Thursday, December 21, 2006

happy summer solstice

I saw in the New Year sipping icy cosmopolitans, fresh lime cutting through the sweetness, to cool us down on a scorching evening. In the early hours, when it was still far too hot to consider cycling home, a chilled rice noodle salad appeared - perfect food for the hour. This was shaping up to be a good year.

While some spectacular and controversial new restaurants have come onto the scene in this city, I’ve eaten out less than previously. My partner’s post redundancy glow has receded, to be replaced with the mantle of ‘struggling student/hungry artist’. My favourite out of town dining companion has experienced a series of misfortunes – gone are not only his delightful, regular visits but also the expense account that fuelled some of my beyond budget eating and drinking experiences.

2006 became the year of simple home cooked food. With renovations, bereavements and other disruptions, there has been the comfort of old favourites rather than new culinary adventures. I’ve fallen into the habit of pouring through cookbooks, only to return to the familiar. It’s been a time of low energy.

On high rotation in the kitchen at Chez Food Nazi has been – the Moroccan inspired vegetable stew (next year, when more cupboard space can be found I will get a tagine to make it properly!), Thai curry in a hurry, stir fries aplenty including my take on mee goreng which I ate for weeks, salads and other detox delights. In winter I reacquainted myself with quinoa and millet, mighty grains with great versatility. I’ve continued to play with smoked fish, kedgeree and my old buddy – eel. Seafood, as always, adorned the table – steamed, grilled, marinated and baked. Seasonal fruits and vegetables remain a staple.

I have made some new friends through the year. The seductive espresso machine moved in and I ate for the first time at Movida, Arintji and SOS. While down in the South Eastern suburbs I discovered Korean food, which can still be a bit of a minefield for a non-meat eater but a refreshing change of flavour.

My favourite lunch spot in the city has become the recently opened Sushi Monger, in a laneway off Bourke Street Mall, offering better than average nori rolls and an assortment of interesting bento boxes. I’ve stayed loyal to Satay Bar, but for the sole reason of weight management – have rationed my visits!

There is one thing I finally did achieve, after considering it for years I got around to doing a wine appreciation course. I’ve not written about it because though the guy taking it was knowledgeable and quirky, his content was all over the place and I didn’t want to give him a bad rap. I came away from the course with a new favourite cheapish sparkling wine – Yellow Glen Vintage Cremant and a wider vocabulary. I can now say with confidence - “this wines got legs!”

Aims for next year

Buy a tagine

Make a wider variety of curries (finally explore the wonderful Sri Lankan cookbook I’ve had for over 2 years!)

Perfect the art of muffin making

Eat at – Mini, Gingerboy and Yu-yu

Find the recipe for the raw foods fruit pie I used to make (when bananas are cheaper!)

What have been the highs and lows of your food year, new or old favourites and wishes for 2007?

Happy New Year everyone.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Morning after muffins

While the Significant Eater slept off a Significant Hangover, I got the early morning muffin making urge. I am forever on the hunt to find the perfect muffin base – one that’s fine for soy milk substitution. I still prefer the butter based ones over oil and an egg is a necessity. Of course finding a recipe using wholemeal flour would be ideal.

Once again I substituted this for that, something that baking is not designed for. I didn’t get the desired outcome, which was also due to still not being used to a fan forced oven which needs to be set a notch lower than I am used to.

The base recipe, before I stuffed it up was from the “Moosewood Café New Classics” – but use your favourite. What I did get right was the flavour combo – chunks of lush ripe cherries, 85% Lindt chocolate and a lot of mixed spice.

Remember to always toss the fruit in a little flour before you add them to the mix, so they don’t drop to the bottom when they are cooking.

cherry-choc wholemeal mini muffins with a great espresso (ok they look like rock cakes but tasted light and fine!)

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Sunday sunny Sunday

With a last weekend together before fleeing to respective families in far flung Antipodean cities, the Significant Eater and I had a day of total laziness planned. It began with waking far too early, but that tends to happen with big kids when presents are concerned. An espresso supped while gifts were exchanged in bed, then some bubbles (a very reasonable breakfast drop – Yellowglen Vintage cremant), while nibbling plump ripe cherries and delicious vegan truffles. Booja Booja make the most extraordinary chocolates, so creamy it’s hard to believe that no dairy has graced them. These little beauties featured banana and cognac, incredible decadence in a poplar wood box.

Once the sparking wine was finished in the bath, a simple second breakfast of a boiled egg and casalinga toast was taken in the garden. The weather gods were kind – a mid 20c day, clear sky and no smoke haze, perfect for picnicking. The basket dusted off and an effortless feast assembled: a delicious salad, dips from A1 bakery, some leftover steamed vegetables in satay sauce, mangoes and a bottle of chilled pinot noir rose.

On a rug with some cushions for comfort five hours of total indulgence were had in the local park. Under the dappled light of a large tree we chatted, ate, read books and watched the world go by. The wine went down so well, another had to be procured. I am certain that rose is the perfect picnic drop.

“I can’t believe how relaxing this is, so perfect”, the S.E uttered more than once.

A slightly early solstice greeting one and all. May you have many pleasant picnics in the months to come.

Another smoked trout salad

Smoked trout fillet, diced into decent sized pieces
Blanched asparagus
Fennel, sliced with tops reserved to garnish
Cucumber, sliced
Tomatoes, quartered
Marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
Capers, if salted – remember to rehydrate

Vinaigrette or dressing of your choice

Assemble salad, undressed, toss in a bowl then transfer to suitable container to transport. Remember to pack the dressing in a screw top jar. Pack on ice.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Have you given yet?

The Menu for Hope is really going for it. Better chance of winning a prize here than Tattlslotto. Helen has gone and added MORE prizes. I go back and buy more tickets? Hint - friends and family - Gingerboy dinner please :)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Foodbloggers doing good

Loving food for a good cause – now that’s what I like. Helen has done a wonderful job to uphold the Asia Pacific end of Pim’s now annual, A Menu for Hope , now it’s our turn to support the cause.

The deal is bloggers of the foodie persuasion are raffling prizes to raise money for United Nation World Food program. They helped put a lot of food in the mouths of those who go without last year, let’s help them do it again.

Here’s how to do it and all the lovely prizes. Tickets a mere (US) 10 bucks, for prizes as delicious as a degustation for 2 at Australia's top restaurant.


Friday, December 08, 2006

salad days

The house is in disarray.

Actually that’s an understatement. Currently a house larger than this is trying to squeeze its contents into my little 2 bedroom terrace, like a normal sized woman trying to fit a designer frock. Some precious patches of floor have been cleared for items of furniture that are arriving today, but outside of those little havens, possessions pile on every surface. The table is lost under boxes.

Amongst this I cooked last night, proving you can always create good, tasty food in the most trying conditions.

Smoked trout and potato salad

Scrub some Desiree potatoes, the smaller the better – cut in half if need be. Boil or steam til just cooked. Run under cold water and set aside to drain.

Take a large bowl and assemble your ingredients*. The following were accessible in my fridge.

Baby spinach leaves
Radishes, finely sliced
Avocado, cubed
Half a red onion, sliced
Tomatoes, quartered
Boiled potatoes
Smoked trout, broken into medium sized chunks
Sea salt and cracked black pepper

The dressing: 1/2 vinaigrette (lemon/olive oil/mustard) and 1/2 Thomy mayonnaise blended together to make a slightly creamy dressing.

Toss and eat.

* fresh herbs, mustard seeds, celery, capers, blanched green beans…are other ingredients that would work well.

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Sunday, December 03, 2006

let's face it - enough champers and no one cares about the food!

Update: Help wanted...just jump my rant about the festive season if you prefer not to hear a pagan being cranky :)

What is it about December that turns my brain to jelly and puts me off entering the kitchen? While I read blogs written by people getting excited by the proximity of Christmas and the associated seasonal fare, I just switch off. You see, I have a confession to make – I don’t like Christmas.

Well, I kind of do. I have a rather delicious way of spending the day. Not being of any religious faith I find the whole festival a little hypercritical for me (even though I like the presents). My family is in another country and some of my most delightful 25th of Decembers have been spent with partners, similarly unburdened by family responsibilities spending the day as follows:

Awake at some civilised hour, like 9am.

Open presents in bed while drinking coffee/ champagne/orange juice while nibbling on cherries, fine dark chocolates…and each other.

Eventually getting out of bed somewhere near midday and throwing some cooked prawns and salad into a basket, grabbing more champagne and wandering across the road to the nearest park.

Heading home before we get heat stroke for a nap.

I know, I’m a heathen. The point is, if I can’t be with my family I like to do something totally different and that line up never fails to hit the spot.

Being a non-meat eater, the whole turkey-fest does little for my culinary desires. My no cook day with seafood and vegetables as a picnic makes me happy enough.

Unfortunately my partner does have family responsibilities that take him to another part of the country. I have tagged along, but really I much prefer being with my kith and kin, or on my own. There is something about being with someone else’s relatives that make me miss my own.

The in between years I’m quite content having a quiet day in the backyard, reading books or doing sudoku while listening to my favourite radio program*. As for food, the delightful “Christmas’ days that I manage to spend solo, maybe once every 5 years, is based on eating entirely what I want. A Spanish omelette one year, rice paper rolls another. Mangoes, cherries, chocolate and no ‘proper’ food – no problem. Being a blogger, I might be a tad food obsessed but paradoxically this is one occasion when I am happy to ignore it.

This year is a ‘going home year’. My mum has hit an age that is ‘beyond turkey’. In fact these days, she can be barely bothered cooking at all. My dad wants some kind of poultry but isn’t prepared to cook it. My sister is a vegetarian Buddhist. Perfect!

But I do have a food agenda that needs to be met. I will be in another country, landing with little or no time to shop before the ‘big day’. We will be driving an hour or 2 to be with extended family (which I am heartily looking forward to). But with not a huge array of fresh food, an early start with little time to cook I’m thinking of some suitable dairy-free vegetarian dishes that can be made when we arrive to meet the non-turkey needs of a table that may stretch up to at least 9 adults and a plethora of little folk.

Possibilities so far:
Rice paper rolls with tofu that we can make on the spot and involve other people in.

Pre-bought goodies – dolmades, hommos (and other dips)

But at this point my brain stops! I just can’t get into the spirit of this.
Suggestions anyone? Please!

* 3RRR ( for streaming) - David Bridie, from My Friend the Chocolate Cake, does his one off show every year.
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