soup

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avacado soup with scallops

Had a progressive dinner party the other weekend (not the Progressive Dinner Party) and apparently they were the thing when people were kids. In Muntadgin, we had people over for dinner and even then I can’t really remember us having anyone over for dinner. I guess if you have one shop and everyone raising sheep, there weren’t going to be a lot of opportunities to wow people with a persian fairy floss becovered daifukumochi. Actually the collective food effort was always ‘a plate’ and this would be at dances and would involve the same cheese being used in several different ways – free ranging cube, cube on toothpick, square on sao …

Anyway I had the role of entree, which was nice because it restrained me from going batshit crazy and cooking a dozen things. So I need something that was impressive because I’m all alpha like, something that could be cooked in about 10 minutes and still engage people for an hour or so of eating.

So. Soups are great for pre-prep and suffer little for it but then you want a bit more than that and scallops are your perfect bit of quick cooking flash. French Saveur came to the rescue with an avacado ‘velouté’ with scallops wrapped in ham.

The fish stock was made with the standard stocky stuff and snapper fish heads and bones but the helpful tips are to soak the bones for four hours (Michel Roux Jr) and that even if it’s not strong enough, you can always finely strain it and reduce it. I always like it at just the the point where the watery disappears. It’ll keep in the fridge, so I made it the day before. Then it’s just a matter of heating 800ml of fish stock. Adding two chopped avacados and 200ml of creme fraiche,  heating it through and then pureeing it with a stick blender.

The scallops were wrapped in proper speck that I’d gotten with the proper bacon in the previous and lovingly sliced with a sashimi bocho, which worked surprisingly well. As an added bonus, I made a third of them with Irish black pudding. It quickly turns to shit when you cook it in delicate rounds, so I mostly cooked it to make sure it was done enough when served for gentle souls and the kind of patted it onto the bottom of each scallop before wrapping it in the speck.

The interesting part of the recipe is chopped hazelnut, which I supplemented with salmon roe for a bit of colour, a different texture and to remind people of the fishy base of the soup.

The original plan was to serve the soup in a jug so the cutlery and the bowl was in place and then I thought I could put in in a thermos and that’s make a nice travelling theme for a progressive dinner. This led to the toasted ham and cheese sandwich digression. I had these ready-basted with clarified butter and filled with black pig prosciutto and pecorino cheese with the greaseproof paper ready folded and string at the ready. Anyway, I couldn’t find the thermos and went back to the jug but hey, who doesn’t like a toasted sandwich, and toast is great with soup and avacodo is excellent with ham and cheese.

So here’s how it went
-freshly ground pepper, salt and smoked paprika on the table.
-bowl of chopped hazelnuts and bowl of salmon roe. EVOO in little pot thing.
-soup reaheated and transferred to jug
-scallops cooked on hot griddle which was transferred to the table
-toasties toasted, chopped into four and wrapped and tied

Everybody then helped themselves and then bundled off to the next place.

Success.

If you’ve got to the point where you’re not entirely sure if you’ll be OK just slicing off a piece of Xmas ham, you could always make a stock out of it. It’s also prawn season in Australia so heads aplenty as there’s no gratis fry-em for me that they’ll do in Japan (mind the horns).

Chop what ham you’ve got into cubes, add enough cold water to cover by an inch or so, bring to the boil and skim off anything on the surface. Add half a dozen white peppercorns and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

Take your prawns and stir-fry them in a small amount of oil until they turn pink. Add them to the ham and water. Return the pot to the boil and skim the surface. Add a whole red chilli or two and a bruised stick of lemon grass. And simmer for another 15 minutes.

Strain through a fine muslin cloth and taste, it may need to be reduced for a  stronger flavour if that’s what your after or just consider adding a few lemon wedges and some chopped chilli to your served broth.

For this I put two raw scallops, a prawn tail, and some watercress in each soup bowl and poured the boiling stock over it – this should very lightly cook the meat. Garnish with coriander leaves, some sliced red chilli and a wedge of lemon.

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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gazpacho


When catering for large numbers of people, it’s important to plan carefully and well in advance have a few dishes around a theme. I didn’t do any of this which probably explains the anxiety attack I had the night before up until about midday before when it susbsided to highly stressed. I’ve got to stop this what will the market tell me but to be honest I’ve got no idea what around $600 for 60 people’s worth of food looks like so it was a case of buying a bunch of stuff, seeing how much I had left, and then buying some more.

It did work in the end and despite the meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep moments, it is more interesting going I can get this and do this and doable if you have few core items. The were three main items. Gazpacho in a shot glass because they do this at work and it seems like a great way to welcome guests with an interesting sharp start on a warm summer’s night. Green curry, I’ve done this before at a similar sized party (with a shocking hangover so – not sure how I did that), and it’s something you can make before and fill the hungrier people with. Cardboard boxes are cute and save on washing up. Fried wontons, good of people will help you folding them up and people love fried food especially after a couple of drinks. Then you just fill in the spaces, a platter for people to graze, reuse the shot glasses as tuna delivery systems and for a passionfruit and melon sorbet. A bit of lamb on skewers, a few blinis for general classiness, and a couple of boxes of sausages rolls for the end of the night

blini for the kids polenta with tapenade and caponata


Platter with home-made lavosh, beetroot dip, tzatziki, and olives

Lavosh is unleavened therefore easy to make, kinda. The beetroot dip was taken from a salad recipe from Delicious using cooked beetroot, EVOO walnut oil, red onion, walnuts, and rosewater but lightly pureed adding the mint and coriander after for colour. If you’re making tzatziki, leave the yoghurt to strain in a fine sieve. Excess water will strain out and you’ll be left with a thicker richer yoghurt. The best value for olives is still Northbridge Continental on the corner of James and Fitzgerald street.

Gazpacho

The shorter way is to puree the capsicum and tomato and then run it through a strainer. This fills me with guilt and I think it’s better to roast the capsicum to remove the skin as it improves the flavour. Tomatoes are skinned by popping them in boiling water with a cross cut in the bottom. Squeeze over a sieve to remove the seeds and the bread can be soaked in the juice below. It seemed to take about three hours all up to make but extremely tasty and I can’t imagine how healthy it must be. Would make for a superb bloody mary.

Blini with Creme Fraiche, Smoked Salmon and Salmon roe

I used the yeast method rather than just the egg whites and, to be proper like, buckwheat. Salmon roe isn’t cheap but 50gm goes a long way, doing about 30 blini. Creme fraiche is expensive to buy but you can make your own. I did it in a slightly cheaper fashion by using two parts king island cream and one part creme fraiche and letting it sit for a few hours, covered, on the bench top. Blini can be made beforehand and frozen if you like. Reheat.

tuna with mango salsa sashimi tuna with ponzu sorbet


Seared tuna cubes with mango salsa and Tuna sashimi with ponzu sorbet

This was one of the “still got some money purchases and the idea is from earlier here. And the ponzu (soy with citrus) sorbet was still left over from new year. The ponzu makes the sashimi more like a ceviche and won a few converts. Both were served in shot glasses with the tuna chugged with a couple of bites to prevent choking.

Asparagus wrapped in pancetta

People love these. Just trim the spears, wrap a piece of pancetta around them, and cook in a hot oven.

Grilled polenta with caponata, sun-dried tomatoes, and tapenade

Gah! Blisters from stirring one and a half kg of polenta. A cup of milk to make it creamier and parmesan added. Spread out and chilled then put in a sandwich press for a grilled look. Reheated on site.

Lamb skewered on rosemary

Keeping Sam Kekovich happy. Cubes of lamb marinated in EVOO, paprika, and garlic and then threaded onto sticks of rosemary. Kept my rosemary bush under control. Leave some leaves at one end to sprinkle over the meat. Cooked in an oven and then taken off the sticks and piled on lettuce.

sporks Ash's nimble hands green chicken curry


Green Chicken Curry

Charmaine Solomon’s trick is to reduce some of the coconut milk over heat to about a quarter then add the paste and stir until the paste starts to release oil and then add the meat, stir until it’s cooked on the outside, and then add the rest of the coconut milk. Chopped green chilies and coriander are added at the very end. I used a few different cuts of chicken including a whole chicken cut up and the best was drumsticks. They were the cheapest cut and gave the juiciest meat which just dropped off the bone. I was a bit surprised by the popularity as I thought I’d just have it as a filler but everybody wanted some and sadly some folks missed out. I could only offer hugs as consolation.

deep fried wontons


Deep fried Chirashi Sushi and Prawn and Pork wontons

Mmm fried. While colder food suits the more receptive palate of the early evening, nothing suits the booze soaked tongue than a bit of fried food. Vinegared rice with soy and wasabi with shiitake, black mushrooms, and tree mushrooms in one. Pork, prawn, spring onion, chives and the same mushroom mix in the other. The first is vegetarian so you can keep vegetarians happy by serving the separately, unless you mix them up, which I did, and tell somebody it’s kind of vegetarian lucky dip and then be told that they’re vegetarian which was a tad insensitive on my part really. Fair enough. For person who didn’t like rice or fish and wasn’t around for the lamb though, tough titties I am forced to say.

Passionfruit, melon and vodka sorbet

and cleanse. Pulp is from a jar, melon adds volume, make some sugar water to taste, vodka makes it a little bit slushy. Too easy.

Cheese platter

Figs, grapes, crackers, one stinky, one soft, and one hard. For the browsers. Was having a bit of a chat about cheeses and one guest told me she doesn’t have cheese because her boyfriend doesn’t like it. Tsk, the feminist struggle is far far from over.

people eating my nosh general chaos one soft, one stinky, one hard and another one


A success. A haphazard and incoherent way to do it but I don’t think I could do it any other way. Handiest thing for the evening was my cook’s uniform. Kitchen’s in parties are messy places to work. People like to linger and chat, ask questions about where the glasses or bottle openers are, kids will run around, offer to help, and this is nice it’s not until 70% of the dishes are out that my head has unwound enough to appropriately deal with this. If I were wearing jeans when I say “no”, wave a cleaver at a child, or say “that’s a really bad place to stand” I’d just be that rude wanker in the kitchen. In uniform, I am that rude professional wanker in the kitchen. All in all a horrible mad stress filled thing to do but it’s doing things like this and getting through them that make us feel alive. Michael and Claire were lovely hosts. Toni, Ash (hands pictured above), and Malinda did the dishes and served stuff making an otherwise impossible job possible. It’s chuffing to have people come up and say nice things about the food or just watch a few under 60 eat your curry, and for complete strangers to offer to help. Oh the recently completely house is for sale if you’re in the Fremantle area – nice, very nice. The kitchen is still in one piece too.

quick the cake

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tonkotsu ramen

You have bones and you make soup. This simple economy that results in pork bone ramen is a great love of mine. AG also feels this love at Grab Your Fork with a ramen shop in Sydney.

Not for Perth though, I haven’t had good ramen here. Instead of pining, I have finally made my own. Most of the recipe came from a Japanese cookbook called 自分でつくるプロのラーメン“DIY Pro Ramen” and has enabled and frustrated my efforts. It’s a very busy book and the Japanese characters swim in front of me, laughing probably. It’s been more like the Voynich manuscript than cookbook. I was sure I was missing an important, whatever you do, don’t… line. The recipe ended up being a mix of recipes in the book, a bit of research on pork bone stocks, and the kind help of Keiko of the ah! Nordljus.

Tonkotsu Stock

release my porky delights
2kg of pork bones; 30cm piece of pork fat with skin; two pigs trotters; 10l of water

All the ingredients were bought at Wing Hong Butchers at 402 William Street in Northbridge. The place was heaving on Saturday morning, big run on pork bones. Not good for pop-in-the-oven crumbed schnitzel or whatever but great for getting all the bits.

The pig’s trotters are surrogates for a pig’s head, being an appropriate mix of skin, meat, fat, and bone. Just split them half way down. The bones are off-cuts from around the spine. Lacking is a couple of larger thigh bones, which no doubt have their own virtues. Not being completely sure about just putting the bones in water, I roasted the bones and the pigs trotters for half an hour before putting them in the boiling water. Roasting tends to make the flavour richer and you can deglaze the pan with a cup of water and add it to the stock. Let the bones and the trotters simmer away for half an hour making sure to scoop out any scum that rose to the surface. Roll and tie the pork fat and place in the water with the bones, skimming whatever comes up for another 10-15 minutes.

tonkotsu vegetables

4 onions; 5 carrots; a bunch of spring onions; two apples; one head of garlic; a large piece of konbu; a thumbsized piece of ginger.

Add all the ingredients. The only exception is the konbu which should be removed after 15 minutes. Konbu provides a natural form of the flavour enhancer MSG. Let it all simmer for 5 hours.

tonkotsu stock
Chasyu Pork

chashu pork
1 piece of pork belly; 1 cup of shoyu; 1/2 cup mirin; 1/2 cup of sake; 1 cup of the stock; a thumb sized piece of ginger – sliced.

Take a strip of pork belly, remove the skin and any bones and roll and tie. Let it cook in the stock for one hour and remove. Let it simmer for 20 minutes in the soy sauce mix and then leave to sit.

Assembly

Strain the stock. Using a trick from making Cassoulet, I pureed some of the pork fat and added it to the stock. Tonkotsu is unapologetically fatty.

Place a couple of tablespoons of the cha shu cooking liquid in the botom of the bowl. Add some eggs noodles and a couple of slices of cha shu. Pour the stock over, add a couple of strips of nori and garnish with finely chopped chives.

Tasting

It made me happy. I can see further room for improvement, the stock could have been stronger. Maybe it needs some chicken carcasses or the big bones. It would do for now, these people dedicate their lives to making thier ramen. My journey has just begun. I pondered this as I went off to see Shihad at the Rosemount, where I was assaulted by an unknown woman who squeezed my nipples. (hard!) With this and the huggy man of the QoTSA gig, I have to wonder what is going on in Perth’s live scene. On the night went. The Grapeskin Wine Bar will sell you a bottle of red wine at it’s after midnight gentlemen’s night, and if you’re hungry at 2am, then the City Garden ? Chinese Restaurant Shop 11, China Town, 66 Roe St, Northbridge will sell you food like ermmm szechuan chicken maybe.

Perth, it has everything.

 tonkotsu ramen with googies

Japanese food is not healthy, but it is catholic.

Catholic as in broad-in-scope rather than capital “C” Catholic*. Healthy food is eaten as a matter of course rather than interfere with the making. The secret to good Tonkatsu ramen is fat. Fatty fat pork fat giving it its creamy deliciousness and delightful adipose globules. It is the Eastern cousin of the Cassoulet.

tonchinnoodlepot

A goat recommended eatery in Ikebukero with the big shoes of the best ramen I had ever tasted. There was a queue. We had a couple of beers and watched in awe at the counter of some of the finest ramen kitchen performances we’d seen. The stock lovingly distributed into the bowls and the remaining bits of lard returned to the pot. Noodle strainers given a whiplike flip and constant shouting and repetition of greetings and orders. To say nothing of the complex personality dynamics – alpha man, side kick, the gimp, and then the obi-wan came out. The ramen? Superb. Ramen joy. I loved the soup and was impressed by the doneness of the eggs, with a slight gloss of life still in the yolk. Some dipute about it’s actual name, possibly Tonchin, but there’s a write-up in Tokyo Walker Plus

harajukuramen

This place in Harajuku is another fave but I can’t remember its name and can only say its across from Fujimama’s – a kind of ex-pat lets do brunch fave spot. [It's "Komen" - thanks Chika!] A line to wait here as well but I found it a little underwhelming when we got in to find the cooks just quietly going about their business. They did have gyouza, which I’d been hankering for and when I tried one there was an audible food pornographic grunt. Nice. The ramen stock here tended more towards fish for its kicks and this usually comes from dried bonito shavings called katsuobushi (not to be confused with katsuoboushi – a kind of headpiece made to resemble a fish for certain ceremonies). Not quite as silkily pleasurable as tonkotsu ramen but the garlic chips were a nice touch we thought.

harajukuramenkitchen harajukuramengyouza

*No offense, I would find an all male culinary group run buy a septuagenarian who had never eaten, taking it’s authority from a 2000 year old word of mouth cooking guide with most of the stuff written by the sous chefs, a dandy thing.

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guildertonhills

Wonder where Rob and Carita are; discuss industrial relations for two hours; enjoy cold Emu Bitter; try to remember lyrics of Buenas Tardes Amigos; make smoked cod chowder; forget to bring smoked cod; greatly enjoy Garbin Estate 2004 Chenin Blanc; attend local Art and Craft exhibition; buy ceramic plate and bowl and zucchini pickles and fig jam; Save Moore River; visit West Coast Honey; regrettably buy Carlton Draft at improbably decorated yet very likeable Gingin pub; engage in Gingin Catholic Church 12 Stations of the Cross drive-through; have tasty steak pie at Gingin cafe; watch 3.5 hours of the League of Gentlemen; marinate lamb roast in tapenade, EVOO, and rosemary; lard with garlic, tapenade, rosemary; cook to satisfaction with acoustic accompaniment, gravy, potatoes, brussel sprouts, and potatoes; wonder why a 750ml bottle of wine is too much and a 1.5 litre bottle never enough; open up Rob’s bottle of 10yo Bushmills; go for a canoe paddle; find friend with plastic zodiac craft instead; catch nothing; try to launch boat on beach through surf; lose bung; struggle to get on; release cray pots; try fishing again; release undersized fish; enjoy home grown pesto with garlic toast for dinner; wake up early; execute flawless beach launch; find cray post empty; make panckes; drive home.

Chowder:
Look, make one. It’s cheap and easy and all you have to do is know how to make a fish stock and you should know that. Yes you should. And chicken. And veal/beef.

Anyway, finely chop up an onion (smaller as the stock only takes 30 minutes) and toss in the outer skin as well for colour says the nice man at the Innaloo fish shop. Then add garlic, celery, and a couple of spring onions and sautee in butter.

Add the fish heads/ bones, enough water to cover, parsley, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain and salvage any tasty looking bits of fish.

Now the chowder.You can fry some more garlic and onion if you like. Add the fish stock and anything extra like parsley or a whole chilli. Add some chopped boiled potatoes, and let simmer (the potatoes will  help thicken the soup).

Make a quick roux by cooking flour in a similar amount of butter, add a little of the soup to the roux, stir, and then add the mix to the soup. Add any fish bits you’ve got or the mussels you’ve just carefully cooked. Heat. Stir in some cream. Season and serve over a piece of rye bread. Cheap and yum. No excuse for not making this, none. Pop quiz next semester.

chowdermooreriver lambroastmoooreriver mooreriverlambafter

Oi! Less foodly obsessed nice piccies over here.

hotsoursoup

Hot shopping day and felt like something spicy and limey that wasn’t a pertsovka, lime, and tonic. Made this little soup with what I had. You’re clever people, I don’t need to tell you how much of each thing do I?

Chicken Balls: (too late, joke’s been made) – hand minced free range chicken thighs; minced red chilli; minced spring onions; 1 tbs flour; 1 egg; sesame oil; soy sauce;. Mixed together well and dropped into soup with two spoons.

Soup: base of softened chopped onion, garlic, chilli and ginger. Then chicken stock; 2 star anise; fish oil; soy sauce.

Finish: Before serving put the stems of choy sum in the soup to cook a little. Serve the soup, add the leafy ends and two quarters of lime and serve.

Nice job, had the desired contrasts in a spaced out taste arena. Flaming Lips.

Also: Thanks to those who nominated spiceblog in a couple of categories* in the 2004 Food Blog Awards at the Accidental Hedonist. Made me turn bright red and coy. Nominating people is gut wrenching for me, it’s like Sophie’s Choice but without the accents.

And: a big hello to readers in Merredin and surrounding districts.

* -Best Food Blog / Best Post / Most Imporved Spelling. You can still get over there and say things like “yep” “hands down” and “without a doubt”.

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Franco-Canadian Lamb

France, Canada and New Zealand all in one by my Brother-in-Law. Gotta love it. Sent by my sister (oi! no big photo mails and thanks for the Easybeats and Elivs CDs) so photoshopped and up up it goes.

Jean’s Monday dinner:

“Grilled lamb cutlets on a bed of baby carrots, grilled zucchini and red capsicum served with home made Stella Bella pink muscat onion jam and fresh tomato salad”

Meanwhile at sibular spiceblog, a different tack with a kind of pho (and I’m using “kind of” as in yes I know it needs…) made from chicken stock from drumsticks, garlic, ginger, red chillis,cinnamon, onion,star anise, fish sauce, fried tofu, chinese greens and bamboo shoots quick wokked in sesame oil.

A lucky thing to be out of fish fingers.

Pseudo-ephedrine has its uses but it’s at cross-purpose to how colds should be treated so I’m resorting to folk remedies. The Japanese will wrap negi, the slender cousin of the leek, around their necks to cure colds. Unfortunately the side effects include excessive humiliation so the leek becomes a soup. I’ve added garlic as a catholicon.

ingredients:1 leek-sliced finely (white and green parts); 4 large potatoes- peeled and chopped; a cup of chopped sweet potato; 3 cloves of garlic- minced; 1 carrot – diced; bacon bones; 4 small handful of parsley-coarsely chopped; butter; salt and pepper

If the leek is sliced lengthwise first you can get a good look at the leaves to see if all the dirt has been rinsed out (apologies if you’ve never done this before). It’s then thinly sliced and softened gently with the butter. The garlic was added in the time it took to mince it. The carrot was an aromatic addition.

I wasn’t sure about using the bacon bones but they are a bargain and I used them instead of commercial stock. They were put in a litre or so of cold water to sit and let the flavour work its way out. By the time the leeks et.al had softened (about 20minutes) the water and the bones were added. In too went the parsley and the pot was left to gently simmer for 40 minutes.

I was thinking of Jerusalem artichokes for a twist but there weren’t any at the shops so I just added some thin sweet potatoes I had in the cupboard. They were added with the potato to the soup and left to simmer until cooked.

Then it was just a matter of removing the bones, waving the bamix wand around to puree it roughly and seasoning to taste.

Tasting

This was overloaded by traditional standards but muted in terms of strong/rich flavour components like stock, or the cream with crispy bacon bits that I’ve seen around. The resulting taste had just enough spaces to encourage investigation and thoughtfulness about it all. I feel better already.

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I was sucessfully badgered to join three friends doing this year’s Avon Descent to do a paddle through the “Tea Trees” – a 20km stretch of an immature river winding sharply through pointy branches and rocks.

3 hours in the middle of winter paddling, head butting my way through branches and falling off a log-like surf ski that eventually filled up with water. I had two things on my mind, a Weezer song and healing winter dinner.

I was going to do a bastardisation of a cassoulet but it was all too hard in my state. Instead I settled on pork and decided to braise it, inspired by something tasty I’d had at the Subi Pub and constant recent socio-political pinging. Went to the butchers and was getting the “we’ve got fillet” and “not much left” routine. Persisting, I said it was going to be braised with beer and there was a “why didn’t you say so” moment. We ceased being client/merchant and became equals – he told me he had some pork belly out the back. Out it came – “with or without bone?”, “With bone” – approving nod. He told me, lovingly, how he was going to trim it. For good measure I told him the rabbits looked great and I’d be back for one later.

The meal was based around a standard braising technique plus a quick skip around the net to see if I was on the right track. I chose Little Creatures Pale Ale as it’s a relatively sweet beer and I’ve been enjoying bacon with maple syrup a lot of late.

Pork

The pork was scored with a bit of salt rubbed on the top. I largely chopped a few aromatics – 1 leek, 2 carrots, and a stick of celery put them in the cast iron casserole dish with a little butter and put the pork belly, cut into two pieces, on top.

This went into a 190C oven until the pork was lightly browned on both sides. Then it was back onto the burner. 1.75 bottles of Pale Ale went in. Don’t worry, my wife (bless) knew I might be sad, so she got me a 6 pack rather than just the two I asked for. And added half a cup of chicken stock to bring the liquid half way up the meat. I added a bouquet garni and filled the pot with thinly sliced cabbage. Bought the pot up to a simmer, reduced it to an ever so gentle simmer, placed the lid on, and came back two hours later.

Took the pork out of the dish. I was unhappy with the “crackle” so I put them under the griller while I did the rest of the preparation. Cabbage and leek was taken out and kept and the rest was strained with the carrot and celery binned. The broth was kept on the burner in very token gesture to reduction.

Stoemp

I was disappointed that this is just a fancy Belgian way of saying mash – as a noun it would make a great verb and Wrestlers who dig exotic wordplay should take note. The mash was just boiled Royal Blue potatoes with buttermilk. According to the very useful Essentials of Cooking byJames Peterson, which I also used as a guide for the braise, it shouldn’t be done with a processer as it glugs up the starches, so I went back to old masher.

Serving

Stoemp as an island surrounded by a sea of broth with a sea pasture of cabbage and leek…that’s enough of that…pork on top. Fair compensation for a grim morning but would recommend reducing the broth a little further and darts as a sport. The flavour was strong enough and made a soup with the potato – beer soup, ponder that.

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