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
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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
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Chubby Hubby
Eating Melbourne
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essjay eats
Food Lover's Journey
Grab Your Fork
I Am Obsessed With Food
I Eat Therefore I Am
Iron Chef Shellie
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Melbourne Gastronome
My Kitchen in Half Cups
Nola Cuisine
Not Quite Nigella
Nourish Me
Seriously Good
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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

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St Kilda Today

Monday, October 30, 2006
The Quandary
We had our first fishing trip of the season yesterday. The wind had been howling only the day before which is not a good thing, for where we fish it stirs up the mud, discolouring the water, putting the fish off the bite.

Fortunately the water was fairly clean in most places we fished, though we didn't get the early start we hoped for as some fool (me!) left the bait behind. When we finally got our lines wet, things started going off straight away. Gummy sharks, flathead, a ling, one big whiting, a couple of rock cod and then something took off on my rod. After a short struggle up came a 2 kg (5 lb) snapper, Victoria's premier sporting (and eating) fish.

At the end of our trips, we always divide all the fish between us, so that someone who has not been lucky or doesn't fish well, doesn't miss out. But I had a snapper. Everyone wanted it, but there was no way this one fish could be divided up fairly between us. So in the final washup, the boys decided that my fish being worth more than theirs meant I got a lesser share.

I'm okay with that.

When I got home, D's eyes nearly popped out, it's not often I can bring home such a treasure.

"We can put it in the freezer for Christmas Eve."

"No way, I want us to eat it, how often do we get a snapper?"

She fixed me with a steely stare, "You know how important Christmas Eve is."

In some countries Christmas Eve is much more important than Christmas Day and D is from one of those countries. No meat is served for dinner only fish, however I wasn't done with yet.

"What about J, he's a snapper fisherman, he always gets one for Christmas Eve."

D knew I was right.

"If we eat it, you can't tell anyone."

So now we can eat the fish ourselves, but I'm feeling vaguely guilty. What would you do? Eat a wonderful fresh fish or freeze it to share in seven weeks.

I'm in a quandary.
  posted at 12:15 pm

Three Strikes, You're Out!
Phew, sometimes kids can be such hard work. My daughter M had her friend A for a sleepover Friday night. The minute A arrived it was off with all the clothes for both of them and dress ups were the order of the day - and the next day. A found M's princess costume from a previous birthday party and wore it for the entire two days, only taking it off to wear M's nightie to sleep.

A has been over before and I was aware that she didn't like sausages, though that prejudice was tossed casually aside at the butchers when she was offered some kabana and greedily gobbled it down, then asked for more. At the supermarket A informed me that she didn't drink cow's milk and needed rice milk instead. It is not unusual for autistic children to either be dairy or wheat free as there are some beliefs that people with autism show signs of improvement by eliminating either or both from the diet, though strictly speaking, I have never seen any hard evidence of the efficacy of this strategy, though some parents do report a marked improvement in their child's behaviours.

Strange, her mum hadn't mentioned that to me at the handover, but still, we wouldn't be able to come back and get some later, so a carton was purchased. After we got home the girls immersed themselves in their dressups and I plotted a kick-arse children's dinner of chicken nuggets and chips, and steak and chips for me.

When I set the food on the table, A said that she didn't like chicken nuggets, which I can tell you is the first time I've ever heard that in my life, no matter, my home made chips were good and A happily chowed down on those. Later on that night, I made chocolate milk for the girls, with the rice milk for A. After a couple of sips, A says she doesn't like rice milk and could she have some regular stuff? Sensing a scam, I rang her mum who said that she really had to have the rice milk and happily drank it at home. On hearing this, A drank her milk down to the last drop!

The next morning it didn't get any better when I made porridge and A told me that she didn't eat porridge. Not wanting to call her mum again I persisted with it telling her that we didn't have anything else to eat, but A was equal to the task and after an exploratory taste declared that she wouldn't eat it. Having told her that there was nothing else for breakfast I could hardly rustle up an alternative, so that was it, but I thought an early lunch with pasta would make things to right. How wrong I was. As soon as I set the pasta carbonara down in front of her, A said she didn't eat pasta!

That made three strikes in a row. I'm out!

When I dropped A off, I chatted to her mum and told her of the culinary failures and she assured me that the food served really were things M wouldn't eat and I instantly felt sorry for her, for she cooks for six kids.

All that was soon behind me when I went home and asked D what she would like for dinner. My mate M from Bendigo in the country was staying the night for we were going fishing the next day. D said she felt like hard shell tacos and so I went to the shops and rounded up the ingredients, mainly fresh vegetables for the salsa and the taco shells. I don't bother with the taco kits because it's so easy to make everything yourself, including the spice mix for the meat and of course it tastes so much better than the kit could ever be.

I'd recently bought chipotle chillies in adobo sauce and was looking for a use. They would be great in the meat, but I can't make it spicy hot because our daughter doesn't eat chillies yet. That left one place for them to go, yep, into the salsa. Broadly speaking there are two sorts of salsa, if you don't count the supermarket ones and I don't, they're damn awful. There are fresh salsas and cooked and they are worlds apart. Fresh salsas taste of summer vegetables and herbs, cooked are earthy and pungent and a great in the winter when tomatoes and the like have lost their zing.

Chipotle chillies are a jalepeno chile that has been dried and smoked. Strictly speaking, chipotles in adobo would be perfect in a cooked salsa, but there is nothing wrong with adapting them into a fresh one. What was interesting was that while the salsa made with chipotles tastes pretty good on its own, it took on a different and very tasty character when layered into the taco shell, a case of the sum being better than the component parts.

Fresh Salsa with Chipotle Chillies

3 large ripe tomatoes, diced small
2 spring (green) onions, finely chopped
1 green capsicum, roasted, peeled and diced small
1/2 small bunch coriander, washed and chopped
2 chipotle chillies in adobo, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
salt and fresh ground black pepper

Combine everything in a bowl and season. If you think it looks a little watery, that's because you've had too many supermarket salsas, though even in this household it is not unheard of to mix in some supermarket salsa for texture.
  posted at 8:41 am

Friday, October 27, 2006
Too Rude For Food
Gordon Ramsey is in Oz and has turned three of Sydney's finest female bloggers to quivering blanc mange. Don't believe me? Read here, here and here! What I can't quite get over is that these girls have in their midst another food personality who I would have thought is a much better proposition than Rammers.

I wrote about him a few months ago...

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

I cannot imagine Sydney's gays lining up for Gordon, unless they were up for a bit of rough trade, but that Sydney women are falling about themselves really does surprise me. I suppose that's the reason why 'snags' never could cut it, some girls can't help themselves. When confronted with a blast of male testosterone in full flight, some primeval force speaks to them and says, "That is the future of the human race, go and get yourself some."

Besides that, they'd probably eat well for a time.
  posted at 9:22 am

Thursday, October 26, 2006
Viva Portugal!
My quest for Ortiz anchovies found me over at Casa Iberica, the Portuguese grocers in Fitzroy. It's funny isn't it, when you know of a shop's existence for years and years and for some reason you don't go and when you finally get there, you wonder why you never went in the first place. I wasn't paying too much attention to the outside, though I do recall it was painted quite gaudily; it's not a shop front that you could easily miss, an important consideration as you drive down busy Johnston Street in Melbourne's Latin quarter. Be warned, parking is rather scarce.

The first thing you notice upon entering is the salty aroma from all the dried hams, chorizos and salchichons hanging over the deli counter. There are shelves all around packed to the gunwales with all manner of exotic goods, not only from Portugal but from Spain, Mexico and the USA. The first shelf I perused was full with a variety of canned seafood, very popular on the Iberian Peninsula. I felt for my glasses so I could read the labels, but had left them behind, no matter everything was in Portuguese or Spanish. There were sardinas (sardines), pulpo (preserved octopus), berberechos (cockles), atun (tuna), caballas (mackerel), zamburinas (scallops), anchoas (anchovies, no Ortiz though), mejillones (mussels) and many more things besides.

Down another aisle were all the spices, paprika, cumin, Spanish oregano, achiote, dried chiles - guajillo, chipotle and ancho - as well as all the hot sauces you would ever need, with nary a bottle of Mcllhenny Tabasco sauce in sight. It was down this aisle that I started to make some wonderful discoveries, like a tin of hominy that I needed to make this. On another shelf was a tin of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, I'm all ready swooning and then there was some masa harina, stone ground corn flour for my very own tortillas and tamales! Plus the full range of Portuguese and Spanish rices.

All this before I've even got to the deli counter.

At one side of the shop were paella pans, from the small to a monstrous 70 cm (28") pan to feed God knows how many. Next to the pans is an upright freezer groaning with more seafood and beside that was a shelf with different kinds of dried bacalao - salt cod. By this time I'm standing next to the deli counter and eyeing off some of Angel Cardosos's jamon plus a variety of other smallgoods and cheeses. I order some jamon and ask if they ever stock Spanish ones, the women serving me laughed and said it would cost me $300 a kilo. Damn, now I have to have it, but not at this moment.

I'm given a taste of everything I point at and finish up with some Spanish goat's cheese, some salchichon, similar to salami but strongly flavoured with paprika and a morcilla, which is a spicy version of a black pudding, again flavoured with paprika. Somehow I manage to stop ordering, but not before a portuguese pastel de nata, a custard tart, finds its way to my box.

When I get home it's straight into all the goodies. Pop goes the lid on a tin of legendary pimientos del piquillo, roasted and skinned like a small red capsicum but way sweeter. Next the lid comes off the mejillones de las Rias Gallegas, mussels in escabeche, a pickle sauce, that puts any tin of mussels here to shame. Then I swoop upon the jamon. It is similar in preparation to prosciutto but is a darker burnished brown, and has mouth filling deeper notes that linger. Unlike some prosciuttos that have a hard section of dried out meat opposite the fat side, this jamon is tender the entire way and is perfectly seasoned - some dried hams are way too salty, but while the salt is evident, it's perfectly balanced.

My wife adored the semi hard Spanish goat's cheese and they also had a semi hard Australian one for a very reasonable $24 a kilo. The morcilla we had for dinner last night and is a firm black pudding strongly flavoured with paprika and salt, plus other spices. I'm thinking about what partners would sit well with this on a kebab.

There are a few more things we are yet to try, but for me, this shop is a case of love at first sight. The range is extensive and interesting and the staff very helpful, willing to let you try new things, though you do need an open mind regarding new experiences plus a dash of blind faith would be helpful - go on, black pudding is all right.

Casa Iberica, 25 Johnston Street, Fitzroy & 24 Hughes Street, Yarraville

P.S. My blog is shortly going to have a little makeover, part of which is courtesy of a lovely Spanish person.
  posted at 8:43 am

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Dilmah Update
For those of you following the Dilmah story, whereby it appears as if they borrowed an idea from my blog for their current advertising campaign, we are now deep in an exchange of emails, in which they haven't denied using an idea from my blog.

However they are dragging the chain in answering, claiming that head honcho, Merrill J Fernando has been and is still travelling until mid November, though he did manage the time to send a reply. I have repeated my offer, for their donation to a charity of my choice and that will be the end of the matter.

That couldn't be so hard for a company with a strong record of donating to charities and one that prides itself on being ethical in all its dealings.
  posted at 4:30 pm

Salad Wars
It comes as no surprise that recipes follow the changing seasons as seasonal produce comes into its own, but have you also noticed that diets also follow the seasons with about right now being the height of dieting season before summer hits with its distinct lack of clothes? There is no hiding from the truth at this time of year.

This all came to mind as my wife D said that she/we are starting a diet this week. Now I'm all for eating healthy, delicious food, but D's repertoire of salads is, shall we say, a bit limited and becomes boring after a bit, which is the dieters worst enemy, for then you start to look for foods which have a bit of excitement and danger, anathema to the diet.

We had this very discussion the other night when complaining that I was buying interesting vegetables such as okra, artichokes, broadbeans et al and somehow they became 'my' vegetables that D refused to cook with. D ended the conversation with, "Well, show me what you can do." Anyone that once called themselves tankeduptaco on their blog is hardly going to shy away from a call to arms such as this and so the next night surveyed the fridge for ingredients that D was comfortable working with. The first thing I spied was asparagus, then a red pepper came into view along with a cos lettuce left over from a previous Caesar salad for which I'm still searching for Ortiz anchovies, so that I won't be the last person in the world to try them.

Out came the mandoline and I sliced the asparagus thinly and also the red pepper. The asparagus was then blanched for two minutes and immediately cooled then mixed with the red pepper and shredded lettuce. You have to believe me dear reader when I say that some toasted, blanched almonds were going in as well, only I couldn't find them anywhere, vanished they had, and if I did have some fine black olives, a few of them would have been sliced into the salad as well. The whole lot was then dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and a little seasoning. Even without the extras, D pronounced it very tasty.

The next night D fired her shot across my bow. She had been previously to her sisters and gathered an unfair advantage in fresh from the garden, parsley and dill. Those readers who grow their own herbs will know that nothing you can buy has the intense flavours of herbs straight from the garden. The mandoline was dragged out again as D shredded some lettuce and cucumber and threw in some finely chopped dill and parsley. As we ate the salad, D asked me to identify what was in it, meaning there was some sneaky ingredient. I picked all the aforementioned but there was some elusive flavour, a little bit like onion, so I plumped for spring (green) onion, but no, that wasn't it. I wasn't far wrong, for it came from the onion family, D had shredded a leek and very good it was in the salad.

You've got to love a war where everybody wins.
  posted at 8:40 am

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The Wine Drought
I was chatting with a mate the other day and he asked what I'd been drinking lately. The weather had turned decidedly hot in the space of a few days, which meant I'd switched from red wine to white, so I mentioned the name of a pleasant little riesling that didn't cost a lot of dollars and then asked what he was drinking. He said that he opened a red wine on the day it reached 33 c (91 f) and that he didn't enjoy it at all, eventually drinking a beer instead.

I don't know about you, but in the hotter weather, red wine doesn't seem enjoyable at all to me. In the tropics, for those who have to have red wine, they have developed a ploy of dropping an ice cube or two in the glass and of course the same effect can be had by chilling the bottle for a few hours, there is even the option of a wine spritzer. But why would you bother? White wines are perfect for the warmer months of the year and are excellent chilled, unlike reds which suffer a loss of flavour. Unless of course, you don't like white wine - like my mate.

One time he called me on the phone to ask a question about a well regarded chardonnay that he'd opened and was having trouble coming to terms with. The wine in question had been cellared by him for a few years and should have been drinking at or near its peak, but my friend didn't like it. Thinking it may be corked, I asked him to put the cork back in and bring it to me the next time he was over my way, which he did. When I tasted it, I went into raptures, it was a wonderful example of chardonnay, absolutely perfect in every way.

But to my mate, it wasn't red.

A while ago, David Lebovitz wrote this about white chocolate. Upon reading, I immediately felt a bit prejudiced, for I have never been too fond of white chocolate, but David went on to say the only difference between white and dark chocolate is that white contains none of the cacao mass. Apart from this one thing, white and dark chocolate are essentially the same thing. It is nearly exactly the same with wine. All wine starts out clear or white, what happens next determines the colour of the finished wine. When the juice is pressed from the grapes, regardless of the grapes skin colour, it is clear juice. What happens next for red wine is that the crushed, red grape skins are added back to this clear juice, colouring it and adding a little bit of tannin.

So what do we make of people that can only enjoy red wine? Don't worry about the tannins, for some white wines have a lot of tannins as well. What these people are saying is that they like coloured wine, for that is pretty much all the skins add. There's no extra flavour added, which has been demonstrated at tastings where the tasters are blindfolded and have been unable to pick between red and white wines, amazing as that seems.

What it means for my friend, unable to like white wines and not really enjoying reds in the warmer months, is the start of the wine drought.
  posted at 10:55 am

Monday, October 23, 2006
Saturday Night In
I had a case of the munchies Saturday night. My wife D had a chosen a movie to watch, the latest version of The Pink Panther, which is really not my cup of tea as I'm not a huge fan of physical slapstick. In reality my munchies were more a way of escaping the movie, so off to the kitchen I went. We had microwave popcorn, but that would be too fast, whatever I made would need to absorb time. Glancing at a bag of potatoes, a sudden inspiration hit, what about homemade potato crisps? I've never made them before, but that was no impediment, I've cooked plenty of chips, potato crisps couldn't be that hard, could they?

Well peeling spuds is not all that hard, but slicing the potatoes to the requisite thinness would be a special challenge and even though my knives are razor sharp, it is extremely difficult to cut wafer thin slices of anything uniformly. Unless you have a mandoline of course. Ours is a Zyliss and wicked sharp it is. I used the thinnest platen, o.75 mm from memory and in no time had reduced two large potatoes to a pile of crisp like slices.

It's worth noting here the best type of spud to use for chips of any kind. Potatoes can be loosely defined as either waxy or white. Waxy potatoes are yellowish and moister than white, holding together well, making them the best type for boiling or steaming - the best potato salads are made from waxy potatoes. White potatoes on the other hand are drier and their cells tend to separate when cooked, especially when boiled, making them ideal for mashing and because they are drier, white potatoes are great for roasting and perfect for chips. The potatoes we had to hand were the ubiquitous Sebagoes, probably the most common potato in Australia, but any potatoes from the Russet group would be good too.

I placed all the sliced potatoes in a colander and rinsed them with cold water, a very important step in chip making, ridding the cut or sliced potatoes of excess starch that causes the chips to stick together. After draining and drying, I slipped the slices into the very hot oil. The pot wasn't smoking, but I'm guessing it was around 190 c (375 f) and I kept the gas turned up to flat out throughout the cooking, unlike when making chips when I double fry, first at a cooler temperature to cook the chips but not brown them, they are then removed while still pale to cool down, then a hotter fry to brown and crisp them.

Moving the slices around to prevent sticking is very important in the early part of the frying, then it's just a matter of letting the slices dry right out and brown to a burnished crisp colour, which took a surprisingly long time even at the high heat I was using, but once the colour change became apparent, they browned very quickly. They were then removed and drained on absorbent paper, a little salt added - okay, they were crisps - a lot of salt and served.

The verdict? Well, they were a lot like Kettle chips, thicker than the usual crisp, but they had an unmistakable homemade quality of flavour, whereby the taste of the potato was apparent. Very moorish and dare I say, sophisticated. Would I do it again? Probably, though not soon, but at a cost of about 50 c for the potatoes, it was way cheaper than buying a bag of chips of the same quantity. Next time I would also go upmarket with the salt, using at the very least Maldon flakes or maybe go the whole hog and try one of those grey salts everyone raves about.
  posted at 8:46 am

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
A Simple Concept
Back in July of this year, I wrote a post about how I had discovered the pleasure of Dilmah tea. To give you, gentle reader, a feel for how their teas were grown, I used a wine analogy and wrote...

'Secondly, Dilmah talks about 100% single origin Ceylon (Sri Lanka) tea, packed at the source. To use a wine analogy, that is the equivalent of an estate bottled wine, from grapes grown in their own vineyard versus a wine made from many different vineyards from several different countries. Consider that just about all the most famous wines are estate bottled, single vineyard wines and you start to realize what they are on about, tea with flavour.'

I emailed Dilmah to let them know I had written an article about them and also asked a question about tea quality. Two visits from them were logged on my site meter, but they never responded to my email. I really didn't give it any more thought until last Tuesday week, when I was reading Epicure and noticed a half page Dilmah advertisement on the back page. Here is the copy that caught my eye...

'Let's start with a little history. According to legend, the origin of wine dates back some 7,ooo years, Tea, a little younger at around 5,000 years, none the less shares just as colourful an evolution (including the American Revolution - remember The Boston Tea Party? But we digress...)

It is their similarities in methods of cultivation and harvest, the effect of soils and climates and ultimately the enormously diverse palate of flavours that align tea and wine so closely.

And, just as a single estate wine vintage is often the most coveted, so too do single estate teas command the ultimate respect from aficionados.

So it is with commensurate pleasure that Dilmah introduce the very first range of Single Estate Teas to Australia...'

I emailed Dilmah again, suggesting that there were a lot of similarities between my post and their advertising copy and suggested that they might like to make a donation to a charity here in Australia, again, just like the first time, there was another visit to my site but no reply. I then conversed with someone in the media here in Australia to ask if it was simply that the both of us had thought up the use of this particular wine analogy independent of each other. She replied that she thought she may have seen the analogy before but wasn't certain.

Given that Dilmah say this is the very first introduction of the single estate tea concept, analogous to wine, and it comes some months after my post - that they looked at - it certainly has my whiskers quivering. What I'd like to ask, has anyone seen this particular concept, prior to July of this year?

And Dilmah, given that you like to do charitable work, if you did borrow something from me, how about a donation to charity? You know where I am.

  posted at 4:41 pm

The Rose Garden
Last Sunday, the three of us, D, M and me wandered around the St Kilda Botanic Gardens. This wonderful botanic garden was formally established in 1859 and now contains 810 mature tree specimens of which 8 are registered as significant with the National Trust, as well as outstanding displays of flowers. It is a much loved oasis of tranquility in the heart of bustling St Kilda.

I first brought D here when we were just married, we would wander around for hours, hand in hand, resting on the park benches, checking out their kissing quotient. The gardens are so romantic in that old world fashion and are the place to come and fall in love, so much so that many weddings are performed here.

Well, with all that romance in the air, it's only natural that a children's playground was established in the south-east corner of the gardens and M and her friends have spent many a happy hour or two playing with all the equipment. On this particular Sunday, we had been to Acland Street and bought some cakes and decided to eat them in the gardens, after which M had a play and then we all strolled around the gardens. One of our favourite spots is the Alister Clarke Rose Garden, established in the 1950's and is probably, along with the roses at Flemington Racetrack, one of Melbourne's finest displays of roses.

My mum used to grow roses, or rather they grew despite her, no fancy pruning for them, feeding or pest control, her roses had to have enough character to survive and flower, which they always seemed too, perhaps they knew the fate that awaited any slackers in her garden. As a young lad I loved watching the roses come into bloom, the buds that contained so much mystery and promise, slowly unfolding to reveal gorgeous blooms full of striking colours and heady perfume. There is something so perfect about a rose in full bloom and the Alister Clarke Rose Garden did not disappoint.

We went along looking at each variety and smelling the intoxicating scent, when I noticed an empty bottle of Domaine Chandon alongside one of the garden beds. This is one of Australia's premier sparkling wines, made in the Yarra Valley and its presence made me wonder as to the circumstances of its arrival. I'm guessing two lovers had made there way here, perhaps after the gardens were closed to share a drink and a moment together, though I would hope that the wine didn't take away their inhibitions, for too much amour amongst the roses could lead to an unexpected surprise!

But what happened next made me wonder about the power of suggestion. As I leaned over to smell the next rose, I swear it smelt like a sauvignon blanc wine; there were lifted tropical scents along with the smell of lychee and pineapple. I laughed at myself and smelt it again, but I wasn't mistaken, the typical nuances of this wine were there. Had catching a glimpse of the empty wine bottle subtly shifted my perception of the scent of the roses, or did this particular rose simply smell like a wine? It's not impossible for it to be so, look at any wine aroma and taste chart and they are chock full of fruit and vegetable smells and flavours that are similar to what you can taste in a wine. Nature doesn't reinvent the wheel with each different fruit and vegetable, flavour compounds are common across the entire spectrum and the echoes of these seem to be present in all grapes.

And now roses.
  posted at 7:24 am

Tuesday, October 17, 2006
The Cocktail Party
I went to a cocktail party last night at the Sofitel Hotel in honour of my son A's graduation from his hospitality course. It's a part of his VCE studies and he chose to be a waiter. He looked so handsome and right in his waiter attire - crisp white shirt and tie, black vest and a white apron tied around his waist, he even brushed back the hair off his face for the first time in I don't know how long. I was bursting with fatherly pride.

The wine and beer flowed freely and there were little cocktail snacks prepared by the student chefs. The room was buzzing with other proud parents as their children swirled around making sure everyone had enough to eat and drink. As is the case everywhere, some students were more committed than others. A had taken the trouble to memorize all the cocktail snacks that he was serving, perhaps he knew that I was going to ask him about them, but another student waiter didn't know what the red coloured drink was that he was serving and declined to find out; it was a really delicious glass of blood orange juice sans alcohol.

Towards the end of the night there was a speech by the coordinater of the course, who spoke about how well the course was going, what it meant for the students and how more and more restaurants were coming on board with placements. After the speech all the student chefs and waiters gathered for a photo and as I watched this group of young people, laughing and smiling, their futures stretched out before them, I felt a tear form in the corner of my eye as I remembered the time more than thirty years ago, when I would have done anything to be where these guys were now, but family circumstances wouldn't permit. It caught me by a bit by surprise that after so long this feeling could still surface.

After all the pleasantries, my son came over and we had a chat. He told me that hospitality wasn't for him and that he was thinking about an electrical career. I wasn't too surprised about that, hospitality isn't for eveyone, my other daughter P had a shot at a cooking course but in the end didn't like it either, there has to be a certain something in you that lets you enjoy the creative process of cooking, or you really have to like people and understand them in order to be a waiter. If this life isn't calling out to you loud and clear, it would be foolish to embark the ship that takes you there.
  posted at 7:43 am

Monday, October 16, 2006
Hay Hay it's Donna Hay #6
I've had an idea for a post rattling around in my mind for a while now, when all of a sudden I came across the wonderful jenjen from MILK AND COOKIES who is hosting Hay Hay it's Donna Hay #6. The theme for this month's edition is fritters which is exactly the kind of post I was thinking about.

When I was sharing a house many years ago with another married couple with kids, every other weekend my kids would come over for a visit. So we were always looking for things to do to keep all the young ones interested and most importantly out of mischief. Fortunately everyone got on, so well that we all used to holiday together. Because I loved to cook, I would often take it upon myself to further the kids education in this direction and come up with little projects for them to make and cook.

One of the most successful projects was the making of fritters, not any old fritters mind you but ones with the charming name of Rat's Tails, taken from the book, Memories of Gascony by Pierre Koffmann. In it he speaks of holidaying at his grandparents farm at the time of the Mardi Gras which was traditionally the last day of carnival before Lent. After the Mardi Gras lunch all the children would dress up in specially made costumes to look like witches, devils, kings, queens, knights and princesses and would proceed to visit all the surrounding farms and houses in the local village. The occupants would give the children things like crepes, merveilles, queues de rat, gateaux aux fers and other such delicacies.

Of course when I read about the queues de rat (rat tails), it seemed such a natural thing for kids to make...."Look a rat tail, eeewwwww.....I'm eating one now, yucky!" So one Saturday morning I gathered all my helpers around and we made a big batch of them. The kids loved them because not only are they delicious, but so easy to make and a very hands on kinda dish. The kids talked about making them for years after that Saturday morning.

Queues De Rat - Rat's Tails
Adapted from Pierre Koffmann

4 eggs
100 g/4 oz caster sugar, plus extra for dredging
50 ml/2 fl oz oil
20 g/3/4 oz fresh yeast
vanilla extract to taste, or rum or orange flower water, etc.
100 ml/4 fl oz double cream
500 g/1 lb 2 oz plain flour
oil for deep frying

In a bowl mix together the eggs, sugar, oil, yeast, flavouring and the cream. Add the flour and thoroughly mix. Take small pieces of dough, about 20 g/3/4 oz and roll them out on a bench or counter to form long 'rats tails'. Heat the oil to about 170 c/340 f and fry the tails until puffed and golden. Place on absorbent paper, then roll them in the sugar. Serve hot.
  posted at 7:26 am

Saturday, October 14, 2006
Be Careful, Everyone's Watching
Amid all the controversy of Stephen Downes ejection from Fifteen, the new Jamie Oliver restaurant in Melbourne, another news item seems to have been largely ignored.

The Age yesterday reported that a Louisiana woman in America was ordered to pay $US11 million to the woman she accused on an internet forum of being a "con artist" and a "fraud". It would seem that blogging carries the same legal risk as traditional media. Dr David Rolph, a defamation law lecturer in Sydney is quoted as saying, "Bloggers do need to take care because liability can attach to what you write", though in Australia damages are capped at $250,000 with no punitive damages possible.

This lawsuit is not an isolated example either, with several other actions before the courts. All bloggers should be cognizant of this when writing and food bloggers are no exception. There are plenty doing restaurant reviews and such like and it would be a terrible thing to be hauled off before the courts with consequences that could ruin your life, for doing something that is a pleasurable hobby. Don't think 'only in America' either, I know of one wine reviewing blog here in Australia that was threatened with legal action after he reviewed a wine he simply thought terrible and said so.

The one piece of advice I can give you is - if in doubt, leave it out.
  posted at 2:53 pm

Friday, October 13, 2006
The Road Less Traveled
We share 99.9% of our DNA with chimpanzees, yet we are a completely different species by just 0.1%. One of the things that 0.1% confers on us is the ability to speak a language, allowing us to exchange thoughts and ideas with each other using a complicated set of rules and symbols. The trouble is that these rules and symbols are really only guidelines and each of us interprets them in a totally unique way, though there are conventions about the use of language, which are usually learnt at a young age. Some things we say are quite specific and less open to interpretation, for instance if someone was to ask me what colour eyes I have, I would reply blue. But if someone was to ask me to describe myself and for instance I said I was strong, what exactly do I mean? Most of you would think I was referring to my physical strength, but what if I meant I'm mentally or emotionally strong? You can't get inside my head to understand where I attach importance to strength, but to me it's obvious.

The other day I was over at MOM - Not Otherwise Specified reading this post, when I was struck by something in comments, MOM-NOS described her son as autistic, which given that he has a diagnosis of autism seems completely reasonable. However I recall at a school council meeting, when one of the parent representatives described her child as autistic and the school principal spoke up and said that none of the children were autistic and that they were all kids, just like any other, but they were kids with issues that needed to be addressed. In one blinding flash my daughter was humanised, separated from the chimpanzees and part of the human race, which in itself has an infinite form of expression. M just expresses her humanity in a way that is completely unique to her, as we all do. It's just that we put a label on her form of expression, even though many of the things she does are not only confined to people with autism.

So whenever I talk about M's condition, I never say she is autistic, what I say is that she has autism. It's a subtle shift in the way I use language but for me it has had a profound effect. Saying my child is autistic is concentrating on the behaviours that set her apart, but says nothing about her as a person, saying she has autism concentrates on her as a person. It's sort of like the difference between saying M is a green eyed person, rather than saying M is a person with green eyes.

I'm reasonably confident that you are following my train of thought so far, because it's about to get harder. I left a comment on the MOM-NOS post, not in as much detail, but in essence the same. MOM-NOS replied that she had a done a previous post on pretty much the exact same thing, in which she argued that her son was better described as autistic rather than someone who had autism, pointed me to that post and another by an autistic person who had influenced the way she thought.

I read each post slowly and carefully, several times in fact as I wanted to absorb as much of what they were saying as possible, but I couldn't agree with what they were saying, it wasn't only because I was unwilling to hand back my daughter's humanity, rather I couldn't get the arguments to gell in my mind and found myself starting to formulate counter arguments, based on the nuances of language. It's not the first time that I've disagreed with what a person with autism was saying. The post in which I came out of the closet as the parent of a child with autism came about because I disagreed with someone else's comments. I understand that if you have autism you will have insights unavailable to me, but in other areas you are just like me, a person with opinions, not autistic opinions, just opinions.

I thought for a very long time what I would like to say in reply, so long in fact my head was hurting. Then a moment of absolute clarity occurred. My beliefs were a great comfort to me, I bet that their beliefs were equally comforting to them. Who was I to be so conceited as to say that my way of thinking was best. All of us were expressing our thoughts in different ways, but in ways that made sense to each of us. There are so very few signposts on the autism road we are traveling, that when you do eventually find one it's very exciting and you want to share with others on the same road. But every journey is unique and some prefer a slightly different path, there is no right or wrong about how you get to where you are going.

It's just a journey.
  posted at 8:15 am

Thursday, October 12, 2006
Dinner's at Eight
Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water, another meme has come winging its way to me, courtesy of Ellie over at Kitchen Wench. Started by Angelika from The flying Apple (I thought apples fell, sort of like that line from Toy Story..."That's not flying, it's falling with style.")

Anyway the idea behind this meme is to serve a welcoming dinner for fellow food bloggers and the guidelines are as follows,

1. Describe a sort of "signature menu" revealing much of your personal cooking style and culinary preferences; it's up to you how many dishes you choose or if you prefer a buffet or a different way of presentation; let your phantasy play !
2. If you are interested in food/wine pairings you are welcome to add complementary wine suggestions if you like
3. As usual please link to this post and send me a note when your menu is on
4. Please do not forget to tag some of your blogging buddies
5. I am going to list all contributions; I hope this list will get long enough to turn into a little guide to foodbloggers' signatures

So I have thrown open my doors and invited you all inside, come, come in, there is plenty of room. Here is a glass of Champagne, a tasty Bollinger RD and a little something to go with it. A single scallop pierced with a knife, a sliver of black Perigord truffle inserted, quickly pan fried and seasoned with a few flakes of Maldon sea salt and a little drizzle of the finest extra-virgin olive oil. No, no, you don't have to stand back whilst I open the Champagne, I'm not for popping corks off at all angles, finishing up who knows where. A gentle release is what's called for, my bottles of champers all sigh like virgins on their wedding nights, treating them roughly is only for race car drivers. They would have their way with them, then speed off to the next conquest.

Time to be seated and the first course is a long narrow eggplant, baked in the oven till soft, split in half and the flesh scooped out. In the cavity of the eggplant goes a mixture of the eggplant flesh, fresh, not tinned crab meat, a little chopped spring onion, tomato and fresh coriander and just a suggestion of cumin and the barest pinch of cayenne pepper. To go with this, would you like a glass of Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc from New Zealand?

I can see you liked that dish so how about the main course? I've gone very blokey for this one. Nothing says man food more clearly than a standing rib roast. I know most fellows accept that on a first date it's off for some sushi, but if you want to really make a man happy, give him some meat. This joint has been roasted to a nice rosy pink and served with a nicely reduced jus. Of course there would be some mini yorkshire puddings (popovers) to sop up the sauce and to balance things out some roasted potatoes and pumpkin, green beans and broccoli. The McAllister is a lovely Australian cabernet blend from Gippsland, not much known outside the mailing list and very ageworthy. This one is 1998 and is showing very well. Not too high in alcohol, nice mulberry fruit and cigar box character, a seamless wine.

Phew, I think I should lighten up a bit with dessert after such a heavy course and fruit would be just the thing. What about some of my apple tart. Inside the pastry case are apple segments that have been cooked in butter and sugar, with a hint of spice. The apples were removed while still firm and the butter, sugar and apple juices are reduced to a caramel, then mixed with a little cream and a couple of egg yolks, then poured onto the apples in the pastry case and baked until set. A cool glass of Muscat de Baume de Venice would set off the tart nicely with its aromatic flavours.

Just before you go, would you like some brewed coffee or tea? You would, that's great! If you still have room, how about this tiny chocolate truffle from monsieur Truffe, that Ed introduced me to. Lovely aren't they? No you can't have another, they've all disappeared.

My last lot of nominees don't seem to have responded, so I will throw this one open to anyone who would like to have a go. You know you would!
  posted at 10:47 am

Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Wine of the Week
In today's Epicure section of The Age newspaper, Ralph Kyte-Powell featured wine of the week on page 18, is Egly-Ouriet Grand Cru Extra Brut V.P.

Been there, done that.

Tell you what though Ralph, you stick to the wine and leave the food to me, okay?
  posted at 11:21 am

Not For Publication
I'm a fan of the BBC program Full On Food and in particular a fan of Richard Johnson, the show's main presenter. He is articulate and direct about the subject of food and has a dry sense of humour, coupled with a rapier like wit.

The episode I was watching had a demonstration by chef Giorgio Locatelli and he asked Richard to man the pasta making machine. Richard rolled out the pasta incredibly badly, admitting that he did in fact own a pasta machine but never used it, forcing Giorgio to come to his rescue.

Those of you that have watched Giorgio's own cooking program would know of his rather thick Italian accent - he has been known to strangle a few vowels and murder the odd sentence. So there he was rolling out the pasta, showing Richard how to do it properly, when Richard suggested they should do a book together. Giorgio rather disparagingly said,

"And what would you do?"

"I could do the English."

Which brought the house down.
  posted at 7:55 am

Monday, October 09, 2006
My Addiction
Hello, my name is Neil and I'm an addict.

It started a long time ago when I was only four or five.

Mum used to keep jars and jars of the stuff in her kitchen cupboard. I was a curious youngster and just had to try it all out, the high it gave was tremendous. Not that anyone was saying that what I did was wrong. Then I got to share with mum....not that she was an addict, more the everyday user, but she set me on the path that has dominated my entire life.

Mum let me rub butter into flour when making her incomparable scones, which was a huge step up from my early cooking enterprises, when I raided her kitchen cupboards and blindly mixed up the contents therein and proudly called the results a cake. Mud pies were never my go, that was too easy - just a bit of dirt and water, anyone could do that. My addiction was the complicated alchemy of ingredients and what happened to them on combining.

I spluttered along with various cooking projects, usually gleaned from the Australian Women's Weekly or Margaret Fulton's cookbooks, which were pretty much all that was available until the early 1970's. I can still remember my absolute triumph in making that most English of puddings, a Spotted Dick when I was about twelve.

But a publication in the early seventies was to change the way I approached cooking forever. The London Cordon Bleu Cookery School had been publishing a series on cooking since 1968. I'm not sure if the first or the subsequent series made it to Australia, but the series published in 1974 certainly did.

It was the most eye opening thing I'd ever seen. It was the first cookbook to explain in detail how to go about cooking, step by step, with fabulous photos. I still remember the giddy anticipation I felt as each month rolled a round and another installment found its way to my growing library. Every month there were four dinner party menus as well as lessons about particular aspects of cooking. This series really taught me how to cook at a time when there was a paucity of instructional cookbooks and cooking teachers.

It's funny to look back on the collected set, as I very rarely use it now. A lot of the recipes are dated and different techniques are in vogue. Even though most of the techniques gleaned from the pages are now an unconscious part of me, I still recall with great fondness the first dinner party menu from the very first edition. I had no real idea what I was doing, but the menu was so well described and simplified right down to a timetable, that I pulled it off for a group of my friends.

The menu was a soup course - Potage Madrilene, main course of Chicken Veronique with a Julienne Potato Cake & Green Salad, followed by a dessert of Oranges in Caramel with Brandy Snaps.

The Veronique part of the chicken dish refers to the garnish of grapes. Rick Stein told a wonderful story of how it was supposed to have originated, though it does sound apocryphal. He said it came about when a chef asked his sous chef to prepare a new grape garnish for some fillets of sole and then left him to it. When he returned he noticed the sous chef, working on the sole dish in a high state of excitement, so asked him what had happened. The sous chef replied that his wife had just given birth to a baby girl and the chef then asked for the name of the newborn, to which the sous chef replied Veronique, so the chef then said that is what we will call this new dish and so Sole Veronique was born.

This version of Chicken Veronique calls for the grapes to be peeled, the only time in my life I ever did so, these days I would just cut them in half, then remove any pips. The method for roasting the chicken is really interesting, it's called French roasting and yields up a far more succulent bird than conventional roasting, well worth trying just for its own sake, though the chicken can look a little pink especially at the joints. However if the juices run clear it is cooked.

Chicken Veronique

1 roasting chicken about 1.5 kg (3.5 lb)
salt and pepper
50 g (2 oz) butter
3-4 sprigs tarragon
250 ml (1/2 p) homemade chicken stock
1 teaspoon cornflour
100 ml (3 fl oz) double cream
100 g (4 oz) white grapes
squeeze of lemon juice

Dry the chicken inside and out, then season the cavity and place in the tarragon and a nut of the butter. If you like truss the bird, then rub the outside with the rest of the butter. Place the chicken breast side up in a roasting pan with half the hot chicken stock and cover with a buttered paper and place in an oven preheated to 200 c (400 f). After fifteen minutes baste the chicken and turn on its side. Fifteen minutes later baste again and turn onto the other side. In another fifteen minutes baste again and turn breast side up, remove the paper and allow to brown for another fifteen minutes, one hour in total. Test for doneness by piercing the thigh, if the juice runs clear, it's done. Remove the chicken and keep warm under a cover. Remove the fat from the roasting pan, leaving about two tablespoons of fat. Add the remaining chicken stock, double cream and the cornflour slaked with a little water and boil until thickened. Cut the grapes in half and add them to the sauce. Carve the chicken, adding any juices to the sauce and serve.
  posted at 7:38 am

Friday, October 06, 2006
Weekend Herb Blogging
I'm having a miserable morning.

First up, as soon as I got out of bed and on the way to the shower, D asked if I could take M to the school bus. I don't know about anyone else, but before I have a shower, I'm not really awake, just pretending....some days I pretend until the first cup of coffee. The words that entered my ears somehow mysteriously changed somewhere up the ear canal, before they hit the brain, to could I take M to her holiday school program, which is what I was doing during the school holidays....last week. At about the time we should have been at the bus stop, we were very comfortable on the couch at home, and at that precise moment my wife's words unscrambled themselves.

I raced to the phone to let the bus know and to organize a different pick-up point, so now I'm late for work as well. We get to the alternative pick-up no problem, then I flew off to work. Go visit a sub-contractor who is doing a job promised today, to find he hasn't even started it. Back to work to think of what lie, err, excuse I can give, when the phone rings, it's my ex ringing to complain. Well, that soon gets out of hand, probably because I'm a bit flustered by now. So I think of what might calm me down. How about writing the neat post I was working on last night? Good idea, except in my rush this morning, I've left behind a reference book I need to write it.


Well gentle reader, I do want to give you something for today and for no particular reason I'm going to give you maize or corn as it is mostly known as. This will be my entry to WHB, hosted this month by Ruth from the aptly named Once Upon a Feast. Corn was first under cultivation by about 3500 b.c. in Central America and from there, spread out to become a dietary staple in both North & South America. Columbus brought corn to Europe where it was known as Indian corn or maize; the word maize was derived from a West Indian word. Corn itself was a generic term meaning grain or grainlike objects, for instance corned beef was named after the salt corns (crystals), used to preserve the meat. In England, corn is used to describe the most important crop in a particular location, so it could be taken to mean wheat or barley, indeed if you look at a packet of corn flour, very often it is not made from corn at all, an important consideration for celiacs - wheat intolerant people.

There are five different types of corn and all were known to native Americans before it spread out all over the world. The first type is a staple of movie goers, pop corn and it's close companion flint corn, both of which have a high protein content, along with hard rather than waxy starch. Dent corn has a localized deposit of waxy starch, which produces a depression or dent at the end of the kernel when dried. Flour corn has little protein and mostly waxy starch and is typically grown by native Americans and what we know today as Indian corn are the flour & flint varieties with variegated kernels. Finally, there is sweet corn, so called because it stores more sugar than starch, though once picked the sugar starts to convert to starch and so should be consumed quickly after picking.

One thing that followed corn all around the world was corn sickness or pellagra, characterized by red skin lesions, diarrhea, weakness, mental confusion, and in extreme cases a slow mental and physical degeneration. This was pretty much unknown where corn was indigenous, for the native Americans remarkably developed a way to process corn by treating it with an alkaline solution, thereby releasing essential amino acids, thus avoiding pellagra. Who said our ancestors weren't sophisticated?!!

There are countless preparations for sweet corn, undoubtedly the easiest and one of the nicest ways is to simply boil, steam or microwave corn cobs, then spread them with a little butter, a dish that says summer days. Corn can be grilled, baked and barbecued and topped with a variety of flavourings, a friend of mine swears by lime juice and salt. When the months get a little cooler and good corn is still available, here is a great way to prepare it. This goes well with roast chicken or turkey. Just like a potato gratin, it is sinfully rich.

Corn Pudding

4 cobs corn
3 eggs, whisked
500 ml (1 pt) single cream
30 g (1 oz) melted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground white pepper

Strip the leaves and silk from the cobs and cut the kernels off into a bowl. Using the blunt edge of the knife scrape hard along the cobs to release the corn milk into the bowl. Mix in the other ingredients and pour into a baking dish. Place the dish in a 180 c (350 f) oven for about 45 minutes or until set.
  posted at 10:15 am

Wednesday, October 04, 2006
The Butterfly Effect
So there I was on the weekend, not just any weekend, but the Grand Final weekend for Australian rules football, staying with some city friends in Avoca, a country town on the edge of the Wimmera, in the north-west of the state, organizing a rather large barbecue, drinking cheap French wine, looking out for the kids, thinking of nothing else at all....but someone was thinking of me - on the other side of the world in fact.

Well the football was fantastic, after about three hours of leather chasing and kicking and marking and tackling and breathtaking feats of courage, there was only one point difference between the two sides. One point of joy and the same point of heartbreak. The barbecue was pretty good too. There was way too much food, so much that we didn't have to cook again that night. We had white sausages (Polish), various bits of chicken marinated or dry rubbed with spice, marinated prawns, lamb neck sliced thinly, seasoned with only salt and pepper, then barbecued until crispy brown and of course the ubiquitous butcher's bangers. There was tabouli, baba ghanoush and big, fat asparagus spears straight off the barbecue.

Man, I was so tired when we got home on Sunday. All the shopping, driving, cooking and chasing after M, with a little kick to kick thrown in, plus a visit to a trout farm, had got to me, but there on the computer was a message from the other side of the world waiting for me.

I was tagged!

Yep, while I was off gallivanting in the country, Chef Paz was quietly plotting to get me with a meme called the Butterfly Effect, thought up by Dan from SaltShaker. It seems in order to avoid a pox being placed on me, that I need to attend to this matter quickly and seriously. So now that I've recovered from my short break, here it is. But first a word from Dan.

My thought in this meme is food items or events that changed your foodie life. Not some oh, it's the first time I didn't put jelly on a peanut butter sandwich and used bananas instead sort of change, unless you truly feel that affected you profoundly. That's the key - it affected you profoundly, in some manner. A moment you can look back at and say that was a defining moment. The questions are simple, the answers might be harder - an item, person, event, or place that had that effect on you, and why. They don't have to be big splashy things - sometimes it's something very small and simple that changes the way we view the world - the famed butterfly effect (and I'm not talking about the Aston Kutcher movie). So, to those who want to participate, copy this and pass it on (and, if you're so inclined, do a trackback to the originating post). Here are your categories:

1. An ingredient
2. A dish, a recipe
3. A meal (in a restaurant, a home, or elsewhere)
4. A cookbook or other written work
5. A food personality (chef, writer, etc.)
6. Another person in your life

Okay, here goes.

1. An ingredient - this one is really tough. I can think of several ingredients that have had a profound effect on me and it seems a little unfair to single one out, but undoubtedly the one ingredient that has me thinking about it and planning how to get it the most, is the morel mushroom. I first had this mushroom twenty-five years ago when some friends showed me where to get it. It grows mostly in Central Victoria and to pick it means a long drive and a lot of walking in the forest. Unfortunately with the extended (10 year) drought we have been having, it's getting harder and harder to find. This year, there were none, last year a kilo. Compare that to one year when we picked seventeen kilos of them. The morel has a wonderful mushroom flavour. It's kind of like if you concentrated the flavour of several kilos of field mushrooms right down into a single one.

2. A dish, a recipe - this is a bit easier. I mentioned above about marinated prawns. We are always asked about this one dish and it's so easy to do. Just for you, here it is.

1 kg (2 lb) peeled prawns, deveined
1/2 bunch coriander, washed and chopped
4 spring onions (green onions), finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2.5 cm (1") piece ginger, grated
2 small, hot chillies, finely chopped
juice of two limes
1 tablespoon fish sauce
fresh ground pepper

Mix everything together and leave in a cool place for two hours. Cook on a smoking hot grill plate for one minute each side.

3. A meal - The finest meal I've ever had was a truffle dinner at Restaurant Paul Bocuse here in Melbourne, cooked by Phillipe Mouchel. There were several courses, all chock full of truffles. Bocuses' signature dish of puff pastry encased truffle soup was there, as well as other dishes of Mouchel's creation. The best dish for me was a single scallop that had a piece of truffle inserted, it was sublime. At one point in the meal, there was a choice of dishes, truffled brandade of cod or truffled duck. I couldn't decide and asked that chef choose for me, so both dishes came out! Unfortunately that meant I had no room for the truffled ice-cream. Can you believe that.

4. A cookbook or other written work - Pierre Koffmann's Memories of Gascony. I must have read this book about twenty times. It is mostly about his grandparent's farm in Gascony and details the changing seasons and his grandparent's peasant lifestyle, which has now disappeared. There are recipes from both Pierre and his grandmother, and everyone one of them I want to cook, even the offal recipes, which is pretty rare for me. Most cookbooks I buy only have a few recipes I want.

5. A food "personality" (chef, writer, etc.) - There are several food personalities that I have time for. Rick Stein, Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, Neil Perry et al. But one that I like has been around for quite some time and just about pioneered the television cooking show genre and that person is Keith Floyd. He is a knockabout sort of bloke, who likes a drink (or used to) and always cooked up interesting food in fantastic places with a real sense of humour and cheekiness.
Funny, I saw an old program of his the other day and his director was none other than David Pritchard, who of course does all the Rick Stein shows.

6. Another person in your life - Peter Schaeffer, who was the executive chef at the Melbourne Congress Centre. We met through mutual friends and Peter could sense my thirst for all things cooking. He let me come to the Congress centre and try my cooking experiments under his watchful eye - truffled boudin blancs and pigeon pie are two things I recall cooking there. Peter turned me on to good cheese and I remember his personal favourite was gruyere, the real thing from Switzerland. We holidayed together and ate and drank memorable meals. I eventually finished working under him part-time at the Congress Centre, which were some of my happiest moments.

Now my work is done, I will pass the baton to:-

Jeanne of Cook Sister
Honeybee of Beurre et pain
Mellie of Tummy Rumbles
Ange of Vicious Ange
Scott of realepicurean.com
  posted at 7:38 am

Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Fish & Shellfish Medley
Picture by Michael Blamey

In a recent post for Wine Blogging Wednesday, I created a dish to go with champagne that was the featured wine. It has occurred to me that I never gave the recipe for what was a memorable match, though this fish and shellfish medley could easily partner a different wine - a crisp, dry reisling or a fruitier sauvignon blanc for example.

The dish itself is easy to do as most of the work can be done beforehand, leaving only the frying of the fish and scallops until the last minute, and really, who doesn't like the combination of fish and shellfish? Only the mussels are a little bit fiddly with pulling off the beard a must and the scallops need to have the black intestinal tract and supporting gristle trimmed off as well. Do you remove the scallop coral? Depends on you, for some dishes I do remove it, for this one it didn't seem necessary as it blends well with the orange of the mussels. Don't be tempted to make this dish without the mussels as they contribute so much flavour to the sauce.

Fish & Shellfish Medley

4 thick fillets of firm white fish, 5 cm (2") wide
20 scallops, cleaned
oil for frying
1/2 kg (1 lb) mussels, debearded
100 ml (3 fl oz) dry vermouth
500 ml (17 fl oz) home made fish stock
pinch saffron threads
40 g (2 oz) unsalted butter, in small pieces
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Put a large pot on high heat and when very hot put in the mussels and vermouth, then place lid on the pot. Shake every 30 seconds until all the mussels are opened, about two minutes. Strain the mussels through a seive and keep the mussel liquor. Clean the pot and put in the mussel liquor, fish stock and saffron threads and boil hard until well reduced to about 1 cup of liquid. Remove the mussels from the shell and keep warm. Most recipes advise to discard any mussels that remain closed, but I never do, I just prise the shell open and remove the meat. If in doubt smell. Fry the fish fillets in a little oil in a non stick pan, skin side first, until just cooked, then turning the heat to high, fry the scallops for about 30 seconds each side. Keep warm. Add the butter two pieces at a time to the reduced fish stock and whisk or swirl in, when dissolved add more butter and repeat until all the butter is incorporated, then add the parsley. Taste for seasoning, add salt if needed. Place the fillets of fish onto plates, surround with the scallops and mussels and pour the sauce over. Posted by Picasa
  posted at 7:47 am


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