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.

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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

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
Grab Your Fork
I Am Obsessed With Food
I Eat Therefore I Am
Iron Chef Shellie
Just Desserts
Kalyn's Kitchen
Kitchen Wench
Matt Bites
Melbourne Gastronome
My Kitchen in Half Cups
Nola Cuisine
Not Quite Nigella
Nourish Me
Seriously Good
Souvlaki For The Soul
Stone Soup
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
Tumeric & Saffron
tummy rumbles
What I Cooked Last Night
where's the beef
Vicious Ange

Food Blog Resources
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I Eat I Drink I Work
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Food for Thought
Autism Victoria
Autism Vox
forget me now
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MOM - Not Otherwise Specified
St Kilda Today

Monday, February 27, 2006
Miserable Place
Hooray for me, I've won an award in Paper Chef #15, in the Super Saver category; that's me... cheap!

Check out all the other results at slurp & burp's medal ceremony.

Do you remember the first thing you really cooked?

When very young, about four or five, I can recall embarking on culinary adventures. Mum's cooking ingredients were all accessible to this curious youngster, and many happy hours were spent mixing various things together in a misguided attempt at emulating mum's great cakes. What I mixed together, I have no idea, and no one ever ate anything that I made. Which was probably pretty fortunate.

The first cooking skill I ever learned was whisking eggs in a shallow bowl with a fork; the way the fork picked up the mass of eggs and turned them over and over without jumping out of the bowl seemed like magic. Did I mention I was very impressionable?

Ah, but the first thing I ever really cooked was a pudding.

After my father died, when my brother and sisters were still very young, we had a housekeeper to help mum out. We had a couple actually, but we sorted them pretty quickly, maybe that's why I like 'Sound of Music' so much. Anyway, mum found an Englishwomen to help, and we all quickly discovered that P. was pretty tough, in a tough love sort of way.

The things that run through the mind of an eight year old. I don't remember where I found it, but when I discovered a recipe for spotted dick, well, it just had to be cooked. With much snickering and smirking, I approached the housekeeper.

"P. can we cook this?"

"Sure darl."

Not realizing, the connection between her and this most English of puddings, had defeated my youthful attempt at gutter humour. We set to, organizing the ingredients, weighing everything, mixing, setting up a pot for steaming, tying the tea towel over the pudding basin, and then steaming. After all this P. looked around the kitchen.

"You need to clean up now."

"What, me? You have to be joking, I cooked."

Pouting, stamping my feet, pointing out that my family were going to enjoy the fruits of my labour, so they should clean up, nothing worked. Thus began my introduction to mis-en-place, which to this eight year old made the kitchen a mis-er-able place.

The only compensation was the pudding. It was magnificent.

Spotted Dick

8 oz (200 g) self raising flour
pinch of salt
4 oz (100 g) butter
4 tablespoons caster sugar
6 oz (150 g) currants
2 eggs
extra milk

Sift the flour with the salt into a basin, rub in the butter and then stir in the sugar and currants. Whisk the eggs, add to the mixture and stir until smooth. If necessary add extra milk to obtain dropping consistency.

Pour into a well greased pudding bowl, cover with pleated tea towel (to allow rising) and tie. Steam for 11/2 -2 hours.
  posted at 11:27 am

Saturday, February 25, 2006
World Leader
The biggest selling herb in the world, know what it is?

Answer in comments, next week.
  posted at 4:33 pm

Friday, February 24, 2006
Marriage In Heaven
Rocket, or Arry (short for arugula) as he was sometimes known was a bit lonely. Hanging around the salad leaves all day long, was leaving him with the feeling that he would like to find someone special to spend some time with. Sure all the other leaves were nice to him, even welcolmed him for the pepperiness that he brought to their lives, but Rocket felt like he was the one that was always giving, always the life of the party, and hanging around the others was like listening to a soft rock station, the music is okay, but not edgy enough.

So one night he took off for the clubs, to check out the scene. Down some winding alleyways, Rocket discovered a dimly lit sign, ' Zarzuelas', the security person on the door was as large as a bull, and looked just as ornery. Carefully making his way around, Rocket entered the club. Flamenco music was in the background, and plenty of people were at the bar. He spotted La Gitana, the sherry, who was a long way from Sanlucar de Barameda, her home town. Rocket liked her for her dry sense of humour and her ability to mix with a diverse bunch, a bit of a flirt really. At the moment she was talking to the anchovie stuffed olive, they seemed to be getting on well together.

Over in one corner was the brooding Pole, Wodka. He was getting it on with Marinated Mushrooms, which was lifting his spirits. Rocket went to the bar and ordered a drink, an olive oil martini with a splash of lemon, shaken not stirred. Taking a sip of his drink, Rocket gazed around the club. La Gitana had already moved on, and was looking very familiar with Tortilla, and standing next to them was her friend from Portugal, Porto, who was looking pleased to be chatting up Blue Cheese.

At that moment the door opened and in came a very elegant couple, the bubbly Champagne and her escort for the evening, a dapper Swedish chap by the name Gravlax, a salt of the earth type. They made their way to a corner table, and Rocket noticed that La Gitana, in search of meatier conversation, was now talking to Albigondas. That girl had no shortage of admirers.

Sensing that this was not the place for him, Rocket made his way back to the street in search of more adventure, and perhaps a partner. Looking around he spotted another club called 'The Glasshouse' and ventured in. Everyone was on the dance floor, there were a lot of familiar faces, Rosemary with Lamb, Tarragon with Chicken, Parsley trying to dance with everybody. There was a fun vibe to the place, like anything goes.

Making his way to the bar, he spotted the beautiful Coriander making her way there too. She had been dancing a Salsa with some Chiles and Tomatoes. Rocket walked over to her.

"Can I buy you a drink?"

"Sure, big boy."

They walked to the bar together, Rocket could smell her pungent perfume, it was intoxicating. He ordered two olive oil martinis with a dash of lemon and they sat and chatted. After a while he realized they had a lot in common, two spirits that had strong personalities. After her dancing, Coriander was a little frayed, and pieces of her were falling onto Rocket. Suddenly, somebody bumped them and their drinks spilled onto each other. Their strong personalities merged into a very pleasing whole and Rocket realized that marriage was a distinct possibility.
  posted at 12:30 pm

Thursday, February 23, 2006
A Bottle Of Merlot
A friend emailed this to me, hope you haven't heard it.

A gentleman asked a waiter to take a bottle of Merlot over to an attractive woman.

The waiter took the Merlot to the woman and said, "This is from the gentleman seated over there ," indicating the sender.

She regarded the wine coolly for a second, not looking at the man, and decided to send a reply note to the man.

The waiter, who was lingering for a response, took the note from her and conveyed it to the gentleman.

The note read: "For me to accept this bottle, you need to have a Mercedes in your garage, a million dollars in the bank, and 7 inches in your pants."

After reading the note, the man decided to compose one of his own in return.

He wrote & folded the note, handed it to the waiter and instructed him to return this to the woman.

It read: "For your information, I have a Ferrari Maranello, a BMW Z8, a Mercedes CL600 and a Porsche Turbo in my garage. There is over twenty million dollars in my bank account. But, not even for a woman as beautiful as you would I cut three inches off.

Just send the bottle back.
  posted at 7:55 am

Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Memories of Easter
I love Easter time, the season has moved into autumn and with it comes cooler weather. If the rains have come, there is the bounty of wild mushrooms, free for the taking. For my wife D. who is Polish, Easter is a significant religious celebration of death and renewal and after the period of lent, a family feast follows Sunday mass.

A couple of Easters ago, we took a holiday to Tasmania, an island State, south of mainland Australia. It is a relatively unspoiled place where the main industries are forestry and tourism. The feeling of the place is laidback and there are tons of things to see and do. My son A. and daughter M. traveled with us and my son and I decided before the trip to fit in some trout fishing at a place called Launceston Lakes. The only day we could fit it in was Easter Sunday much to D.'s dismay, but it was only for the morning, so there would still be time to go to mass in the afternoon.

We rang around the local churches to find out the time of the Mass, but in Tasmania it seemed they liked to do the mass early, for we could find nowhere that celebrated it in the afternoon. Somewhat guiltily my son and I took off for fishing, it was raining, so maybe someone else wasn't too happy with us. When we arrived at the lakes, there was no one to meet us as planned at the gate, which was locked, so we trudged up the path to the main building. On the way up, we noticed a large lake that was full of motion from feeding trout, but we were directed to a different lake, full of weed and not a single ripple of a fish to be seen.

My son and I flogged that lake for all we were worth, there was not a single take. We walked every inch of the shore to no avail. When we were directed to this lake, the owners had said we could try the lake we had walked past on the way in, so we made our way there, found a likely spot and started to cast our lures. On my second cast, I hooked up with a fair sized fish and after a struggle, landed a trout of about a kilo (2.2 lbs). My son, whose interest had been waning, suddenly brightened up and asked where I had cast. Flicking the lure out to show him, I hooked up again on a similar sized fish.

With dinner taken care of, we packed up and returned to our motel about midday. D. wanted at least to go to a church, so we decided to look for one in Launceston. We drove around for a bit, then discovered a beautiful old bluestone church that reminded us of St Ignatious church in Richmond, where we sometimes go for their Polish mass. Just how similar it was, we were about to find out. People were going in, so we joined them and sat in a pew, the mass was just beginning. The priest said a few words and I nudged D. with my elbow.

"It's a Polish mass."

"No it's not."

I speak only a few words of Polish, so I couldn't be sure, but after a few more words from the priest D. looked at me incredulously.

"Yes it is!"

Serendipity is a wonderful thing, for the Easter before, we had made another discovery on Easter Sunday. We had decided to attend our local church, which celebrates an Hungarian mass, Father Kiss (pronounced kish) is the priest and talks with a thick accent, which is barely understandable. Our daughter M. was with us in a pram and was becoming restless, so I decided to take her outside. The church is attached to school grounds, so we wandered there and found people setting up for a huge Hungarian feast.

There were enormous pots of toltott kaposzta (cabbage rolls) and gulyasleves (goulash soup), trays of debricziner, the sausage that takes its name from Debrecen, the third largest city in Hungary and of course plenty of potatoes. Every kind of sweet was on display, szilvas gomboc (plum dumplings), strudel and the famous Dobos-torta amongst others. I had left the church and gone straight to heaven.

We were going to my sister-in-laws for lunch, so we had to satisfy ourselves with a few sweet things, though we were not disappointed at missing out on lunch, as we cook a couple of Hungarian dishes at home, particularly lesco (pronounced lecho) and gulyasleves. We discovered our recipe for gulyasleves in the St Kilda library. What peaked my interest in the recipe, was that I thought of gulyas (goulash) as more like a stew.

The word gulyas originally meant only "herdsman," but over time the dish became gulyashus (goulash meat) - that is to say, a meat dish that was prepared by herdsmen. Today, gulyas refers both to the herdsmen, and to the soup.

At the end of the 19th century, there was heightened awareness and interest in the Hungarian national identity, which led to gulyas leaving the herdsmen, where it was eaten with wooden spoons from a shared kettle, to the manor houses, where it became highly fashionable. From there it moved on to the simple folk outside the Great Plain of Hungary, where it finally became common property.

(Goulash Soup)

1/2 kg (1 lb) beef round or topside
1/2 kg (1 lb) beef chuck or blade
3 tablespoons lard or oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
4 medium potatoes, chopped
8 cups water
1 green pepper, seeded and sliced into strips

Cut meat into cubes. In a large casserole or pot, heat lard or oil and saute onions until transparent. Add beef, paprika, salt and caraway seeds and continue to saute for 10 minutes, stirring. Add tomato paste, beef stock and water, simmer for 30 minutes and add potatoes, cook for 15 minutes. Add pepper strips and csipetke and cook for 10 minutes more and serve.


1/2 cup of plain (all purpose) flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon water (optional)

In a bowl combine flour, salt and egg. Knead until a stiff dough is formed, adding water if necessary. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hands until 1 cm (1/2") thick. Pinch off 1 cm (1/2") pieces of dough and drop into simmering soup.
  posted at 8:49 am

Sunday, February 19, 2006
I'll Drink To That
You have to love five year old minds, they are as yet completely uncluttered with the deitrus of life, like little sponges absorbing all around them. They can come up with the most astounding observations and can suddenly ask the strangest questions, like this one.

"Dad, do whales drink water?"

Well do they?
  posted at 9:19 am

Saturday, February 18, 2006
Peel Me A Grape
Feeling a bit peckish. It was Friday after work and I was with M. at the supermarket. We were going to make pizza from scratch, dough and all. With the rising time stretching out dinner time, felt like a beer and something, but what? Poato crisps weren't going to do it for me, though M. had no such problem, she loves Twisties, her only difficulty lay in choosing between cheese or chicken flavour. Corn chips perhaps, no too heavy. Nuts, that was it!

Raced to the nut section and perused the choices. Macadamia... cashews... almonds... peanuts, oh, that's what I want, pistachios. Perfect.

I've been in love with pistachois ever since I discovered a tin of them from Iran. That was way back in the days before any of the present troubles erupted. The tin was highly decorated in Arabesque designs and was air tight. What was inside was like manna from heaven, the most perfect nuts roasted to a pale gold, perfectly brined, not too salty and the most exquisite pistachio flavour you could imagine, light and crisp. I'm almost crying remembering how good they were.

Then the troubles started and I have never seen a tin of them since. I keep a weather eye out for them and in the mean time satisfy myself with lesser quality nuts. It is a nut that has always spoken of the mysteries of the Middle East.

Baklava is a Middle Eastern pastry that is justly famous around the world. It is made with filo pastry, scented sugar syrup and nuts, the best and the most expensive, are made with pistachios. If you can't see vivid emerald green pieces of nut, you have bought something nice, but something that could be better.

We arrive home and set to make the pizza dough. I use bread making flour that the supermarket sells for bread making machines. Read the instructions on the side panel that say when making by hand, you need to use less water, exactly 0.62 of the original quantity. My head was hurting! Fortunately, further down the panel they had a set amount already worked out, too easy. Other instructions point out that making dough by hand is very hard work, but at the end of the working week, it's a great way to rid oneself of some stress. M. must have been a little stressed too, for she pitched right in.

We chatted about the dough as we punched and kneaded it, I told her to much amazement that the dough would become twice as big, so after the dough was made and resting in a covered bowl, she raced to the kitchen every five minutes to check its progress. While the dough was proving I opened a beer and sat down with my pistachios.

All parents like to give their kids a taste of new things and I'm no exception. Popped open a pistachio shell and handed the nut meat to M, who cautiously put the nut in her mouth. After an exploratory suck, she handed the nut back to me and asked me to skin it. Absentmindedly I scraped the skin off revealing the vivid green nut and handed it back to her. Putting the nut back in her mouth, she ate it with relish.

"Dad, can I have some more?"

Looking at the full bag of pistachios, I realized what I had just done.
  posted at 11:14 am

Friday, February 17, 2006
Cool Runnings
Watched the movie Cool Runnings on telly the other day. Suppose it's no coincidence, seeing that the Winter Olympics have started. For those that don't know, it's a movie about the Jamaican bobsled team that entered into the 1988 Winter Olympics and somehow managed to qualify, despite the lack of snow back home. It's a very funny movie.

There is always some of the spirit of Cool Runnings about Australian snow sports. I don't mean to disparage us, but when your mountains stop where the mountains in North America and Europe begin, it will always be hard to compete at the highest level. Our snow season is very short, probably three months in a good year.

Medals, any medals have been extremely hard to come by. That's not to say we haven't won some, even gold. At Salt Lake, Alisa Camplin won gold in the knee bustin' women's aerial and did it with pure skill, but that was balanced by Steven Bradbury's last man standing gold in the 1000 m speed skating final, when the four skaters in front of him all fell within sight of the finish line. All in all, Australians have only won four medals in the Winter Olympics till now.

Now we have another Olympic champion, Dale Begg-Smith in the men's mogul. All Australia is celebrating one of its newest citizen's victories. Newest citizen? Yeah, he was a Canadian and we're not giving him back.
  posted at 8:27 am

Thursday, February 16, 2006
Dinner For All
What is it with kids and vegetables?

When M. was younger, she ate almost anything, cucumbers (fresh & fermented), tomatoes, pumpkin, cauliflower, beans (all kinds), you name it, M. would try it. Then like a light switch flicking off, she now only eats a few things like potatoes. It's like kids carry a common program that kicks in about two or three, stopping them from enjoying veggies. We all know when the program has booted up, cause all kids say "It's Yuk" in common, even before actually trying a vegetable for the first time.

As parents our job is to trick them into it, which is not so easy as all kids are fitted with special detectors. Saw a program where a television chef cooked three different vegetable dishes for four children, only one child admitted liking one dish, she must have had a faulty program or detector.

So it's great when you stumble upon a dish that is based on a vegetable, that both you and your children enjoy. Noodling around in Marcella Hazan's Essentials Of Classic Italian Cooking, I came across a recipe for a pasta sauce, that was so simple and sounded so good, that I was amazed that I hadn't noticed it before. That's the beauty of rereading favourite cookbooks, sometimes something jumps off the page at you.

Pasta with Broccoli Sauce
adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

2 heads broccoli
8 tablespoons olive oil
6-8 anchovy fillets
2 cloves garlic
pinch chile flakes

Cut broccoli into florets, trim stalk and cut into pieces. Cook in boiling salted water for five minutes until tender. Drain, reserving water to cook pasta. Chop broccoli florets and stalk into fine pieces, the florets should almost disintergrate. Put the olive oil into a pan, Marcella suggests placing this pan over boiling water, adding anchovies and breaking them up with the side of a wooden spoon. What I did was to put the pan over low heat, and put the anchovies through the garlic press with the garlic into the oil, warmed the oil to infuse for a few minutes, then added all the broccoli.

Stir through and if it seems to dry add more olive oil. Boil 500 g (1 lb) pasta in reserved water plus extra if needed, until done. Take enough pasta and broccoli sauce to feed the kids and mix. In the remaining sauce add chile flakes and mix with pasta.

Note: don't drain the pasta until completely dry, try and use shell or similar pasta to catch the sauce, that way the kids can't scrape the sauce off. Son A. suggested parmesan cheese was too sharp, maybe Romano would be a better choice.

Daughter M. ate the whole plate and asked for seconds.
  posted at 10:27 am

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
To Save Your Life
When I was younger, about sixteen, I started to collect the Time-Life series, The Good Cook, which is no doubt familiar to many of you. In case your not, each book in the series was dedicated to a topic, for instance lamb was one topic, another desserts, another salads. In all, I believe there are over thirty titles.

The Chief Series Consultant was the legendary Richard Olney, an American, who lived and worked in France since 1951, and has since passed away. Richard Olney was born in Marathon, Iowa. A renowned authority on French cooking, he was the author of numerous cookbooks, including The French Menu Cookbook--and the award winning Simple French Food. Equally well-known as a wine writer, he is the author of Romanee-Conti and Yquem which received the Prix Litteraire des Relais Gourmands 1986. Olney was a member of L'Académie Internationale du Vin and other wine and food organizations. In 1992, he received le Prix de I'Académie du Vin de France "pour l'ensenmble de son oeurve et de son action iternationale en faveur du vin. "

What Richard helped create was a classic of its time. These books could be used by someone with no knowledge of cooking, right through to kitchen professionals. Their magic lay in the completely unpretentious way they were written. They are like a much loved teacher, who knew the craft and taught it well. The anthology of recipes at the end of each book is endlessly fascinating.

For some reason, about half way in, I stopped collecting the series, though I never stopped using the books. When eBay came onto the scene, it was apparent there was a market for these books and so started to try and complete my set. Every time a new one arrived, there would be much rushing to the post office to collect the latest treasure, then happy hours spent trolling through the pages.

My latest aquisition is the title Soups, and I chanced upon a recipe that I would like to share with you. It was taken from the book La Mere Besson "Ma Cuisine Provencale" by Josephine Besson. Knowing that many of you are suffering through winter with various colds and other discomforts, it seems most appropriate. What caught my eye was the title of the recipe. We have all heard the lament of those who can't or choose not to cook, "I can't boil water to save my life." Well here is the recipe.

"Boiled Water"

To serve 4

1 litre/1 quart water
12 to 15 garlic cloves
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 or 2 sprigs sage
1/4 cup (50ml.) olive oil
slices of day old, firm textured bread
freshly grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, salt the water, add the garlic and bring to a boil. After 10 minutes, add the bay leaves, sage and a dash of oil. Let cook a few minutes more, then take the pan off the heat, cover, and allow the soup to stand for about 10 minutes to infuse the water with the seasonings. Strain.

Put the bread into a warmed soup tureen, cover with grated cheese, sprinkle with the remaining oil and pour in the strained infusion.

Further notes to the recipe said,

This Provencal infusion is said to have extraordinary virtues. Nothing can resist it: hangover, illness, childbirth - there can be no convalescence without "boiled water." The old proverb says, Aigo boulido sauova la vida ("boiled water" saves your life).

Who can resist that?
  posted at 7:36 am

Monday, February 13, 2006
Paper Chef # 15
The Paper Chef competition is open again over at slurp & burp and even though I can't publish a photo of my dish, I'll have a go anyway.

The list of ingredients is as follows:-

1. Beets
2. Pears
3. Limes
4. Aphrodisiacs

For the beets, I'm choosing beetroots. As to the aphrodisiac, I'm choosing pickled beef tongue. Originally, oysters seemed to suggest themselves, nay leap out and say "choose me, choose me" and indeed they would be a terrific replacement for the tongue in the following recipe, but I wanted to challenge in the Paper Chef Super Saver.

You want me to explain my choice of tongue as an aphrodisiac, don't you? Well it's a reference to the human tongue, which is an extremely powerful aphrodisiac. I'm not elaborating further other than to say, you are with me or you are not. If you are not, back to Birds and Bees 101 with you. This recipe is also a homage to my wife, who is Polish. She adores tongue (leave it alone, okay.) and I'm combining it with a traditional Eastern European dish of grated beetroot with horseradish.

Other garnishes include lentils braised with vegetables and a stir fry of lightly spiced cucumber with pears and beetroot leaves (another super saver, using all the beetroot plant). The limes will be used to stop the pear from browning and to dress the beetroot puree and in another super saver moment, the zest will be poached and used to garnish the tongue.

Pickled Tongue with Lentils, Beetroot, Cucumbers and Pears

1 Beef tongue, pickled - available from continental butchers.
zest of two limes, finely cut into strips
1 quantity simple syrup, made from one part water, two parts sugar
2 plump beetroots
1 tablespoon horseradish from the jar or less if fresh
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup lentils du puy or similar, soaked for two hours
1 carrot, diced small
1 medium onion, diced small
1 rib celery, diced small
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
2 cucumbers, seeds scooped out and diced
2 pears, peeled, cored and diced, soaked in some lime juice
2 tablespoons oil
6 beetroot leaves, shredded
1 tablespoon sechuan pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt

Place the tongue into a large pot of water and bring to a bare simmer. Cook for two hours and check for doneness with a needle, if it passes easily through it's done, if not continue cooking until done. Leave to cool in liquid and when it can be handled, skin and trim all gristle. If left to cool too much, it will be harder to peel. Place back in liquid.

While the tongue is cooking, place lime zest in simple syrup and poach until tender. Drain, reserving sryup which is now lime flavoured and can be used to make cocktails - more super saving.

Dry fry the sechuan pepper, white pepper and salt until fragrant. Cool and grind in spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Place the unpeeled beetroots in a pot, cover with water and cook until tender, about thirty minutes. Leave to cool, then peel. On the part of the grater that turns food to mush, grate the beetroots. Add the teaspoon of sugar, juice of lime and taste. There needs to be a balance between sweet and sour, beetroots vary in sweetness, so you may need to add more lime juice or sugar. When balanced, add horseradish. If using fresh, add less and taste. It just needs to be a hint of horseradish. Season and set aside. This will be served at room temperature

The lentils have been presoaked as there is very little cooking water used. Put the lentils in a pot with the carrot, onion, celery, bay leaves thyme and water barely to cover, season and bring to the simmer. Cook for twenty to thirty minutes until done and all the water has gone, add more water if it runs out before the lentils are cooked.

Just before the lentils are cooked, heat the oil in a pan or wok, add the cucumbers and briefly stir fry, then add the pear, cook for a few seconds more, then add spice mix and beetroot leaves. Take from the heat.

To serve, place a mound of lentils in the centre of a round plate, top with five overlapping slices of the pretty pink tongue. Garnish with lime zest. Spoon or pipe a circle of grated beetroot around the lentils. Around the beetroot spoon the cucumber and pear mixture.

And there you have it.

Now as to the reasons I think this is a super saver.

1. tongue is cheap.
2. used all of the lime.
3. used most of the beetroot.
4. leftover simple syrup can be used to make a drink (hope this is bonus point).
5. everything is store cupboard or garden, except tongue.
6. saved on taking a picture. I can't take a picture, so I have to make a virtue of it somehow.

Hope you all like it. I did.
  posted at 2:24 pm

Reader's Choice
Well, my research is done, numbers counted and tallied and some results and trends can be announced.

Clearly with twelve votes, Asian style food was leaps and bounds ahead of the pack. Included in this region were China and India as well as South East Asia. This number was reached by counting up all the Asian countries individually, even though each of their cuisines are unique, they all qualify as Asian, the same as if we were looking at the cuisines of North America, where there are several regional styles such as creole and cajun, tex mex and as habanero suz rightly pointed out New England. All these different styles count as American cooking, so it is with Asian. Cin managed to name all three of her choices as Asian.

The next most popular region was Italian. Here risotto and seafood were two themes that recurred, but also suggested by ed charles were the handling of fresh ingredients, lucette and ange mentioned the ubiquitous pizza in all its forms.

Coming in next was one of my favourites, Mexican, which almost scored an extra point due to when rachelle was pregnant and craved it. I've previously waxed lyrical about this, suffice to say, simple ingredients put together in a fashion that belies its humble origins, but is also capable of mixing with more exalted company.

Angela is a seafood lover mentioning it twice, overall seafood had at least seven different mentions as a favourite protein. All cuisines have fantastic ways of preparation, from the sparseness of sashimi to the highly spiced fish curries.

The ever thoughtful kitchen hand I've saved till last. He nominated Jewish cooking as the homeliest on earth, I've no reason to disagree, but what I discovered was, it's one of the most diverse styles, encompassing Sephardic Jews from North Africa, Iran and Israel, as well as Ashkenazi Jews from Austria, Russia and Poland. Kitchen hand then nominated British cookery as some of the world's best eating. When I think of British cooking I'm drawn to the puddings, from savoury steak and kidney, to desserts such as spotted dick. Yum.

I suppose I should reveal my choices, which are French, Italian and Mexican. In my post Tacos Anyone? which started this whole thing, I mentioned that Mexican, Indian, Asian and Italian were the most popular items in the gourmet section in the supermarket. So it seems to have been reflected in this straw poll. Thanks to everyone who took part.
  posted at 8:24 am

Friday, February 10, 2006
Happy Chickens
I've discovered that there is some research to be done to write a good post for The List, so be patient with me.

Don't you hate it when someone beats you to the punch with an idea for a post. MagicTofu at slurp & burp has written a post titled 'The egg test.' Which of course was the idea I had for a post, so you can check out what he had to say. That's not to say we have the exact same thoughts about it, nor were we the first to think of it. A couple of years ago Rick Stein did an egg test in his Food Heroes series, so I'm comfortable enough to have my say.

Several years ago, I kept hearing that Kangaroo Island free range eggs were fantastic, looked around and discovered the price was certainly fantastic, battery farm eggs were about $2 a dozen and Kangaroo Island eggs about $8 a dozen, this was enough to slow me down for a bit. But eventually my curiosity got the better of me and I purchased some. All foodies know what it's like, truffles $4000 Aust. a kilo (2.2 lbs), after the initial hesitation, your life can never be complete without a try, so you sigh and buy some.

We like our eggs cooked several different ways, but poaching and frying are at the most common method in our household. The thing that was most apparent when cooking with either method, was the Kangaroo Island eggs held together much better than supermarket battery eggs. The white was more gelatinous and disinclined to spread in the pan. Most people would be aware this is a sign of the freshness of the egg but there may be another issue at play.

On one of our regular trips to the Mornington Peninsula, we passed a battery egg farm. Needing some eggs we decided to call in. Chatting to the owner we discussed egg whites and he explained to us that in warmer weather egg whites had a greater tendency to spread. Now the eggs that we purchased were spanking fresh and the weather wasn't particularly hot, when we cooked the eggs they still spread. Why?

There is probably no one answer to this, but I believe it has something to do with diet and exercise and excuse me here, the happiness of the chickens. All of us are aware of stress and the effect it can have on our bodies, why would it be different for chickens? Locked up in small steel cages 24/7, standing on wire mesh, never seeing sunlight, your mate in the next cage trying to peck you all day long when your genes were designed for life in an Asian jungle, dodging the odd predator. I'm no PETA advocate, but I do believe in good animal husbandry and chickens are being short changed.

When we reached the end of our Kangaroo Island eggs there was one left, so I cooked it and a battery egg together, served the good egg to my Wife D., who after a single bite, asked rhetorically if hers was the free range egg. She knew it was and after one bite of my egg I knew there was no going back. Luckily we know some farmer friends who regularly commute to Melbourne, so we have a good supply of fresh free range eggs.

Free range eggs have a superior flavour, are easier to cook with as the white doesn't spread and the egg whites seem to whisk to a greater volume. Home made mayonnaise has a lovely yellow colour from the yolk and I have no fear of salmonella. I still pay more for these eggs, but I think we are buying tastier eggs.

For sure the chickens are happier.
  posted at 1:50 pm

Thursday, February 09, 2006
The List Continued
Thanks to everyone who has made an effort to submit your favourite cuisines. All the replies have been thoughtful and have provoked much thinking at this end. I will put on my cowboy boots and round up all the replies tomorrow, Friday pm., in time for a weekend post.

That is if my computer is still working. The heavens opened up today and we have discovered the roof has a leak. Guess where? Right over my computer.

Okay, so if you haven't submitted, there is still time, but please hurry, my arm is getting tired from holding this umbrella.
  posted at 5:26 pm

Tuesday, February 07, 2006
The List
In my post 'Tacos Anyone?', I revealed my deep and abiding love for Mexican food. I asked for you dear reader, to let me know what your favourite cuisine is, so maybe I could do a post, kind of a straw poll.

One reply is all I got.

Maybe some of you think it was a blasphemy to list Mexican next to French, but that is how I felt about it. I'm not easily deterred and I really do want to know which you think are the best cuisines in the world.

I'll make it easy.

  1. List no more than three. If that is too tiresome, one will be sufficient. More is good too.
  2. Tell me some reasons why you chose your list. Or not.
  3. Don't limit yourselves to countries, if a particular region takes your fancy, list that.

There now, that's not too hard is it?

Of course the upside for me is, if you don't post a comment, I'll get to foist my ideas on you as the definitive, never to be challenged, king of the universe list. Which may not be a bad thing.

What do you think?

  posted at 12:13 pm

Monday, February 06, 2006
Beef on the Plate
I was watching Full on Food the other day and they were talking about how Britain is the biggest consumer of instant meals in Europe. The figures were staggering, billions of dollars are spent every year on these meals and they talked about how some people are eating them two or three times a week. They pulled one chap out of the audience, who admitted to being a regular user, or should that be serial eater, of instant meals, handed him one, showed him the microwave and told him that it was a race against someone preparing a meal from scratch. He lost the race to a steak sandwich with salad and home made mayonnaise.

But that is not what I want to tell you about, rather the promo for the next program. In it, they showed a cow being led to the slaughterhouse and promised to show us what happens to the beast every step of the way.

Now that's confronting.

Not so much the dressing of the cow, I know I can handle that; it's just not every day that you can see the death of the animal destined for the dinner table. Years ago on one of Nick Nairn's shows, he went deer hunting to obtain some venison for one of his recipes. They showed the stalking, selecting the deer for the shot and I remember thinking they would cut away at the last moment. Well Nick is a Scot and there was no cut away.

Some years ago, I was at a friends farm and it was time to get some chickens for the pot. Being a lad at the time, I thought I could help, put the chicken's head on the block, lined it up with a machete and all I could see was one beady eye peering back at me. I wanted to do it, but I couldn't. At this time in my life I had hunted and fished and was completely unsentimental about killing an animal for the pot, but with the intimacy of the animal in hand, I froze.

When you think about and have to confront the issue of killing in order to eat, it is easier to understand vegetarians and where they're coming from, but nature is full of examples of predation, it's not nice or pretty, it's survival.

Will I watch the program next week?

Would you?
  posted at 2:12 pm

Saturday, February 04, 2006
The Secret Ingredient
Sometimes it's just too easy to embarrass your kids. Even when your not really trying, which is probably most of the time.

One night I was settled in to watch Iron Chef. This is not always easy in our household, wife D. is no big fan of it, and would rather watch a movie instead. When I really want to watch it, I point out that everyone we know watches it, including her sister and nephew, if the movie is not so great, I'm in with a chance. So it turned out.

The best part of the show is the unveiling of the secret ingredient, the host dressed in outrageous clothes that were once fashionable, theatrically rips away the cloth covering the ingredient while shouting the name of it in Japanese.

Usually I can't catch the Japanese pronunciation, but on this particular night I did. The secret ingredient was asparagus and the pronunciation was like asparagoose, with the emphasis on the goose, at least that's how the host said it, I think.

My sixteen year old son A. watches Iron Chef too, so after the secret ingredient was unveiled, I called him. Ring, ring, my son's voice answers,

"Who is it?"

"ASPARAGOOSE," I yell into the phone.

"Yeah, who is it?"

"ASPARAGOOSE," a bit louder

"Who is this?"


I'm probably getting carried away with my one word of Japanese, but I had a head of steam, a couple more queries, a few more asparagooses, then,

"Come on, who is this?"

It was not my son's voice

"Is A, there?" I sheepishly ask. A.'s voice comes on the line.

"Who is this?"

"It's me, mate."


"Yeah, who is the other person?"

"My friend."

"Suppose you've got some explaining to do."

"Yeah dad, I've got to go now."

"Is it that bad?"

"Yes, bye dad." Click goes the phone.

It transpired later that A.'s mate had called over to play computer games, and they weren't watching telly. A. had answered the phone and thinking it was one of his mate's friends playing a joke, had passed the phone over to his mate. Now his mate thinks I'm mad.

Of course it doesn't help that whenever I see A., I always yell, "ASPARAGOOSE," at him.
  posted at 11:07 am

Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Hooray, I've finally managed to put a link in the text. Check it out in the post underneath.

Okay, everybody else has been doing it for years, but it's a big deal to me, three months of blood sweat and tears, and you know what, it was sooo easy. Now I will have to stop myself from putting them everywhere.

I'm really HAPPY!
  posted at 6:31 pm

More Badger Please
I've been a bit grossed out lately, with some of your tales ~ people picking their nose mid conversation, books covered with human skin. Now I've found something to pay you all back.

In my newspaper this morning, they carried an article from The Guardian in England, which a sub editor had headlined, 'To a connoisseur of carnage, roadkill provides a tasty (and healthy) treat'

You read it right.

A certain Mr Arthur Boyt it seems, has been gathering road kill from the side of the road for most of his sixty-six years, starting out with a pheasant at the age of thirteen, augmented with the odd hare.

From what seemed such a promising start, it all went sadly downhill.

The list of animals Mr Boyt has eaten include:

He claims the meat is perfectly healthy and hormone free. What a relief.

Even if the roadkill is in an advanced state of decay, Mr Boyt claims that as long as you cook it thoroughly, even though it's a bit bland, you can still eat it.

No thank-you.

He is now writing a book of recipes, to share his 'curious culinary success with a wider audience.'

Let me finish with the last paragraph of the article:

'Mr Boyt has no regrets about eating the labrador, which he emphasises was without a collar when he found it.' "There was nothing on it to show who its owner was, even though it was in good condition, so I took it home and ate it. It was just like a nice piece of lamb."

Enough said.

  posted at 10:28 am


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