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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Thursday, August 24, 2006
Five Things Before I Die
I must have a suppressed immuno-meme system. Every time one goes around I seem to catch it. The awful truth is I really don't mind doing them, it's kinda like a free hit for posting; there is no deep thinking required and the topic is always fun, we are food bloggers after all and if any one knows how to have fun it has got to be us! Jeanne from Cook Sister has spread her tentacles far and wide, all around the world in fact, and one of those tentacles has landed a sucker on me - or should that be a tentacle has landed on a sucker!

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.

Wild Barramundi

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!

Spanish Tapas

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?

Wild Salmon

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!
  posted at 8:56 am

At 2:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What great answers Neil. I'll give this some thought and hope I can do as well. I think this is a tough question.

At 8:59 pm, Blogger Jeanne said...

Great list! I see there is a definite leaning towards fresh 'n wild stuff here and I think that's the same with at least 2 of the things on my list. People get so used to the taste of supermarket food that it is a real revelation when they taste how it REALLY tastes, fresh and not fiddled with/added to. And yes, discovering how stuff should taste is definitely an experience everyone should have!

As for you mystery guest - have you heard of National Delurking Week? It runs next in Jan 2007 but you can read all about it here:
Cool idea!

At 11:03 pm, Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

Neil, thanks for thinking of me.

Now for the hard part - paring it down to five! It may take me awhile, but I'll be there.

At 11:32 am, Blogger Ed said...

It is an excellent list. I was once bought a fresh Prcini - it cost a$30 aI think. Once...

At 11:46 pm, Blogger Haalo said...

Thanks for the tag Neil - you're right it was very interesting, took a while but I finally settled the list.

At 12:16 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, bet your answers are more on topic than mine!

Hi jeanne, I used to like food that was fiddled with, but these days prefer food to taste of what it is. Thanks for the invite and the link, if they don't surface before then I will give it a shot.

Hi ruth, no problem, I think your list will be great!

Hi ed, I don't understand that if we can grow Perigord truffles here, how hard can it be to innoculate a few oak trees with porcini spore?

Hi haalo, glad you liked the idea. Looking forward to checking out yours! BTW found the cavolo nero, thanks.

At 9:20 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting list!


At 10:27 am, Blogger Reb said...

Well you've pinched one from my list - the porcini - but that's ok :) Best way - slice thickly, panne (or crumb) them, then shallow fry. I've also had them on woodfired thin pizza in Florence. Yum. I agree we should find a way of growing them here. Fancy a business enterprise?

At 11:36 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi paz, thanks for that, straight off the top of my head too.

Hi reb, I'd love to go into business with you, but have the feeling all the profits might get gobbled up! That pizza sounds great.

At 4:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think i have done everything on your list 'cept the barramundi. lucky me. lucky you too.

At 4:53 pm, Blogger Honeybee said...

Hi Neil, I really like your list - and your blog! Give me a call when you do the pasta with porcini, it made my mouth water, even at 8.44 a.m. The cheese you're writing about could have been Vacherin Mont-d'Or. There has been a bit of a food scandal several years ago and now you can only get the pasteurised version. Still good, but not what it used to be. Check out this site: http://www.vacherin-montdor.ch/en/index.htm. Was that the cheese your friend got fined for? Let me know.

At 8:12 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi sam, yeah, we are all pretty lucky when you think about it.

Hi honeybee, and welcome! I would love to be able to tell you what the cheese was, but it was over twenty years ago when it happened. But still I will get hold of some Vacherin Mont-d'Or just in case it was the one. Thanks so much for that.

At 6:27 am, Blogger Ruth Daniels said...

Neil, thanks again for thinking of me. I've posted my 5
Five Foods to Eat Before You Die

Now it will take an eternity to eat my way through Melissa's humungous list.

At 12:44 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marie, from Paradise Foods in Northern California, the beautiful cheesemonger sitting to my left as I type this, suggests that this illegal cheese may be Vacherin Mont D'Or.

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