Isn't it amazing the changes that have occurred over the past fifty years? What was science fiction in 1955 is very often now science fact. Computing would be the one area of technology that has changed the most. However technology isn't the only thing that has changed, the way we deal with each other has also undergone tremendous transformation. The social mores of the 1950's have no place in this modern world, especially in relationships between men and women. The myriad ways in which the world has changed in the last half century means that it is no longer proper for a woman to do all the housework and the man simply go off to work, then to return to find his home is indeed his castle. There would be a generation of women now, who would have no idea what it was like to be a woman in the 1950's. Here's a little taste from Housekeeping Monthly, 1955.
- Have dinner ready, plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
- Prepare yourself. Take fifteen minutes to rest, so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
- Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
- Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
- Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc and then run a dustcloth over the tables.
- Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give him a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
- Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, drier and vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
- Be happy to see him.
- Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
- Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
- Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
- Your goal: try to make sure your home is a place of peace order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
- Don't greet him with complaints and problems.
- Don't complain if he is late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor as compared to what he might have gone through that day.
- Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
- Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
- Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. Remember he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
- A good wife always knows her place.
What I want to know is, where was the guide for the men?
I'm talking about the humble citrus juicer.
Have you ever noticed that all telly chefs, with the exception of one, never use a citrus juicer? They all indulge in a variety of different ways to squeeze the goodness out of a lemon or whatever, but never use the one simple tool designed specifically for the job. It all started a few years ago when one presenter simply grabbed a cut lemon and squeezed it straight into the other ingredients, pausing only to remove a few pips. From this humble start, all manner of strategies are now employed to squeeze a lemon without a juicer, it's almost as if all the television presenters are playing a game with each other to see who can come up with the next variation on the theme.
Here's a few that I've noticed.
1: The straight out display of strength. Pick up the lemon and squeeze for all you're worth, straight in to the ingredients. This is most often a male presenters preferred option, also has the most variations.
2: The ridged pestle, for diving straight into the fruit that is being held above the ingredients; a few twists and the juice is released. This is the female presenters preferred option. Has the disadvantage, along with the display of strength, of leaving pips behind.
3: Squeezing a cut lemon with one hand so that the juice trickles through the fingers of the other hand, thus filtering out those pesky pips.
4: Squeezing a cut lemon upside down, preventing the pips from going where they want. The thinking chefs method.
5: Wrapping the lemon in muslin to keep the pips in, then giving a good squeeze.
6: Using a tea strainer to filter the juice from the display of strength.
I bet there are a few more tricks I haven't seen, but there is the mandatory rolling and pushing of the lemon to extract more juice and others like a quick zap in the microwave for the same effect.
Now all television cooks listen up. A lemon has a certain amount of juice to give, no more, no amount of rolling will increase that, ditto microwave. If you use the tool designed for the job, you will get all the juice that a lemon has to give. With no pips.
I was chatting with Reb from CucinaRebecca about anchovies. To date I have been happy with regular supermarket anchovies in the tin or small glass jar and apart from small differences in quality there never seemed a lot of difference between brands, one small hairy fish was much like any other small hairy fish, right?
Reb assures me that the Ortiz brand of anchovy are the Rolls Royce of anchovies, even comparing them to Grange Hermitage, Australia's best known and iconic wine, against cask shiraz. Well the price differential sure is similar, with Grange, depending on vintage, retailing for better than $400 and a humble cask about $20. The last time I looked Ortiz anchovies were about $20 a tin as opposed to about $3 a tin for regular supermarket ones. So now it looks like I have to part with my hard earned and taste the difference for myself. Is it wrong to secretly hope I don't like them all that much?
The other thing Reb mentioned was that the Ortiz anchovy was not one for use in cooking where they are to be melted down, for this she recommends using regular anchovies. The Ortiz fish is best savoured in its entirety, for its aromatic and refined taste, and Reb suggests an anchovy pizza as a good way to highlight its character.
So just as one brand of this fish is poles apart from all other brands, this small hairy fish as it is affectionately known, because its ultra small bones resemble a bit of fuzzy hair, completely polarises opinions as to its culinary virtue. You either love it or hate it. I have a mate who hates garlic and when cooking for him, would always ask if I put garlic in or not. Figuring that if he had to ask, then he didn't really hate it all that much and so generally added it to his food and told him bald faced lies about its presence. Funny, he always said my food was very tasty! So it is with anchovies. When melted into a sauce or casserole their presence is virtually undetectable but adds a deep flavour boost. Whenever I make a pasta sauce based on tomato, one or two fillets always find their way in, because anchovy fillets melt readily with heat, no one knows they are there.
I suppose if I cooked garlic bread for my garlic hating mate, he would have been on to me, though in his case I would have done something completely different but just as tasty in its own way, and that is anchovy bread. For anyone a bit tired of garlic bread, this is a great alternative. The butter mellows the flavour of the anchovies and what could be better to hairy fish lovers than their favourite treat on warm, crusty bread?
125 g (5 oz) softened unsalted butter
8 to 10 anchovy fillets
1 French stick or baguette
Pound the anchovy fillets to a paste in a pestle and mortar, or pass through a garlic press. Mix well with the softened butter. Slice the bread nearly all the way through, in 1/2" (1.5 cm) slices. Butter each side of bread with the anchovy butter, slather a bit over the top, then wrap the french stick in foil and bake for 20 minutes in a 200 c (400 f) oven.
It's nothing for me to whip up a batch of homemade mayo, or turn pan drippings into a dark brown gravy, but show me a frankfurter and it just has to have a commercial tomato sauce. And I know I'm not the only one who likes tomato sauce. This from La Tante Claire by Pierre Koffmann, talking about staff meals: "We never eat the restaurant food; we have something simple like a steak with sauteed potatoes, a salad, or some rice, and we eat to feed ourselves, not for a gastronomic treat. Nevertheless even simple food can be cooked well. The other day I found all my cooks, French as well as English, eating chips covered with mounds of tomato ketchup. I was really shocked. That the English cooks were eating it hardly surprised me, but that the French were doing it as well, really did!"
Ahhh, the shocking truth! My sinful, plastic, squeeze bottle of tomato sauce. What's your non foodie guilty pleasure?
Anyway, apparently this is not a meme, rather as the originator Melissa from The Traveler's Lunchbox calls it, a joint project. Melissa is keeping track of all our ardent desires on a master list, if you would like a peek, just follow the link. The theme for this 'joint project' is the top five things one would like to eat before you die. Oh, and don't forget to drop Melissa a line telling her what you have posted, to be added to the master list. Even if you haven't been tagged, consider that you have been now, feel free to post your very own list!
So onto my wish list of the top five things to eat before I die.
Okay, technically I have all ready had it. Twice - when we had our famous Grand Final barbecues. The first time it was probably the best fish experience we had ever had, the second time the worst. The reason I'm listing it as one of my top five is that I want to catch my very own fish and cook it over a charcoal fire, under the stars somewhere near tropical Darwin, which is why I'm happy to include it here; food experiences are not only about what you eat - where you eat can also intensify the pleasure of the table. Also I have never had a really fresh one straight out of the water, it's a long way from the top of Australia to the bottom. Barramundi (Lates calcarifer) is Australia's premier fresh water sporting fish and arguably our finest eating fish. It is a catadromous species, meaning it lives primarily in fresh water and when the monsoon comes to the Top End (this is what we call the Northern most reaches of Australia), the fish migrate to salt water in order to spawn. Transexuals take note - barramundi are protoandrous hermaphrodites - they change from males to females at about 5 years of age and this maybe what contributed to my uneven experience with this fish. But now I know what to look for, a male fish in the region of 3 kg, take the fillets off, cook on the charcoal till just flaking, but moist and tender, along with a chilled glass of Clare Valley riesling from South Australia, there could be nothing more quintessentialy Australian than that. Yes there is, how about some AC/DC blaring in the background!
When we have a scorching summer's day here in Melbourne, there is nothing like a chilled glass of Spanish sherry to cool things down. Being from a hot climate, sherry is built for days when the temperature soars and it seems so right just to serve little nibbles rather than a full meal. Recently we discovered Spanish olives stuffed with anchovies and we partnered them with our fave sherry La Gitana, a manzanilla, meaning it's on the dry side. It was like a marriage made in heaven and intensified my resolve to have an authentic tapas experience. We actually came very close one time when we organized to go out with friends one night to a Spanish tapas bar. My wife and I sat there waiting for them and as they were late we indulged in a glass of sherry and plate of olives. Then the call came that their babysitter hadn't turned up, so we left the bar and bought some Turkish takeaway and went back to their place. Close, but no cigar!
Fresh Porcini (Boletus edulis)
This one would come as no surprise, as most of you would know that I forage for mushrooms. I've had a few fresh truffles in my time, but never fresh porcini. We can get frozen and dried ones, but the frozen tend to collapse on cooking and the dried ones have an intensified flavour and lack texture. I did see not so long ago, that a restaurant in Sydney was able to procure some at about $90 kg, which is about what I pay for the frozen version, so maybe one day, but I know that it is difficult to get them through quarantine because of concerns that any soil attached may harbour foot and mouth disease. A few years ago Damien Pike from Prahran Market was bringing in fresh chanterelles, but was later stopped for this reason. I know exactly what I would do with fresh porcinis. First I would make some fresh pasta, then slice the mushrooms thinly, saute them off in a little butter flavoured with garlic, add a squeeze of lemon. a fair bit of cream, then pour the whole lot over the pasta. If you have all ready done this, please don't tease me in comments!
A Piece of Cheese
How's that for vague?!!! But the piece of cheese I want has a story. About twenty years ago, I was knocking around with Frank from Switzerland. He was a quiet, unassuming kind of guy, until you got to know him and the twinkle in his eye. Frank introduced me to horsemeat in a very underhand way plus a few more treats we don't need to go into here. Every so often Frank would fly off to somewhere in the world, Central America was high on his list, but sometimes he would go home to visit his parents. We would always meet him at the airport when he returned. This one time I'm thinking of, we waited as the plane landed and all the passengers disembarked, we waited as all the passengers collected their luggage and cleared customs and we waited some more as everyone went home, but still no Frank. We checked with the airline but they had a policy of not saying who was on the plane, so we waited. Eventually the airline relented and told us he was indeed on the flight, but where was he? Over there, being escorted by two customs officers to an interview room. It later transpired that Frank had been attempting to smuggle in a piece of cheese. It was unpastuerised and that was enough to cause him to be in a great deal of trouble. He later told me after his court appearance, where he sweet talked the magistrate into giving him a token $30 fine, that this cheese was the king of Swiss cheeses. The tragedy is that Frank has since passed away and I don't recall the name of the cheese. Any helpers?
Ever since I was a young boy getting into fishing, I've always wanted to have one of these babies and not just from anywhere, mine has to come from Sweden. The first fishing tackle that I payed any attention to was the Swedish brand ABU. My first ABU reel that is now 37 years old still has pride of place in my tackle box, even surviving being dropped into Western Port and amazingly retrieved from the bottom by the simple expediency of snagging it with a hook and line. Sadly all the lures of theirs that I had were washed away from the beach where I was once fishing, a painful lesson in knowing what the tide is doing and always paying attention. I do wonder if they ever managed to catch a fish as they bobbed away on the tide. As a boy I was so in love with the ABU brand and read up on them as much as I could and it seemed to this young lad, that the acme of fishing would be to catch a Scandinavian salmon with my Swedish fishing gear. There would be a few things I would do with it too. First up, sliced thinly, placed on a plate and marinated with great olive oil, dill, salt and freshly ground pepper, served with a shot of vodka. Again thinly sliced, quickly seared in a pan and served with a sorrel sauce. I would take a whole salmon to the fish kettle and poach it on the bone and serve with a hollandaise sauce flavoured with tarragon....I better stop now, I can feel a Swedish trip coming on.
Okay, there is my five, now I'm passing the baton on to....
Haalo, from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once.
Ruth, from Once Upon A Feast
Tanna, from My Kitchen in Half Cups
Kitchen hand, from What I cooked Last Night
Mystery guest - the person from Switzerland who comes every day but never leaves a comment. I'm dying to know who you are.
Edited to add: Of course anyone who had properly read the theme for this joint project would know that the true theme is 'things you've eaten and think that everyone should eat at least once before they die.' Oh well, too late now!
About two weeks ago, I was at Ormond Meat and Smallgoods and just as I finished my shop, Barry showed me a leg of new season lamb and raved about how good was the carcass from which it had been retrieved. Now if he had shown me the leg at the start I would have bought it, but for now I had enough meat, so I made a mental note about new season lamb.
My son A, who has just had his birthday, requested a leg of lamb for his birthday dinner last weekend. We were wandering around Queen Victoria Market in the meat section when we spotted legs of new season lamb. "Great" I thought, "We'll have one of those," and immediately purchased a leg. It's not hard to tell the difference between new season lamb and regular lamb that is available all year. New season meat is a creamy pink and the cuts are always smaller, regular lamb is a dark red and larger.
Now I'm sure that all of us know that new season anything can be a risky proposition, especially with fruit. The first peach of the season is invariably hard and sour, but here we are talking about meat. How could a new season lamb be tough? It hasn't had the time to gambol across green fields and would hardly be weaned from its mothers milk. Well I don't know, but the leg which was roasted to a rosy pink, was the toughest leg of lamb we had had for many a year. I rang Barry to ask his opinion, but he was unable to say, other than, he told me, a lot of butchers don't like to carry the first new season lambs for the reason that they can be tough, and will wait a month before selling them. I pointed out to him that he had raved to me about new season lamb the week before and he told me that he could tell from the way the carcass broke up that it was a superior animal.
My best guess and it is only a guess, is that lamb like any other meat benefits from being aged before sale. That perhaps all lamb is tough until it is hung properly and that some butchers in their haste to be the first with new season lamb, race it into their refridgerated cabinets before it is ready. I hope I'm right, because I left my number with Barry for when he gets another great carcass, though he did say they weren't handling any at the moment.
For when you get great new season lamb, it is a sublime experience.
Sometimes one becomes a bit bored with a plump breast and well rounded thigh and longs for something with a bit of depth and character. Someone who rewards you well for the extra care and attention you lavish upon her. Whose charms aren't reliant on young tender flesh that is oh so common, but upon an ability to give herself all to you if you know how to treat her right, with love, tenderness and patience. An older women will not surrender to you in a shorter courtship, that someone younger would fall for in as little as half an hour. You have to want an older women and treat her right, as Aretha Franklin would say, with RESPECT.
It was my wife that started the whole thing. We had my kids coming over to celebrate one of their birthdays. The birthday boy himself is very fond of one of her soups called krupnik, which is essentially a barley soup that relies on good homemade chicken stock for its character. My wife had been telling me that in Poland, they like to use an old boiling fowl to make the stock with, but here in Australia she has to settle for chicken bones and pieces from young chickens. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but D was hanging out for a taste from her memory.
Well, we were at the Queen Victoria Market on Saturday morning, Melbourne's premier food market and I knew exactly where to get hold of an older bird for her soup. We battled our way through the mid morning crowd to the specialist chicken shops and purchased a 1.5 kg bird for $5. To someone who pays around $18 for a free range bird of the same size that seemed like a complete steal. But still it would be too much to pay if you didn't know how to look after it.
As a chicken ages, its flesh becomes increasingly tough, especially the active leg muscles. But what it loses in tenderness it gains in flavour. An older bird acquires a gelatinous quality that is only fully released by long, slow braising or poaching. The bird itself retains flavour and the liquid in which it was cooked will carry the very essence of the chicken. Once it was very common to cook with old birds as they first had to carry out egg laying duties, but in modern times we breed birds specifically for their tender meat, which cannot survive a long slow cook without turning stringy and losing all its flavour. But because all we can get nowadays is chicken bred to be tender, many of us look with disdain upon boiling fowl, as evidenced by a story from Renaudet, a French chef and author.
One of my friends, a French senator, once declared, in front of the cook of a mutual acquaintance, that an old hen was good for nothing except enriching the stock of a pot au feu. To show him how wrong he was, Mlle. Marthe, the cook, created the following dish and our gourmet freely admitted his error.
The dish was called Senator's Braised Hen and was essentially an old hen slowly braised with potatoes, bacon and onions for about three hours. With our chicken, we slowly poached it for three hours also; depending on the age and condition of the bird it can take from two to four hours to cook. After we had poached the bird for the requisite time we removed it from the stockpot and left it to cool for another dish, which turned out to be a pasta frittata. Our daughter M spotted it and ripped a drumstick from it and as she ate it said how tasty it was, then ripped the other leg and devoured that too. Of course I snuck a taste of the meat and it was completely different to a young bird. Even after three hours of cooking it had good texture, plenty of flavour and my hands almost stuck to the meat it was so sticky. All my children commented on how tasty the soup was; it was just the stock seasoned and served with noodles, but it had such a depth of flavour and a real stickiness to it that you can only get from a good homemade veal stock.
Maybe we should all spend a bit of time with an older woman, her charms are all there for the taking.
I'm excited for her and happy that she is so looking forward to it, but maybe I'm a bad parent because I know that I can lie in tomorrow and the other thing is we have lost our little lever. All this week M has been extra good because one of us might have said "If you want to go to A's house...."
Bad, bad parent!!!
Now I've seen bolognese sauce whipped up in half an hour, but not mine and I suspect not from anyone who cares about food. It's amazing how many secret ingredients there are for all the classics, purportedly lifting a dish to new heights, but the real secret for bolognese sauce is not what you put into it, rather it's what you give it and that is plenty of time to cook.
When you consider mince meat, all of you would realize we are not talking prime cuts, rather secondary cuts that if you cooked in their own right, would require a lengthy cooking time to be properly tender. So it is with the mince. Of course it can be cooked for a short period of time as it is when made into hamburger patties, but the reason hamburger is not tough is that all the meat fibres have been cut short, but regardless of the shortness of the meat fibres, butchers mince will never be as tender as a piece of eye fillet that you have hand chopped or minced and is the reason that eye fillet is used for steak tartare instead of something from the blade for instance.
What happens to mince after cooking for two hours or so, is that it breaks down and melts into the sauce. If you have a taste of bolognese sauce just as it comes to the boil and a taste after two hours of simmering, what you will notice is the texture of the longer cooked sauce is smooth and homogeneous and all the flavours have merged into something entirely different from a short cooked sauce where the flavour of the meat and tomato dominates and the texture is almost gritty. The other property of a long cooked sauce is that it will cling better to pasta as it is more paste like.
Because of the long cooking time involved, I always cook way more sauce than is needed and freeze the remainder for future meals. Just as I was putting the leftover sauce into containers for freezing, my wife D came into the kitchen.
"I'm giving you a gift." I proudly told her.
"What's that?" she asked expectantly.
"I've cooked four dinners for you for later on."
The look on her face told me that the next time I say that, there better be a back up present and a restating of my love for her.
2 large onions, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
3-4 ribs celery, finely diced
6-8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
1.3 kg (3 lb) minced beef
3 700 g (25 oz) bottles tomato passata
2 tablespoons dried oregano
salt & freshly ground pepper
In a large pot place the onions, carrots, celery, garlic and the olive oil and sweat until all the vegetables have softened and slightly collapsed, about ten minutes. Put in the meat and turn the heat up, vigorously stirring to prevent the meat from clumping together. When all the meat has changed colour, add the tomato passata, oregano, salt and pepper. You will need a surprising amount of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer for two to three hours, stirring occasionally.
How Blue Can You Get?
As sung by Louisiana Gator Boys in Blues Brothers 2000
Been downhearted baby
ever since the day we met
I've been downhearted baby
ever since the day we met
Our love is nothin' but the blues
Baby how blue can you get
My love is like a fire
Your love is like a cigarette
My love is like a fire
But baby yours is like a cigarette
I watch you step down on it baby and crush it
Tell me how, tell me how, how blue can you get
You're evil when I'm with you
and you're jealous when we're apart
Yes you're evil when I'm with you baby
Lord have mercy, you're jealous when we're apart
How blue can you get
Hey that's a writing in my heart
I gave you a brand new Ford
and you just said I want a Cadillac
I bought you a ten dollar dinner
You said Thanks for the snack
I let you live in my penthouse
You said it was just a shack
I gave you seven children
and now you wanna give 'em back
I've been downhearted baby
ever since the day we met
Our love is nothin' but the blues
Baby how blue can you get
Caught up with the movie the other day. It's not really a patch on the original Blues Brothers, but there is one scene that makes the whole movie worthwhile and that's the battle of the bands. The Louisiana Gator Boys features several musical legends besides B B King and the song they sing is one of my all time favourites. The first version I ever heard of it was sung live inside a prison and the guys really went for it.
Just so I could blog about the song I actually thought up a recipe to justify doing it. It really ought to feature freshwater crayfish (crawfish) or yabbies to us Aussies, but because of the need to use uncooked crayfish which are usually alive and would need to be snipped open to allow the marinade to enter, I've substituted large green (uncooked) prawns instead.
Louisiana Gator Boys BBQ Prawns
I kg (2.2 lb) large green (uncooked) prawns, unshelled
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 green capsicums, roughly chopped
1 or 2 habanero chillies*, seeds removed, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
100 ml (3 fl oz) olive oil
juice of two limes
salt & fresh ground pepper
With scissors, snip each prawn down its back from the head to the tail and remove the black intestine. Place all the marinade ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth, adding water to make a loose paste. Put the prawns into a large container with the marinade, mix well and leave for two hours. Light a fierce barbecue or heat a grill pan until very hot. Lift the prawns from the marinade and cook for two minutes each side. Serve with a cold beer and very loud Blues music.
*habanero chillies are extremely hot, if you like substitute milder chillies.
I'm not sure that you will understand autism from reading the transcript, but you will get a feel for what it's like to have to deal with autism on a day to day basis for ALL those concerned. The transcript is at http://news.sbs.com.au/insight/topic.php?id=104# and select 'insight transcripts' five down on the left hand side. I don't recommend reading it if you are easily upset, though not all the autism stories are dark.
You know the thing, trays and trays of lovely looking chops or steaks or whatever, so you ask for a kilo or two and the assistant gets yours from the bottom of the last tray and then when you get home find the sorriest, scraggiest bits of meat that no-one else wanted. Sometimes a butcher shop will indulge in such skullduggery, usually pulled off by claiming what you want is out the back and you don't get a peak at it until you get home. My sister-in-law never gets caught like this, for she says when they try to pull the chops from underneath that unless she gets the chops she can see, she is not buying anything. And she is right, why should idle slumps that don't get up early have the choicest cuts?
One of my butchers half got me last Friday. In his window were the plumpest looking lamb shanks; its still Winter here so maybe one last hurrah before Spring arrives. Half a dozen shanks would be about right for us, but there were only three in the window. "No worries" said the assistant, "we have more out the back, only they're frozen." For something like a lamb shank, freezing doesn't bother me as the long slow cook renders them perfectly acceptable, so I innocently said okay. 'Out the back' should have woken me up, but it didn't. When I got them home, there were three shanks that had come from the front of the sheep and consequently were long and skinny with not much meat, but exactly the same price as their meatier counterparts from the rear of the sheep.
I hate that. Not the shank, they still cooked up well, just the fact that at my age you would think I would know better!
So, how to have them? Have you ever seen a recipe for lamb with forty cloves of garlic and wanted to try it but were just a teensy bit frightened by the amount of garlic? Well here is a recipe for lamb shanks cooked with half that amount. It produces a gob smackingly good, sticky shank coated with a mellow garlic reduction, great served with lentils or mashed potatoes. Just remember there isn't much sauce.
Lamb Shanks Roasted with Garlic
6 lamb shanks
salt & freshly ground pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
20 cloves garlic, skin on
150 ml (5 fl oz) white wine
Season the shanks with salt and pepper, then gently brown them in batches, in the oil, in an oven proof pot with a tight fitting lid, big enough to hold them all. When browned put all the shanks in the pot and add the unpeeled garlic cloves, place the lid on the pot and put into an oven preheated to 160 c (320 f). At this low temperature the shanks will produce enough moisture to gently stew, but you need to check them every hour or so, turn them and add a tablespoon or so of water if need be - they must not fry in the oil. After about three hours, the shanks should be meltingly tender and infused with garlic flavour, if so remove them from the pot along with the garlic. Remove as much fat from the leftover juices as possible. Keep the shanks warm and pass the garlic through a sieve, back into the pot along with the white wine. Bring to the boil, scraping any deposits back in and reduce until there is just enough sauce to coat the shanks. Return the shanks to the pot and coat them with the sauce and serve.
My blogging friend, kitchen hand, recently made an announcement on his blog that he was making an extension to his family and I left a comment that perhaps he should visit his archives and discover what it was that his family had been eating that was promoting such fertility.
Now I know the secret, it's Indian food which I believe kitchen hand has a certain fondness for. From today's Age newspaper comes this.
An 88-year-old Indian farmer who has never heard of Viagra fathered a baby boy, still has sex daily and wants more children, The Times of India reported. Farmer Virmaram Jat said he wanted to enjoy sex as long as he was alive. His third wife, the mother of his newborn son, is 45 years younger than him.
Sex daily? It's a wonder he is only up to his third wife.
Found a recipe (thanks Nerissa) for Boeuf Bourguignon - that's Beef with Burgundy to you and me. Cooked it up just fine, though due to time constraints skipped the meat marinating part, though I don't think the devil would want me for that. Spent a little bit of time on the sauce reduction, which was amply rewarded with bonus flavour, and decided to serve it with plain rice.
I pretty much follow all cooking instructions at least once, but there is one that I never have. I never wash rice. I've seen this instruction a million times, maybe more, television presenters, cookbooks, even fellow bloggers and I just blythely ignore everyone.
I don't mean to sin, I just do.
But if I do go to hell, I will have all the angels for company. You see I cooked this for dessert.
Last Friday caught up for the first time with his show, Hell's Kitchen. Gordon, what is wrong with you? The man cooks beautifully as attested by his Michelin stars, but his cooking shows have long ago ceased to be about the food and ever increasingly about new ways to humiliate and demean people. Gordon seems to operate on the boot camp principle of stripping away all pretensions, then moving forward to mould people the way he wants and in such a way that he looks like an all powerful emperor that brooks no human frailty, and the viewer is left with the impression that Gordon knows everything.
Let me say that working in a restaurant is hard work and not for the fainthearted, but it is a trade and like all trades has to be learnt over many years at the stoves, not just in a few episodes before being propelled to executive chef status. You have to earn respect the hard way, not by surviving daily tirades, but by turning out fantastic food day in day out. You need to do the hard yards, menial tasks that have no end, but without which fine dining could not exist. All this show seems to be doing is propping up one man's giant ego.
I was pondering all this when the movie Dirty Dancing 2 - Havana Nights came on. It is set in Havana, Cuba just before the revolution and is the story of a young American girl who befriends a Cuban boy, set against the backdrop of the brutal and arrogant Batista regime, words that could easily be used to describe Gordon Ramsey. This young couple form a relationship and enter a dancing competition, but the girl has to overcome her inhibitions in order to learn Latin dancing, the 'dance of the slaves', the only way they were free to express themselves and involves much sensual touching as well as skimpy clothing.
Just near the end of the movie there is a scene where Batista has fled the country and people are racing through the streets shouting long live the revolution, and I couldn't help but wonder if those same people knew that they were about to fall headlong into the nightmare of another man's dreams, would they have been so enthusiastic? Now is a good time to think about it, as news reports seem to show that Fidel Castro's health is failing. I wonder if rapprochement with the United States would be possible if Castro was no longer in power? For the sake of all Cubans, one would hope so, though it is easy to understand some lingering resentment against a people who allowed one of the worst crises this world has witnessed, to unfold in their country. But was this crisis engineered by Cubans or Castro or someone else?
With all the troubles in the world today, if two countries could come together again, not in the way they once were, but in a new spirit of reconciliation, it could be the one bright spot on the horizon where at present there is only darkness. With this in mind, I want to take something particularly American and blend it with something Cuban, a coming together of the ways in friendship, where both sides manage to bring something to the other. I have chosen to take an American institution, apple pie, and flavour it with something so Cuban, rum.
As to Gordon, I fear there is nothing we can do, except not watch him.
Friendship Apple Pie
adapted from the Joy of Cooking
350 g plain flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 teaspoon salt
180 g lard
85 ml ice water
Cut the lard into small pieces. In a large open bowl, place the flour, icing sugar, salt and lard, then either cut the lard into the flour with a knife or pastry cutter, or rub in with the tips of your fingers. Do not try to rub completely in, leave some pea sized pieces of fat and the rest should look like coarse sand. Add the ice water and cut in, then use your hands to combine, if the dough seems a little dry add some more ice water. The dough should look rough not smooth. Divide dough in half, wrap in clingfilm and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes.
1.35 kg apples, peeled and cored
45 g unsalted butter
50 ml Cuban rum
140 g sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Slice the apples about 6-8 mm thick, melt the butter in a frying pan or saucepan and sweat the apples until slightly soft about 5 minutes. Add the Cuban rum, sugar, cinnamon and salt and cook on high heat until the pan juices become thick and syrupy. Remove the mixture and spread out on a baking sheet to cool down. Roll out one half of the pastry and line a pie dish, fill it with the apple mixture and roll out the second piece of pastry and cover the mixture with this, crimp the edge to seal and cut a couple of steam vents into the pie. Place pie in an oven preheated to 220 c and cook for 40 to 50 minutes until the pie is golden.
We took our young daughter M to Luna Park on Sunday. It was one of those typical, grey Melbourne winter's day when what the weather would do remains an impenetrable mystery. Also on the agenda was finding a place for swimming lessons for M as well, so we parked near the St Kilda Sea Baths and walked around and up the Upper Esplanade to take in the Sunday market. I've never been a big fan of this market, somehow the objects offered up for sale don't seem that great, more folksy and kitchy, marketed straight at tourists, of which there are plenty in St Kilda. I think the organizers could do themselves and everyone else a favour and catch the ferry across to Tasmania and check out Salamanca market, where you do really want to buy a lot of things on offer.
When we got to Luna Park, the queue for tickets was already quite long, even though the park hadn't been opened all that long. We got our tickets and M told us which rides she wanted to go on. While waiting for the ghost train I asked her what to do when she saw a ghost, and in her way she just shrieked, no answer, just a shriek, at which everyone had a bit of a chuckle. After a couple of hours, feeling a bit hungry, we left the park and walked down to Acland Street. For those of you who haven't been to Melbourne, Acland Street is one of our most famous streets, especially famous for it's Continental cake shops, that are all competing with each other to put on the best display of cakes and pastries in their windows. It is a display that will literally leave you drooling.
A sit down meal wasn't exciting us, fish and chips seemed more compelling and just right for the sort of day it was, so we took a table inside one and ordered. For me, the one true test of a good fish 'n' chippery is the quality of their batter and running a close second is the quality of the oil. The batter has to be light and crispy, not stodgy and with the oil, I'm not too fussed as to its origin, but it must be clean and fresh. This particular shop passed on both accounts.
I have sort of been on a batter mission most of my adult life, always looking for a fish 'n' chip shop that has the lightest, crispest batter that flakes and crunches in my mouth. The type of fish used doesn't really bother me, here in Victoria it is usually shark, gummy or school shark and is called flake in the shops. I don't know why, it just is. Another, I don't know why, is a potato cake, which here is a round slice of potato, battered and fried. If you ordered a potato cake in New South Wales they would look at you strangely, until you realized that you needed to utter the word scallop instead, but in Victoria a scallop is a mollusc.
What sort of batter turns you on? In my quest I have tried all sorts and have finally come down to one. I have made beer batters, yeast batters, folded in whisked egg whites, used various flours, like my local fish 'n' chip shop that told me their formula one day when I oh so innocently asked them what they used in their batter and they told me it was four flours - plain flour, self raising flour, custard flour and rice flour. Then one day I curiously chanced upon what is probably the easiest and simplest. With beer batters, I think the taste of beer is too strong to go with delicate foods, ditto yeast batters. Tempura batters are, well, Japanese, suited to a particular style of frying, the egg white thing, while producing a batter that is light, tends to be quite thick and I prefer batters that cling lightly. A great batter for me is simply flour, water and a raising agent, whether baking powder or sodium bi-carb with cream of tartar. This produces a batter that is not too thick, that swells and crisps on contact with the hot oil, but doesn't retain too much oil.
So here is batter my way, it's not really a recipe, just a method. For each cup of self raising flour, add a pinch of salt and one teaspoon of baking powder. In a large bowl, place the flour, salt and baking powder, then whilst whisking, slowly add enough water to produce a batter the consistency of single cream. That's it. Flour your fish or vegetable or whatever, dip into the batter and fry in the usual way.
In Australia we have to put the name of the grape variety on the front label, because where it's grown will not suggest what is in the bottle, unlike in France where it's not usual to name the grape variety, but if you know where the bottle is from you will have a pretty good idea of what's in it. However in France, a breeze of change is occurring in that some varieties are being planted in areas where they are not allowed under AOC regulations, though these bottles cannot carry the AOC imprimatur.
So if you pick up a bottle of Sancerre and you notice it's white, it has to be a sauvignon blanc. However it doesn't stop there as there are two distinct styles, New World typified by New Zealand, and Old World which is the French style. The New Zealand wines in common with Australia are fruit driven wines and tend to be higher in alcohol than their French counterparts that rely on subtlety and produce mineral and flinty notes that sometimes need bottle age to drink at their best. If you are used to drinking New World sauvignon blancs and were suddenly given a French one, you may be hard pressed to identify it as sauvignon blanc as it is so different.
Ed noted that his bottle of Sancerre went well with scallops and I couldn't agree more. One of the best combinations of food and wine I ever had was scallops in an orange sauce with a bottle of sauvignon blanc.
Scallops in Orange Sauce
adapted from Pierre Koffmann
16 large scallops, halved or 32 small left whole, gristle removed
40 g (1.5 oz) butter
1 teaspoon shallots, finely chopped
25 ml (1 fl oz) Grand Marnier
100 ml (4 fl oz) strained freshly squeezed orange juice
100 ml (4 fl oz) double cream
salt and fresh ground pepper
Melt the butter in a frypan, season the scallops with salt and pepper and when the butter is very hot but not burning fry the scallops for 1 minute each side. Place on a warm plate, cover and keep warm. In the same pan sweat the shallots and when softened add the Grand Marnier, orange juice and cream. Reduce until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Season. Arrange the scallops on four plates and pour the sauce around.
In an amazing turn of events, a 94 year old women after being ravished by a little red rooster, has started laying eggs. Excited scientists have found nothing wrong with the eggs, other than tiny black specks that have turned out to be pieces of truffle.
"It's a Godsend," reported one scientist, "now we don't have to get anyone's permission for embryonic research, and experiments that haven't worked we simply turn into breakfast."
However the women at the centre of all the attention, Angie, is less than thrilled with her plight. "You know I thought there was something dodgy about that cock the second I laid eyes on him. I was out walking the dog past the hen house and I felt him eyeing me off like I was a honky tonk woman or something, and I only turned my back for a second and he was all over me like a jumpin' jack flash. Damn it, if only I was a little younger I could have shown that bird a thing or two, after all I was still good till I was ninety. These days I can't get no satisfaction and now I'm stuck laying these big ol' eggs, and let me tell you I don't know how the chickens do it, the damn things hurt like buggery."
Scientists are examining the rooster to find out how it managed to crossover the species barrier, but Angie is reported to have said she has no sympathy for the devil. "Don't start me up, for I just hope they shove the biggest probe they've got, right up his clacker and make his eyes swell and pop that little red comb of his, then he would know how I feel," a clearly emotional Angie said. "If I gotta hold of him, I'd off with his head and roast him with sweet potatoes covered in brown sugar. That's the only way me and the chicks are going to get any support out of that lazy, good for nothing, midnight rambler. I'd be a fool to cry if anything were to happen to him."
But in a strange twist, a mysterious Southern gentleman, known only as the Colonel, with a goatee beard, glasses and a white suit has come to Angie's emotional rescue. "When the Colonel found out about me, he let me know that I could really count on him. He saved me from my nineteenth nervous breakdown, I was reaching for mother's little helper every chance I got. I adore him, wild horses couldn't keep us apart and he looks after the eggs so well. When they grow up, he says he will find a place for them in his stores. But he does seem to be a man with a secret. I caught him mixing up something down the back shed, and when I asked him what he was up to, he just smiled and asked if I liked it hot 'n' spicy or finger lickin' good. A big ol' shiver just went straight up my spine, like I was eighty again."
In a breaking development, it seems as though all the local chefs are trying to be the first one to feature these eggs on their menu and there is interest coming from overseas as well. Iron Chef Michiba Rokusabaro has reportedly said that with these eggs no challenger could possibly beat him and that he, not the Colonel, was the right man for Angie, though in a first for the show, it seems you can't always get what you want, for Angie has so far rebuffed all advances.
However a shadowy figure from Melbourne, Australia appears to be the first one to get his hands on some eggs and has posted a recipe for them. It is not known by what devious means he was able to procure them and when asked just slyly says there was some pleasure and pain involved, but refuses to reveal who had the pleasure and who had the pain....but he did admit to a certain fascination with The Rolling Stones.
1 white potato, peeled and thinly sliced in rounds
salt & pepper
truffle oil, optional
1 cup homemade chicken stock
25 g (1 oz) butter
1 shallot, finely diced
6 button mushrooms, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
pinch fresh thyme leaves
4 tablespoons double cream
Arrange the potato slices in circles in two small ramekins or souffle dishes, season and add one or two drops of truffle oil if using and pour on chicken stock just to cover. Cover dishes with foil, pierce foil, and bake in an oven preheated to 180 c (350 f) for 30 minutes or until soft. While the potato is cooking, melt the butter in a pan and sweat the shallots until translucent, then add the mushrooms, garlic and thyme and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid and dry out, season. Take the potato out of the oven and remove the foil. Cover the cooked potato with the mushroom mixture and crack an egg on top, be careful not to break the yolk. Put two tablespoons of double cream on each egg, add another drop of truffle oil and return to the oven until the white is set and the yolk is still runny. Serve to a loved one, be prepared to be loved right back.
Thanks Jeanne from Cook Sister!, that was too much fun.
Note: There are several references to Stones' songs in the story. Can you pick them? Answer later.
I mentioned vine leaves and a couple of other things and all I got was "No, no, no."
"Okay, I give up, what are you eating?"
"Krispy Kreme doughnuts! I drove down with N (brother) and bought a box."
"How are they?"
"They're all right, they're pretty tasty."
For those unaware, Krispy Kreme have recently opened their first store in an outer suburb of Melbourne. On the first day the queue was three hours long. P rang me a couple of days later and asked if I was going there, quite a long drive away and I told her I wasn't. Well the foodie inside got the better of her and she drove there with her brother in tow. About 60 km (37 ml) away. Along a toll road. Waited one hour. Well I suppose it could have been worse, she might have flown to Sydney to visit the airport store prior to the Melbourne franchise opening. But not much worse. And worse was to come.
Yesterday P rang me.
"You'll never guess what happened, when I got home, I went to get my Krispy Kremes that I was saving and there were none left!"
The only consolation is that at least she had some, but I don't think I would want to be one of her brothers right now.
A cruise line that did island cruises was looking for an act to keep the passengers entertained during the night when there wasn't much to see and do. They interviewed a few acts and settled on a magic routine and so the magician started a nightly show in the ship's ballroom. He was highly skilled and soon had the passengers enthralled with his tricks and magic.
It was a pretty easy gig for the magician, as the ship only cruised for two weeks at a time, then a new lot of passengers would embark and he would start his routine over again. Unfortunately for the magician, the ship's captain had a talking parrot that the captain was in the habit of leaving in the ballroom to observe the comings and goings on board the ship. After a couple of months of watching the magic act, the parrot cottoned onto the tricks and in the middle of the act would start squawking,
"The rabbit's under the table, the rabbit's under the table." or
"The ace is up his sleeve, the ace is up his sleeve."
Of course this was ruining the act so the magician complained to the captain who refused to move the parrot for he claimed all the passengers loved it, and so the parrot caused the magician's life to become a misery. One night there was a terrible storm with huge seas and the ship sank. Up bobbed the magician and the parrot. A door had floated up as well, so they both grabbed onto an end. The magician just stared angrily at the parrot and the parrot looked at the magician with a puzzled look on his face. They floated like this for three days with neither saying a word to the other.
Finally the parrot could stand it no longer and said to the magician,
"Okay, I'll admit it's a pretty good trick, now where's the ship?"