festivities

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Merry Christmas

 

doris dinner_6847_1

Back to Balingup again – lovely local food region and gateway to more lovely local food regions. Apparently it was once its own shire and duchy or something but anyway it does have a neat old town hall – the greater hall and the lesser hall. The greater for badminton and the lesser, well I got to use it.

I’d agreed to do a dinner of 50 or so while Doris (not to be confused with Japanese art noise stoner rock exponents, Boris) – one half of which is food writer/editor Jane Cornes – played an acoustic set. Once again our Southern foresty/valley region placed inordinate faith in my cooking skills and Katrina Lane of Taste of Balingup went one step further to get me back a second time. Fool me twice etc

Basic principles. We had lovely local lambs from Emu Park Lamb for killing and butchering. There were two long tables. I didn’t want to do a spit and I didn’t want to do platings and thought it would be nicer if people shared everything because that’s how I like eating. So I settled on doing the lamb three ways. One in the hope of being able to say ‘doing the lamb three ways was a pretty romantic night in Kojonup’ but also it’d offer a variety of flavours and interest and get the best out of each cut. There’s an excellent pig farmer nearby so I thought I’d do a pork terrine for entree so I could have everything good to go in advance and be nice and local in my produce use.

Anyway a lot was done but the fave of an evening where a lot of plates came back empty and I saw nothing of the lamb shoulder, the overall winner was the terrine. I kind of suspected this as when I tasted it for the first time, I asked that all guests be notified of the need for a spare set of underwear.

pork terrine orange and rhubarb jam

Appley Pork Terrine with Figs and Walnuts

3 kilos of pork – coarsely minced
3 kilos of pork belly – skinned and boned
1 kilo of duck livers
4 granny smith apples, peeled and grated
1 cup of chopped dried figs
1 cup of chopped walnuts
150ml calvados (or brandy) – to marinate the figs and walnuts in.
400ml of single cream
salt, pepper, bunch of thyme leaves

1kg of prosciutto – sliced at a thickness just above breaking into bits.

Pork was from Killara Pork in Boyup Brook. Butcher, Steve at Boyanup Meat Supply, did the mincing. I left the pork belly to myself and indulged in my seventh favourite thing in the world – reducing bits of meat to little chunks with a couple of cleavers. Clean and very finely chop the liver – to a paste.

Then just mix everything together. You can taste and adjust your mix by frying up little bits of it. Remember, it’ll be served cold, which dulls the flavours so increase the seasoning accordingly. In this terrine the liver compensates magnificently – it’s rich enough in flavour so that when the terrine is cold, you still get that punchy ‘mugh‘ you get from hot food. The lighter pork /appley flavours float on this like the synthesiser wash and horn section over the bass in The Slab

Wasn’t that great?

Once you’re happy with your mix, line loaf tins with greaseproof paper and then strips of the prosciutto. Fill with filling and fold over the prosciutto. Given it’s smaller than bacon, you will need to double up with coverage.

Pace in a water bath up two thirds up the sides and cook for at 180C for two hours. Meanwhile cut out little bits of cardboard the size of the top of your loaf tins and cover with foil – you may have seen these on Dr Who as the baddies. Take the tins out, allow to cool a little, drain off excess juices, put the ‘galagons’ on top of your terrine and then a heavy weight like a can of chick peas on top and put in the fridge.

I’ve got three days in the fridge for this somewhere and I think that would be optimal for slicing density. However, this stayed in for a day and was fine and cohesive when sliced and served.

pickled cauliflower

Accompaniments:

Rhubarb and Orange Jam: This recipe plus half a dozen star anise.

Candied Walnuts: this recipe. But very sweet so a light sprinkling of salt at the end (taste) made them more savoury, completely magnificent, and brought out the chilli and orange notes.

Pickled Caulifower: This Delia recipe. It’s awesome because she presses her pickles like the Japanese, which makes for crunchy. Mine’s quite different – just cauliflower and finely sliced onion. Apple cider. No idea what golden caster sugar is so just caster sugar. Garlic and a couple of teaspoons of sumac. Only kept it for 5 days rather than  a month or so but kept it nice and sharp – there was plenty of sweet to counteract.

the oven

 

Other Things for Mains

Won’t bore you with too much detail but – Marinated lamb rack with mushrooms and Lamb Shoulder with Juniper Berries – it’s a Marcella Hazan recipe that’s a lamb shoulder with a soffritto with a tablespoon or two of juniper berries and some rosemary, a couple of glasses of dry white wine and then cooked in a casserole dish at 130C for 5 hours with gradually increasing lid openings to reduce as you go along – or added wine if you get a bit carried away. And a Deboned Leg of Lamb Rubbed with Sumac - nothing tricky if I recall correctly, just a lovely leg of deboned lamb rubbed down and marinated with olive oil and a few tablespoons of sumac.

salad radish and broad bean slow cooked lamb with juniper berries

salad butterflied lamb with sumac carrots

There was also the bulgur for the Lamb with sumac – boiled in vegetable stock and then sauteed sliced leek and finely diced zucchini stirred through. A radish, broadbean and green tahini salad and a mixed herb salad - both from the Ottolenghi cookbook I’ve been borrowing heavily from. The vegetables and green were all brought from just down the road at Newies in Kirup and they’re produce is always very special – not many places will pop out the back to pick more basil for you. Katrina made roasted artichokes, which were brought in by the grower, and dutifully went through the not fun process of prepping them while I made sure various things weren’t burning. Oh and lots of carrots for some reason. Many of them heirloom – slow roasted with honey nd served with yoghurt and sesame seed.

And

Yes well it went very well. I got it out with some excellent help from my ace team of helpers. My only meltdown was a sense of humour blackout that lasted an hour and the only technical fault was a cooler than expected oven, which slowed the ribs down. The music was fun and delightful. The crowd a good one and perhaps the hi-light was David from Emu Park thanking me for cooking his lamb and getting it right. Easy to do, it was great lamb and when you have good produce, you let it speak. Once (before?) dessert – the frangipane tart with maple syrup double cream and fresh berries – was done, the calvados came out and more fun was had.

 

frangipani tart with maple syrup double cream

 

 

Should be close to 60 by now but possibly tickets left for a night of food and music. Music mercifully not by me. Should have put this here earlier but since a third of my readers live in Guam and another third live in Philadelphia, PA – moot. Details at Taste of Balingup

A moustache is like a skeleton key that opens doors to social circumstance.

I don’t know what the above means, or even what it has to do with this post but it was said on the day of the happy occasion of the wedding and moustache insights are auspicious.

This all began at a Dumas talk and dinner for 16 I did at regional food champion Taste of Balingup, which was pretty much as good a mix of fun and nonsense I could have hoped for. One of the friend guests (as opposed to complete stranger guests) asked if I did wedding and if I could do cocktail food for her wedding in Pemberton and I said ‘sure!’ and banged up my bona fides. Normal people might ask a details question like ‘how many people?’ They probably also ask questions like ‘is this thing on?’ or ‘it this pan hot?’ and the like. So it turned out to be 130 and while I’d say I was anxious and wildly out of my depth, I also get anxious making what I’ve trumped up to be ‘a nice sandwich’.

I’m also not an especially good and organised self-motivator so my self improvement strategy is to commit to something out of my league, and do it. Anyway the only way I could get through this is with my smarts and what it would require was strategy and tactics – something you don’t forget when you’ve spent 5 years in the jungles of Afghanistan fighting Maoist rebels.

First thing – staff of me and maybe somebody else.
So – couldn’t be faffing around with ovens, fryers, or carrying around lots of trays.

Second thing – I imagine a hungry mob devouring everything in seconds in a great fury of feasting and then turning on me.
So would require some kind of choke point and delaying device. Essentially funnelling a wall of guests into a smaller space – essentially what we refer to as a ‘kill zone.’

What I eventually come up with was a series of tasty foods in jars that I could prep in advance and then, basically, when I could there, just crack open some lids. Prep was also key as the budget can be hauled in nicely if you cook things from scratch. It takes more time, but the results are there.

Very handy was the use of a professional kitchen at a lovely winery in a lovely place. I don’t know if they want to associate their kitchen with my faffing about but lets just say ‘mislaid body of water’. Professional kitchens, as well as making you feel all professional like, are great because they have big hot ovens, lots of wipeable stainless steel, big sinks and everything is hanging up or out in the open so you don’t spend half your time searching through kitchen draws for where somebody’s put the ladle. Lots of tea towels too.

Also very handy was help from a somebody who knows what they’re doing and daughter and a home ec student on the morning and during the day. You can never underestimate the value of being able to ask someone to do something and having people there so you don’t ‘lose your shit’ and ‘start sobbing uncontrollably.’ Also handy if someone forgot to put two soft eskies full of sauces and jellies in his car when moving over to the venue.

Results

Well, very well, if I might say so myself. Nobody died and the food was well-received, eaten, complimented on, and some said they ‘loved me’. The food lasted through the hour or so of drinks and this was because people could come over and leisurely help themselves to little bits of food. Food that was carried around on trays (pfffft so old school) – the gougeres – was scarfed down in short order.

The wedding as a whole, I couldn’t fault (apart from the short 80s pop dance set) – the weather was gorgeous, the avacado farm it was on looked stunning, the lovely couple more so, the flash mob ceremony was inspired, they played Franz Ferdinand, there was meat and cake, the company delightful, the booze didn’t run out and the bus left at 2am.

Food notes below.

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Smoked and Cured Salmon in a Jar

Salmon. I’ve you haven’t had, or aren’t planning to have, a child of your own then four freshly filletted 1kg slabs of salmon is as much a source of home arrival pride as one could ask for. If you’ve used a knife, you’ve never enjoyed it so much as seeing thin orange and white strips peeling off under the gentle pressure of a yanagibocho. If you’ve eaten salmon off a shiny gold bit of cardboard and not coated in light but complex flavoured olive oil, then my condolences.

The salmon was the inspiration for the whole jar strategy, having seen salmon in a jar in French Saveur a couple of years back. I couldn’t find the copy but I did find this recipe on the internets.

Half the salmon was ever so lightly smoked with soaked hickory bark in a smoker box in my lidded barbecue. Basically just keep the smoke ticking along for 15 minutes or so to infuse, but not cook, the salmon. After that it’s on to the gravlaxing.

For the gravlax part, I combined a few things but this recipe is pretty much it + some juniper berries, which end up make it more gin cured.

 

Duck Liver Paté

Pretty much this recipe from Vogue Entertaining without the slightly gauche gold leaf; the addition of some chicken livers; and the replacement of vinocotto with some sherry to deglaze the pan. Four kilograms of it – good grief. Terrible to get into jars when hot – goes everywhere.

The bread that went with it was par-baked baguettes and they’re great. 15 minutes at 180C with a bowl of water in the oven for some moisture and they’re beautifully crisp and hot. The alternative was taking baguettes up with me and having them two days old for the wedding so, no.

Albany Oysters with Champagne and Virgin Mary Jelly

Albany oysters are small and sweet and I had 13 dozen delivered to my home. They’re still alive when delivered and keep well in the fridge with a wet towel over them. They’re designed to live a while when the tide drops down. This does mean they’re alive when you shuck them, which is a little sad. But given they don’t write books about shagging lots of younger lady oysters as a way of dealing with their own impending mortality, I don’t think they dwell on it too much.

Make sure you use a tea towel to hold the oyster down so the shucker doesn’t go through your hand. Force should be required as really all you’re doing is severing a couple of tendons at the pointy end. Albany oysters seem a bit trickier to open and it’s not just operator error. Not a big deal with a dozen but with 13 dozen, it did add up. Given them half an hour to open up a bit out of the fridge.

A trick I learnt is if you don’t want to spend all the event shucking oysters. Shuck, them and tip the oyster and the juices into a container. Pop in the fridge and then just pop some oysters and collected juice back into the shell. It avoid oysters sitting around drying out on an open shell and as an added bonus, grit settles to the bottom.

The jelly is just dry sparkling white with gelatine and the other mix up a virgin mary. 3 titanium leaves of gelatine per 500ml of each. No need to heat the wine or the virgin mary but do soak the leaves for a few minutes in cold water. Then put them in a small amount of hot water to dissolve before stirring through, allowing to set and cutting into small cubes.

Marron with Shaved Fennel, Chilli and Garlic

Marron, if you, don’t know, are freshwater crustaceans about 8 inches long, tip to tail. They have claws on the ends of their legs and beautiful, sweet, delicate flesh. Pemberton is famous for them. These were freshly caught, purged, cooked and shelled and delivered to me. Sweet.

These were a worry because if you cook something that’s a local specialty, you can only really fuck it up. So a light touch. A dozen or so marron. A big mason jar with olive oil. A few crushed cloves of garlic. A red chilli and half a finely shaved fennel bulb. Just doled it out to smaller jars at the wedding.

Enormously popular and well received – may have been out of towners but chalking it up as a win.

Cherry Tomatoes stuffed with White Anchovies

Nothing graceful about making these. Hull and stuff with a quarter to a half of a white anchovy. Coat in some of the white anchovy marinade. Interesting because they look like the peppers stuffed with goats cheese but aren’t so ahhh surprise!

Martini Olives

Vodka, vermouth as per usual. Soak whole green olives for a few hour. Drain and keep marinade and serve olives. Shake marinade with ice and serve  to yourself with twist of lemon.

Gougere with Smoked Tomato Sauce

Recipe from the very good cookbook, Mr Wilkison’s Favourite Vegetables, from the very genuinely talented and funny chef Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan, Melbourne fame. Buy it.

Gougeres are like savoury cheesey profiteroles. The fantastic thing about them is that they freeze very well. Bake, pop on a tray with greaseproof paper and covered with clingfilm, and then once they’re frozen, pop them in a zip lock bag. When you’re ready, just put them frozen on a tray, eggwash them, sprinkle some parmesan and cook until golden in a 180C oven.

I smoked the tomatoes by soaking hickory chips and putting it at the bottom of a wok. Place a rack above the chips, place the tomatoes on the rack and cover with foil. Then heat outside on a portable burner. The tomatoes will only lightly cook but the smoke will pervade.

They’re pronounced goo zhair but will  inevitable be referred to ‘cheesy puff things’

And don’t overfill your pastry bag. Ever

Celery dunked in Virgin Mary

Yeah , yeah, crudites. But they’re crunchy, clean the mouth and palate and look lovely piled in a glass with a few leaves and the green offset with the bloody mary red. I think 3 sticks were eaten. Tsk.

Smoked Almonds

I bought these, aren’t I clever?

Truffle Popcorn

Easy and bulky carbs for the hungry. Make popcorn. Toss with truffle salt and place in large mason jar. Great and just a hint of truffles. Got through two jars.
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Or as we can say in the rough and rumblous new world of social media, ‘a fuckload’. Just shipped up from Albany for me.

Doing drinks food / aperitifs / nibblies / amuse bouche / whore’s dwarves* / snacks for a wedding of 130 souls on Sunday. There will be adventures, maybe there will be stories.

Did you know that they’re still alive as they’re able to live outside of water to allow for tidal fluctuations. Anyway things to do, jars to fill.

*Plot spoiler for GoT

Also: half of quite a bit of salmon for some ‘gravel relax’.

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smoked duck and plum salad

6 years ago we went out and bought half a dozen bottles of a Katnook Estate ’98 Cab Sav. ’98 because that was the year we got married and half a dozen because I think that’s what we could afford. We enjoyed the last of the six last night and despite chucking a bit of a crust, as they say, it had done nicely over the years. I’m now going to have to trawl the internet auction sites for a replacement (wine that is).

The dinner was a day late because of what we will refer to as “The Gift of the Pixies”, where at one stage I’d unwittingly bought my wife a ticket to go and see a concert with my friend on our wedding anniversary. It worked out well in the end, I was bought a ticket, my Mum looked after young pudding and a complete performance of Doolittle under the stars at Belvoir Ampitheatre with what seemed to be an encore of half of Surfer Rosa was a very.good.thing.

Anyway, recipes …

EntreeSmoked duck, plum and rocket salad with an orange dressing
Easy as it is tasty. The smoked duck breast was from Holy Smoke. I gently warmed it up by frying it skin side down in pan until it browned up every so slightly and released some of the duck fat (more on that later). Slice the duck
Slice the cheeks off the plums – local, fresh and gorgeous – and the remaining bits you can chop up roughly to distribute more finely through the salad.
The dressing was three parts orange juice to one part EVOO and a pinch salt and sugar to taste.

Toss the duck breast and plums in a bowl gently with some rocket and some dressing.

MainsIndividual Beef Wellingtons

Admittedly this does seem like something you’d serve a retired Major but it was a good match for the wine.
It does have additional nostalgic form. We had beef wellington at our first proper, birthday, dinner party; the dessert was done at a catering gig we did, and duck breast is a constant fave.

Season and sear two beef fillets all over and allow to cool. If you tie them in the middle, it serves as a kind of corset, plumping and rounding them up nicely.
Duxelles are a beef wellington must have and you make them by chopping up a good handful of mixed mushrooms, half an onion and a couple of garlic cloves and sauteeing in plenty of butter. Allow to cool.
Roll out the puff pastry, place the fillet in the middle, place the duxelles in any gaps and place a slice of blue cheese on top. Wrap with the puff pastry (I did it with my gift wrapping skills, which are rubbish YMMV) make sure it’s sealed properly. Then brush with an egg wash and cook in a 190C oven for about 20-25 minutes for medium.

Served with brussel sprouts. Peel them back well, as the outer leaves tend to be more bitter. Boil and refesh under cold water and then fry gently in the duck fat you were reading about in the entree. There were baby zucchini which I sliced like a fan and then roasted in the oven with some EVOO.
The sauce was the steak pan deglazed with red wine and then adding some sauteed chopped mushrooms and leaks. A couple of heaped spoons of double cream, stirred in well and reduced.

DessertPuff pastry biscuits with berries
Take a spare strip of puff pastry, sprinkle it with caster sugar, roll it up, slice it in half lengthwise (you should have two spirals rather than a series of concentric half hoops), flatten the pieces gently, and cook in the oven for 7 minutes.
Simmer half a cup of fresh blueberries with a good splash of vanilla brandy (keep a small bottle filled with brandy and a vanilla pod in it – endlessly useful) and a teaspoon or two of sugar to make a coulis.
Biscuit on plate, then dollop of double cream, splash of coulis and a scattering of blueberries.

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Vince Garreffa tells us that you should cook every dish twice; once for yourself and then for your guests. Such careful hospitality is lost on me. I’m a ‘sharing the journey’ host.

Plan
One large salmon. Instead of merely poaching it, I’d make a court bouillon, freeze the court boullion, place the frozen boullion in a vacuum sealer bag with the whole salmon, vacuum seal the bag and then cook it sous vide. Remove gently cooked salmon from bag, remove skin and cover with cucumbers to resemble scales.

The logic was impeccable. The salmon would be gently poached in water but trapped in a sealed bag with a smaller volume of flavoursome stock. The genius part was freezing the court bouillon so it didn’t end up being sucked into the pump of the vacuum sealer. It also meant it could be done well ahead of time without the fish marinating.

salmon sealed

Reality
In retrospect, when the salmon was sealed in a bag with what looked like a pink urinal cake, it should have been a sign of trouble to come but it all came with sound reasons. The carrots, red onions and the white wine turned the court boullion into a pinkish shade. It was just unfortunate that I chose a flat bottomed pudding bowl to freeze it in.

Moving on. Three kilogram salmon are long. Long than any pot or dish you’ll own and longer than any commercially available disposable roasting tray. I used the disposable roasting tray and it looked like a tall man who’d mistakenly booked in for a night at a hobbit bed and breakfast. The weight of the salmon slowly pushed down the sides and simmering water would leak out onto the burners until they filled with water and made a sad gurgling sound.

At this point I realised I had to either change tack or accept the fact that guests would have to suffer food poisoning. It was a tough call but I eventualy wrapped the half poached salmon in foil and tried to fit it in the oven to finish it off. It fitted at an angle, once I snapped the tail off and was eventually cooked at a gentle temperature.

Redemption
The good bit was that I sliced a whole burpless cucumber on a mandoline without losing any bits of fingers. Skin taken off the salmon and the grey bits gently scraped off and the cucumber ‘scales’ added – they hid the ‘join’ on the tail.
It was also damned tasty.
poached salmon

Notes: the court bouillon I used comes from here and adjusted – half a bottle of Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, a cup of water, a handful of parsley, a twigs of thyme, half a dozen peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, a chopped red onion, one sliced carrot, one sliced stick of celery with leaves, juice of half a lemon and a tsp of salt.
Simmered for half an hour and then strained.

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melton mowbray pie
The good thing about Melton Mowbray is not only that it sounds like a place in Leicestershire, it actually is a place in Leicestershire. It’s also modifies the noun ‘pie’ to make a pie from said town that uses fresh rather than cured pork. The addition of eggs makes it a ‘gala’ pork pie and if the first thing you thought of was Dali’s wife, you’ll probably enjoy this.

Melton Mowbray pie has EU Protection of Desginated Orgin protection so this, technically, isn’t that.

The model recipe I used is the V-Tol Veal Ham and Egg Pie Recipe, which was made by Gordon Bedson, who also designed aircraft and the Mackson. Anyone like to drive a car built by Nigella Lawson? Didn’t think so.

The recipe isn’t hard but it does require doing several different things correctly. They are – making a hot water paste, boiling some meat, boiling eggs and making a jelly. The V-tol recipe explains the technical details well.

As I was using fresh pork (a bit of fillet) rather than ham, to bump up the flavour I marinated it for a few hours in white wine and a mix of bay leaf, thyme, parsley, rosemary, juniper berries and peppercorns.

The pork went into a saucepan with the marinade and herbs along with a small rack of veal and a pig’s trotter. It was then filled with water to cover and simmered for 30 minutes – skimming as necessary. After removing the pork, I kept the veal bones and the pig’s trotter in there to make a heartier stock and boost the natural gelatine. I let it simmer for another 30 minutes before filtering the stock in a seive with some paper towel in it and then reducing the filtered stock to just two cups.

By this stage you should have a pile of cubed pork and veal. Allow it to cool.

Take the reduced stock and add a leaf of gelatine that you’ve dissolved in a little heated sherry and white wine (actually it might have been calvados and white wine but I can’t remember).

Make the hot paste. It’s actually very similar to a choux pastry but with lard instead of butter, and no eggs in it. The boiling water/lard combo smells, but kneading the warm fluid dough to smoothness is surprisingly relaxing. Roll out and line a greased springform pan with it – reserving some dough for the top of the pie.

Boil the eggs – 10 minutes in boiling salted water and cool them under cold running water to stop the cooking.

So… a covering layer of meat, then encircle the eggs around the middle and fill with meat. Place pastry on top, seal the edges with a back of a spoon. Decorate suitably with the excess pastry and brush with an egg wash. It’s important to make a couple of breathing holes. Put a foil trumpet in them to allow steam to escape while cooking. These holes become useful later.

Place it all in a 200C oven for 80 minutes – just keep an eye on it to make sure the pastry doesn’t burn.

Now you just need to pour the stock into the pie via the breathing holes. It’ll take a couple of goes as it settles. Leave the pie in the fridge to cool and then serve as part of a low maintenance all meat cold buffet as illustrated below.

cold buffet

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yeah it's blurry

You can stop blurry photos like the above with a tripod, which is a three-legged thing. It’s interesting to note that there are few naturally occurring three-legged things.*

Tajines, and stop me if you’ve heard this before, refer to both the lidded slow cooking dish and the slow-cooked braise that’s cooked in it. English is reluctant to accept such ambiguity and if you’ve ever almost eaten a toaster, you’ll know why.

There are more than a few recipes for a tajine but I really like adding dried, or fresh, fruit such as chopped apricots, figs, sultanas and dates. I also like using lamb necks but shanks and diced mutton also works well. They all just melt together; you can’t identify the apricots and if you cook it long enough, you’ll just have to fish out a few bones.

It’s not dissimilar to a curry. The basic process is sautee the onions in olive oil /stir/ add the spices /stir/ add the meat and seal, then whatever fruit and veg you’re using /stir/ then the stock /stir/ and cook very slowly for a few hours with the lid on.

For spices I usually use a couple of tablespoons of ras al hanout and add a few strands saffron with the stock; meat – as mentioned; fruit – ditto; vegetables – usually diced sweet potato and then a tin of chopped tomatoes and soaked chickpeas but yes they’re pulses; enough stock – not so much to cover as to keep it all moist when lidded.

The spices are really only so much riffage on cumin and if you grind it fresh, you’ll not go wrong. Cinnamon quill? Why not.

You can add some chopped coriander at the end to lift it as well as some chopped and roasted almonds.

Another technique is to marinate the meat overnight in a combination of the spices, olive oil, a finely grated onion, and a bunch of chopped coriander and then add the lot to the pan. Seal the meat and then move to the adding the fruit and vegetables stage.

The complete dinner was home made olives, kofta and kangaroo kebabs cooked over charcoal, lots of lebanese bread, hommous, yoghurt, and the tajine with mograbieh and a beetroot salad. Tasty cheese platter and delicious homemade apple pie made an appearance. Myatt’s Field do a very nice tempranillo and eating the meal took the good part of five hours. Hot topics were iPods and children.

*I’ll acknowledge that ants have two sets of three legs.

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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]

sausages 2

Much more so than strolling through Bangkok in a pale flared Pierre Cardin suit and smoking Sobranie cocktail cigarettes, making sausages has always defined exoticism for me. There’s been a sausage shaped hole in my life and on the weekend, I filled it – in abundance.

Simple principle – everyone brings their favourite meat mix, we make sausages and we eat them. The fact that no-one, including myself had ever made them before was no impediment. I had 30 metres of pig casings soaking, a kenwood mincer attachment and a long red funnel thing. The golden rule is fat – Vince Garreffa says 20% minimum and you listen to Vince. Roll the casings onto the funnel – like you might for an ambitious condom purchase, tie a knot in the end, pop a couple of holes in to let the air out, crank the mincer up and twist every sausage length in opposite directions.

And it’s great. It’s such an earthy thing to do. It’s sex, it’s death; it’s shit, it’s food; it’s delicate, it’s brute force. It’s like Pasolini in pork. Bits of meat everywhere; someone pointing out that ‘an animals been shitting in that all its life; instructions to roll as a man,not as a lady; the firming of flesh – it’s not for the weak of heart or the repressed of spirit. I think we made about twelve kilograms of sausages with nearly as many different mixes. Sausages were cooked, enjoyed and magpies hung around our house for the next week.

carnage

Given that amateur sausage is a dying art for the amateur, I’m thinking that with quite a few kids around on the day, that at least that one of them might get me through to the next century as ‘the person that made their own sausages’. It’s the quiet hope of a mortality addressing near-forty year old. I also hope they remember the completely awesome birthday cake.

A completely awesome cake

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oysters and trout

Can you knock off work, get to the shops, attend to jobs like bathing child, and bang out a very respectable 10th anniversary dinner? Yes you can.

Get oysters from reputable fishmonger (shucked – unless spending that special night with a DIY stigmata is your thing).
Get a lime. Lop the ends off. Segment. And then trim off the central pith.
Buy goat’s cheese and leave to soften on the bench.
Buy reputable smoked ocean trout. (tetsuya has just got some out)
Lay evenly on a piece of glad wrap.
Spread goats cheese over it.
Place it on a bamboo sushi mat and roll. The trick is peeling the glad wrap out of the way, for obvious reasons. Place it in the fridge to chill. And then slice into rounds.

Easy – impress your friends. In fact, if you had a nice bottle of sparkling chilling in the fridge and maybe cooked a few asparagus in butter to have on the side; you’d have a pretty special meal all in itself.

carpetbagger steak

We had a bottle of 1998 shiraz (the fourth of six) so the match was a rib of aged Dandaragan Organic Beef. I stuffed this with few oysters by making a pocket with a boning knife and then sealing it with toothpick. Seared, then put in the oven to cook. Quick wine and cream jus made in pan. Zucchini flowers cooked in a little butter. Green things (radish sprouts? can’t remember) tossed with a little very good EVOO and salt and pepper. And that’s it.

Memo to me for dessert: use foil when blind baking tart shell to avoid having to dig out dried broadbeans.

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farm lamb sunday roast

It’s been quite a big fortnight for me and I mean quite big in the same way that a werewolf Sean Connery would be quite hairy (although not on top, which would raise the possibility of a combover werewolf; terrifying yet also funny in a sad kind of way. “You know you’re not fooling anyone…aiiiieeeeeeee”)

Anyway two weeks ago Eva was born and it does not so much turn your life upside down as create its own space in your brain that squashes everything else out of the way. Although not in a way that creates a large bulge in my forehead and the urgent need to take a piss every thirty minutes. She’s also absolutely adorable and makes me laugh, which are great qualities to start life with.

We also managed to get issue 10 of SPICE off to the printers. Well when I say we, I mean everyone else and me distractedly checking commas and apostrophes and asking if it’d kill us if we got it out on the 7th instead of the 1st.

The other thing was the family farm’s clearing sale, last Friday. A clearing sale is a kind of garage sale but with heavy machinery and drinks afterwards. It also means that the family farm is sold and so ends my father’s forty years on a wheat and sheep farm and my family’s 80 year ownership of the wheatbelt property.I grew up there and it was as a good a childhood as anyone could want – I was rarely priveleged. By my teens, the appeal had waned; it became holiday farm work through uni; and by my twenties I’d supplanted my home town of twenty with the 14 million person megalopolis of Tokyo. Although things changed on the farm there was always something I could relate that linked to some part of my life. On the day, most of theses things were lain out in straight lines in the paddock and all that was left in the workshop were the neatly painted labels of where the tools once went.

It was a hot day, the wind blew with dust all day, my first car struggled to raise $50, and I’ve never enjoyed a can(s) of mid-strength beer so much. The sale went well beyond all expectations, I only got one ‘why didn’t you take over the farm’ question, and a lot of people weren’t shy in saying how they’d miss my Dad.

I took two things with me; the Cramphorne wool bale stencils and a leg of lamb from the freezer. This was from one of the sheep on the farm and, as they aren’t there anymore, it’s the last of the lamb. I roasted it old-style with garlic and rosemary stuffed into slits in the meat and we had our Sunday roast together. Eva didn’t quite make it up to the farm and she’s a few months away from solids but whatever Toni eats, she gets eventually. And so in an odd, indirect way, the farm became part of her.

filing cabinet farm lamb

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A small person

As a believer in music as the companion of all good things in life, I’ve always been taken by Californian friend and how on the day his child was born, Beautiful Day by U2 came on the radio and he started crying. As I drove home in what would be a quick stop on the way to hospital the iPod gave me What’s Inside a Girl? by the Cramps. Three and a half hours later I found out.
It’s another girl.

seven pounds and one ounce

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pineapple holder

A lot of people underestimate the power of a little presentation to turn food, into an occasion, not me.

PS If you anyone can fabricate a bar-sized version of this – mail me with a quote.

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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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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moulinex


This was given to me by Carita’s mum. I’ve only met her once but she was lovely enough to remember that I loved her crock pots and thought that I might like this. I did and I do. It’s got a heap of nifty attachments but my fave is the meat grinder, all I need is a sausage attachment and I’m set.
Which just makes me think… at this time of year it may seem like you’re being stuffed into a chute, torn apart in an auger and stuffed through small holes but there’s a lot of love out there this time of year, and if you’re lucky, you might just make some sausages.
And on that Christmas thought, whether you’re having a big family do, a bottle of booze at the beach or on the sofa, or just trying to get that office lady your co-workers set you up with off to a love hotel before the last train, have a lovely one. Thanks to all those who have called in here over the year – it’s been a pleasure. I’ve made and kept some lovely friends over the year (and ahmm I’ll be writing over the holidays) thanks t’ blogging and thanks also for your support for my move into the world of tree-based publishing.
Cheers all
Anthony
xx
o

trout bound in pink


Four caught trout given to me by a friend on return from a trip down south, wrapped in silicone ties sent to me by a Flickr friend in California in return for sending a song with the same name as her by a Japanese punk band which was downloaded by shareware from somebody with that particular song on their computer somewhere. Eaten with friends who bought beer and wine while we faffed around with a guitar that had been given to me in Japan with a distortion pedal that my brother in law loaned to me when I had birthday breakfast with my Dad who had given me two boning knives previously, one of which I gave to our guests at the end of the evening.

trout


Trout rubbed with ras al hanout and stuffed with almond, date and orange couscous. Served with an orange and fennel salad, and kipfler potatoes with fennel and mustard mayonnaise.

And speaking of good stuff, Chika reviews my ahmmm house さようなら、おうちレストラン. Kind of like Hello! magazine but not naff.

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happy birthday to me


Well yeah it was my birthday weekend. I’d tried for birthday week of celebration to get make all sorts of unreasonable demands but no such luck. I am a birthday princess.

Saturday was spent making a cassoulet for a surprise birthday party for a friend. It’s not technically difficult but it does require your attention for the good part of an afternoon. The finished product is the combination of six different manifestations of pork and a duck. It’s pork and bean casserole but then The Crucible is about witches ‘n stuff. Fabulous middle of winter party food for a party of 20 and you get to find out what a pureed half a kilo of so pork fat and skin and 15 garlic cloves looks like. Here’s an explanatory flowchart I made two years ago which kind of makes sense.

cassoulet map


Sunday was my birthday and I decided that people could bring an intrument along and mess about. The garage was dutifully tidied and after a slow nervous start it all became magnificent. Quality playing but I think putting the cello through a wah wah pedal via a big muff (no not that) to a Fender Bassman was particularly inspired. So impressive I didn’t get to play the opening bit of Iron Man for several hours. Total instruments were two electric guitars, two acoustic guitars, one bass, a cello, those little hand cymbal things, a shakey basket thing, maraccas, a tamborine, a didgeridoo and a harmonica. I’ll have to make this a regular thing at Maison Floreat, there’s much to be said for this eating, drinking, music thing.

Oh food – I spent most of the time faffing around in the kitchen making steamed pork ribs, pork belly, san choi bow, and fried rice vowing that I wouldn’t mess about in the kitchen so much next time. Helpful hint – don’t defrost packets of dumplings before you need them.

A good swag of pressies, apparently I’m a discerning alcoholic and foodie. Somebody was asking before about ceramic knives. I got one from Toni and they do look like some kind of ‘safety knife’ for special little cooks but they are facking sharp and my lacksadaisical attitude meant trimming a bit of nail and skin off my index finger. Bottles of stuff to go in the ‘save for nice’ department, objet d’art, flip flops, and bric a brac, a handmade beanie from Kate which you’ll no doubt be seeing, and a late arrival in the handmade department from Crafty (you should check it out)

37. Friends, they age with you.

curry buffet


Friday bring-a-curry dinner for six. Rude amounts of food, if we’d ended up having the naan bread as well, we would have come close to meeting the entire calorific consumption of Bangladesh for 1973. Bloody marvellous with each dish having the full attention of each maker so there was no can’t-be-arsed fade off for dishes four and five. I made a Charmaine Solomon curried duck with potatoes and cabbage (I subbed the cabbage for silverbeet leaves for a bit more oomph) as well as a mint and spring onion chutney and half a litre of cucumber raita – bringing the total up to 1.5 litres. Strategy of eating a bit, waiting, and going back later, proved most successful in making a dent in it all. Passing the time was our host’s very good idea of everybody bringing a CD with their ten favourite songs on it, loading them all up, and then putting it all on random. Guess the person’s song was fun and it there’s much pleasure in listening to music that’s outside your regular tastes but carefully chosen and an education. There was no Jive Bunny, nor were there 60 Pixies songs.
Dire Straits appeared and that was AOK by me. Verse/Chorus/Verse/Chorus proved rarer towards the end of the evening in favour of fade out/in/out and through composed bits of Eighty’s epicdom. No fights either. Something very Rawlsian about it but I’m not sure what. Not an easy thing to pick 10 and I ended up with an undecisive set with a few hybrid songs to fill a few gaps and round it out a bit.
My eventual top 10 were AC/DC-Ballroom Blitz; Groove Armada – I See You Baby; Shake – Kristin Hersh;
Sonic Youth- Kool Thing ; Queens of the Stone Age – First it Giveth ; Butthole Surfers – Sea Ferring; The Stooges – I Wanna Be Your Dog; Pixies – Here Comes Your Man; Anthrax and Public Enemy – Bring the Noise; Matthew Sweet – Evangeline.
No arguing.

eating

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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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terrine de mère et de fille


Sunday was the Fremantle Family Food Fiesta and Jeff the photographer and me decided to make an appearance with our loved ones on behalf of the mag. For those that like their fun highly organised, this was a treat with rules stretching to over two pages. The theme was the family’s favourite dish and this, with both of us having fairly bog standard Australian food childhoods, left us non-plussed. Unlike other foodies who could successfully write an essay within the given 50 minute period “Becoming a foodie was inevitable, discuss, giving examples with special emphasis on the period leading up to the event”. Pens down. My home food was neither especially bad or especially extraordinary, just food to feed a family with some variety with a supermarket 30 miles away. My mum though would always make a platter, or “plate”, for local dances and as these became kind of signature dishes for each family, I thought I’d recreate it, but in aspic. Not that it ever was in aspic but it’s a tasty enough allusion to the way we suspend and organise our memory.

It’s not an overly intimidating thing to make. All the work is creating the aspic. Unless you’re happy with commercial stocks, you’ll be making your own chicken stock. I ended up making a consomme and a good explanation of the hows and whys is here. A few things to think about. I used three teaspoons ofgelatine for 500ml of stock and added an extra teaspoon for hot weather. This balanced well – you don’t want it turning into chum but then again you don’t want something with the consistency of silastic. The stock should have its own gelatine from the bones and a good one gels in the fridge. If I’d done the chicken stock again, I would have a added a veal bone or tried to track down a calves foot. Failing this, maybe given a pig’s trotter a bit of a look.

As for the interior bits, I roasted a whole free-range chicken with sage, lemon, and butter. Butter and sage under the breast skin, lemon up the jacksie, and a good butter and seasoning all over. Shred.
Boiled four free-range eggs for 9 minutes and then refreshed in cold water to stop the cooking process. Working from memory, the fresher the eggs, the more likely you’re going to have a nice sharp junction between the yolk and the white.
Chopped up a small jar of gherkins and a small jar of small red cocktail onions.

I use a sharp rectangular bread tin-no need to oil or line with wrap. Pour a thin layer of aspic on the bottom and allow it to set (in the freezer if you keep a sharp eye on it) and then decorate with three egg halves and assorted shapes of gherkin and onion. Top with more chicken and chopped egg gherkin, chicken, and onion mix. I let it set again at the half way point to keep it all a bit loose and have a greater proportion of jelly. Fill again to a smidgen below the top and cover with aspic.
Get a piece of box the size of the tin, wrap it in foil, and place on top with a weight (eg bottle of beer) leave for 12 hours. Wipe fridge clean if you didn’t leave a smidgen of space on the top.
Cut around the sides with a sharp paring knife and if it doesn’t come out, just heat the top a little with some warm water.
Served with a surrounding salad of lettuce, carrot, gherkin, cheese cubes, cocktail onions, and flicks of pate. The best thing for cutting is a serrated cheese knife and if you make slow careful stroke, you should get a nice neat slice. Good stuff. The terrine is now my new official vehicle of food innovation.

250 people showed up for the lunch and there were some pretty speccy efforts with people bringing their finest for dining. I went along just to have fun and be there and then vowed revenge for next year – I’m thinking pig . Kudos to Jeff’s sausage rolls and chutney . Charmaine Solomon was there!

terrine de mère et de fille

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patriotic coriander and watermelon salad with fennel risotto stuffed baby squid

Australia Day. Why they chose a day that says a big fuck you to the people who’d just happened to be here at the time and had been for quite a while before that is a bit beyond me.

As is flag waving. I mean I think my wife is just the best but I don’t insist she wear a name tag to remind me what a great wife she is. Anyway that’s all neither here nor there because it’s also the day all the swearing in of new citizens happens and since my Quebecois brother in law was to become a citizen. We thought we’d do the right thing just in case he’d thought he’d signed up for some other country.

A big and tasty lunch was had and I brought the above along. I started with squid and worked my way back. Stuffing would be risotto and then I thought that just squid is a bit squiddy and then I saw the watermelon in the fridge and remembered Neal Jackson does a very nice fried squid with a watermelon salad. It uses coriander instead of the more traditional mint. The value of being exposed to ideas is that you can nick them later at an opportune moment of inspiration. Here’s a quick run through.

Baby squid tubes:
15. Already cleaned, too easy. Otherwise you’ll just have to clean them

Risotto:
One finely chopped white onion and a similar amount of similarly finely chopped white of the fennel bulb and four finely chopped garlic cloves. Saute in olive oil, colour the aborio rice (a cup and a half) and then continue with the slow process of stirring and adding liquid until al dente (won’t be explaining that today). I used a mix of about 80% white wine to 20% chicken stock. Can’t say I was overly impressed with the resulting flavour, as it ended up a bit vinegary like sushi rice. The effect was much more harmonious once inside the squid. About two thirds of the way through I started adding a small handful of parsley and fennel leaves as well as half a cup of sliced fennel stalks. Finished by adding pepper and stirring in a nice big dob of butter to keep it moist whilst cooking in the squid.

Another thought is I wasn’t exactly sure when to add the parsley and fennel leaves. I didn’t want to put them in at the beginning and have them end up as much but I also wanted to them to blend in a bit, hence the two thirds result. Curious to know how it might have worked out otherwise.

Watermelon and Coriander Salad:
A nice exercise in size and flavour. If the watermelon is cut into cubes a little smaller than a coriander leaf, the flavours balance out nicely. For the same reason the spanish onion shouldn’t be bigger than one of the smaller buttons on your remote control (no I’m not writing this on the sofa no). Mix together.

Cooking:
Stuff the squid tubes with the risotto and close each one up with a toothpick to prevent rice jizzing everywhere. Place them in an oven tray with a glass of white wine (I used cask Moselle), cover with foil, and cook in an oven at 200C for 40 minutes.

I gave the squid a bit of a sear on a griddle before putting them on the salad. The rice was nice and compact so I could have in fact sliced it up rounds which would have been nice. The fennel taste wasn’t strong at all and matched nicely with the squid. The watermelon salad is great and should be compulsory at summer barbecues.

And there we go, a suitably traditional and diverse dish that didn’t send acrumble our cultural mainsteam of the decent us with the culinary introduction of the them. As for my brother in law Jean [below], he is now an official Aussie: don’t think I’m happy about it, he is no doubt rooting my sister, watches ice hockey, and objectively has a much better motorbike than me. Anyway here’s to 218 years of hey how did you get in here.

Australia's newest citizen

Also:
恭喜發財!

and thanks to whoever voted me into second place as the 2006 Best West Australian Blog . I didn’t mention it as well I’m a bit iffy about comps, as Buddha says “a competition brings with it losers and with losers, unhappiness”. Pleased again to be nudged out by Robert Corr and congratulations to third place on preferences Tama Leaver – for those that aren’t familiar with preferential voting, it means he’s more popular but I’m less unpopular. If you missed out, tough! ahahaha, I mean I meant to say robbed!

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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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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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kitchen


Outta here. Bests for 2006 and thanks for making my 2005 such a fun one. Hope you had a good start to it. 6 course dinner party for 11 at a friend’s house, some more pics here – NYE 2005

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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Christmas

Christmas in Shibuya

FX Holden sat on my knee and asked me to do a bit of Christmas round-up. I’m afraid it’s more socks than spacesuit as I’ve never made a big deal of it all (except for gift receiving). I’ve found the recent putting christ into christmas hoo-ha a bit puzzling and the harnessing of it to blaming the usual suspects for political purposes distasteful at best. Tis the season of malicious anecdotes. As much as I’m chuffed for people enjoying the religious significance of it, Christmas is about as Christian as the English language is English. And in case that isn’t clear I mean mainly nicked from elsewhere, in constant flux and local adaptation, and largely rescued from 20th century obscurity by finding a syncretic host in a successful economic entity. Sure there are people who see Shakespeare or an imaginary point in the 19th century as the line in the sand, but there are always prescriptivists. Just as they’ve done some wonderful things with English, I think the Japanese have done a wonderful thing with Christmas and it’s my favourite version. Essentially it celebrates the three things that have made the last five decades fun – sex, nifty shops, and cheaply available chicken. I’m personally not that keen on the effects of cheaply available chicken but I’d argue you couldn’t get a lot closer to the Mary and Joseph experience than trying to find a spare table in Harajuku or a vacant Love Hotel in Shibuya on Christmas Eve. As for the rest – eating well, seeing friends and family, feeling goodwill, and falling asleep in the afternoon – these are things we should always enjoy.

Anyway here’s a few things for now:

The Spiceblog Christmas Helper
Christmas Brunch
Breakfast for Xmas: Spinach and Eggs in Ramekins; Oven Roasted Mushrooms, Tomatoes, and Prosciutto; Pancakes with Corn.

And in place of the usual Christmas cracker gags you can always use the one about the dyslexic devil worshipper.

dego menu

While most of you are able to pop and in deal with just one aspect of my life, Toni has had to put up with me for 15 years. So I thought a night out might be in order. Since she’s sick of hearing about what I had to try in the kitchen at Jackson’s and we had such a good time last time we went for our fifth wedding anniversary, I booked a table there for the 9 course dego menu. Upgrading to the matched glass of wine with each course “meal deal”. Cutting to the chase, here’s all you need to know:


scallop carpaccio

Scallop Carpaccio with Carrot and Tumeric Sorbet (little bit of flying fish roe “tobiko” gave it some lovely crunch) Dukes Reisling 2004 WA;
Vietnamese Spring Rolls (salmon and foie gras, orange and mint – start at the angled cut end or it all falls out) Hugel et Fils Gewurtztraminer 2002 Alsace France;
Salmon Confit with Kiwi Fruit & Peanuts (this is interesting, it’s poached in olive oil and the thin slice of beetroot sets it off with just a little sourness) St Clair Sav Blanc 2004 NZ;


salmon confit

roast honey duck breast with pork belly

Roast Honey Duck Breast & Pork Belly (the duck breast sat on fois gras and pickled daikon) Moorooduc Pinot Noir 2001 Vic;
Rabbit & Red Wine Risotto (just great with the shredded rabbit giving just the smallest amount of contemplative chew) Orenella “le Volte” 2002 Italy;
Venison ras el Hanout (very complex Moroccan spice mix caught in a ding dong battle with a very peppery red) Woody Nook CabSav 2002 WA;
Steak Chips and Peas (wagyu) Eight Songs Shiraz 2001 SA;
Blue Cheese Strudel & Pear Yalumba Botrytis Viogner 2004 SA (a very slight fizz lifted the sweetness of the sticky);
Turkish Delight Souffle & Rose Petal Ice Cream (joyous gooey rejig of my favourite chocolate bar) Lustau “San Emilio” Pedro Ximenez Jerez Spain.


tiramisu

There were a couple of other little treats snuck in there, including one of the most nicely cooked bit of lamb I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating as for the others…well maybe I’ve revealed too much already. Was it perfect? No. The wall mounted airconditioning units could have been replaced by more discreet ones and I could have chosen a less tapered shirt, otherwise three hours of flawless food and engaging wine choices. Beyond the instinctive muh of it all, it’s three hours to think occupy your mind with food . In conclusion; with the well-executed good-humoured quirky eclecticism, the immaculately sourced referentiality, the endlessly disassemblable construction, and a measure of rejigged nostaligia, Neal Jackson is the Thomas Pynchon of the Perth restaurant scene.

And it would be back on the other side of the kitchen the next night. I’m really not fit to peel spuds here. Oh I am. Out the back? In a big bucket? Then put them in the water? Yeah yeah from the tap I know. Do you like my new peeler?


turkish delight souffle

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guitar Wooh it’s my birthday. Look what I got from Toni. And! she took me to The Loose Box (Perth people go ooooh, rest of you – best French restaurant/restaurant in Perth by most accounts) last night. Lucky duck. More later, gotta put my casserole on. Hmmmm podcasts?


dessert Loose Box! Why can’t Perth people dress up? You wear pants, and a shirt that you tuck in, and you can even knock yourself out with a matching jacket. It’s called a suit. Not like I’m expecting Windsor knots. Cocktails before dinner, not rum and cokes during. Dinner was ace. Had the vichyssoise, the the pigs trotters in a kind of terrine casing, duck confit, with a pudding to finish. Toni had the venison with red wine, chocolate and pear (refuses to answer if my vension was better, hmmm) . Washed down with a nice bottle of Beaujolais and a Tasmanian sticky. They make great bread rolls too.


partyAnd thank you all for the fabulous casseroles Saturday night.

.

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cumquat

A cute story. Toni and I came back to Perth for a few weeks 7 years ago to get married. Madly unprepared for it all, thinking a church and restaurant booked; a Paul Smith suit and a wedding dress made of antique kimono silk; and the use of restored Triumph sports car, was all you had to do. Apparently there was much much more, like seating plans, table flower arrangements, and Mums’ wedding outfit coordination meeting. Despite missing many of the Bride magazine checkpoints, we got hitched and had a glorious day with friends and family (a pic if you’re good).

A few days we went back to Tokyo, leaving the remains of our wedding Mud Cake in my Mum’s freezer. When we returned to Perth in 2001 we reclaimed our cake, and still unsure of what to do with it, it continued its frozen state. Buying our house two years ago and the accompanying move brought up the cake again. It couldn’t stay there forever but I couldn’t bring myself to toss it in the green wheely bin. I had a plan. First a quick check to make sure it wasn’t still OK, it wasn’t. I made shallow layer of potting mix in the bottom of the pot, added the cake, and then a small cumquat tree. That’s it in the picture, doing famously.

We’re off for our 7th anniversary dinner at the Red Herring tonight, will be leaving the camera and pen at home, and enjoying my good fortune.

weddingtop1

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chocolatefish

Another landmark. Spiceblog is now in the top 10 sites for google searches of: picture jesus being flogged. From the Book of Action:

When someone does spill your drink, dwell not on the injustice of it
- you will find anger;
rejoice in the one that has been bought
- you will find love.

Have a good Easter/lunar festival, and enjoy the chocolate. Do you like the Italian Chocolate fish in the pic? Apparently they’re good-fishing totems in the south of Italy, usually appearing as a biscuit.

Alright, I’m off for a few days to a bloggy detox clinic run by socialists in Moore River. Expecting iPod battles. See you when I get back. Don’t forget the eggs.

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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]

namethattune

A a bit of background on the whole food rock thing. Chook-Toni Combined Dress Up as an LP Cover Party tonight and there is quite the selection of dishes*. But for you, dear clever readers, a suitable challenge :

Name the song represented by the dish above.

* still saving Veal Young with Crazy Horseradish for the dinner proper.

bowlsinbowls

Off to Jacques in Subiaco and predict it will be rather good. Toni (a.k.a. spicewidow) has a birthday today. 35. Still gorgeous after 14 years. I suspect she may be Dorian Gray to my picture in the attic. Surfer girl now too. Tsk.

Note: picture has nothing to do with topic at hand but is rather nice don’t you think? Oh yes and there is actually no apostrophe in Jacques. What a good idea.

Ahm it’s Galette des Rois today and I’ve just had a few whites and a couple of beers and apparently it took the the three wise kings 12 days to find the baby Jesus so they eat a cake made of puff pastry with a tiny wine taster* in it and then the youngest person hides under the table and the cake is cut but under a tea towel and then the youngest person has to choose the piece for each person but it’s rigged because only French people win and I didn’t get to be King for the day. So anyway I think they’re making this up, are there any French people out there that can confirm this?

*Oh apparently it changes all the time. Bus Driver! Ambulance Man!

Christmas Brunch

christmasgalettes

The Culinaria France describes these buckwheat crepes, a mixture of buckwheat, water, egg, salt and lard, as one of mankind’s oldest foodstuffs. Fitting, in what is an ancient season of celebration. Buckwheat has a history of being used by French peasants unable to afford the taxes placed on wheat flour. So a humble dish for what should be a simpler day, enjoyed with my mother, and Toni and her parents. The galettes* were filled with local cheddar, ham from the bone, mushrooms, and salmon, fennel, and ricotta for flash. A few sausages and bacon, roasted tomatoes and spinach and speck oeufs en cocotte.

Hmmmm two White Stripes Under Blackpool Lights DVDs.

Peace and goodwill to all. Enjoy yours.

xmasbeachbeer2004

kittysanta

[Draft notes: humbugging food blogger receives a letter from a reader which helps him to discover the true meaning of Christmas and write a handy post]

Christmas, like most high pitched noise coming from inside the brain situations, is the resolution of dilemmas. They are:

cooking <——————> interaction

volume <——————> quality

obligatory ties <——————> voluntary ties

European tradition <——————> Latitudinal reality

feasting <——————> grazing

luxury <——————> penury

To help, here are some pointers:

  1. Esky: The fridge will be working hard and opening it up for drinks won’t help

  2. Moist: Get a larding needle and a baster.

  3. Token Gestures : Turkey gods appeased by marinating turkey breast in cranberry sauce and puttiing them on skewers. Another year I made poulet en papillote shaped like christmas crackers.

  4. Fruit Mince Pies: Are good. Gingerbread for the home touch. Cookie cutters stifle innovation.

  5. Christmas Eve: A walk down Omotesando before dinner, and then hope you can coax your date into a Love Hotel.

  6. Bread: Heavier breads keep longer and quality bread makes quality cold meat sandwiches.

  7. Food as Metaphor: Son of God. Turkey? Goose? Lamb. King of Kings. Crown Roast.

  8. Ham: Covered with a damp towel or a ham bag, it will bring days of seasonal happiness.

  9. Eggs: see above + breakfast omlette

  10. Butchers: they know. Speak to them. They will be happy. Give organic and free range a go.

  11. Rissotto: Pasta seems wrong. Ravioli though.

  12. Music: Ethereal trumps supermarket soundtrack. Dvorak or similar.

  13. Wine: White Christmas. Crap champagne is still crap. Sparkling shiraz is at the very worst colour coded. Local wineries have case deals – go swapsies with friends. Good for gifts.

  14. Fuss: One of my favourite Christmas dinners was sausages and mash with takeaway chicken. It’s the company.

  15. Sherry: Why let Santa have all the fun. Chilled dry sherry is great. Spain, large bearded men, Hemingway, high rate of suicide at Christmas, moving right along…

  16. Hot-cross buns: save them for Easter.

  17. Breakfast: Automatically casual and leaves the day for ooohh playing on new drumsets.

  18. Charity: Social darwinists et.al. can fuck off. The impersonal perspective is our finest quality. Poor? Alone?

  19. Lunch: Stretch to prevent post lunch collapse. Salad is a course.

  20. Borscht: Why not?

  21. Seafood: You will be gouged. Early shopping and frozen. Little freezes better than tuna. Think smoked. Prawns are luxury standards for the common man. Wrap in prosciutto.

  22. Healthy eating: Unless tasty, give it up for Christmas – but that isn’t an invitation to eat shite.

  23. Brandy Custard: No. Cognac Creme Anglais. Yes.

  24. Tradition: Why European? The Middle East is the authentic locale for Chrimbo food and a long history of cooking for warm weather. Latin America has some of the most devout Christians on the planet, Mexico is also warm.

  25. Soft bit/Loud bit: Finicky entree leads to impressive centre-piece main. A fowl wrapped in a fowl wrapped in a fowl wrapped in a fowl has made an appearance at Mondo butchers. Or just have a whole snapper stuffed with sardines stuffed with whitebait.

  26. Gas BBQ: Charcoal. Otherwise, make sure the cylinder is full, or you’ll look like a nong.

  27. Crackers: Knick knacks, crap jokes, and ludicrous headwear – our second finest quality.

  28. Twilight: Beach. Sunset. Wine. Cigar.

  29. Heroism: Don’t. Many hands make light work and food can be shared.

  30. Cheese: Only needs a knife. Same for dips, patés, and terrines.

  31. Beer: I’m thinking James Squire. Crownies? Fosters. Get a few Europeans for special – you don’t want port in summer. Avoid world’s finest beer packs.

  32. Evening: Catch up with friends. They love you too.

That’ll do for now.

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Never made a terrine before and I think it has something to do with the reason I don’t make many cakes, the intrinsic fussiness of presentation. On the plus side, the variety of possible ingredients allows a large range of thematic interpretations. I had considered doing one that resembled the layers of the earth but decided that I’d make an Irish one for an Irish friend’s 30th and work over an old favourite. The party was postponed a week but the terrine went on.

To tell the truth, I can’t be arsed writing everything down but here’s a sketch – if you want more details, you know where to find me.

Beef and Guiness Stew as here but without the spuds and the addition of the aromatics – leek (ermm Celtic heritage), carrots and celery. No red wine (not irish) or beef stock (didn’t want to use commercial stock).

The spuds were to make their own layer and were thinly sliced and steamed above the bubbling stock above. The idea was the fumes would infuse into the potatoes like damp smoke. Did it work? Exceeeeeeeeeeeedingly subtle.

Lamb and Kidneys

Oven roasted slowly and moistened with the above stock. Shredded when done.

Aspic

French jiggery pokery that I couldn’t really see the point of but when Le Cordon Blue at Home says do it, then you do it. The stew was strained and the beef shredded and the stock returned with a new round of aromatics and egge whites that were to capture rogue impurities. Strained after half and hour and still bits, so it was all twice strained through a tea towel. Reheated later with 1 tbs of gelatine.

Assembly

Had a great plan to pipe a mashed potato Celtic design but this was downgraded to the famous and much toasted, I’m sure, Ley Line Following Potato Circles of County Cork with a green, sweated-in-butter leek background. Then the lamb and kidney, a layer of potatoes, and then the beef, and filled with aspic (barely enough).

Eating

Taken over for Sunday arvo beers. I was impressed with the dots against the green even thought they’d somewhat randomised. Carving was a disaster and I think it may have called for some kind of drop saw or high tech laser. THIS WAS NOT HOW IT WAS MEANT TO BE. The taste, fine but not knock your socks off, maybe a few veal bones in the soup may have helped. Enjoyable. yep that’s it. Looked at the residual pile of meat and jelly and it made me not think of the Emerald Isles but Pal. Presentation – pah!

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