January 2004

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Blueberry Pancakes with Cream

Most Saturday mornings are spent with a group of friends with a trainer who runs us around Cottesloe for an hour. I shouldn’t have been there today. Last night I was up post midnight trying a range of beers that a friend had and each one came back as a coat of sweat. This has nothing to do with pancakes.

2 cups of flour, 2 eggs, 2tbs melted butter, half a cup of blueberries, and enough buttermilk to get the consistency right

Mixed them all together and cooked. Served with whipped cream with a bit of vanilla essence in it and maple syrup.

Oyster Bar at the Beach

If you drive down the coast to the harbour city, just before you turn off is the Oyster Bar at the Beach. Best idea in Perth since the Sunday session. You can be swimming at the beach, pop your things on, climb over a two foot sand bar and there you are, drinking a beer, enjoying seafood, and listening to a DJ spinning tunes as the sun goes down. Then, after a few beers, run down to the beach, tossing clothes behind you, and into the surf to be eaten by a shark. This is perfect, a beach bar at the beach, food meets environment. How could they stuff this up?

And they have. It took us 10 minutes to order while the waitress mastered the intricacies of the cash register. I had to go up and ask where my meal was – the order had been lost. Traditional Greek salad is apparently from a time when only thing Greece had was lettuce. The barman had to look up how much a middy was. The glasses are plastic. Someone thinks the correct amount of worcestershire sauce on an oyster is a tablespoon. The keg of Bees Knees ran out and couldn’t be changed over because it was behind some stock. The only working class beer they’ve got is Carlton Draught. My mate had to become a freelance glassy and it’s expensive for what you get.

Most of this could have been put down to an unfortunate night, the flu with all the experienced staff leaving the management forced to hire staff from a modelling agency at the last minute so who knows. Staff! Food! not difficult things to sort out after dropping a few hundred thousand bucks on a place. Jeez they whinged about weekend pay loading on the menu – suck it in and cough up for some decent staff. Guh!

Perfect Omlette

Given I’m a way from winning the Paris to Dakar, this will have to do – the elusive perfectly cooked omlette. Deceptively simple it’s been a source of compromise for a while. One near attempt and the second was a text book folded in thirds and flipped. Less mixed helped. I’m hoping, like eventually getting up on a single ski, this will be effortlessly replicated.

Breakfast – French Toast

Time to pack up and head back for the start of work. Eggs, milk and bread left, so this was a no brainer, a tbs of maplesyrup in the batter for a bit of sweetness. Sure I could have done the patriotic thing and had US yeast paste on toast but this was a historical could have been treat. Cream would have been could, had aI had it and would have gone very well with the fresh blueberries we picked up the day before.

Sausages in Bread with Tomato Sauce

No grand finale on our last night of camping just sausages in bread with tomato sauce. Could have done much much worse.

Took a few deep breaths and bought Shake ‘n Make pancakes and they weren’t too bad at all and in camping circumstances, did the job really well. POP and then just crisped up the bacon and the poured a bit of maple syrup on top.

Chicken Mushroom and Asparagus Rissotto

Not going into too much depth here but perfect for one pot cooking and done in the traditional arm buiding style. Asparagus added crunch and flavour. The leftovers made for good, although crumbly, patties the next day.

Somerset Hill

Not bargainous but outstanding Pinot Noir here. Well worth visit and a try with a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable tasting tour. I went through my usual dilemma of saying noting and appearing rude or making a twatty comment I regret later. Apricots – Jesus!

Pinot can be cellared for 8 years – our one didn’t make it to 8 hours. Could get hit by a bus etc.

Breakfast – Bacon, Mushrooms and Tomatoes

One pot breakfast using the aforementioned camp oven. Bacon cooked first to near crispy, removed and replaced with 6 field mushrooms and some home grown tomato slices and some pepper and olive oil. Bacon then went on top and it cooked happily away with the lid on. Toast cooked on a handy four slice camp toaster from Canada that I picked up in Japan – worked a treat.

Pork Belly and Potato Reduction

600gm pork bellies; 8 smallish potatoes; half a sweet potato all cut into bite sized pieces cooking oil; 3 cloves of garlic – chopped; onion -quartered; SAUCE: 500ml water; 60ml sake; 50gm sugar; 170ml soy sauce; 50ml mirin; and 1/3 teaspoon pepper

I’m not sure what to call this. It’s from umai izakaya menyu – Delicious Pub Menu from the good people at Orange Page . The only literal translation I could find was “dozy cook” , so either I’m missing an idiomatic interpretation or the writers having some fun. Anyway the idea is to cook the pork and potatoes in a sauce until the sauce is left just as a glaze. In context, it’s pot based Japanese pub food.

Not to absolve myself from being lazy with my Japanese study but translating recipes is hard. The chief problem is that dictionaries don’t really cater (‘scuse the pun) for food and, as seems to be the case everywhere, you can’t just have “sugar” but a certain kind of sugar that nobody knows. The end result is that most of my Japanese cooking is an exercise in archeology where I take fragments and try and make it into a meaningful whole.

This recipe seemed ideal for cooking in a cast iron camp oven. It could also be prepped in advance and the hour it took allowed for camp set-up and aperitifs.

The pork is lightly browned in some oil and then removed. The potatoes and sweet potatoes are also given a once over in the oil and removed. Now the garlic and onion are softened a little in the oil and then joined by the pork, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Then the sauce poured over, brought to the boil, and then covered with the lid and cooked for 10 minutes. Take the lid off and cook for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the sauce has almost entirely gone. Then rest it for 10 minutes.

It went down well and not as sweet as I’d imagined with the mirin and the sugar. There was just enough for four hungry campers so some rice might have helped in the carbo department.

One thing I did neglect from the recipe was the use of paper towels. Pictured with the recipe they looked like they were used to soak up the oil after the potatoes and then cover the dish instead of the sauce. I didn’t think this was necessary but I’m hazarding a guess that this was to soak up the potato starch coming out of the potatoes. This left me with more of a thickened sauce than the glaze I wanted and would be worth a trial later on.

Camping in Denmark

A long weekend for Australia/Invasion Day so we headed down south with two friends to their block near Denmark. The block is a wooded block with no amenities so all I had to cook with was a burner and trangier but had the added bonus of a captive audience and the taste enhancement of fresh air. Sadly there was a total fireban but understandable due to the two deaths nearby from a bushfire barely a month ago.

Beef Kebabs

1kg topside; baby squash; zucchini; haloumi cheese; cherry tomatoes; mushrooms; olive oil; thyme; mustard; red wine; basil; garlic; pepper

These were for a BBQ as a way of circumventing the need to make a salad. They could also be made fairly quickly as I had about 20 minutes to make them after running late from a 4WD/ skin diving adventure up to the wreck of the Alkimos where we bashed around the dunes scaping our way through sand tracks.

I wasn’t sure what to do for a marinade so I ended up with about 4 different ones

Meat Cut up into bite sized squares. The marinade was a bodge of what was available. To get the minced garlic working more quickly into the oilve oil I put them both into a bowl and zapped them for 40 seconds in the micro to save messing about with a pan. Then a tablespoon of thyme, a big teaspoon of mustard, and some some red wine. I sprinkled some pepper over the beef them mixed it in with the marinade.

Veges Cut the zucchini and squash to approximately match the meat in height. Also cut both ends off each squash so it fitted more snugly to its neighbour on the skewer and gave it a head start in the cooking process by microwaving it for a minute. Then I poured some olive oil and lemon juice over both of them.

Quartered two white onions. Cut the mushrooms to size and splashed some olive oil over them and some pepper. Haloumi cheese is new to me, but I got some because I heard it doesn’t melt like other cheeses, which would be a good thing. It’s a greek cheese and was like a smoother less salty feta. I cut it into slices and put it in with the tomatoes and some olive oil and basil.

Assembly Everything marinated away happily while we drove to the South Perth foreshore. For the skewers, I used long stainless steel jobbies which meant not having to worry about soaking wooden ones. Ingredient were skewered at random and cooked, free of charge thanks to the kind ratepayers of South Perth, on the barbie until the meat was dome.

I then just deskewered them and let people help themselves. They worked well as a tasty square meal on a stick with a Pemberton pinot noir and a stubbie of Pike’s Oakbank beer.

The haloumi didn’t melt.

Banana Smoothie

This starts most mornings and it’s healthier than toast and less effort than muesli. The key though, according to the banana man who visited my friend Nicole’s primary class, is to peel the bananas and then freeze them. This boosts creaminess by a factor of four and elevates it beyond pureed banana in milk. It also means that that there’s a store of them in the freezer.

Anyway, frozen banana, cup of soy milk, cup of ice, a few tbs of yoghurt, and some passionfruit pulp in a jar – blend. Frozen blueberries are great but they weren’t at hand.

eggs noodles; topside steak (cut into strips); 1 red chilli (chopped); 2 dried chillies; 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped); broccolini (stalks cut up kept aside from florets); oyster sauce

Made a meal from the fridge tonight and this is what turned out.

The wok needs to be nice and hot before putting in the oil. Left it for a few minutes and then in went 2 tbs of peanut oil. Next were the two dried chillies just to get a bit of heat through the oil. Garlic and chili came after for a quick stir; then the beef and the broccolini stalks. After the beef was almost cooked, in went the florets and a liberal does of oyster sauce and stirred ’til coated. Finally, in went the egg noodles a handful at a time to stop clogging and when heated, served.

A nice bit of chille bite to it and keeping the stalks and the florets apart kept the crunchiness of both.

* Also added a splash of Chinese wine after the oyster sauce to loosen it up a bit.

Stainless Steel Containers

are great. I picked up a few at Gib and Pat’s a while ago. They’re like mini bain maries and are great for prepping. Ingredients in each one and off you go come cooking time, They stack well and are indestructible. Larger ones with a rack make good for draining fried food like tempura.

Lamb Chops with Thyme

6 lovely little lambs chops sliced from a rack.

Marinated in 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, two finely chopped garlic cloves, and some red wine(ran out of olive oil).

Cooked on the barbie, the bones could have been wrapped in foil to stop it from burning but wasn’t. Tasted just dandy and made a change from rosemary. Dinner continued until 3am – good job.

Viewing

Better than the sequels but just as awful

Meatrix

Salmon wrapped in Nori

100gm of salmon is more than enough for 3 people for sashimi as part of a larger dinner. I had 200gm so I cut the rest into 3 cubes. Each cube was wrapped in a strip of nori, making racing stripe in the middle. They were the very quickly cooked on each side in some oil in a frypan. Just enough to cook the outside and keep the middle uncooked. One to each person.

Nice.

Fried Eggplant with Dengaku Miso

See below for how to make dengaku miso.

I really didn’t want to repeat the same strong flavour of the dengaku miso twice in one meal but I had a bit left and a few of the (long) finger sized eggplants so waste not.

Chopped up the eggplants into 1cm slices then fried in a pan ( if you boil them for a minute or so in salted water first they don’t soak up so much oil but I couldn’t be bothered) until golden, mixed with bit of the dengaku miso and served.

Scallops in an Orange

2-3 scallops per mandarin;

dengaku miso – 250gm of red miso; 50ml mirin; 50ml sake; 25gm sugar

This was pretty much taken from The Food of Japan by Kosaki and Wagner which has proven a good source of recipes and ideas. They use yuzu, which is a Japanese citrus fruit.Yuzu makes for a great cocktail, mixed with sugar syrup and shochu, but, sadly, isn’t available here. The book offers mandarins as an alternative but they were out of season so I used small oranges instead.

Easy to make with the dengaku miso being the only chore. It keeps for a month in the fridge so I had some on hand. To make it, put the miso, sake, mirin and sugar in a saucepan – bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cut the top bits off the orange and scoop out the innards like making a jack-o-lantern. Keep the tops. Cut the scallops into quarters and pop in the orange mixed with enough dengaku miso to loosely fill (the scallops swell when cooked). Put in the oven for 15 minutes at 180c and then put its top back on to serve.

It’s a favourite of mine and another thing to do with underutilised scallops. Can’t recommend using an orange, the size of mandarins meant a better balance between the dengaku miso and the amount of scallops I used. Could always use more scallops tho’

Cold Soba

Dried Soba Noodles; Nori; Wasabi; Dipping Sauce – 1 cup of dashi; 50ml of dark soy sauce; 50ml of mirin

Soba is a Japaese noodle made with buckwheat and has a greyish colour. They can be served in soup, with tempura, or, as here, eaten cold with a dipping sauce. This is a perfect seasonal summer food in Japan. Tokyo can hit the mid thirties with near 100% humidity at this time of the year.

Soba

Boil the soba in plenty of lightly salted boiling water for about 4 minutes – forget about al dente but they shouldn’t be soggy. After boiling rinse in cold water and the I mix some ice in to cool them down. They can then be refrigerated.

Dipping Sauce

The dipping sauce can be bought which makes things easy. Failing that making it isn’t too hard. Make the dashi stock from dried dashi powder (Ajinomoto’s is the most popular), mix in the soy and the mirin and then chill.

Serving

Put the soba in one bowl with some ice to keep it cool. Each person has one bowl for their soba and another for the dipping sauce.

The sauce can go in a jug or just pour some into the dipping bowls.

Guests can add some narrow chopped strips of nori to their soba and wasabi and chopped scallions to the dipping sauce.

Grab some soba, give it a quick dip or two in the sauce and then slurp down. Holding the dipping bowl in the other hand helps.

Pasta salad is trash, as a cold summer carbohydrate loading this can’t be topped. As an added bonus if you eat some just before New Year you’ll have long life.

Crayfish Sashimi

Crayfish, known elsewhere as rock lobster, in Japan as ise-ebi, and is essentially a labster without claws is now cheap has been cheap for a while. I picked up a live one for $16 which is a mere two KFC Middle Earth packs.

Crayfish left two issues to be resolved. One was my teens in Mandurah where hugely illegal amounts were caught and then, for all this effort, boiled to fack en masse and then eaten with vinegar or something.

The other was with a dinner with clients in Japan where they had crayfish sashimi and the head tried to make a slow painful dash for it off the plate.

So, with crayfish available, I wanted to put to bed both issues. The crayfish would be as nature intended it and it would die a quick and painless death.

The finessing of the presentation of the lobster came from Hideo Dekura’s Japanese Flavours – Modern Classics.

Sweet Dreams Sweet Prince Lobsters have a very refined nervous system so I imagine their usual experience before death could be approximated by sticking your family jewels into boiling hot water. The humane way is this, pop them in the freezer to send them to sleep and gently pull them out and plunge a knife into their brain – ikijimi. The head was then dispatched with a cleaver.

I wanted to keep the top part of the tail intact and not having kitchen scissors, I managed to cut the underbelly out with a knife. The flesh didn’t want to get go anywhere. Probably retaining some post death sense of duty. Eventually I worked it out and put it in iced water for 10 minutes to firm it up.

Slicing was a disappointment. Rather than being beautiful round slices, the cray meat broke up into segments.

Presentation Used a square earthenware plate from Japan. Working from one corner to the other.

Small mound of wasabi.

Empty crayfish tail filled as follows: slice of crayfish, sliver of lime, slice of crayfish, sliver of lime, etc.

Line of salmon sashimi. In 5mm slices and then spread like a deck of cards.

Other corner: flowering bit of a Hebi – ornamental only and not for human consumption.

Taste Taste was exceptional with the pure flavours coming through clearly without the usual saltiness and toughness of boiled crays. Had with soy and wasabi. Sister in law Vic had never had raw fish before and wasn’t freaked out by it so AOK. I would easily take a third of a live cray raw than my own cooked one.

Japanese Dinner

Apart form a couple of steaks ona friends barbie, there’s been no cooking for a while here. This dinner was repay a debt to my sister in law for sparing me from having to do my tax return by myself.I chose Japanese because I felt the need to sermonise a bit due to her always ordering the teriyaki fish.

The dinner included – sashimi crayfish and salmon; daikon salad; scallops cooked in oranges with dengaku miso; daikon salad; eggplant with dengaku miso; and cold soba.I’ll try to post most of the recipes.

It looks a lot but cooking and prep time wasn’t more than an hour with most of that taken up by sauces. This is longer than many of the fabulously easy toss together type recipes floating around but time spent cooking is a way of showing appreciation to guests.