October 2006

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I’ve had a burst of guilt. Chubby Hubby had tagged me for my first meme for a while two months ago and I never got around to posting it – Five things to eat before you die.

1. Something you’ve killed
I think everybody should eat something they’ve killed and it should be as far up the animal food chain as possible. Yes, yes you should. Can’t go passing the buck all your life. Not that I’m buying into this whole great white hunter bollocks. I’m obviously suspicious of people that surround themselves with every modern comfort and their way of reaching back to their ancient past just happens to be shooting something. There’s a time and a place but any more significance placed on hunting than ‘killin’ stuff’ is bollocks. And yeah alright it’s not very practical so check with your local council and try not to stuff it up, actually don’t bother it’s just too hard.
I dunno, buy a live lobster, kill it properly (they’re fiesty if they wake up!), and pat yourself on the back. Or go vegetarian.

2. Uni
Not the place where I sent five yeards faffing around doing a Philosophy and Accounting double degree but the gonads of sea urchins. It’s like a turd wrapped in a hand grenade. So why have it? Well it’s gorgeous, it’s like dessert for savoury people, a sweet salty buttery aromatic mousse made from the creamiest of cream. It’s sweet like a really good champagne is, that’s not really sweet at all. But why not just make a sweet salty aromatic mousse from the creamiest cream? Because you don’t have to, because it just is as it is, untouched. And it’s something you really shouldn’t have in any rational world but you try it and it’s good, geniunely good. You can’t say that about sea cucumbers

3. A suitably effective hallucinogenic
Not suggesting for a minute that you go out and buy these or even enjoy them in a nice pastoral setting on a sunny day but, while not the most tasty of eating experiences, they do give more ride for your dollar than any other ingestible I can think of.
What it will teach you about food is the effect that small amounts of chemicals can have on your body. Compare this with the large amounts of beer required to get up to the level of “dancing” and the tardy side-effects of eating crap food, you can almost see the genesis of the organic food movement.
Other than that, there’s little better for appreciating how tenuous our strongly held beliefs can be – my! carpet *can* undulate after all, and what a sharp little knife edge of perception and reason we live on. It’ll also teach you that if things do get bad, they will pass with patience, that acceptance can trump struggle, and fear is illusory – very Tao.
Otherwise: play dizzy whizzy and fall backwards and look at the clouds.


Spam and Noodle Casserole
God help me the world of food is a relativist one. It’s all bloody well we’re busy, or we can’t afford this,
or but I liiiike it, or ooooh what a fucking food snob. It’s getting so hard you can’t even pop into the Scottish Restaurant on a Saturday morning and shout you must hate your children if you’re giving them this shit anymore without someone feeling all aggrieved. Thank you Spam and Noodle Casserole because you have taught me that there are absolutes and there is evil.

5. A Giant Bouncy Castle Made of Jelly
I don’t know if this is feasible but the thought of dying and not having eaten this just breaks my heart.

and once I got this right the rest was downhill

Mr Chubby d’Hubby of Singapore was in town for a wedding a little while ago and I insisted, *insisted* that he come over to my place for dinner in the spirit of bloginess and a sense of regional friendship that seemed to have been lost since Australia decided we’d be part of the Anglophonic Superfriends. If you haven’t been over to his blog ‘Chubby Hubby’, then off you go now. Great isn’t it? But eeek! from a I’ve got to cook dinner for this person perspective. On top of this the other three guests, his wife and two friends were all heavily involved in food in both work and leisure. The other thing is that Singapore is a very cosmopolitan and outward looking place so there was no – ‘as you may not be familiar with Bulgarian food type’ dodges. (sorry this isn’t making any sense is it?)

To cope with my I’m a bloggin’ fraud angstiness about these things, the plan was to have something which was really good but didn’t look like I’d tried to hard just in case it didn’t work out because I was like being all casual and all in a kind of faded jeans and cowboy shirt way (actually that’s what I wore).

Cold entree prepared in advance, rack of lamb (‘cos it’s Aussie), and rhubarb ice cream for dessert.

Cold entree ended in the bin, lamb rack became pork rack and rhubarb ice-cream became rhubarb ice-cream (but with cardamom – oooeee).

Pains to Spain
The entree was a facking disaster – a combination of orange roughy roe, ocean trout, and crayfish horns. Unfortunately I was working off a few different recipes so it was a cross between a terrine/mousse/parfait. The orange roughie roe did work, it’s not much raw but did make for a very nice pate – cooked in orange juice and then cream. This was the top row.
For the next part I smoked half my stash of ocean trout. Pan fried the other half and pureed them both. It then became apparent I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and ended up making a mousse and had a brief naff sixties flashback. Crayfish horns filled the inside.
Tried it the next morning and realised there is indeed a significant difference between smokey and acrid and this was the latter. Toni concurred and in the bin it went (not something I do lightly).
What to do. I still had some bits of fish and crayfish left and a fish stock I’d made; thinking I needed it for the terrine that became a mousse.

So, a kilo of mussels, and some smoked chilli squid legs and it was a paella with alioli. I’m pretty sure this was my first paella so being all experienced ‘n all – the secret is a good stock, chopping and deseeding the tomatoes yourself, and making sure you sautee them until they’re dryish. Do this and the lady from the cover of Surfer Rosa will appear as if by magic and dance the special dance for your entertainment for making such a fine paella.

The alioli was – one egg, four garlic cloves, salt, 1 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp hot water – pureed and then EVOO added drop by drop then a stream while the wand is going until the consistency is right.

Went to Jeremy’s Butchers thinking lamb rack and instead saw a lovely 10 chop rack of Spencer’s Brook Organic pork and was sold. Did I mention butchers were good? Jeremy half cut the chops to allow better cooking, scored the top, and sent me away with the wisdom.
Oil it and salt the skin to dry it out the day before and let it get to room temperature. Raost at 220C to get the crackle crispy and then cook at 160C for about an hour and a half. And then rest in foil for 45 minutes. This seems a long time but it will retain a lot of heat and continue to cook the meat.

The ironic thing, actually more coincidental, but you don’t get a lot of ironic opportunities in food blogging is I swore I’d give the La Gavroche cookbook a rest, but found a recipe for rack of pork ribs that I resignedly followed – accepting the book is stamped on my brain in much the same way that every song I know play ends up sounding like I Wanna Be Sedated.
(And I’ve just realised that I’ve done virtually this whole dinner before *with* rhubarb ice-cream as well. Help! I’ve got dementia.)

The pork is cooked over root veges – in this case – 5mm slices of kipfler potato, parsnip, and white sweet potato. Along with garlic, sliced scallions, rosemary and thyme. The traditional way is to pour a cup of chicken stock as well and baste regularly. You can get the veges up to appropriate crisp while the pork is resting.

Apparently, legend has it, that in olden days, the ladies would use the local baker’s ovens and to save messing about – they’d do it all in one dish. Hence the songs of the time like:

Bad cooking woman
Given’ away her lovin’
That’s mah roots
In another man’s oven

[played to the tune of I Wanna Be Sedated – adagietto ]

The accompanying La Gavroche gravy was a tomato-based Charcutière sauce

Rhubarb on my brain
Rhubarb ice cream was this recipe for the rhubarb:
Rhubarb and cardamom tartlet
and then the rhubarb added to the creme anglais in the ice-cream maker and the juices and sticky used as a sauce.

rack of pork

The Meal
Well the meal was a lot of fun. Excellent wine was brought and the conversation was lively. CH & S actually got married in Perth and have a knowledge of the food and wine here that had me struggling to keep up. There’s something very nice about guests who are simultaneously very serious about their food but also very casual about the whole thing.
The paella was right tasty and the alioli managed to settle down from being like the breath of satan because of the much stronger local garlic – to something a bit more palatable. I was asked for seconds!
The pork was a bit dryer than I would have wanted, having left it cooking a little long, but the pork itself was great and the ribs proved very popular with at least one guest.
And then it was dessert and sticky and the night was over and away they went on their long journey north to Joondalup.

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from an ice-cream photo shoot. My father would be so ashamed.

lamb rack

Rosemary, fresh red chili, anchovy, capers, garlic, and olive oil. Chopped and given a once over in a mortar and pestle.

It’s actually very good, adjust amounts accordingly to your tastes. Lamb gets seared, finished in a hot oven and sliced. Served on a bed of couscous, not an actual bed.

List of Kitchen Stuff Used
Non-stick frying pan – for searing the lamb rack. Roasting pan for lamb. Two chopping boards – one for raw meat. Chef’s knife – for chopping. Boning Knife – for carving. Ceramic knife- for the butter. Two small stainless steel bain marie tins – for chopped ingredients. Orange zester. Saucepan – for couscous. Bowl – for scraps. Fork – for fluffing.

No particular reason, just seemed quite a few things.

Quick restaurant review
Riverbank Estate Winery in the Swan Valley for lunch. Makes a lot of sense. Fabulous food, chef’s great, and you pay cellar door prices for their wine. Green space, sunshine, turkeys and ducks – have a look.

riverbank tasting plate

Photo review
Top photo has distracting motion blur from low light. Bottom picture is too cold and needs to be colour balanced.

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clear soup mackeral

My significant other-in-law Chris runs a charter fishing boat out of Darwin. He has five top fish and not only refuses to keep any fish outside of the five for himself, but refuses to give them away either. Picky to be sure, but it meant we got five bags of immaculatey packed and filleted pieces of Darwin’s finest when my sister in law came to stay.

Mackeral in a Clear Soup
Mackeral is a strong tasting fish so the idea was to place it in a milder context of the mild fishiness of dashi stock. The dashi has mirin added to it for a bit of sweetness and soy sauce to fill in the gaps with a bit of meaty saltiness. The amounts of the latter two need to be tested with tasting. Dashi has a short cooking time so there’s more variance than with a stock that has a longer cooking time and a greater margin of error.
I was also happy to find katsuoboshi in a pack of 50gm bags at the small Asian deli next to Herdies Grower’s fresh. All that seemed to exist before were two kilogram bags, which is quite an amount of of dried bonito shavings. 50gm is also exactly the right amount you need for 1.5 litres of dashi, along with a 6x4cm square of konbu. Konbu is a large sea grass that contains glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is used as a neurotransmitter but also stimulates the umami receptors of our tongue. Umami is the mysterious fifth dimension of taste, which I find personally relevent as Age of Aquarius was the number one single in the year of my birth. It’s also the source of the much maligned MSG.
Traditionally, dashi is made with the water used to rinse rice but untraditionally, I didn’t have rice so normal water had to do.

– Add the konbu to 1.5 litres of water and heat over a medium heat. Just before it comes to a boil, remove the konbu from the pot.
– Bring the water to a boil. Add 50gm of katsuoboshi and just as it starts to sink, strain the stock. I’m not sure of the exact degree of sinking and whether it’s as soon a one flke heads downward. Just don’t go wandering off.

The soup is based on a bamboo and prawn clear soup recipe from Kosaki and Wagner’s The Food of Japan. Theinteresting thing in this is the prawns are dusted with cornflour and quickly cooked in boiling water and then chilled. I’ve no idea what the cornflour does, it’s usually great for coating chicken for frying though. In this case, it did wrap the fish in an interesting texture.

– Add 5 tsp each of mirin and soy sauce for every three cups of dashi.
– Cut the mackeral into manageable pieces and cook as for the prawns above (there aren’t actually any prawns or bamboo in this in case you’re confused, because I replaced it mackeral didn’t I? And try getting fresh bamboo shoots at 6pm on a Sunday night in Perth).
– Add the mackeral pieces to the soup and heat through.
– Distribute the soup and mackeral pieces to the bowls and garnish with sliced chilli, steamed asparagus, and bean shoots that you’ll have spent 15 minuted trying to tie into four neat bundles with a lightly boiled bean shoot stem.

golden snapper

Golden Snapper with Artichoke Barigoule
Yet another Michel Roux Jnr recipe, I’d explain it in detail but I really think you should just go out and buy Le Gavroche Cookbook and get the Food of Japan while you’re at it. Artichoke barigoule is actually quite an old French dish. This one is best described as a mirepoix of roughly equal amounts of fennel bulb, onion, carrot, and diced and browned parma ham cooked in olive oil with thyme and garlic with two peeled artichokes in sixths added and then simmered covered with greaseproof paper with a glass of white wine, 60ml of warm water, and the juice of half a lemon for 15 minutes. Think of it as a nascent stock.
The fish is cooked in a very hot ovenproof pan in a very hot oven with olive oil, rosemary and thyme.
Serve on mash with the barigoule, garnish with freshly shredded basil leaves, a splash of olive oil and some of the barigoule juices.

Very nice. The snapper is fantastic and the only thing that can be “done” to it is stuffing it up, but a careful eye should prevent that. I liked the barigoule too, the finely diced pieces blended together without any particular one being dominant with the citric aspects of the wine and lemon juice matching the fish.

Bonus Motor Reviews:
00 V6 Holden Commodore Executive
If you’re an executive that makes his or her own cup of coffee and brown bags their lunch then you’ll appreciate the modest touches like non-electric windows and a cassette player. The steering wheel feels surprisingly like a stress ball, handy for times of refuelling, and connects to competent enough if uncompelling handling. The treasure though, is the engine which throttles the loaf-like sedan at a rudely entertaining pace, which, when couple with underperforming tyres allows for many squeal like a pig moments.

’06 620 Ducati Monster
Traditional no fuss naked home of gentler Ducati engines makes for simple biking pleasures accompanied by a beautiful Termignoni note. Sit up and beg riding position with wide handlebars allows for confident drop in cornering. Slipper clutch avoids traditional Ducati requirement on manly bear grip but does make for uncertain starts. Lower power requires more judicious gear selection than with larger torquier twins. Apparently the front shocks can’t be adjusted , so firmer springs and a bikini screen a good accessory choice.

’06 Volvo XC90 D5
Smooth spinning and with a creamily compelling engine howl, it handles as effortlessly as it does seat five with ample luggage space. Quick, quicker with autotronic, but be soothed by Nordic utilitarian design and soft lights.

Next Week! 240 series redux

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ratatouille on steak

I don’t think you can ask much more from a spring Friday than pulling out some chairs to sit in the last hour or so of sun with a few beers and the stereo set to very loud. And keeping with the simple pleasures, a nice bit of eye fillet for dinner.

There it is above, well camouflaged by a blob of ratatouille which may or may not believe was carefully formed in a dariole mould.

Steak – 500gm piece of eye fillet tied with my nifty silicon ties to keep its shape and marinated in olive oil, garlic and rosemary pestled together with ground pepper and a splash of balsamic. Seared all round in goose fat in a pan and then finished in a hot oven. Allow to rest and then slice. It wasn’t quite right so I finished each piece back in the pan.

Sauce – Pan deglazed with red wine with a very finely chopped eschalot. Reduced by a half and then I added a few tablespoons of cream with a couple of pieces of dried porcini ground down to dust. Reduce to taste and season.

Broad beans – peeled from the large pod and then boiled in salted water for 6 minutes then peeled again down to the inner pod and then cooked in butter before serving.

– not a proper one, I hate capsicum, but same principle. One zucchini cubed and brown a little in some olive oil and removed. Sauteed one chopped red onion and garlic. Zucchini back in with some chopped asparagus pieces as well as four peeled and deseeded chopped tomatoes and a little tomato puree. Some chopped rosemary as well. Cook til it’s nicely cooked through without becoming mush and then season to taste.

I enjoyed this a lot. One of the busiest things I’ve ever made but it all seemed to pull together somehow – think meaty creamy tomatoey acidic earthy with a hint of vinegar. Sorry it’s a rather bright picture of it.

I’d also like to recommend frozen turkish delight bars for dessert. Highly amusing and the wrapper obviates the need for a PSP.