martini martini

It was with some sadness that Cardinal Martini passed away the other month. He was, as they say, one of the good ones. His conversations with Umberto Eco Belief or non-Belief? on religion and agnosticism were the kind of grown-up dialogue we could best hope for:

Thoughtful responsible believers and nonbelievers adhere to a profound sense of hūmus. of humanity, although they don’t necessarily give it the same name, there are more important things than names, and when defending or promoting essential human values it’s not always worthwhile to quibble over a quaestio de nomine, over semantics.

Admittedly he’s not wildly radical in the bigger scheme of things – just few considered variations on the big no-no’s which inevitably involve sex and sexuality and basically leaving a note saying ‘not 1812 guys’. But reading this particular Boney M fan I found that not only was Cardinal Martini a ‘heretic’, he was also ‘a modernist’, ‘a Mason’ and a Gnostic. Combine this with his last written pieces being a very jazz albumy “Conversazioni Notturne A Gerusalemme” then we’re looking at such a triumph of mid-century smoothism that, after a few of these modest tribute drinks, you’ll be making love in a Mies chair.

Vodka because its pure and uncorrupted. Martini Bianco (obviously). Whiskey as used in a smokey martini – because he was remarkably close to getting the papal smoke over reactionary benchwarmer Ratzinger. As his middle name was Maria and the role of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism a hint of virgin mary. Dangerously chthonic celery and fruits of the New World tomato with a dash of hot sauce on them (in this instance Sam Ward of El Publico’s very good hot sauce).

Cardinal Martini Martini

- Two measures of vodka
- Splash of Martini Bianco
- Splash of Laphroaig

Add a dab of tabasco or similar to a cherry tomato and small piece of celery at the end of a toothpick.
Chill your martini glasses. Shake the mix with ice. Pour, add your tomato and celery and drink thoughtfully with someone you disagree with.

Notes: And success. The boozy kick of a martini but wrapped in whisky – you’ll need some fine tuning for balance. Hot sauce adds the nices of kicky finishes. A regular no doubt.

martini martini

A moustache is like a skeleton key that opens doors to social circumstance.

I don’t know what the above means, or even what it has to do with this post but it was said on the day of the happy occasion of the wedding and moustache insights are auspicious.

This all began at a Dumas talk and dinner for 16 I did at regional food champion Taste of Balingup, which was pretty much as good a mix of fun and nonsense I could have hoped for. One of the friend guests (as opposed to complete stranger guests) asked if I did wedding and if I could do cocktail food for her wedding in Pemberton and I said ‘sure!’ and banged up my bona fides. Normal people might ask a details question like ‘how many people?’ They probably also ask questions like ‘is this thing on?’ or ‘it this pan hot?’ and the like. So it turned out to be 130 and while I’d say I was anxious and wildly out of my depth, I also get anxious making what I’ve trumped up to be ‘a nice sandwich’.

I’m also not an especially good and organised self-motivator so my self improvement strategy is to commit to something out of my league, and do it. Anyway the only way I could get through this is with my smarts and what it would require was strategy and tactics – something you don’t forget when you’ve spent 5 years in the jungles of Afghanistan fighting Maoist rebels.

First thing – staff of me and maybe somebody else.
So – couldn’t be faffing around with ovens, fryers, or carrying around lots of trays.

Second thing – I imagine a hungry mob devouring everything in seconds in a great fury of feasting and then turning on me.
So would require some kind of choke point and delaying device. Essentially funnelling a wall of guests into a smaller space – essentially what we refer to as a ‘kill zone.’

What I eventually come up with was a series of tasty foods in jars that I could prep in advance and then, basically, when I could there, just crack open some lids. Prep was also key as the budget can be hauled in nicely if you cook things from scratch. It takes more time, but the results are there.

Very handy was the use of a professional kitchen at a lovely winery in a lovely place. I don’t know if they want to associate their kitchen with my faffing about but lets just say ‘mislaid body of water’. Professional kitchens, as well as making you feel all professional like, are great because they have big hot ovens, lots of wipeable stainless steel, big sinks and everything is hanging up or out in the open so you don’t spend half your time searching through kitchen draws for where somebody’s put the ladle. Lots of tea towels too.

Also very handy was help from a somebody who knows what they’re doing and daughter and a home ec student on the morning and during the day. You can never underestimate the value of being able to ask someone to do something and having people there so you don’t ‘lose your shit’ and ‘start sobbing uncontrollably.’ Also handy if someone forgot to put two soft eskies full of sauces and jellies in his car when moving over to the venue.

Results

Well, very well, if I might say so myself. Nobody died and the food was well-received, eaten, complimented on, and some said they ‘loved me’. The food lasted through the hour or so of drinks and this was because people could come over and leisurely help themselves to little bits of food. Food that was carried around on trays (pfffft so old school) – the gougeres – was scarfed down in short order.

The wedding as a whole, I couldn’t fault (apart from the short 80s pop dance set) – the weather was gorgeous, the avacado farm it was on looked stunning, the lovely couple more so, the flash mob ceremony was inspired, they played Franz Ferdinand, there was meat and cake, the company delightful, the booze didn’t run out and the bus left at 2am.

Food notes below.

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Smoked and Cured Salmon in a Jar

Salmon. I’ve you haven’t had, or aren’t planning to have, a child of your own then four freshly filletted 1kg slabs of salmon is as much a source of home arrival pride as one could ask for. If you’ve used a knife, you’ve never enjoyed it so much as seeing thin orange and white strips peeling off under the gentle pressure of a yanagibocho. If you’ve eaten salmon off a shiny gold bit of cardboard and not coated in light but complex flavoured olive oil, then my condolences.

The salmon was the inspiration for the whole jar strategy, having seen salmon in a jar in French Saveur a couple of years back. I couldn’t find the copy but I did find this recipe on the internets.

Half the salmon was ever so lightly smoked with soaked hickory bark in a smoker box in my lidded barbecue. Basically just keep the smoke ticking along for 15 minutes or so to infuse, but not cook, the salmon. After that it’s on to the gravlaxing.

For the gravlax part, I combined a few things but this recipe is pretty much it + some juniper berries, which end up make it more gin cured.

 

Duck Liver Paté

Pretty much this recipe from Vogue Entertaining without the slightly gauche gold leaf; the addition of some chicken livers; and the replacement of vinocotto with some sherry to deglaze the pan. Four kilograms of it – good grief. Terrible to get into jars when hot – goes everywhere.

The bread that went with it was par-baked baguettes and they’re great. 15 minutes at 180C with a bowl of water in the oven for some moisture and they’re beautifully crisp and hot. The alternative was taking baguettes up with me and having them two days old for the wedding so, no.

Albany Oysters with Champagne and Virgin Mary Jelly

Albany oysters are small and sweet and I had 13 dozen delivered to my home. They’re still alive when delivered and keep well in the fridge with a wet towel over them. They’re designed to live a while when the tide drops down. This does mean they’re alive when you shuck them, which is a little sad. But given they don’t write books about shagging lots of younger lady oysters as a way of dealing with their own impending mortality, I don’t think they dwell on it too much.

Make sure you use a tea towel to hold the oyster down so the shucker doesn’t go through your hand. Force should be required as really all you’re doing is severing a couple of tendons at the pointy end. Albany oysters seem a bit trickier to open and it’s not just operator error. Not a big deal with a dozen but with 13 dozen, it did add up. Given them half an hour to open up a bit out of the fridge.

A trick I learnt is if you don’t want to spend all the event shucking oysters. Shuck, them and tip the oyster and the juices into a container. Pop in the fridge and then just pop some oysters and collected juice back into the shell. It avoid oysters sitting around drying out on an open shell and as an added bonus, grit settles to the bottom.

The jelly is just dry sparkling white with gelatine and the other mix up a virgin mary. 3 titanium leaves of gelatine per 500ml of each. No need to heat the wine or the virgin mary but do soak the leaves for a few minutes in cold water. Then put them in a small amount of hot water to dissolve before stirring through, allowing to set and cutting into small cubes.

Marron with Shaved Fennel, Chilli and Garlic

Marron, if you, don’t know, are freshwater crustaceans about 8 inches long, tip to tail. They have claws on the ends of their legs and beautiful, sweet, delicate flesh. Pemberton is famous for them. These were freshly caught, purged, cooked and shelled and delivered to me. Sweet.

These were a worry because if you cook something that’s a local specialty, you can only really fuck it up. So a light touch. A dozen or so marron. A big mason jar with olive oil. A few crushed cloves of garlic. A red chilli and half a finely shaved fennel bulb. Just doled it out to smaller jars at the wedding.

Enormously popular and well received – may have been out of towners but chalking it up as a win.

Cherry Tomatoes stuffed with White Anchovies

Nothing graceful about making these. Hull and stuff with a quarter to a half of a white anchovy. Coat in some of the white anchovy marinade. Interesting because they look like the peppers stuffed with goats cheese but aren’t so ahhh surprise!

Martini Olives

Vodka, vermouth as per usual. Soak whole green olives for a few hour. Drain and keep marinade and serve olives. Shake marinade with ice and serve  to yourself with twist of lemon.

Gougere with Smoked Tomato Sauce

Recipe from the very good cookbook, Mr Wilkison’s Favourite Vegetables, from the very genuinely talented and funny chef Matt Wilkinson of Pope Joan, Melbourne fame. Buy it.

Gougeres are like savoury cheesey profiteroles. The fantastic thing about them is that they freeze very well. Bake, pop on a tray with greaseproof paper and covered with clingfilm, and then once they’re frozen, pop them in a zip lock bag. When you’re ready, just put them frozen on a tray, eggwash them, sprinkle some parmesan and cook until golden in a 180C oven.

I smoked the tomatoes by soaking hickory chips and putting it at the bottom of a wok. Place a rack above the chips, place the tomatoes on the rack and cover with foil. Then heat outside on a portable burner. The tomatoes will only lightly cook but the smoke will pervade.

They’re pronounced goo zhair but will  inevitable be referred to ‘cheesy puff things’

And don’t overfill your pastry bag. Ever

Celery dunked in Virgin Mary

Yeah , yeah, crudites. But they’re crunchy, clean the mouth and palate and look lovely piled in a glass with a few leaves and the green offset with the bloody mary red. I think 3 sticks were eaten. Tsk.

Smoked Almonds

I bought these, aren’t I clever?

Truffle Popcorn

Easy and bulky carbs for the hungry. Make popcorn. Toss with truffle salt and place in large mason jar. Great and just a hint of truffles. Got through two jars.
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Donut robot


Donuts Super Donuts Untitled

These boys mean business. Creamy dough, hot and fresh, lovingly dipped, and double bagged. Accept no substitutes.

Near the station entrance.

Give it up for Anke Eve Goldmann!

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Or as we can say in the rough and rumblous new world of social media, ‘a fuckload’. Just shipped up from Albany for me.

Doing drinks food / aperitifs / nibblies / amuse bouche / whore’s dwarves* / snacks for a wedding of 130 souls on Sunday. There will be adventures, maybe there will be stories.

Did you know that they’re still alive as they’re able to live outside of water to allow for tidal fluctuations. Anyway things to do, jars to fill.

*Plot spoiler for GoT

Also: half of quite a bit of salmon for some ‘gravel relax’.

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Triumphy but tank a mystery. Nice clip ons. Unknown rider is, as John Berger would say, actively returning and confirming the gaze of the masculine spectator.

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It may come as no surprise that pork products are thin on the ground in Turkey, so I was asked by an old friend to make a porky meal and I did.  Three kinds of pork in fact.

Pork in Cider
From Ripailles. A rib roast of pork cooked gently in my Raymond Loewy Le Creuset pot on the stove top in sliced onions and dry cider. Later to be joined by bits of Granny Smith apples, bulbous spring onion, potatoes, and peas. Yes I am shit at crisping crackle but the cooked vegetables were magnificent.

Asparagus and Pancetta
I’m going to tell you it was asparagus and cubed pancetta cooked in a frypan with butter and you’re going to say yeah well I could have guessed that.

Puy Lentils with Bulgarian Sheep’s Feta, Salumi, and Shaved Fennel

Fry up a chopped onion until soft, add 500g of puy lentils, cover with water and simmer for half an hour until cooked (more aldente than soft). Drain and allow to cool a little. Fry up the sliced salumi. Chop up fetta. Shave the fennel bulb. Mix it all together with a slug of olive oil and some lemon zest. You don’t need amounts.

Speaking of Bulgaria, apparently people go to Bulgaria to get their Turkish visas renewed and to buy bacon. I don’t know if this is a visa condition but am a little saddened  of any country that you must travel from to buy pork. I’m no great fan of dietary restrictions in religions. It does push my believing in Supreme Being thing that they’d take time to freelance on food hygeine but still must admit to returning to God’s other pieces on food cleanliness like  ‘ Coloured Chopping Boards – What They Mean and Why We Use Them‘ and ‘Hands – Wash Them and Wash Them Well and Often’

Evening was owned by E, now 4.5 years, who managed to set the table, create a centrepiece, make name cards, create tickets for the dinner that had to be presented before entering the dining room, demonstrate the first three ballet positions, give a ten minute presentation on why the centrepiece was a fountain, magic show, brief rendition of hot cross buns on the Casio followed by free jazz improv, and provide medical assistance to Lewis the teddy.

Nice work.

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Friday Lady on a Cafe Racer

Revolutionary late 60’s in-line four the Honda CB750 with French singer-actress Françoise Hardy, who rode the shit out of it.

via Silodrome

scallop and snapper cevichewith vodka cured salmon, tuna, radish and snow pea shoots goats cheese pannacotta with slow cooked tomato sauce and lamb
braised beef rib with rocket and horseradish sauce and truffles hazelnut marquise with truffle and honey hazelnuts

Ahm yes, well [cough] hello. I did promise to write a few things here again rather than keep it as a kind of bloggy attic of stuff – ‘Look grandma! A Pierre Hermes macaron!’. Maybe a couple of linguistics thingies, a bit of politics, maybe event the kind of stuff where I say that Albert Camus is the Joan Miro of Existentialism and Joan Miro is the Albert Camus of Surrealism – then I have a lie down and wonder if I’ve got it the wrong way round. Lady cafe racer Fridays. Bold plans.

Anyway, here is some food I cooked and I will now talk about it.

Asked to cook a dinner party for a nice friend  at their house for a dozen nice people. Nice and fancy and the two conditions that it be gluten free and that there be no pork. This actually isn’t all that hard except that it’s a bit like when somebody says “Don’t think about the bass player of Manowar” and all you can think about is the bass player of Manowar. How about pork pies? Oh wait, they’ve got pork and gluten etc.

So it eventually ended up like this:

First Course
Scallop and Red Snapper Ceviche, Vodka-cured Salmon, and Sashimi Tuna on Radish and Snow Pea Shoots

Esperance scallops, which were darling wee little coin shaped things that I cut in half and ‘cooked’ in lime, lemon and chilli with red snapper. I love the idea of a vodka cure – Russians have been using it to cure depression for years, not entirely successfully. Snow pea shoots are tasty and pretty and just need a bit of picking to get rid of the big stems and bigger leaves. Dressing of olive oil and a bit of the ceviche juice.

Another First Course
Goats Cheese Pannacotta with Slow Cooked Tomato Sauce and Lamb Fillet

Bit of this and a bit of this Was going to do this on it’s own but it seemed a bit white wine lunchy so a thyme, rosemary sumac lamb fillet done rare was a nice addition. Chickentarian got poached eggplant instead.

Mains
Braised Beef Ribs, Rocket and Horseradish Sauce, Fresh Truffles

Beef ribs recipe from Jake Drachenberg in the last issue of Spice, which I will summarise as ribs cooked covered for 4 hours at 200C in white wine, soy sauce, chicken stock and assorted herbs and a head of garlic.  The trick is to refrigerate the night before and then scrape all the fat off (and there is quite a bit) just leaving the gelled cooking liquor. And the meat and rib, of course.
Sauce is from Ottolenghi – slow food gifted horseradish cream with lovely Balingup horseradish, blended with rocket, olive oil and yoghurt and season. Reheat ribs with gelled liquor Manjimup truffle thinly sliced and chopped – much more nicely than I did if you like – and then added to the cooking liquor when serving. Truffles at around $2 a gram set me back about $30 for dinner … look what I’m saying is this – you don’t get much easier than this and if you want to go from ‘tasty’ to ‘holy fuck’, this is how. This is your food on drugs.
Truffled, butterflied spatchcock for chickentarian. Matt Wilkinson parsnip skordalia for solids.
Passed around a fennel, rocket and orange salad to freshen up the palate before being smashed with dessert.

Dessert
Hazelnut Marquise with Truffled Honey Hazelnuts

Is slavishly this but a quantum less on the fancy front (for non-metric users – 5/16 quounces). I actually like beating eggs for 15 minutes and bringing sugar syrup up to to soft ball stage. I suspect ‘heavy cream’ is less our ‘double cream’ and more like our Lannister Downs actually creamy full cream. The secret touch is that the eggs were trapped in a mason jar with the truffle. Hazelnuts roasted and covered in truffle honey. I cant begin to say how sexy the chocolate truffle fusion is. I don’t know if you’re still thinking of the bassist from Manowar but if its working for you, go with it.

Success. You can too.

Update: upgraded my server host thingy – apparently my website was being hosted at the end of Strangler’s cassette – which then ate my two most recent posts. Thanks Santos and Rakka for saving them from limbo eternity.

Croissants

croissant proof

Ummm I’m a bit embarrassed because it’s been a while since I’ve written anything. But then again, what’s Dickens written lately – hey? hey? Feel free to have a look around the old stuff while I pop out to the food truck and make some bacon cupcakes or whatever the kids are doing these days.
55 Great Global Food Blogs

borough markets

It’s been 20 years since I’ve visited the UK. Nothing personal, it’s just been hard to find the time, what with being so busy and all on the weekends and schedules that never seem to meet up. I can tell you two possibly true things about English food then;
a) it was crap
b) the good stuff was very well hidden somewhere.

I’m happy to report that it’s now very, very good here. Starting with yummy calves’ liver at the local pub when I got here to the Borough Markets the next morning – I don’t know how people don’t spend every day here buying a pheasant or handmade cheese made from, insanely dangerous for Australians, raw milk. And if there’s not enough cheese there, there’s Neal’s Yard Dairy, which is stacked with lovingly made cheese  all with tiny signs saying who made them and where and staff desperately keen to find the cheese that will bring you happiness. Then when you’ve done all that you can go and buy a par of jeans at the Paul Smith shop.

Tooling down to Brighton we stop in at Ridgeview Estate, where they’re cranking out multiple gong-winning sparkling white. Brighton itself, once you’ve checked out the beach and played mods v rockers, has more vegetarian restaurants than Australia has vegetarians.

In short, it’s been stunning so far but the important thing to realise is these things don’t happen by themselves. It’s communities organising themselves, people’s labour in creating excellent products and other people supporting them. To see this level of transformation is a fantastic lead in for the Slow Food Terra Madre conference, which is just a  few sleeps and and a couple of train rides away.

borough markets red mullet borough markets

satellite earth station carnarvon

Just sending a message out into the interether in case anyone else out there is going along to Terra Madre this year. Just drop me an email or comment below.

[yes I am very excited]

ALSO: You can follow the progress of the Australian delegates at the POOL: Slow Food Pilgrims Group

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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.