July 2004

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{Sigh}

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

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

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

Experimental Notes

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

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

Crème

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

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

Egg yolks and sugar whisked until pale and creamy.

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

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

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

Brûlée

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

And?

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

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

If these people can cook as well as they blog, I’m ruined. Some quality Friday arvo Australian food reading for you…

Excellence in amusement with Sedgwick with As the legendary chinese philosopher Darrell Lea once said … every Rocky Road contains marshmallow and at ALBINO -()- NEUTRINO -() there is “Tiger Prawn Jambalaya”.

More info truffles at Barista with the pie resurrected and gigantic

Mark bleeds for science and commerce in Guinea Piggery – it’s all for science, and a free box of wheaties.

Canadians are simply the lost Northern tribe of Aussies What the Wagyu?. They are eating Sydney as we speak.

Finally, neither Australian nor food related but mandatory reading at fantastic planet in case you never realised that saying the food was “surprisingly good” is the logical fallacy of Accent.

Update: I’m in bigger trouble than I thought, at Tug Boat Potemkin (thanks Rob). And there’s more at Soul Pacific with Sak zako bizin protez so montayn.

Shanks and Faro at Clairault Winery

A late posting but visual content buzzers were buzzing

Had lunch while at Augusta at Clairault Wines. My veal venison shank was exceptionally enjoyable but I’ve just realised I can’t remember whether the shanks were vension or veal [venison!]. I was thrown by the use of faro . Thought it was barley, which I’ve not had for quite a while. Enjoyed it so I might use it instead of Puy lentils some time in the future. It was the pick of the bunch as the other meals were a shade miserly and three tortellini for a main was taking liberties my son.

The wines are good but no notes as I’d shut down my wine sensors as I was skipper. Aye bloody aye.

Update:got on the blower and the nice lady at Clairault told me it was venison. Cheers.

Ongoing omlettes.

6 free range eggs; bunch of spinach – chopped; feta cheese – cubed; garlic clove -sliced; butter; pepper

Eggs separated with the whites whisked to whiteness, and then the yolks folded in. Peppered. Rested. Garlic softened in butter and followed by the spinach and then the the feta added to get it a little melty. Put aside. Cooked in some more butter with the spinch feta mix added while the top is still runny. Folded into thirds.

Well?

The execution was botched leaving a less than happy looking omlette but rather tasty I’d have to say.

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Reader’s Funky Appliance Fiesta (rFAFi)

If you’ve a digital camera and a tendency to hoard, you might want to have a rattle around in the cupboard and get into this at umami.

Sister said she fell in love with her husband at a party because of his cowboy boots and his blender. Go figure.

No.

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Augusta Trip Beer Omnibus

In no particular order:

Mac’s Blonde

A very good thing from Nelson New Zealand. I didn’t get to try this properly last time as I gave my 6 pack away out of embarrasment over my tempremental alternator to kind jumpstarters. I’m very leery of flavoured beers but this is really another way of sharpening up a wheat beer like the lemon in Redback. It’s a great beer and fills a very specific taste gap. Ash got the observation of the week award by saying it reminded him of cider. Perfect if you’re looking to avoid “Oi’ve got me a brand new combine harvester” comments.

Super Paladin Doppio Malto

Can’t find any info for this on the web but it is pretty special. Dark bronze and smooth, no bitterness but the last drop of it brought great sadness. Not cheap but as it comes in a champagne bottle, I’d be thinking of allocating a bit of the Crowny budget at ritzy mostly male dos in lieu of sparkling white.

Rationalisation notes: not to refer to as beer; good sparkling -similar; Champagne-bargain; special occasion; prior good deed; incurable illness.

Bootleg Brewery

The beer you can see in the corner next to the Beef and Raging Bull pie is the sharp and refreshing Wills Pils – easily the best of the locally made pilsners. From there it was hearts of darkness territory with the dark, darker, darkest of Tom’s Brown Ale, Raging Bull and a limited release Stout. All were very smooth with the stout seemingly radiating darkness. I had no idea the Raging Bull was 7.1% which should give you an idea of the quality of its body.

The site of the brewery is fantastic and allows parents to drink beer and watch their kids wallow in the temporary marshlands. Enjoyed my pie in the sun greatly and only regretted not being fast enough to nick some of the chorizo and squid and that it closed at 4:30pm.

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Ethically deficient, any “good” action by myself has been shaped by my earliest reading experience with Beano comics. The rules in this universe are as such:

  1. Good actions shall be unimposing or unwitting
  2. They will be followed by “Zoiks! A fiver!”
  3. Followed by either a large serving of bangers and mash, a large serving of fish and chips, or a large pie with horns coming out of it. (The last may be the Dandy outcome).

This windfall approach applies in cooking:

  • In-season fruit and vegetables are best and are at their cheapest.
  • Animals ranged freely and killed humanely taste better.
  • A diverse diet is interesting and better for you.

Anyway this is a hideously roundabout way of suggesting that there may be fewer such windfalls in the real world but Robert Corr of Kick & Scream‘s Time for action on Sudan compels “doing” and “something”.

Margaret Riviera in Cowaramup is a one-stop wonder shop for my version of essentials (you can use vinegar and newspaper for the others) when down South. Picked up some ostrich pate, Yallingup wood fired half-rye, chorizo, and some Cloverdene pecorino. The latter two I later used in a risotto.

The place in the photo is a little further south out of town . I botched their veges but their mandarins near blew my mouth off – I’ve grown accustomed to the should-have-been-here-yesterday flavour of most. Go, you will be trusted.

The name refers to olive trees and if you’re fond of wineries that only sell at the cellar door, who had a stab at making wine and found it sold out in 6 months, and will take you through some quite very lovely wines in the good part of an hour – then this is the place for you. I couldn’t make up my mind so settled for a mixed case and Toni picked a bottle of their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 for good measure (199 left). The reds should be coming in for drinking in time for the Beijing Olympics, the whites a little sooner. Have a look at their site: Peacetree Estate Boutique Winery. The tasting notes save me the hard work and their story is a good one.

oyasumi

Box of books from Mainly Books, box of beer from IBS and I’m off to Augusta busta.

Skippy the Bush Kangaroo Paw will be keeping an eye on things while I’m away. Look carefully and you can see him grow.

Mainly Books, 201 Bulwer St, Northbridge. Ph (08) 9227 6422 – near the scooter shop. Superb for second-hand books but if you’re after cookbooks from the 50’s and 60’s, you’re too late.

Whitefellah makes a big fire…

This IMBB6 turned from bewdy to bugger within the shakes of a dog’s hind leg.

Aussies and barbies. Australian’s use of fire predates Prometheus. We travel the world telling people it is our food. Visiting Presidents are hosted at them.

But

the

truth

is

we

suck.

We don’t grill or barbecue, we pan-fry outdoors. Recent immobility combined with an ancient tradition of bushfires have meant you’ve as much chance seeing a burning bit of wood as a Landcruiser with mud on it. Prophylactic hotplates were the start, then the wood got replaced by gas, and then the a grill was placed over the gas as a nod to progress, wood shavings sit in the shop waiting for a few obsessives. Haven’t seen a Weber outside of a garage sale in years. True, things have advanced since the dark days of “the barbie pack” (sawdusty sausage, a pounded steak, and a chop that would be cooked to carbon), but only because somebody was bullied into buying a bit of fish by a TV show or a glossy mag. I’m 35 and my smell memory tells me it was different once, did I have tears at BBQs because of a sookier childhood or was there something else?

A clue was found in the Culinaria France with racks of snails and meat over glowing bits of wood. That was it, if the French could do it, then so could I. All I needed was a place on the fringes, away from the prying eyes of civillisation, where the nearest law was 30 miles away. I picked up the phone, asked the operator to put me through to Mick (yeah yeah little Tony, no, no, yes, not yet, maybe one day)…Dad, I’m coming up to Munty. Can you sort me out for some meat and wood?

Getting

EAST! Over the hills, the shops vanished, the earth flattened, people waved when they saw another car. Fresh road kill offered opportunies but did I want us to be known over the world as a land of Skippy munchers?

Three hours – radio was fuzzy and all talk, iPod on its fifth cycle, just one last dead straight stretch and I’d be there. My Dad wasn’t – forced North to tend his sheep. Instead, I met Gavin – giant of a man, from Corrigin. He’d help me get local food. His wife, Sally, had cooked on fire as a girl. Their daughter, not used to strangers, clung tight to her Mum.

The lamb was waiting for me in the freezer. Chops of on-site born, saltbush fed and dispatched Dorper. South African, rather than the traditional Spanish Merino. Inspired and latitudinally consistent, I bought an LP sized spiral of Boerewor sausages at Mondo Di Carne.

.

Yabbies, freshwater prawns/crayfish/lobster, were left to chance. With over a dozen dams spread over 15,000 acres, four traps, and yabbies in at least one of them – it’s your classic pea and thimble. That done, I went to the pub where, as an outsider, I was allowed to have full-strength beer on the condition that I told no-none and gave none away. The years meant no-one recognised me but I did stupidly show someone my licence – they laughed and said last we heard of Anthony Georgeff he’d run off to Asia. I laughed too and then went home to bed, hoping.

I needn’t have worried, second dam. Bingo! Not many, but big buggers said Gavin – I took his photo with them.

Third dam, a dozen more.

Next, the wood. Mallee roots were gnarly before skateboarders had even begun to tire of the word. They sit on the edge of paddocks, the trapped souls of land clearing, waiting to be released. A few Jam tree branches and that was done.

The final job was to make the racks. I drove up to the farm tip. Rumour has it that somwhere, under that huge pile of agricultural detrius, lie my Dead Kennedy albums – who knows. I salvaged some old oven racks and wire and that finished the getting.

Ignition

I piled the wood, and then lit like all Aussies once did – a quart of petrol and a match. Shifted the jerry can and the ute and left it to reduce to coals and went back in to the kitchen.

Prep

The lamb chops were briefly marinated in olive oil pulverised with garlic. Sausage – just oil. Aoli made to have with the yabbies. The yabbies were sent to sleep in the freezer before removing their heads. Knife ready for the ikijimi at the slightest wriggle. Pooh tube removed with a twist of the middle tail and a yank. Tails in a bowl with some more olive oil. The oil was really just to prevent sticking. Nothing fancy – wanted to keep the number of flavour variables low.

Womenfolk prepared the vegetables while I chucked more wood on the the fire.

Back for the final prep. Placed the sausage on a rack, surrounded it with chops, placed the other rack on top and wired it up with fencing wire and a few twists with some pliers. Yabbies placed on one half of mesh, folded the other half over and wired that shut too.

Time for a beer and a think. This was rooted. How could the chops and sausages have the same cooking time? How would I control the temperature? What if someone wanted theirs well done? Who’d want yabbies coated in ash? F**k ’em, I’d done worse, much worse.

Cooking

First on were the veges in the camp oven. Coals underneath and on top.

Next a few bricks and the meat rack on top. Yep, yep and fhoooooof – up went the dripping oil and fat. Shit, shit – do I get water, can I start it again, did we even get any water this year? I looked for help – we grabbed more bricks. Up another level, the fire settled down. A bit of shovel work let me decrease and redistribute the heat. Chuck a glass of wine in the camp oven. Then we flipped the whole thing over. On went the yabbies, they were quick and the shells could go on the coals. Four minutes tops. Off they came. A little longer and a little faster and off came the meat.

That underutilised kitchen utensil, the bolt cutter, opened it all up.

Eating

I sliced the sausage up like a pizza. I popped a bit in my mouth. It was a little charred on one side but the centre was cooked through. I grabbed a few more bits – it was magnificent. I ditched my planned apology.

Defying my fears, the lamb chops had cooked perfectly – just ever so slightly rare and very juicy. The yabbies peeled easily and were done through – the shell imparted some sweetness and the muddiness had gone. Only the camp oven veges, neglected in all the hullaballoo, were overdone.

We left the cutlery on the table, and sat around the fire, eating silently, working through some red wine (some more than others), and chucking in the empty shells in the fire. I went back for more, but the cold had sucked the life out of the meat, it was the briefest of pleasures. Instead we continued our way through some bottles of red, keeping warm by the fire and laughing at those who tripped over in the darkness.

The fire was at my feet, the universe at my head.

Did you know the dark patches in the Milky Way are an emu? True.

The Abominable Shellfish

Food and religion beautifully presented at slacktivist.

Muntadgin Pub

What did we learn after a few hours back here?

  • in 74 years, we’ve yet to build better looking pubs
  • a 10ft pole is not nearly long enough for the “New Country Party”
  • Swan Draft should never have been replaced by Emu Bitter
  • drunkened ciggie bludging is a bad bad bad idea
  • as are bundies and coke
  • as are ribbed steak pans for scrambled eggs with tomatoes and mushrooms.

The writing exercise Spiceblog is now 1 year old. This is a very good time to say thank you everyone. As neither a writer or a cook, I’m grateful for and humbled by your attentions. They’ve been a constant source of pleasure and pride.

[very deep bow] Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

Found this the other day, don’t know if this is the definitive “how far we’ve come” moment but it made me smile. Norway!

We’ll get the winning score,

Oh hear our mighty roar.

Roar!

Rosbifs

There is the very specific male fantasy of being “called-up”. “Yes Batman, Robin’s sick, right”. The Japanese refer to it as:

small-boy-chosen-by-scientists-to-defend-nation-kon. When I was a complete bastard schoolboy we’d write notices up on the message board for a Claremont Football Club obsessed target of bile that, “Graham Moss called, you’re needed for the match this weekend” or just “Mossy’s on the phone”. I’d like to apologise for this. Anyway, where was I.. oh yes a French friend asked me to cook the main course for Bastille Day.

She lent me two books for inspiration Culinaria France and the

Roux Brothers Good Tastin’ Country Kitchen. The cassoulet I made is based mainly on the former but cross-referenced with the latter. It’s quite a process and I often can only get my head around things pictorially so here’s the flow chart that I scribbled up and gave to my friend. Have a look for the process, recipe, and a glimpse into what goes on in my head.

The cooking is quite simple, if lengthy – two days. The real task in making this classic French peasant dish is getting everything. The meat was no problem, I called Mondo Di Carne in Inglewood and they admirably got everything for me. The real problem was the Confits de Canard (preserved duck/goose legs). I tried Kitchen Essentials and got the very men’s boutiquish – “they are $120 a kg and we don’t have them”. With that and the $50 a kilo haricot beans, I decided a foodie values utility over extravagance and looked elsewhere. I tracked back to the Pressure Cooker Centre to ask the chatty French lady there if she knew. She pointed me to Herdies Fresh where I settled for a jar of duck fat. This jar has one of the most impressive Nutritional Guides I’ve ever seen.

Per 100gm serving

Kilojoules – 3724.38

Fat – 99.8gm

Sodium

Calcium

Cooking was easy, only danger was of passing out from pork and garlic fumes as I drove to the host’s house.

Our host’s Roquefort Soufflé served with lettuce with New Zealand dressing was exceptional, as was the chocolate mousse.

As for the cassoulet. It plays a mean trompe l’oiel*. It looks like sausage and bean casserole but tastes otherworldly. Try it. The humble becomes the exalted – revolutionary in fact.

Vive La France!

FootnoteHistory buffs, and I do mean buff, can research further at Angelina Jolie and the French Revolution where “the tedious soup-plate symmetry of artificial enhancement” meets “St Just invoked the “male energie” of the republic”.

*eggcorn?

Everything thirsty cartographers need to know about beer is here. Lacks only a Z axis for quality to round it out and a “here be dragons” bit.

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

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

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

Crepes

wholemeal flour, milk, eggs, melted butter, buttermilk

Cream

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

Plus

Grapefruit Marmalade

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

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

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

BTW Does this thing have a proper name?

Ignore the jar filled with marmalade for a second and look at the plant behind it. It’s a Kangaroo Paw. I’ve been spending the past week going to work and wondering if today was the day it was going to shine for me. Those used to flowers that open like popcorn should remember that this is a slow and ancient continent (possibly close to 12,000 years!).

Jams are the preserve of those with an abundance of time and fruit. I had 12 grapefruit given to me and told I should make jam with it and so I did.

The Women’s Weekly Cookbook was my first stop but I got to the part where they suggested using kerosene for testing and thought I was falling into home made amphetamine territory. Anyway went for an easier approach.

In

10 smallish grapefruit, 1 lemon, 2mandarins, 4 cumquats*, 1 kilo of sugar, 150gm palm sugar**, 2 .5 liters of water.

*It’s a very small tree. **Didn’t have any brown sugar so made do.

First job is to slice the grapefruit thinly (peel and all) making sure to keep the pips out. Ditto for the cumquats and the mandarins. The lemon gets halved and the juice without the seeds goes in as do the halves.

Into a large pot they went with the water, brought to a boil, simmered, for thirty minutes, lidded and left for a day and a half.

Then heated up, the sugar added, stirred and then boiled until it reached it’s right jamminess. This took a couple of hours (maybe too much water) but I wasn’t too worried as grapefruit has high levels of pectin allowing a large margin of error. I’d check every now and then by pouring some onto a cold spoon (ow!). When I was happy with it, into oven sterilised jars it went. The lemon halves were left. The jars were sterilised by washing, then leaving them in a 150C oven for 15 minutes – mind your fingers

It’s nice and sour and the amazing thing is how soft the peel becomes. The recipe made heaps though – friends, relatives and a pork marinade maybe.

Glaring Omission Thank you Gail for the grapefruit and kickstarting this, jar waiting for you if you’re quick.

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Sir!

Letter from the Weekend Magazine

How is possible that you can turn the humble bok choy into a food for the elites [Bok choy boy”, Food, June 26-27]? What happened to the good old days when my father could eat a bowl of steamed rice with bok choy and salted fish? Whatever happened to the simple plate of bok choy with oyster sauce? No wonder the average Aussie is absolutely clueless about multiculturalism when elites like yourself pollute, simple humble food with your neo-colonial ideas. What person in their right mind would serve bok choy with salmon?

Anthony Lee

Surely taking the piss. It’s so hard to tell anymore. Aye or naye?

Anyway, salted fish – pah! My dad used to just eat his bok choy straight out of the vege patch, on his hands and knees!

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Watched Good bye, Lenin! last night and it left me pondering alternate histories and filial obligation, and wanting for pickles.

I found some German pickles (not Spreewald) at Kakulas Brothers. Nearly got myself in an early morning altercation with a Northbridge boho when I told him they could make him a sandwich if he liked after I got tired of watching him snacking out of the food bins. Who needs pubs. I also bought some pancetta which led to Bauernfruhstuck – Farmer’s Breakfast.

Despite German hosts many years back looking at me like (because) I was a moron when I asked how to make it, I still had a look over the net to check. I found the same recipe in a dozen different locations all with the very unlikely addition of tomatoes and chives.Instead I found this one and went to work,

What

7 potatoes, 5 eggs with a tiny splash of milk-beaten, 300gm pancetta- chopped, 2 onions-chopped, pepper

Boil the potatoes and the chop into eights. Fry the pancetta and remove and sauteed the onion until soft. Add the potatoes, brown a little, then returning the pancetta. When it’s done, mix in the eggs and turn the heat off. There should be enough to cook the eggs.

Served with pickles and washed down with Schöfferhofer Weissebeer while watching Shadow of the Vampire . Schöfferhofer Weissebeer is a flatter tasting wheat beer but the flavour lingers, dancing on the tongue like tiny smurfs.

Footnote: Wife said the left photo looks like Francis Bacon.

Update: Found this over at fantastic planet – current alerts exist for: Déjà Vu for Good bye, Lenin! watchers; cognitive dissonance for combatants in the Burger wars; and severe bar lifting for aspiring soft-drink copywriters.

Blogbrief streching here but a brilliantly obsessed American friend in Japan just sent me a link to his latest set of speakers.

I should also mention, for those with a large living room and deep pockets, that they are for sale (postage and handling not included).



Happy to see a post by Hawaiian food blogger Reid at ‘Ono Kine Grindz on the Kua ‘Aina Sandwich Shop.

Whether it was luck or the peculiar retail density of Tokyo, I had two within walking distance of my office and grateful for it. More than any other burger chain I’ve been to they made the transition to exceptional without sacrificing the essential dumbness of burgers like [ rock band name pending further thought]

While here we have the burger chain diversity of carp and blue green algae, Japan had a pretty rich and creative ecology of burger chains. A triumph of adoption, adaption, and innovation. Morinaga Love has long gone, but its ika burgers will long be remembered. Squid patty, between two fresh rice “cakes” with a sauce that had a hint of wasabi. Three favourites remained and Freshness Burger has thrived. Have a look – the websites are a delight.

Freshness Burger

Mos Burger

First-kitchen

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

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

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

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

Pork

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

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

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

Stoemp

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

Serving

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

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Happily watched Casablanca today and marvelled at its moral complexity in dire times and that Kevin Spacey is Peter Lorre. 20th Century classic as it was, it was outdone by the next DVD – Once Upon a Time in Mexico – by having a “10 Minute Cooking School” with Robert Rodriguez as an extra. Marinating in Zip Lock bags, coffee grinder for spices, deveining and seeding chillies – man’s a genius.

You can’t eat with two spoons. Kosovar saying

Thanks Besimus

Had the local winners of the Spiceblog Name that Obscure Reference and Suggest a Nice Dessert to Bring Over competition over last night . I was going to just give them their free small sized coke vouchers and send them on their way but they charmed their way inside with Erdinger beer and a home-made Chocolate and Berry pavlova.

Request was for curry, but put research project Lamb and Spinach Curry on hold to use the shotgun approach. Had

  • Tandoori Lamb Chops
  • Beef Curry with Coconut and Almonds
  • Pork, Lentil, Spinach and Sweet Potato Curry
  • Aloo Sag
  • very small chapatis – had a “that’s inches moment”.
  • Cardamom Spiced Pistachio Pilaf
  • Cucumber and Yogurt Raita
  • Tomato and Mint Sambal

Good luck if you think I’m going to type up the recipes for all those up – but you can try. I’d like to say it came from a ghee flecked copy of a Madhur Jaffrey book, but it was almost all from religously following one of those little $4 Women’s Weekly supermarket cookbooks that are unfussily tried and true. Not something you’d have sitting on the recipe book holder when guests come round but they worked well.

Massively impressed by the Pavlova itself and the logistics – being brought ready for assembly with berries, cream, and chocolate shavings. Cream was even in a pristine 1970’s green Tupperware container. Serves 8-10 size too.

A few puzzles came up-

1) Our kind Pavlova bringer had trouble keeping it from getting huge air bubbles, cracking or both. Any help?

2) Is clarified butter the only way to make ghee, are there vegetarian versions out there?

3) What’s a good use for brown butter?

I found out the answer for 3) because it seemed familiar

– brains.

Next clever people that come along…