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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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The trip to Sydney

another bacon and egg burger

And Sydney and back. The 4000km journey there was like following a long line of wool to a tangled ball at the other end. Sydney is a baffling city and deliberately so. In Perth you don’t feel like you have any urgency to go anywhere at all. In Melbourne you can be taken anywhere by a tram or a train ride and once there, there’s more than enough for an easy wander. Even Tokyo, with its messy back streets and baffling subway maps, breaks into an orderly series of circles and lines that will take you where you need to be. Sydney you can’t go anywhere without feeling you’re unwittingly involved in a transportation krypton factor – roads turn into bridges and toll roads, walking will get you on long roads and no one train seems to take you from where you are to where you want to be. Even the beaches aren’t the long stretches of sand and water they are here but a series of bays, separate and distinct. And on top of this, there are about 70 places you need to go to. So I don’t feel I was able to get much done there, but maybe that’s the point. Sans-seriffy.

road train and rain fine country dining at day's end elevated sweeping views at Madura One M is not nearly enough

Day one started early, filling up the 121 with our stuff, a double swag that shared the boot and the back seat and the three of us. We had no idea how far we were going but the lack of a goal places the present moment in an amiable context and we did make it as far as Cocklebiddy by sunset. It had rained since Southern Cross. We stopped in at the Cocklebiddy caves in spite of finely tuned instincts that driving on a poorly marked track in a small car off the highway for 11km to visit a large underground cave after a day of as darkness settled may be unwise. Simon went in, we waited so at least there’d be somebody to inadequately explain what we were doing to rescue workers. He emerged disappointed but that’s darkened voids for you. Rain meant shelter and we stayed at the Cocklebiddy roadhouse motel. They seemed to be in a hurry to get to bed but we caught the kitchen and I enjoyed bangers, mashed potato and egg at a cheeky $17.50 (Cocklebiddy prices is now a standard measure of food prices). No point in sleeping in and the Cocklebiddy Roadhouse hadn’t opened yet (despite the early night) so a 100km or so drive to the next roadhouse for a full tank of petrol, a coffee and bacon and egg burger and an elevated view over a tree filled slope that opened out to a spotted plain and then 90 miles of curveless road. By mid-morning we were out of Western Australia and the border village was, unusually covered with water.

I [heart] bureaucratic schadenfreude straight straight osyters kilpatrick pelicans

Flat scrub but a view of the ocean then the cliffs of the Australian bight. A nasty tear from when we detached from Antarctica – no loss really. Ceduna, famous for oysters, was our first town for a day of driving and after passing through quarantine we stopped for two dozen oysters and a glass of wine at the Oyster Bar. Despite tourist info radio’s suggestions, we didn’t stop at the tyre place or the pharmacy but instead drove down the coast past Smoky Bay to Streaky Bay which made me think of bacon. We had enough sunset left to walk the wooden pier, have a few Coopers and a meal of a mixed grill and oysters kilpatrick (cheap as it was tasty) at the pub that faces it, and then wander around the caravan park looking at the pelicans. Streaky Bay is still the place you had holidays when you were a kid at, it should be frozen in time for posterity (or gotten into to make a killing on development).

and 10 randomly picked villagers too in authoritarian South Australia fuel the fish that simon never ate three on the tree ute

Much excitement at going to Iron Knob, the most amusingly named place in the world for my money. More so than Poochera, which was the first town we went through which is only slightly amusing it if you imagine it as a metal band for Japanese children’s characters. More fuel and we’d picked up a hitchhiker – a small finch wedged in the grill. Iron Knob has the first peaks after much flatness so the anticipation was killing me. Sadly it is one of the most depressing places in the world. People seemed to live there but the place was empty and it seemed that every last piece of value had been dug out and shipped elsewhere. Port Augusta was the first large town and if the if the Eyre Peninsula is the body and Adelaide on the the arm, then Port Augusta is the armpit. We grabbed fish and chips and Simon had his piece nicked by a local and we thought perhaps this wasn’t for us and got out of South Australia to NSW and Broken Hill.

social democratic club palace hotel T-bone at the social democratic club balcony

Broken Hill is NSW’s answer to Kalgoorlie and after house of concentrated flatdullness we had our hopes up. The faded signs for Mario’s hotel that we passed were true and we booked in at the Palace Hotel. Famous for being in Priscilla Queen of the Desert it’s value comes from every available space on the wall being painted by an aboriginal artist with a landscape or the ceilings by Mario himself with Aphrodite and the Garden of Eden. Nothing coheres – logs, stuffed animals, mermaids all in a gorgeous 19th two story pub that started as a coffee parlour. A $12 t-bone and two bottles of wine at the Barrier Social Democratic Club followed by port on the wide wraparound balcony on the Palace. A cachet of happiness was built for the last 1100km or so to Sydney.

Flatdullness returns quickly and then the hills build and we’re in rolling agricultural area. Dubbo. Orange. And then Bathurst. I turn in a respectable 6 minutes and 9 seconds on the Mt Panorama track, joining a line of Australian motoring legends. The Blue Mountains see rain as a feature of three of our four travelling days and the vista is zero. Dinner at Katoomba, I finally have a cappucino and am unhappy with cocoa on the top and vow to ask for it not to be there in the future. A risotto is a meal without chips. And then down the hill to Sydney and that’s enough for now.



The AE86, aka Toyota Sprinter, aka Toyota Trueno is a two-door hatchback imported into Australia for just a few years from 1983. The appeal of it lies in it being a small light car with rear wheel drive. If you’ve ever had to resort to doing donuts in reverse (hello Holden Camira) you can appreciate the advantage. This has made the AE86 a supa- dorifuto car of culty choice. The engine is a DOHC four cylinder Toyota engine which has seen faithful duty in Corollas but now with the added charms of an after-market turbo. Small mammal sized exhaust is not mandatory but is recommended. It is fun because the tyres go sqolk! the turbo goes fwoooooooooshcha and away we go.

book signing tea and sandwiches

Crafty‘s fellow Chris asked me to come along on an AE86 cruise somewhere and I said yes for reasons stated above. First though was morning tea at theirs and the small matter of my first book singing for Digital Dish. Buy one and I will personally come to your house dressed like obi-wan-kenobi and sign your book. Two and I will maintain a distance of no less than 50m from you and your property. Crafty has flash new deco digs and a fountain and while having toasted ham and cheese sandwiches, tea, and brownies, I committed to building a deck at our place.

map lights

The idea of a cruise, is you meet up at a pre-designated spot and the get given a route to drive to with designated stops at shopping centre car park for modification related banter. A dozen or so AE86s showed up. It’s very easy to engage people in conversation when they have a topic at hand they’ll happily talk about in great detail. I always find enthusiasm interesting and much better than the usual circling around general topics for a common interest. East took us to the hills and from the hills along Mundaring Weir Road through the state forrests.

chocolate From the sunroof

Stop in another car park and then decide to leave the pack and go back for a beer at the century or so old Mundaring Weir Pub. The places heaves on a Sunday and time is needed to wait for food and the sad circular journey of the sheep on a spit had yet to reach the end of its journey. It was a beer and a packet of chips and out of there, getting a jar of home made pickled onions on the way out.

Pickle Man Chris's car

Guilford burger place (Alfred’s?) hadn’t opened yet which triggered not only hunger but my usual funk on Perth’s general lack of non-shite burger places. Over the Swan River and decided to give Bassendean a try on an off-chance there was something and there was – Pierre’s Kitchen. The pic doesn’t show the rest of the shop which resembles a lunch bar but the place is the golden standard on restaurant finds – kinda slummy, cheap, and delicious.

I had the buckwheat crepe with prosciutto and mushrooms for $8 and thought it was tops. And then the day was over and Chris dropped me home from where Toni and I met up with Rob and Manas for a bite to eat and a beer at Little Creatures . Manas then put us out of our misery [in joke] with her easy/very tasty home-made orange cake with marmalade sauce which we had with a Lamont’s cleanskin.

Little Creatures pizza oven Little creatures meal Carita's Orange Cake

[coda] umm we should get out more, learn new things, and recognise that you don’t have to spend big bucks to have a good time.