Monday, March 31, 2008

nut loaf that some would call a roast

It’s been years since I made a nut roast but I will never forget my first experience of one. Living in London in my early 20’s, I was fortunate enough to have two Christmases. The first was at my boyfriend’s house before everyone took off to their families for the big day. It involved a roast turkey (which being vego I avoided), paper hats, lots of alcohol and a fair few waifs and strays, mostly of the melancholic Welsh variety. On the 25th I hopped on the tube to South London with the friend who I’d been staying with, for an all girl, mostly lesbian, vegetarian Christmas. There was paper hats, lots of alcohol, a rousing game of Trivial Pursuits – and nut roast. How quaint, I remember thinking.

Living in London through the next year I quickly discovered a nut roast is the way that the British vegetarians mark a celebration. Or at least they did in that part of the twentieth century. I bought the tradition back to Melbourne to some of the vegetarian shared houses I lived in. But folks, it’s been a while and although I embraced this culinary challenge (spurred on by Lucy) it has involved a lot of digging in my memory banks to dredge up a recipe. I know there have been many variations. I have used the same recipes to even make more labour intensive nut or tofu balls, rather than the roast which is essentially a loaf. On that point, I don’t believe the dish has in any way represented faux meat, rather it is a “roast” in the sense that it is a hearty baked dish for a cold climate, one that is shared with friends and family, often in celebration. But technically speaking it is a savoury loaf of the vegetarian variety.

My nut roasts have tended to include ground almonds and other nuts and cooked brown rice or tofu. Using only nuts tends to make a very rich loaf. Adding rice can cut that richness but sometime makes it heavier and more crunchy. Tofu reduces both the richness and weight. For this venture I decided to combine all three. For flavour I have always used sautéed onion and garlic and a generous splash of tamari (a less harshly flavoured, Japanese version of soy). A dash of roasted sesame oil is a great way of adding the essence of the seeds without the bulk. Lucy’s version, though cheesy, appealed to me by including mushrooms – so since I was heading back to the drawing board on this recipe, I added some fresh shitake mushrooms for the first time and they were a definite winner.

Ok quantities, don’t laugh – I actually did some weighing and measuring for this one but I’m going to throw my notes out. After all, every loaf tin or container I have cooked this in over the years has varied in size – so I am going with a radical suggestion regarding the amounts needed of three of the main ingredients – to do them by eye!

Nut Loaf with Shitake Mushrooms

Approx 300g, raw nuts, I used almonds and cashews, ground in a food processor. (Pulse the nuts til you get a coarse, breadcrumb like consistency. If you over do it you will end up with nut paste)
1/2 – 1 block, firm tofu, squeeze out the excess water, crumbled
1/2 – 1 cup, cooked brown rice
1 – 2 tabs, vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
100 – 150 g, fresh shitake mushrooms, diced
2 (possibly more) eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon, tamari
Roasted sesame oil or raw sesame seed

Cook the brown rice in advance using the absorption method. Leftover rice is fine.

Heat your oven to 180c. If you want to eat some roast vegetables with the loaf, it is a good idea to prepare them first and get them underway. I roasted a lovely acorn squash and some parsnip, which was perfect.

Sauté the onion and garlic slowly in the vegetable oil and allow to cool. Do the same with the mushrooms.

Now here comes the radical bit – get your loaf tin and half fill it with nuts before grinding them. This give you a base amount of nuts and the other dry ingredients to use. Use about half the amount each of tofu and cooked brown rice. If you want a less rich loaf, only 1/3 fill the tin with nuts and try equal quantities of rice and tofu.

Mix the ground nuts, rice, and crumbled tofu in a large bowl. Add the cooked onion, garlic and shitake mushrooms. In a separate bowl, beat your eggs with the tamari. Slowly mix the eggs into the other ingredients – you want the mixture to hold together without being too eggy. Try rolling it into a ball and see how smooth it looks.

Press the mixture into your loaf tin lined with baking paper and either sprinkle sesame seeds or splash the top with a little sesame oil.

Depending on the size of your tin and the wetness of the ingredients it will take about 40 minutes. Start checking from 30 minutes.

Serve with a sauce or gravy of your choosing. In the past I often put together a very speedy and simple mixture of miso paste and tahini, whipped together with warm water until it was the consistency of gravy. This time I went whole hog and made a slow cooked tomato sauce, with finely chopped onion, lots of garlic, wine, salt and pepper. It really gave the loaf a bit of a lift.

This post has risen to Johanna’s challenge ”a neb at nut roast". Entries close April 18.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tiba's Lebanese Restaurant

Two doors up from another great Brunswick institution Mediterranean Wholesalers, sits Tiba’s a bustling Lebanese takeaway and restaurant. The front of house is a popular spot to grab a kebab or falafel on the run. They also sell excellent dips and pastries to take away.

After some months of experiencing the delights of Tiba’s dishes to take out, I thought it was time to actually eat in.

But what to eat? The sit down menu offers a variety of set meals as well as sides from which you can build a satisfying feast. Friends of mine from a “mixed marriage” (a meat eater and a vegetarian), who are regulars like to create their own shared meal from falafels, tabouleh and dips with a carnivorous bit on the side.

For a first time experience we went the easy route, with some set meals.

I opted for the “Falafel Serve” ($10) – 5 freshly cooked falafels, pickled turnips, green salad, tabouli, hummus, yoghurt dip and rice. This turned up on a large plate, with a generous helping of flat bread in a basket. The falafels were satisfying, though I have had better (and worse). The pickled turnip was a perfect addition, for both flavour and texture.

The Significant Eater got a little excited by the meat based offerings and went for the “Mixed Grill” ($16) which came with all of the above minus the falafels but with 5, yes 5, different meats including a cutlet, spicy Lebanese sausage, chicken and lamb. While my meal came on a large plate – this was huge, catering platter size and overflowing with meat and salads. He managed to chew his way through the lot with appreciative grunts, the only criticism being it was a little salty for his palate.

What I like most about Tiba’s is the great value for money, diverse clientele and I even took a liking to the plastic replica mosque that lights up and plays the call to prayer unexpectedly halfway through your meal! I’d expected the staff to down tools and pray but service carried on as usual.

There can be a downside to cheap; in this case it was the smell of chemical air freshener that wafted in waves throughout the meal. There was also a randomness of where the staff seated people. We sat literally on the divide between the ‘nicer’, table-clothed restaurant side and the takeaway kebab bar. Despite there being lots of empty tables in the ‘restaurant’ which had the same menu, there was a weird reluctance to seat people there – even the couple who pointed to a table and asked nicely but still ended up being placed right near the door in the takeaway section. Needless to say the décor is heavy on the type of tack that will never be fashionable (plastic, musical mosque aside).

With these petty grumbles out of the way, there is one more thing you need to know about Tiba’s, being a Halal restaurant means no alcohol. Having advanced knowledge of this meant we had a pleasant pre-dinner drink a block or two away at the Village Green.

Tiba’s ticked a lot of the “very cheat eat” boxes as far as I am concerned: for under $20 there was a wide variety of complete meals (i.e.: protein and a decent serve of vegetables) for vegetarians, vegans and carnivores. Despite it being unlicensed, I could still get a balanced and tasty meal as well as a drink (even if it was somewhere else) nicely within budget.

Tiba’s Lebanese Restaurant
504 Sydney Rd,
Phone: (03) 9380 8425

This review is cross-posted at Very Cheap Eats.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, March 28, 2008

blog wrangling

Contributing to four blogs there is the odd mis-post. If you read this site through a RSS feed you may find the odd rambling that gets broadcast on the wrong url. Just ignore, refresh your browser and the outspoken Antipodean will go away.

Of course if you really like that sort of thing (opinionated, political, non-food oriented and totally self-obsessed) you might want to check out health, philosophy, politics and other rants but then again it is probably a lot safer to stick to the culinary realm.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

from a time when vinegar only came in 2 colours

How to get a little jazz in your wartime cooking.

The Evening Post, Wellington New Zealand, June 1940

Monday, March 24, 2008

Capitol - Wellington

Wellington. My old hometown. Another public holiday, flying visit. I’ll keep it short and sweet – only one new food experience for me this weekend.

There was much talk of “draconian” new labour laws - where employers now have to pay a decent holiday loading and give time off in lieu. What a scandal, up to 20% surcharge in some of the establishments that daned to turn their espresso machine on for Easter Friday and Sunday. Being all for fair pay, I didn’t mind. But anyway. I wasn’t out on the mean streets looking for a meal on those days.

Saturday, the city briefly came out of a sleepy hiatus. I had the opportunity of a quick lunch in the city with my sister after we’d the amusing experience of watching our elderly dad land a 737 in both Heathrow and Singapore. No airline food in the flight simulator though. Time for something new, or at least a change from the predictable fare (yes I had yet another good meal at Chow in Tory Street and a passable lunch at Eva Dixon’s on the way to the airport – though when a menu says “nicoise salad” I’d expect to see some olives and for the tuna to not be optional).

Unlike the last time I attempted to eat there, The Capitol was open. Right next to the movie theatre at the top of Courtney place, this café has stood the test of time. The menu is relatively small and the service is variable. Vegetarians are not very well catered for. My sister managed to rearrange the crepe on offer, removing the pancetta and cheese for a more vegetable based option. The kitchen obliged with no hassle. For me there was only one dish that caught my eye – an artichoke and potato fritter with smoked fish. A trip to New Zealand is incomplete without some kind of fishy morsel, preferably smoked. I didn’t catch the quickly spoken name of the seafood that was on offer that day (oh to have such choice in Melbourne) but it was pleasantly smoky and salty without being over the top. The fritter was more of a well fried, large potato cake with chunks of fish on top. Flavour-wise the closest comparison would be the addictive fish cakes at Ciccolina in St Kilda. I skipped the crème fresh and was not at a loss without it. Maybe something acidic to cut through fat would have been better, preserved lemons perhaps?

The espresso, looked and tasted like a ristretto, a mere half a mouthful of caffeine. It didn’t touch the sides. The soy hot chocolate passed muster, though took some prompting after waiting for 10 minutes in a café that at the time had only 2 tables of patrons.

Verdict: Worth another visit. The menu range was very narrow for non-meat eaters but the staff was friendly. I’d certainly try the fritters again.

10 Kent Tce
Mt Victoria
Region: Wellington

Phone: 04-3842855

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, March 20, 2008

the rites of spring in autumn

Make my own hot cross buns? Heck no! With more artisanal bakers in this neighbourhood than there are butchers there is no need. I'm off across the Tasman for Easter but not without stopping by Natural Tucker Bakery first, getting a stack of buns, slicing them in half, then individually bagging each one and placing them in the freezer.

If you are also a lover of the hot and fruity bun, let me tell you they are even nicer on a chilly winter's night when they are well out of season.


Labels: ,

Sunday, March 16, 2008

if you can't stand the heat - get out of the kitchen

We are sweltering in Melbourne at the moment. Too many days topping 39C (102F). Not quite as extreme as Adelaide, where each day for almost 2 weeks the barometer has hit 35C (95F) or above, and will continue to do so for days to come. This is not a climate to cook in. It is the weather to drink beer (a strange beverage that I can only contemplate imbibing in such heat) and lots of water. It has also been visitor season – so the menu over the last few days have been as follows:

Thursday: Spaghetti Marinara. The Significant Eater’s uncle is not known for his love of vegetables. More than 50% of the time I’ve eaten out with him in the past he’s ordered this dish, so I thought I’d cook it up for him. I cannily picked up over the years that he likes fish and prawns but leaves anything in a shell on his plate. My marinara was made with lots of fresh prawns, a fillet of salmon and some flathead tails. I’d have loved to have just tossed them with a little chilli, lots of garlic and parsley cooked with olive oil and a splash of white wine. Instead I followed his uncle’s sauce – garlic, tomatoes, wine and mint. Yes mint. I couldn’t really detect the flavour, not sure if it really added to the dish. Regardless – everyone was happy – though it irked me to serve a meal without a veggie in sight.

Friday: Hot and tired after work, a very mild change came through which made it perfect weather to sit outside the Kent hotel for a drink and a meal that someone else had sweated over. I couldn’t quite stomach fish and chips (the Uncle did but complained that wedges weren’t “chips” despite the description of what he’d get being clearly written in the menu) but still wanted something seasonal along that line and opted for the calamari and salad. Though the seafood was perfectly cooked, a mix of tubes and tentacles there was just too much salt. I suspect a smoker in the kitchen. How can anyone who loves food blunt their senses with such a habit? It’s a pity – the meal just wasn’t up to scratch but the relative cool of the evening was perfect.

Saturday: Chin Chins on Rathdowne Street was packed but they graciously found us a table upstairs in one of the darker, calmer vibed rooms. It was pleasant and chilled out, though the staff were trotting at a fast pace serving a restaurant running 4 dinning areas at full capacity. We decided on a slow feast beginning with my favourite har gow (prawn dim sum) and spring rolls for the uncle. Then moving onto duck (for the SE), stir fried garlic prawns, vegetarian fried rice and stir fried rockling and vegetables with ginger. A glass of Asahi, some kiwi sauv blanc and a very content belly. I think Chin Chins just keeps getting better. The specials are becoming more diverse and tempting, while the old favourites on the menu stay true to form. I’ve seen the restaurant through it’s various owners (at least 3), since it first opened in the mid-90’s and would say the current crew have really hit their stride.

I am reluctant to talk up the delights of the North Carlton village. The home-grown pizza chain that has gobbled up too many shopfronts can happily suck in the tourists but I get into ‘protective local’ mode when I cautiously mention the quirky delights of Gerald’s Bar, the relaxed professionalism of the Kent Hotel, a plate of homemade beans for a late lunch at North or the joys of having Chin Chins as a great local Asian restaurant. It is very easy to support businesses within this community as most do an above average job. But would I drive across town to eat there? Probably not.

Sunday morning: the still night was sticky and the sun is beating down again. Will do my best to dodge the revellers who will drink themselves stupid at the nearby Irish Pub or stagger post Grand Prix down Lygon Street. The visitor is en route to the airport, heading off to a cooler northern city. I’m hanging out for fruit and salad but have some reluctance to reacquaint myself with the kitchen.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Grandma Kimchi BBQ - a very cheap eat

The search for very cheap eat continues.

Asian food has always been a mainstay of cheap eating and about 80% of Kimchi Grandma BBQ’s menu meets our criteria of a “very cheap eat”. Sure there is a wagyu dish or two for more than twice that price but pampered beef meals aside, the vast majority of the dishes on offer provide a satisfying and enjoyable meal on a budget.

My first Grandma Kimchi experience was at their flagship Carnegie restaurant. It was late on a weeknight, the staff were looking forward to their shift ending and while they weren’t over friendly, the service was prompt. Perhaps because I was tired my inaugural meal was not that memorable but I remember my partner chowing down with relish, pleased to share his favourite local restaurant.

The empire has since grown to Box Hill, Hawthorn and for the last couple of years, the CBD. The city restaurant looks a little snazzier, yet has the same butchers paper tablecloths and anonymous white tableware.

The menu comes in a large black plastic insert-style book. Many of the dishes are illustrated, perhaps as a result of too many questions from the uninitiated in the early years of the chain. For those unfamiliar with the cuisine, it could crudely be described as similar to Japanese but with liberal doses of chilli paste. Other than the spice - tofu, cabbage and chilli oil are frequent inclusions. A recent episode of ”Food Safari” provides a good primer on the subject. Grandma Kimchi BBQ, has a range of meat, rice, noodle, seafood and soup dishes but purely vegetarian offerings are thin on the ground. It is possible to create a vegetable based meal out of entrees and side dishes though.

While I’m told the traditional bulgogi (marinated thin strips of beef, pork or chicken) brings many loyal fans back to Grandma Kimchi, after repeated visits my favourite remains hae mul chon gol, a seafood steamboat dish. A pot of seafood, tofu, mushrooms and other vegetables simmered in stock with lashings of chilli paste and powder, is cooked at the table. It is a meal for 2 (or more) people and comes with rice and of course kimchi – usually between 5-7 small dishes of pickles including the eponymous cabbage dish. It is a fun meal to eat and suits itself to a long meal grazing and chatting with friends. The chilli level is enough to make your nose run and warm your mouth without burning, without obliterating the delicate flavours of the star ingredients. Tea also comes free with all meals. At $36.90, this meal fills you to the gunnels for less than $18.50 a head.


Ready to cook

Hae mul chon gol - ready to eat

While service is usually efficient in getting you seated, regardless of it being a quiet or busy night for some reason drink service seems to be uniformly slow. After half a dozen or so visits the meals have always been of a consistent quality and with each experience my fondness for kimchi grows.

Kimchi Grandma BBQ
145 Bourke St (between Russell and Exhibition Sts), Melbourne
Phone (03) 9650 0384

Also check out the cheap lunch set meals and special deals.

This entry has been cross-posted on Very Cheap Eats

Labels: , , ,

Monday, March 10, 2008

tangy white bean salad, sans the roast

On Sunday morning I awoke with a niggling thought, accompanied by a sinking feeling in my stomach. For the first time in many years I’d accepted an invitation to be cooked for by someone I didn’t really know and it dawned on me I hadn’t done my apologetic food speech (“no meat, no dairy”). In the early days of being “vegetarian” (piscetarian wasn’t in common use in the ‘80’s) I stumbled twice in a year. First an employer had invited me and my boyfriend around to dinner and served up the quintessential meat and 3 veg. We’d somehow managed to discretely communicate with each other to not say anything and ate what we’d been served. A similar thing happened at the end of a very long day in Vienna, when a Servas host had so graciously accommodated me at short notice and welcomed me a bowl of hearty lamb stew. I bowed my head and ate what I had been given, then later as I suffered considerable gastric distress I vowed I’d never put myself in that position again.

So I found myself without a phone number, just an address to rock up and see what was given to me. But this time I’d be prepared. A chilled bottle of Vintage Chandon sparkling to make up for any embarrassment and a simple bean salad to ensure there would be some sustenance if all else failed. This quick canned bean salad is one of my fallbacks. It can be whipped up in less than 5 minutes, is tasty and fills a gap. It is an easy way to pad out the table if a meal needs to go further than expected when an extra guest or two turns up for dinner. It is not an original recipe and many variations abound. Here is my version heavy on citrus and garlic, just the way I like it.

Tangy white bean salad with parsley and tomato

2 cans organic cannellini beans, rinsed well (or freshly cooked dried beans if planning in advance)
A generous handful of parsley, finely chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 2 large tomatoes diced)

Combine ingredients in a suitably sized bowl


1 part lemon juice
2 parts olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Zest of half a lemon (for zest it is best to buy organic)
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together, pour over the salad ingredients and toss.

So what was for lunch? The Significant Eater had been hanging out for a roast and was sadly disappointed. Instead, much to my relief, it was a delicious bean and vegetable soup, with great company and the aforementioned drop of bubbly.

Everyone enjoyed the bean salad as well.


A can of good quality, well drained tuna makes a more protein heavy variation. I tend to up the amounts of parsley and tomato a little to balance the flavours.

If you like bean salads, try my vegan Bean salad with parsley pesto.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, March 07, 2008

on following a recipe

For someone who enjoys cooking, proclaiming to all who will listen “I’m going to challenge myself to cook from a recipe” might sound a little strange. Sure I read recipes but usually I am substituting ingredients and tweaking them before I even enter the kitchen. Quite seriously, I attended the Recipe Writing session at “Out of the Frying Pan” because I thought a little remedial action would be good for me.

But first a little recap from the session:

While writers should assume that recipes will be read by novices, they are not always written with the home cook in mind. A professional chef will think nothing of calling for litres of fresh stock forgetting most homes aren’t equipped with a cool room or have minions doing prep each day. While tomes like Stephanie Alexander’s have a comprehensive basics section, different skill levels tend be implied by some of the big name chefs.

There was some chat about pet peeves; the first was missing ingredients, followed by a lack of warning about steps that need to be prepared in advance, such as the aforementioned stock.

Interestingly the recipe I selected stumbled on those 2 points.

Picture this – bedtime the night before my regular market trip. A book of recipe cuttings, class notes from cooking classes and laptop with ‘clippings’ from websites. I wanted something very simple but not what I would usually make, no more than a moderate list of ingredients and it to be a main dish with the necessity of a minimum of sides. Amongst my word files I found it – Poached Blue Eye with Saffron, Fennel & Tomato. A quick look over the flavourings – saffron, fennel seeds and garlic, all on hand so there were just a few fresh ingredients to grab on the day.

On rereading the recipe the next day, the first problem I noticed was the recipe I had (from an unknown source) omitted the fresh fennel. Just how many bulbs did I need, that the method told me to slice? A quick internet search found me a near identical version, written slightly different to the one I had grabbed. Who copied whom I wonder? The panelists had also listed non-attributed recipes to the pet peeves, which I can totally understand (not looking at any gyoza recipe snatchers in the blogosphere!). I went with the Sydney Fish Market version (though there were other very similar ones online), jotted down a shopping list and headed off.

My selection criteria took into account that the key ingredients would be available at this time of year – it was simply onion, tomato, fennel and fish. It would be too frustrating to search for something obscure or way out of season. Also I was relatively confident that Blue Eye/Trevela would be available, after all what was the point of slavishly following a recipe if I substituted the star for the understudy on the opening night? I usually buy fish based on freshness and price. I bristled at searching for just one, quite pricey species. When using fillets – I usually point at the desired size but to honour the recipe I got the fishmonger to find pieces as close as possible to the prescribed 180 g each. The whole experience just kept reinforcing how much I prefer to devise a menu on what looks best on the day.

Later in the afternoon, an hour or two before starting to cook I thought it best to thoroughly scour the recipe again for cooking times and other such things. I noticed then that I had to source 3 cups of fish stock (the panellist’s second pet peeve), which fortunately I did have in the freezer. An unknown quantity of simple fish stock, made a couple of months earlier from flathead bones. I was pretty sure it would come very close to the desired amount, so I took it out to thaw. The other bonus was the small amount of white wine, meaning there was an excuse to open a bottle of sauv blanc on a ‘school night’. At this point I began thinking what sides it would need to make the meal complete. The recipe(s) suggested mash or crusty bread, both were possible.

So onto the cooking, could I actually do it? Two extremely minor transgressions. I sliced the fennel rather than dicing – I just couldn’t help myself. However as much as I desperately wanted to put in more than 2 cloves of garlic I managed to resist. The recipe called for ‘salt flakes’ but I used ground sea salt instead. The oven was up to speed, the potatoes were ready to mash - all set, the dish went in the oven for it’s 10 minutes of cooking. All there was to do was pour a glass of wine and set the table.

The verdict. Initially I thought it a little ordinary. But the poaching liquid – stock, wine, fennel, garlic and saffron, was perfectly balanced. The Significant Eater waxed lyrical saying it was delicious and that he wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Well, not a thing but maybe some leeks – Yes I agreed just what I had thought, next time leeks instead of onions, maybe a touch more garlic. Was 1/2 a teaspoon enough saffron…and we were off, back to our old tricks!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, March 06, 2008

kangkung 2: The pictures

It is fair to say this has been the summer of kangkung in this household. Each time I buy a bunch or 3 (@ $1.20 a pop - it is a very cheap and nutritious vegetable) I mean to take a snap. In my experience it is much easier to find once you have a visual. While kangkung is the common name in Malaysian and Indonesian communities, ask for ong choi in a Chinese grocery store. Wikipedia has the full run down of names, including where it is grown (and considered noxious) in the USA.


close up of the tell-tale triangular leaf

I highly recommend you try this simple but addictive Balinese kangkung pelecing if you haven't already.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

just one morsel more

I accidentally came across this UK post from last year. The comments are well worth reading in the light of the perceived food blogger threat to some professionals. Nothing is local nor unique in the blog world!

Now - really, I'm heading back to the kitchen.

Monday, March 03, 2008

more tales from the frying pan

Warning: This post contains opinions, lacks objectivity, is not written by a journalist and would benefit from a once over with a red correction pen. It would never appear in print media and will probably only be read by a couple of dozen hundred people.

I return to my modest, non-niched, only accidentally witty and rarely entertaining blog to formally acknowledge today’s post is sponsored by The Age. If not cash, then definitely a smoked salmon filled roll and a drink or 2 for comment. I managed to pop into the Food Festival’s Frying Pan sessions a little late, after a fulfilling a work obligation and left at afternoon tea. I’ll admit my limitations and say this is no fair review of the entire day as I can only write about putting my head into 3, half sessions on various aspects of the world of food writing and have come away a little baffled. I am not entirely sure what audience the presentations were pitched at (but then again, I spread myself thinly and did not witness a complete session so the bewilderment is likely of my own making). There was more than a pinch of smugness exuding from a few of the professionals on the very heavily Farifax biased panels but this was tempered by the generosity of many of the others that braved the stage.

I headed off to Recipe Writing because you may have noticed it is not my forte to slavishly quantify. I picked up some bitchy gossip about some famous food writers (if you want to appear witty and in the know, slagging off Nigella and Delia is currently in vogue) and as a bonus learnt more about writing styles than from the other sessions I attended. I came away a fan of Lucy Malouf for her modesty, calm and practical advice. While I don’t think I learnt anything new about actually writing a recipe, it was an eye opener to realise that cookbooks are rarely recipe tested by anyone other than the author. That explained a lot.

I had divided loyalties in the afternoon over which food bloggers to support by attending their session. Hence the double act starting with So You Want to Write About Food. Two panellists were Fairfax food publication editors – whose advice could almost be summed up by “Whatever makes you think you could be anywhere near good enough to get published?” along with “be funny, entertaining, irreverent and informative” (but still don’t imagine we’d ever print you). Julie Gibbs from Penguin, gave a similar message but with more humility and at least one story of hope for anyone whose manuscript has languished in a publishers slush pile. And then there was Jamie Wodetzki from The Breakfast Blog who as a “reformed lawyer” may be better equipped than the average blogger to hold his own in a hostile environment. It was mentioned that in earlier sessions there had been a fair amount of slagging off about blogs and he did a more than valiant job at representing us all. (If you are reading this Jamie, I’m the woman grinning inanely at you every time they tried to take a swipe at the blogworld and had a polite coughing fit to cover my laughter when there was the speech about the pristine ethics of wonderful journalists).

I snuck out and headed off to see Ed and others speak to the converted about the joys of blogging moderated by the irrepressible Helen Razer. Full marks to the organisers for taking onboard the criticism from last year's festival. The session was both practical and passionate (including input from the floor). I love Stephanie Wood’s Elegant Sufficiency but felt at times she straddled the dual roles of journalist and blogger a little uncomfortably*, though when she actually talked about writing her blog – she beamed. I left the session with my head spinning with all the reasons I blog. Do I secretly want to be a writer? Yes and no, I have been paid very generously in the past to write on other issues which was an utter joy but food writing is a hobby rather than a vocation. Do I see myself as a journalist? Not at all, nor have I ever claimed to be. I write a blog mostly out of enjoyment but am very happy to know other people get something out of it as well. A narcissist perhaps but if I learnt anything about the world of food writing today it is that I am not alone in that!

The highlight for me was putting faces to the names of some other bloggers and catching up with those who also get a perverse enjoyment of living a well-seasoned life. Thanks to Ed and Matt for facilitating that.

*Update: A spirited debate along the lines of 'does the quality (or lack) of writing in food blogs threaten the future of good journalism' (at least that's the part of the thread I've taken - there are other strands as well) continues in Stephanie's Blog - a must read for food bloggers.

Apologies for those who've stopped by to read more on cooking whole fish, how to make gyoza, thoughts on vegan food or just a peak to get ideas on where to eat in Melbourne healthily or not on an expense account. Normal food oriented, amateur writing will resume shortly.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 01, 2008

it used to be the smell of baking bread...

It appears a little home baking is the way to swing prospective buyers on auction day. Was it the mini muffins that got the vendors more than 10% over their reserve? The mind boggles at the price they could have extracted from the crowd if it had been pretty little cupcakes.

(Sorry, it's been a busy week.)
Newer Posts Older Posts

Awarded by Kitchenetta
Obligatory copyright bit: (c)2004-2010 Another Outspoken Female. All rights reserved. No content on this website including, but not limited to, text and photography may be reproduced without prior explicit written consent from the copyright holder.

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe with Bloglines
Australian Food Bloggers Ring
list >> random >> join
Site Ring from Bravenet