Saturday, October 30, 2010

Dear Diary: Do people write on paper anymore?

Dear Diary,

Lately I’ve been feeling some mixed emotions.
Last time I wrote something down I was annoyed by something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I think it had been fermenting for a while, perhaps months and ignited as my ink stained your pages for the last time.
I can’t explain my irrational and careless behaviour as I slammed you shut and tossed you away dismissively into the recesses of the desk. My red cheeks couldn’t hide the shame I felt for treating you this way especially after the years we had shared together and I’m deeply sorry.

The truth is, well here goes…The truth is I feel differently now.

I guess I must have a flawed character to be seduced by the new but things are just so exciting and easy now. Please believe me, its not you it’s me.

I don’t know why I continued for so long really, maybe it’s like that old cliché, just a habit.
I mean, I have my family, two Twitter accounts, two Facebook accounts; numerous people with whom I converse on email plus my friends and of course my blog.
I know this sounds harsh, but why then do I need you now? Realistically you’re pretty much down the ladder of my priorities, not being mean or anything but I do tend to save all my good stuff for the blog. When it comes to you, sometimes I’m spent, plain and simple.
So I think its time we stopped, I don’t depend on you like I used to and I feel it would be unfair of me to continue to be so one sided in our relationship.
I hope in time you’ll come to understand and one day, perhaps even forgive me.
Until then, goodbye,
Sincerely
x

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Food Fatigue-the new RSI

'I'm just not into it anymore'-former food enthusiast tells all
It struck me as I watched the debut episode of Iron Chef Australia. Two of my family sat for a while before suddenly upping and leaving the room.
‘I’m bored by this’ was all one of them said as she left.
Since then a few little unrelated and I thought insignificant occurrences had happened that passed so briefly as not to notice but for one small thing.
They all had to do with someone’s apparent lack of interest in food and cooking.
A comment here, a remark there, then today chatting with a good mate of mine, she confessed that she was just ‘over’ cooking for people and thinking about food.
This little thread all of a sudden began to fill out and take shape.
All of a sudden I was aware that this huge king tide of food related media was threatening to swamp us all. It crept up slowly whilst we were dulled into a passive state, no doubt entranced by its siren call, incrementally becoming more and more ensconced and ingratiating itself into our lives.
It seems that nearly every channel has some food show now; the radio waves are abuzz with celebrity chef’s spruiking some such product and the bookshelves are groaning under the weight of yet another cookbook.
Have we reached critical mass yet? Are we beginning to show the signs of Cookery-Fatigue?
There is no respite; anywhere one gazes or listens will be met by some foodie message. I believe that this message is now having the opposite effect on which it was originally intentioned and we are tuning out.
In my opinion, I am beginning to think this barrage of foodie awareness is making people feel inadequate. Hours and hours of repetitive toothy fabulousness are sending the message that no matter how hard you try-you’ll never get there.
People are being set up for failure.
Think I’m being too sensationalist?
Then think about this.
When did the evening meal once a humble but delicious dinner, get highjacked by the fabulous arbiters? Why, all of a sudden did the snags, mash and peas, that were perfectly good one day, not worthy any more?
I am noticing the good natured and nurturing notions of cooking for people being replaced by a sort of anxiousness that has crept into cooking, making people fret that what they are serving is just not good enough.
How many people do you know have acres of shelf space devoted to cook books, magazines and DVDs only to rely on crap food at home? It’s as if they’ve been beaten. Given up and cannot be bothered. Sadly willing to live their gastronomic lives vicariously through the exploits of Jamie, Hugh and Nigella.
What a sorry state of affairs.
As an antidote to this malady I am reminded when as a cocky young apprentice, someone once said to me.
‘Oh I suppose now you’ll be wanting fancy food all the time, will you? But remember this; even though your Mums food might seem plain by comparison, it was her that fed you, nourished you and helped you become the person you are today, so never forget that fact and always respect her food and what it has given to you.’

Monday, October 25, 2010

Food Bloggers, can they cook?

Love this picture by BTW!
I read with interest the novel idea that several Melbourne Food bloggers will cook a five course dinner with matching wines on Thursady November 6 at Miss Jackson
Those taking part are Penny (who concocted the idea) Ed, Billy, Jess and Matt
I think this sounds like great fun and for $100 it seems like great value, knowing some of the participants, I’m sure the grog will be plentiful!

What particularly caught my eye though and what I wanted to expand on was their rigid rules for the menu and the terms for the event

No vegetarians, no vegans, no Kosher or any other dietary requirements will be catered for. The full cost of the meal to be paid by direct debit into an account one week prior to the event, non refundable. All enquiries by email only.

Wow!

Some restaurant and café owners would drool at the possibility of this doctrine ever eventuating in reality. Sure, special functions might be the exception and of course, this event is just that, but it’s not the way conventional hospo businesses operate.

I wonder if any chefs or owners of the restaurants that the participating bloggers post about will attend and what a delicious ferment that might be!

Another aspect I find interesting is Ed's headline

Book now: 'Food bloggers to prove they can cook'

It's intriguing.
This statement highlights the very question that many people ask, ‘Do you need to be able to cook in order to be a food blogger?’ Or better still, as many food bloggers critique the restaurants and cafes they blog about, in fact this critiquing is the essence of what their blogs are about, do they need to come at it from an informed and experienced point of view?

In my opinion, the simple answer is no. I don’t think you need to have professional cooking experience in order to opine about what you like or don’t like. I will say though that a basic understanding of the principles of cookery and perhaps more importantly, a love and passion for it are prerequisites.
The fact that many chefs at the very least, mistrust food bloggers and in some cases even despise them, conveys a sense that they feel bloggers are not credentialed and thus aren’t appropriately qualified to criticize their work.
If you were to believe some chefs, they wouldn’t let anyone blog about food unless they owned, worked in or operated a food business somewhere. The reality is, that’s not going to stop someone starting a blog and posting about their experiences at said restaurant or café.
Many chefs exercise complete authority over their brigades’, menus and in some case the very restaurant they work in or own and are used to having total control. This is why they see these food bloggers as an anathema as they have very little, if any ability to influence or shape their opinions.

Anyway I am thinking about pinching the idea, sorry I mean 'Re-imagining the concept' here in Tasmania. To make it a little more exciting though I might consider extending the event over a week and get the bloggers to cook every shift during this period.

Would this kill the joy do you think?

Seriously though, who would cook? Well Rita would have to be at the top of the list. Then Victor Khoo, Michelle Crawford, Stephen Estcourt, Nola James (we’d get her back), Colette, Hazel, Tassiegal and maybe Veronica Foale-can anyone else think of people I’ve missed? Of course professional chefs who blog or blogging suppliers, aren’t allowed to participate for obvious reasons.

Thoughts?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

To book or not to book, that is the question

There are many restaurants and cafes these days that have a no bookings policy.
Last year this article appeared in the SMH in response to what the author described as ‘arrogant’ behaviour by some restaurants that do not accept bookings. It prompted this response from Neil Perry; of Rockpool et all fame who I think explained this situation clearly from the restaurateurs’ point of view.

We accept bookings at the café. In fact we try to insist on them. In our situation, if we are alerted to the potential of being busy, we can try to staff accordingly and arrange the room for the reservations. This is especially true of Frid and Sat evenings and of course Sundays and public holidays when we are at our busiest.
Then you get some days, out of the blue, where people are everywhere and flood the café without any notice. To be clear, I love these days because we’re busy of course, but often we have to soldier on with the limited staff we have because we’re not able to get anyone else in to help at such short notice.

Sadly, this can mean long waits for service, food and coffee.

Inevitably someone will suggest we need more staff on today or ask why the service/food/coffee is taking so long. This is one of the great challenges of hospitality life; being wise enough to bite your tongue, smile benignly and nod deferentially.

It’s not a point I like to discuss or debate with my customers. It won’t help them or me.

Despite our best laid plans and bookings policy, some prospective customers leave disappointed because we have no room to fit them in. We limit our bookings on busy days to 12 and 12.30 respectively. This ensures that the café is full to capacity early and doesn’t have any empty seats waiting for late bookings, which is frustrating when we could have filled these seats without a problem.

Take last Thursday for instance, it was a public holiday in Tassie, being Show day.
We started getting bookings weeks before and when the day dawned we had two tables of two left that had not been booked, however they were snapped up quickly by early walk-ins.
As the café filled up with reservations, several groups turned up hoping to get a table. Whilst most were good sports about our lack of available tables for them and chided themselves for not booking earlier, a few were indignant and in one case, a person actually abused me!

It went like this:

Me-Hello, are you in for lunch and do you have a booking?
Him-Yes, we want lunch and no we don’t have a booking
Me-I’m sorry sir but we are fully booked and don’t have any tables available right now.
Him-What about that table over there? And he pointed toward a table with a reserved sign on it.
Me-That table is reserved sir.
Him-So you’re not going to give us a table then?
Me-If you would like to pop out for a walk for 10 mins, we might have something by then?
Him-We want lunch, NOW!
Me-Again, I’m sorry but we are f..…
Him-This is Fucked! We’ve come down from fucking Hobart for the day!
Me-shocked momentary silence before I composed myself
Him-Fuck it, you and your café can fuck off then-before storming off.

The irony is, a moment later, a table become available! Instant Karma.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that a sunny public holiday may attract large numbers of people keen to have a nice meal out somewhere and that it would be prudent to book a table or face disappointment. We turned away about 40 people that day, one being a group of 15 people, all decided to chance it.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE walk-ins and please keep ‘em coming but its a tricky thing to balance.

Conversely there is another bookings strategy employed by some crafty people to ensure they get a table where and when they want it. Rather than not booking at all, they book several and sometimes many places on the same night and time. When the time arrives they simply rock up to the venue that appeals to them the most. If you’re a lucky venue, sometimes they’ll ring and cancel but most often they are a no-show.

These no-shows cost a restaurant or café dearly.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ute envy

When we first moved to the country I suffered the proverbial monkey on my back for weeks until my itch got scratched and my desire satiated. During those dark days I endured the shame of standing out as a blow in, someone that just didn’t quite fit in round here and it hurt like a thousand cuts with a squeeze of lemon juice.
It became an absolute obsession of mine to quickly acquire the leitmotif that would herald our transition into rural life and at the very least, help us blend in a bit more.

I had to get a Ute.

Yes our city car with its little dinky wheels, its roomy hatch and its cute little snub nose stuck out like dogs balls. It spoke of curb-side lattes, shopping centres and safe suburban streets.
I could feel the mistrusting stares of the locals the first time I ventured into town. I swear, a tumbleweed churned past as Sergio Leone’s the Good, bad and the ugly ran through my head as I stepped from the car and into the main drag of Cygnet.
Utes lined the streetscape as far as the eye could see and I felt like Ripley as she stumbled into the nest of the Alien, her vile seedpods waiting to erupt. Somewhere out of town, the roar of an angry Ute chilled me with a sense of foreboding.
I made my way quickly into the Newsagent and grabbed the latest Trading post.
Eyeing my purchase and craning his neck into the street, the vendor gave me a knowing look.
‘You could try the noticeboard at the IGA as well’ he said wearily.
Wow, it was that obvious, I thought.
Safely at home I began to wrestle with what sort of Ute did I need and more precisely what sort did I want. On offer was a cornucopia of Ute styles from the teeny tiny ridiculous to the behemoth ridiculous and every thing else in between.
A Ute says a lot about you so my choice had to be spot on if I were to be welcomed into the community.
Years ago a friend of mine bought a Suzuki Mighty Boy, a sort of cute little Ute that these days I wouldn’t be seen dead in. I always liked the Subaru Brumby but it was again too small. I needed something bigger, so I went classic and got a HZ Ute.
It was a bit of a paddock basher and lasted for a couple of years before I eventually decided I needed a dual cab Ute so all the fam could get in. The HZ also bought me some much needed cred as it is the Ute of choice for many a B and S, Bundy drinking and Ute mustering country people. Such was its cachet; it lasted only a couple of days at the end of our driveway before someone bought it.
Having gained more Ute experience and my needs were becoming more specific so I settled on a Mitsubishi Triton dual cab with canopy. The dual cab was in good order when I purchased it however a few years of hard use and her looks had faded to the point that she was almost unrecognizable to her previous owners when we bumped into each other in the street. Shamefully I had let her fall into a state of embarrassing disrepair that had town elders tsking and shaking their heads with disapproval. I thought one never washed ones Ute but also one wore its battle scars like medals. Again, my city colours were shining through my thin patina of country experience; it was time to Ute-up again.
These days I’m comfortable having traded up to a modern 4 x 4, I wash it some days, it enjoys regular maintenance and I have seemingly melded happily into the background of Ute white noise.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Why some chefs think functions are 'below them'

After an invigorating conversation today with a chef colleague of mine I have been going over and over in my mind certain aspects of it.
The premise was: Does one have to change the way one usually prepares, cooks and serves in order to feed a large number of people at a function?
We both quickly concluded that, yes, one most definitely does. The speed at which we found ourselves in agreement could only be shaped by experiences gleaned over many years and in my case, many mistakes along the way.
You see, for many chefs, the notion of doing hundreds of meals in a function setting is something they are not comfortable with. Some of them see it as sort of ‘sullying’ their brand and making it a bit too low rent. The word ‘functions’ seem to send shivers of distaste through the spines of many a would-be, aspiring or great chef.
This excuse can also be a bit of a smokescreen. Many of these chefs, though highly skilled crafts-people are simply not practised in doing large numbers in a function situation.
Functions in general are treated often with a contempt that I can not really understand. and hotels, for instance, are where one can witness an almost institutionalized contempt.
In Hotels, the functions chefs and cooks are held in considerably low regard compared to their high table cousins who cook for the premier restaurant. It’s the same story for function waiters and runners who are deemed the lowest of the low.
It’s ironic that the revenue generated by the function arm of hotels the world over is historically much more profitable than the restaurants themselves.
When you do functions effectively, you must unshackle yourself from the notion of cooking for small amounts of people, its intimate contact with the food and its own peculiar rules. Yet so many chefs fail to observe this, often because they make the mistake of thinking, ‘How hard can it be?’ It’s a disrespectful and arrogant attitude that has seen many celebrated chefs stumble awkwardly only to be saved from absolute embarrassment by the safe hands of the function chef.
Years ago I was head chef at a restaurant in which we had a chef-patron. We had devised a menu for a very large group and I started to have misgivings as I heard how complicated each course was evolving under the enthusiastic chef-patron whose motto was ‘More is More’.
Anyway it was my job to set up the organize the night which was going swimmingly until chef-patron, in a mad expansive gesture of small kitchen thinking, announced that each of the risotto dishes would have some freshly shaved truffle on it by him.
My sous chefs and I shared worried glances.
‘Chef, why don’t we get ahead and pre-shave some and you can do the tail end of them?’ had the senior team members nodding in agreement.
‘I said I’m Facking shavin’ the Facking truffles to order didn’t I?’ came the reply, the veins on his neck bulging crimson against the white of his jacket.
‘Oui Chef’, I exclaimed, resigned to a night of even harder slog.
Anyway the event started without hitch until the said risotto course arrived.
Now for those who are not aware, during functions, dishes are assembled along a line with designated people contributing their bits and pieces in a well timed and organized way so the food gets out the way it is intended and hot. Done well, it’s a thing of beauty and a culmination of teamwork and communication. Done not well and, well, you get the picture.
As chef-patron was madly shaving truffle, he couldn’t keep up with the risotto makers serving, the garnish chefs plating and the waiters dispatching. Pretty soon, the plates were banking up and all the staff were exchanging those ‘what the fucks the hold-up?’ looks.
Chef-patron was now in a wild haired frenzy, his shaving hand was a blur, sweat poured from his temple and his whole neck now looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger, clearly he could not keep up and something had to give.
All of a sudden, as if in slow motion it happened.
Open mouthed I watched as a crimson cordon of blood wafted through the air, almost hanging above the risottos before splatting cheerfully on one of the junior waiters jackets’
‘FUUUUUCK!’ chef-patron bellowed, clutching his ruby-red hand which now resembled a heavily poached and dripping quince, as he scrambled off to the sick bay.
For the briefest of moments I allowed myself a smirk as I procured a container of pre-sliced truffle from under the bench. Once again the assembly line lurched into life and the risottos went out warm, as intended.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Childrens parties, what went wrong?

A few years ago, writing as the Garrulous Gourmet, I penned a piece about children’s parties. Well not much has changed since then so I thought I'd have another go at it.
As I’ve gotten older I am witnessing a seismic shift in what we provide our kids at these events. When I was a kid at a birthday party, it was an excuse to stuff as many lollie’s, fizzy drinks and party pies into ones gob and preferrrably all at the same time.
The table was laden with plates of every manner of chips which stretched from the plain crinkle cut all the way across the spectrum to Cheezels. There would be iridescently coloured lollies promising instant saccharine epiphany and dishes of Whizz Fizz piled as high as a Columbian drug lord. Of course every table had a tower of fluffy white buttered bread exploding with a starburst of hundreds and thousands, gallons of red or green jelly with lolly frogs at the bottom and chocolate crackles.
Piping hot party pies and sausage rolls would arrive to be eagerly dunked into the dead horse by a crowd not yet indoctrinated into the dogma of meaty-provenance. We all giggled at the steaming bowls of ‘little boys’ that emerged from the kitchen and pricked them with the toothpicks that never seemed to be strong enough to hold their weight.
Sometimes there would be trifle or Pavlova or even an ice cream cake. The only so called ‘healthy alternatives’ might have been a bowl of orange quarters or some watermelon. We ran giddy into the afternoon, drunk on sugar, in our striped hang-ten t-shirts and mops of hair to a soundtrack of Sherbet and Skyhooks.
So what happened?
When did we replace the Caramelo’s with carrot sticks? The chips with dips and the little boys with Saveloys?

And while we’re on it, when did every layer of pass the parcel have to contain a prize?

It seems parents of my generation feel the need to impose some sort of pious principles on what food choices are available to the participating kids. We seem preoccupied with the notion that other parents may judge us as ‘negligent’ or worse if we don’t source ethical, sustainable and local whole foods for the party.
I think this is especially true when we are new parents and we have our first party, like a debutante eager to show the thoughtful and informed choices we make. ‘No lolly bags at this party’ we doggedly say to ourselves, staying up till after midnight tying the hemp bags of nuts and raisins together.
Why all this self imposed pressure?
Well for a start I’d say it’s about thinking that we are some how smarter than our parents generation. Yes we might all be collectively better educated than them but I’d also make the observation that we tend to over-intellectualize everything to do with our kids and child rearing.
This ‘up-tightness’ is all about control. As informed and intelligent people who have made our way in the world we think we can exercise the same degree of control that has got us this far and impose it on the chaos that is child rearing.
This is a big mistake and in my opinion, leads to a whole world of disappointments.
When I was a new parent afflicted with this self righteous malady I would look at the laissez-faire attitude that the veteran parents would display.
‘Don’t they care about all the s numbers in the sausage rolls?’ I would hiss at another parent incredulously, like the sausage roll had become akin to a packet of Winnie Blues.

I spent years in this state until one day I just loosened up.

Fast forward to a kid’s party a while back where we arrived to a party table adorned with all the healthy food alternatives that would have made Rosemary Stanton squeal excitedly.
I looked at my son and I could see the tears welling up. It would be a long three hours.

Oh and on that, the time limit for a party.
I think this is a great and logical development as we are all time poor these days and having a prompt start and finish time makes it very clear to the parents and kids of how much time we’ve all got.
So when one makes it this clear, why do some parents interpret a three o clock finish time to be ‘about three, or closer to four?’ This is a frequent phenomenon.
Once we had a party in a indoor play centre and a parent did not pick up their kids until 1.5 hours later and even then they sent in one of their other kids to collect the child without so much as an apology. I marched out to the offending parent and was given a feeble excuse of them just having to do the shopping. WTF!
Beware; some people think that dropping their kids off at a party equates to free unlimited babysitting.

Friday, October 08, 2010

How many meals have you served?

The nightmare-the burden of so many meals served weighing on this female chef as she trys to get some kip.
If you are a chef or cook, have you ever wondered how many meals you’ve served?
It’s a frequently asked question that I seem to draw and the simple answer is: I have absolutely no idea.
It’s also question I ponder especially as I get closer to that looming milestone of almost thirty years working as a chef in kitchens.
Sure some of the places I’ve worked in were small, some humble and some I’m embarrassed to admit that I once worked there
Then there were the hatted, the starred, the celebrated and the huge.
It was in the latter places that the numbers of diners really clocked up.
You don’t need to be a mathematician to work out that one of these restaurants served in excess of 450 people per day and over a quite few years this equates to a lot punters.
That doesn’t even take into account that the majority of them might have enjoyed more than just one course and this just adds to the volume in question.
At times, thinking about it overwhelms me. I mean, that’s a lot of customers.
Sometimes when work commitments and deadlines are bearing down and I fall into a worried sleep at the end of a stressful day, inevitably the same reoccurring nightmare begins to play out.
In it the alarm goes off, I awake, still sweaty and grimy from the previous night’s service and still in my fetid whites. I stumble from the dishevelled chaos of my bedroom downstairs into a dimly lit kitchen, still fatigued and soiled from yesterday’s epic service. On the bench is a huge prep list, a note from a supplier letting me know what’s not available and another from two staff members who won’t be in today?
I start to sweat, I glance at the clock, and its five to twelve and I can already make out the looming shadows of all the customers I’ve ever served at the front door, pressing and scratching at the glass.
My wife, well drilled in coping with this scenario, calmly takes both my hands which are busy making the furious movements of chopping parsley with an imaginary cleaver and gently places them on my side and sleepily whispers in my ear:
Steve it’s your day off, go back to sleep.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

What is modern food anyway?

Exactly what is, modern food?

It’s a question I’ve been ruminating on for some time now. Pick up a food guide book these days or review in a paper or mag and you’ll find this term used to convey what to expect at said restaurant or café.

Trouble is I’m not sure if it conveys this message or actually any message at all.

To begin, this is very difficult and perhaps impossible to be totally objective about.
One person’s views will differ from another and the level of food knowledge, frequency of dining out and awareness of current trends in food would be an essential aspect of beginning to answer this question.
I suppose to the everyday person it might mean something a bit ‘out there’ or unconventional, say spheres, smears and foams etc. Or it could mean contemporary dishes, ones that are generally accepted as not being as old fashioned, like say a Steak Diane or Schnitzel Holstein. However to complicate this, if a chef were being ironic, perhaps a Steak Diane or Schnitzel Holstein given a modern re-imagining could be re-badged as being modern?
Crossed chives on a plate was once the de rigueur signature of the kitchen avant garde but now looks laughable, that is of course if you aren’t in on the ironic joke of the chef and just plain sad if the chef isn’t joking and you think it actually looks quite good., but that just me being a snob.
This brings us back to the query.
I think modern restaurant food has moved into the realms of the highly cerebral. It assumes the diner will understand the process by which a, on the surface at least, group of disparate ingredients, techniques and appearances come together in harmony on a serving implement. I was going to say plate but plates seem to have had their time in the sun and are being retired hastily like the Akermanis’s of the crockery world.
These days you are as likely to have your food served on rocks, shells, bark, wood or any combination of things. Who knows pretty soon we might have a course served on the back of the living creature from which the dish was derived!?
I’m taking the Mickey here of course but my point is, plates are passé. In fact you could argue that one of the first signs a place is modern is that they shun the use of them. There, we’re getting somewhere!
In the eighties I once took my no-nonsense father to a meal at a celebrated restaurant which employed the use of those almost comically oversized plates. Peering down at the minute portion of protein on the white expanse of porcelain, he looked over the top of his glasses, all schoolteacher-like and said: ‘Gosh after I eat it I can wash my face and hands in this bowl’. Clearly the flourish and expression that was Nouvelle Cuisine were not for him.
This brings me to a point about food and fashion being inextricably linked.
Are we going through a changing of the guard right now? Are chefs and restaurant food taking another turn, shaking off many of the previous dictums and conventions of kitchens of yore?

I think so.

The preoccupation of the kitchen chicanery that was once known as Molecular Gastronomy, latterly acknowledged as Techno-mocional cuisine has given way to a new wave of boundary pushers who forage, pickle, de-hydrate and distil.
Instead of trying to re-interpret nature’s food and fiddle with them at their molecular level in order to perhaps master or control it, this new wave seems happy to leave it well enough alone.
I see a desire to convey a real sense of place and time from these exponents of this new push. They are cooking food that speaks not just from the confines of a particular region and its limitations but that of today and the now.
Utilizing modern techniques and mixing them with time honoured methods in a sort of post modern cherry picking of cooking motifs and serving the food in a very casual manner are the hallmarks of this new modern approach to food.
It can be quite confronting for some people to get their head around the particular idiosyncrasies that are encountered when experiencing it.
I suppose though, that any new wave of sorts initially baffles many by challenging convention and resistance to these developments creates an interesting ferment and a dynamic tension.
With all tension comes a release of sorts, either a breaking snap back to the middle ground or in this instance I hope, a stretching in our acceptance of new ideas.
Many of today’s established understanding of food were once the pace setters of yesterday, testing the status quo.
So will today’s 65 degree egg at 65 minutes will be the norm at a café tomorrow?
That remains to be seen.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Crab cakes-how I love thee

Crab cakes.
Just the sound of these words gets my belly rumbling. Crispy edged and briny centered ideal drinking food and naturally paired with a mayonnaise based sauce.

By the way I’m talking specifically about American styled crab cakes which is basically a rissole shaped patty which is then shallow fried and served. Depending on the thickness, sometimes they are finished off in an oven to make sure the centres are done.

Usually if I am lucky enough to get crab meat I like it done as simply as possible, say tossed through fresh pasta or in a simple sandwich. Having chanced upon some superb lump Spanner crab meat I decided to make them into crab cakes.
All crab meats are suitable for the cakes but my preference is for King Crab meat, you just can’t beat it.

The basic method is to cook some potatoes, put them through a potato ricer or moule and let cool a bit so you can handle the mix.
I use about half and half ratio of meat to potato, in this case it was 500g of each. Then I add two eggs, fresh breadcrumbs, English mustard, baby capers, lemon juice and zest, half a finely diced onion, 1 crushed garlic clove and half a cup of fresh chopped parsley, sea salt and pepper.
Mix the lot in a bowl and adjust wetness with more breadcrumbs if needed. Shape in to patties and shallow fry, I use a light olive oil as I don’t like the smell of blended vegetable oils, drain on absorbent paper and serve.

After a full day in the glorious sun and back from the beach, we were ravenous and gobbled ours up with saffron mayonnaise and lemon wedges on the verandah with the setting sun casting low shadows over the valley.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Snow Goose-Foie Gras that got away



This film always makes me cry like a wee Bairn, especially when I think of all that potential Foie Gras gone to waste!

P.S. Jenny Agutter was smokin hot BTW!