September 27, 2008
I think sex and cooking share something fundamental, some basic drive that engenders such passion about them both. Both begin with a hunger, I guess, and both serve to satisfy that need. Both are feasts, in their own way.
As this is less a recipe, and more a general comment on cooking (and its carnal comparison), I'll leave the rest off the main page and continue after the jump.
September 21, 2008
Brownies trigger fond memories in me. I wish I could say that they brought me back to the smell of my childhood kitchen as Mum baked a fresh batch, but the reality is far more prosaic and mundane. Rather, when I think of brownies I think of a bad day at work, coming to the end of a seemingly interminable ward round to find that some goddess among women (it's never the guys) has brought a plate of brownies to share in the tea room. It's not worthy of Proust, but dammed if a good chocolate brownie doesn't lift a bad day.
Like any man of good taste I prefer my brownies fudgy, and feel that adding nuts only serves to get in the way of that smooth, chewy texture. Unfortunately this is at odds with the fact that nuts taste great and pair perfectly with chocolate. But there is a third option. Ever since I learned that vanilla extract was simply alcohol infused with the flavour of vanilla beans, I've had fun experimenting with other liqueurs in its place.
Most nut-flavoured liqueurs are suitable substitutes for vanilla essence in desserts (especially custards), not because they taste the same but because they tend to pair well with the same things. Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur, works particularly well owing to its status as the best damn liqueur there is.
Credit for the basic recipe that I've adapted goes to Martha Stewart by way of Emma. Even if you don't use Frangelico, this is an excellent go-to brownie recipe. Just be sure to share the love in your local tea room.
Chocolate & Frangelico brownies
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter (85 g, 3 oz)
- 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped roughly
- 1 tbsp less than 1/4 cup of cocoa powder
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp Frangelico
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup of flour
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
1. Preheat an oven to 180ºC. Melt the butter, chocolate, and cocoa powder in a double boiler or (carefully) in the microwave. Set aside to cool.
2. Beat the eggs, sugar, and Frangelico together in a large bowl until the mixture becomes pale and thickens slightly. Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture.
3. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder into the egg and chocolate mixture, and stir together until just combined.
4. Transfer the mixture to a lined, greased 8 inch square brownie pan and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting for best results.
September 20, 2008
There are those among us who would have you treat your meals with a Spartan, militant set of criteria when it comes to food and wine. There are those who would, for their own nefarious puposes, cling to their outdated theories of eugenics and cry foul whenever they see any kind of foody miscegenation:
"How appalling", they attest, "to see the innocent white flesh of the fish befouled with the dark blood of the shiraz".
It is upon us to lead the way out of these crude limitations and base assumptions. Join me, friends, and we will have justice (and food) for all.
September 19, 2008
I used to grudgingly tolerate my old electric stove. It was my first stove, a fact that won it countless free passes. I could be cold and moody, but the two of us knew each other. It wouldn't short circuit or flame up if I let a pot bubble over, and I learned to keep two hotplates on at different temperatures when I needed to overcome its slow responsiveness. Sometimes it was hard work, but that's what they say about love — there's no denying it, that stove and I made some beautiful food together.
Fried rice changed things. Back then I truly believed that while an electric stove made a lot of things harder, it didn't make anything impossible. I attempted fried rice on it (like most of my workarounds, it involved cast iron) and while the results were good, it wasn't right. Maybe if I'd tried harder I could have made restaurant-quality fried rice, but then the next week it would be the same thing all over again with crispy-skinned salmon. Deep down I knew the fried rice was just a symptom — I had to face the difficult realisation that my stove was holding me back, that it was me making all the compromises. When I came home from a busy day hungry for a quick, smoky stir fry it was me spending extra time enacting all of these elaborate workarounds. Me! And the stove had been at home doing nothing all day!.
A week after I disconnected the electric stove, I already had a shiny new stainless steel gas range. Call it a rebound, but it's been 8 months and I've never been happier. I still remember the first night I got the gas hooked up and made a huge bowl of fried rice. It was delicious. The gas stove opened a lot of doors, but for me conquering fried rice was something special, something necessary. I've made it a lot since then, and it only gets better. Please, gentle reader, allow me to share with you these things I have learned.
September 17, 2008
Now that I've finally regained access to the internet (albeit currently without the ability to upload photos), I want to sincerely apologise for the slowing of posts to the site. I'm doing a 4-week placement in Whyalla, which has unexpectedly left me unable to update.
However that doesn't mean that all content will cease for the rest of my time here. I've brought my camera, and am gradually sussing out the best places to buy fresh produce around here. Someone at work has offered to bring me some Thai and Indian herbs from her garden. If I'm lucky I may even catch a fish. This trip might not be so bad after all.
September 13, 2008
Why did the scarecrow get a Nobel prize?
Because he was out standing in his field!
For a second pancake equlivalent of this joke, feel free to continue on with this post. This post will be slightly less funny, but every bit as unrelated to hair brush design. It will focus slightly more on the Barossa Valley, and will have one or two more meetings with winemakers, but it's otherwise pretty much the same.
It does have a recipe though, and probably the best recipe you're ever going to find on this site.
Sorry, Tim, but it's true.
September 6, 2008
Is it lazy to take shortcuts? Does it make you less legitimate as a cook, or less dedicated? Can a guy who rallied against instant pancake mix maintain any integrity as he posts his second no-knead dough recipe?
No, no, and sure he can.
The thing about a shortcut is that it's only worthwhile if it still gets you to your destination. If you cut through some side streets and wind up going the opposite direction, it's not a shortcut, it's the wrong way. The same is true for cooking — Sandra Lee's corner cutting is an embarrassing false economy, but true shortcuts make you more efficient and remove some of the frustration that can bog down even the most enthusiastic cooks.
For me, kneading is a step I will happily forgo. Medium hydration doughs are actually quite therapeutic to knead by hand, but the two doughs I make most often are either relatively stiff pasta dough, or pizza dough. I love the big, random air bubbles and thin, crunchy crust that high hydration gives a pizza dough, but if you've ever tried to hand knead something that sticky you'll forgive me for taking the easy way out. This recipe is only 65% water, next time I plan to go ever higher.
Bakers who know about the science of bread may shake their head at this recipe, but the fact remains that it produces a damn tasty pizza base. The extended rest boosts the flavour, and it develops enough gluten to give the dough some chew thanks to the large amount of water. I haven't reached (homemade) pizza heaven yet, but I can see the light and I'm floating towards it.
Recipe after the jump.
September 1, 2008
Have I mentioned how good Food Safari is? Every week Food Safari profiles a different national cuisine by going right to the source: the home cooks and local chefs who have been cooking it all of their lives. There's no manufactured slickness, it's just honest food by Australians from different backgrounds and it completely rocks. What makes it even better is the fact that 80% of the videos are available online. You could easily lose an evening on that website, and I recommend you do.
When I saw them make this red duck curry on the show, it didn't jump out at me as something I have to try. I love both duck and pineapple but rarely buy them, and lychees are hardly a kitchen staple. Then I went to the Star of Siam on Gouger St (it's a hell of a street) and ordered a serving of this curry that blew me away. It was the perfect Thai balance: the gravy was hot and salty, the fruits sweet and sour, and the duck juicy and tender. Once the restaurant's serving bowl was licked clean, I immediately ran out of the restaurant and dashed home to make this for myself.
The curry recipe is a great one but I wasn't completely satisfied with the curry paste, it seemed to be missing something. I'm not sure what, but I'll find out and get back to you.
Kaeng ped pett yang (red duck curry)
- 300g roast duck meat
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 3 tbsp red curry paste
- 300ml coconut cream
- 2 tbsp lychee juice1
- 1.5 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 4 canned lychees
- 8 small pieces of fresh pineapple2
- 100g apple eggplants
- 100g pea eggplants3
- 1 long red chili, sliced finely
- 6 kaffir lime leaves
- 1 large handful of thai basil leaves
1. Cook the curry paste in peanut oil over a high heat for about 1 minute. Stir through about half of the coconut cream and cook, stirring, until oil begins to bead on the surface.
2. Add the lychee juice, fish sauce, lime juice, duck, lychees, pineapple, remaining coconut cream, and 1/4 a cup of water and bring to a simmer. Add the eggplants and chili and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the eggplants still have a little bite.
3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the kaffir lime and basil leaves. Serve with steamed rice.
(1) Don't pull your hair out trying to find a bottle of lychee juice — it simply refers to the syrup that canned lychees come in.
(2) Fresh pineapple is important as it brings some necessary sourness that canned just doesn't have.
(3) If you can't find these (or apple eggplants, either), by all means substitute with some regular eggplant or zucchini.