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Friday, May 21, 2010

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

International Dumpling Incident - Zwetschkenknödel

What I did on my holidays by Conor

Because I was so good I got to go to a far away place called Austria where the boys wear funny shorts and the girls have pretty hair. Mum says that there was a nice lady called Maria who used to live there but a dog bit her and she got stung by a bee so she doesn't live there any more. There is lots of nice food in Austria. I ate lots of tacos and corn and avocado and a nice green sauce called salsa verde (but you say it like verday). I liked the food so much I bought a cookbook to bring home with me but I think I got the wrong one cos it doesn't have any of that food in it.

When Penny announced the next International Incident Party (yes, it has been a month since the last one) was going to be dumplings, I saw this as an opportunity to try and right some of my culinary wrongs when I visited Vienna a few years ago. Sure, I spent every morning having at least a three course breakfast in the hotel, trying every possible combination of delicious local breads and cheeses and of course finishing off with a slice or two of torte, and my friend and I had two deliciously porky dinners at Siebensternbräu, but it seems like most other meals were eaten at a little authentic Mexican place we discovered and fell in love with. What's not to like about spicy, authentic Mexican food, cold beer and mariachi bands?

Well, what's not to like about it is that it's not terribly Austrian, and no amount of dancing around the Mexican hat can deny that I really dropped the ball with taking advantage of the local desserts. I ate no nockerln (soufflés). I missed out on Kaiserschmarrn (Emperor's Pancake). My first experience of eating the world famous Viennese Sachertorte was when I made it myself back in Perth using the cookbook that I brought back with me (though this had the bonus of me being able to pretend it was just like the real thing).

It was therefore an easy choice for me to decide upon which variation of the term "dumpling" I was going to run with. It wasn't going to be "a small ball of dough cooked and served with stew", "a Chinese dumpling filled with spiced minced pork; usually served in soup" or a "short, chubby creature". I was going to go with "a dessert consisting of a wrapping of dough enclosing sliced apples or other fruit, boiled or baked", and by Johann, I was going to make it from my Austrian cookbook!

Luckily for me, I had used this cookbook before and knew to read the recipe through thoroughly before getting started. I didn't want to have another Sachertorte incident, where I discovered that when they said "stir the chocolate into the cream" they actually meant "do NOT stir the chocolate into the cream listed in the ingredients - save this to serve with the finished torte and instead stir the chocolate into the creamed butter and sugar".

So, I will give to you the recipe as given in my cookbook, but will also give you my changes and suggestions as highlighted.

Burgenländer Marillenknödel (Apricot Dumplings) (I made Zwetschkenknödel (Plum Dumplings))
from Austrian Pastries and Desserts by Maria Wiesmüller

approx.1 lb potatoes, cooked / 450 g potatoes (I used Royal Blue, and didn't cook them before following step 1, which tells you to cook them)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup flour
2 Tb semolina
grated rind of 1/2 lemon (next time I'll use a whole lemon)
2 Tb butter, softened
2 egg yolks

approx. 1 lb fresh or canned apricots, pitted (I used 10 canned plums, which I removed from the juice and dried as well as I could using paper towel)
5-6 sugar cubes (I used 10 little "boondies" of brown sugar)
8 Tb butter mixed with sugar and just over 1/2 cup bread crumbs (8 Tb butter mixed with sugar? I ended up using about 75g butter and around 1 Tb brown sugar)

1. Boil, peel and rice the baking potatoes. I peeled them, cut into smaller chunks, boiled until soft, then drained well and put the saucepan back onto the (turned off) hotplate briefly to get rid of any excess moisture before ricing them with my trusty spoon & sieve method.

2. Combine potatoes with salt, flour, semolina, soft butter and egg yolks (and presumably the lemon rind too, which doesn't make an appearance in their methodology) and mix in a mixing bowl to form a smooth dough. Let stand approx. 30 minutes. (Another recipe I've since read says you must use this dough immediately, but I left mine for the 30 minutes while preparing the plums)

Mmmmm..plum piles

3. Wash apricots and press out pits. Replace pit with half a sugar cube. I was using canned plums, which were filled with juice, and I wasn't sure how strong the dough would be at holding up against super wet plums so I tried to dry them as much as I could using paper towel. Sadly the plums were also incredibly soft, and lost most of their shape as I did this, try as I might to be gentle. So, I just pressed my little boondies of brown sugar into the centre of the pile o' plum and wrapped the rest around. The end result did not resemble lovely little plums with sugary centres but rather masses of soft plum with some sugar jammed in the middle. The Austrian equivalent of Donna Hay (Dönna Häy?) would not be amused.

4. Form a 2 1/2-inch-thick roll and cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices. Flatten each slice somewhat and place apricot in centre. Fold dough over fruit and roll to form a ball. I just grabbed little chunks of the dough, rolled them in my hands to smooth the outside then flattened them out, placing the plums in the centre, folding the dough over and then rolling to form a ball.

5. Gently drop the dumplings into 2 qt lightly salted water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. I did not bother converting 2 qt water to something my metric brain understands but instead filled a large saucepan with enough lightly salted water to cover the dumplings. I then brought the water to the boil before gently adding the dumplings to the pan, cooking them for around 10 minutes. They were floating when I removed them.

6. Meanwhile brown the breadcrumbs in the melted butter. Remove dumplings with a slotted spoon and roll in bread crumbs. Dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately. Don't you love it when recipes say "Meanwhile...". It's like they're testing to see if you bothered reading ahead before getting started. I browned the butter and breadcrumbs (and mysterious sugar) in a frying pan, then removed the dumplings using a slotted spoon and place them in the frying pan, moving them around to coat them in the buttery crumbs. I then removed to a plate, dusted with icing sugar, and served.

Awaiting a dumpling craving, the little babies lie dormant

Given that it was 10:30pm by the time I finished these, and there were only two tired girls in the house, I cooked enough to photograph and then froze the rest uncooked. I'm not sure how well they'll go being cooked after freezing but I guess I'll find out when a dumpling craving hits. The leftover cooked ones I put in the fridge, and they were great reheated the next day.

My housemate and I were both happy with the late night result. The potato gives quite a firm yet spongy texture to the dough, the innards had a nice balance between sweetness and tartness, and the crunchy buttery crumbs added a real, hmmm, crunchy butteryness. The overall taste of the dough was really similar to pancakes cooked in butter. Delicious. My only regret is that the plums didn't exactly look the prettiest, so it is probably a good idea to use fresh plums or apricots if you can.

Please go and have a look at all the other dumplings, linked from Penny's round up, and finally may I wish a very big happy birthday to all the International Incident May babies - Divina Pe of Sense & Serendipity, Shirley of Enriching your kid, Pam of My Man’s Belly, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz and a super big happy birthday to Mardi of eat, live, travel, write who is celebrating her big 4-0 today and who I am meeting up with in Toronto in a few weeks! Happy birthday ladies!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Subha Aluth Avuruddhak Wewa

Did you make any new year's resolutions this year? Planned to reduce your macaron intake? Wean yourself off Gossip Girl? Combat the Tight Pants Fairy's evil work? And did your good plans disappear as quickly as that box of macarons and the sight of your toes?

Well fear not, because the new year has only just begun! The Sri Lankan New Year begins on either 13th or 14th of April each year, with the exact time and date dependent on the time when the sun moves from Meena (Pisces) into Mesha (Aries). The recent new year began on the 14th of April (at 6:58am to be precise), and I was lucky enough to join in the Sri Lankan Cultural Society of Western Australia new year celebrations on Sunday the 18th of April.

It was held at Centenary Park in Wilson on a beautiful sunny Autumn day. I was enjoying the warmth of the sun in a singlet (and shorts, I might add) which turned out to be a clever idea as friends were able to find our group by spotting my blindingly white skin amongst the more melanin blessed crowd.

I was barely there for two seconds before food was being thrust upon me. I got the feeling I was going to enjoy celebrating the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year.

We decided to load up on foods and find some grass to relax on so there would be no injuries should we go into simultaneous food comas. The foods on sale were written up on a whiteboard, and I was glad to have my own personal translator, my friend Lil deVious, to explain the dishes. Fish Roti and Buriyani were fairly obvious to someone who is familiar with Indian food, but I was a little confused by the Cutlets, Chinese Rolls and Wadai under the Shorties part of the menu (though not quite as confused as I was by the chips, fish & chips and hot dogs on offer).

While we were lining up, I was a little alarmed by the apparent popularity of the chips and hot dogs, but I guess if you make your own yellow rice and curries at home every day, it might be nice to treat yourself with a bucket of chips on a Sunday. 

Chinese Roll (2 for $3.50) and Cutlet (3 for $2.50) - thanks to lovely hand model Lil deVious for giving some added authenticity to my photos

The Chinese Roll and Cutlet are somewhat similar, both containing a spicy fishy filling which tasted like a spicy, aromatic version of my Mum's tuna patties. I love my Mum's tuna patties and I loved these. The Cutlets are round crumb-coated balls of the fish mixture, while the Chinese Rolls are like a spring roll that has been crumbed before frying.

Wadai (3 for $2.50)

The next tasty fried shorties were wadai, spicy fried lentil patties. The outer layer was perfectly crispy and I loved the amount of heat contained within each naughty morsel. These would be perfect with a cold beer.

Rice and curry ($7.50); yellow rice ($8)

The "rice and curry" came with "fish, potato, beans, dhal", while the yellow rice came with "chicken, potato, eggplant", and both had a dollop of spicy spicy chilli. Both were aromatic, well spiced, filling meals. I would have liked a bit more of a kick to it, but was able to achieve this easily by adding the chilli to my forkfuls. I can understand that they couldn't exactly have every component knocking your socks off with the heat, as they were cooking for a large crowd and even with a mostly Sri Lankan crowd you sadly cannot assume everyone is a chilli fiend. 

Hot chips ($3)

One of the other non-Sri Lankans in our group got these chips. He's a Kiwi. I like to think he got them purely to entertain us with his pronunciation of "chips". They looked nice and crunchy but I was not willing to spare a single chip worth of stomach space.

The Hopper Man, working his magic

This was my first Sri Lankan hopper experience and it will not be my last. Oh no, as the magical Hopper Man is my witness, I will never go hopper hungry again! Hoppers are basically thin pancakes made in quite concave pans. There are many varieties of hoppers, but on this day we had a stack of plain hoppers finished off with an egg hopper on top. The egg was perfectly cooked such that there was no "snot" on the white (thanks Dad for giving me such a classy vocabulary) but the yolk was gooey and begging to be dipped into with pieces of hopper. The accompanying chicken drumstick was tender and spicy and the coconut sambol was heaven in a hopper scoop.

A plate of hopper joy

Goopy goopy googy egg

In addition to the good eating, there were a number of games being played throughout the day. I'm not sure what they are called in Sinhalese or Tamil, but I would call them hitting a claypot piñata, pillow fighting, and of course a good old game of cricket.

Watching a talented piñata smasher bust open the clay pot was amazing. All of the children that had been impatiently waiting around the sidelines rushed in faster than I could capture with my camera, eagerly grabbing at the freed treats while the triumphant stick-wielder pumped his fists in the air. I felt a little sorry for him - to pause for your success to be captured on film, or to make sure some of those liberated lollies make it into your pockets? A tough choice.

The pillow fighting went on for hours, with many heats leading up to the finals. Watching the men's finals was something else, these guys really meant business. I think they had been training in their backyards. The ultimately triumphant pillowman had a winning technique of absorbing all the force of his opponent's whacks in the side of his head before making his move with one or two hits to throw his opponent off balance and send him tumbling off the log.

I didn't watch much of the cricket, but I did manage to capture a little mini Muttiah Muralitharan deliver a killer doosra all of about 2 metres, forcing the batsman to run forward more than half the length of the pitch to reach the ball.

I didn't want the celebrations to end, and luckily they continued the following night when Lil deVious invited me around to her place for dinner. The place smelled so good when I arrived I could have just walked around chomping the air and almost have been satisfied. Almost. Fortunately for my bundy (stomach) we got to eat the source of the smells, and the kiribath (milk rice), chicken curry and seeni sambol were right on the rupee. Bohoma sthuthi, Lil deVious, your cooking is truly rasai. I'm worried my bundy is going it pack its bags and migrate to Sri Lanka without me.  

Seeni sambol, chicken curry and kiribath (milk rice)

Rasai dins, round 1

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Gently rapping at the pantry door

 Can you spot the teddies discussing which one of them is going to make a dash for the almond croissants?

Playing host to the annual Vincent Cappucino Festival since 2008, Angove Street has turned into quite the bustling cafe strip over the past few years. Its still has a lot to offer if your house is overrun with giant pests, your Swedish car has broken down or you're in need of a cold beer and some local music, but it now also offers quite a few good food choices should the giant pest fighting have stirred your appetite. It was a friend's birthday last week and so we battled the bustle, considering milkd or Il Circolo before deciding to visit The Pantry Door for the first time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Master Farter turns 1 (and so does something else)

Just over one year ago we had a new addition to our grizzled old family - my little nephew Alby was born. Alby is the first grandchild for my parents and my sister-in-law's parents, and his arrival was quite exciting for everyone - particularly as it was a somewhat difficult pregnancy and he came out to say hello to us all a little bit before he was fully cooked.

Luckily for him, a healthy appetite seems to run in our family and he's been growing like a champion since that day. He also managed to figure out the whole walking thing before his first birthday, probably in order to get himself to food more easily.

One of the highlights of my trip up to Geraldton over the Easter weekend was Alby's first birthday party. I was beaten to volunteering to make the birthday cake by my sister-in-law's mother, and a first birthday party is perhaps not the ideal environment for a baking showdown so I agreed to bring along some cupcakes. I soon got planning.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Foodie Exchange - The Italian Job

I have a secret admirer. An Italian secret admirer. An Italian secret admirer who sends me kisses.

So, perhaps this person is more of a friend than an admirer, more female than I prefer my admirers to be, and not so much secret as openly talking about sending me things, but she is definitely Italian. And she definitely sent me kisses.

Elga from Semi di Papavero is a talented photographer, and her food posting skills are apparently as good as her blog posting skills if my latest Foodie Exchange is anything to go by. It's still as cool to receive a box of treats from far away as it was when I got goodies from Montreal and Arizona, New York and Toronto, and I was barely inside my front door before the parcel was greedily torn open.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

International Pizza Pie Incident - Poached Pear Pizza Pie

After the success of our the Gnocchi Party organised by Penny of jeroxie (addictive & consuming) we decided to keep our party hats on and Lambrusco (the party wine, don't you know) flowing and throw regular International ____ Incident parties. We already have parties lined up for dumplings, noodles and tacos, though I'm not sure if spaghetti is going to get a run (sorry Axl).

First up though, is the International Pizza Pie Incident!

"Pizza Pie" is one of those American terms that confused me when I was growing up. I was also confused about:
  • meatloaf (a loaf of meat? Everyone in books was always whinging when their "Mom" served them meatloaf so I figured it must be as crap as it sounds), 
  • peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (jelly in a sandwich?! Surely that's just asking for trouble.. noone wants a lap full of jelly! - if you're not aware, jelly in Australia is what is referred to as jello in the US - we would call it a peanut butter and jam sandwich, and even then you have to admit it's kind of a weird combination, though not as messy as a peanut butter and jelly jelly sandwich), 
  • all the different types of "candy" that Claudia in the Baby-sitters Club had stashed around her room (Ring Dings? Tootsie Pops? Ding Dongs? Sounds like a whole pile o' euphemisms if you ask me),
  • and I always got a little alarmed when someone got a new haircut and ended up with "bangs".
Since growing beyond my Baby-sitters Club reading years, I have since discovered that "pizza pie" is just a longer, alliterated way of saying "pizza", though there are those crazy pie-like Chicago style deep dish pizzas that should come with a side order of defibrillator lubricant.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gingervitis and poppy seed teeth

Winter may well be coming, and thoughts are turning to slow braises washed down with enough red wine to bring a flush to your face, but please spare a thought for ice cream as the temperature drops. Too often it is neglected at this time of year, replaced by the sexy upstart churros or a seductively hot chocolate fondant.

Sure, you can argue that ice cream hogs the limelight through the summer, but this is all the more reason why it shouldn't be cast aside so readily - it's always a bad idea to burn bridges, and it won't be too long before you'll go crawling back to its clutches when the weather heats up again.

I for one intend to maintain a good relationship with ice cream over winter, and towards this end I made two different types the other day in my quest to find my ideal base ice cream recipe. After now having made this "Basic Vanilla Ice Cream" recipe from an old edition of delicious magazine, I think the quest may be over. Sure, it uses a lot of egg yolks but that just means more macarons later, right? The ice cream was rich, creamy, smooth and very easy to scoop though the downside of this is that it melted somewhat readily.

You can add all sorts of things to this basic recipe, and I added 25 g of poppy seeds, making sure I had a good stock of toothpicks around.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

John Street Cafe

I generally like to have a bit of fun with the titles of my posts. They might be a little groan-worthy at times but I figure it's best to start off how you aim to continue. For this review though, I aimed to spend as much time coming up with a post title as the owners of the restaurant did coming up with their business name.

John Street Cafe is located on John Street, in Cottesloe. It is a cafe.

Although it is not located on the water (it is about 400m up the street from the beach), it certainly has a beachy vibe with the blue exterior, alfresco tables, inside dining that is quite open to the elements, and of course the Norfolk Island Pine Trees which are quintessentially Cottesloe (though perhaps not so much as they are quintessentially Norfolk Island).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Happy Easter!

Happy belated Easter! Anyone else been visited by the Tight Pants Fairy as well as the Easter Bunny?

I have to admit I dropped the ball (egg?) with making Easter treats this year. Across the globe food bloggers have been..

There has also been a spate of Passover baking to add a bit of oy vey to my feelings of baking inadequacy.

I'd like to say I was too busy knitting socks for war orphans to bake delicious Easter treats, but the sad truth is that I was too busy eating. Sure, I also spent the Easter break catching up with my family and getting in a couple of good tennis matches with my sister, but the rest of the time was spent either eating or hurriedly digesting to allow for more eating.

The eating started off in fine style on Good Friday, with my family's traditional Good Friday seafood extravaganza gorgefest. Extended family members brought along a selection of salads and some fresh bread, while Mum and Dad put on an impressive spread of blinis, smoked fish, cooked cray tails and prawns, baked fish with lemon butter, fried whiting, pickled occy and some rosemary skewers of scallops and chorizo. The chorizo was a new addition to the Good Friday eating, and we felt quite naughty about it, though I'm sure God was too busy hanging out at all the church ceremonies to notice.

Despite my lack of Easter baking, I did at least contribute one dish to this meal - Salmon and Scallop Ceviche which I also made last Easter. There is such a delicious freshness to this dish, and it is worth any dribbles of juice down your arms as you bite into the fishy lettuce parcels.

Salmon and Scallop Ceviche
by Valli Little in the delicious June 2004 issue

Serves 6

400g salmon fillet, pin-boned
300g scallops, roe removed
1 cup (250ml) fresh lime juice
4 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped (I used 10 baby romas)
3 long green chillies, seeds removed, finely chopped
6 spring onions, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to garnish
1/2 telegraph cucumber, peeled, chopped (I used 1 Lebanese cucumber, unpeeled)
1 avocado, flesh chopped
1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil (I used around 40 mL)
Baby cos lettuce leaves (1-2 per person, depending on size), to serve

1. Cut seafood into small cubes, place in a bowl and pour the lime juice over top. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.
2. Drain off juice, add tomato, chilli, spring onion, coriander, cucumber, avocado and oil, and season with sea salt and pepper.
3. To serve, place the lettuce leaves on plates and pile the ceviche on top. Garnish with extra coriander leaves and serve immediately, with extra lime wedges, if desired.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The most popular of all slices

I've spoken before about my old faithful Australian Women's Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook and how it has served my Mum, my sister and I well over the years. One of the heroes of this cookbook is the Vanilla Slice, which I am sure my Mum has made over a hundred times since that magical day she first made them - I can picture her now, swaying along to the Bee Gees and getting cornflour all over her flares.

The Vanilla Slice is an Aussie classic, and is basically our version of a Mille-feuille. The name Vanilla Slice may not be quite as sexy as Mille-feuille, but it is infinitely more sexy than its nickname Snot Block. Can you imagine if we did call it Mille-feuille though?....
A hungry tradie strolls through the hanging plastic stripped door of his local bakery, winking at Gladys across the counter..
"Yeah g'day love, give us a Coffee Chill and two o' those milly fuelies"
A Vanilla Slice consists of two layers of puff pastry sandwiching a nice thick filling of vanilla custard and is finished off with icing (normally plain white or passionfruit) or a dusting of icing (powdered) sugar.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy 101

Are you happy? It's a question that is difficult to answer in one word, unless you are currently in a very polarising situation (just been given a piece of delicious cake, just had your scoop of ice cream plummet from your cone etc). We all have periods in our lives when it is necessary to consciously think of the things that really make us happy and that we should do our best to remember when life is giving us lemons. Think of these things as the rest of the ingredients for lemon meringue pie, if you will.

Luckily for me I have a reason to think of those pie ingredients without having to dodge lemons thanks to Gina from Simply Life. Gina has a great blog going in Simply Life, although I have to fight frustration when reading it as she often writes about new products that she has discovered that aren't available in Australia, and her recipes make me hungry. Gina must know that surprises make me happy, and she surprised me by passing on her Happy 101 Award to me recently. Thank you, Gina!

I'll now share 10 of my personal pie ingredients with you...

1. Enjoying a feast with my family (this Easter is going to be particularly awesome - our usual Good Friday seafood extravaganza and the usual extended family get-together on Easter Sunday PLUS my Nephew's first birthday party on the Saturday!);
2. Having a laugh with my mates, especially on a weekend, when the night is young and fun a-plenty awaits;
3. Enjoying a cold beer on a warm day in the bush or down the beach - bonus points if the stubby has trivia questions under the bottle top and I get a particularly tricky one correct;
4. Finding out that someone I had no idea even knew my blog existed is a regular reader;
5. Hitting a killer tennis shot that I actually did on purpose, especially if I do so by hitting the ball with that sweet spot on the racquet that makes the perfect noise;
6. Waking up in the morning and realising I am on holidays - even better when in a foreign location;
7. Going out for a well deserved breakfast after a punishing gym session;
8. Getting some totally super exciting results after struggling through confusing statistical analyses;
9. Seeing someone's face when they open a present that I totally nailed;
10. Receiving comments on my blog (wasn't going to put this one in case everyone rolled their eyes at the apparent comment fishing, but it's certainly something that makes me super happy so here 'tis!).

Now to finish off this big pile of happy, here are 10 bloggers that make me happy too:
If you click on these links your happiness meter will go up and you might finally beat the happiness top score and get to enter your initials! Actually, I always felt ripped off with this as I have lame initials and never wanted to enter "CON" because that made me think of Con the Fruiterer. It was a happy day when gaming technology improved such that you could enter more than three characters for your name.

Happy day everyone! May your cakes be moist and your socks dry.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's nobody's business but the Turks

Unfortunately my knowledge is not in fact boundless, and Turkish food is one of the many things I am quite ignorant about (like rugby, and imperial units). In my defence there isn't exactly an overabundance of Turkish restaurants in Perth beyond the usual takeaway döner kebab and gözleme places, and these days I'm not the late night kebab consumer that I once was. I was pretty happy therefore to learn about a new Turkish restaurant located quite conveniently in Subiaco, called Alaturka.

According to their website Alaturka is pronounced "a la too ka". Does this mean I have been pronouncing "Turkey" wrong? Should it be "too kee"? Mind you, Turkey probably isn't even called Turkey in Turkish (nope, is called Türkiye apparently). I've had an issue with this for a while. If a place is called Torino or Göteborg or Nihon then I think everyone should call it that. It shouldn't be changed to Turin or Gothenburg or Japan just so us Angophones can get our tongues around it. This would also do away with the English word "Dutch", which is "Nederlands" in Dutch (erm, in Nederlands, I mean), and prevent that confusing period when you first learn about this Deutschland place when you're young and assume it means Dutchland, until you make some remark showing your ignorance and someone mockingly corrects you.

Before I can rule the world and bring about such changes however, I must first gather my strength and what better way to do it than with food. Türkçe food.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's a rocky road to brownie town

In the white marshmallow corner, William Dreyer, one of the founders of Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream Holding. In the pink marshmallow corner, George Farren of Fenton's Creamery.

Which of these likely lads actually invented rocky road ice cream? Dreyerists believe he created it in March 1929 by adding walnuts (later almonds) to his chocolate ice cream, then chopping up some marshmallows with his wife's sewing scissors and mixing them in too. Farrenists don't seem to have such a touching tale to back up their claims, but I'm inclined to believe them anyway as it is very difficult to believe a seemingly intelligent man who is capable of running a successful ice creamery would be foolish enough to cut up marshmallow using his wife's good sewing scissors.

Limited reading on the topic reveals the rocky road candy bar was later invented, but according to the candy bar makers it has nothing to do with the ice cream. Yes, just a kooky coincidence. I have not had one of these apparently very popular US candy bars, but I can barely contain my enthusiasm after reading on the Annabelle Candy website that it "literally melts in your mouth".

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Something's cooking in the kitsch'n

When asked by the West Australian in July last year about the new small bar he was planning to open in Leederville, Iain Lawless said it was going to be a bit more bohemian and interesting than what was currently on offer to Perth eaters and drinkers, saying
"Unfortunately, most of the bars and restaurants here look as though Jamie Durie did the fit-out. You look at it and go, 'Oh that's nice - for me house!' People can do what they like but for me I don't want that, I want people to either love it or hate it, not just think it's all right."

Monday, March 8, 2010

Polly wants a pastry house

One of the big hits of the food I made for my pirate party were the Parrot Pies. I made 72 of them and they disappeared before you could say yo ho ho (though not before some of my guests were able to drink a bottle of rum).

This is a pretty easy, cheaty and yet delicious peanut satay mix that you could put to a few different uses. I might possibly have eaten some of the "excess" mix with some vegies for lunch on the day I made the pies.

As the chicken mix is fully cooked before forming these pies, you can make these in advance and stick them in the freezer until you're ready to bring them out again, which is great when you are serving many dishes for a party and don't want to be doing too much work in the immediate lead up. This is particularly useful if you are like me and like to go barefoot around the house, leading to aching feet and legs after spending hours standing in the kitchen before berating yourself and putting on some sneakers (for sneaking), by which stage it is too late and you have wiped your feet out before even putting on your nice party shoes.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Is that a fig in your pocket?

While I've been busy at home eating my bowls of porridge in front of my computer screen, my list of breakfast places I want to try has been growing longer and longer. On top of the list was Greenhouse, which I managed to tick off in fine fishy fashion on my birthday, and next on the list was The Naked Fig Cafe in Swanbourne.

Since it opened fairly recently, I have heard quite mixed reviews on this place. The real issue seems to lie in the service, with many people reporting it to be inattentive with very lengthy waits, and this is reflected in the Urbanspoon rating which is currently sitting at "50% like it". I was hoping that this was just a teething problem, and would be sorted by the time I eventually made it down to Swanbourne to sample their wares.

The Naked Fig is run by the same team behind The Wild Fig Cafe which has been a popular Perth breakfast spot for some time, although I am yet to make it up there (too busy eating porridge, apparently). The "fig" part of the name thus is accounted for, and I can only assume the "naked" is in reference to Swanbourne Beach being home to Perth's unofficial nudist beach. Interestingly, there is also a live rifle range behind the dunes at Swanbourne Beach. Sorry to disappoint any Girls and Guns subscribers, but neither of these aspects can be experienced from the cafe. You can rest assured however that should you eat too much, you can go and work off the calories dodging bullets or simply lie and digest unencumbered by a pesky waistband.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gnocch gnocch, who's there?

Everyone! It's a gnocchi party!

Gnocchi is part of the group of dishes that hang out with the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead, as when it is good it is very very good, and when it is bad it is horrid. This quality makes it quite a scary undertaking, and there seems to be a lot of people who have put it in the too-hard basket. I was one of them until Penny of Jeroxie (Addictive and Consuming) decided to throw a Gnocchi Party, inviting all interested parties to conquer any fears, make gnocchi and all post about it on the same day.

There were a choice of possible themes, with the options of 'flavour', 'colour' and 'word', and 'flavour' won by two votes (I voted for "word" turned out to be the clear loser of the options, but I wasn't going to let this psych me out... I was determined to be a gnocchi winner). Penny suggested the flavour of umami, the fifth taste, and we were away.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Are we Amusé?

I'm a lucky girl. My eatathon of a birthday last week started off with a fantastic breakfast with friends at Greenhouse, morning tea was a Greenhouse donut and Lindt Chilli Chocolate, lunch was another fantastic meal at West End Deli in West Perth, the afternoon offered me a massage and coconut bubble tea, and then I was whisked off to a mystery location for dinner. I was told to dress nicely and was assured I didn't need to bring my hard hat or steel caps, so I was looking forward to a civilised evening.

 West End Deli lunch: "smoked salmon, eggplant and date chutney, coriander, brioche, poached egg" ($21) and "squid, cucumber, tomato, butter beans, oregano vinaigrette" ($19) 

(Before I continue, I have to get something off my chest... the menu at West End Deli actually said "vinaigarette", and not "vinaigrette"... not quite as bad as a misplaced apostrophe, but still irritating, particularly as it makes me think of Shane Delia pronouncing it "vinegarette" on Ready Steady Cook and Peter Everett blithely parroting him. Why don't menu writers use spell checkers? Why do I watch Ready Steady Cook?)

Monday, February 22, 2010

People in green houses...

...shouldn't umm.. waste carbon?

When people asked me how I was going to spend my birthday last week, I'm sure it surprised noone that my plans included going out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After recovering from my pirate party, I put a little more thought into this and decided to try the breakfast menu at Greenhouse in the CBD after hearing good things about it, and falling for one of the items after looking at the menu on their website.

I love being able to look at restaurant menus ahead of time and weigh up your options, but this is sometimes fraught with danger. Some restaurants fail to keep their websites properly updated, and you can find that the dish you've been swooning over all day is no longer on the menu, or they may have sold out of it by the time you arrive. Better to have loved and lost though, I say, so I throw caution to the wind and remain an online menu peruser.

I had been to Greenhouse a few times already since it opened in December 2009 to sample their booze and nibblies, and was quite taken by their approach to using the space. I won't go through all of the environmentally sound aspects of the building, as you can read all about this in detail on their website, but essentially they have sought to minimise their ecological footprint.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Dread Cap'n Conor turns One Score and Eight

Gather round lads and lasses
   with tankards of rum
   and I'll tell ye a tale tall and true,
Of a great ship that set out
   to pillage and burn,
   with the dread Cap'n Conor and crew.

Start spreading the news, I'm eating today

I want to be a part of it,
Foodie Exchange!

Yes, I was the very happy recipient of another foodie exchange parcel a couple of weeks ago (following the success of my exchanges with Quebec, Arizona and Toronto). In fact, it was waiting for me at the Post Office when I arrived back from Melbourne, so it was a nice little way to keep my holiday (eating) spirit alive. 

This fabulous parcel was sent by Andrea of High/Low Food/Drink, a great blog filled with delicious recipes and reviews ranging from the cheap eats to the haute cuisine of New York. Andrea's carefully selected goodies took me on a tour through Chelsea Market, home of the Food Network USA.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Melbourne: Flavours of Grand the Sams

As I'm sure my regular readers and friends are well aware, given that I have not been able to contain my excitement and bragging, my sister and I were recently in Melbourne for our very first Australian Open experience. It was a week of awesomeness and our thoughts are already turning to next year's trip.

As amazing as it was to have two massively solid days of tennis action, it was also a little painful to be forced to eat event food while in Melbourne. Luckily for me I'm used to buying food at Subiaco Oval when watching sport, so the options at Melbourne Park seemed quite good in comparison. At a footy match last year at Subi Oval I had a hankering for a stuffed spud (it is possible that I was needing to drown my sorrows in midstrength beer and soft carby goodness, I'll admit it), so did the trek around to where the spud stuffers were hidden, only to be met with an incredulous look and told "they always sell out by half time" by a particularly surly lady that looked like she had eaten all the potatoes herself.

 Food stalls around Garden Square, before the rush of hungry punters

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Figs deserve stuffing like Hugo deserves a slap

My book club met last night to discuss our latest reading experience - The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. Opinions of the book ranged from loving it to hating it, and it is filled with characters that you'd happily punch in the face so it was a lively discussion. As per usual the talking was interspersed with much eating as we all enjoyed the dishes that everyone had brought along to offset their opinions, be they sweet or sour.

Bookclub table of delights - chocolate fudge, stuffed figs, upside down cake, chocolate brownies, nibbles, spiced nuts, vegies, hommus and tahini, felafel, beetroot dip, cheese and crackers, Turkish bread, olives and a selection of wines.

My brain has been taking its sweet time returning to me from Melbourne these past few days, but luckily my daydreams yesterday started to shift from tennis back to food, and inspiration finally struck about what dish I should bring along - dates stuffed with blue cheese, and wrapped in prosciutto. It is not such a stretch to go from daydreaming about tennis to daydreaming about dates - have you noticed that tennis players are some of the few male athletes that have decent attributes in this area?

As it turned out, the shop that I went to get supplies only had small, disappointing, un-tennisy dates so I had to re-evaluate my recipe and got some dried figs instead. They also had gorgonzola on special so that made my cheese decision for me.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Daring Bakers hit the Olympic snowfields

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

A very timely choice given the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics, Nanaimo Bars are a classic Canadian dessert and are named after their apparent birthplace of Nanaimo in British Columbia. As written on www.nanaimo.ca,
"According to local legend about 35 years ago, a Nanaimo housewife entered her recipe for chocolate squares in a magazine contest. In a burst of civic pride, she chose to dub the entry not "Daphne's Delights" or "Mary's Munchies", but "Nanaimo Bars". The entry won a prize, thereby promoting the town as much as her cooking."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Re-Inventing the Lamington 2010

You'd be forgiven for taking us Australians as a bunch of tightarses. Our favourite biscuit is basically oats stuck together with butter and sugar, our favourite spread is something we need never fear of having to share with others when living overseas, we fry up a few onions, tomatoes and other basic staples and try and pass it off as chicken (albeit with a nomenclatural disclaimer), and one of our most beloved desserts is a way to use up old cake.

Yes, lamingtons. They're an Australian institution, along with the good old fashioned Lamington Drive. At least once a year my primary school would give out a Lamington Drive form to take home and bug (twist the rubber arms of) my parents and extended family members  for money to order lamingtons (and apple pies, for some reason) from some mysterious lamington and apple pie factory. We would then send in the form and money and patiently wait for that special delivery day when we would go home from school laden with piles of boxes filled with lashings of lamingtons, happy in the knowledge that our lamington greed was benefiting the P&F Association of the school to do... something... hopefully they weren't using the proceeds to purchase lamingtons for their meetings.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy 80th Nanna!

I enjoy entertaining friends. Feeding them when they come around, I mean, not tripping down the stairs in front of them or having a perfect bite of food fall off my fork just before getting to my mouth when out for a nice meal together. Having said this, when my Nanna turned 80 last month it was just a little too soon after Mum's birthday extravaganza for me to think about cooking for more than a handful of people without breaking into a cold sweat and getting anticipatory aching feet. I was therefore very happy to hear that Nanna's birthday was going to be held at the Northampton District Bowling Club for a number of reasons - we would not have to prepare and clean a house for the event; we could enjoy bowling club prices for drinks; there might be some homemade jams and conserves on sale; and all the catering would be taken care of by the lovely old dears.

It had been quite a few years between mock chicken sandwiches and freshly made scones for me, so I skipped lunch in order to take full advantage of the bowling club fare on offer during the afternoon party. Skipping lunch would normally be an impossible task for me, but I was actually driving up to Geraldton through lunch time, had only packed some fresh fruit for the journey and didn't fancy a roadhouse cheese sausage or bag of chicken wing dings (I can't see a roadhouse 'treat' filled paper bag without hearing "if the paper turns clear, it's your window to weight gain!" in my head), so it was remarkably easy to pull off.

Just as well, as the old dears clearly knew how to put on a good old fashioned bowling club spread. I was also quite impressed with the restraint they showed with use of parsley garnishes, only going all out with it on the plates of assorted finger sandwiches. Even greater restraint was demonstrated on the doily front - I did not spy a single one!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Foodie Exchange - Degrassi style

"Everybody wants something, they'll never give up.
Everybody wants something, they'll take your money and never give up" (dun! dun! dun!)

If you're of my era and grew up in Australia (or Canada I assume), they lyrics will whisk you back to a time of big hair and big pants, and to TV shows that tackled the big issues - Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High (and also the lesser known The Kids of Degrassi Street and movie School's Out). These issues were so big that the ABC played a warning for parents before the show, in case they didn't want their kids to learn about teen pregnancy, suicide, eating disorders or Joey Jeremiah.

Degrassi's premier band Zit Remedy, fronted by Joey Jeremiah, presumably playing their one and only song

Monday, January 4, 2010

Degolicious Dining at Jackson's Restaurant

A few years ago I spent a weekend down south with three friends, which we spent eating Miami Bakehouse pies for almost every single meal, washing them down with copious amounts of wine, supplementing our diet with Cheezels, cheese and crackers, watching 80s movies and thinking the house we were staying in was going to blow into the ocean from the gale force winds battering the coast at the time. We had grand plans of walking down to the beach and getting some exercise in during our girly weekend, but the wind and the pies kept us safely inside.

(To go off on a bubbly tangent, this was also the weekend that I tried Golden Crumpet Toast for the first and last time. Don't be fooled by their website's claims of it being "a fun, convenient way to enjoy that Golden™ crumpet taste". If you think traditional crumpets are boring and inconvenient then you don't deserve to eat them).

On another weekend, I enjoyed my very first degustation experience with these same three girls, and with bellies full to bursting and spirits high (due largely to great company and only somewhat due to the paired wines) we declared that we would henceforth enjoy such an evening together on a semi-regular basis, when our schedules and bank balances could allow it. This fateful evening was so long ago that I can't even give you a ballpark estimate of when it was, and we didn't follow through on this declaration until last month.

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About Me

My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating, though I never quite recovered from the beef I was served at college. I'll try almost anything once, but it takes a very special piece of offal or beef to get me to try it again.

Read more about me here...

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