It would be fair to say I’ve been pretty lazy lately.
We’ve had Thanksgiving, essays, exams, Christmas, Friendsmas, Boxing Day, an iron deficiency, a new puppy, new jobs… and it seems like somehow along the way I forgot how to cook in my own kitchen.
This is a very, very overdue but very simple frittata with fresh spring-y, summer-y flavours. We needed a low-carb, healthy, vegetarian dinner on a warm evening for a large group and this worked perfectly. And even though the ingredients sound scary on the wallet (what doesn’t after Christmas, lets be fair), we bought the asparagus on special and divided by our eight diners it was surprisingly reasonable. The side ‘salad’ of zucchini and red onion helps to keep up our smug healthy face and mix things up.
Just the sort of thing for someone who needs to ease back into home cooking.
Spring Frittata (based on a taste.com.au recipe)
Ingredients (serves 8):
4 bunches of asparagus
1 large leek
2 dozen eggs
200g fresh goats cheese, or to taste
Salt, pepper, olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.
Cut or snap the woody ends off the asparagus and cut the spears in half. Slice the leek into coins about 3-5mm wide.
Heat a heavy frying pan on the stove and add a glugg of olive oil. Toss in the leek and asparagus and cook until the leek has softened.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a large bowl until they come together. You could add milk or cream here, to your taste.
Scatter the sauteed vegetables into a large, deep sided glass tray. Crumble the goat’s cheese over the vegetables. Pretend like you’re Nigella and your vegetables automatically tumble gracefully into position. Then fix them so there’s a more or less even coverage of vegetables and cheese so no one misses out. Season to taste.
Pour the egg mix over the vegetables and place the tray in the oven.
Bake until the mix is set in the centre. How long this will take will depend on how big your tray was – the smaller and thus deeper the mix is, the longer you’ll need. I think ours took about half an hour.
Zucchini ‘Salad’ (based on a taste.com.au recipe)
As many zucchinis as you can bear to cut up. They get squeaky after a while but I can usually handle 4 or so. But if you can take turns this scales really well.
1 red onion per couple of zucchini
A handful of mint leaves
Salt, pepper, olive oil
Roughly chop the zucchini, finely slice the onion(s), and pile onto a baking tray.
Zest and juice the lemon, then pour over the vegetables. Add a glugg or two of olive oil and season to taste.
Place the tray in the oven under the frittata and roast for 20-30 minutes or until the zucchini is cooked. Scatter with mint leaves and serve with a dollop of yoghurt if you’re that way inclined.
(That’s PJ Harvey wearing the Opera House, right? Back me up here.)
How lazy have I been? Took forever to get these photos to TBC because I’m just too lazy! Anyway, had a great night and I’m in love with the decor of the Five Bar. I mean an opening roof for summer? Can you imagine? Sometimes I wish I could just rip off the tin in our house so I could lounge on my day bed lounge in the warmth and light of summer. – TBP
A few weeks back I was stuck in a mid-afternoon day-dream about pork belly. This is not uncommon. As I was discovered the hard way soon after when I was asked to prepare a poster on homosociality on the spot I, should have been keeping my eye on the prize – instead I was busy on twitter talking TBP into coming to Five Bar’s Spring Into Cider tasting. TBP was sure she could get home, dressed, and find her camera in under an hour so we snapped up two tickets. As it turned out traffic conspired against us, but we weren’t the last ones there. And only the last one there counts as late, right?
The event was tucked up the back of the venue under the opening (but sadly closed that night) roof while the rest continued on normal service. I hadn’t expected it to be standing and since we got there too late to stake out a spot on the platform-sorta-business we ended up awkwardly perching on the end of a handsome sideboard doing a self-conscious side-shuffle every time the staff needed to get at the cutlery. They were very kind about it though and reassured us with a pithy anecdote about a more difficult customer and a beef tartar.
My initial anxiety on realising that it was a standing event and my dream of soothing my woes in a comfy chair with some pork belly needed some adjusting started to calm down when I was handed an icey pint of James Squire Orchard Crush. Drink responsibly friends. It was a full-strength (4.8%) scrumpy, a little cloudy from the yeasts and had a distinctly apple-juice scent. It was neither too dry not too sweet and was a refreshing way to kick the evening off. Being a James Squire it’s pretty easy to find reasonably priced in your local bottleshop too. Since we arrived so late there was only one piece of the chorizo sauteed in cider left in the building and TBP boldly stole it from under the descending hand of a stranger. We’re sorry about that. She made me have it because she says she can’t talk about food but in the end all I can tell you about it is that was indeed a piece of chorizo and it did have a slightly sweet note. The guy we stole it from sure seemed to be enjoying it and one piece wasn’t really enough to get a good idea of how it worked together with the cider.
Macca, the night’s booze expert, did a great job of explaining what we had to eat and drink – he gave us just the right amount of information and in just the right way that we felt we were learning but not being condescended to. He welcomed feedback and seemed genuinely concerned that everyone enjoy the experience. The contrast between Macca and the beer degustation at Elmar’s couldn’t have been more stark and we really appreciated it.
The second cider, the Napoleone Methode Traditionelle Pear Cider, was a really interesting one. It’s made in the same style as Champagne, the methode champenoise or methode traditionelle, with two fermentations and a spell aging on lees. The ciderhouse was aiming for an Australian twist on a classic European style and used 60% Packham and 40% Beurre Bosc pears. The finished product is dry for a pear cider with small tight bubbles, a toasty feel and vegetable notes. It was paired with crumbed and fried artichoke hearts on a goats smooth goats cheese base with a little slivered red onion. I love artichoke but I’m essentially a lazy person and the work involved in preparing and eating fresh ones is usually beyond me. I appreciated the amount of effort that went into the preparation as they were tender and delicious, a great seasonal nod. All together the dish was savoury with a bit of tang provided by the goats cheese but the cider complemented the dish by adding a note that seemed missing in the food and taken together it was a great combination.
The Kelly Brothers Sparkling Apple Cider is a classic Australian style cider. We thought it smelled a bit funky, but it tasted nice – a sort of hint of apple sweetness with a crisp dry finish. We were given a whole stubby each, which at 7% alcohol was pretty generous. The Linley Valley pork belly served with it was good, if a bit tricky to eat while standing up and chatting. The applejack sauce had a bitter note which stood out and confused us, until we learned what that actually was and everything made sense. I’m well known in the family for my love of potato bake and so my cravings were perfectly satisfied by this dish. By the time we had plates, stubbies, glasses and cutlery we’d pretty much commandeered that sideboard. Sorry guys…
Our palate cleanser was a deconstructed ‘Stonefence’ cocktail, a glass of Domaine Dupont Cidre Reserve served with a glass of Laird’s Applejack. Drinking the spirit first allowed the cider to serve as a palate cleanser for both the pork belly, and the applejack. And when I say palate cleanser, we’re talking a scorched earth policy. Applejack is made from 30% apples and 70% grains, described by Macca as being like those that make up whiskey. So despite being warned this was basically whiskey I was still thinking about it as some sort of delicious sticky apple-based dessert liqueur. Obviously I was wrong and it hurt in the way being fed a spoon full of vegemite when you think you’re getting jam hurts and now you can all laugh at my folly. The cider, on the other hand, was lovely. It had been aged in Calvados barrels and was honeysuckle sweet with small bubbles, not as tight as the methode traditionelle, more foamy. I really enjoyed this cider, so inevitably it turned out to be a premium one which sells by the bottle (at $50) rather than the glass.
The cider I enjoyed against all my expectations was the Cidrerie D’Anneville Cider Doux Binet Rouge. It was a sweet cider (a cidre doux) made from binet rouge apples, which are traditionally used in the making of Calvados. I’ve had sweet (sickly sweet) ciders before, like Rikorderlig, and never enjoyed them. This was definitely sweet but it didn’t gang up on you, it had a red apple flavour with soft foamy bubbles and was very pleasant to drink. I don’t know if it was the way the tasting was structured and this was just what I was ready for but I really enjoyed it. Macca said he’d happily drink it all day, except at 2% the alcohol content is too low for that – given my track record with cider that actually makes it even more appealing. If I find one I really enjoy I don’t want to put it down. It looks as though this cider is occasionally available for retail in Perth so I look forward to hunting for it.
The dessert was cute, mini palmier pastries with fresh strawberries, a vanilla-flecked creme fraiche and a square of foamy strawberry gel. The gel was particularly interesting because it was clearly solid enough to be cut into squares, but destabilised while I was distracted with the cider so by the time I got to eating it made a foamy sauce. The sweetness in the dessert was well balanced and sat well with the cider. We weren’t really clear on how to go about eating the dessert, I picked it apart and TBP ate it like a tiny bruschetta. I hope that was the intended method because it was adorable.
So, Five Bar – definitely going back. I don’t know what did it for me – the service, the food, the drinks, the roof. I’ve managed to link that roof and cider in my head and now I just want to spend all summer there. It’s like outdoors…. but indoors.
On Monday we went to the Beaufort st Festival’s Roving Dinner! I was really excited about this for a number of reasons – I’d never been to a roving dinner before, I’d only been to one of the venues involved, and I’m trying to plan ahead around some financial stress so my ticket was a gift from L. He is the best.
PS I’m sorry there’s so much of my face in this. It was not my intention.
Must Winebar ~ Champagne Lounge
Must was a great place to start and we had fantastic service, both from the staff there and from the Beaufort st Festival staff. Everyone was friendly, especially because of TBP’s camera! Even the photographer was nice to her! Normally if the camera is a conversation starter it’s the kind where we apologise profusely. We’d forgotten to ask if cameras were okay and so we were both sort of worried about what we’d do if they weren’t. Maybe that was just me, I worry for us both. The Champagne Lounge (which lets be fair, I’m unlikely to see again) was beautifully appointed. I really love that late baroque/rococo style.
Never before have been so happy to be a photographer at a food event. I got a nod from the professional photog there and Laura Moseley commented on it, and then asked us both about it. Basically everyone was really nice (and not at all mad when I flashed the ceiling a few times, I swear I didn’t do it too much!). – TBP
Jamon, Organic Feta, Compressed Rockmelon & Mandarin Oil
These were really delicious. I avoid eating cured pork products in Australia so this was really special. The jamon was intensely savoury, the feta salty and smooth and the mandarin oil gave a soft citrus lift. I also never eat rockmelon so my main thought re: the rockmelon was ‘that wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be’ and didn’t really register anything else. TBP thought it could have been ‘more rockmelony’ though so you can’t please everyone. Sucking that off the spoon was the moment where I realised that bright red lipstick was a foolish choice.
Carnarvon Prawn & Parsley Croquetas
Also delicious with a few chunks of prawn tucked inside and a gentle prawn flavour throughout. They were cheesey and soft and I really, really love fried food so they were sort of the edible equivalent of a warm hug. Even TBP liked these and she doesn’t like prawns!
The more I think about these, the more unfair it is that they are comparatively tricky to make because it’d be totally neat if you could just get these from a chippy. I’ll have a small chips and half a dozen croquetas, thanks. This obviously does not help with my perception of Europe as paradise because you can do and I have done exactly that in Rome except I grant you it is somewhat less classy because you are standing on the side of the road and not in an elegantly appointed lounge.
Olive & Gruyere Toasties
As you’d expect these were savoury and salty, and the gruyere flavour was subtle. They were warm, and not too greasy despite being stuffed full of some potentially pretty greasy ingredients. TBP also liked these! This stage of the progressive dinner threw a lot of taste challenges her way. They were a bit messy to eat – even with a napkin it was a bit of a challenge. This was the point where I considered just ditching the lipstick entirely as half of it was smeared all over my hand but I persevered.
Pork Meatballs & Romesco sauce
These were my least favourite, the pork flavour was pronounced and delicious but they seemed to be with dill which I found an unusual combination. Not by any means bad just not as exciting as the rest. R pointed out that the last nibbly should always come on a toothpick – very wise.
Mas Pere Cava ‘Brut Selección’ Penedes, Spain, NV
We each had about 2 small glasses each before the amount allocated to our sitting ran out. It was certainly a nice drop and I would drink it again, but I would have appreciated a bit of direction about it’s characteristics as I know nothing about Spanish sparkling.
R was offered one of these which we initially put down to his wearing a checkered shirt and having a beard, but then it turned out the sparkling was gone and we were offered ours in due course. Official word on the taste: “it is a beer.”
Santa Vittoria Mineral Water
Russel Blaikie came around and introduced himself to everyone and had a little chat about how excited he was to be involved in updating an admittedly retro concept into a display of Beaufort st’s finest. This is the third Beaufort st roving dinner he’s been involved in, I gather the only restaurant that has been in them all, and will also be part of next week’s line up. The most exciting part of this encounter was managing to have a completely normal conversation with a chef whose work I admire and whose book I own (thanks Mum!) without making a twit of myself. It seems I was at the optimum point of the champagne curve or I am finally developing adult social skills. Either way, hallelujah!
Salmon aquachile lime jalepeno coriander GF
This dish converted me to eating salmon. It’s flavours are fresh and clean, and you get the occasional hit of jalapeno to keep you on your toes. Ceviche (okay aquachile, fine) strikes me as such a wonderful summer food for those days when you really can’t bear to turn on the stove and I’m keen to have a try at recreating this at home when it starts to get hot again.
Housemade green chorizo sope queso onion GF
None of my notes on this dish made any sort of sense, so you’ll have to take my word on how good it is. I really like the flavour of masa, and pork, and herbs, and so… there is nothing about this I do not like.
Vegetarian options available
Our vegetarian dish was a carrot salad with both pickled and roasted carrots and a salsa di pan (bread sauce). The two different preparations of carrot were a great way of working within the theme of one vegetable while maintaining textural contrast.
We thoroughly confused our waitress by ordering chickpeas (and paying separately), because we aren’t capable of walking past El Publico and not having the chickpeas. To be honest, they weren’t as crunchy as normal, but we still vacuumed them up. I’m still waiting for Sam Ward to send me that frequent chickpea-r card… Probably for the best, financially speaking, for everyone involved.
Paloma ~ blanco pink grapefruit soda lime salt
I’ve never been huge on grapefruit, with its connotations of diets and it’s weird side effects. But I trust El Publico, they do nice things to my taste buds so I gave it a shot and really enjoyed it! It looked like one shot of espolon blanco over ice and a wedge of lime in a tall glass rimmed with salt, topped up with grapefruit juice and a dash of soda water. Mmm, summery. It seems I have a weak spot for tequila with a sweet/sour/citrus/bubble thing because their Captain Fanta Pants’ also rocks.
el Presidente white or red
The red sounded fine (possibly a Cab Sav) but the white was a Chardonnay? I was confused, all the food was so zesty I felt like I’d missed something if the house white was a Chardonnay. So much still to learn. I had been all set to have the white but then I was too skeptical and went for the Palomas instead and did not regret a thing.
Monday was also their first 7 day trading day! Congrats guys. They have a $20 Tecate (beer), 3 taco and street corn dinner deal thing on mondays and I can pretty much guarantee you will be finding me there.
The service was the next best after Must, the chef (whose name I didn’t grab, the usual head chef Sam Ward is on holidays) came out to explain the dishes. Luckily we were sitting quite close to him as he was a touch on the quiet side even after the nudge in the kidneys he was given by front of house. Table service was good although the guy didn’t stick around long enough to take our answers after asking if anyone else wanted another drink, so only R got two (are you sensing a theme? R has no trouble getting drinks) and we spent the next 15 minutes trying to get his attention only to be told we were about to leave and we ended up being the last ones in the restaurant trying to finish them at the bar. Sorry chaperones.
200g West Australian Wet-Aged Rump on Mash Potato, with a side of char-grilled vegetables and black pepper Sauce
or Baked Garlic and Feta Mushrooms, Char-grilled Vegetable Casserole V
Guigal Cotes du Rhone Syrah Grenache Mouvedre – France
Corte Giara Pinot Grigio – Italy (Venezia)
Okay so we weren’t full but we were well along by this point and steak and mashed potato was an ambitious choice for such a menu. 200g isn’t a lot, but it’s a lot when you’ve come from el publico because I have no self restraint. I gather Bos Taurus is pretty new (like a month or two new) and the decor was great, we liked the industrial vibe with the warm leather, L is a huge fan of Chesterfields and I liked the porthole style mirrors on the walls.
The wine, too, was good – I am like a pig in mud with an Italian Pinot Grigio and would quite literally drink it all day. I had a sip of the Syrah (which was referred to as ‘The Shiraz’ by the staff, fair call, my french sucks too) and it was smooth and far more drinkable to my palate than Australian Shiraz.
(Funny story in Italy I ordered a fillet steak at a posh restaurants that offered two reds by the glass, a Syrah and a something else I instantly forgot and can’t divine from their wine list since it changes monthly. I asked the waitress which would better suit the meal, expecting her to say the Syrah and she immediately responded the other wine, as it was more full bodied. When we reached that course the wine was aearated and poured with due ceremony into the biggest glass I’ve ever had set in front of me. Panicking the wine would be too big and I would make an arse of myself in front of my parents / the restaurant / the sommelier I was pretty shocked to discover something with the body of an Australian Pinot Nero. Moral of the story I live in the wrong country and Italian reds are right up my alley. This Cotes du Rhone seemed to be following along the same theme and would be quite acceptable to people who weren’t big red drinkers.)
When we were walking in I overheard one of the waitresses asking ‘no vegetarians in this lot?’ to one of our chaperones. The event page had asked us to let the organisers know in advance if we were vegetarian or had any special requirements, and the Beaufort st Festival’s food organiser, the incredibly organised Laura Moseley, had checked this again on the door. Now, we’re in a steak house. This isn’t going to be a place falling over itself to cater to vegetarians or acknowledge that vegetarians are perhaps not the only people who eat vegetables. But I had been taken in somewhat by the menu offering a choice of dishes – I hadn’t realised that if you wanted the mushroom dish you’d have to order it in advance. Logically I did know the food was probably almost ready to go when we got there and with only 45 minutes per sitting they didn’t anywhere near have time to wander around asking each person what they wanted or how they wanted it cooked, but obviously it didn’t really register. I like my steak, when I have it, a fair bit rarer than it came out so next time at an event of that size I’ll know to book in the mushroom. The only people who had a say in how their steak was cooked were the pregnant women – a waitress came around to check if there were any in the group so theirs could be cooked for longer. Given how well our requirements had already been vetted I thought this could have been handled a bit more discretely, but the waitress looked as uncomfortable as I felt so at least we were all uncomfortable together. Bos Taurus says they only use that policy at events like the Roving Dinner and not during usual service.
The service was quick and the pepper sauce was really excellent.
Almond and Honey Nougat
Chocolate Pot with toasted Marshmallow and Vanilla Ice Cream
Fusta Nova Muscatel
Alvear Solera Pedro Ximinez Sherry
I’d never been to Clarence’s before but it was another great looking venue and more refined than I’d expected from their website – Beaufort st really has some lovely hidden gems. I’d been keen to come back here for a relaxed Sunday session with friends and check out their nibbles and the outdoor area. The service was the most lacklustre of the roving dinner, in that we were handed our food and drink in complete silence. We weren’t told what we were drinking and neither of the dishes were explained to us. That made a bit of a stark contrast with the first two venues. With Bos Taurus, it was pretty self explanatory – if anyone had told me “here is your steak, mashed potatoes, vegetables and sauce” I would have thought they were taking the piss. I’m perfectly able to identify nougat, but if I hadn’t read in advance dessert involved marshmallows I would have been at a bit of a loss. Maybe they were going for an air of mystery? It would tie in with the sweet abstracted theme of the decor.
The nougat was nice, sweet and without any almond flavouring (outside the nuts) which I always consider a dodged bullet with this sort of thing. Since we weren’t given any information on the accompanying wine I admit I didn’t pay it a great deal of attention – it was light and sweet, sure. I can’t digest lactose without help (and cleverly left the stuff at home) so I will have to defer to TBP on the other dessert. The accompanying sherry was pretty much exactly what you expect from a PX ie it was dark and tasted like raisins. Normally a PX would be a big treat for me but I’d splashed out on a bottle for a dinner party the night before and so inadvertently spoiled myself for this one!
Since TBC has a weak body ^_^ I’ll have to remember this dessert for you. The chocolate pudding with marshmallows were both sweet, but not overly sweet that I often find marshmallow to be. The chocolate wasn’t bitter at all, but instead rather rich and creamy. The vanilla ice-cream was good, but I wasn’t overly impressed with it (ice-cream has to be something special for TBP to take note, I eat a lot of it!). Though the unsurprising nature of it was quite a good palate cleanser from the pudding and marshmallow. But the real star was the caramel & nut clusters hiding under the ice-cream which was really delicious! Would love to eat that again with a nip of sherry. – TBP
The Roving Dinner is an excellent way to showcase Beaufort st’s venues, from its well established to its up and coming, or barely opened. It gave me a great excuse to visit Must, which I had been a bit of a wuss so far about doing and luckily I was blown away and will absolutely be back. I have a known El Publico problem and I was not disappointed with their offerings. Bos Taurus’ mains did not blow me away, although I did enjoy their wine, but I look forward to seeing their menu online when their website is ready – hopefully with a few more options and more control over how my steak arrives I’ll be tempted back. Clarence’s is calling my name for a Sunday session, although, admittedly, not until I’m next cashed up. But such is life. While the ticket price is admittedly steep at $160, the restaurants only cover their costs and the profits are donated to the Beaufort st Festival. Think of it like charity, but with *lots* of food!
There is another one coming up on the 29th of October stopping off at Must Winebar, Raah, Bos Taurus and El Publico so if you missed out on the first I’d highly recommend you check it out. You can find the details on the Facebook Event.
Beaufort st Festival Roving Dinner
519 Beaufort st, Highgate
511 Beaufort st, Highgate
0418 187 708
550 Beaufort st, Highgate
http://www.bostaurus.com.au/ (placeholder page)
566 Beaufort st, Highgate
So I, The Brazen Photographer, went on a journey. A journey of coffee. I journey where only coffee-snobs dare to tread. Where I hope one day to get a job. Because I, The Brazen Photographer, really want a job in the hospitality industry, because maybe there I can be paid for doing things I enjoy and hopefully I’m good at.
B, my bro-bro, came along for the drug fuelled ride. I had so much caffeine and was buzzing SO high that I collapsed at midnight at slept in.
My body was REJECTING THE VERY FIBRE OF ME and so while I loved every minute of this course I was dying a little on the inside. I should have packed myself (and my bag) full of painkillers before I left home but I foolishly thought that it would only be a short burst of manageable pain. Ha! my body said as my insides felt like they were being ground up, Ergh! I said as I grit my teeth and made coffee.
I wont spoil it all for you, but the steps are:
1) Porta-filter off
2) Clean group-head
3) Tap tap!
4) Dry and clean
5) Fill to a mountain
6) Tap tap!
7) Fill to a mountain
8) Scrape off excess with a pallet knife
9) Taper with your body weight
10) Attach porta-filter to group head
11) Start water
12) Add cups
13) Pour through chocolate, caramel and turn off at the blonde
14) Get the milk and at foam with a tssit-tssit!
15) Heat until you can’t hold it anymore + six seconds
16) Swirl until glossy
17) Pour the fluffiest first, like a beer into the centre of the coffee in the cup
This shouldn’t tell you how to make coffee, this tells you the steps (and shows you I’ve learnt something). To make coffee with one of these beasts you’re going to have to practice. Doing this course allows you to practice on ONE MILLION COFFEES. And we had to pour most of them down the drain. D:
It may have been the caffeine but there’s something so wonderful about making a good coffee. I love doing stuff with my hands and I felt so… accomplished. I’m somewhat of a coffee-snob, I know what I like. I’m not so fussy however, and am willing to try new spots, but making your own coffee is amaze-balls because you can make the coffee the right heat, the right strength, with beans you like etc. al. At home we make our coffee with a moca-pot, which is fine, but you can’t always control everything in a moca-pot the way you can with this super-dooper expensive equipment. Hopefully I’ll get a job and I’ll let you know how it is. (Basically I want to be a barista or bar staff.)
Jules, the course coordinator was TOTALLY BOSS. They reminded us that both coffees should look the same going out to a table, so if you screw up the art on the first one make sure the next one is just as ugly! The above one on the right is mine. :3c
I’m pretty sure this is my brother’s beautiful coffee. Doesn’t it look awesome? Oh god I could go a coffee.
SO, did you know coffee should be drunk three weeks after it’s roasted, three days after you’ve opened the packet and three minutes after you’ve ground the beans? D: We never drink out beans in three days after we’ve opened the packet, it just wouldn’t be justifiable. So unfortunately the beans are (almost) always going to be better when we get coffee out at a café.
ISN’T THIS CLEANER THING THE BOSS-EST? It squirts water into the cut and then drains away. SO COOL.
They have two little coffee bean plants which make about 20 beans per year. They only do this since they’re inside and it’s not tropical here and they’re not at a high altitude. But they’re adorbs anyway.
LOOOOOOOOOOK. I’m certifiably barista-y.
Anyway, it was hella fun. If you want to go it’s the Barista Academy, check them out, I really reeeeeeealy enjoyed it. You get to make as much coffee as you can, you learn a little about the bean ect. al and you use ALL THE BANNISTER DOWNS MILK THAT YOU WANT. Basically it’s worth the price in my honest opinion. (Also the tutor is lovely and really nice, even though I accidentally stole a sip of her coffee because I thought it was B’s.)
<3 The Brazen Photographer
Ladies, gents, ungendered or undecided, what is UP? Normally you would be devouring TBC’s tender words, however, today, today you are getting a dose of the one, the only TBP.
I live in Maylands, and while we’re so close to Beaufort st, (where there are plenty of cafés with great reputations) you want to have pride in those foods a little closer to home. Possibly my favourite Maylands shop is Smoult’s Continental Deli. Filled to the brim with amazing delicious things, 5 minutes from my door stop, open late most days, it’s literally my food solution for everything.
I’m not even kidding, I get home, feel totally uninspired by the food in my fridge, drop down to Smoult’s and grab some of their free range salami, a bag of BD milk (Bannister Downs) or our favourite cheese. That salami, geeze, it goes great with anything, on anything. I have a love affair with this salami. It used to be available through Swansea and now Smoult’s is my only place I can find a hit.
So when I stopped by, saw they were turning 1, and then got the most amazing hot dog I’ve ever eaten in my life (just quietly it’s better than Elmar’s on Beaufort st for sausages in buns) I just FLIPPED. I don’t have any clever words to tell you how good it is, but it was right up my alley. Good quality food, cheap and simple. (I think it was $6, or $6.5 for a hot dog, but they only did this for their birthday, and I have no idea if they’ll do it again.)
I had a duck and lamb sausage and my partner had beef and whoah, to die for.
So it was so delicious that we went back their recently to buy the sausages and snaffled 3 each. Mpfff. (For 3 beef and 3 duck and lamb it was ~$12).
So check her out if you have a chance, it is a little more expensive than say Swansea St deli, but their customer services is so lovely, and their range so varied that it’s worth every cent.
(Also everything is pretty in that shop, all the better to photograph everything.)
<3 The Brazen Photographer.
We had been eating our way around the truffle festival and lost track of time. We weren’t quite sure where the Masterclass was being held, so we headed back to the gate to check. A friendly chap handed us a copy of the Loose Box truffle menu and we (foolishly) assumed he might know where the venue that his boss was performing in might be. He told us to ‘follow those men’ and pointed over his shoulder to Alain Fabregues, Guillaume Brahimi and Emanuel Mollois. This seemed like a sound, if creepy strategy. We strategically loitered around their general vicinity while they chatted (and kissed! lots of kissing, if you’re into that) with festival visitors. As the clocked ticked closer to the appointed time we became increasingly nervous, until they disappeared out a secret exit. Disaster! We ran back to the entrance and found someone who looked official enough not to troll us. She looked skeptically at her watch as she gave us directions and we jogged into the hall in the nick of time.
TBP (a linguist) hadn’t entirely realised that all three chefs still had strong French accents and her face lit up when she realised we were about to be treated to what essentially boiled down to a piece of dinner theatre. The challenges in demonstrating three dishes of varying complexity and cooking time while also balancing three egos on one bench became immediately apparent, but our entertainment luckily skirted around the potential train smash and came across as a lighthearted, if scatterbrained show. Alain Fabregues and Emanuel Mollois have recently opened up Bistro des Artistes in Subiaco together, and if their interactions at the Masterclass were anything to go by, working in that shared kitchen must be quite an experience. They had an excellent rapport, Fabregues gentling teasing Mollois about being a Patissier rather than Chef (the difference, in case you are wondering, if that Chefs must learn patissiere but Patissiers are not required to learn to cook). You did occasionally get the impression that Fabregues and Brahimi were ganging up on Mollois somewhat but this kind of added to his underdog charm as the youngest of the three.
Our entree was a ‘quick’ scallop dish prepared by Alain Fabregues. It was definitely the quickest of the lot, despite having a 24-hour lead time to allow the scallops to cure and intensify their flavours. Each seared scallop was topped with a huge piece of shaved truffle, placed on a bed of sauteed leeks and truffle reduction, and garnished with a round of puff pastry. This was my favourite course of the Masterclass, it’s really hard to serve perfectly cooked scallops for a hundred people simultaneously and it was done with such apparent ease. The wine match didn’t have me quite so excited, I would have preferred the rich creamy flavours with the sparkling Chardonnay we were given on arrival rather than the crisp, fruity Sauvignon Blanc Semillon it was paired with. It’s easy to imagine how that panned out, Chef said ‘scallops’, sponsor said ‘white’, no one mentioned cream and then the sparkling was already a Chardonnay and here we are. Of course, it’s also entirely possible it all went over my head.
Guillaume Brahimi demonstrated our main of braised wagyu beef cheeks with celeriac puree, and, of course, truffles. The preparation for this dish was much more involved (although still not outside the range of a home cook) consisting of the beef cheek, sauce, puree, carrots, croutons and truffle garnish. The beef cheek is slow cooked for five hours in a veal stock which is prepared the day ahead from veal osso bucco, with the cooking liquor from the cheek reduced into the jus which finishes the dish. The celeriac is simmered with milk until tender then blended, and the carrots are simmered (with butter) then finished in a pan (of butter) with a touch of garlic and the croutons. After you’ve seen Brahimi cook, you’re not quite as shocked as you should be to learn they go through 400kg of butter a week at Bennelong. The portion sizes were hefty, too, or it could have been our morning of grazing catching up with us. The texture of the beef check wasn’t what I was expecting, although I should have known better. It was very soft, with almost no resistance. Usually you’d use ‘falling off the bone’ and so on as things to strive for, but… maybe there’s something to be said for a bit more texture. The celeriac puree was subtle and silky smooth and the carrots nicely done, but the only element which offered a textural contrast was the scattering of croutons. Flavour wise, the dish worked very well, the strongly flavoured jus tying in the more understated puree and the croutons providing a garlicky highlight. It was definitely good, but the scallops were the standout for me. The Shiraz matched with the dish was a Shiraz – something I’d normally save for a food that could kick back at it, but it did help to cut through the gelatinous feel, and I am demonstrably not the world’s biggest fan of a powerful red.
Desserts, Mollois told us, are not a truffle’s best friend. Truffle does not like sweet, sugary flavours, and its properties are destroyed above a certain heat. Although he felt he’d ended up over his head the first time he agreed to create a truffle dessert, he learned that truffle goes well with fruits like apple and pear, and can be infused into cream. The dish we had at the Masterclass tied these elements together, with a sable breton base, a dome of caramelised apples, a truffle infused creme anglaise and a walnut craquelin decoration. I love fruit and caramel desserts, so it was a hit with us. The viognier it was paired with was sweet but not overly so, a little thick, but not cloying. I thought it was a good match, maybe the best of the day.
The service was stellar – it was a tough job to get three beautifully plated courses and four glasses of wine on and off the table in the cramped conditions of the hall and the staff did it without distracting us from the show on stage or landing anything in a lap. The staff out the back were also on the ball with the courses coming quite quickly once they started. A longer wait between each course would have allowed us more time to digest and drink our wine, not that our surroundings were really comfortable enough to encourage that. Knowing I’m on a time limit makes it hard to savour and then I end up leaving half the wine rather than rushing it. This is always the way with me and matched wines though, unless I have the trusty L around to help me polish them off.
All in all, we had a very enjoyable dinner-theatre-and-matched-food experience and would definitely recommend the event to anyone heading up to the Festival in the future.
It was probably wrong of us to approach the Mundaring Truffle Festival as some sort of competitive eating event. It’s just… it’s a food festival. You go to a music festival, you see as many sets as your body can handle. You go to a truffle festival, you put as many truffles in your mouth as possible. Logic. In pursuit of this noble aim (and concerned about the size of our three course truffle masterclass lunch) we skipped breakfast and drove up to Mundaring bright and early in the morning (read: about 10am).
Last year’s festival was (while delicious) rainy, cold, and muddy. This saturday, the sun was shining and I nervously left my wellies at home, donned my sunnies and headed out without a jumper for the first time in weeks. As it turned out, it was a beautiful spring day.
The first vendor we encountered was Rochelle Adonis, still channeling her high tea aesthetic with the stall all silver platters, bell jars, and pink roses. Still, having your breakfast presented to you by someone who baked for heads of kingdoms is its own kind of rush, and we tried the absurdly named ‘truffington’ – a truffle infused, poshed up lamington. I’m not the world’s biggest lamington fan, but this avoided the usual criticism in that it was layered inside and quite moist. It was also the truffle equivalent of a kick in the face, but I’m still ambivalent about truffle in sweets so we wandered on.
Despite reminding each other that we had to save room for lunch and half a lamington each was a perfect breakfast substitute, we found ourselves eyeing the Jumplings. I’d heard these mentioned by Urban Locavore so we tried the pork and truffle Jumpling – it was pleasantly juicy with a hint of chilli but I imagine (given the price) that the main attraction is the convenience of keeping a bag of them in a home freezer. I’m a sucker for pastizi and I can see Jumplings filling that tasty snack / lazy meal niche quite nicely.
I’m a bit of a fan of the Spice Library. Every time I run into them I find their staff friendly and knowledgeable. While their packs might not represent amazing value for money for confident cooks who know their way around a spice shop and a Persian recipe or two (and to be fair, I haven’t met anyone cooking Persian food without the help of Spice Library who isn’t Persian themselves), the convenience of having everything in place before you start, and the professional packaging, makes them worth the money. The confidence boost a novice cook gets from delivering an impressive and unusual dish to the table can make a huge difference. I picked up a jar of advieh (a spice mix containing rose petals).
We were sweet talked into trying to wares of a catering company whose name I instantly forgot. Their truffle and mushroom pie was much more memorable – rich, savoury, and ‘meaty’ to the point where I seriously doubted it was as vegetarian as it sounded. The rabbit and truffle spring roll was a bit less exciting, but rabbit can be a pretty uninspiring meat. It didn’t have much in common with a spring roll except the wrapper – more aptly named a cigar, perhaps.
After the Masterclass, there wasn’t much left to do but eat. Last year there were demonstrations and talks to attend, but this year it seemed that everything was limited to the ticketed events, the truffle dogs, and one large outdoor demonstration stage. I particularly enjoyed a talk on the science of the truffle and the history of the industry in WA last year and was sorry to see nothing similar this time. Maybe I’m a bit of a geek but I like to know how things work, and a workshop on why you can infuse some things with truffle more successfully than others, or the science behind why the flavour is destroyed above certain temperatures would really enhance my truffle experience. But, I guess since the truffle industry in WA is still young, it’s possible that no one has studied this stuff yet…
We found a table to rest at until our stomachs recovered. Foolishly, this table was in the food market, right next to a stall which was spruiking freshly shucked oysters. Eating oysters raw still takes a bit of a mental leap for me as one of the few things about food that creeps me out is slimy textures but down the hatch they went and stayed.
With nothing better to do while waiting for the signings at the Boffin’s book tent at 3, we set about topping up our stomachs every time they settled. The south american chorizo with chimichurri was fun and different – most of it’s flavour seemed to come from it’s stint in the smoky weber rather than paprika and the texture was coarser. The chimichurri raised it from to realm of Aussie snag to tasty treat. I can’t comment on the bun as we weren’t foolish enough to waste precious stomach space on it.
The Boffin’s tent was my idea of a good time. A whole shop, full of books about food? Lead me to it. Luckily by that point I had lowered my budget to just slightly below the price of a cookbook (Food For Friends was $80, welp) so my wallet escaped intact. TBP had taken a shine to Emmanuel Mollois at the Masterclass so she had et Voila! (at the absolute other end of the spectrum, a bizarre $20) signed. She had a little moment.
A stomach full of free samples later it was R&R time. One stall was selling 100% fruit ‘ice-cream’ like my mum used to make. For those who can’t handle dairy, blended frozen bananas give it a ‘creamy’ base, and the fruit of your choice gives it an actual flavour. If you’re accustomed to real ice-cream it’ll still taste wrong but for those of us less lucky, it’s about as close as you can get without the taste of soy or crippling regret.
We took our cups of summer up to a blissful spot of sunshine on the hill and caught the last truffle dog demonstration of the day. The dogs were a bit truffled out and the speaker introducing them a bit weary, but we were particularly taken with the little puppy who accidentally found a truffle whilst out playing in the trufferie. What a life.
As the sun started to dip and the stalls started to close we toddled towards the gates via, of course, a couple more stalls. The crab cakes were one of the simple highlights of the finger food, sweet, perfectly seasoned with kaffir lime and a hint of chilli, and topped with a truffle aoli. I love crab cakes but no crab ever makes it past the baguette stage in my family.
The Mahogany Inn was also really impressive. The Pedro Ximinex glazed pork belly skewer came with a tiny little candy apple, the size of a cherry. It was a delicious combination and a cute gimmick – I wish all candy apples came with pork belly. Curiously, the only other time I’ve had a tiny apple like that was at the Loose Box, practically across the road from the Mahogany Inn. What is it about Mundaring that means tiny little apples? Where do I find them?
Mahogany Inn was also doing half marron with truffle butter. In terms of convenience this was the total opposite of a tidy skewer but it was cool to see them catering to the sit down crowd as well as the grazers. It was good but needed 30 seconds longer on the heat to be perfect. If you came from a slightly less seafood obsessed family you probably wouldn’t have been able to tell, to be fair. We spotted their sign on the trip back to Perth and I think we might check them out next time we’re feeling like a drive. If they can keep it up, it’d be worth a little outing.
Full and sleepy, we drove back down into the setting sun. Good thing I brought my sunnies after all. And lucky we packed a little something for the drive...
And with that I close this disgusting account of our gluttony. -TBC
I have been getting right into The River Cottage series on iView lately. It’s perfect procrastination. I have managed to kill everything I’ve tried to grow in recent years (except a chilli plant which was at the brink of death a dozen times over the summer) so as much as I’m tempted by the idea of the landshare program, I know that for me – while in Perth at least – producing my own fruit and veg is a bit of a pipe dream. I love how they are putting people in touch with where their food comes from, and not just the vegetables but also the meat. Voicing over some footage of a gamekeeper clubbing a squirrel in a sack to death, Hugh reminds the viewer that while that may make them uncomfortable, all meat involves a death. Obviously no one enjoys seeing a fluffy squirrel clubbed to death. On the other hand, (hopefully) no one enjoys the idea of baby cows being separated from their mothers and killed, but many of those people enjoy veal and the products of the dairy industry, so I appreciate The River Cottage politely making that link for them.
Back on topic, one of the smallholders was being given a crash course in butchering a pig carcass (super cool) and Hugh made Rillons to show how to make use of the pork belly. I am a fan of both pork belly and confit, so what’s not to love? We had them hot rather than leaving them to set.
(inspired by this recipe)
~2kg boneless plantagenet pork belly (we used more like 3.5 and I was still eating it 4 days later)
500g lard (or more if you are game, TBP was traumatised by even this much)
6 garlic cloves
3 or 4 sprigs of thyme
fine or flaky salt (not rock salt)
half a bottle of white wine
half a wine bottle of water
Preheat oven to 180c.
Cut your pork belly into thick chunks, ours were about 4cm long and 2cm wide when raw. The butcher did this for me since he was bored and had way sharper knifes at his disposal than I did. Salt the pork belly, and if you have time, leave it overnight or for a few hours.
Crush the garlic cloves with the flat of the knife and slide the skins off them. Hugh said to leave the skins on, but didn’t explain why and I didn’t fancy fishing them out later.
Heat a few tablespoons of lard in a cast iron pot or oven proof saucepan and brown the pork all over in batches. If you don’t have a splatter guard, it’s worth investing in one for this as there was quite a lot of hot fat flying around and I have the scars to prove it.
Once the pork is browned all over, return the other batches to the pan with whatever remains of the tub of lard. Add the white wine (which we decided to use instead of red, in an homage to the recipes origins in the Loire) and enough water so that the top pieces are just submerged. Add the garlic and thyme, and keep on the heat until all the lard is melted and the mixture is just starting to bubble. Transfer to the oven and bake for as long as you can allow. From memory, ours were in there for 2 or 3 hours. By that point the meat should be incredibly soft and tender.
Remove the pork from the lard with a slotted spoon. Heat a heavy based frying pan on the stove and fry the pork (you won’t need to add any fat, obviously) so that it crisps up on each side. Pay special attention to the skin side to see if you can get it crunchy – because the plantagenet pigs are quite young, the skin was tender and sticky and not unpleasant to eat, but just about everything is better with crackling.
The rest of the pork will keep happily for a week, and quite possibly longer depending on how long you salted it for and how clean the storage vessel is. Make sure the top of the meat is submerged in fat, and keep it in the fridge. Getting it back out of the fat in small batches is a bit of an adventure though, so splitting it up into portions so you’re not tempted to re-heat the whole thing would be a good idea.
8 juniper berries
Half a red cabbage
Red wine to taste (maybe half a bottle)
splash of vinegar (balsamic, cider apple, whatever you prefer)
Slice the red cabbage into strips. Squash the juniper berrie slightly using the side of a heavy knife, as you would for a garlic clove. Heat some olive oil in a heavy based saucepan, add the cabbage and berries, and fry lightly. Add the wine, and top up with water until the cabbage is just covered. Simmer until tender, adding a splash of vinegar to taste if you like.
Sorry for the lack of photos, TBP had a previous engagement & we were being SPONTANEOUS.
You may have come across the Precinct in the news, as it’s been making a bit of a stir lately. They were the latest high-profile victim of the liquor licensing laws in WA since the Commission was not convinced of the public interest in their application even though there was significant support from the community and local government. Now, a reading between the lines with my half a law degree makes it look like it was mostly about what was admissible at what stage of the proceedings rather than a declaration that the support they had was insufficient, but props to them for hanging in there because they got hold of a Restaurant License at 2pm last Friday! Hooray. So we trotted down to support small business and thumb our noses at the fuddy duddies in Parliament.
Despite not having a booking we didn’t have to wait long before we were seated by our charming waitress, who managed to be way cooler than me all night and yet not make me feel bad. Magic. Service continued to be excellent right through the meal from our various waitpersons, with just the right amount of information about what we were ordering right when we needed it and a nice sparkle of excitement about the new license. I remain impressed they managed to get the wine in and the menus printed in the three hours between hearing the news and end of business. A word of warning about the wine list – it’s tidy and international, and as a result there are only four bottles under $40 and two of those are the house wine. When you see that you can really feel for them – they were expecting 40-50% of their income to be from alcohol sales and this license must be a huge relief. Hopefully when things have settled a bit and they’ve gained some ground on the bank we’ll see a couple more options in the somewhat-more-affordable bracket.
Between three of us we ordered four small plates, a mains to share, a side, a dessert each, and a bottle of La Vendetta Sangiovese Toscana IGT. We didn’t test how well they’d briefed the staff on the wine, firstly because we knew what we wanted, and secondly because when I had a crack it turned out I was talking with one of the owners and she undoubtedly knew far more than I did. Outplayed, Precinct!
We started off with the pork scrunchions with pickled eggs. Niftily served in various sizes of poly pipe, these were a fun way to kick off. The eggs were tangy, the pork crackling was crisp, and it was an interesting combination. I’d love to try the same idea with hot crackling, since when cold they were more than a little reminiscent of those Mr Porky’s I used to have for long car trips – which to be fair I used to love so it’s not much of a criticism.
Next we had the whitebait with beer aioli. We were warned when we ordered them that they were ‘quite fishy’ – probably for the best, as I suppose there exist people who don’t realise whitebait are, you know, fish. I was relieved that they were the proper whole little ones about an inch long rather than the more-like-sardines I got one time at Clancy’s that I had to disembowel before anyone would go near them. These were crisp and delicious and honestly, not all that fishy. The beer aioli (served in a shot glass) was great too, we pinched it off the plate to dip odds and ends into.
The goats cheese and truffle souffle was really, really good. As soon as we hit truffle season and I get my hands on some of the goods I am making one of these. Pretty much licked the cheese off the sides. No regrets.
The charcuterie plate had a bit less charcuterie than expected, but was nevertheless good. Rillettes (I’m 90% sure the waitress said they were rabbit, but if anyone from the Precinct wants to correct me on that please feel free) are solidly in the charcuterie bracket, but sliced duck breast in liquorice sauce and sous-vide pork belly are in my opinion less so. However! We weren’t even planning to order it until we heard what was on it (as most cured meats are off limits for me at the moment) so it was all to the good. The pork belly cube was moist, tender and lovely, even if I was a bit snow-blind to pork belly by that point in the week since it was the fifth day in a row I’d eaten some. Now I know they have the hardware, I’ll be back to see what else they can do with it. The duck breast was tender, and the sauce was tasty, if not as strong in liquorice flavour as I’ve had elsewhere.
Our waitress warned us that the lamb only came with one chop and organised two more so we’d have one each. These came with slow cooked shredded lamb on a bed of toothsome walnut spatzle, which got B quite excited. The sauce on the lamb was particularly well done, a thick, savoury reduction with a hint of chocolate.
For dessert we tried each of the sweet options (they also have a cheese plate and chocolate truffles). I had the chocolate banana pie, which came deconstructed as a martini glass of thick chocolate mousse (or pudding, as B put it) with a banana foam, dried banana crisps and a tuile garnish. The citrus salad had thin sheets of tempered dark chocolate on a bed of citrus fruits, and the lemon curd in the meringue roll made a nice tangy, tangy contrast.
All in all, the food was thoughtful and well-executed, the wine was excellent, the service intelligent and friendly. Our waitress was happy to tell us about the origins of the meat (lamb from Amelia Park, chicken from Mt Barker, Pork from Linley Valley), which took the sting out of what can be at times an awkward conversation. We will be back, although maybe not until the menu has a bit of a shake up – we went through about half the current offerings, and it would be hard to go back in a party larger than a couple without doubling up. Having said that, I can imagine that goats cheese souffle making an excellent light lunch for one, and at $12 you could escape with that and a glass for wine for about $20 so it would be worth another trip for that alone.
May peaceful protest always taste this good.
834 Albany Highway
East Victoria Park
(08) 9355 2880
TBP – This episode was a bit of a nothing episode. Notice that there was no Joffery though, a plus, but it also meant they didn’t include any boobs to balance the Joffery out. I still enjoyed it though, just not as much as previous episodes.
Poking around on Food 52 the other day, I ran accross a recipe for ‘Fugly Lentils and Drunken Pig’ and was entranced by the mental image of the idealistic world where tables are made from whole trees, and wine is quaffed, not sipped. It sounded like something GRRM would dream up, albeit with more murders. Unfortunately I don’t know anywhere I can get Plantagenet Pork hocks, and I typically don’t have three hours to boil them for stock before we even get started. This recipe is inspired by that ethos and the magic combination of pork and lentils, but it is definitely the lazy version.
Crusty fresh bread, chicken and cognac pate (not even slightly ethical, which is why I was offloading it), blue cheese and free range salame from Smoult’s Continental Deli to tide us over
Pork and Lentil Stew
Pork and Lentil Stew
Pork shoulder roast
optional – ground bay leaf, fresh garlic, salt, pepper, thyme powder, sage powder
2c Puy lentils
Soup vegetables – turnip, swede, onions, celery, carrots and parsnip, adjusting the quantities to suit your tastes. We grabbed a pre-assembled soup pack because I was feeling lazy, and parsnips are still $10/kg at my IGA which I think is daylight robbery and a soup pack made good financial sense.
1.5 Bottles of white wine
500ml Chicken stock by the Stock Merchant
oil for frying
I bought the shoulder roast pre-seasoned from my butcher, who used a mix of salt, pepper, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and sage. It added a lot of easy flavour to this dish, which you could do at home by rubbing the meat with a home-made version and leaving in the fridge overnight to marinate. Shoulder roasts will normally come rolled up with some bonus crackling, which once you’ve cut the butchers twine off, you can normally just roll off and put aside for later.
Pre-heat the oven to 180c.
I was aiming for the meat to break into large, tender chunks. What we got was more threads of pork strewn through a lentil stew, but I suspect that was mostly because I got a bit vigorous with my stirring. Either way, you want to leave the meat in pieces big enough to give them a fighting chance of staying together, but small enough to cook all the way through. Falling apart rather than fallen apart. Once my shoulder piece was unrolled, I cut it into four sections about 5cm by 5cm and the length of the roast. I then scored them fairly deeply to help get the heat and the liquid into the centre of the pieces. I browned them in a heavy-based, ovenproof saucepan, while I chopped the vegetables into rough dice.
Once the meat is browned, put it aside and fry the vegetables until they get a bit of colour and just start to soften. Add the meat back to the pan, and pour the wine and stock over the top. Top up with water if needed to make sure everything is submerged.
Bring the pot to the boil then cover and place in the oven. Cook for about two hours, checking periodically to see how tender the meat has become. To cook the lentils, either return the pot to the stove and boil for ~30 minutes, or add the lentils and leave in the oven for about an hour.
We crisped up the crackling by salting it and putting it in a hot oven. Wet skin (like if your shoulder roast was wrapped up with a marinade, woops) tends to crackle poorly if you don’t have time to dry it out properly. Ours was my first dud batch in ages, which was a bit of a downer, but it was still fun to dunk in the stew.
Warning: chesnuts can be deadly. They can be cooked in the oven, a skillet, on coals, or boiled, but no matter which way you cook them, you need to cut a slit into the outer skin (and preferably inner too, to make them easier to peel) otherwise they explode. Sometimes they explode anyway, even when you cut a slit in not only the chestnuts but also your finger. I have cooked them successfully a number of times though, and I can’t rule out that the sheer power of TBP’s oven was to blame. Nevertheless, chestnut at your peril.
TBP – Joffrey should just die. I do love eating these meals though. This was probably my favourite yet (but I really liked that cherry stuffing). If you agree with me (about Joffrey) you should check out this gif. You’re welcome.
This is a recurring favourite from last years Game of Thrones cookery. It’s as savoury and warming as you’d expect, hailing from the Wall.
Last year the Swansea Street Butcher was closed due to a fire and refurbishment and didn’t re-open until Christmas. I drove to four butchers looking for mutton, to no avail, and eventually settled on some fatty, boney chump chops figuring they’d have the most flavour. I was pretty excited this year to finally get my hands on some mutton so I could make this properly. Swansea Street have all sorts of exciting goodies, from the legendary ‘curry meat’ to sheep’s testicles and just about any other offal you care to name. I spotted some black pudding and decided to push my fellow diners buttons by adding that to the menu. Luckily they all rose to the challenge. Next time I’ll deep fry it.
Black pudding, crumbly cheddar and bread
Mutton cooked in a thick broth of ale and onions
Greens dressed with apples and pine nuts
Stewed quince with honey yoghurt
Mutton and Ale Stew
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
Leg of mutton
~12 375ml bottles of your favourite ale or equivalent volume (I like James Squire Nine Tales Amber Ale, and we buy a carton. To be on the safe side.)
~6 large onions
2c barley (or more to taste)
oil for frying
flour for dusting
optional: actual vegetables. This has worked well on various occasions with some combination of diced carrot, swede, turnip and parsnip.
Break the leg of mutton down into similarly sized chunks with a very sharp knife. You can either include the bone in the pot or save it for making stock later. Toss the chunks of mutton with some flour, heat some oil in a heavy saucepan, and brown the mutton in batches.
While the mutton is browning, roughly chop the onions. I leave mine in hefty wedges, I think if you cut them any smaller you’d barely notice them after a long cooking time. Remove the last batch of mutton and fry the onions until they start to soften. Place the mutton back to the pan and add about two thirds of the ale, and top up with water until the meat is all submerged. Bring to a boil, stirring, to avoid the pot foaming over. Reduce the heat somewhat and cook at a medium-high heat for two and a half to three hours, topping up with the remaining ale if the liquid gets too low, and diluting with water if the taste is too strong.
About 45 minutes before you want to eat, add the barley and stir through. Make sure there is a little more liquid than you think you need at this point as the barley will absorb some of it.
Serve with a hunk of bread to soak up the leftover broth.
Sugar to taste (ballpark 200g, allow far more than you would for most other fruits)
Vanilla pod and/or a lemon (either a squeeze of juice or some sliced rind, without the pith), if you like
Peel and slice the quinces. You’ll need very sharp tools and getting the core out can be a real challenge, so watch your fingers. Place sliced quince in a saucepan, add the sugar (and any other extras) and cover with water. Bring to the boil to dissolve the sugar and reduce the heat down as far as it can go. Simmer, uncovered, until the fruit is done to your liking. I never really pay attention to how long this takes as it seems to vary greatly between quinces, so check every 10 minutes or so and allow 45 minutes or so.
When the fruit is tender, remove it from the liquid with a slotted spoon and put aside. Boil the syrup aggressively until it reduces somewhat to make a sauce. We served it with honey yoghurt, but it makes a great filling for a crumble, or a cereal topping for breakfast.
TBP – I have a little confession to make; I have a soft spot for cherry pie because it features heavily in Twin Peaks, which I absolutely adore to death. In fact, once I’ve finished with this semester I plan on having a Twin Peaks themed party! Which I will get TBC to cook for (she doesn’t have a say in it ).
TBC – The reason I don’t get a say is because I gave up on Twin Peaks since it drove me to distraction. David Lynch is a bit of an acquired taste. I do quite enjoy this though.
We had a spare jar of cherries from the delicious cherry stuffed chicken and I’d heard a rumor you could turn them into cherry pie without much effort. Cherries are quite possibly the best fruit and one of my favourite things about summer. You know how when you are in school and the teacher asks what you want to do when you grow up and you are supposed to say doctors and teachers? I said cherry picker. Ask my Mum, she has the evidence to prove it. But this is Australia, you never have dessert pie when it’s hot and cherries are in season, and I doubt anyone is going to convince me that a cooked cherry is going to taste better than a fresh raw one in the height of summer. Now it’s cooling down though… I’ll take my fix where I can get it.
After watching all of Pushing Daisies back to back about a dozen times some years ago my sister (hereby known as the Brazen Assistant for her uncanny ability to appear under your elbow with a spatula 3 seconds before you knew you needed one) went on a pie craze and came across this pie crust recipe. It’s not too temperamental, and the end result is thick and soft. It’s one of my favourite sweet pie crust recipes (the other coming from the Bourke Street Bakery).
for the Brazen Assistant’s pie crust:
2.5 c flour
¼ c sugar
1 tsp salt (omit if you use salted butter)
approx 5 TB iced water
for the filling:
1-2 jars of pitted cherries, drained (depending on how big your pie tin is)
2TB sugar, or to taste
3-4TB plain flour
sprinkle of cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Place the flour and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined. chop the butter into same-sized pieces, add to the bowl, and pulse until mixture resembles breadcrumbs. add the vanilla essence and the iced water, a spoon at a time, until mixture comes together. It’s safer to stop and work it with your hands a bit before you think it’s done, rather than let it get too wet. Divide the mix into two balls, flatten into disks, wrap with clingwrap and leave to sit for an hour or so. At this point you can keep the dough in the fridge for a few days, but you’ll need to sit it on the counter for a while before rolling (or have very good muscles).
When the dough has rested, roll the disks out into two round sheets, about 5mm thick. I find it easiest to do this between two sheets of clingwrap.
Combine the drained cherries in a bowl with the flour, sugar, and cinnamon and stir so the cherries are covered with a very light, but even coat.
Line the tin with one of the disks of pastry. This is where the clingwrap comes in handy. Fill the case with the cherry mix and gently shake the tin around a bit so the contents is roughly levelled off. Top with the other round of pastry. I prefer a solid top where I want the filling to reduce down and thicken a bit, but you could do a lattice top if you prefer. Trim the edges and seal by pressing down lightly with your fingers. Make a little slit or two with a sharp knife in the centre of the pie to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 30-45 minutes, until golden, checking frequently. The edges will colour quicker than the centre, so wrap those with foil if you feel they are getting close to the danger zone.
Serve with a generous dollop of Bannister Downs thickened cream, whipped cream, and/or ice cream, thickened cream obviously being the superior choice.
All you need, honestly, is a little piece of cherry pie hot from the oven.
TBP – I ate this for breakfast. 100% no regrets.
Mujaddara in it’s most basic form is my ultimate poor and lazy food. It’s a pretty safe bet that no matter what else I’ve run out of, there are likely to be some onions, rice and lentils kicking around. The fresh herbs and the yoghurt transform it into a relaxed meal with something vaguely resembling nutritional value that I’m happy to serve my friends. It tastes even better the next day and it would also make an excellent side dish for some slow-cooked or grilled meat that needs bulking out. In short: Uni students of the world, unite behind mujaddara.
Mujaddara (from Food 52)
Ingredients (serves 4 as side dish or 2 as main):
¾c puy lentils
1c jasmine rice
~3 large onions
3TB olive oil
1tsp salt (1/2 tsp for lentils, ½ tsp for rice)
½ c greek yoghurt (I love this stuff and often double the recipe in comparison to the mujaddara)
equal parts (~ ½ tsp or to taste) cinnamon, cumin, ground coriander, paprika
fresh mint and coriander
additional pinch of salt
juice and zest of half a lemon, or one or two limes
optional, if you are feeling especially healthy: some cauliflower
Preheat your oven to 200C. If you know your oven can’t actually hold the temperature it’s set to, consider using another method of cooking the rice. If you want to eat this quickly, use separate pots for the rice and lentils and cook them simultaneously. On the other hand if you favour less cleaning up, just take turns using the same pot as the original recipe suggests.
Top and tail the onions, cut in half and then thinly slice so you have half-rings. Heat the butter and oil (butter to taste, the more the tastier) in a heavy frying pan and caramelise the onions over a low heat. This could take a solid half hour, so do this first. Covering the pan with a lid, if you have one that fits, will help soften the onions to start with. When they are approaching done, crank the heat up to high, stop stirring and keep a close eye on the pan. Ideally, you want a nice layer of crunchy (but not burnt) onions to provide a bit of textural contrast.
Once the onions are happily frying away, put the lentils in a medium sized pot (oven proof, if the pot is doing double duty) with a ½ tsp of salt and 4 cups of water. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not mushy (around 20 minutes).
To cook the rice, place the remaining ½ tsp of salt, 1 and a ½ cups of water and the rice to an oven proof saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover and cook in the preheated oven for exactly 17 minutes. Fluff the grains up with a fork, and it’s finished. It’s AMAZING. The day we learned to cook rice in school our teacher managed to set the example she was doing in the microwave ON FIRE which has stuck with me for years and consequently blotted out every other method of cooking rice. So this is a bit of a godsend for me.
If you’d like to add another vegie, we found that some cauliflower chopped into florets, tossed with olive oil and roasted in the oven while we prepared everything else went with the caramelised onion quite nicely.
Combine the yoghurt, spices, salt and citrus juice in a small bowl and stir to combine.
Drain the lentils and combine with the cooked rice. Add the fried onions (and any remaining oil or melted butter from the pan) and stir through. Serve with a hefty spoonful of yoghurt and some fresh mint and coriander.
I’m not a chocolate person. Sorry.
We didn’t eat a lot of dessert when we were kids. Thinking back, we had the odd bowl of ice cream, and once or twice a winter Mum’s rice pudding or apple crumble. If we went to visit our Grandparents in Perth there would always be stewed fruit or crumble, and after our family dinners on Friday Nights (highlight of the week) there would be one of my Nanna’s desserts – usually tiramisu, cheesecake, or… crumble. I hope you’re sensing a theme here.
Maybe because dessert was so rare and special, or maybe because they were so good when I got them, I have a soft spot for fruit desserts, and especially crumbles. Since I discovered I also really like caramel, I was pretty stoked to see Citrus and Candy’s Caramel Apple Crumble recipe. It is seriously good. Having so much crumble in the family I went my own way with the topping, but all credit to her for the filling.
1 small cinnamon stick (I omitted this, since we didn’t have any)
240g caster sugar
pinch of sea salt
8 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 2cm chunks (if you’re doing individual serves you want around an apple a person and one for the pot, as it were)
3/4 c wholemeal flour
3/4 c white flour
handful of slivered almonds
two handfuls of rolled oats
softened butter – to taste. Realistically I used probably 200g.
sugar – ideally brown, but this time we used white
Being a family recipe, I’ve never seen anyone weigh or measure any of this – it just depends on what you feel like eating on the day. All quantities are very, very approximate.
Preheat oven to 180°C
If you’re using a cinnamon stick, heat it with the cream then remove from the heat and let sit for 10-20 minutes. Remove the stick before making the caramel.
Make the crumble before you make the caramel – it can sit quite happily at room temperature or in the fridge if you make it in advance. Roughly chop the butter, sprinkle over the flours and sugar and rub together. Mix in the oats and almonds. You can do this in a food processor, but I would still add the oats by hand or before the very last pulse, otherwise they get all ground up.
Heat the water and sugar over a low heat until the mixture reaches a golden caramel. If anything, stop slightly on the light side, as the mix will stay on the heat a while longer and then go into the oven and you don’t want to take it to perfect and then push it over the edge later.
Add the cream, from a safe distance, followed by the butter and salt. Once the butter has melted, add the chopped apple, toss them through the caramel and lightly cook. I found that with their time in the oven, even a few minutes in the pan was enough to make the final product very soft. If you like your apples with a bit more texture, I’d fry them for only a minute, or less.
Spoon the apples into your ramekins (as we used) or a baking dish. Drizzle a little of the caramel sauce over the apples if they look too plain and lonely.
Top with the crumble mixture and bake for 15-25 minutes, until the crumble is coloured up to your liking.
We couldn’t find the Bannister Downs thickened cream (the cream that will ruin you for all other creams) at my local IGA, so we had these with just a spoonful of extra caramel drizzled over the top. I’m sure they’d also be delicious with ice cream, but it’s Bannister Downs or bust as far as I’m concerned.
Being fussy about the meat I eat and having been impressed by their attitude on a previous occasion (more on this when I actually have some of their beef to cook), I was planning to get out to The Beef Shop in Maddington to buy the roast for this meal. Unfortunately, fate and a truck load of rocks on the Narrows intervened and I only made it as far as Claytons Quality Meats in South Perth, which turned out to be a bit of a gem. They are a tiny little butcher with only two small cabinets on display but are very happy to break something up for you, an attitude I really appreciate. They also had a couple of more unusual meats like rabbit, so if you’re into that, go and say hello. They were very good about me swinging in and asking for something ridiculous right before they closed up, so I’m sure they’ll treat you well. Would you believe they actually had an even bigger version of what I bought in the cabinet? And ours was already a serious piece of cow.
Roast beef with a red wine reduction
Bread (Abhi’s sourdough)
The beef, spinach, and red wine reduction don’t really deserve recipes.
Salt and pepper the beef and brown it, fat side first, in your very biggest frying pan. You’ll probably want two sets of tongs and a spotter to pull this off if your roast is as big as ours. Place it in a baking tray and roast in a moderate oven for about an hour a kilo. I can count the number of times I’ve eaten roast beef on my fingers so I’m no whizz at this and asked the butcher’s advice – if you have a favourite family method, use that instead. Next time I’d favour a hotter oven for a short period of time so the finished product is a bit rarer. Rinse and drain the spinach and add it to the roasting tray in the last few minutes of cooking so it wilts in the juices.
Set the roast aside to rest for a few minutes before carving.
The red wine reduction was a bit of a lazy job – half a medium onion, finely chopped (shallots were not to be had), two bay leaves, two star anise, a couple of peppercorns, and a bottle of red wine, simmered until syrupy and thick. I stirred through a bit of pan juices in lieu of the more traditional knob of butter, so it wasn’t exactly restaurant quality, but it was delicious.
Strain the solids out and serve.
Recipe - Mushroom Barley
200g shiitake mushrooms
50g dried forest mushrooms
1 star anise
1 c barley
500ml beef stock (I used the Stock Merchant – a great brand which supports small farms and uses free-range, hormone free animals, and consequently isn’t cheap)
2 egg yolks
This is an interpretation of the Barley recipe from Pleyn Delit – I’ll spare you the original wording, but you can check it out here if you choose.
Place the beef stock, star anise and dried mushrooms in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to rehydrate for half an hour.
Cut the mushrooms into quarters, or otherwise into meaty chunks if they are small.
About an hour before you want to eat, bring the stock back up to the boil and add the barley. Turn down to a simmer and allow it to bubble away for half an hour or forty minutes. Check that there is still plenty of liquid (if not, top up with some water) and stir through the shiitake mushrooms. Continue to simmer until the barley has been cooking for around an hour total and check for tenderness. If the mixture is very soupy, pour off a little of the liquid (add it to the wine reduction if you don’t want to waste it).
Remove from the heat and quickly stir through the two egg yolks until the mixture is creamy.
TBP – Yes you can see my toes. DealWithItNerd.
Don’t panic, we cut that in half after TBP took the photo. It was still too big for me to finish though. I’m pretty sure eating vegetarian most of the time shrinks your stomach (NB probably not actual science).
TBP – I got a complaint earlier about including too many photos! So today you don’t get as many ingredient shots as I took (you only get two! *gasp*). But this meal was amazing, and our friend said he had never tasted chicken so tender. I, on the other hand, fell in love with the stuffing. CHERRIES IN STUFFING, it’s like having TWO desserts!
Sorry this took so long to get up, I’ve been horribly busy with assignments and stuff and I was feeling pretty out of it that day. But we have three more posts on their way to you very soon.
A couple of weeks ago I discovered the food history section of our University Library. Somehow, amazingly, I’d never run across it at work and as TBP and the Breeze can attest, I got a bit excited. Showing great restraint I borrowed a mere seven titles and am currently plugging through them under the justification of it being ‘practically study’. Pleyn Delit by Constance B Hieatt and Sharon Butler gives a recipe in the original language (if that language bears a vague resemblance to modern English, and otherwise translated) with a reference to the text it was drawn from, followed by a version of the recipe translated for modern readers and their tastes. While they go to great lengths to explain that medieval cookery was not all heavily spiced sauces on boiled chickens, there is still a fair bit of that going on. Fabulous Feasts by Madeleine Pelner Cosman on the other hand (and granted I haven’t finished reading this one yet) features more recipes that seem accessible for modern tastes and comes recommended by Julia Child, so what more could you want? This menu draws from both of them. As it was, yet again, a public holiday rounding up the (fairly standard) ingredients was somewhat of a trial, made no easier by the fact I had my clumsiest day so far this year and managed to knock something off the shelf in every store we went in to as well as ruin a caramel, nearly ruin a thermometer, drop a mug and cause two boxes of plastic cups to fall on my foot. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am all class.
Chicken with oats, ricotta, cherry stuffing & a bread sauce
Farsed Chicken from Fabulous Feasts
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses and quantities/temperatures were translated to metric)
1 large roasting chicken, 2-2.5kg
½ c dry lentils
1 ½ c ale
1 c chicken broth
200-300g cherries (we used jarred)
200g ricotta cheese
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sweet basil
2 TB butter
⅔ c white wine
¾ slices of white bread, crumbled
¼ tsp salt
Soak lentils in ale overnight (or skip this step if you’re disorganised). Boil lentils in residual ale plus broth for 15 minutes. Drain lentils and reserve 1 cup of fluid.
Remove pits from cherries (we used jarred so this was already done) and cut each in half, or if very large, in quarters.
Mix lentils, cherries, ricotta, and oats. Sprinkle on salt and basil (which I replaced with thyme).
Stuff the bird, rub the skin with butter (or dot if you’re lazy) and bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 2 hours or until flesh is tender and skin crisp. Prepare a ‘gravy’ with 1 cup of reserved lentil fluid, wine, bread and salt, gently simmering all for 10 minutes.
I admit I was a bit skeptical about the ‘gravy’ as I’d never had a bread sauce before, but it did all come together passably smooth. Just keep stirring, it works even though it looks unlikely.
L: “gravy” at the point where I started to panic. R: barley just before the eggs are added.
Frumenty from Pleyn Delit
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses)
Aym clene Wete and bray it in a morter wel that the holys gon al of and seyth yt til brete and nym yt up, and lat it kele and nym fayre fresch broth and swete milk of Almandys or swete mylk of kyne and temper yt al, and nym the yolkys of eyryn; boyle it a ltyl and set yt adon and messe yt forthe wyth fat venyson and fresh moton.
Cracked Wheat (Barley Variation)
1 c pearl barley
3 c meat stock or bouillion, or use half milk (can be almond milk)
optional: pinch of saffron, 1 or 2 egg yolks (both highly recommended by the book)
Bring the stock to a boil and stir in the barley and saffron (if you have time, heat the stock and saffron and let them sit a while first). Cover the pan and turn the heat very low; let the frumenty cook for about 45 minutes (or a little longer for barley). It may be served as it is, or you can remove it from the heat, stir in beaten egg yolk, then return to very low heat and stir for a few minutes before serving.
I added some extra liquid so I could safely leave it on the stove while I did something else and had to strain some of it off so it wasn’t soupy. Depending on how high you have the heat, you may have to do this even if you use the correct quantity.
Spynoch Yfryed from Pleyn Delit
(recipe is verbatim except for my comments in parantheses and quantities/temperatures were translated to metric)
Take spynoches; parboile hem in sepying water. Take hem up and presse out he water and hewe in two. Frye hem in oile clene, & do her-to powder & serve forth.
1 kilo fresh spinach, washed, picked over for withered leaves, and trimmed
salted water for parboiling
2-3TB olive oil
pinch each of ginger and allspice
parboil spinach in a large pot of water for about 4 minutes; drain, press out excess water with your hands, and chop the spinach; put in a saucepan or small casserole with oil and seasonings. Stir and leave to cook over very low heat for another 15 minutes or so; or put in covered casserole in a low oven for about 20 minutes
This spinach was not amazing. Spinach is my go-to lazy vegetable for Game of Thrones dinners but I normally wilt it in the pan juices. Maybe I didn’t fry it long enough? I only gave it about five minutes because I was pretty convinced there’d be nothing left after fifteen. It’s probably worth giving this one more go with something a bit hardier like cavolo nero.
We went down south last winter and road-tripped home again via the Blackwood Meadery near Karridale (and the Venison Farm and everything else delicious we passed). They don’t have a website but if you’re in the South-West you should consider going to check them out. One of my favourites was the plum and mead liqueur, which we had a nip of in keeping with the stone fruit theme. On the hot tip that it would be a good match for roast chicken we challenged my irrational fear of Chardonnay and tried a lightly oaked specimen from Margaret River that did indeed go quite nicely.
Verdict: all round delicious. I would definitely make the chicken again for a non-themed dinner as the flavours were modern and although it sounds odd, unusual but not unfamiliar. The barley was a bit of a dark horse and may become a staple at Game of Thrones night in the future. I’m going back to my usual spinach method in the future though.
TBP – Do you remember the Caramello Koala ads? “They call me mellow yellllowwww”. Basically this is the adults version (and it’s BYO chocolate).
Perth people have broken ‘winter’ sensors. We don’t even have a real winter, as I learned after an Italian autumn, more like three months where it’s slightly less hot and rains occasionally. By the end of February we are excitedly eyeing off our scarves in anticipation every time the temperatures dips below 30. When it gets to 25 it’s long pants and jumpers. This leads to some confusion when it comes to food – if you don’t live in even vaguely the right climate for apple trees, can cider still be one of those things that makes you think winter is on it’s way? Given I made these at Christmas (granted, another site of blatant food/weather confusion) I have to say, not so much. They are absolutely delicious though, tangy and complex, and I eat them by a pool or a fireplace as weather permits.
The recipe comes from Sugarpunk, a blog I read from start to finish during Corporations Law lectures last year (sorry Mum). The author ran her own business by using a professional kitchen in the wee hours when it was empty, making cakes, chocolates and caramels. Quite an inspiration. Much more so than Corporations law, sadly. So rather than repeating everything she has to say, if you want to be really thorough, have a read of Sugarpunk’s post first. Baking and confectionary are the only things I really use recipes for and I like a lot of information, but if you find too much information overwhelming then just stick with this.
Because there are only a few ingredients in this and you (try to) only eat a small piece at a time, using high quality ingredients makes a noticeably high quality product. But, even if you supermarket cream and black and gold butter, you’ll still get something worth eating. At the moment I favour Three Oaks cider (although I’ve used Bulmer’s when I’m feeling skint and it’s fine), Bannister Downs cream, and whatever ludicrous butter is on special at Fresh Provisions. Corn syrup, on the other hand, is always trashy. It’s the most absurdly American thing you can find in an Australian supermarket. I challenge you to name even one recipe using corn syrup that doesn’t give you an instant fear of diabetes when you read it (sorry).
Apple Cider Caramels
2c Apple Cider
2/3 c of cream
85g unsalted butter (by the way, I love that a butter converter exists. so useful.)
1 ½ c sugar
¼ c corn syrup
¼ c water
Reduce the cider down to ⅓ c and put aside. You can ignore it to start with, but keep a close eye on it towards the end because it’s easy to overshoot the mark.
Heat the cream and butter to boiling point in a saucepan and put aside to infuse with the cinnamon, if you like. I think I prefer them without.
Place the sugar, corn syrup and water in a moderately large saucepan, maybe the next size down from your soup or pasta pot. When you add the cream the mix will triple or quadruple briefly as it boils and you don’t want the pot to overflow, but nor do you want to be struggling to comfortably reach the mixture with your thermometer when it settles down. Cook the mixture until it reaches a ‘light brown’ or ‘amber’ colour.
For reference, what you don’t want is this. It took about three minutes for this mix to go from just starting to bubble to almost black, which is incidentally how long I spent watching Louis Theroux documentaries over TBP’s shoulder. Keep it over a low heat and keep an eye on it.
When the syrup is nearly there, bring the cream and butter back to the boil. Pour it (carefully, from a safe distance) into the syrup, and add the reduced cider. When it’s safe, start stirring. Cook it to 121 degrees celsius.
Pour into a pan lined with baking paper (as Sugarpunk says, if you use two pieces, one going each way it will be easier to remove later) and chill in the fridge. I haven’t found that covering the pan with gladwrap makes much of a difference in our climate. If you want to cut them into sticks or batons, use a square 20cm pan. If you prefer thicker squares, use a loaf pan.
The caramels will technically last in the fridge until the expiry date of the cream. I don’t think this has ever happened. It is virtually impossible to only eat one. TBP keeps hers in the freezer to make her pace herself. You have been warned.
(lovely pictures of the finished product will be up shortly)
Okay, so the titles are really terrible. They’re all my fault. – TBP
In hindsight, working until 5 then trying to scrounge up the ingredients for a feast on a public holiday was probably an ambitious move. I had been thinking seafood but after noticing The Inn At The Crossroads (an ASOIAF food themed site you should check out) had done a seafood stew recently and not wanting to be a copycat I fell back on the Westeros equivalent of an easy weeknight dinner.
Roast honeyed chicken on trenchers
Sweet pickled baby beetroots
Caramelised onions & parnsips with thyme
Spinach in pan juices
Soft & crumbly cheddar
The very first dinner I cooked for our AGOT role playing game back in 2010 was trenchers with individual roast cornish hens so I felt I was on pretty safe ground here. Last time, I bought some excellent thick crusted bread days before we wanted to eat it and let it go authentically stale. Coming off the end of an extra-long-weekend, I was lucky to find two loaves even barely big enough, and paradoxically unlucky in that they’d been baked that day! By that point it must have been just about the only fresh bread left in Perth. I toasted them on both sides on the bottom shelf of the oven and we served them on top of plates in case they weren’t strong enough.
For a public holiday I really lucked out with my ingredients – I managed to get two Mt Barker Free Range chickens from a local IGA and had stockpiled some new baby beetroots and parsnips from the farmers markets at Clontarf (as of yesterday they are now on winter hours) on Saturday. The crumbly cheddar was from Cape Naturaliste via said IGA and the spinach and onions were all I could get at that time of day.
1 Free Range (& preferably organic) chicken per 4 people
1 TB honey per chicken
1 very large loaf of rustic bread per 2 or 3 people
1 bunch of baby beetroots
¼ c balsamic vinegar
¼ c brown sugar
1 bag of young parsnips
a few sprigs of thyme
1 bunch of spinach
1 pickling onion per person (or more if you’re keen)
100g butter (or more to taste)
a litre of chicken stock (organic, or homemade, or from vegetarian powder)
a few tablespoons of plain flour
Salt & Pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 180.
Unwrap the chicken, rinse it clean (including inside the cavity), drain and pat dry with paper towel. Wiggle it’s limbs around a bit to limber things up (especially if you’ve defrosted it) and check for broken bones. If you find any, do the world a favour and take it back to where you bought it from and make a stink. Rub the skin around a bit to loosen it up.
Cut a few thin slices of butter and put them to one side. Place the chicken breast side up on a board and starting at the cavity, ease the skin away from the flesh with your fingers. Push a few pieces of butter under the skin (if you have access to duck or goose fat, use that instead). Crack some salt and pepper over the skin and place chicken on the top shelf in the oven. Roast until done (82c if you have a thermometer, or until the juices run clear, or an hour a kilo) then remove from the oven, drizzle lightly with honey and put aside (under a little alfoil tent if you are so inclined) to rest. Pop it back into the oven 5 minutes before you’re ready to eat so the honey gives it a bit of a glaze.
Peel and trim the beetroots, avoiding any sort of porous surface in the process. Place in a small saucepan with an equal quantities of brown sugar and balsamic vinegar – not your best vinegar, as you’ll want around a quarter cup according to taste. Cover with water until all the beetroots are submerged and bring to the boil. Simmer until beetroots are tender enough that you can spear them with a fork without too much resistance.
Trim and wash the parsnips. Cut them into quarters, longwise. Simmer or steam them until almost tender.
Meanwhile, skin, trim and cut the onions in half from root end to root end. Melt the remaining butter in a heavy frying pan, add the onions, cover and start to slowly fry. Once the parsnips are tender and the onions look softened, add the parsnips to the pan and increase the heat to medium. Strip the thyme leaves from the stalk and add to the pan. Fry, turning occasionally, until the onions are caramelised and the parsnips have picked up a bit of crunch.
15 minutes before you want to eat, place the baking tray, sans chickens, on the stove top on a low heat (if your tray is not flame-proof, carefully scrape it into a small saucepan). Add the spinach and heat gently in the juices until wilted. Put the spinach to one side and use the remaining juices to make a gravy.
Cut the chicken into quarters using sharp kitchen shears. You could leave them intact and carve them at the table, but I find you get less wastage this way and I wanted to get the same vibe as that first time where we had a whole cornish hen each. Slices are way less visceral and way less fun. The chicken here is done, even though the juices are red – they ran clear until I cut through the bone and we checked with a thermometer to be sure.
Place everything on to the table and let everyone serve pile up their own trenchers. Cutlery was strictly forbidden.
Mexican and fun times with friends are inextricably linked for me, so I was pretty excited to hear a fresh new Mexican joint had recently opened up on Beaufort st. They are, in fact, so new that when we went on the Thursday before Easter their website had only an address, mobile number and email. Being a bit hesitant to ring a mobile number I fired off an email enquiring about their opening hours, bookings and produce and had a response an impressive fifteen minutes later. Their opening hours are now available on their website, and they only take 4 bookings a night for tables of 6+ for their ‘Feed Me’ menu, which as we learned, means you’ll need to be on the ball. I was also pretty stoked with their responses to my questions about their ingredients – this is a thing I feel ridiculous and nosy asking, and often get poorly informed or rude responses so the staff at El Publico earned some serious points. They use organic where possible, and local always – if it’s not in season, they won’t have it on the menu (so don’t be surprised not to find avocadoes right now, for example). Their pork is Free-Range Linley Valley, their chicken is Organic Free-Range Inglewood Farms, and their beef is from Harvey. They’ve even got some local growers producing ingredients you can’t otherwise get in Perth. Learning they had ties to Cantina 663 was icing on the cake.
We rocked up around 7.30 to find El Publico absolutely cranking, tables filled, bar packed and a line up to the doorway. Not to be deterred R sallied forth to the counter, got our name on the list and received an estimate of 40 minutes. We ducked across the road to the Beaufort st Merchant for a drink to pass the time, as the line was by now out the door and it didn’t seem like we’d be able to make it to El Publico’s bar without losing an eye. A jug of Ultimate Pimms ($35) and a jug of Imperial Sangria ($35) later we were ready to go back and do battle again.
We were seated by 9 and warned there might be another long wait for the food so we knuckled down and ordered as quickly as we could, starting with a bottle of dos equis XXX for me ($9) and a bottle of el presidente private bin red ($39) for everyone else to share. On our waiter’s advice we ordered the fried chickpeas with burnt tortilla salt ($5) from the Botana (snack) section to tide us over. These arrived super fast and were amazing – soft and fluffy on the inside and crisp and salty on the outside. We ended up ordering three serves.
Salmon aquachile jalapeno coriander ($17) from Primeros (first course)
Unless you speak spanish, you might find the menu a bit intimidating at first glance but luckily on further investigation there is a quick guide on the back of the menu to help you decipher what you’re ordering. However, if you are rushing to get your order to the kitchen like we were you may find establishing the major ingredients and leaving the rest as a surprise is a fun way to go. Aquachile (or aguachile, depending on who you ask), is a very lightly cured kind of ceviche. I am a huge fan of cured, smoked or salted anything but usually not so keen on salmon. This was light, fresh and punchy with lime, coriander, chilli and radish, and no hint of that oily off-putting flavour.
Organic chicken sikil pak black bean pickled squash ($19) from Ensalada (salad)
We got this dish through a mix-up but once we made sure everything we wanted was still on it’s way we were happy to keep it. The chicken was very moist and tender, and the sikil pak (prehispanic pumpkin seed dip) gave it an interesting and unusual flavour. Even though there was no lettuce, it still gave us the distinct impression of A Salad, and in the end, we aren’t the sort of people to order a salad when there is pork belly on the menu and the aquachile was a pretty hard act to follow.
Huarache house green chorizo queso fresco ($16) from Antojitos (street snacks)
Again, we didn’t bother to read the translation until afterwards, but huarache means a toasted masa base in the shape of a sandal and once you know that this dish does look rather humorously like a delicious, savoury flip flop. The chorizo itself seemed mid-way between mince and pate in texture and had a charred and smoky flavour from the grill. Without the follow through paprika flavour from your standard chorizo the taste was fresh and interesting. And I love the taste of masa so I was pretty happy with this dish.
“WARNING: don’t fool around with Sam’s hot sauce… it’s hot! really hot!”
Pig tongue bitter orange pickled onions taco (2) ($14) from Antojitos
Each taco had three disks of (I’m thinking pressed?) tongue each. The flavour was piggy but not overwhelming, and the texture was still quite muscular so it wasn’t too unfamiliar – even L, who had previously declared he’d never eat tongue and was accidentally none the wiser at the time, said he would be happy to eat them again. The sweet pickled onions were quite juicy, but the tortillas were thick enough to keep everything together and made the masa flavour a component rather than an afterthought. The downside to the menu’s loose descriptions is that you’re never quite sure what form the ingredients are going to take – I couldn’t detect any bitter orange but it was equally possible that it was part of the cooking process as with carnitas and never meant to be a perceptible part of the final presentation.
Esquites ($9) from Antojitos
The mexican street corn with chilli mayonnaise lime and cheese was a real stand out. Served cut off the cob and piled in a bowl it was sweet, tangy and creamy with a hint of warmth from the chilli. I would happily eat two bowls of this for dinner any time. Coming back to it after something more savoury like the beans, I was surpised to notice how sweet it really was.
‘Cowboy beans’ ($8) from Antojitos
While the cowboy beans were perfectly cooked, tender and holding their shape, we couldn’t really taste the pork or tomato very strongly. R liked these when combined with the corn, but I think that was just an excuse to make the corn last longer.
Slow cooked pork belly piloncillo chilli oaxacan chocolate ($24) from Grande Placa (big plates)
All we knew about this dish was pork belly and chocolate, which we figured meant it had something for everyone. It was pretty delicious, but maybe not quite outstanding since we can already do a pretty good pork belly at home. The sauce was mild and well balanced, not as rich as you’d expect from the description (let’s face it, probably a good thing). On it’s own it was like a very sweet (as you’d expect, if you’d bothered to translate piloncillo into ‘refined mexican sugar’) but also very savoury hot chocolate, but when mopped up with the pork everything worked really well together. The pork was tender and soft all the way through, but still had the top layer of fat left intact which TBP wasn’t too keen on and didn’t have quite enough crunch in the crackle to get R and I really excited. We noticed that same intensely porky flavour from the tongue tacos here as well, so if you like your meat bland and deniable, you’re out of luck.
Grilled baby chicken adobo mezcal ($32) from Grande Placa
In case you were panicking that we’d been robbed, the ‘baby’ chicken was much closer to full-sized than a cornish hen. I had a breast piece and was a bit apprehensive since I don’t normally go for white meat but it was very moist. Everyone really enjoyed it but no one could put their finger on the flavour since few of us had tried either adobo or mezcal before. We gave up on the cutlery, finished the bones with our fingers and ordered a side of tortillas to mop up the juices.
Cajeta flan banana peanut butter ice cream ($14) from Postres (desserts)
While we did pass these around, these desserts were probably the one part of the menu that were better suited to just one person. The goat’s milk caramel and peanut butter ice cream were a great sweet and salty combination, but I wasn’t as huge on the custard. Despite the menu saying they don’t allow changes, the staff were happy to arrange one plate without the banana for TBP and really diligent when they brought them to the table to make sure the right people got the right plate. The menu didn’t really have any allergy information on it, but we found the waitstaff so accommodating and attentive that I was have the impression they will steer you right if you tell them what you need to avoid. The attitude of the wait staff was impressive – they were under a lot of pressure but stayed chipper throughout the night and even our ordering mix ups were handled with grace and good humour.
Despite us fearing the worst, the kitchen was so on the pace that at points it nearly overtook us. In hindsight, we really should have relaxed and taken things a bit more slowly – we were out the door in under an hour and a half. The only criticism I have of El Publico was the intense noise levels. We were seated by an open window, which was probably a good spot since the restaurant is mostly flat surfaces, and we could hear the music only rarely and the road noise not at all.
I really enjoyed my night out and would be happy to go back to el Publico again, especially since we didn’t tackle the cocktails and our waiter warned that the food menu will be changing frequently and the copy I took home will soon be out of date. I would recommend it for groups of friends, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to (for example) my parents or for a date – unless you’re not there for the conversation.
511 Beaufort st Highgate
0418 187 708
http://www.elpublico.com.au (view in Safari or Firefox for best results!)
George R R Martin is one of my favourite authors. His universe is detailed, his plots are intriguing and infuriating, and you can barely turn a page without running into some kind of food, be it acorn paste or suckling pig. Luckily for me, a list has been compiled of almost all the mentions of food in the series (although they haven’t included A Dance with Dragons yet). I’ve been using that list as inspiration for themed dinner parties since mid-2010, originally for a friend’s role playing game, and later as we watched the TV series. For the return of the second season, we got together for a not-entirely-accurate-but-nonetheless-delicious feast. And if anyone knows where to get wild boar at short notice in Perth, please let us know.
Boar cooked with apples and mushrooms
Crispy roast potatoes
Roasted onions, dripped in gravy
Summer greens tossed with pecans
I kept forgetting to order the pork so I had to go to a different butcher because I was too embarrassed. I have a pretty great relationship with my local butcher and he is always happy to help enable my ridiculous food adventures but it’s also a running joke how I leave my projects until the last minute, and asking for a piece of meat that big only about 6 hours before I wanted to eat it would have been sure to get me in trouble. I headed to a butcher in a more pretentious part of town where I figured no one would bat an eyelid at an outrageous request and had a glorious 10-bone rack of Plantagenet Pork in my arms fifteen minutes later. Hopefully the apprentice wasn’t too put off by me hanging over the wall watching as he broke it up.
Boar with Apples and Mushrooms
(“it tasted like victory”)
1 pork rack (ours was around 2.5kg with 10 bones and allowed 6 people to absolutely gorge themselves)
1 cooking apple
knob of butter
200g interesting mushrooms, or more to taste (we used shiitake because they were local, but you could use any variety, or substitute dried forest mushrooms soaked in hot water)
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper
Start with the stuffing so it can cool while you prepare the pork. And, as I always forget to do, pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees.
Peel, core and cube the apple. The size is up to you, I went for very rough 1cm cubes. The larger they are they more they will retain their shape and texture, and the smaller they are the more likely to turn to apple sauce, so it depends on how you like it. Melt the knob of butter in a frying pan and gently saute the apple.
Peel and finely chop the garlic. Wipe the mushrooms clean and cut them into pieces around the same size as the apple. Add them to the frying pan and continue to saute until the apples are tender and the mushrooms soft. Set the stuffing aside to cool.
Lay the pork rack skin side down on a chopping board or piece of baking paper and grab a long, narrow bladed knife, the sharper the better. Find the end of the bones and cut down behind them, being careful not to cut all the way through to the skin and fat. Pull the flesh away from the bones a little so you can see what you’re doing and change direction, cutting parallel to the table heading away from the bones. Continue to ‘unroll’ the pork as you go until you’re happy with how far you’ve flattened it out and that you have enough room to fit the stuffing in.
Cut some lengths of twine long enough to wrap around the pork with another 15cm or so spare so you have plenty to hold on to. I cut one to go between each bone to make sure everything was really secure but you could make do with 3 or 4 if you’re in a rush or short on string. Slide these into position under the pork with the ends trailing out on each side.
Season the exposed meat and add the stuffing. The size of the ingredients you use may mean you have too much – you don’t have to use it all. You still need to roll it back up and any leftover stuffing would make a great garnish (though if you laid it on the raw meat and then changed your mind, you’ll need to cook it again). Starting with the middle, draw the pork back together and tie it tightly closed. Do the ends next and work your way back to the middle.
When you’re happy it’s all secure, trim the ends of the string close to the knot, flip the rack over and place it in a roasting pan. Wipe the skin with a paper towel, mix together some baking powder and salt (I find a really finely ground salt works much better here than flakes or rocks) and rub the combination into the skin. Place the tray in the oven and roast until done to your liking.
If you have a meat thermometer, the minimum temperature you want is 71 degrees celsius. If not, as a rule of thumb roasts tend to cook for around an hour a kilo. In this case I knew we had more than an hour a kilo up our sleeves and there was enough fat on the cut to keep it moist, so we left it in until we were ready to eat. The crackling was amazing and the meat was falling off the bone.
Make a gravy. Feast.