Thursday, April 30, 2009

This little piggy - the challenge. Six ingredients, simple tools and 30 minutes – COOK!

I wrote this the week after my brush with reality tv, the program airing this week may put all the pieces together...

I’m not very good, at not being very good at something.

So much so, that as I lay in the recovery position (okay catching up on sleep) in my bed after the craziests of weeks, I could not help but think (okay dream) about how poorly I did at my one chance… it wasn’t that hard. Use these ingredients with this equipment and make something delicious.
My self imposed restrictions were to also make something different to the rest of the crowd and make sure I represent myself well by making my food look ‘hot’… well that’s were I stuffed up, you no doubt would say it was fine, if it makes it to tv but it definitely was not inspired.

So with a couple of hours of self prescribed therapy, I reproduced the challenge (nearly) and put myself back to the test.
Could I do it again but better, in a better time, with a better result and a better looking finished dish?

Following the same thought processes of the day I recreated the same dish but here dear readers you get to see how it should have looked, should I not have plated it in 10 seconds (oh god I know; a food stylist plating their food in 10 seconds, what was I thinking??... “Must cut all the pith from my lemon zest”… oh, so we learn!)

So here are the ingredients and equipment (please note, I used a normal stove not a camp stove and am not sponsored by scanpan or global so my Circulon and Mundials will have to do!)

The six ingredients (unnecessary ones not used...), the basic equipment and my 30 minute count down timer

Whipping a mayonnaise (egg yolk, salt, lemon juice, olive oil) with a fork. In the challenge I also boiled an egg as a backup dressing in case the mayo split

Marinating the pork chop

Prepared salad components; cabbage, apple, lemon zest, parsley to be mixed with the mayo, just before serving

Cooking the chop

Resting the cooked chop

The finished dish.
Lemon zest pork loin (well rested and cooked properly this time), apple and cabbage 'remoulade' (well that was a mistake... I'll explain if its aired...), pretty dressed apple bits and a lemon cheek (lets not bring that up either...)

The finished dish with 5 minutes still on the clock. And yes I took all my own photos at the same time!

I think I then ate it in the remaining count down...

Three minutes to go...

One minute to go...

Finished and the chewed bone, that I had cut the loin off.
Wonder what would have happened if I served this? Perhaps I would have actually made it onto the tv.
On reflection I should have eaten it, as we were not served lunch until nearly dinner time.

My Tuna and Bean Salad

Amnesty Post

I make this salad quite often but it has been maing a more regular appearance at my house, as PDC is training like a mad man for up coming half marathons. Lots of healthy protein, low GI, fresh and tastes amazing. All the boxes are ticked.

My Tuna and Bean Salad
1 tin sliced (or at least chunky) tuna - the fancy bottled preserved tuna I brought last week at Mediterranean Wholesalers is at the highest end of the pantry tuna scale
1 tin Edgel 4 bean mix - the other mixed bean brands are too stodgy
1 handful of raw green beans
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes
2 stems spring onions
1 hot red chilli
Sherry vinegar
Rinse and drain the tinned beans
Chop the cherry tomatoes and finely slice the green beans, spring onion and chilli
Toss together the beans, tomato, green beans, spring onion, chilli and tuna
Add a splash of EVOO, sherry vinegar and season well
Eat immediately but leave a small bowl in the fridge for a loved one to munch on later.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Amnesty Week

So, just as I post about Amnesty Week, a client calls and says they
have a big job for me.
Fantastic. The catch is, they need it finished in less than a week...
I like a challenge. I agree.

But poor Amnesty week will need to become Amnesty fortnight, just as
Claire is doing.

Will be back soon!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

France or Greece? Or is it Australia?

Amnesty Week Post -written 14th January 2009

Lets stop and smell the Australian culinary 'roses' for a moment...

And reflect on how lucky we are in Melbourne, and Australia, in general.

We have richly diverse cultural backgrounds that has given us an incredible choice of dining options, something that I never give much thought to until I am overseas on holiday and eating the same food everyday.
I do like to eat like a local on holiday, so when in France it's the quaint bistros that get my patronage, in Vietnam the brightly flavoured salads are frequent features, in Hong Kong it was roast goose and in Macau the 'portuguese' custard tarts.

But in Melbourne it could be anything, and that's what must be so exciting and confusing for visitors, there is not one strong theme that I'd call Melbourne or Australian food.

As you may know, if you have read here before, I'm not the type to mince my words and get confused about food, Australian food does have a style of its own, its just that until you have spent some time here, it's kind of hard to get your head around.

I was trying to explain this to some English tourists on the weekend, "Australian food is about freshness; European in the originating idea but with Asian flavour twists and ingredients. We still love comfort style food from the 'motherland' but will tweak it", (who hasn't eaten curried tuna mornay served with a side of fried rice from the local Chinese takeaway - ok in the 90's maybe - but now you are getting the drift).

The point I am making is that our food, the stuff we cook at home is varied, and we are not afraid to mix tradition with modern and throw caution into the wind but the really beautiful thing is that you can also go the other way. You can experience pure examples of what it is like dining in another country without travelling there, which is what I have done recently at Hellenic Republic and France Soir.

Not quite Greece; Hellenic Republic, Brunswick East
I'd had a glimpse of the food late last year and have been killing to get in and try George Calambaris' agapi packed food.

Firstly a warning, Hellenic Republic is frantically busy, but for all you people that like to plan your meals you can book (of which I am incredibly surprised at considering the prices), so I would advise this, unless you are prepared to smile and hope for the best, as a walk in.

The menu is intimidatingly huge, with more than 20 'piata' small plates plus a selection of cheeses and meats. Then there is also more than a dozen grill options such as meats, fish, shellfish and vegetables, some composed dishes such as Moussaka and then also desserts.

Despite this the dishes are very clear about what they are, citing a Greek name and then a English descriptor but for me, ita ll a bit too much like hard work, sifting through, tossing up this combo with that, oh but what if I forgot about this, is it balanced, and most importantly will I have dish envy as they fly past to other tables.

So. We settled on the first of the 'trapezi' menus, a set menu offering a selection from the menu. Some vegetables, dip, seafood and meat with fruit for dessert. The second menu option also included a dessert course.
I knew the food looked good, I could trust it would taste good, yet the value question was the one I wasn't sure about. Well rest assured we walked out two hours later stuffed to the gills; feed watered and relaxed with loud but fun Greek music.
Just like a Greek holiday, yet not nearly as far (well it is a fair way to Brunswick East from St Kilda!)

Not quite France; France Soir, South Yarra
I think I have dined in less interesting bistros in France, France Soir is one of those places that just has me hopping. Moving between the tables as we sit I resist the strange urge to say "merci", yet I can't resist a glass of chilled Lillet Blanc.
Glancing across the menu I don't really need to look as I already know what I will see, typical, down the line classic french bistro fair -just what the doctor ordered! With what has to be Melbourne's cheapest shucked to order oysters, if they are in season I can't go past them, if not -like on my recent visit- the lambs brains or steak tartare become contenders. Even maybe the salade Nicoise.
Conversation is always lean upon arrival at France Soir, as the encyclopedic wine list requires a heavy time investment from PDC but that's fine as I sit back and watch the comings and goings of the humming dining room.
The service is always a bit of a game for me, its just not the same at France Soir if our waiter is not at least a little bit detached from us; somewhat charming, perhaps flirtatious, a little more distracted and gossipy with the other waiters. I nearly expect to see them smoking in the bar as I experienced in Lyon a few years back. Never too busy for a cigarette or a gossip with the other waiters.

Don't let the GFC hold back your foodie travel plans, both of these restaurants offer amazing value and an experience you would have to otherwise travel the globe for.
Lucky us huh!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Baked eggs at home

My non-stick pan is no longer non-stick which means that a quick brekkie at home of eggs on toast, ends up in a mess of egg glued pan.

Keen for some eggs without the mess (or the queues on Easter weekend) I decided to bake some just like I order at a number of cafes around Melbourne.

Baked eggs with double smoked ham, potato and fennel
I made this from leftovers in my fridge, if you intend to do the same just make sure there are enough wet ingredients to dry ones.

2 eggs
2 slices ham
1 roast potato, sliced
4 mini roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 baby fennel, finely sliced, tips reserved
Meridith dairy feta and the marinating oil
toast to dip

Distribute the ham, potato, fennel and tomato in a shallow bowl, small baking dish or large tapas dish
Crack eggs on top and drizzle with feta, extra marinating oil and season with salt and pepper

Bake at 220C for about 10minutes until you can see the whites have set, yet the yolks are still runny, remove from oven and garnish with fennel tips
Perfect to eat just with a fork and toast to dip, whilst reading the paper (or news online, in my case)

Serves one

A clean slate is in order - Amnesty week

I've had a bit of a busy few... well, months.

Eating with Jack has suffered, Twitter has flourished. The immediate satisfaction of tweets has nothing but increased my guilt in lack of quality posts. I think about them, photograph then, even mostly write them; just don't publish them.

Well in an effort to alleviate my continued avoidance of EwJ, due to the post that I 'should' be finishing first, I wish to ask for amnesty. And welcome you to join me, post those stories you haven't quite finished; just the images, list the important bits in point form, do whatever it takes, just get the bloody things up so you/we can all move on.

Otherwise twitter will continue to get busier and our blogs will get quieter.

I pledge posts from Hong Kong, from Sydney, some local food scene banter, a pretty produce picture or two, and even some very belated recipes -some that are so out of season that they are nearly in season again.

Starts tomorrow, now for another few hours of procrastination... see you on Twitter!