To improve the spice flavour I let it continue to simmer longer with some more cinnamon and ginger until it was where I wanted it to be. Keep in mind also that the flavour will be diluted a third by the cream. The ball-park quantities of tea and spices you see were for 2 cups of full cream milk and 1 cup of water. The tea was Harrods (God bless you Ma’am) Empire Blend No. 34 a mix of Assam, Darjeeling and Nilgiri. I have no idea why I have this. The other ingredients form left to right in the pic are: peppercorns and allspice; star anise and ginger; cloves, cinnamon, and green cardamon.

To transform this into panna cotta requires 300ml of double cream, 2 cups of the chai, half a cup of sugar, and 4tsp of gelatine. Bring the cream, sugar, and the chai to near boil, turn off the heat and sprinkle over the gelatine and stir it in unti it has dissolved completely. Let it cool with the occasional stir and pour it into ramekins and refrigerate until set. It can be loosened for serving by resting it in hot water for a not very long time.

The syrup is a fairly standard Indian syrup and I thought it would be at least a good geoculinary (do you like this word? I just made it up, nice isn’t it?) match. It’s from a recipe for Gulab Jamun. The rosewater aspect fitted in nicely because I had a bunch of dried rosebuds that I had bought as wasn’t quite sure what to do with. Something unexpectedly romantic perhaps. Anyway two cups of water, one cup of sugar, and five bruised (just crush them a bit with the flat of a knife) cardamom pods. Heat until the sugar has dissolved, take off the heat and stir in two tablespoons of rosewater. Allow to cool before pouring over the panna cotta.

Tasty. Not too sweet at all and a lot of little background notes. I managed to do some justice to its looks with a bit of Saturday afternoon soft light messing about with the spare one I had on hand (like you do). The only odd result was a rougher “breadier” texture on the bottom (i.e. the top of the ramekin). I’m assuming some kind of separation occurred from the cream but if anybody knows any better, help. Nothing unpleasant though, an unexpected feature.

Thank you Clement for hosting and prodding me out of my usual food comfort zone.

chai panna cotta

chai panna cotta - Mrs Medici's cookbook looks on in sadness

Erm yes. My unhappy affair with gelatine continues on it’s unfortunate course* with a chai panna cotta with rosewater cardamon syrup. Guests were sufficiently polite/liquored up to not recoil in horror. Tasty though, I have to say. Will try not to wander off while the ramekins are sitting in hot water and see how I can get the spare one looking.

*see:
run! it’s failed conceptual food project
and
unsuccessful anin doufu

mizu youkan green

Elise, who gave me top tips on photography back in the early days, is being the host this month with Is My Blog Burning-15 Has my blog jelled?.

azuki beansRed bean paste is a key ingredients for numerous Japanese desserts and appears in places such as; taiyaki – a fish shaped crepe popular at festivals; dorayaki – filled pancakes much loved by this robot cat with a four dimensional pocket; and innumerable souvenirs form Kyoto as manju. Eaten it many times but never made it, so it’s a very orthodox attempt, particularly after my two previous adventures with jellied delights.

I’m happy to report that it was easy to make and it seemed that the recipe was very forgiving. I was going to use a sugar-free dessert book I picked in Japan but the recipe called for pureed dates (!) and I was overwhelmed by kanji. I fell back on the old and faithful The Joy of Japanese Cooking by Kuwako Takahashi.

Mizu youkan is nothing if not interesting. I love it but Toni hates and gave the judgement of it tasting like it should which I guess is good. Perhaps the closest thing I could compare it to is the pumpkin in pumpkin pie. Well worth a try for a different texture and a different kind of sweetness.

An
The sweet bean paste made from azuki beans appears under a number of descriptions in English but in Japanese it’s referred to as either an or anko. The latter has more more potential for unpleasant pronunciation mix-ups, so I’d go with the an. You can soak the azuki beans overnight but here’s the method I followed.

1) Boil one cup of azuki beans in plenty of water for approximately 15 minutes and then drain, this will remove the dark juices.

2) Return the beans to the pot and cover with three times its volume of water, bring to the boil, and allow to simmer over a medium heat until the beans are very soft and can be crushed easily. Remove any froth that comes to the surface while you’re doing this.

3) Drain the beans in a teatowel in a colander and squeeze to remove any excess moisture (it will be hot so do be careful)

4) Return the beans to the pot and add one cup of sugar and one teaspoon of salt. This makes it quite sweet so you could cut back and add more later. Stir with a wooden spoon over a medium heat, the sugar should soften the beans and give it a sheen, continue stirring until “you can see the bottom for 10 seconds as you stir”.

And you’ve just made an. You have a choice whether you want it to be smooth Koshi-an and give a spin in a blender, or rougher Tsubushi-an and just crush it with the wooden spoon. As I wanted the more interesting texture of the latter but still needed a smooth surface, I made a compromise by attacking part of it with a bamix. It can now be in the fridge for three days or it can be frozen or made into

Mizu Youkan
Agar agar is used here and goes by the Japanese name of kanten. Some recipes call for “sticks” but as they don’t specify, the correct weight to be used can be guessed by looking at the weight of the packet you have and cutting appropriately (scales schmales).
1) Soak 8gm of agar agar in water for one hour, drain, squeeze, and cut into small pieces.

2) Add to two cups of water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring until dissolved.

2) Gradually mix this in with two cups of an. Cook over a low heat, adding sugar or salt to taste, until well mixed.

3) Remove from the heat and mix in another 1 cup of water. Place in in a smaller bowl to go in a larger bowl with cold water and stir until lukewarm. This ensure the colour goes all the way through the jelly. Put it in a pan and refrigerate until set. It should be about an inch high.

Now it’s just a matter of cutting it into slices. I cut it into tuna sashimi size with a slight angle cut. Enjoyed with sencha green tea with enough sunshine to pretend it was a mild summer’s day. I’ll have to defer on Chika on the confusions of green tea. And if anybody could tell me what the tiny back scratchers are in the top pic, I’d be very grateful.

mizu youkan grey

Double the youkan action: with ‘Ono Kine Grindz

Round-up: Elise does a great job of nailing some jellies to the wall IMBB-15 Has my blog jelled? – Round Up Recipe. Many thanks for hosting.

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Jo's Problematic Cake

Jo‘s cake that we had on Saturday. Moist and delicious, chocolate and marmalade yet always depressed. It made me think of Grace Jones, Julianne Moore, and Winona Rider all at once. Aberration creates possibilities and I was heartened by 42n81‘s comments on Flickr:

i used to be an expert on this style of cake, but then i quit baking. however, my experience has been that that sinking feeling means there is more concentrated flavor to savor and all in all it’s balanced

So true, but since I shot my mouth off and said I’d get a solution to this, what can be done?

UpdateThe maker appears!

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morgenhofcheninblanc2001

I know it may seem , having got past the initial step of being able to identify wine as wine, that I stumbled at the next stage of distinguishing between red and white. I could ask for pity as I suffer from the debilitating genetic illness of partial red-green colour blindness and subsequent humiliation at the hands of Ishihara test administrators. I’m also prone to the “hardware store effect” as well double-entedric distraction. As a result, I humbly submit to Wine Blogging Wednesday #6 heads down south – South African Reds, a chenin blanc.

The occasion was Greg Manthatcatchesgreatfish was bringing over some dhufish fillets from said great fish for cooking. Joining us was Anonymous of Floreat, glorying in topping the sales figures for Supermart and handily bringing an Australian chenin from a winery bought by a South African. How apropos.

halinabrookchenin

First off was the Halina Brook Estate 2003 Chenin. Unusually north for a West Australian wine with a vineyard near Bindoon. I can only tell you what I wrote on my kitchen whiteboard and that was “densely packed citric bite in an oily enteric coating“. Thinking back it was better than that sounds, a sharp hit that grabbed the tongue with a heavyweight refreshing linger.

Unusually further west was, from Stellenbosch South Africa, the Morgenhof Estate 2001 Chenin Blanc (or “Steen” as they say on the veldt). Immediately noticeable, even to me, was the richer gold colour of the wine. A shade over $20 a bottle, it’s midplaced between equivalent budget bests and lower premiums in price which sets up certain expectations. It has a simple trick and I fell for it. Like any song with a cow-bell, any wine that can tranport its flavour across my tongue in a sherbety fashion will have my love. And it does. Nothing else interfered with it, not the stone fruitiness or the warm nose. If you like this effect I don’t need to tell you any more, in fact I can’t. Thank you South Africa.

dhufishfillet

As for the meal. The dhufish fillets were cooked on a stovetop griddle just in butter. They are not to be messed around with. I found “done” occurred just as the fillet looked like it was going to flake. For a simple match I had Pommes Veronique without the garlic and good dab of goose fat; oven roasted asparagus; and a bernaise without the sorrel tarragon sauce on the side. It’s a magnificent piece of fish, sweet and unfishy without being bland. A West Australian must have.

Egg whites to be rid of led to the soufflé omlette. The combination of 4 egg yolks with 115gm of caster sugar, whisked until pale and creamy with 30ml of Cointreau added once done. Egg whites whisked until stiffly peaked with a little extra caster sugar added slowly for extra hold and gloss. A third mixed in with the yolks and then the rest folded in. Baked in a long baking dish in the oven at 150C for 10 minutes, some strawberries dropped in and then warmed brandy and Cointreau poured over. Light the match and ….. oh well, must have gone straight to the bottom. The dessert that wasn’t there, sugar and booze mysteriously appears in the mouth.

Rest of the meal spent with readings of The Philosopher in the Kitchen. Hilarious. Best thing since the Scarlet Pimpernel.

dishes

Typically well written red round-up from Jeanne at A barrel of South African reds – WBW#6 round-up, Part I and Part II

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021405dinner

Avatar’s saved me having to bag Valentine’s day with a marvellously offensive spray. Yes Valentine’s Day is crapalapdap but it did get me thinking about chocolate and then that I hardly ever make any desserts, and how all this time I’ve been cooking for me, my wants, my needs, my ambitions, and leaving Toni to fend for herself with some Neopolitan ice-cream and tinned fruit salad that I’d nick the cherry out of…

So a mousse recipe I found it was. Doing this I thought dinner should be a wee bit special but still light and Veal Scallopini came to mind. Veal Scallopini made me think of Ruffino Chianti and as I pull out a couple of old champagne(?) glasses for the mousse, I realised the unifying theme was – romantic evening out circa 1972 extraordanaire. All I needed was an excuse to slip into my silky thigh length kimono with the tiger on the back.

lemonscallopini

Veal Scallopini with a Lemon Sauce

Two veal scallopini steaks (ask your butcher) pounded thinly then lightly coated with flour. Fry on each side in a heavy pan in 2tbs of butter and oil. Quick and hot! Remove the scallopini, and the deglaze with 2tbs of lemon juice and 1tbs of butter. Add a little chopped parsely. Return the scallopini to the pan to quickly reheat (don’t cook it) on both sides with the sauce.

Served on bought Cappelleti di Pollo with a simple white wine and cream sauce with a little of the lemon sauce and some lemon zest.

chocolatemousse

Chocolate Mousse with Strawberry Marinated in Port

Oddly more like creamy chocolate crunch as the chocolate turned into crunchy little bits. May have been my losing patience with incremental microwaving. Any idea people?

Melted 100gm of Cocolo Fairtrade milk chocolate with just under a tablespoon of butter until smooth (ideally). Allow to cool.

Whisk two eggs yolks and 2tbs of sugar whisked together over the improvised double boiler of a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water. After four minutes it should be thick so remove and continue to whisk until pale and cool. Add to the chocolate and then mixed in with 100ml of lightly whisked King Island Pure Cream.

Added one strawberry marinated in port to each glass and then filled with mousse. I sliced the strawberries horizontally and the put it back together again so it didn’t have to be eaten in one go as slicing with a spoon in a champagne glass invites danger, no? A splash of port to fill the slight indent around the strawberry.

chianticlassico

Ruffino 2002 Chianti
Chianti so rarely disappoints me. Slightly chilled.

And?
The chianti had the filtered through a bag of socks taste that I love for some reason (repressed foot fetishism?). The mousse was not the saccharine fluff I’d had ages before but a solid amalgam of milk products and chocolate and a crunchy delight, an unwitting success. The veal and pasta was a little too lemony. I should have kept the pasta sauce just plain cream and wine to balance. Toni though, said that the lemon taste was just the thing to offset the humid weather. That and the 6-pack of Beck’s, what a doll.

And in the spirit of things, Santos has valentine’s music if you’re quick.

[I don't think I've had the "post as a redemptive journey" yet, so there ya go genre buffs - collect the whole set]

A Menu For Hope

A Menu for Hope is a collaborative menu by food and wine bloggers. Our goal is to raise money for UNICEF for those areas tragically affected by the recent tsunami. Now before you run off to enjoy the virtual treats, two requests.

  • be sure to look through the menu above. Clicking any of the 12 courses and wine selections will take you the blog responsible (there may be small delay in posting). And,
  • when you’re done, consider that the needs in the affected areas are still very real. Give your support by donating via the UNICEF button. Large or small, it all helps. Think of it as the bottle of wine you didn’t have to bring.

Bests to you all and cheers especially to Pim for her inspiration and work. Now for my part in this, lamingtons…

lamington

Lamingtons are blocks of day-old sponge cake, dipped in chocolate sauce and coated with desiccated coconut. Named, allegedly, after the fleckled shoulders of Baron Lamington, Governor of Queensland (1896-1901). Their roots are the resourceful salvaged failure of a sponge cake and reluctance to waste. They are uniquely Australian and our version of the fundraising brownies. So apologies, not a dish from the most affected countries but in these times we must ask the question, who is my neighbour?

(makes 12)

The Cake

[Note] The cake is made a day in advance and put in the fridge. A fresh cake will crumble when cut.

- 3 free-range eggs

- 3/4 cup caster sugar

- 2 cups of self-raising flour – sifted and sifted

- 1 tablespoon of butter

- 1/2 cup of warm milk

- 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

Place the butter, sugar, and vanilla together in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, while beating well. Fold in the flour gradually, alternating with the milk.

Grease a rectangular cake tin (15x27cm) with butter and pour in the mixture. Bake in a 160C (325F) oven for 50 to 60 minutes, testing with a skewer. Allow the cake to stand for a few minutes before turning out. Refrigerate.

The Chocolate Sauce

-500gm of icing sugar

-1/3 cup of cocoa

-1 tablespoon of melted butter

-1/2 cup of warm milk

Beat together well, adjusting the volume of milk to get a smooth consistency.

Cut the lamingtons into 5cm cubes and then dip each cube into the chocolate sauce, allowing a little time to absorb. Now roll in a tray of desiccated coconut and then do the same with the lamingtons.

You may, if you wish, serve with the excess chocolate sauce.

UNICEFBUTTON

_(–)_



Woot! Cracked the double monkey! Keep it coming babies.

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Watched “Grease”, “Jules et Jim”, and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” last night. Which made me immeasurably fond for that decade of transgression in Australia, the seventies. I was just a wee innocent paisley shirted country lad, so my favourite weaknesses were just Passiona and Chokito. I still enjoy Passiona and it is the only non-alcoholic drink that brings me any any great joy. It was time to revisit the Mars Bar Cheesecake and move on with a bit of experimentation.

Underbelly of Eisenhower

300gm of chocolate coated digestive biscuits – reduced to crumbs and mixed in with 125gm of melted butter. Spread on the base of a springform tin and put in the refrigerator.

Menage A Trois

375gm of cream cheese, 1/3 cup of caster sugar, 1 tsp of vanilla essence beaten until smooth and then 1/4 cup of passionfruit pulp mixed in.

300ml pure cream beaten until soft peaks form.

All mixed together with 3 finely chopped Chokito bars and 3tsp of gelatine in 1/4 cup of warm water

Poured onto base and smoothed over.

Frankenfruit

1/3 cup of Passiona, a tbs of caster sugar and 2tbs of passionfruit pulp. Brought to a boil in a saucepan, simmered until thickened a little, and then brushed on top of the cheesecake.

Put in the refrigerator until firm.

Good? Oh yes.

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{Sigh}

Crème Brûlée has always had me reaching, not for the whisk, but my copy of Dirty by Sonic Youth. The song is a curiosity but Kim Gordon has the right elements of a female vocalist and this custardy confection – hard candy with a soft under. As a stretched out large sunglassed beatnik on the back cover, it would have a single me crawling across broken caramel to get to her. As shock art, the album fails only for the sumptuousness and beauty of the guitars, but the tray liner photo in the Japanese release is ummm well lets just say don’t look Big Ted (you’ve been warned).

Stretching the associations, 1992 would have been the year where, cooking for my then girlfriend and now wife’s 22nd birthday, I had my stepping out of the cave moment with a Crème Anglaise. Institutionally fed, custard had always been a flavourless yellowly liquid made from rehydrated powder. Slicing open my first vanilla pod almost had me running over to my neighbour’s house to say “Oi! Sniff this”. Creme Anglaise, along with the magnificent Italian Zuppa Inglise, may be a generous tribute or international baiting, is perfection. It also taught me two important lessons: better food was out there; and it was within my reach. Out of the cave and over the bridge I went.

Sweets are still my weak point but I was given a prod by Guamand Santos at the scent of green bananas. and her very excellent thing ch-ch-cherry bombs . The Rock Dinner steps a little further forward and I’m tumbling towards turning into a conceptual foodist.

Experimental Notes

To make Crème Brûlée properly you need a blow torch to caramelise the top. I didn’t get one for three reasons; they are very pricey, I’d be off scraping paint before you could say Australian Dream, and I wouldn’t have been happy with anything less than this.

My plan was to, instead make a flambe hybrid. Sugar on the top, soaked in brandy, and then up it goes. Fortunately, in a rare flash of common sense, I tried it out with some yoghurt in a ramekin first. A damp squib, so plan abandoned. A shame, it would have been spectacular, so if anybody has any better ideas on sparking this up, get back to me (and no dishwashing liquid and petrol is not going to happen).

Crème

Usual trick of using a few sources to come up with something. I went to this Recipe for Creme Brulee Recipe and this Creme Brulee » Recipe (which just seems wrong on a few points), and fudged around and came up with this

8 free-range eggs yolks; 3/8 cup of caster sugar; 1 vanilla pod (you could use vanilla essence but you wouldn’t would you? No didn’t think so); 500ml of double cream.

Egg yolks and sugar whisked until pale and creamy.

Vanilla pod spilt carefully with a knife, the innards scraped into the cream and then the pod put in as well. Gently heat the cream, just until bubbles start to form around the edges. Don’t boil.

Warmed cream slowly mixed into the egg and sugar and then the whole lot put into a ceramic bowl and heated over a saucepan of simmering water. Non stop stirring until the mix is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Ramekins (8) 7/8th filled with the mix and then put in a roasting tin, half filled with hot water. Covered with foil and cooked in a 170C for 40 minutes. Taken out and left to cool in the fridge.

Brûlée

Tricky bit not least for the fact the this was well into beer tasting over at a friends house. Each ramekin is topped up with a 5mm level layer of caster sugar. Friend’s oven was smokier than a Japan Tobacco conference room so I put a dish of water in there in the hope that it would absorb some of the smoke. Top element nice and hot and slid the ramekins under it, keeping a sharpish eye on them, moving them around to compensate for the irregularity of the heat.

And?

The caramel crust is a very fine balance to get and I had mixed results. The photo of the two leftovers represent the Diamanda Galas and Little Nikki Webster ends of the spectrum. A blowtorch would have helped a great deal with consistency. Enjoyed it but detected a tiny degree of tooth edginess of caster sugar and wondered if better results could have been had with normal sugar. The sugariness did seem to settle down from between off the stove and the finished product. Any ideas?

As for female vocalists, ichiban is Aiha Higurashi of Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her and while I’m at it Mayumi Kojima. If you’re interested, mail me and I might just brûlée you a sample.

Saturday. Getting behind here, “post” is starting to synch with its original form.

Thought the league game between NZ and the Pacific was as good a game in any form I’ve seen for a long time. So what do you do after a rugby game and a few pints at JB O’Rielly’s – make a cake. I think my rationale at the time was that if I could impress myself in the past with a fried egg toasted sandwich, with this, I’d be practically walking down the aisle with myself.

I’ve made this before, but couldn’t find the recipe anywhere so I worked off memory and the ingredients I had.

Crepes

wholemeal flour, milk, eggs, melted butter, buttermilk

Cream

King Island double cream, bit of icing sugar and a splash of vanilla essence -beaten

Plus

Grapefruit Marmalade

Pretty easy really, just make a stack of pancakes and then butter a spring-form cake tin. Crepe, marmalade, crepe, cream, marmalade….until you run out of crepes. Leave in the fridge.

Topped with a glaze of the juice of one orange and equal parts sugar heated in a pan. The glaze either ran down the sides or was soaked up by the top crepe. More work needed here.

Didn’t look the best but it was very adult. Not your candy craving kiddy cake but very sour with the wholemeal being very textured. Paired well with a scoop of chocolate.ice-cream and a ’99 bottle of Vasse Felix my hosts had hauled out of the cellar.

BTW Does this thing have a proper name?