September 2010

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esperance mini

As you have, or haven’t, noticed there hasn’t been a great deal here of late so I thought I’d put a few stories up that I did a while around. That was when I actually wrote at SPICE rather than just rail over double spaces and go schmoozing at after parties. One’s from Esperance and two are from the Great Southern region

Issue 9, 2007
Esperance

Issue 6, 2007
Bouverie Trout Farm
True Blue

How’s the magazine going? Well I’m glad you asked. We’ve just completed 20 issues and are working on our 21st, which will bring us into the next five years of publication. 2009 was an especially hard year as things went flat and flat isn’t what you want when you’re not where you want to be and you’re tired. But 2010 and has been brilliant, new staff in the office, a tight and lovable team of writers and photographers, and the page count going from 88 to 112. Every issue has involved improvement in some way but we’ve managed to stay true to our original principles – to be local, to represent all people involved in food, to educate, to be progressive and to avoid the pitfalls of advertorial. The qualities were to be a good read, a good looking magazine, and to have some actual jokes (I think there were four in the last issue).

In the last two issues we’ve had chef’s on the cover and, as these were Neal Jackson and Alain Fabregues, they represent two of the most important chefs in Western Australia in the past two decades if not ever. As Alex pointed out, as I get lost in the mechanics of it all, it’s brilliant they accepted and it’s a source of great pride they chose to be involved. We’ve featured pretty much every significant chef in WA and by next issue it will be nearly all. We never seem to get close to covering all the producers but there have been sheep and rabbit farmers, fruit growers, sardine fishermen and octopus fishermen, sausage makers and bakers, organic farmers and broad acreage farmers, cheese makers and wine growers. There have been vegetarians and butchers, local markets, street parties, small bars, inner-city and small towns, teachers and students, recipes and techniques all in a small independently owned quarterly under circumstances that I described as looking like you’d expect to be made on the gestetner and stapled. I find myself never entirely happy with each issue but it’s a bit like working on a car – always a few kilos to be lost here and some extra horses there to shave a few more seconds off.

For me personally, it’s been an immense privilege to learn and taste and try and work with and meet people who are dedicated, smart and interesting and be supported by and engaged readership. And, well that’s enough, I had been hoping just to bodge off a couple of old articles.

avacado soup with scallops

Had a progressive dinner party the other weekend (not the Progressive Dinner Party) and apparently they were the thing when people were kids. In Muntadgin, we had people over for dinner and even then I can’t really remember us having anyone over for dinner. I guess if you have one shop and everyone raising sheep, there weren’t going to be a lot of opportunities to wow people with a persian fairy floss becovered daifukumochi. Actually the collective food effort was always ‘a plate’ and this would be at dances and would involve the same cheese being used in several different ways – free ranging cube, cube on toothpick, square on sao …

Anyway I had the role of entree, which was nice because it restrained me from going batshit crazy and cooking a dozen things. So I need something that was impressive because I’m all alpha like, something that could be cooked in about 10 minutes and still engage people for an hour or so of eating.

So. Soups are great for pre-prep and suffer little for it but then you want a bit more than that and scallops are your perfect bit of quick cooking flash. French Saveur came to the rescue with an avacado ‘velouté’ with scallops wrapped in ham.

The fish stock was made with the standard stocky stuff and snapper fish heads and bones but the helpful tips are to soak the bones for four hours (Michel Roux Jr) and that even if it’s not strong enough, you can always finely strain it and reduce it. I always like it at just the the point where the watery disappears. It’ll keep in the fridge, so I made it the day before. Then it’s just a matter of heating 800ml of fish stock. Adding two chopped avacados and 200ml of creme fraiche,  heating it through and then pureeing it with a stick blender.

The scallops were wrapped in proper speck that I’d gotten with the proper bacon in the previous and lovingly sliced with a sashimi bocho, which worked surprisingly well. As an added bonus, I made a third of them with Irish black pudding. It quickly turns to shit when you cook it in delicate rounds, so I mostly cooked it to make sure it was done enough when served for gentle souls and the kind of patted it onto the bottom of each scallop before wrapping it in the speck.

The interesting part of the recipe is chopped hazelnut, which I supplemented with salmon roe for a bit of colour, a different texture and to remind people of the fishy base of the soup.

The original plan was to serve the soup in a jug so the cutlery and the bowl was in place and then I thought I could put in in a thermos and that’s make a nice travelling theme for a progressive dinner. This led to the toasted ham and cheese sandwich digression. I had these ready-basted with clarified butter and filled with black pig prosciutto and pecorino cheese with the greaseproof paper ready folded and string at the ready. Anyway, I couldn’t find the thermos and went back to the jug but hey, who doesn’t like a toasted sandwich, and toast is great with soup and avacodo is excellent with ham and cheese.

So here’s how it went
-freshly ground pepper, salt and smoked paprika on the table.
-bowl of chopped hazelnuts and bowl of salmon roe. EVOO in little pot thing.
-soup reaheated and transferred to jug
-scallops cooked on hot griddle which was transferred to the table
-toasties toasted, chopped into four and wrapped and tied

Everybody then helped themselves and then bundled off to the next place.

Success.