About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

My Complete Profile

Recent Posts
Hashed Potato Pancakes
Easy Tomato Soup
A Matter of Opinion
Ruby Blood Navel Oranges
Chicken Cacciatora
Goulash Soup
Fennel, Guanciale & Fontina Quiche
Soup aux Bernard Salt
Polenta with Cavalo Nero & Borlotti Beans
Sorrel Sauce

Links
1001 Dinners 1001 Nights
A Few of My Favourite Things
Abstract Gourmet
Apellation Australia
Becks and Posh
BurgerMary ATX
Cook (almost) Anything at least once
Cooking Down Under
Cook sister!
Cooked And Bottled In Brunswick
David Lebovitz
Deep Dish Dreams
Chef Paz
Chubby Hubby
Eating Melbourne
Eating With Jack
essjay eats
Food Lover's Journey
Gosstronomy
Grab Your Fork
I Am Obsessed With Food
I Eat Therefore I Am
Iron Chef Shellie
Just Desserts
Kalyn's Kitchen
Kitchen Wench
Lobstersquad
Matt Bites
Melbourne Gastronome
My Kitchen in Half Cups
Nola Cuisine
Not Quite Nigella
Nourish Me
Seriously Good
Souvlaki For The Soul
Stone Soup
Sunnybrae
Syrup and Tang
Steve Don't Eat It!
That Jess Ho
The Elegant Sufficiency
The Perfect Pantry
The View From My Porch
Thyme for Cooking
Tomato
Tumeric & Saffron
tummy rumbles
What I Cooked Last Night
where's the beef
WhiteTrashBBQ
Vicious Ange

Food Blog Resources
Food Blog S'cool
I Eat I Drink I Work
Kiplog Food Links

Food for Thought
Autism Victoria
Autism Vox
forget me now
Lotus Martinis
MOM - Not Otherwise Specified
St Kilda Today

Thursday, June 29, 2006
Takeout
A father and his 12 year old son went hunting together for the first time.

The father said

"Stay here and be very QUIET, I'll be across the field."

A little while later, the father heard a bloodcurdling scream and ran back to his son.

"What's wrong?" the father asked. "I told you to be quiet."

The boy answered,

"Dad, I was quiet when the snake slithered across my feet.
I was quiet when the bear breathed down my neck.
I didn't move a muscle when the skunk climbed over my shoulder.
I closed my eyes and held my breath when the wasp stung me.
I didn't cough when I swallowed the gnat.
I didn't cuss or scratch when the poison oak started itching.
But I panicked when the two squirrels crawled up my pant legs and one of them said", 'Should we eat here or take them with us?'
 
  posted at 8:33 am
  3 comments



Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Bendigo Gold
We went to visit some friends last weekend. They live in Bendigo, a large provincial city that was founded by the incredible wealth of the surrounding goldfields. Even though the gold never ran out, mining ceased for a while, as the surface and near surface gold that could be easily extracted was exhausted, but the deeper leads could not be properly exploited due to flooding concerns, as the pumps of the gold rush era were not able to keep up with the water flows. Now with modern pumps Bendigo is once more a gold mining town.

My friends M and A live here with their two children. M is from that tropical paradise the Seychelles and is suffering through an extra cold winter this year, as temperatures in Bendigo have gone sub zero on several occasions. The day we were there was very sunny, but as soon as late afternoon came, one could feel the chill in the air, by five o'clock it was six degrees (42f).

We had a lovely time there, checking out Bendigo Pottery, along with some of the local sites. We had a fabulous lunch thanks to A. The previous day I had been to the Good Food Show and had bought a jar of Mango Mescut for M to try. On the first taste of it, we were instantly transported to the Seychelles, where I had first tried green mango chutney and fallen in love with it. Over there it is not sweet at all and the character derives from green mango and chile heat. I recall the day I went to the open air market to buy a jar and after some hard bargaining, haggled the price from 20 rupees to twelve. When I took it back home and proudly told them of my bargaining skills they gently told me that they paid no more than 3 rupees! Ah, island life.

The first course of our lunch was an intriguing soup. At first glance it looked like a golden, pumpkin soup, but on tasting there were some beguiling other flavours. I asked A what was in it and she told me that she wouldn't give me the recipe. What, did she think I have a food blog and would publish her recipe for the world to see? Me!!!

After a bit A relented slightly and told me that the soup contained pumpkin, sweet potato and parsnip. Well that last one was a surprise. I detest parsnip and have never been able to eat it, but the soup was lovely. At last, a use for parsnips that doesn't involve compost. What follows is MY recipe for this soup, recreated from that lunch.

PUMPKIN, SWEET POTATO & PARSNIP SOUP

1 large onion, chopped
25 g (1 oz) butter
1 kg (2.5 lb) pumpkin, skinned, cut in chunks
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cut in chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled, cut in chunks
2 or 3 litres (3.5 to 5.5 p) chicken stock (I used powder)
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
salt and pepper
100 ml (1/2 cup) single cream

In a large pot sweat the onion in the butter until soft but not coloured. Add the pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnip, enough chicken stock to cover and the curry powder. Cook until the vegetables collapse, about 30 minutes. Puree in batches in the blender, return to the cleaned out pot, add cream, salt and pepper. Reheat and serve.

Note: If you don't like cream, thin as necessary with chicken stock or water.
 
  posted at 8:09 am
  0 comments



Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Kill That Taco

They're out to get me!
 
  posted at 8:38 am
  3 comments



Monday, June 26, 2006
Musseling In
This is my favourite time of year to eat shellfish. I guess I'm in tune with the old saying to only eat oysters in months with an r* in them, though it rings true with mussels and scallops as well. There is a tautness to them and they seem plumper in colder weather. Maybe the saying is referring to their breeding season when they appear flabby, or that shellfish in warmer months can more easily harbour bacteria, whatever, sit me down with a steaming bowl of winter mussels and I'm as happy as a truffle pig in an oak forest.

One piece of advice that attaches to mussel eating is to never eat any that don't open in the cooking process. Not that I'm saying you should ignore this, but I do recall one time that I took some mussels straight from the fridge, cleaned their little beards and barnacley bits, cooked them and hardly any opened. I don't know what you would do faced with this dilemma, but I simply opened them up and ate them. Mind you, I did trust the source and I believed that because the mussels were still cold from the fridge, this was the reason they failed to open. I've also seen an interview with the owner of a Belgium style cafe who said that he quite happily opens and consumes any closed up mussels. People who eat raw mussels never know if the bivalve would've opened or not. The choice is yours!

Many years ago when I was sharing house with some dear friends, I purchased some mussels for us all to eat. Imagine my surprise when C who is an oyster lover thought she didn't like mussels. To anyone that has eaten raw mussels, that is a bit of a shock as raw oysters and mussels taste surprisingly similar, with perhaps oysters tasting a little more iodine like.

Anyway I had this brand new cookbook, French Country Cooking by the Roux brothers and was itching to try mussels in cider. After trying them this way C became a convert.

Mussels in Cider

1kg (2.5lb) mussels, debearded and scraped clean
120g (4oz) butter
3 shallots, finely chopped
400ml (14fl oz) medium dry cider
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
200ml (7fl oz) double cream
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon snipped chives, to serve

Melt 40g (1.5oz) butter in a large saucepan. Put in shallots and sweat for 2 minutes, then add 300ml (11fl oz) cider, thyme and bay leaf. Reduce the cider by hard boiling to one third, add the cream and mussels and cover the pan. Cook on very high heat for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan every minute, so the mussels cook evenly. As soon as the mussels open, tip them into a colander placed over a bowl.

Pour the juices back into the cleaned out pot and reduce to a light sauce. Add the remaining cider, bring to a boil, then whisk in the remaining butter. Season, be careful with the salt.

While the sauce is reducing, remove the half shell and place the mussels in deep plates. When the sauce is ready pour some over the mussels and sprinkle with chives, serve the rest of the sauce separately with some crusty bread.

* obviously true for the northern hemisphere, down under we are arse about, to use a lovely Australian colloquialism.
 
  posted at 8:10 am
  2 comments



Sunday, June 25, 2006
For You
I know gentle readers sometimes I put you through a lot when all you want is something a little tasty. Please scuse this little indulgence.

CRYSTALLINE

Born from earth's deep bowel
oozed in amniotic lava
a gem crystallized, heat with pressure
of everyday life
Rough edges destined for demolishing
apprentice jewellers set to
slowly carefully, grinding polishing
revealing beauty of form
Held to the light
prism like
a sweet diaphanous rainbow explodes
cacophony of colours swirl and merge
in secret ways
witness to the flaw within
disturbed arrangement of tiny molecules
No tissue stems the tide
rainbow colours turn to blackest night
bewildered
wondering which facet next
Mirror shine pierces the soul
illuminating dark places
spaces
Gazing at the sun leaves blindness
with crippling anguish
unable to see
the perfection lying in your hands
 
  posted at 3:30 pm
  7 comments



Friday, June 23, 2006
Great British Menu
What a wonderful idea, have a competition amongst Britain's top chefs for the right to cook for the Queen's 80'th birthday bash. Some parts of it didn't quite work, for instance the way they got the chefs to be critical of each other during and after the cooking. Some chefs like John Burton Race took to it like a duck to water but it was unfortunate that the object of his criticism was Michael Caines, a chef with only one hand. For other chefs you could see that bagging the opposition was so foreign that it looked artificial.

Maybe they didn't need to do that at all, for it was obvious that amongst chefs of the highest caliber, they all wanted to win, though it was hard to tell with Antony Worrall Thompson who had the slight air about him of just doing enough, even though he is considered a champion of British cooking.

The premise of the program was to select a pair of chefs from each culinary area of Britain which were -

The South West: John Burton Race & Michael Caines
Northern Ireland: Richard Corrigan & Paul Rankin
Midlands: Antony Worrall Thompson & Galton Blackiston
The North: Simon Rimmer & Marcus Wareing
Wales: Angela Hartnett & Bryn Williams
Scotland: Tom Lewis & Nick Nairn
The South East: Atul Kochhar & Gary Rhodes

These chefs then had to source their best local ingredients and create a starter, fish course, a meat course and a dessert. After this knockout round, seven chefs would then re present their dishes and only four would be selected to cook for the Queen. The three judges presiding were Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort. It seemed the judges took some license as they often talked about British cooking, though this wasn't really a premise, for if it was, what was Atul Kochhar doing there, with his modern interpretation of Indian cooking? I suppose some would argue that a good curry has become as much an icon of British cooking as fish 'n' chips, but when Marcus Wareing cooked up a Lancashire hot pot, an honest to goodness British classic and at least two of the judges said they would not serve it to the Queen, though the dish itself wasn't faulted, so why did they bang on when French techniques were used in other dishes?

That small quibble aside, it was absolutely riveting watching chefs source ingredients and turn them into the most wonderful creations. To see who had mastery over the whole course of the meal, not just individual dishes, the certain sign of a true chef. Watching Atul Kochhar progress with his wonderful spices, though I nearly cried when Gary Rhodes was knocked out by him, for that spelt the end of what I thought was the best dish on the program - Gary's Kentish apple mousse with toasted honey syrup apples. It was minimalist and modern in design, looked wonderful on the plate and I wanted to eat it badly enough that I downloaded the recipe.

If you get a chance, catch the program, for it offers a wonderful insight into contemporary British cooking by chefs at the top of their game. You will see the most amazing dishes, that will leave you drooling. Tune in.
 
  posted at 9:01 am
  6 comments



Thursday, June 22, 2006
I Can Read Your Mind
Melbourne has got it's first Krispy Kreme doughnut store in Narre Warren. There was a centrespread in Epicure about it.

My daughter rings up.

"Dad, you aren't going to Narre Warren by any chance today?"

"You want some Krispy Kreme doughnuts, don't you?"

"How did you know that?"

"I'm your dad, I know everything."
 
  posted at 10:27 am
  10 comments



Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Meme - Confessions in Groups of Five
I was reading one of my favourite Melbourne food bloggers, Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at least once the other day when I noticed that she had been tagged by Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen to do a meme titled Confessions in groups of five. Hahaha I thought, missed me. No-one would want to know what's in my closet!

Well I'm not laughing anymore, Haalo tagged me.

5 items in the freezer

1. Mushrooms- they freeze really well, currently there are porcinis, chanterelles, saffron milk caps and slippery jacks, there might also be some morels somewhere.

2. Demi-glace- it takes so long to make that it's worth making extra.

3. Fish soup- see above.

4. Fish- I catch, I freeze.

5. Breaded things- we have a six year old so we keep chicken nuggets and fish fingers. I confess that sometimes I like fish fingers too.

5 items in my closet.

1. A coat hanger full of ties. I think I still have every one I have ever owned.

2. Hand knitted jumpers my wife made for me. Before the birth of our daughter.

3. A screen printed t-shirt from Tahiti, my wife claims it now.

4. The suit I got married in.

5. My old film SLR camera. Yeah, I know, Luddite.

5 items in my car.

1. Hessian bag from the wood yard.

2. Two pieces of angle iron, for securing jobs that I carry in the boot.

3. Leftover buttons from the button repair kit for the radio.

4. 30 year old Ray Bans. Even when a previous car was stolen and recovered, they were still there. Does that say something about my taste?

5. Box of tissues.

5 items in my wallet.

1. Tattslotto card. I wish, I wish.

2. Fishing license, never have been asked to produce it.

3. Vintage Cellars membership card. Hmm, what wine tonight?

4. Citilink card. I got on the other day and didn't see a traffic light between Sth Melbourne and Bendigo, an hour and a half away.

5. Not enough cash!

5 people to tag. (Only if you want to)

you, you, you, you and you.
 
  posted at 11:04 am
  10 comments



Tuesday, June 20, 2006
An Update!
Readers of my Fraught Friday post would've noticed that I intended to take the matter of tastelessness a bit further. Well I did, and have received a reply from Coles from whom I purchased the Potato, Leek & Gorgonzola Anolini

Here is my complaint and reply.

Message: Last Friday I purchased a box of ..... .. .... gourmet Potato, Leek & Gorgonzola Anolini from your Balaclava store. When I cooked them, I noticed no leek or gorgonzola flavour whatsoever. I checked the ingredient list and they gave the leek content at 1.5% and the gorganzola at 0.4% content. I defy anyone to be able to taste these flavours in the product in such miniscule amounts. It is misleading to advertise a product with certain flavours and to not be able to taste them, and I hope you will take this up with the manufacturer. This pasta would have been better off described as ricotta and potato anolini as that is what could be tasted.Thank you for your attention to this matter,

Regards.

Dear Neil,

Thank you for your internet contact and for your comments.

Your comments have been noted and forward to the supplier, who i have requested them to make contact with them.

Thank you taking the time to write to us, we look forward in being of better service to you the future.

Yours Sincerely
Corinna JessupCUSTOMER CARE AGENTCUSTOMER CARE


Well it's a start, though I'm not too crazy about Corinna's grammer. In the mean time I thought I would show you the list of ingredients and see what you fellow bloggers might come up with as an alternative name for this product.

POTATO, LEEK & GORGONZOLA ANOLINI

INGREDIENTS:

Durum wheat semolina, ricotta cheese (whey, milk, salt, food acid 260) l, water, potato flakes (potato, monoglycerides, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium metabisulphite, citric acid), breadcrumbs (wheat flour, yeast, rye flour, rye meal, vegetable fibre (soy, wheat, oat), gluten, soy flour, vinegar, semolina, sugar, emulsifiers (481, 472(e), 471), sesame seeds, preservative (282), flavour, vitamin (thiamin)l, egg, leek (1.5%), onion, tapioca starch, parmesan cheese (milk, salt, starter cultures, rennet), gorgonzola cheese (0.4%) (milk, salt, starter cultures, rennet, mould), salt herbs, spice.
 
  posted at 11:19 am
  6 comments



Monday, June 19, 2006
A Big Day Out
My daughter P invited me along to the Good Food Show on the weekend along with her mate S. I kind of didn't want to go as I went last year and didn't find it that interesting, it was mostly big commercial brands on the stands and the set up didn't seem that good, but in the end decided to go anyway.

Now I'm glad I went.

The set up was a lot better, with all the wine stands grouped together and fenced off from the rest and there were a lot more interesting stands this year, still mostly big commercial interests, who seemed to make more of an effort to be accessible, but also stands that piqued my interest. There were cooking demonstrations everywhere and samples galore. We very nearly got stuck at the Lindt stand; can you believe they had a basket from which you could help yourself?!!

We wandered into the wine and beer section and as the girls were only drinking whites we separated so I could have a go at the reds which were of no interest to them. The best I tasted was the Tarrawarra pinot from the Yarra Valley, fantastic wine with sweet cherry flavours, perfectly balanced by fine tannins with great grip. It's probably not as feral as some with no real gamey or forest floor character, but the length was excellent. As the chap serving got into conversation with me over the clones that went into the wine, I could feel my eyes glazing over. Why oh why do they have to call them by dry scientific type names like NV1, couldn't they think of something with a bit more romance to it?

Caught up with the girls again and they were telling me that they were disappointed that Stella Artois wasn't there as it was their favourite beer that they had discovered at the Belgium Bar. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a stand with a Stella Artois sign, so we made our way there. The girls ordered a cherry beer, which they said they loved. My wife D does something similar using sour cherry or raspberry syrup to flavour her beer and she tells me it's common to do so in Poland. They had Leffe on tap, so after a pronunciation lesson - it's pronounced Leff, unless you speak German, then you pronounce it Leff-e, so it doesn't seem to matter at all how you say it, but it is a damn fine beer, very creamy with a lot of mousse and just the right hint of hop bitterness.

It was a bit too early for much drinking, we had arrived at ten a.m., so we ambled out of the drinks area in a pleasant state of mind and over to the chile stands, it transpired that S was a big fan. We hit Byron Bay's stand first and S asked for the hottest sauce straight up, I just sighed inwardly, for I knew that I had to try some, but when you have young kids, you kind of get out of the chile groove and when you eventually go back to the well, you know it's going to be trouble. And so it was. I could feel my mouth go cold then burning hot as a torrent of saliva arrived to put out the fire. S loved it but was keen to try some more, so we headed over to the Redback Chile Co., the people that put on the chile festival over at Jindivick in Victoria every year.

S again asked for the hottest sauce and when she tried some she exclaimed that this was VERY HOT! Oh dear god, I put some in my mouth, but guess what? My chile groove kicked in and I found it to be rather pleasant. S bought a three pack of the cutest bottles with pictures of skulls and the word death everywhere. She seemed keen to sneak some into her dad's food, who it seemed was in the naughty habit of sneaking hot sauce into her food, then laughing at her and her mum when they soon realized that they'd been got. Some hot karma was headed straight for him!

After all this we decided to have a cup of coffee and a sit down and we found a place near a book stall. Looking at the stall I saw a lot of people queuing and figured they were doing good business. After the coffee the girls were keen on another stall, but I can't miss a good browse in a bookshop so headed over to the stand and soon discovered the reason for the long queue. It was a book signing queue and at the very head of it was Bill Grainger, author of Bill's Food.

I now know the reason for Bill's success. It's not his cooking abilities, fine and all as they are, it's his smile. I've watched him on the telly and he does smile all the time, but the camera doesn't do it justice. Bill's smile is gorgeous - not in the gay sense, though there could be one or two boys who would have to tell their beating hearts to be still, but gorgeous like on a cold, drab winter's day when the sun suddenly breaks through and everything lights up and even though it's winter you feel warm from it. His smile is instantly warm and affectionate and he had all the women in the queue swooning for him.

After browsing the book stall I looked for the girls but couldn't see them, so started to search and check out a few more stalls, taking little samples as I went. At a pancake stand there was a plate of little pancakes, fluffy little pillows dusted with icing sugar, looking very scrumptious. As I reached out to try one, the woman next to me said I could have one and I popped one straight in my mouth. Imagine my surprise when she then pulled out her purse and paid for them, they weren't samples at all! We all had a good natured laugh at my embarrassment.

After I caught up with the girls again, we decided that three hours of eating and drinking was enough for us and we headed off. Would I come again next year? You bet.
 
  posted at 10:46 am
  6 comments



Saturday, June 17, 2006
Fraught Friday
Friday afternoon, long day, looking after daughter M and her schoolfriend E. Hit Coles for a few supplies, E runs away, M is keen to follow but I convince her to stay, well bribed her really with a packet of twisties. There is no catching E, the more you chase the further away he runs. We continue to shop and I am so not feeling like cooking anything at all.

A quick stop at the fresh pasta section and I'm thinking filled pasta with a fresh tomato sauce made from crushed tomatoes and a few flavourings - I don't consider it to be cooking when I can prepare the sauce in the time it takes to boil the pasta. The packet with the potato, leek & gorgonzola anolini sounds good.

Round the corner into the bread section and there's E loading his basket with gingerbread men. This is no good as E is on a gluten free diet; last week he tried to get some biscuits, when I eventually corral him, he quietly gives up the contraband.

Home we go and I set up the kids in front of the telly, with a small bowl of corn chips each. I would love to broach a bottle of wine, but with E's mum coming over think better of it. Eventually she comes and after a bit of chat they depart. Time to start dinner so I put a pot of salted water on to boil, open the tin of crushed tomatoes, toss that into a pot along with a clove of crushed garlic, a shake of oregano, salt and pepper and simmer, that's it. When the water boils I toss in enough of the potato, leek & gorgonzola anolini to feed the pair of us.

After 12 minutes I test one, al dente enough but something is missing, like the gorgonzola and leek flavour. Puzzled I reach for the packet to check the ingredients. You all know how it works, the ingredient that there is the most of is listed first and so on in descending order. First cab of the rank is durum semolina wheat - fair enough - second is ricotta cheese, that wasn't on the front.

Now I have to tell you that the name potato, leek & gorgonzola anolini is writ quite large, it's what drew me to the packet in the first place - the list of ingredients almost requires a magnifying glass to read, I had to place the clear plastic against a white background in order to read it. Two thirds of the way through I found the leek, it was after semolina, sugar, emulsifiers and sesame seeds, the gorgonzola was practically at the end, just before salt, herbs and spices.

The leek constituted 1.5% and the gorgonzola 0.4% of the ingredients. Yet there they were, bold as brass, on the front as if they were the main ingredients or flavours. Absolute rubbish! They were pleasant enough to eat, but I definitely felt cheated of the flavours I thought I purchased. It wouldn't even be fair to say that they stretched the truth, it's not that elastic. As far as I could see and taste, they were potato & ricotta anolini.

Which is fair enough, just say so.
 
  posted at 4:26 pm
  8 comments



Friday, June 16, 2006
Second Time Around
It's funny how some recipes stick in your mind for years and years, because there was some hook that got you in. You may no longer remember what it was that caught your attention, but the idea of the recipe remains with you. The recipe lurking in the dark recesses of my mind was Quiche Lorraine. Two of my absolute favourite things, gruyere cheese and bacon, bound up in a rich custard, all held together by a buttery pastry case.

I went to the trouble of making one on the weekend, but I would have to say when confronted with the reality of the dish, I was somewhat disappointed. There was nothing wrong with the way I made it, the flavour was there, maybe there wasn't quite enough cheese as I was using up a piece I had, but after a couple of bites a realization hit - Quiche Lorraine is really rich and heavy. Even though I substituted single cream for the double cream called for, it was a pure cholesterol bomb. Bacon - check, cheese - check, cream - check, butter - check, cardiologist - check.

Perhaps when Quiche Lorraine was first thought of, people worked a lot harder than they do today and simply burned off all those calories. What I was finding after a couple of bites, was that I didn't really want to eat it. Some wines are like that. Packed so full of fruit they become overwhelming after a glass or two.

The problem I was now faced with was what to do with the leftover custard from the recipe I had used? There was enough custard to make two quiches, even though the recipe was for only one. I couldn't face something as rich as Quiche Lorraine again, so something vegetable was called for, but what? After a bit of thought and a couple of days break from the first quiche, this is what we had. It was rather like a Spanish tortilla and very good it was too.

POTATO & LEEK QUICHE

250 g (9 oz) flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
160 g (5.5 oz) butter, diced and softened
1 tablespoon milk

Place the flour on the work surface and make a well in the centre. Put the egg, salt and butter in the well and rub everything together, gradually drawing in the flour. When everything is nearly mixed, add the milk and knead the dough one or two times to combine, do not overwork or the dough will shrink back later. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 1/2 an hour. Roll out the pastry in a circle 3 mm(1/16") thick and line a 22 cm(9") flan ring sitting on a baking sheet. Press the pastry into the edge, but leave the overhang, prick the base all over with a fork and rest in the fridge for 1/2 an hour. Place a circle of greaseproof paper in the flan and fill with pastry beans. Bake in an oven preheated to 220 c (425 f) for 10 minutes, remove the beans and bake for another 10 minutes, remove and raise the oven to 240 c (475 f). Trim the overhang.

FILLING

3 or 4 waxy potatoes
1 leek, white part only, shredded
25 g (1 oz) butter
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
300 ml (1/2 pint) single cream
salt & pepper

Boil the potatoes in their jackets until tender, peel and dice. Sweat the leek in the butter until soft. Place in a bowl the eggs, egg yolks, cream, salt and pepper and whisk until just combined, do not overwork the mixture. Put the leek and potatoes in the pastry case and pour in the custard. Put the flan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200 c (400 f), cook for another 20 minutes. Take out of the oven, remove the flan ring and serve.
 
  posted at 7:37 am
  0 comments



Wednesday, June 14, 2006
I'm Back
Well that was fun. Forty-five minutes with tech support last week and couldn't get back on. Went back to the computer shop to get missing bits of the modem, ten minutes on the phone and BACK IN TOWN.

Thanks to my son A who typed my gone missing message from my phone call, but I must really have a word with him about using I - not i.

Thanks to all of you who have been so patient, and especially the concerned pentacular who rang me up to ask what was going on.

Back to the food soon, I want to write about the program Great British Menu, it was fascinating.

Gee it's good to be back!
 
  posted at 5:38 pm
  7 comments



Friday, June 09, 2006
Bloody Computers!
A part of my computer is busted. It's the modem thingy, i went to the new modem shop, purchased a new modem, they left out a splitter gismo.

We'll be back soon, i hope.
 
  posted at 4:55 pm
  4 comments



Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Feeling Crabby
When God was handing out claws, Australia's saltwater crayfish must have been playing truant that day. Despite being able to grow to a size of several kilograms, there are just no claws, only a couple of long antenna that are completely devoid of meat. Mind you, maybe with their spiny exteriors, the lack of claws may be a good thing. It's only when I see lobster presentation from overseas that I wish there were some claws.

However all is not lost on the claw front, we have our freshwater yabbies and crayfish and they are all just itching to give a good nip, if they can get hold of you, and I think this attitude informs the Aussie character; stand next to us for long enough and we will try to have a little nip of you!

But when it comes to honest to goodness claws, our mud crabs are in a league of their own. Growing to a decent size, they have decent claws to match. If one gets hold of a finger or toe, expect it to come off. The funny thing is crabbers are rather blase about this. I've seen them reach into crab holes under turbid water and pull the beasts out. Most of them work barefoot, placing one foot upon the top shell in order to tie them up.

Because of their good claws and shell meat, mud crabs are one of our most popular seafoods, particularly beloved by Asians, who do the most wonderful things with them, the acme in my book being chile mud crab. Being highly sought after means mud crabs need some protection, and this is where our fisheries and wildlife rangers come into play.

There was this one ranger who was on the lookout for poachers during the closed season, and he suspected that old Cyril was secretly garnering a few, so he set up a watch on a well known crab spot. One morning he came across Cyril putting a rather large mud crab in the boot of his car. As he walked over, Cyril spotted him and slammed the boot shut.

"Good morning Cyril."

"Mornin' Ranger."

"What's that I saw you putting in your boot?"

"Nothin' at all mate."

"Then you wouldn't mind opening your boot and letting me have a look."

"Sure thing," and Cyril opened up the boot.

"Hello, hello, hello, what's that?" said the ranger pointing straight at the mud crab.

"That's me pet crab, his name is Larry. Every day I bring him down here so he can have a swim and play with his mates."

"Come off it Cyril, you don't expect me to believe that do you?"

"No, no, it's true, I'll show you."

So Cyril picks up Larry and takes him down to the waters edge. The big crab promptly scuttles in. The two men wait by the water. Eventually the ranger speaks up.

"Where's Larry?"

"Who's Larry?"
 
  posted at 8:48 am
  4 comments



Monday, June 05, 2006
The Cheese Shop
Snuck down to the cheese shop on the weekend. I love standing in the cheese room, surrounded by all those great wheels of cheese. It's fantastic to stand there in the special temperature and humidity controlled room full of live cheeses in the piece, with the aroma that would instantly tell even Stevie Wonder where he was - though not all, especially young children, like the smell. I point at a wheel and even though I'm going to buy some, they always give me a taste. There was a bit of chat in the room about Australian Customs seizing another container of cheese leaving them a bit short of soft cheeses. Really, can't the government pull their head in? Why is it that we can buy cigarettes, which have the proven ability to kill us, but we have to be protected from the evils of unpastuerised cheese that has an e-coli reading probably less than the local takeaway shop?

Looking around, I saw the wheel of comte had been broached, so that was my first purchase. Comte is the French cousin of Swiss gruyere, but is not as strong with a sweet lactic flavour set of by a rich nuttiness. After that I was thinking about some roquefort, but spotted a wheel of ivory coloured blue cheese on the back counter. After enquiring it turned out to be a bleu de basque, a Spanish sheeps milk, semi hard, blue cheese. If roquefort is the in-your-face reporter wearing a loud red jacket, bleu de basque is your anchorman, all charm and sophistication in an elegant suit. The flavour is unmistakeably blue, but not over the top, it's all about depth and persistance.

Lastly I was thinking goat. There right in front of me was a wonderful looking ring of soft goat's cheese, locally made, but after a taste it seemed to lack for something, there was nothing wrong with it, but it didn't really sing. There were some French crottins, but I eventually plumped for an Australian semi-soft cheese from Holy Goat, an artisanal cheese maker from Sutton Grange near Daylesford. Then it was time to pay.

My wife D is always conflicted when I go cheese shopping. On the one hand she usually adores the cheeses I bring home, but hates the fact we have to take out a second mortgage to have them. With the price of most of the cheese hovering around Australian $65 to $75 a kilo, it's no cheap thing to be in love with good quality, hand made cheese, especially when you consider that industrially made cheese can be had for between Australian $5 and $10 dollars a kilo. But there is no doubt you get what you pay for. Then again, we do limit ourselves to a visit perhaps every one or two months, so the cheeses we bring home always feel special; it just doesn't help that we fall upon them like hungry locusts.

At this time of the year, while chestnuts are still in season, we like to pair them with a soft cheese style like brie or camembert, it makes a wonderful meal along with a good bottle of white wine. I first learned to do this in the country, where we roasted chestnuts over an open fire. The first time I did this it almost ended in disaster. Never having had chestnuts before, I threw some into a heavy cast iron pot with an equally heavy cast iron lid. Just like that. After about ten minutes there was an almighty explosion as the cast iron lid was blown off the pot by an exploding chestnut. Nobody wanted to go near the pot for fear of another explosion, but eventually we managed to get it off the fire with no more harm done and a lesson in the necessity of puncturing the shell prior to roasting.
 
  posted at 7:08 am
  6 comments



Thursday, June 01, 2006
Photo Op

Over at The Food Whore, there is a bit of a rant over crying brides. Apparently a bride to be got herself all in a dither over wanting to pay only five dollars per head for food for the reception.

I can imagine a women like this would probably want a more natural type of wedding, something outside, a beach perhaps, waves lapping the shore, no need to pay anything for a church.

Of course there would be some things to consider... like unwelcome guests.
 
  posted at 1:55 pm
  8 comments



Pumpkin Soup
Played around with the first pumpkin soup of the season. I don't know about you, but pumpkin soup tastes, well, so pumpkiny. Duh. Not that I'm complaining, but my point is that pumpkin overwhelms most other flavours, so it's hard to play around with it. My mum used to swear by a tomato or two in her version, and some people like to add orange flavours to theirs.

Noodling around in Anne Willan's book, A Kitchen In Burgundy, I found another version of this soup that caught my eye. It contained wild chestnuts as well as some bacon. Well we did have a piece of kaiserfleisch, but we also had a couple of smoked ham hocks and I thought that one would be a nice addition instead of the bacon. Alas, we didn't have chestnuts of any description, so they were left out, although there is still plenty of soup left, so if there is time tonight, maybe some will get in yet.

PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CHESTNUTS

1 smoked ham hock
2 onions, skin on, quartered
3 carrots, peeled, cut in half
2 tomatoes, cut in half
2 ribs celery
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 bouquet garni with lots of thyme
1 teaspoon peppercorns
3 kg (6 to 8 lb) pumpkin, peeled and seeded
50 g (2 oz) butter
2 onions, chopped
2 potatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
pinch of cayenne
500 g (1 lb) chestnuts
milk
salt & pepper

Okay it is a long list, but we made the soup over two days, mostly simmering. Place the ham hock in a pot with the onions, carrots, tomatoes, celery, garlic, bouquet garni and peppercorns, cover with water and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat to the barest simmer, don't worry if it's not bubbling, and cook for two hours, then turn off, put the lid on and leave for the next day.

Strain the ham hock and reserve along with the cooking liquid, discard the vegetables. Strip the meat from the skin and bones, cut into neat dice. Melt the butter in a large pot and sweat the onions until soft, then add the potatoes and garlic and cook two minutes more. Add the pumpkin pieces, nutmeg, cayenne and cover with the reserved ham hock stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 35 minutes.

Whilst the soup is simmering, roast the chestnuts, don't forget to slit them first, in a hot oven until tender, about twenty minutes, then shell and peel them. It doesn't matter if some fall apart. When the pumpkin is tender, puree the soup and then add some milk to get your desired consistency, not too thick. Adjust the seasoning, add the chestnuts and diced ham hock, gently reheat and serve.
 
  posted at 9:50 am
  2 comments



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