June 2006

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mabo tofu


The generally accepted western taxonomy is that it’s from the slaying of beasties that comes the protein and from plants comes things other. Did you know that Genesis and the whole garden of Eden thing was whinge in metaphor (and if you thought it was all true, well I’m sorry) for the replacement of the life of hunting for the agricultural one? Yeah thanks a frick’n lot ladies. Sometimes it gets me in such a funk that not even my 18″ pepper grinder can cheer me up. Heaping ambiguity upon indignity was tofu. Tofu is all gathery yet proteiny. The result was to treat it as an unsatisfactory and frowned upon alternative to the real thing [see hands, sins of]. And, where’s this going? Ahm look dudes it’s OK because beef and tofu can be friends.

Mabo tofu or “spicy tofu” is a Japanese Chinese fave and is usually not spicey at all with more efforts usually going towards getting the saice all gelatinous. In short, it is spag bol on tofu.

Tofu tends to have a tenuous grasp on it’s own constitution and will scramble if not properly firmed up. The first thing you should do is sit it on a slightly inclined chopping board with another weighted chopping board on top to remove extra moisture. You can then blanch it for a minute or, as I did, pop it in the tucker fucker for 90 seconds. Dice into dice sized dices with a dicer (or a knife).

A very large clove of garlic and a similar amount of ginger finely grated along with a finely chopped chilli and the chopped white ends of several spring onions. Quickly sauteed in peanut oil in a wok to get the flavours going. Mix in 300gm of beef mince that’s had a heaped tablespoon of miso paste, a tablespoon of toubanjan (spicey bean paste), and a tablespoon of sesame oil mixed into it. If you’re not big into the miso just buy a packet of instant, there should be a little tube of miso in there that you can use. For a bit of variety I added some finely chopped bamboo shoot and field mushrooms (shiitake would also be nice). Have a look below and notice that my mise skills have gone to pot (it’s adorable isn’t it? teapot and cup all in one).

mabotofu ingredients


Stir fry until cooked and then add a cup of beef stock with a teaspoon of cornstarch or potato starch mixed into it. Add the tofu and heat through while reducing the stock.

Garnish. It’s good. Grrr.

Congrats and thanks to long-timer Reid for being the host of IMBB



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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.

scallops and beef with beer

I’m doing a cooking workshop next month on cooking with beer and have been doing a bit of experimenting to find something that’ll work. This is an attempt at something simple. The steak sauce being not dissimilar to the 60’s bachelor piece d’resistance Steak Diane with a deglazing fluid having cream added. I don’t know how impressive beer being that fluid would be, personally I think the retrograde element would have been as impressive to potential dates as a quick tour of the Chiko Roll poster collection but who knows, maybe we’ve moved on.

The steak is a bit of beef fillet, seasoned and seared on all all sides then popped in a hot oven until medium-rare. The cast iron pan is deglazed with a glass of Emerson’s Oatmeal stout with some chopped spring onions and some rosemary and reduced. It was reduced by a about half but still a bit gappy and the rosemary didn’t fill so much as kind of loiter there wondering what was going on. Strained and then 100ml of cream whisked in and simmer for a couple of minutes. Much nicer but still I feel it’s a bit of a creamy cheat. The mushrooms we’re already in the oven, doused with a bit of stout, waiting for the steak to join it.

The cabbage is steamed until soft in a saucepan with a glass of Jarrah Jack’s Pale (a new local brewery down in Pemberton). A bit of crisped up speck mixed in and a sprinkle of carraway seeds. The carraway seeds weren’t all that helpful, amplifying the bitterness that was already there enough with the beer.

The scallops, and I like putting scallops on things, were the nicest surprise. I reduced down a little rasberry lambic and before it was about to vanish, put the scallops in. There’s that nice red caramelised look and the sharp sweet matches well with the fleshy sweetness of the scallops.

Dessert was (summon the insirational powers of Le Gavroche) a rhubarb compote made using Leffe Blonde and a vanilla bean and topped with a raspberry lambic sabayon. Sweet, tarty and luscious with a faint whiff of beer elements – go you 60’s bachelor!

AND: Steph is entirely not happy at the fact that only two blokes have shown up at the last 10 parties. I know the internet is the last place you’d find single guys but come on fellers. With the above and the fact I drank the uncooked beer in a fancy glass, it’s not strictly within the rules but this post is indisputably – Man Food.

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spice winter


Spice magazine winter edition should be in letterboxes soon and shops any day now. Go buy one, actually buy two (coffee table copy, kitchen copy) and then tell your friends to buy one. It’s great, otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered. Knives, butchers, kosher food, New Guinean success stories, and local recipes galore.
Subscriptions here (overseas folks, email me).

[I am so fricking proud of that knife page]