Date Archives March 2010

Ticking Timebomb


A couple of nights ago my partner S and I came home quite late after work, and uni, respectively. He had forgotten to bring lunch to work, and so was extremely hungry when he got home. I had eaten lunch, but still felt hungry. The time was 8pm, and the both of us were at a loss as to what to cook before we feel like we’re absolutely starving.

S is not much of a cook, so it’s a bit hard for us to split duties like chopping (a stir fry is quick but the prep takes time) between us so it’s more efficient, and I’m too picky to just have a sandwich. I have realised, though that, as we are fitting more stuff into our schedules, the time to partake in the choosing and preparing of food that we enjoy is fast running out. On some days it does seem that fast food or takeaway ends up being the only viable option.

I shudder to think that fast food will evolve to become the only option in a food-lover’s life. In the past hectic months I’ve just realised how hard it is to keep on top of everything that’s clamouring for your attention, and still take the time to think about what you’re putting in your body.

Sometimes I wish that time would physically manifest itself as a grilled cheese sandwich, so that when it melts away at least it’s tasty. (Although not the healthiest thing out there)

Sometimes I wish that the healthy option is the easy option.

Comfort Eating

Photo by Tower Girl

Food makes me happy. There. I’ve said it. I’ll also be the first to admit that I constantly turn to food whenever I’m having a bad day. Whether I’m cooking, (or more often) eating, food is that constant friend that is always on hand and is an extremely good listener.

Most people (and they’re probably right) say that comfort eating is an avoidance of your problems, and by doing that you’re not really facing up to and solving the problem. But I do believe that everyone needs to find a way to get out of the negative headspace, especially during highly emotional moments. A quick escape button, if you will.

It’s almost like how some people call their mom when they’re at a particularly hard time in their life, just for comfort. Same thing. Sometimes you just can’t measure the rush of pleasure that that first bite of bacon (or your comfort food of choice) will give you.

Comfort eating may not be as bad a thing as we convince ourselves it is.

Happy munching.

Under Pressure

Guess what I got today??!!! I’ve always been a biiiiiiig fan of stews – they are very satisfying on a cold night, and they are a good way to spend very little but get a lot – but the problem always has been that they take too long. The answer to that problem?

A pressure cooker!!

I’ve been thinking about one since last winter, and now that we’re finally going into the cold season again, I’ve got one!! I’m so very excited. That pot just helped me make a full-flavoured bolognese…in thirty minutes!! I can’t believe that I’ve just completely halved the time for a stew.

Now just some al dente homemade pasta to go with the sauce!

Happy munching!

Taste of Sydney 2010

I went to “Taste of Sydney” at Centennial Park!! I was so incredibly excited to go. I went to the Saturday 12nn-4pm session.

Besides top restaurants in Sydney putting up stalls and offering up sample-sized versions of their food, there were also many vendor stalls that were offering samples!! Mmm, if there’s one thing I love more than food, it’s free gourmet food!

King Island Dairy had free cheese platters.

This was a beautiful creamy brie. Served on a slab of chilled marble, the cheese was at just the right temperature and just oozed in my mouth.

Not sure what this one was, but I think it’s a Red Leicester. It had a bite to it, which went really well with the slight crumbli-ness. I enjoyed the depth of flavour, but it was a bit too strong for me to take a large piece at a time.

And the blue. I have a soft spot for blue cheese, and I have an even softer spot for creamy blue cheese. It had a slightly firmer texture than the brie, but was soft and creamy anyway. Not much of a bite, so this would definitely be suitable for people who want to get into blue cheese, but are afraid of the really pungent flavours.

The salmon people were also there with their samples. As far as I can tell, this is a mixture of avocado, raw salmon, salmon roe, some onion and parsley. There wasn’t any dressing on it as far as I can tell, but the salmon was so fresh that it really didn’t need it. My only complaint is that there wasn’t quite enough salmon roe!!

Speaking of free stuff, there were also free talks and meeting thingies that we could attend. They had a tent set up as the “Chef’s Table”, where chefs would come by at certain timings and you could ask them whatever you want. I went to the first one in the afternoon and had an audience with Miguel Maestre of el Toro Loco

He gave us a rundown of his background and a little bit of information about Spanish cuisine. The most important thing I learnt there I think was the tips on making the perfect Paella.

From making the sofrito, to frying the rice to crisp it…even the choosing of the type of rice! Apparently, paella is really the name of the pan, and different regions in Spain have different versions of what you should have in your paella. According to Miguel, don’t worry about what you should put into your paella, but put what you like the flavours of in there.

Which makes sense really, why would you put stuff in a dish that you don’t like eating?

He also brought around some grilled fruit and some jamon (pronounced ha-mon) sandwiches.

I know this might be blasphemous to some people, but jamon sort of reminds me of prosciutto. Still all good though!!

There were also other stands around that I simply had to visit.

I love Tabasco. I carry a small bottle in my bag wherever I go. What else can I say?

Bailey’s also had a stall there and they were introducing their new coffee infused irish cream.

Not bad. Considering that I already use Bailey’s when I’m making Tiramisu, I think this would be a very appropriate addition to my liquor cabinet!

After this, I moved on to sample foods from other restaurants.

First up, the starter dishes. Assiette had Sydney Rock Oysters with Vietnamese dressing, crispy shallots and baby coriander.

To be perfectly honest, the dressing was okay, but the oysters themselves were a let down. It did not taste fresh, and left a slightly metallic aftertaste in my mouth. The coriander overpowered everything else, and the whole thing was just sort of…meh. Big, big let down.

But another oyster dish I had was really good!

Berowra Waters Inn presented a tongue-twisting Chilled Vichyssoise, Salmon Caviar and Hawkesbury River Oyster Beignet. The Vichyssoise was smooth and I unearthed a surprising amount of salmon roe hidden beneath the soft mousse-like folds. The oysters were plump and it was crispy on the outside while retaining a salty creaminess on the inside. It was absolutely fantastic.

Finally, from the reputable Aria

…Cured Ocean Trout with Cucumber and Horseradish. This was one of the most awesome things I had at the festival. The trout had a nice salty kick to it, and the Cucumber Salad with Horseradish dressing was such a deceptively delicate compliment to it. When I had it together, I thought the salad was to mellow the trout out a little, then the horseradish delivered a swift finishing note to that mouthful.

It was absolutely glorious.

Now, to move on to the main course dish that I had – Beef Ribs Smoked in Watermelon with a Watermelon and Avocado Salad from Danks Street Depot.

This is Jared Ingersoll’s restaurant. The ribs were cooked to a salty perfection, with the entire piece coming off the bone. The watermelon and avocado was surprisingly good, especially when mixed with the juices from the ribs. One of the best dishes so far I must say.

And finally, the desserts.

Bird Cow Fish had a Tiramisu Roulade – Chocolate Sponge rolled around a Paesanella Mascarpone and Marsala Sabayon. The head chef was Alex Herbert, and I must admit that I was hoping that she’d have the gnocchi with sage burnt butter sauce that I saw on Masterchef, on the menu. But alas.

Again I’m just being honest, but the roulade didn’t live up to the expectation that the name put forth. It was quite dry, and the “sauce” around the bottom had a “skin” form on top of it. That is to say, that it’s been sitting out in the open for just a tad too long I think. It had none of the richness that I associate with tiramisu at all.

I also had the Macaroons from Guillaume at Bennelong.

There was a chocolate, pistachio and strawberry one. As far as macaroons go, these were really good. However, I shall stop here because I’m not that big a fan of macaroons to begin with, so there’s really nothing much I can add to the review thereof.

And just to finish the day, I went to a live demonstration featuring Matt Moran.

He was demonstrating the recipe for the cured ocean trout starter that I had!!! I was so excited. I’m using the cure on salmon, seeing as how I can’t get my hands on trout on such short notice, so I’ll post up the recipe later together with my “can it be done at home?” results.

Happy munching!!

Go Raw!

The seventh day of Chinese New Year is called 人日, loosely translated as “human’s day”. Legend has it that different animals were made on different days, and on the seventh day, humans were made out of clay. I was told stories as a kid about why were are encouraged to eat raw food on this day, but unfortunately I can’t quite remember them at the moment.

As a kid I was just glad for any excuse to eat anything.

The Chinese in the South East Asian Region like to practice eating something called 鱼生 (yusheng) which signifies prosperity. The dish is made of various vegetables (like julienned carrots and radish) and raw fish.

This piece of information also coincides with a theory that eating your food raw for a certain percentage of your daily diet is good for you. (I don’t know about keeping enzymes in your food but I do believe that vitamins are best transmitted from fresh food)

So why not just make one day of the week your day for raw food? I understand that raw fish isn’t for everyone, but salads and vegetables and fruit have such a glorious crunch and fresh taste to them that there really are very few reasons against it!

Besides, it takes a massive amount of fruits and veggies to actually overeat – to me, that sounds like an all-you-can-eat day!

Happy munching!

Cooking and…Cheffing?

Image by Steve Wampler

I’ve always wondered, what’s the difference between Cooks and Chefs? Aren’t they people who cook (and supposedly cook well) and want to feed people? Is it the formal training? Is it the place in which they cook?

Is it the tall hat?

Can anyone tell me what’s the difference?

Snack Attack!

The hardest part of dealing with the munchies is finding something to munch on!! I find it really useful to keep snack portioned (about 100+ cal) food around the house. I know that it’s cheaper to buy in bulk, but when I open a full size anything I never stop at the snack-servings! It’s just too tempting to finish it all.

Especially when there’s a sad cling-wrapped can sitting in the fridge looking at you accusingly, going, “You left me you bastard! YOU ABANDONED ME!!!”

Which is why I also find it a lot more satisfying when I finish a full serving of snack portions. That, and I have a strange satisfaction seeing empty cans/bottles/packets in the bin.

Happy munching!

Slow Roasted Lamb

It’s expensive eating out. Whether you’re going to a really nice restaurant or you’ve got a really fast moving date (wink wink), you’ll usually set yourself back quite a bit just by deciding to step out for dinner.

So, being someone who will jump at any excuse to be in the kitchen (I did not take that last piece of chocolate I swear! The box was empty when I got there!), I always do a slow roasted lamb when I find rosemary on sale. And don’t get turned off by the word “slow”, because something celestial just happens to meat when the word “slow” enters the picture. The absolute cheapest cuts of meat just become the most tender, juicy, fall-of-the-bone piece of heaven that you can get.

Why pay the restaurants top dollar when you can do it yourself?

I must say though, given my addiction to cooking programmes/magazines/books/anything-I-can-get-my-hands-on, that some of the recipes I use would come from one of these sources. This one’s from Jamie Oliver, with a couple of tweaks from me. 

You need:

1 lamb shoulder
Garlic Cloves (I like garlic, so I use almost the whole head)
Chilli Flakes

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Rub a scored lamb shoulder with salt, pepper, chilli flakes and olive oil, and set it on a bed of rosemary and garlic. Set some rosemary and garlic aside to lay on top of the lamb. Cover the roasting tray with foil and put it in the oven. Reduce the heat to 150 degrees and leave in for 4hrs. After 4hrs, rest the meat for 20 min and serve with some salad and roast potatoes. Serves 4-6 (depending on who’s coming for dinner!)

It’s 5 mins worth of effort from me for a really tasty result! That, and you can leave the lamb in the oven while you go out to do some shopping. When you come home the smell of a hot roast dinner will perfume your home, and to me, that’s better than any incense that you can buy. There is nothing more welcoming and warming to the soul than the alluring smell of food.

And there isn’t a better welcome present for your dinner guests either. 

Happy munching!

The Sweet Stuff

We all crave the sweet stuff from time to time, some more than others. The thing is, it might be worthwhile shelling out and buying the good stuff, rather than succumbing to the lure of the cheap.
For example, rather than getting cheap, homebrand chocolate, get a nice, dark chocolate that you really enjoy. This way, you can actually be satisfied with the one mouthful, rather than eating the whole block.

Similarly, if you like your ice cream, just keep a few small tubs in your freezer, or a 1L tub of reaaaaalllyyy amazing ice cream that you enjoy. I’ve found that if I’ve just bought a cheap 2-3L tub of plain vanilla ice cream to keep at home, then I tend to eat some ice cream after dinner just because I’ve got it in the freezer! If I’ve got a really nice one, then I need less, since I savour every mouthful.

That, and because I’m sticking to a strict grocery budget, I don’t buy ice cream as often either.

Finally, it might be a good idea to keep just a few nice treats at home rather than many cheap ones. It takes 21 turns of something to turn it into a habit. So keeping an overflowing abundance of treats at home will not only get you into the habit of eating them, it gets you into the habit of buying them!

And it gets quite sad when it’s the middle of the night and you’re surrounded by a sea of empty crisp packets. Trust me, I’ve been there.

Anyway, speaking of the sweet stuff, I think I’ve got some sticky date pudding in the fridge calling my name!

Happy munching!

The Glutton Extraordinaire!

Photo by mugsy

That would be my superhero name if I were one. My costume would consist of control-top undies and an ever-forgiving wrap dress.

My superpowers would be that I could eat anything I want and not be hindered by health concerns. I would be powered by the sheer flavour of things! I would be able to eat my way through a 10 course meal and not bat an eyelid. People would lay the best dishes at my table! Chefs would quiver at the sight of me! I would be able to get into any restaurant I wanted and screw the waiting list!!!

…or I could just become a food critic.

How about you? What superhero would you be?