March 2004

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Omlette with Sage and Asparagus

Went for the simple here and stuffed it by overdosing with pepper. That’s what happens when you get an electric grinder with a built in flashlight – too much excitement. As for the rest though, 5 eggs with a few sage leaves from the garden and a splash of milk and a bit less pepper than I used. Halved the asparagus lengthwise and cooked them in a pan with seom olive oil. Omlette cooked as per usual with the asparagus lain in the middle.

Sage didn’t really do it and may be better used elsewhere, also I’m thinking less is more with the amount of mix used. Too much and by the time the inside the cooked the bottom is overcooked.

Thirsty John’s wine choices bagged

Beef Stroganoff with Gnocchi

Beef Stroganoff was part of many a 70’s kitchen repertoire and I think it’s Russian although I’ve also suspected it may simply be a complete fabrication -made as part of a drive to culinary globalisation. It is in fact Russian and was made by Serge Stroganoff for Catherine the Great as a way of syncretizing French and Russian food. There you go.

This was an off the cuff supermarket decision after my promised attempt at a chick-pea curry was thwarted by forgetting to soak them again. The recipe that follows is a little compromised by my poor memory.

Topside steak thinly sliced and dusted with flour; chopped onion; butter. Onion goes in first and softened, followed by the beef, and then some sliced button mushrooms. When the beef is nearly cooked add a tablespoon of tomato paste and half a cup of beef stock. Once heated through, in goes a cup sour cream. well it would have gone in if I hadn’t bought normal cream by mistake. This can’t be the way to do it but I chucked a bit of lemon juice in the cream and it seemed to work. Heated through and peppered to taste.

Usually served with fettucine but I thought gnocchi would make a nice change and it did.

A neighbour appeared at my door to come good on a promise to get me a Kryptonics tape. I was chuffed and asked him to join us for dinner. The Kryptonics were a Perth band in the mid-Eighties and provided one of those rare brain is melting with how good this is type music. The song I’ve been hunting for years was “Oedipus Complex” which is burnt on my brain as

Baby [kwang kang] I’m not into bestiality,

but baby [kwang kang] you can be my sacred cow.

How did this band vanish of the face of the earth? A good chance for recommending the Spin exhibition at the Western Australian Museum. May write about it later.

Roux

Hot discussion on roux at Crooked Timber

Fonix

Apologies for an appalling attempt at spelling Mc Chouffe

Apparently La Chouffe is better still.

Belgian Cafe amongst others

Anniversary today and Toni was being a saint by looking after two little kids from 6am while their Mum was taking a break by doing the Rosie O’Grady triathlon. By the time she’d got back, we decided we should go for breakfast. This turned into a debacle after Cottesloe was filled by people scurrying westwards with a bit of sunshine. We then seemed to miss every other breakfast serving we tried and ended up on the docks of Fremantle eating overcooked eggs, listening to bagpipes just to stave off food rage. A slice of lemon brulee and a vanilla milkshake elsewhere later made up for it.

Dinner was a better effort with a trip to the Belgian Beer Cafe. On the beer front, I had the beer of the month Judas ,which was exceptional in its depth and length of taste; and the Duval which is often good but too sharp for dinner. Toni had the Hoegaaden Grand Cru which was a little blonder and a little sweeter than the Judas but just as exceptional and a better choice for her scallops. We shared some bread with chicken live pate and onions for entree. I had the pork knuckle for main. More like a shank, it had been smoked and then slow roasted with an apple and balsamic glaze served on stoemp – mash with bacon and cabbage. The pork had a strong smoky salty taste and it was a good match for a strong beer. A lager would have just been a palate cleanser.

Cooking breakfast myself next year.

Saturday night snacks

The plan was to have friends over, eat, and then head out to check out a band. Didn’t see the band but did eat though. A wok burner is very handy, it allowed me to both cook the satay sticks and deep fry the spring rolls outside thus remaining sociable. Friend brought over a bottle of Belgian Beer called Mc Choof (sp?) as strong as it was tasty. Comes in a champagne bottle and has a picture of Greg Sheridan on the front.

Satay Chicken

Marinade:2tsp grated ginger, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1tbs palm sugar, 2 tbs sesame oil, 2 tsp chili paste, juice of 2 limes

Chop two free range chicken breasts into small skewer sized pieces and then marinade for one hours. At the same time, pop the wooden skewers into some water to soak to prevent them burning later. Next skewer the chicken. I kept it to about an inch on each skewer for a couple of reasons. First, makes for easier dipping in the sauce and secondly, it makes for a better eat drink eat drink eat drink cycle and less like a meal.

Cooked on the BBQ grill and served with the peanut satay sauce which was half a cup of coconut milk with a couple of tbs of peanut paste and -this is important- the remaining marinade. Just heat and stir in a saucepan until thickened.

The recipe came from an anonymous Backyard BBQ Cookbook which has often proven handy. In retrospect I’d probably halve the number of ingredients to maybe just lime, chili and ginger but the marinade made for a more complex satay sauce so maybe not.

Spring Rolls in Lettuce

Too easy. Deep fry some spring rolls and some Thai Vermicelli Noodles and then everybody just grabs a lettuce leaf as a wrap with a bit of sweet chili sauce.

Sausage Bagel Brekky Burger

In serious need of greasy stodge after getting lost running around the paths in Bold Park.

Halved a bagel and then open topped it with the aoli I had left, some cheddar, halved chippolatas, and an egg fried in olive oil with a bit of pepper.

A life in balance.

Aioli

I’ve realised the last thing involving me getting off my arse and cooking was an age ago and this week I’ve done nothing ‘cept smoothies. I did though quickly make some aioli last Sunday. Commercial mayo is sugary crap and it takes 3 minutes to make your own.

Three egg yolks, half a cup of vingar (I used red having nothing else), two cloves of garlic and popped in the blender. Blender on I dropped in increasing doses a cup of olive oil and vegetable oil until creamy. Then a bit of pepper and salt. Had it with yabbies then and fish and chips tonight.

Cookbooks

Using cookbooks are great but they’re mostly “chunking”. By chunking, I’m referring to where language students have learn expressions as a chunk. Like in a phrase book – handy if used with care, but you get to the point where you are trying to combine “Can I see Mt Fuji from here?” with “I would like to buy a beer” to reach “Can I buy you a drink?” and ending up with “Here from Mt beer buy want”. So at some stage you need to go learn the basics and try from there. I picked up First Principles by Victoria Hansen at Woolies and really couldn’t ask for more in terms of mastering the essentials.

Plug

All the blogs I’ve listed deserve a visit. The political ones save me to rattle on about pesto, but sitting watching the disappointingly hammy ham fisted exploitation flick The Passion of Christ (don’t ask me how) has made me wander off to fantastic planet. Always a thoughtful pleasure and deserving of attention – much more so than watching Jesus being flogged by Jerzei Balowski

Paper? Tin?

The fine wedding I went to on the weekend reminded me of my wedding anniversary this Sunday. 6th is sugar and iron so I best get thinking as all I’ve come up with is glaced liver.

Rottnest

Named after what Dutch sailors thought were giant jumping rats, Rottnest is a small island 12 miles off the coast of Perth. Once a prison colony for Aborigines, filled with scrub, smeared with salt lakes, and is supposed to be a kind of worker’s Club Med but ends up being Peasantland for the elite. Aside from that it’s tops.Everything about the island is designed to make you focus on the the edge just as the void in the centre of a donut makes you appreciate the golden fried lightly dusted with sugar doughy ring that little bit more. The edges are made up of small bays filled with rocks and reefs rewarding anyone with flippers and goggles. I bought mine and could have snagged a couple of crayfish had they not been unaccessible physically (wedged under ledges) and legally (in craypots). All in all the beaches are stunning, especially with high 30C weather, all I could really want for was a bastard big boat just moored off the bay.

The food is standard restaurant coastal with no local specialties. With the cutesy factor of koala, combined with the unpleasant factor of a large rat, I can’t see anybody doing anything with the quokkas. I was pretty happy to see a scallop fried with the roe included and the wedding dinner was as good as I’ve had anywhere. Also notable was a sparkling shiraz a friend of mine brought, as tasty as it was poorly named- Rumball – in close running with Swagman’s Kiss.

Not a lot of cooking

Late nights getting back from classes have led to the closest thing to having cooked is toast this week. Off to Rottnest Island this weekend for a wedding. No cooking there either. Ah well at least we finally paid off the Smeg this week.

Benefit Gig at the Hyde Park Hotel / Phi Yen

Grabbed a bite to eat pre-show at the Phi Yen Vietnamese restaurant and was a bit disappointed. They’d previously been on Bulwer Street and were your classic knock up restaurant and almost always packed. They’d since moved down (up?) to Brisbane Street with swisho new decorations looking like they’d been set upon by TV renovators. The food wasn’t as good as I remembered, maybe the new decorations raised my expectations. Maybe the bitterness that they’d successfully redecorated and I hadn’t, turned the food to ashes in my mouth. Menu’s still pretty cute though. Meal was washed down with a Nuovo Rosso made in Adelaide which is another chilled red – went well with the meal with a bit of a hint of sherry there somewhere.

The benefit gig was a pleasure and reminded me to get off my arse and go out and see more bands. Hats off to all concerned.

Belgian Beer Cafe

My life has been a fortunate one rather than a lucky one. Not to be at all maudlin but I’ve lacked those moments which make other people go “bastard”. One exception came with a message from my friend as to whether I’d like to join him for a free lunch at the then new Belgian Beer Cafe.

Graham had won lunch for 6 at a guess the beer competition – richly rewarding his years of hard work and research. As we sat down on the day, my friend asked if beer was included in the “free” and we were told “yes” and they’d tell us when it would stop. I never made it to the stop point -the alcohol level of Belgian beers starts where others stop – and wove off on my bicycle somewhere through the second lap of the beer menu.

I popped in there again on Friday for a couple of cheeky ones and to eat their pommes frites. I had the wheat beer Hoegaarden and the Abbey made Leffe Blond. Both are such exceptional starters and such pleasant drinks that whoever ordered the bourbon and coke or the two bottles of Vodka premix should consider themselves lucky that my friend’s description of himself as a Beer Nazi is figurative rather than literal.

My adventures stopped at those two and I didn’t even get to try the topical beer special Judas. I’ll have to go back next time I’ve got a fistful of cash . The beers are well worth exploring. While wine tasters go on about the influence of the soil, one beer, an Orval I think, tasted of dirt.

And it was good.

Belgian Beer Cafe Westende – corner of Murray and King

Good deeds to be done in Perth this Friday…

There’s a benefit gig at the Hydey this Friday 12th March aiding the victims of the recent quake in Iran.

Have a look over at Rob’s site

Sharpening Knives

Blunt knives are useless and dangerous. Steels are great and make a great sound but really just maintain sharpness rather than sharpen so you get to a certain point and that’s it. The ones with the wheels take off too much metal.

I use a whetstone whenever the skin of a tomato starts to resist slightly. I use a japanese one which is two stones stuck together. The #1000 stone does most of the work and then the finer #3000 finishes the edge. They’re not hard to use, just soak for 10 minutes and then rub the knife back and forward at a 30 degree angle – moving the knife across and back to get and even edge, and then flip it over and repeat. Do the same with the #3000 side to finish.

I asked the old guy at the knife shop I bought it from in Kappabashi how long until it’s sharp and he told me “until it’s sharp”. True.

Before I have to pick light airplanes out of it, I thought the basil in my garden had to be put to good use. Pesto was an obvious choice – a fairly straight forward one of roughly equal parts of pinenuts, basil, parmesan, with a bit of pepper and salt and two cloves of garlic – all pureed with enough olive oil to get the oiliness about right,

The tuna had been sitting in the freezer in sashimi size slices and was a low-carb alternative to pasta so out it came and cooked quickly on both sides in a little olive oil. A dab of pesto on each slice.

The zucchini was made up on the run. I started by cutting it into centimetre rounds and browned them a little in a pan with some garlic. I then saw some boccocini in the fridge. This became a small sandwich with the zucchini for the bread with a slice of boccocini and a couple of mint leaves in the middle. They went in the oven for about 10 minutes.

The two complemented each other well and the mint flavour settled down a lot.

Should be…

Nookenburra hotel. For some reason I got it confused with the site of a pivotal land rights struggle in WA. Must have been the white settlers theme that threw me out in a kind of guilt reflex. If you’re reading Keith…

The Nookenbah Bistro

The Noonkenbah Pub Bistro in Innaloo is a gem and offers a clear choice. You can put up with the time tunnel decor circa.1983 and the plastic chairs OR go somewhere a little more chi chi and pay twice as much for half as good. The place hasn’t changed much since the days when I trekked down to the nearby Bucks Off bottle shop to buy some booze for the school ball. All red bricks and Fred McCubbin prints – waitresses call you luv.

My need for steak after a discussion involving the use of semi-colons had to be met. The $15 sirloin with mushroom sauce lives happily here. Mine was cooked how I wanted with a cut of steak that was tender and large. The salmon steaks were superb but for a little overenthusiastic application of hollandaise sauce. There was no trace of the Moroccan Lamb after my friend had her way with it. The salad bar was a little uninspired but hey. There’s also usually a good range of specials and they like their fish specials. Beer is pub prices and the wine isn’t much more than bottle-shop.

Handy alternative for your knife holder seen in a few Sushi bars is this:

Get last year’s phone directory and run some masking tape around the front and back from top to bottom making the pages nice and tight together. Then pop it amongst your cookbooks, spine to the wall and pop your knives in it. Apparently keeps rust from non stainless steel knives and may have a tiny sharpening effect.

Works well, just have to be carful not to walk into the handles and remember to ask a parent for help if using sharp objects

Squid Salad

Got my bearings on this from a Bill Granger cookbook, can’t remember the name but it’s the one with the bay shot on it.

The dressing is a quarter cup each of fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar (comes in blocks and you shave off what you need) with a clove of minced garlic.

I was pretty happy with the mix of lettuce with some mint leaves and some basil from my feral metre high basil plant. Added some chopped spring onion and cherry tomatoes for a little more content.

The squid was some baby squid I’d bought, cleaned and scored. Just cooked in a pan for two minutes. Apparently for squid it’s either 2 minutes or an hour in what would be a longish trough shaped graph of tenderness.

Squid goes into greenery and is topped by dressing.

Good. Pretty straightforward so easily done on short notice, which it was.

Holy Smoke Smoked Trout Dip

from Pemberton is very good. I liked the texture, the flavour and it had a nice inconsistency which distinguished it from the more processed dips.