Thursday, December 10, 2009

Love to be mis-quoted

In keeping up to date with all my blogging/food writing/tweeting contacts, I read a fabulous article about the debates around codes of ethics for food bloggers.
The article is an interview with a favorite food blogger, Ed Charles (tomato), for the online magazine Upstart.

What I quickly feel the need to point out is that there's a comment in there attributed to JdG- and yes it is a comment that I left on a website discussing the topic.
What I need to address is that the small bit of my comment that they did pull out to use isn't quite representative of my complete view of the subject.

'However not all comments were that positive, the signature JdG wrote that "to require guidelines [for blogs] would be to hobble a medium that revels in its freedom.”'

Implying that I don't support the idea of a code of ethics for the world of food blogging, which is NOT the case at all.

The original comment that I made was in reference to the idea of a code of ethics being mandatory for food bloggers. The total comment was;

"I think what needs to be recognised is that bloggers have a freedom that makes blogging what it is. The blogs that are successful are popular for different reasons, some because they do not follow the rules and provide renegade commentary, and others because they adhere to the traditional rules and build for themselves a sense of 'integrity'- there is room for both as long as readers are able to identify which is which. Truth and fact in both is preferable, but not required. To require guidelines would be to hobble a medium that revels in it's freedom."

My point was that codes of ethics are wonderful if people have the choice to adopt them- but hobbles them if it becomes mandatory/required to adopt them... that's all.

For the record, when I write/blog, I always write with a journalists code of ethics in mind. But that doesn't mean that I think everyone else should have to as well.
Personal bloggers are not journalists, nor should they be treated as such- it's fun to keep that in mind when you're reading something entertaining that you have found online.

I guess I wasn't misquoted... more taken out of context on something that I feel very passionately about- otherwise the article is a great read, and one that I recommend.

And you can quote me on that. :)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Uncovering Umami: SBS Food

Uncovering Umami:

Note: Article featured in the food pages of the SBS website.

I strongly recommend a few umami taste experiments at home- give it a go and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Meeting Matt Preston

Cue MasterChef music.
It's official. I'm in love. I'm leaving Patience to run away with food writer extraordinaire and TV personality Matt Preston.
Or more correctly, I'm leaving Patience to run away not just with Mr. Preston, but to carry on a torrid and florid affair with his cravats.
After all- the man and his neck-ware of choice are synonymous. You simply can't have one without the other. Thank goodness.

But there is much more to this bear of a man than his cravats and TV personality. And I would be telling a lie if I said that I didn't have a writers crush on this man long before he appeared on TV rolling chocolate over his tongue whilst staring into the middle distance.

My crush began several years ago reading his wondrous and transporting accounts of food and dinning that appear regularly in The Age's Epicure and weekend supplements. It was only reinforced by seeing his passion for food moved from the page to the screen. Though that tiny box is sadly ill equipped to hold his enthusiasm for flavour and food history.

I went weak at the knees recently when I was asked to read his book 'Cravat-a-licious' and interview the man.
(You can check the interview out here on the wonderful Sassi Sam website)
Sassi sent me the book along with the details of the publicist 'should I be available' to set up an interview.
Available? .... Whose gonna stop me?!

I was thrilled to be granted 20-minutes in between radio and TV appearances- and was determined to bridle my enthusiasm and maintain my dignity during the process.

I should confess right now that about two months ago I spotted Preston dinning at Sydney's Bodega with Chef extraordinaire (and Melbourne's favourite son) Andrew McConnell.
I tried to work up the courage to say hello and express my love of his work.
I told myself to wait till the meal (mine and his) was over and try and catch him outside, but after several glasses of sherry my confidence failed me and I simply smiled on the way out- telling myself that no-one wants to harangued by ditzy fans while sharing a meal with friends.

He assures me that he would have been delighted if I'd said hello.
I'll know for next time...

In a candid moment during our interview- a moment that I was NOT prepared for- he did the unthinkable and .... removed hi cravats!
I almost stopped breathing- what was wrong with this picture?

Then, he offered them to me to examine. When I told my sister this, she asked if I had managed to steal one or tried to trade them for my underpants. Sadly, I did neither- where's a sister when you need her!

Still, despite failing to make off with a cravat (and forgetting to ask for an autograph on the book)- the interview was thoroughly enjoyable. It's hard not to love a man so clearly passionate about what he does. Luckily what he does is write about food... and we love to read it.

Note: I have no doubt that Patience is tired of hearing my declarations that I am leaving him for this or that chef/food writer/insert other ridiculous idol here.
It must be said that he is called Patience for a very valid reason and that indeed, I have no intention of ever leaving him- unless I meet Ferran Adria, Heston Blumenthal... and maybe Fergus Henderson.
What!? A girl can dream can't she...?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Grandma- my cooking heritage

My Grandma- Dorothy Noel Finlayson- cooked until the day she died.
She cooked until she could no longer taste or see what she was cooking and had little appetite.
She cooked because she loved it. She cooked because it made her happy.
She cooked because food keeps family close.

When her sight began to fail her, Vision Australia marked her tins so she could find what she needed- though 2 marks for sugar and 3 for salt was not always a fail safe.

A large number of her accidents were the result of midnight forays into baking. And one broken nose was the result of her frail arms no longer being able to lift the glass flour jar down from the shelf. It was then that she switched to lighter plastic containers- ain't nothing gonna hold Granny back.

She'd try anything once- twice of she liked it, and then one more time again to perfect it if we liked it too.
You had no more to mention an interest in haggis or a hankering for pavlova and ten tonnes of the stuff would appear in her fridge along with the words 'you take it home dear, it's only me here and I couldn't possibly eat it.'

Cooking was Gran's way of loving, living and (as previously mentioned) entertaining herself in the wee hours of her insomnia.
When we stayed over, she served us porridge like mum suggested- but she added cream. Her meat loaf was moist and rich and her kitchen often smelled of freshly fried chops (she just loved their fatty little tails). There were always new cakes and biscuits on offer and every Christmas she contributed a much anticipated ice-cream plumb pudding to the spread of turkey, ham and seafood.

She is the only woman I know who got smaller as her cooking skills grew.
She is also the only person I know who would think nothing of whipping up a batch of meringues.
She wasn't any good at the light touch for scones... but the delicate meringues never failed her. Almond, vanilla or coffee.
My Gran used to cook with us in the holidays. My Gran always smelled of baking. She was an excellent cook and an excellent teacher. And that is my cooking heritage.

I'm lucky because she shared her cooking secrets, and the time we spent together in the kitchen was about passing skills on. We have the luxury of her hand written recipes- all gathered together in one place. I'm holding on to them and I plan to hand them down to my own children, along with the skills she taught me.

Some people are not so lucky.
Some people never get the chance to ask Gran for that recipe, that secret ingredient.

Thank you Gran.
For the sustenance, the love and -most of all- for the cake.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A whale of a time- thanks for the memory

Recently, in thinking about my most confronting culinary experiences, a memory that I had carefully hidden away to protect my moral fiber came popping to the surface.

The year was 2004. The place was a huge drinking party in downtown Tomiai- a semi rural town on the outskirts of Kumamoto in Kyushu, Japan.

Myself and one other Gaijin (westerner / foreigner) were the guests of honour and every tray of brilliant food at that feast came directly our way, before being passed to the rest of the raucously drinking group at the banquet table.

There was a lot of noise; cheers every time we declared that a dish was 'oishi desne' (delicious), much clapping and shouting whenever we managed to collect a particularly delicate morsel with our chopsticks (Westerners are notoriously not so good at these things) and rousing choruses of 'Kampai' as hot sake was delivered to the table.

The smoked unagi (eel) went down a treat to the great surprise of many at the table and there was endless fascination with our apparent enjoyment of basashi (horse-meat sashimi).

We were on a roll and the party was in full swing.

Then a small dish of jewel red meat made its way to my place in the next round of culinary roulette. I was intrigued by it's marbled appearance and at this stage was still enjoying the game of 'how will the westerners eat this.' So far all the food was delicious and the unexpected array of dishes was like hearing all your favourite songs played randomly back-to-back at a party- you uttering 'oh I LOVE this song' at every new tune.

I asked my travel partner (who spoke some little Japanese) what this next delight was. He in turn asked his closest companion. Listening to her answer, he nodded, went pale and then whispered to me those dreaded words: 'it's whale'. And I immediately went cold as I eyed the small plate.

From memory this dish was particularly tiny, with only about five strips of the dark pink meat fanned neatly upon it. It was one of those dishes that was a rare delicacy for the guests at the table and -after myself and my companion had taken our obligatory pieces- there would be only three others privileged enough to have a taste. That's no small compliment to us awkward dinner guests.

The thin strips gleamed dully up at me, sliced so finely that you could almost see the pattern on the plate below. My hesitation was palpable and as I wavered the party atmosphere around me began to hush. I leaned in to my companion and whispered 'I can't eat it- it's whale, I just can't- it's a problem for me.'

By now there was a definite dimming of noise as the guests sensed that something was amiss, and inquiring eyes began to turn our way. I started to sweat and I swear the music just faded away. Our heads still together, my companion hissed back 'Looks like it'll be more of a problem if we don't' eat it'. He briefly conferred with his translator, her quiet manner helpfully more muted again so that no one could hear what was going on. Then came the mumbled decider; 'if you don't eat it they'll want to know why and it's been ordered specially for us...'

As an ungainly Westerner blundering through the polite and delicate details of Japan, I decided I had already unintentionally offended enough strangers on my five-week trip- I didn't need to embarrass our generous hosts as well.

I nodded and smiled, trying to look pleased and grateful, then sitting up very straight, composing my chopsticks and with great poise, I took a piece of the dewy meat and raised it to my mouth. All eyes were on me as I ate, so I added in some convincing groans of pleasure to appease my hosts and assure them that the honour 'was all mine'.

Then, I swallowed the biggest lump of guilt, shame and horror ever presented to me on a plate. I decided that I was probably full after this and begged off before anymore tasty surprises arrived.

Later that night my partner and I discussed the whale offering beyond the moral and ethical doubts we had about eating it. What we wanted to discuss was how it tasted. To our sad and common disappointment we realised that not only had we chosen to over-step our personal ethical boundaries in the interests of avoiding embarrassment (to our hosts and ourselves), but that due to the tiny offering of the prized flesh, neither of us could really tell what it tasted like beyond being meaty.

Perhaps our senses had been dulled by the sake and party spirit. Perhaps our palates had been overwhelmed by the vast array of unusual flavours and sensations on offer. I think it more likely that I subconsciously blocked it out.

That was my first and last experience of whale- I'm sorry that I can't tell you exactly what it tasted like (except to say that it's remarkably similar to guilt with a side order of regret), but I could have happily lived my life never given the opportunity to find out.

Note: image borrowed from:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Meeting an Idol- Frank Camorra

I thought I was past it- the idiotic giggling and gushing like a school girl. I thought years of working in radio and meeting celebrities both A and B list had dulled me to the jitters.
It is not so.
Yesterday, whilst waiting at the bar of the new MoVida Aqui on Bourke street in Melbourne's CBD, I worked myself into a nervous sweat.
True it was 30degC + outside, so the sweating might have been obligatory, but I was in a tizz- and this is not a good look for a journo.
You see I am a Frankophile- but not in the traditional sense. Nope, I am a deciple of Chef Frank Camorra and his brilliant Spanish food, so perhaps a 'Camorraphile' might be a better descriptor? And in meeting him for a chat about his latest MoVida brand venture, I was meeting an idol.

I waited while he finished up another chat on the terrace of the new Aqui, nursing a cool drink in the heat in his chefs whites.
I sipped my water, tried to look calm as I made notes about the layout of the bar, the Euro posters on the walls and the menu that finally included paella into the long list of Camorra dishes that foodies love.
I glanced at the great man, trying not to look nervous. I'm sure I failed miserably. I made some more notes. I poured another drink. I sweated it out.
When Frank finally got to me, I had downed so many casual glasses of water that I felt like a water bomb about to explode... and I'd run out of time to go to the bathroom.
See, I'm all professional disinterest and poise.
Despite my discomfort, the half-hour chit-chat just flew. It's so nice to be able to speak to the chefs of this city and find out what they are hoping to achieve.
It's nicer again to meet a chef who is doing stuff that you simply adore.
*gush gush gush*
You get to ask all those deep and interesting questions like "are you excited about anything in particular on the menu" and "can you sign my left breast".
*again- gush gush gush*
I thought I was past it- the silliness and the jitters - but I think I finally understand what some teenagers feel when they see Robert Pattinson (twilight) in the flesh. I didn't quite scream myself hoarse or faint dead-away, but I'm sure I was nodding all together too enthusiastically as I scribbled notes.
Laugh all you want- but I think I handled it well, and next time I'll hold off on the water.

Note: Image borrowed from

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

To Market, to Market: Broadsheet

To Market, To Market:

-Jane de Graaff, for

I just love farmers' markets. There's always such a beautiful and enthusiastic energy in the boundless fresh fruit and veg- an almost carnival atmosphere that makes the grocery shopping so much more than a grab'n'go exercise.
Why not take your picnic blanket and make a morning of it?
Hopefully I'll see you there.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eel in green sauce

I've had another Dutch success- though this time the inspiration seems to have come from Belgium.
Still, eel in green sauce is also eaten in Holland and now it's part of my repertoire as well.
Originally made with river eel, here in Aus it seems more likely that the dish will be made with sea eel, but the concept remains the same.
It might be 'in green sauce', but I find the result to be rather more yellow than green. I guess this may change with different herb ratios or eggs that aren't quite so happy and free-range, and I have yet to report the findings if I were to use fresh herbs (rather than dried as the recipe suggests)- but you get the drift.
This is another gem from that brilliant work of the 1970's 'Dutch and Belgian Cooking'.
You see, despite all evidence that this book is less than exemplary when it comes to Dutch cuisine, I live in hope.

First... find your eel.
In my case a certain amount of scouting around town turned up Win Sam Seafood, in Glen Waverley, who regularly display Australian eel, but it is worth checking before you set out. After all, it's not your most common fish item.
I also found that Ducgo Live Seafood in Box Hill often has eel, but they were down on stock when I called.

Eel in Green Sauce- "Paling in het groen"

  • 1kg eel, cleaned
  • 3 Tspn butter
  • 6 shallots finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp tried tarragon
  • 2 Tspn finely chopped fresh parseley
  • 1/2 tsp salt & pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 eggs yolks- lightly beaten
  • Juice 1/2 lemon

Cut the eel into 5cm pieces. Heat the butter in a fry-pan and saute eel over moderately high heat until pieces are lightly browned on all sides.
Add the shallots, herbs, salt and pepper, white wine and just enough water to barely cover the eels. Bring the dish to a simmer, cover the pan and cook gently for 6-8 minutes or until the eel is tender when tested with a skewer.
Remove the eels to a serving dish and set aside. Ladle a small amount of the hot pan liquid into the beaten eggs yolks and whisk thoroughly. Then pour the whisked egg mixture back into the pan liquid, along with the lemon juice- whisking continuously until slightly thickened.

Note: do not allow the mixture to boil, particularly after the eggs have been added or it will cook the egg proteins into unattractive milky strands.
Not so appealing.
Pour the sauce over the eels in the serving dish and place in the fridge to chill.
Serve cold, garnished with extra parsley and heavy, dark bread like pumpernickel, to scoop up the sauce.
Surprisingly sweet, the dish has a velvety, creamy texture and is lovely in a small serve as a starter, or as a larger dish for mains.

Perfect for warmer days.


Finally! Super Dutch success!
A dish that I loved, Patience wolfed down and we'll happily make and serve again.
These little deep fried balls of mince-y goodness are found lurking anywhere you can buy a beer in Holland- a bit hot like chips here in Australia. Only these are served with mustard and they're a great stomach liner for the long beer filled afternoons ahead this summer.
Easy to make, tasty to eat and interesting enough to impress guests when you serve them.
Again, this recipe is derived from one found in Dutch & Belgian Cooking - published 1978 through Bay Books. Anything that can be served on cocktail sticks is a winner according to the era.

Bitterballen: Savoury mince balls
(makes about 40 balls- depending on the size you roll them)
  • 3 Tablespoon butter
  • 5 Tablespoon plain flour
  • 1 cup chicken or beef stock
  • 500g pork or beef mince (we use pork)
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp brown or Worcestershire sauce
  • oil to deep fry
  • 2 egg whites, whisked until frothy
  • 1/2 fine bread crumbs
  • Mustard of your choice to serve
In a large fry-pan brown the mince evenly. Doing it in batches helps to reduce the water content that can cause it to stew rather than brown, and you'll want it to be nice a browned all over. Remove it from the pan and set aside.
In the same pan melt the butter, add the flower and cook for around 2 mins, stirring constantly. Add the stock to the p
an a little at a time, stirring continuously until a smooth paste is formed. Add the cooked mince, parsley, salt and pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Stir together until thoroughly combined.
Spread the mixture out evenly on a flat plate and chill for two hours or until firm enough to handle.
Heat the oil for frying in a saucepan. Form the mine mixture into balls about 2cm in size. Dip in the beaten egg whites and then roll in breadcrumbs. Drop into the boiling oil and deep-fry until crispy and golden brown, about 4 at a time is good.
Pile in a bowl and serve with a dipping bowl of mustard and an icy beer, or a crisp glass of gin.

They're best eaten while hot and crunchy, they're a crowd pleaser- but then, they are deep fried and served with beer.

Note: You don't have to use brown or Worcestershire sauce- but they do add a nice tang to the bitterballen. I've seen other recipes that leave this out all together or substitute other sauces including tomato, it's up to you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

High Stakes: Hospitality, drugs and the workplace

Featured on the brilliant website:

NOTE: Whilst researching this article I was interested to find that the prevailing attitude in hospitality is that employees are just more open to talking about drug use, rather than a feeling that it is more prevalent in hospitality than other industries.

It's still a thorny topic for obvious reasons however and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to speak candidly to me on the subject.


Veal Tongue with sour sauce-

OK- it looks a bit gross.
I'll even go so far as to say that it appears a bit rude... it's not my fault that it looks so anatomical in it's bowl of water.
It's veal tongue by the way.

This is another attempt at a Dutch recipe from the brilliant (and very 'of it's time') 1970's 'Dutch & Belgian Cooking' from Bay Books Round the world cooking library.
God bless the developments in cooking... and god bless Patience for having the courage to try all the dishes that I place in his path. I'm pretty sure that he didn't sign up for this.
I have to say that I went into this dish a sceptic. It could have been hideous for so many reasons. But thankfully this one was a winner, despite it's ubiquitous 'grey' Dutch sauce.
And it's surprisingly simple- as long as you allow for the extended cooking time to melt the tongue into its gelatinous, gooey glory.

This dish was inspiring to me for two reasons.
First, it's Dutch, from one of the few Dutch cookbooks that I've been able to find written in English. I think I've made it pretty clear that I'm on a mission to connect with my Dutch roots, so here I start with looking at Dutch cooking as the first link back to my heritage.
The second reason the dish caught my eye was because I am fascinated by offal, 'olde foode' and the cuts of meat that industrialisation has seen fall by the wayside.
Tongue is one of these. A cut that we often overlook now that mass production allows us to buy prime cuts, prepackaged and divorced from the use of the whole beast.
If I'm going to allow myself to eat and enjoy meat, I'm not going to ignore the more time consuming cuts.
So I'm adding tongue to my diet- and it's a fantastically tasty, unusual and incredibly cheap option.

Veal tongue with sour sauce- Kalfstong met zure saus

1 veal tongue (about 1kg)
1 tsp salt
1 carrot- peeled and sliced
1 onion- roughly chopped
leafy tops of 1 bunch celery
1 sprig parsley & 1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
4 peppercorns- crushed
1 clove

For the sauce:
  • 4 tablespoon butter
  • 4 tablespoon plain flour
  • 2 cups of the cooking liquid (see method)
  • 2 eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 3 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Soak the tongue in cold water for several hours or overnight. Rinse the tongue under cold running water and rub lightly with salt.
Place the tongue in a large pot along with the vegetables, herbs and spices and cover with water. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer (advice from Stephanie Alexander's notes on tongue cooking says that the water should be barely moving- otherwise the tongue will toughen).
Simmer gently for 3 hours or until the tongue is tender when a thing skewer is inserted.

At this point you'll need to skin the tongue, so remove it from the pan and while it is still hot peel the outer skin off- it will come off easily while the tongue is still very hot and gets more difficult as the tongue cools, so the quicker the better. The skin is grayish and tough looking and should separate quite easily from the gorgeous glutenous pink meat underneath.

Strain the cooking broth and set aside two cups to make the sauce. Put the rest of the broth, along with the tongue back into the pan to keep warm.
In a new pan melt half of the butter, stir in the flour (taking care to get rid of any lumps that form), then slowly add the cooking broth that you set aside earlier. It's important to do this slowly and the whisk the sauce continuously until you have a smooth sauce.
In a bowl combine a little of this warm sauce with the lightly beaten eggs, whisking to make sure the eggs don't cook in the warm liquid. Then add the egg mixture to the pan of sauce over a low heat and continue to whisk. Add the remaining butter and vinegar.
Do not allow the sauce to boil once the eggs are in otherwise you will get strings of egg protein in the sauce.

Slice the tongue and remove any gristle from the root. Arrange the slices on a warm serving dish and pour a little of the sauce over.
Serve warm with a side of broad beans.

Note: This dish can also be served cold, but is best enjoyed warm when the tongue is still soft.

The buttery sauce is cut beautifully by the sharp vinegar that gives it the 'sour sauce' name and it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Having not been a huge fan (or so I thought) of tongue before I started cooking this dish, I am now a changed woman and find nothing tastier than freshly cooked veal tongue.
The dish can be made with beef tongue too, but obviously the younger veal cut will provide a more tender result. I'll also be honest and say that the smell of veal tongue is not as pungent as fully fledged beef (for those with sensitive noses). Not that it's a bad smell, it's just very brothy.
They both taste wonderful however and a beef tongue certainly feeds more people.

Eet Smakelijk!

And what an adventure!

Rabbit Brabant Style- a Dutch disaster...

Today I had a realisation- when it comes to Dutch cooking, my mother might be right.
She maintains that the majority of Dutch food that she has experienced in her time is grey. Her comments are not to be discounted, after all she has been married to my expat Dutch dad for 30+ years- so she oughtta know right?
What she means is that it seems to end up smothered in a grey-ish sauce comprised mostly of butter and flour and that as a result it tends to look (and in some cases taste) the same.
I've been busily trying to defy her. Claiming that with culinary contributions that include Edam cheese, pickled herring (rollmop) and poffertjes (tiny little fluffy pancakes), there has to be more to this cuisine than meets the eye?

So I spent the weekend on another Dutch cooking mission- armed with a 1970's copy of 'Dutch & Belgian Cooking' from Bay Books Round the world cooking library.

Perhaps the book itself was a bad choice- but it seems to be one of so few Dutch cook books out there written in English.
I have to say that my first dish was less than pleasing to the eye. Sad considering that the ingredients were all good. So far I'm yet to find anything outstanding beyond canapes. *Sigh* I'm including the recipe here more as a documentation rather than as a recipe that I suggest you try. After all, rabbit and prunes sounds like such a good idea... it's so easy to see just how I got sucked in! But in the end, the grey sauce just let me down.

Rabbit Brabant Style:
  • 1 young rabbit- jointed
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • black pepper (freshly cracked) to taste
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tblspn butter
  • 250 grams prunes (soaked overnight in water)
  • 1 tblspn brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 2 tblspn flour
Place the rabbit pieces in a shallow dish. Combine the onion, thyme, bay, vinegar and water and pour over the rabbit. Cover the pan tightly with foil or plastic and marinate over night in the fridge.
Remove rabbit from the marinade and dry thoroughly, strain and reserve marinade. Season flour with salt and pepper and coat the rabbit evenly.
Heat the butter in a large frypan with a fitted lid. Brown the rabbit on all sides over high heat until golden. Add the strained marinade mixture to the pan. Lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30mins. Then add the drained prunes, sprinkle over brown sugar and simmer for a further 15mins.
Combine the beer and flour, mixing until smooth. Remove rabbit from the pan to a warmed serving dish, add the beer mixture to the sauce stirring continuously until the sauce has thickened.
Distribute the prunes around the rabbit and then pour the source over to serve.

It's at this point that I wonder why I poured the sauce over at all. Maybe it would have been better reserved for adding at the table to each individual plate. The dish looked okay until I poured it on. But the sauce just looked like a lovely beige clag... yum.

Patience and I stared at the final dish. He even dared to taste it and concluded that it didn't taste too bad... maybe a touch vinegary.
But the fact remained that the finished product was such a congealed mess on the plate that I simply had to call my mother (with tears of laughter streaming down my cheeks) to describe what was in front of me: "Maybe you were right." *Gasp-giggle-gasp* "... it looks like the dog threw-up all over my perfectly good rabbit and prunes!" *squeals of laughter* - my mother paused for breath; "well at least it's more beige than grey darling... well done!"

Note: not such a great Dutch dish... ahhh well, the search continues- onto the next one! And as Patience pointed out, it all comes down to that sauce, but it could have something to do with the era the cookbook is from.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back to basics... 3 egg omelette

I like to over complicate.
But only when it comes to flavours and cooking. If the recipe calls for one clove of garlic, I tend to add two. If the suggestion is a pinch of pepper or salt- it's easy for me to add a whole handful.
My cakes are full of chunky, lumpy, delicious extras and my soups become stews because there simply isn't enough room in the pot.
They taste fantastic, but they're sometimes what you might call... heavy handed.
So I'm getting back to basics.
I mean I know what I like and which flavours work well together, but I just have to remind myself that sometimes simple is best- and that often it's about what you can still add at leisure, not having everything all packed on in advance.
I started on Friday night with a simple omelette. And I mean really simple.

  • 3 eggs- lightly whisked together
  • knob of butter (1 tblspn)
That's it.
No milk, no onion, no tomato and no cheese- all the extras that I usually like to add.
Not on Friday.
On Friday it was just eggs, lightly whisked and a knob of butter in the pan.

Method: It's simple; whisk the eggs together (3 for Patience's omelette, 2 for mine). Melt the butter on high heat in a non stick pan and just before it browns, tip the eggs in and shake the pan vigorously. Continue shaking the pan until the the omelette folds over itself and is just set. It really only takes about 30sec... anymore and the potentially beautiful simplicity of the omelette becomes bland rubber.
Tip the omelette onto a warmed plate and serve with optional salt, pepper and parsley.
That's it.
Dinner in less than a minute... for real.
I told you it was back to basics.
And I'd forgotten how wonderful and comforting a simple omelette can be.
No wet patches. No burnt bits. No puddles of oiled out cheese.
Just simple, soft, feather light omelette.
It's something I should do more often.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Julie & Julia- the movie and culinary experience

I have this to say; anything that showcases a love of food and cooking can only be a good thing.
These are two remarkable women. Remarkable in that their passion for food saved them.

Weather you love or loath them, whether you think that the characters are well played or not, to criticise this movie is to take a little bit of joy out of the world.
My mother grew up watching her mother recreate Julia Child recipes, while I spend my life playing with food, setting myself challenges and blogging about it, much like Julie Powell- seeing the two stories combined is a reminder of how food binds people- in so many different ways, and who cannot see that as lovely?

Invited to the Village Gold Class 'Julie & Julia Culinary Experience' I didn't really know what to expect apart from the cushy seats and a glass of wine.
What we got was a better than 3D experience. Eating beouf bourginion whilst watching a bourginion drama unfold on the screen was a very sensory experience. And yes, the bourginion we ate was from the Julia Child recipe.
I have no desire to break this movie down. If you love to cook, write a blog, or just like to eat, go and see it.
It is a story for people who love food.
If you want to play with your food- go and see it as the 'culinary experience'. It's great fun, and it's better than smell-o-vision, it's taste-o-vision.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Vale- Keith Floyd

I remember being inspired early in my life by one flamboyant TV chef- who later became the face of Continental sauces and the abiding link that I have to fruity bow ties.
He was a Brit, but he didn't need to spatter his style with the F word and shock tactics to gather in a loyal following. What he used instead was enthusiasm and (from what I remember) a vibrant and user friendly approach to food.
The was man Keith Floyd, and his legacy for me is abundant memories of a happy bunch of teenage girls playing at replicating his food (and style) in a messy kitchen...

He was the first TV chef that I ever remember performing brilliant culinary feats in exotic outdoor locations; on beaches, by the edge of bustling markets, perched on cliff tops and striding along piers somewhere in the Asia pacific region. He always had a glass of wine and without fail sounded like he was enjoying it.

My early memories of food as fun, art and fancy are filled with snippets of Floyd. The cooking landscape is somewhat blander without his flourishes. R.I.P.

Image: borrowed from

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Time Traveller's Knife: Virgin Voyuer article

-Jane de Graaff asks what happened to our favourite fare of yore... 

Article published in September edition of Virgin Blue inflight magazine Voyeur


(above) Zampone- Pig's trotter filled with cotechino & celery, Mt Zero lentils & Calvados jus.
Courtesy: Church Street Enoteca & Chef Ron O'Bryan.

(left) Rabbit- rabbit and vege.
Courtesy: Danks Street Depot & Chef Jared Ingersoll.
Published by Murdoch Books. Photograph Alan Benson.

BreakfastOut Review: Kamel

Breakfast till 3pm is always a good idea- and so's a trip to the roughly Middle East...

-By Jane de Graaff

Review featured on the lovely and very useful  website.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Taste Melbourne

A certain question hangs in the air... Taste Melbourne, will it be, well, tasty?
Turns out that thankfully- it was. Decidedly so.

Can there be anything more satisfying than gathering a great gobful of 'the best that Melbourne has to offer' into one place and being able to have a teaser-taste of each? When you're right there in the steamy, fragrant, pungent and spritzy thick of it.... I think not.
Let's be honest here, in rickety financial times not all of us can afford a degustation at the three hatted Jacques Reymond or the celebrity chef helmed The Boathouse. But that doesn't mean that we wouldn't like to be flavour raiding with the best of them- and so why should we miss out, when Taste Melbourne comes to town.
This year I opted for the midway ticket (between general-entry and the deluxe-super-charge versions) that included some crowns to spend on the food on offer, but also allowed the luxury or adding more or less as I felt so inclined.
It's not necessarily a cheap exercise by the time you've sampled everything that makes your saliva ducts hit overdrive, but the alternative would leave your back pocket decidedly more deflated.
Weigh it up growling tummies of Melbourne!
It's a bit of a wonderland if you don't mind the ravenous crowd (and later in the evening the slurring and staggering hoards). It's all part of the fun as far as I can see and it's nice to find so many people on the trail of a good food experience. Eat it up!

The Press Club- Spring Bay half shell scallops with Tarama:
Scallops on the half shell are a most beguiling dish, particularly when they're still attached. Buried under a springy pile of salad, dressed in a creamy tarama sauce redolent of fish-fresh ocean spray and flecked with salty black olives, each mouthful was a textural Odyssey, mostly taken by sea.
Crunchy, soft, silky and creamy all in one and served in an abundant, vibrant and artistically tangled mess.

Jacques Reymond- Tempura of quail breast, tajine flavours & whipped Persian fetta:
This was one of the prettiest dishes on offer- a daintily tottering stack of lightly battered quail giving a satisfying crispy crunch, topped with a delicate cream-lemony dressing and decorated with a streak of shrieking green herb sauce scribbling the pate.
The black rice underneath was a little gluey and non-descript (which was a shame)- but perhaps my taste-buds had already been assaulted by too many other flavours...

Hellenic Republic- saganaki with peppered figs:
A pizza wedge size of crispy fried cheese is every cheese-o-philes dream. Hence I was in creamy, salty, crispy-with-a-gooey-centre heaven. It helps that saganaki makes my world complete- but topped with peppery and sticky stewed figs, the sweetness combines with the cream like BrAngelina- a perfect and sexy match. The best part being that this serve wasn't skimpy and there was plenty of surface area crunch going on.

Maha- Turkish Delight filled doughnuts, with pine nut sugar & rosewater honey:
Just when I thought I was all flavoured out- I ventured into dessert. And then I lost my mind.
Balls of puffy, fluffy, golden fried dough exploded in my mouth into a lava flow of melted Turkish delight. Drenched in lightly floral rosy-honey syrup and dusted with crystals of nutty sugar I felt my jaw clench with the sugar rush. It was better than my first memories of candy floss and just as sticky sweet. Good thing I was full, otherwise my blood sugar would have blown the roof off.

If you didn't make it this year, note the date and start planning for next year. Because with all the best under one roof... it's one hellava mouthful of fun.