March 2006

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tain provencal

Fack! A perfectly good post down the cyberhole after a frozen firefox. I think I’ll go and sulk and fill in the bits later when I get a moment/cheer up.

Scallop and asparagus tart with saffron sauce

Scallop and Asparagus Tart with Saffron Sauce

Leg of lamb medallions with garlic and tarragon cream sauce

Butterflied Leg of Lamb Medallions with Garlic and Tarragon Cream Sauce.
Served with a Tian Provençal (up top)

This was going to be a saddle of lamb trimmed into noisettes but a “didn’t have” became a “how about” and and I came back with a large piece of butterflied leg of lamb (the bone is cut out and the meat opened out, great for quick cooking after marinating). I trimmed it a bit and made some O in an OK sized rolls which I tied up with string. Seasoned, seared in a pan, cooked in a very hot oven to rare, and rested.
The sauce was made by roasting two heads of garlic then adding the pulp to double cream in a saucepan and reduced with fresh tarragon added. Roasting removes much of the garlic’s pungency and accentuates its sweetness.

This was served with a Tian Provençal which is kind of like a rataouille pie but without the capsicum, which is fine by me. It is also completely vegan, which is rather special. The eggplant is peeled into strips and blanched to make the lattice and fried strips of eggplant make up the sides of and the base. The filling is small cubes of zucchini sauteed with finely chopped onion, garlic and mint. A bit of baking paper in the base of the cake tin (or a tian if you’ve got one and then cooked covered with foil, like a creme brulee, in a water bath for 20 minutes in a hot oven. For a cooking note you might want to consider the effects of having a water bath while roasting something else. No? Inverted onto a plate. The topping is skinned and deseeded tomatoes and finely chopped spring onions cooked in a frypan until thick with the liquid gone. It looks a little like a chocolate cake which makes it perfect for disappointing children.

pear tart with fig and brandy ice cream

Red Extravaganza Pear Tart with Fig and Brandy Ice Cream

Jules in comments asks how I did the ice-cream. Righty ho then, by the looks of it, Jules knows her way around a kitchen but I’ll make a kind of general publicky kind of explanation. Custard was never meant to be the lumpy shite from a packet that you had on apple turnover but the starting point for ice-cream.

Creme anglais + ice-cream maker = ice-cream.

The inspiration for this came from J and her Macadamia Tart. As is quite clear, I wasn’t inspired, obviously enough, to make an immaculately presented dessert but noticed that if I made a batch of custard, I could use it for the the tart and then use the rest for the ice cream and save myself a valuable bit of arsing about time.
To make a creme anglais you split a vanilla pod down the middle, let it simmer in a cup of milk in a saucepan. Meanwhile whisk two egg yolks with 100grams (yeah yeah I bought a scale) of sugar until “it forms ribbons when lifted”. Take out the vanilla pod and then add the milk to the yolks in a steady stream stirring constantly. Put it all back in a saucepan and heat gently until it thickens “until you can draw a finger down the back of a spoon and leave a clean line”, stir constantly. If you don’t, and it never ever has, and you get some lumps, just run it through a sieve. That’s your custard/creme anglais.
Add a cup of thick cream and put in the fridge. If it’s cold it’ll work more quickly in the ice cream maker. Now for the brandy fig bit. Chop up two ripe figs and macerate them in enough brandy to cover for a few hours. You can then work off the alcohol by bringing the mix up to the boil in a fry pan. Add this to the creme anglais in the ice cream maker and watch it go round until ice creamy. You don’t have to watch it, but it is kind of compelling – more so than Dancing with the Stars.

The tarts… ahh pate sucree, bit of custard, chopped pear, in the oven blah blah blah.

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Poached salmon with kang kong scrambled eggs

OK here we go. Deboned and skinned salmon cutlets poached in white wine, pepper, bayleaf, and parsley with scrambled eggs with cream and mushrooms with kang kong sauteed in olive oil with thin pieces of pancetta. Topped with a reduction of the poaching liquid with cream and chopped capers. Gotta do something about that glare. Any questions?

Saffy asked how I poached the salmon. The roundlet of salmon is how they prepare it at Jacksons for the confit. You cut the cutlet down the middle, take the bones out, skin it, and then make a ying-yang shape and tie it up. This was the point where I found out I didn’t have any string so I secured it with a couple of skewers. Couple of big glasses of wine in a saucepan with peppercorns, bay leaf and parsley and bring it to boil. Place it on a heat mat/diffuser to get it down to a very low simmer (almost no bubbles) and then add the salmon. Top up to cover the salmon with water and poach until cooked. If you don’t have a diffuser, a very low heat will do.
Seems to be trouble with the commenting, if so just email me – spiceblog at gmail.

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Dear Anthony

As much as I like long accounts of food preparation, I was wondering if you had any pictures of Buzz Aldrin next to a giant green apple instead?

Best regards

Why as a matter of fact I do.

Buzz Aldrin and the Giant Green Apple

Happy to oblige Craig.


Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach roasted pork belly with charcutiere sauce rhubarb ice cream with ginger peach compote

I love this book. Le Gavroche is the London restaurant started by the Roux brothers and now run by Michel Roux Jr. After a couple of months staring googly eyed at it, I thought it would be a good candidate for a straight up no messing about recipe following. It’s good to experiment but it’s also good to find out how things are meant to turn out.

Saturday dinner for my sister, who’s batching with her husband away in Quebec, and my neighbourhood doctor, who keeps me supplied with anti-reflux pills and Papua New Guinean savoury biscuits. Seafood and meat. Albany mussels were looking great, I’m always happy to have pork belly, and I was keen to try a new ice-cream. So,

Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach

Mille-feuille of mussels and baby spinach

A good way to fancy up mussels. A step up from the shells and the finger bowls – not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s a shame to see a food typecast as casual.
Cooked in white wine, cooking liquid gets added to a finely chopped onion sauteed in butter with two teaspoons of marsala curry powder and bouquet garni herbs. Reduced by a third. Double cream is then added and then reduced to a “light sauce”. It’s always very important to taste. For some reason the sauce was very salty so I added a little more cream to adjust.
The spinach gets washed carefully and dried – I cut out all the stems. Softened in olive oil and seasoned.
The Mille-feuille is an easy way of stacking. Stab a sheet of puff pastry all over with a fork and then cook until golden in a hot oven. The stabbing will stop the sheets puffing up. You then just cut them up into equal rectangles.
No picture in the book so I made the stack with two layers of mussels and spinach and then made a ring around the stack with the extra mussels and poured source on the layers, on top of the stack and then over the mussels.

roasted pork belly with charcutiere sauce

Roasted Pork Belly with Charcutière sauce

It’s actually for a rack of pork but I didn’t read the recipe carefully before I headed off to the butchers. Ah well.
The pork is roasted with potatoes, whole garlic cloves, thyme, and bay leaves. I used kipfler potatoes and cut them into bevelled rounds for practice. The pork belly is scored, rubbed down with butter, and jusy before it’s put in the oven, given a rub with sea salt. Leaving it to the last minute will stop the salt drawing out the moisture and then not crackling properly. At least this is what I was led to believe, the book recommends leaving the salt on for 90 minutes and brushing excess salt off. Another thing realised after the deed.
The cooking sequence is interesting, 30 minutes at 190C; 15 minutes at 150C; and then rested for 45 minutes.
The pan is deglazed with white wine and a little vinegar and then cooked with veal stock, shallots, and cracked pepper. Reduce by two thirds and then finish with whisked in butter and mustard and diced peeled and deseeded tomatoes.
Again no picture in the book so I placed the pork belly in the middle and had the potato and garlic kind of loitering around it.
Instead of the traditional cornichon, I fried up some scallops in the roasting fat and placed one on top of each serve of pork belly.

Rhubarb Ice-cream with Ginger Peach Compote

This has nothing to do with the cookbook but just a thought that since ice-cream is just frozen custard, and rhubarb and custard is a a classic combo, then rhubarb ice-cream would be good. It turned out there was a recipe for Rhubarb Parfait with Ginger Apricots.
The ice-cream was the standard recipe for vanilla ice-cream and the rhubarb was a compote. To make a compote, you chop up 5 stick of rhubarb (the leaves are poisonous so, no) and then add it to a fully dissolved cup of water, half a cup of sugar, and the juice and zest of one lemon. Bring to the boil and allow to cool, covered. Add as much to the ice-cream maker to get the ice cream as rhubarby as you think you’d like it.

Ginger apricots, became peeled and finely diced peaches, enough white wine to cover, sugar to taste and because I didn’t have any preserved ginger, four slices of peeled fresh ginger. I left it to simmer in the mix until there was the right amount of ginger tatse.

Nothing fancy. Ice-cream in the middle, and the excess rhubarb compote and ginger peaches around.


Mussels were great, although the appeance of the mille-fieulle reminded me a little of when I’d have smoked oysters on crackers as a kid. No bad thing. Toni liked the stack and the spinach with it. The curry was very mild.

The pork was typically tasty and crackled up nicely. The garlic mellowed and the potatoes were crisp. The sauce looked a little thin, actually near translucent. I should have reduced it by the recommended two thirds, but the taste was robust enough as I’d already reduced the stock I used.

Dessert was great. Nice matching with the ginger apricots. Adulty.

Could I live with a car like this?

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chicken and mushroom quiche

Today is International Women’s Day. Spiceblog is well regarded as a leader in gender issues on the internet in Australia so I shouldn’t let this slip by. As is often said, where the mirror cannot be found, the dish will do. Last Friday I went to the outdoor movies and I made a quiche. For those around at the time, the quiche was a minor celebrity in the crisis of manhood in the early 80s – second only to the manbag. It managed to inspire a book “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche” with the punchline being “they eat ham and egg pie”. Hoohoo indeed! I’m not sure where this animosity came from, I mean it’s not as if half our language isn’t French already or that manliness is derived from an earthy literalness that would have us saying that’s not a carburettor, it’s a device to regulate the flow of fuel and air into the cylinder. Possibly it was a kind of no-nonsense response that played into a myth of the fall. The fall being the defeat in 1066 by the Normans which destroyed the priveleged position of good honest monosyllables and all things Arthury or something. So ingrained in me was this that there was a moment of hope that since I didn’t have a quiche tin and had to use a cake tin, the lack of scalloped edge and the relative heightiness meant that it would be a pie. It wasn’t

Get yourself some short-crust pastry, butter a tin, cut a circle of pastry out, place it in the bottom. Cut some strips out to go around the edge. Seal up any gaps and blind bake for 10 minutes at 220C. If you haven’t done this before, it’s just to get it nice and crusty. Place some dried beans on the pastry to stop it puffing up. I disn’t have any beans so I used some ceramic hashioki. Just put a sheet of baking paper under them.

Mix was one chicken breast which I left to marinate for an hour in Ras al Hanout spices. Pan cooked and shredded. About a cup of chopped field mushrooms and then a third as much chopped spring onions and a third as much of that in chopped scallions all gently cooked in butter. Mix together with the chicken and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley. Four whole eggs, half as much cream, and half again of cheddar I had. OK alright there’s maths here but are you going to have the same amount of spring onions as mushrooms? No. Half as much mushrooms as chicken maybe. I wanted mix with eggy bits just holding it together and I got it. How much cheese do you want? Make a decision. Salt and pepper. Cook at 180C until you dip a knife in it and it comes out clean and then take it out and cool it on a rack. You can then pop it back in the tin for easy transportation to said French film.

Film of which was French film The Story of My Life – dealing with thirthysomething doubt regarding artistry versus commerce versus success versus failure versus risk versus identity versus vulagarity versus the woman you have versus the woman you want all mixed together in a second act snarl up with comedic result and character switchovers.

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I’m still at Jackson’s every Thursday but I still live in a kind of titular haze. [For those coming in late] I’m certainly not a chef, I’m not technically an apprentice, and I’ve lingered longer than the typical work experiencer. Dilettante, duffer, hanger-on, kitchen fop, thirtysomething man in kitchen scene… I think I was settled on gentleman chef in the sense of the gentleman farmer rather than any particular gentility. A kind of jolly good involvement while others go about the work they do every day, well. I described this in a separate conversation and I was asked like wandering in and spending 20 minutes fixing your apron?, which is exactly what I do do, so I guess there must be something in it.

What I do after I carefully arrange my apron and check my hat’s on OK varies from week to week. Last week I was taught how to do chocolate decoration using a small piping bag made from baking paper and made orange and poppyseed biscuits as part of the meal’s end. The week before that I seemed to have spent a couple of hours taking the leaves off herbs. Not quite as straightforward as it seems, coriander goes in the salad spinner to dry, mint doesn’t because it’ll break the leaves and they’ll blacken. Parsley varies from leaf to leaf and the tougher ones should be the ones left whole as garnish. Vietnamese mint gets separated into shoots and leaves. The best way to rinse them is in a bowl but don’t do what I did and pour it through a strainer because you’ll just pour the sand over the leaves again. It’s good if you can guess the right amount that will fit into a container and they should be covered with a dampened paper towel.

During service I’d do my regular tasks of veg and two salads but as there’s an extra person on I thought I’d ask if I could go down the other end and watch mains being done. The last Thursday I got to work the mash and pour the lamb sauce. This may seem a quite small thing to do and, out of context it is, but for me it’s a big deal. There is a direct link between what I put on the plate and what is put in front of a guest.


Last Thursday was a great day. As well as the usual small picking and prepping I made the bread rolls for the day, had dinner, and then took my place at the mains end with Michelle and Mark. It takes a little while to get people in, ordered and their entrees sorted and then it goes. It’s a small space and I try not to get in the way but I was assured I’d be worked around and over if I was. My first task was to make small “shepherd’s pies” in small tarts – the trick is to cover it neatly with mash without spilling gravy over the sides or dragging it up over the mash, it took me a couple of goes. As well as this I did over a dozen different things to my usual four or five. Four salads and two veges, zapping darioles in the microwave, saucing, truffled mash for side orders and roquefort mash for the plates – trying to get a balance between under and overcompensating for serving size and taste, cooking brussel sprout leaves, grabbing plates, making small piles of couscous and chutney, making sure I kept things hot, deep frying rabbit meat croquets and small pappadums, taking on criticism and adding a bit of chat, dashes out to the cool room AND, and this is the yes moment, plating a plate on my own. Centering a dob of mash in time for Michelle to place the wagyu beef on top; then on with the sauce; taking the chanterelles, bacon, and onion mix from the pan balancing it on top; further balancing several brussel sprout leaves; giving the plate a clean; and then calling the order. Mark was good enough to say “that’s the Jacksons there” *blush*, I learnt that if you faf something up, e.g. my unsuccessful balancing act, you only get about two goes at fixing it up before it just becomes a mess. But yes someone’s steak course in the degustation menu presented by me, bang right between their cutlery. Should have taken a picture.

The experience so far has been entirely positive for reasons well beyond just the culinary aspects. As a person who is fond of instant gratuity, the process has been slow but entirely appropriate. Things learnt well are always learnt properly from the basics and worked up to. In one sense it resembles a dojo where you don’t start by practicing head kicking 20 encircling challengers or insisting that you be taught the crane kick. I’m also a person who generally takes criticism very badly and very personally and I’m getting this worked out of me. Frankly being told off by a seventeen year old apprentice is humbling and appropriate all and the same time and I’ve never been told anything that was unfair or incorrect. It’s the small details that get picked up on that make the staff so professional, if I couldn’t accept this I’d be a sobbingsniffy wreck. Learn, move on, and do it right the next time. It’s also eight or so hours of work, worky work, work that is referred to as real or honest work, and unlike, I dunno, digging ditches, it’s interesting and demanding. And what’s more it’s team work in the way that a thousand catch me I’m falling workshops aspire to – I think people are too good at what they do and too busy to have time to develop a dysfunctional workplace. And they feed me pork belly, I should return the favour by not singing at work – they deserve better.

Mental note: winged plates, entree bowls, veg bowls, rectangular rabbit plates.

Autumn Edition

Out in the shops now (obviously more than five copies). I was going to go on about how putting out a mag isn’t as glamorous as it’s made out to be or that I recognise how unfair it is that I get to be an editor purely because of my good looks but instead I’ll just say wooh!

Lots of magic stuff on things food and drink in Western Australian that does us proud and there’s a picture of my bum on page 69 courtesy of 2 Minute Noodle Cook.

Clarification: I should explain that despite sharing names this isn’t the magazine for this blog and this isn’t the site for the magazine although I am a director. For all official things I should point you in the direction of Spice Magazine, currently having a bit of a shake up with a few ums and ahs about the layout.