Monday, January 26, 2009
A mate & I spent yesterday in the mouth of the Huon in his boat with hand lines & the fish were biting! At the end of the day we caught a great feed of flathead. He generously donated his portion to me as he was to ‘trade –up’ for his dinner that night for some bartered rock lobster, the catch of a fisherman friend.
On sure & at home, my bucket of flatties were duly gutted, filleted & skinned. I dispatched child no3 to the veggie garden & she returned with fat pink eyes, which were washed & chipped, & also some rocket & tomatoes for a salad.
We fried the chips in batches before dusting the fillets in flour, then into a simple batter of SR flour, salt & water we dipped the fillets. Fried to golden they looked magnificent!
We served them with some smoked paprika mayo (I appear to be addicted to the stuff!) & we wolfed the lot down on the verandah as the day cooled down into evening.
Australian meal for Australia day, yep it’s a finalist with a chance!
Friday, January 23, 2009
I was driving around to a friend’s house yesterday to use their slicer & try a couple of legs of cured pork that had been maturing for the last six months. I was feeling pretty satisfied with my efforts, though a long way from the total self sufficiency that I dream about achieving, I had at least taken a baby step toward making something that I would have otherwise bought at a shop, in this case some home cured Jamon.
Upon arriving at my friend’s house I am greeted by the clutter & chaos of a kitchen that never sleeps, would never appear in a glossy mag nor ever has a single bench free of the mechanics of its intense production.
Buckets of fruit, filled bottles of various liquids, pots bubbling & syrups simmering catch your eye in its every recess & the air is heavy with syrupy humidity, leaving trails of sweet condensation on the windows. Underpinning all this olfactory overload was the unmistakeable waft of fermentation, not beer or wine, though they were present also but that sweet smell of cured & fermented meat, in this case some horse meat. Many of you might wince at the thought but it is still eaten throughout many parts of the world today & why not? This was the cured flesh of a much loved beast that had to be put down for medical reasons & though saddened, its owners quite rightly decided to use its flesh for consumption, in some final act of service & respect to it.
I was there to use their antique slicer, heavy with metals not used these days & to replace, I suspect would cost the proverbial arm & a leg.
I tentatively unwrapped by cloth bound, mummified leg of Berkshire pig, which just six months before had been pink & glistening. It smelled sweet & almost nutty, just like the real thing, so far so good!
We carved off a few rounds of the cured ham & I was rapt that the colour was still a deep rosy rouge, something that I had feared I would lose without the addition of nitrates which hold the ‘pinkness’ of smallgoods.
I can happily report that it tasted really good, a rich & deep cured Jamon flavour with a hint of acidic tang at the end. I imagined it on sourdough with a slick of fruity olive oil over the lot, hold that thought!
Heres the way I did it.
Get a hind quarter of pork with the thigh bone removed by your butcher & wipe it with a clean cloth. It then must be dried thoroughly.
Using a plastic tub (never use metal as the salt affects it) big enough to hold the leg flat on its side.
Place a bout 5cm of cooking salt (it’s cheap) on the bottom of the tub. Lay the leg on top & rub in the salt very thoroughly into all its nooks & crannies. This is a very important step. Once done, cover the leg with another 5cm & place a weight on top of this, remember use plastic.
Common convention suggests that you leave it in salt for a day every kg of the leg. Mine weighed approx 3.5 kgs but I left it under salt for 1 week before washing it clean, drying it thoroughly before salting it again for a further week.
After this I washed it again & dried it before pressing it for three days under heavy weights in the fridge.
Finally & wrapped it tightly in muslin cloth & hung it in a well ventilated spot for six months. Over this time I would get close to smell it to check if it was going rancid & believe me you will know this small when if you come across it!
Many people say you must hang it for a minimum of a year but in this case I think its fine after six months.
Importantly before you serve it to anyone, if you don’t trust that it is OK, then DON’T serve it & seek to get advice from a smallgoodsman of repute. In my case I just ate some & didn’t get crook which is good enough for me!
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The afternoon nap was cut short though as the reality of all those Christmas dishes piled high never really escaped, they were just on hold.
When I am rushing here or there, stressed about something or just plain over it all, I find myself gazing up toward that old hammock & its promise of reprieve, since my last one, maddingly just out of reach.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
This of course was how all of us got to know her. What I didn’t know was that she was & still might be the youngest woman ever to make the Bar in England, was a chronic alcoholic for much of her life & was the victim of awful bouts of violence from her highly esteemed surgeon father whom when she dared qualify the many scars of these atrocities to a seemingly sympathetic authorative figure, she was incarcerated into a mental institution. She was also the person behind the wild success of the ‘Books for Cooks’ bookstore in London that attracted the likes of arguably the worlds most influential food writers of the times including Elizabeth David, Delia Smith & A.A. Gill.
What I find really enjoyable though, is her wonderfully fruity language, her raised eyebrow dry wit & an almost old worldly use words & I don’t just mean Barrister long hand, but the words that you don’t hear nowadays in conversation. The only other time I have heard language like this actually spoken, so ‘other worldly’, even arcane, was when I happened to chance the same table as the late Don Dunstan, as a wedding guest & being mesmerized, as were we all at this table, by his masterful & entertaining use of it.
Her memoirs clearly evoke her early life of privilege, with all its trappings & excesses, at the same time she shows us that despite those entrenched class differences, people are fundamentally the same.
After each page I felt that one should never judge someone just by the image they might get from flicking on the tellie, so there is some hope after all for Gordon!
For a fantastic insight to someone whom I had not really given much kudos in the food world, I can highly recommend this as a good read.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
It always makes me feel a mixture of excitement & dread at the prospect of the town being full to the brim with the chaos of so many people. I’m excited about the heightened energy & the fission in the air but I dread the queues at the supermarket & the streets lined with campervans.
During the weekend, the main drag, from sunup to sundown is replete with a perambulating cross section of all forms of human kind that would keep a conga line of anthropologists deep in thesis material for years. What often strikes me is the thought that some of these folk must belong to a nomadic tribe that traverse the country meeting up this festival or that. How very rare that people live this way, at least by choice, in this day & age? Anyway for many, Festival time is all about making some money that will hopefully tide them over for the traditionally leaner months during winter, and make money, some do. The bottom pub for instance, had its busiest week on record. Not bad since it’s been going for a hundred years or so eh?
It’s at the local Festival IGA though that provides the true gage on how much the town has expanded. With big crowds come big appetites for all manner of things & not just foods. Personal hygiene items, napkins, matches, cleaning products, all thin out with this yearly pruning. Even stuff that usually doesn’t shift has its time in the sun, like EZI sauce or spam & even Pecks fish spreads!
I smile to myself noting that this time every year all the health food items disappear quickly from their designated shelves, their choices typical of the customer demographic that the festival seems to attract. Conversely, the frozen beefburgers & instant mashed potato stay inert & steadfastly resolved to their spots, like hopeful old dogs at the RSPCA while everyone it seems wants a puppy.
Usually, every fresh food item is snatched as it is being displayed. Consequently the long black fridges look as grim as a wake. Every carton of milk disappears, each block of cheese & tub of spreadable butter with them.
Forget about eating bread for the entire weekend.
The only other time I can recall when this type of locust plague spending occurs is in the event that a public holiday looms & thus the shop will be closed. This rare occurrence seems to send quite sane people into a meltdown, as they apparently feel they had better stock up, lest they starve to death. However even this pales, when compared to the influx of tourists for the Festival weekend. Now I have some idea why this particular supermarket is called ‘Festival’?!
Sadly though, it won’t be quite the same as the family who have been operating it for the last quarter century, are taking a two year sabbatical. The face of this IGA, George, is the always cheery & ever helpful son who will eventually take over the family business.
George has a memory of names & faces that would make a politician envious. For years he has toiled with his family in the living theatre of that IGA, living out their lives in front of the townsfolk often with high drama & sometimes with some sadness. George once told me warily that the IGA stood for, ‘Is George Around”! You get the picture.
Anyway I wish the Farrar’s all the best with their well deserved rest & hope to see them again, the place or the Festival won’t be the same without them.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
My proscuitto & bacon being lauded the world over.
More preserving, professionally & personally
Luke & Katrina having a stab at their own place.
Elaine Reeves collating all those well researched, informative & engaging articles she’s written over the years & putting them into a book.
Lee Christmas doing more smallgoods with his piggies
A decent place to eat in Kingston & also south of Franklin
More produce in the Cygnet farmers market
The Taste of The Huon to have ‘a good food awards’ section for best jams, breads, pickles etc & more stalls selling fresh produce to take home, not just eating there
More places to buy fresh fruit & vege at the farm gate.
A longer scallop season.
A government keeping its election promises.
Calm in the worlds hot spots.
Cowboys & its mostly guys here, stop gambling with peoples investments already!
More time for friends & family.
Enough dry wood for the Scotch oven.
Rita to become an alternate restaurant reviewer for the Mercury
That the Mona-Foma festival is NOT planned for the same week of The Cygnet Folk festival
A video (that’s old school for DVD by the way) shop that rents movies that are not just the latest blockbusters, some of us like a few films on the periphery of the mainstream.
Much success & sales for all those passionate producers of artisan foodstuffs, all over the country.
A productive season for my own veggie patch & fruit trees.
That our native trees are left alone by marauding caterpillars
That the possums leave both of the above alone
My oldest, enjoy school life as a secondary student
My middle child relishing being one of the seniors in Primary School
My youngest sharpening a love affair with cricket & a continuing role as the family comedian
My wife to dazzle everyone again both personally & professionally
And finally, that I get to see both my parents for another Christmas lunch.