Tuesday, August 31, 2010

another PR fail

Dear PR person,

You hunted down my email address and contacted me recently on behalf of a chocolate company. You generously offered me a goodie bag to give away to my readers and free tickets for a big foodie event.

Following the script for savvy PR companies who’ve done Social Marketing 101 you said nice things about a recipe I’d posted a couple of years ago on my blog.

When I promptly replied to your email with a query about the products, I never heard back from you. It was very polite and directly addressed a question I have for the company you represent.

Maybe you can clear up the confusion around the dairy content of your dark chocolate? With the change of packaging milk products are now listed in the ingredients. From memory this is neither the last in order, nor a case of "may contain traces of.." yet some (brand of chocolate) sources claim the recipe hasn't changed and there is no dairy in it? I'm confused.

But two weeks later I’ve not had a response.

I didn’t mention the event or the blog giveaway because as much as I once liked the brand you are promoting since the labeling changes I have stopped purchasing the chocolate. I have a dairy allergy and it’s just not worth risking the immune system crash that comes with it. But as there are Chinese whispers going on as to whether it contains milk products or mere “traces of” I’d love to clear it up.

So are you only interested in getting bums on seats (or more accurately product placements on blogs) regarding the event or are they genuinely trying to represent your client and promote the brand? I never expected you to be able to answer the question I posed but I did expect you to get back within 24 hours to say you’d forwarded on the email to the client. You might have even done another plug for the event you were promoting.

Surely the idea of using social networks to market a product is about creating a dialogue. You’ve picked up the ball, isn’t it time you learnt to run with it?


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Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Colostomy bag not included

A bit quiet on the blogging front right now. A time of change not just on the national political front but within my own home. I'm not great with change, I don't thrive on uncertainty but I'm coping with this transition ok thus far.

Am trying to find beauty in small things. A simple lunch with a friend, fresh kale from the garden and spelling as unintentionally humourous as my own.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

make contact

I've been listening to Cam Smith sweat his guts out spruiking for the RRR radiothon and supporting the local food scene. What a great reminder for local foodbloggers to make contact and support this unique homegrown food program.

How much do you blow on a night out eating and drinking? I’m guessing its often more than the $75 ($40 concession) subscription. Keep Eat It, and all the shows on Australia’s most listened to public radio station, on air by subscribing. Apart from the good food karma you go into the running to win a heap of prizes including an overseas trip, an iPad, wine, food, a $2000 book voucher (how many cookbooks could you buy with that?!) and a whole lot more.

For those further away or not out of bed in time to listen to the show (midday Sundays) the show is now available free as a podcast.

Just click the radiothon link above to subscribe online or call the station on (03)9388-1027.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

tofu and eggplant in a gingery tomato sauce

There are two types of cooks, those who worship recipes in the same way that scientists reproduce experiments or some like me (and maybe you) who can almost taste a dish by reading the recipe and use the imagined experience to bounce off.

I’ve learnt not to be deterred by missing members of the supporting cast ingredients-wise. Sometimes substitutions don’t work as an exact replica but create something else entirely that is equally delightful to dine on. With last night’s experiment, having never tasted the original version, I can’t say how authentic it is but I do know, it sure tasted great.

Just reading the title of Sophie’s dish “Tofu in a moriesh tomato and ginger sauce” and her excellent introduction in what the balance of flavours was aiming for, I could taste the tang of the ginger in the slightly acidic sauce. But with no fresh lemongrass for the citrus element or molasses for the depth of flavour, it was a challenge. Fortunately the stash of Kaffir lime leaves I keep in the freezer meant the first ingredient could be substituted but the “umami-driven moreishnes” from the “dark and sticky” molasses, I wasn’t so confident about but figured kecap manis would tick the box. It did, though I had to add more than the equivalent of molasses and play a little with the tamari to balance it.

I’ve also jiggled the quantities, not just for the recipe to serve two versus four, but adding a bit more zing and extending the cooking time. The eggplant was in need of using and melted nicely into the sauce.

Tofu and eggplant in tomato and ginger sauce
(serves 2 or more as a side dish)

1 block (250g) firm tofu, cut into bite sized pieced
vegetable oil for frying (I used raw sesame but any light flavoured oil will do)
1 medium sized onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 – 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped (depending on your heat tolerance)
3 Kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
1 (400g) can, chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon kecap manis (sweet soy) OR 1 tsp molasses
2 tsp tamari
small knob fresh ginger
1 small – medium sized eggplant (variety of your choice), sliced into half moons
Lime wedge – to garnish
Handful of fresh coriander leaves – to garnish

Drain the block of tofu, wrap in a clean tea towel and place between two plates with a weight (e.g. a can of beans) on top.

In a heavy based fry pan, heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil and sauté the onion on a medium heat. When transparent add the garlic, chilli and half of the Kaffir lime leaves. Stir through the onions and cook for a couple of minutes before adding the crushed tomatoes.

Give the tomato/spice mixture a few minutes to get acquainted then add the kecap manis and tamari. Stir and taste for a balance between sweet and salty. Now get out your fine grater or ginger grater. You need at least a generous teaspoon of the grated pulp and juice, or if you have a fancy ginger grater that collects the juice aim for a teaspoon of the juice. In my usual slapdash manner I just grated the peeled knob over the pan, stirred, tasted and added more til the ginger was noticeable but not overwhelming.

Simmer covered with a lid, on low for 15-30 minutes to let the flavours develop. You may need to add a little water so the sauce doesn’t dry out. Stir frequently.

Don’t walk away. Once the sauce has begun cooking, get another fry pan, cover the base with oil to shallow fry and heat on high. Get the pressed tofu, cut into pieces and fry on both sides. Set aside to drain on paper towels or an old clean tea towel. Now add the eggplant cut in bite-sized slices to cook in the pan in batches, add more oil as needed. Set aside.

After cooking the sauce for the initial 15 minutes add the eggplant. I gave it another 5 minutes before adding the tofu and the rest of the shredded Kaffir lime leaves. Stir and allow the tofu to heat through, about another 5 minutes.

Serve on basmati rice, with a wedge of lime to sprinkle and a generous handful of coriander leaves.

* I reckon fried tempeh and green beans, instead of tofu and eggplant, would make another great variation of this dish.

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Sunday, August 01, 2010

I'm excited - Feel Good Food

A few weeks ago I shared a few cookbooks healthy enough to get the Food Nazi stamp of approval. I'm excited to add a new one fresh off the press. Unlike many other foodbloggers I don’t actually buy many recipe books, to hand over my hard earned cash these days I have to be sure that I’ll actually cook from it, rather than just be seduced by the pretty pictures.

Tony Chiodo has had a mention on this site before, I did one of his wholefoods cooking courses years ago that began with learning how to sharpen our knives and ended with making a yummy fruit kanten. Readers living further a field from Melbourne may not of heard of him but a potted history includes being apprenticed under local French chef Jacques Reymond, then studying and working in Italy before swapping animal fats for tofu at the Kushi Institute where he trained in Macrobiotics. I met Tony long after I'd become a fan of his cooking at Wild Rice Cafe (back in the days when you could find healthy food to eat in St Kilda) and Cafe Angelica in Kew, so I can say with a clear conscience that it really is his culinary skills that hooked me before I was subjected to his Italian charm.

While his first book Eating Well: Tony Chiodo's Food for Health and Happiness, based on his Epicure column in The Age, didn’t give me the same tingle (nice but not as wholesome as his workshops) Feel Good Food is everything I’d hoped a Chiodo cookbook would be – a wonderful marriage of European lushness with Asian inspired health affirming food. For example, there’s a baked silken chocolate tart with a picture that looks so good I want to lick it off the page. The crust is made from spelt flour, ground almonds and coconut oil and the ‘silken’ filling is based on tofu, cocoa and rice syrup. I love his idea of adding cardamom to a sweet quinoa dish too. As you’d expect from a macrobiotic influenced cookbook the savoury dishes use a variety of grains, beans and soy. There are also a handful of seafood and chicken dishes but overall the book is about 80% vegan (including the cakes and how to make tofu sour cream).

I was happy to see some old favourites from his cooking classes included in the book, like the millet and cauliflower mash (that tastes more exciting than it sounds), variations on his pilafs and the aforementioned kanten (a jelly made with agar agar).

His recipes are accessibly written but may include ingredients unfamiliar to a novice. However it includes clear instructions on how to use or cook them, such as recipes for steaming millet or quinoa. There are also some commonsense guidelines on how to cook and eat well, including seasonal eating and incorporating colour, texture and flavour. Like the recipes, the information is conveyed with a sense of fun and exploration without being preached at.

Feel Good Food manages to deliver a very challenging brief, it presents food that looks and tastes so great that your guests or family won’t know they are being fed “health food”.

Feel Good Food
Feel Good Food

Feel Good Food is well worth the $45 I paid for it, though if I'd followed my own Fishpond link I could have got it for a few bucks cheaper!

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