Odysseus leaves Ogygia: Grilled lamb backstrap

Chargriled lamb with lemon potatoes and tzatziki

Greek food, man. Greek food.

Recently a great meal at Eros Kafe opened my eyes to the joys of Greek food. By all indications I should have seen this long ago — since high school almost all of my close friends has worked for a time at Eros — but that doesn't matter anymore, here I am. It's like the guitar: while I was growing up my dad collected and played guitars, but it took moving out to finally motivate me to learn (alternate explanation: I took up guitar in university thinking that if I could strum out Counting Crows songs it would impress girls).

The meal responsible for said eye opening was Eros's souvlakia: lamb loin skewered and chargrilled, on a tabouleh, chickpea and smashed potato salad, served with tzatziki. The meat was disappointingly tough for loin, but the flavours were excellent: crisp and fresh, perfect food for a warm summer evening. The dish was simple but came together really well. What better place than that to kick off my next cooking odyssey?

For my homage I used backstrap rather than loin, and can I just say to the uninitiated that you simply can't go wrong with backstrap. It's tender, flavourful, and effortlessly looks great on a plate. Unfortunately it's quite expensive, but with a hearty salad of potatoes and chickpeas a little meat goes a long way. Backstrap isn't used a lot in traditional Greek cooking, but it's obvious why it's a favourite in modern Greek circles.

The recipe below is a simple parsley and yoghurt marinade for the meat, but in time I'll put up recipes for the tzatziki and potato salad. The day after I took the photo I remade the salad for the remaining meat adding cumin and roasted tomato, which made it even better. This marinade is a good all-purpose Greek marinade, which would taste just as good on chicken or beef.

When I first made the marinade I added half a teaspoon of sugar to the mix. I hoped this would help get the nice charred crust I was after — and maybe it did — but it took the edge off the salty and sour tastes which should really be quite sharp to compliment the gaminess of the lamb, so leave it out.

Grilled lamb backstrap


  • 400g lamb backstrap
  • 1/4 of a medium onion
  • 3 cloves of roasted garlic1
  • 1/4 cup of flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp salt

1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the lamb, and blend until they make a smooth puree. Coat the lamb in this paste and marinate in the fridge overnight.
2. Take the lamb out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Heat a grill (preferably charcoal) to very hot and cook the lamb for 5 minutes a side, or until it's medium-rare inside and charred on the outside. Rest the meat before slicing, then serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

(1) Fresh garlic would be fine, but I had a whole head of roasted garlic on hand which is never a bad thing.

Wherein Tony Robbins takes over the blog and makes a blue cheese butter

Steak with blue cheese butter

It's important to treat yourself once in a while. We're all kind of insecure, in need of frequent reminders of how awesome we are. These kinds of reminders are easy to find in a good relationship or with good friends, but it shouldn't be up to external sources to determine how we feel about ourselves.

The fact is that even if you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who love you and know how to show it, on its own that can't be the foundation of your self esteem. Because that's not self esteem at all, that's just peer pressure. Don't leave it to someone else to decide whether you deserve a steak dinner, decide for yourself!

And that's exactly what I did. Last week I celebrated something of a career milestone by cooking myself steak and blue cheese butter, with a side of potato gratin. Potato gratin on a weeknight isn't exactly a Rachael Ray 30 Minute Meal, but hey, I'm worth it.

Steak and blue cheese are a winning combination (they say that dry-aged beef actually takes on some subtle blue-cheese flavours), but if you aren't having steak there's absolutely no reason why this wouldn't work swimmingly on a grilled burger. My choice of cut — skirt — is a little unusual, but sliced against the grain this steak was as tender as any sirloin I've eaten and far, far cheaper. The potato gratin I made on the side was actually my first opportunity to test the potato gratin hypothesis, an using a ratio of 0.4 I'm happy to report that the first empirical gratin was a great success.

Blue cheese butter


  • 20g blue cheeese, at room temperature
  • 25g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 tsp very ground white pepper (freshly ground, not the pre-ground powder rubbish)
  • 1 clove roasted garlic, minced

1. Mix everything up and put it on some meat. Take a nap solider, you've earned it.

Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil

Spaghetti with garlic & olive oil

Many of the best pasta sauces can be made in the time it takes to cook the pasta, so to be able to prep, cook, and wash up by the time it reaches al dente is something extra special. Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil is exactly what it sounds like, but this incredibly simple dish is more than the sum of its parts.

Still, that's no reason to skimp on the parts. When you're cooking with so few ingredients every individual component counts. The pasta should be a good quality dried durum wheat flour variety, and as for size I prefer the slightly thinner size (not spaghettini though — this would be fine, but I like the heartier texture of spaghetti). It always helps to salt your pasta cooking water, and this is a particularly important example. The final taste of this dish is as much the pasta itself as it is the sauce, so give your pasta all the help it can get.

The garlic and parsley should both be fresh, but beyond that most farmer's market garlic/parsley is much of a muchness. Slicing it thinly and cooking it slowly will take much of the edge off the garlic, giving you the tasty flavour but hardly any garlic breath.

Although I finish with the best quality extra virgin olive oil I can afford, to cook the garlic initially I simply use a good quality regular olive oil. Correct me if I'm wrong, but since I'm heating away many of the subtleties, I don't really see the point in using expensive oil for what is basically heat transfer. On that note, don't use too much oil. Sometimes when this (extremely margin-friendly) dish is served in restaurants you're left with a pool of oil at the bottom of the bowl. The oil should coat the pasta and nothing more, leaving the bowl more or less dry once you're finished.

Spaghetti with garlic & olive oil

Ingredients (serves 1, scales easily):

  • 90g dried spaghetti
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced very thinly
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 an anchovy fillet
  • 1 tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 2 tsp best quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Cracked white pepper

1. Boil the pasta until just al dente in salted water while you cook the sauce.
2. Combine the garlic and regular olive oil in a pan and cook over a low heat for 3 minutes. Add the parsley about half-way through and continue to cook slowly for 3 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn't brown. Turn off the heat and add the anchovy, mashing with the back of a fork to dissolve it.
3. Once cooked, drain the pasta and toss in the pan with the sauce, extra-virgin olive oil, plenty of cracked pepper, and 1-2 tbsp of reserved pasta cooking water. Serve immediately.

Bacon-infused macaroni cheese

Bacon-infused macaroni cheese

See the strand of melted cheese over the edge of the bowl? If you make this recipe you get to eat that

Oh shit, I have a website. Huh, I totally forgot about that. Sorry!

I've been busy lately. In addition to all of the usual holiday shenanigans (turning up and eating a lot), I graduated from university and joined the world of full-time work. Good fun. Unfortunately the long hours have made cooking new things difficult — the biggest hurdle is my lack of availability when the fresh produce markets are open — but I've taken that opportunity to cook with what I have around the house, which has led me to revisit a few of my old recipes.

While some of the recipes on this site are old favourites (and some aren't even mine), a reasonable proportion of them are written up after my first or second time making them. A brief, slapdash audit of the site has seen many of the recipes stand up to review, but if I could ask for a do-over it would be for the macaroni cheese.

The original recipe I posted tasted good, but it was a little too thick and there was too much sauce for the amount of pasta. Also, while I'm still a fan of the double-crust (cheddar topped with parmesan then grilled, giving a crunchy top with melting cheddar underneath), when I remade it I couldn't be bothered. Oh yeah, I also used bacon stock.

You see, since discovering bacon stock a few weeks ago it is now used in place of all other liquids. Carbonated it makes a refreshing but hearty cool drink, and if you don't mind being followed around all day by stray dogs it is perfectly fine to take a bath in the stuff. By boiling macaroni in bacon stock you infuse the pasta with bacony deliciousess and can satisfy the holy trinity of comfort food (cheese + bacon + starch) without pesky bacon bits getting in the way of the fun.

Something else you might notice in comparing this entry to the first macaroni one is the difference in photo quality. I've been trying to work on my photography skills, and thanks to a better understanding of lighting and a little colour correction I think I've definitely made some progress. Go me!

Bacon-y macaroni cheese

Ingredients (makes 1 big serving):

  • 16g butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp
  • 3/4 cup cold whole milk
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp hot english mustard
  • 130g cheddar cheese, grated (set one handful of this aside)
  • 100g macaroni, cooked in bacon stock
  • 1 tbsp reserved bacon-flavoured pasta water

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan with the flour. Cook this paste for 1 minute. Add the mustards and first quarter cup of milk and stir to combine. It will be lumpy at first but should thicken up with stirring.
2. Pour in the second quarter cup of milk and stir until it is smooth, then repeat with the final quarter cup of milk.
3. Preheat the oven grill/broiler. Add the cheese (minus 1 handful), pasta, and bacon-flavoured pasta water to the sauce and stir through until the cheese is mostly melted.
4. Pour this all into an oven-safe bowl or small casserole dish, scatter the top with the reserved cheese, and broil until the top is golden brown.