Tuesday, 30 May 2006

poodle cake on stinky's day

Couldn't resist putting this photo up, even though I wasn't the author of this canine masterpiece. My pal, Rob (aka Lustm), scooted off to Tasmania last weekend for his niece, Airlie's, first birthday party. Airlie's clever mummy, Jodie, made this sweet poodle cake and since it's just so adorable I couldn't resist posting the photo.

Speaking of birthdays, today my lovely little sister Amy gets another year older. Unfortunately she's on the other side of the world in London, or Spain, or is it Morocco – I've lost track! Let's just say she's far away and has been since she began her nomadic lifestyle almost two years ago.

Let's just name a few of the places she's been since she left: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China, Tibet, Nepal, India, Egypt, Spain, Italy, UK, Finland, France, Andorra, Netherlands and Turkey. Since she’s lives in ye olde London, there are a lot of other interesting weekend trips in the pipeline!

Happy Birthday Stinky! I miss you.

Monday, 29 May 2006

asia-pacific best restaurants list

Important work my friends!!! We have all been invited to vote for our favourite restaurants in Asia-Pacific.

Restaurant Magazine’s ‘The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2006’ results, much like previous years, show a very European and American centric view of the world’s best restaurants. Of the Top 50, some 39 came from Europe and the top five countries were: France (10), USA (8), Spain (6), UK (6) and Italy (4).

In response to Restaurant Magazine’s revelations, Singaporean food blogger, Chubby Hubby, has decided to launch his own poll, Asia Pacific Best Restaurants List, to get a more accurate insight into our region’s shining culinary stars.

This survey is open to anyone around the world to vote on restaurants located in Asia-Pacific which includes the Indian subcontinent, the Central Asian states, all the Pacific Islands, Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, North Korea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Voting ends on 12 June. To participate visit Chubby Hubby’s blog by clicking here.

Chubby Hubby, has a lot to say about the Restaurant Magazine results and his opinion is worth listening to: he was one of the 560 invitation-only voters that took part in Restaurant Magazine’s high profile survey. According to him “Of the 560 voters, 280 are from Europe, 78 from the Americas, 47 from Africa, 31 from the Middle East, 31 from Central Asia and Russia, 62 from Asia, and 31 from Australia and New Zealand”, which makes the whole survey skewed towards Europe.

Voters had to select two restaurants from within their region and three from outside their region. When understanding regions, it was extremely interesting to discover from Chubby Hubby’s blog that France was considered as one region whereas the somewhat ignorantly named ‘Far East’ included Brunei, Burma (not even Myanmar!), Cambodia, China, East Timor, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Micronesia, Nauru, North Korea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam!!!!

Are we beginning to get the picture?

Chubby Hubby elaborates “Similarly, the UK & Ireland; the Benelux countries; Spain & Portugal; Denmark, Sweden and Norway; Italy; Austria, Germany & Switzerland; and the Baltics were distinct regions, each with 31 voters. Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Georgia had 16 voters; Eastern Europe also had 16 voters. If you consider that every voter was asked to pick two restaurants from their own region, we get a minimum 560 required votes cast for European restaurants. In Asia, we have only a minimum of 124 required votes. Further, voters hailing from the Far East region are barred from voting for any other restaurants from the 20 countries in this region. A voter in France, however, can cast his or her 3 extra votes for restaurants anywhere in Europe outside of France. S/he can vote for restaurants in Spain, England, Germany, etc. Anyone can see that this survey is thus biased towards restaurants in Europe. No surprise then that 39 of the survey's top fifty are restaurants from Europe. From the "next fifty", 35 of 50 restaurants are based in Europe.

I agree with Chubby Hubby’s sentiments that if you’re going to claim ‘the Far East’ is one region then surely ‘Europe’ should be considered one region too? If we’re going to recognise that French, Spanish, Italian and even Basque dishes are all very individual then surely they can understand the difference between the cuisine of Thailand, China and Korea? I was also a bit surprised that not one Japanese restaurant was listed in the Top 100. When Japan’s cuisine is so internationally influential, and puts such high importance on quality ingredients and immaculate presentation, I find it hard to imagine it cannot place even one restaurant in the Top 100 of any reasonable global restaurant poll.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not questioning the quality of any of the Top 100 restaurants, and I also think the results are a very valuable source of information on Europe and America’s best culinary destinations – but I do think in order for Restaurant Magazine to claim their list is truly the “world’s best” they need to expand their colonial concept of what constitutes the world.

Let’s try and even out some of the disparity. Please, vote in the Asia-Pacific Best Restaurants List before 12 June 2006!!!

asparagus – špargľa

When perusing Lucullian Delights, a blog by a Swede living in Italy, I discovered a fun weekly activity called Weekend Herb Blogging. This means writing about any green thing (herb, plant, vegetable or flower) that makes in onto your weekend menu or into your thoughts. Then someone hosts a recap of everyone's blogs on their own blog. This week's host is Ilva from Lucullian Delights.

To see the weekly recap, click here.

I think it's a fun idea so my first WHB is about last night's dinner: asparagus.

Back in 1999, I tracked down some long-lost relatives in Slovakia and went to Bratislava to meet them. Jozef and Viera (and their kids, also Jozef and Viera, but more easily identifiable as Jožko and Vierka – and not to forget Vierka's husband Karol) were the perfect hosts, filling me in on some of our family history as well as showing me around Bratislava and introducing me to strange and wonderful local cuisine.

On the Sunday, we journeyed north of Bratislava to their summer house (chata) in a place called Sekul, on the border of Austria and the Czech Republic. On the way they asked me when my birthday was and I shyly explained that it was on that very day. Immediately Jozef pronounced that they'd make me a birthday lunch, so he stopped the car and ran over to a small stall on the side of the road. I watched him buy huge bunches of asparagus and when I looked out over the fields I realised the rows of willowy crops were actually asparagus growing by the road side.

When we got to the chata, Viera trimmed the asparagus, which was so fresh it had dirt still clinging to it, and then I watched her turn it into a summer soup. I was a little nervous at this point, because I had never liked asparagus before, and I was loathe to turn down a dish that was prepared especially for my birthday.

On the first taste, I was in heaven. The soup was so light, creamy and fragrant with the fresh asparagus that I couldn't believe I didn't adore asparagus before. I ate it greedily and probably asked for a second helping. It was a wonderful discovery and something I'll always thank my Slovak relatives for.

There, amongst Slavic blood brothers, picturesque man-made lakes and abandoned WWI bunkers hidden in long green grass, I became an asparagus devotee.

Even though asparagus isn't in season in Sydney at the moment (usually in season August to March), our local green grocer is selling some excellent bundles – green, firm and tinged with purple. Last night Jonas softened them on a smoking griddle pan with olive oil, rock salt, freshly crushed black pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Simple and delicious. Báječný!

Saturday, 27 May 2006

rosewater cupcakes

This is a recipe I created myself from a combination of various cake recipes on the net.

I first trialled it when hosting a friend's bridal shower and then I repeated the recipe for my own engagement party.

The cupcakes are light, delicious and look so very girly.

Rosewater Cupcakes
Anna's recipe. Makes 24.

375g butter, softened
6 eggs, room temperature
1½ cups caster sugar
1½ cups plain flour
¾ cup self raising flour
¾ cup almond meal
2 teaspoons rosewater
2 teaspoons rosewater
1-2 drops pink food colouring
1 tablespoon milk
1½ cups icing sugar
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease two 12-hole patty tins. Line with paper cupcake holders.
2. Beat butter, rosewater and sugar in large bowl with electric beaters until very light and fluffy. Gradually beat in eggs, one at a time. Be sure to beat well to allow good aeration.
3. Stir in almond meal and flours.
4. Drop heaped tablespoons of mixture into cupcake holders. Bake for approximately 30-40mins or until cupcakes are lightly golden. Remove from tin and cool on wire rack.
5. For icing, mix rosewater, food colouring and 1 cup icing sugar. Once combined, gradually add milk until you reach the correct consistency. Add more icing sugar if needed. Spread over completely cooled cupcakes.

cupcake revolution

It seems that cupcakes are all the craze. As I flip through the glossy wedding cake magazines (yes, I'm getting married) I see the tiered mountains are being ousted by multitudes of dainty cakettes. But it's not just the wedding crowd that have gone mad for cupcakes, bakeries have started mass production too and it's not that uncommon to see people munching away on a post-lunch cupcake treat.

It seems this food fad started around ten years ago when Jennifer Appel and Allysa Torey opened the Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich, New York. A few years after opening, the cupcakes featured on the TV series Sex in the City and became an international trend. Magnolia ended up with huge lines and, to cope with demand, instituted limits on how many cupcakes one person could purchase. Such is Magnolia's fame that it even has its own Wikipedia entry! In 2000, Jennifer Appel then split from Magnolia and opened her own Midtown store, Buttercup Bakery, multiplying the cupcake possibilities in Manhattan.

In Sydney, Cupcakes on Pitt (+61 2 9264 4644) does a roaring trade, but after visiting on Friday with Rob, in my opinion the frosting is a little gaudy. They don't have many base flavours either, as the cake is a choice of vanilla or chocolate and only the icing provides some variety. It's a bit squashy in there too and I almost got a cupcake-nazi vibe from the guy serving me. In short, it felt a little overrated. Still in Sydney, My Little Cupcake in Neutral Bay is also dishing out pastel-iced desserts. These come in ribboned gift boxes with a limit of one dozen purchased over the counter. Baby Cakes in Summer Hill make an assortment of flavours and colours as well, including cupcake towers.

In the Victorian town of Daylesford, Karen Brook's elegant Life's Sweet makes glamorous creations available throughout the state. Divided between designer and traditional cupcakes, Brooks produces some beautiful results such as the yoghurt and raspberry cupcake with raspberry icing (pictured); butter cake with lemon curd frosting; white chocolate with quince & rosewater icing; and Valrhona cakes with a dark ganache covering. I would love to sink my teeth into some of these. Another source, Crabapple Bakery in Prahan Market (+61 3 9827 8116), is well known in Melbourne for its wedding cupcakes. They have around 30 varieties and produce more than 5000 cupcakes a week. That's a lot of yum!

Friday, 26 May 2006

hamburg umsonst

In this Tuesday's Good Living section of the Sydney Morning Herald I read a hilarious tidbit under World Fare:
"[In Hamburg, Germany] a gang is stealing luxury food items and dispersing them among Germany's new underclass - interns, poorly paid workers and individuals on welfare schemes. The 'Robin Hood gang' wears carnival masks during its raids and is fond of Valrhona chocolate. It knows its produce - one reported theft included a slab of Australian wagyu."

After Googling this story I found articles in various world media. It seems the gang Hamburg Umsonst is comprised of approximately 30 people who swarm into shops, using their numbers to create confusion and the necessary distraction needed to swipe the food. Ironically a reporter from The Guardian was able to track them down even though German police still haven't found them.

Deutsche Welle – 8 May
The group, which calls itself "Hamburg Umsonst" -- loosely translated as Hamburg Without Charge, has apparently graduated from handing out flyers with tips on how to forge cinema tickets and travel illegally on public transport to raiding the swankiest stores and delicatessens before distributing their swag to the city's poor.
Their most high profile job to date came last week. Dressed in an array of comic book hero costumes, the gang raided a well-to-do eatery in the north German port city last Friday during work hours and absconded with a large amount of fine food - after posing for a publicity photograph with bemused staff. Hamburg cops called to the crime scene drew a blank despite deploying 14 patrol cars and a police helicopter.

The Scotsman – 9 May
After they plundered Kobe beef fillets, champagne and smoked salmon from a gourmet store on the exclusive Elbastrasse, they presented the cashier with a bouquet of flowers before making their getaway.

The Independent – 9 May
They dress up in pink catsuits, have names like "Spider Mum" and feel a social obligation to plunder the most expensive restaurants and gourmet delicatessens in town as part of a campaign to help the poor.
Last week the well-heeled citizens of Hamburg's Altona district got a taste of their antics when 30 of them marched into the city's luxury "Fresh Paradise Goedeken" supermarket and walked out five minutes later with €15,000 [AUD$ 25,300] worth of stolen goods.
The gang's booty included magnums of Champagne at €99 [AUD$167] a bottle, filets of Japanese Kobe beef at €108 [AUD$182] a kilogram, legs of venison, a salmon and several boxes of Valrhona chocolate.

The Guardian – 17 May
Standing inside his delicatessen, Carsten Sievers gestures forlornly to where the giant Spanish cheese used to sit. "They took it," he says, pointing to an empty shelf. "They also took my Ruinart champagne. It costs €99 [AUD$167] a bottle. Fortunately, my vintage wines were all locked up. . . They took a whole slab of Australian Wagyu Kobe beef. It cost €108 [AUD$182]," says Sievers. "The cows had been specially massaged. We also have some very fine cheese here from Philippe Olivier. He's a very tough and famous cheesemaker. They took that too." [Incidentally, The Guardian voted Philippe Olivier's Vieux Boulogne the smelliest cheese in the world in 2004]. A year ago, members burst into a Michelin-starred restaurant [Süllberg] in Blakenese, a posh Hamburg suburb overlooking the Elbe, favoured by the rich and famous. Around 20 protesters wearing carnival masks marched into the restaurant ballroom and emptied the entire buffet into plastic bags. They then ran off.

chocolate truffle cake

Since I've been dreaming about Max Brenner's, I thought I'd share this amazing flourless chocolate cake recipe from The Australian Women's Weekly. Since it's flourless it's gluten free and it's one of the most delicious, decadent cakes I've ever eaten.
6 eggs
½ cup (100g) brown sugar, firmly packed
400g very, very good quality dark chocolate, melted
1 cup (250ml) thick cream with at least 48% fat content
1/3 cup (80ml) liqueur: Cointreau, Rum, Frangelico, Kahlua, Kirsch etc
1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Grease 20cm cake tin and line with baking paper.
3. Beat eggs and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer about 5 minutes or until thick and creamy.
4. With motor operating, gradually beat in barely warm chocolate until well combined. Using a metal spoon, gently fold in cream and liqueur. Pour into prepared pan.
6. Place cake tin in a baking dish. Pour boiling water into baking dish until it reaches halfway up the side of cake tin.
7. Bake in oven about 30 minutes. Cover with foil then bake for another 20 – 30 minutes.
8. Cool cake in pan. Turn onto serving plate, cover and refrigerate overnight.
9. Serve dusted with cocoa and fresh berries or fruit coulis to balance richness of the cake.
NOTE: It's important to use very good quality chocolate as this is the main flavour and ingredient of the cake.

max brenner - chocolate by the bald man

"Chocolate portrays romance, sensuality, passion, addiction, prestige, warmth, sex, love and nostalgia." Chocolate according to the bald man.
When Max Brenner's first Australian chocolate bar opened in Sydney in 2000 it was brilliant. This Israeli chain now has eight stores in NSW and four in Victoria. They also have a chocolate distribution network including Dean & Deluca and Felissimo (New York), Harrods (London) and selected David Jones stores (Australia). Max Brenner serves great summer milkshakes and equally good winter warmers. My favourites are the bitter dark chocolate frappes, smooth hot chocolates with Danish toffee melted through and the famous suckao: a tea light candle heated pot of milk to which you add shaved chocolate and decide the intensity of your own hot chocolate. The cup designs are very sleek too (I got these photos from their latest catalogue). The only problem is that the stores get so full and squashy and the funky little wooden stools look great but aren’t so comfy to sit on. But I won’t complain about a place where I can inhale masses of chocolate all year round.

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

i'm not so keen on . . .

In honour of my upset stomach, I have compiled a small list of some foods I’m not so keen on:
capsicum (pepper) – They look so good and I keep trying them because they seem like something that would be so good to enjoy, but I just don’t like capsicum.
pumpkin – I used to love it as a kid, and even ate the soup until 7yrs ago, but something has happened to make me think that pumpkin is something you should only feed to horses.
polenta – Boring, boring, boring. Give me pasta anyday.
couscous – See polenta.
fennel – sometimes I don’t mind it (like when it’s freshly shaved in a salad), but it’s very aniseed in flavour and anything aniseed is borderline for me. Jonas caramelises fennel in balsamic vinegar and, even though everyone else swoons for this recipe, I just can’t stomach it myself.
jerusalem artichokes – I’m sure I ate this as a kid and something bad happened because it’s not so much the flavour as an anxious feeling the flavour triggers.
okra – Slimey, need I say more.
gnocchi – They don’t seem to have much flavour on their own and since they aren’t small you can easily get a mouthful of sticky potato blob nothingness. I know this is harsh, but it’s how I feel.
pomegranate – I love the juice, I love the syrup, but I just don’t get all the fuss about eating it fresh. What a hassle to pick out all those little seeds from the pith when the reward is a short burst of tartness followed by a large piece of seed.
End of whinge.

ooohhh, so queasy

I’ve had a little bit of a stomach set back today after a massive dinner last night and probably too many glasses of bad red wine.

We had our agency’s 06-07 business planning in Canberra and the entire Sydney office flew to join our Canberra colleagues in a talk fest. Lunch was a pile of terrible rolls stuffed with unidentifiable fillings, and worse there weren’t even enough for everyone. I found a lonesome salami roll and even though it looked extremely suspect, open with the avocado browning, I was so hungry I ate it anyway.

Dinner was a three course meal which started off with slices of duck breast on a bean sprout, coriander and fetta salad. It was a weird combination which tasted pretty good, although my ravenous state from lack of lunch could have affected my opinion somewhat. Some of my colleagues were put off by the thick edges of duck fat attached to the breast, but I thought it added flavour - mind you, I’ve always been partial to eating fat.

Or it could have been the terrible red wine: a cabernet merlot that was over oaked and even tasted slightly frizzante. I drank my fair share of this, even though every time I put the glass to my lips I complained about the taste.

So that is my terrible confession. Now I’ve admitted my crimes, I hope my stomach can forgive me and I’ll start to feel better again.

No more bad sandwiches, no more duck fat and no more bad red wine – at least for a few days.

Monday, 22 May 2006

octopus in red wine (oktapodi krasato)

This is a great recipe for either a winter casserole or a cold antipasto.

I adapted this Greek recipe from a Family Circle cookbook. It is lovely, tangy and very filling.

Oktapodi Krasato (octopus braised in red wine)
Family Circle 'Mezze' recipe. Serves 2 for main or 4 as a mezze.


1½ kg small baby octopus
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small-medium brown onion, chopped very finely
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
¾ dry red wine
2 ripe tomatoes, skinned and grated
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cup water
½ teaspoon black cracked pepper
Rice to accompany, if serving hot


1. Clean octopus, being sure to remove the beak, and wash afterwards.

2. Cut heads in half and tentacles into sets of four or two depending on size.

3. Put octopus in a large pan and cook on high heat in own juices until dry (about 15 mins).

4. Add olive oil and chopped onion and toss until well coated.

5. Add vinegar, wine, tomato, bay leaf, oregano, water and cracked pepper. Bring to boil.

6. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1½ – 2 hours or until octopus is tender. Check every 20 minutes to ensure sauce is not drying. If needed, add a little more red wine or water to moisten.

7. The end product should be tender octopus with a dry sauce that coats the octopus.

8. Serve hot with rice or cold with crusty bread as part of an antipasto plate.

sydney specialist cheese show

Yesterday Jonas and I went to the Sydney Specialist Cheese Show which is run by the Australia Specialist Cheese Association ($35 for entry). These things are always such a fight to get through to each stand to talk to the makers and taste the products. There were 20 Australian cheesemakers represented (around 150 cheeses) as well as two wine makers, a beer brewery and makers of cheese accompaniments: glace fruits, fruit pastes and olives.

I came to understand that I have a real passion for goats’ cheese, and luckily I had the opportunity to try some excellent examples.

Willowbrae (Hawkesbury, NSW) produce excellent goats’ milk products including yoghurts as well as marinated fetta and a delectable array of curds. They have around 100 goats which are milked twice daily. The products were so creamy and rich, and many of the curds come rolled in flavours such as sun-dried tomatoes, peppercorns and olives. This producer was one of my favourite discoveries.

Udder Delights (Adelaide Hills, SA) is another goats’ cheese favourite. Although not as artisan as Willowbrae, they certainly produce some good goats’ milk products such as the gorgeous bucheron-like brancoleite, which I first tried on holidays in the Adelaide Hills.

Jannei Goat Dairy (Lidsdale, NSW) is also worth a mention for their fresh curd and the cheddar chevre which was a hard cheese and had a great nutty flavour.

King Island Dairy’s (TAS) Black Label Double Brie was a lovely example of how a big, commercial chain can still produce a wonderful cheese. According to their tasting notes they handcraft the cheese in a traditional French ‘Brie de Meaux’ style and this produces “secondary mushroom flavours” which “move from a Swiss brown to a more earthy porcini [cep]” as the cheese ages. We really enjoyed the oozing, creaminess of this cheese. They also produced a great cloth matured cheddar that had a good bite.

The Hunter Valley Cheese Company (NSW) produced a great fresh cheese called Riley’s Fromage Blanc. From the Upper Hunter Valley, Hunter Belle’s gold medal winner was the delicious Goldenbelle, a washed rind cheese with a gooey, creamy centre.

Binnorie Dairy (Hunter Valley, NSW), a three year old dairy, produced great labna (marinated, drained yoghurt cheese) and a blissful concoction called Duetto (a blend of gorgonzola dolce and marscapone).

Ashgrove Cheese (Elizabeth Town, TAS) came up with a unique “wild wasabi” which was their own semi-hard cheese flavoured with Tasmanian grown wasabi. I preferred this hard hitting flavour, whereas Jonas leaned towards the milder wasabi flavoured club cheddar from Maleny Cheese.

There has got to be a favourite of the day and Jonas and I unanimously agreed that Shaw River Buffalo Cheese (VIC) took this accolade with their buffalino. Started in 1995, they use pure water buffalo milk from buffalo originally imported from Italy and Bulgaria. Their wonderful buffalino was such a unique and interesting discovery that we were both blown away. This cheese is pale white and is extremely creamy and crumbly. It’s flavour is tangy and fruity with an aftertaste that's almost port-like. Apparently they first made it as a cooking cheese (because of its excellent melting properties) but it soon became popular as a table cheese. There were two other varieties to try, a smoked buffalino and a much, much stronger Lady Julia, which was made akin to cheddar processes and aged 12 months. This had an unbelievable kick and was unlike other cheeses I had tasted at the show. Shaw River Buffalo Cheese also make yoghurts, mozzarellas, paneers and curds from the buffalo milk. We were pleased that the buffalino was for sale at the show and bought 250g for AUD$5.

Also worth mentioning were the delicious glace fruits from Simarloo (Lyrup, SA). I tasted quince, pear, apricot, fig and a wonderful bitter-sweet orange slice, which turned out to be my favourite. The makers explained that some producers start their fruit off in brine, whereas they pumped the fruit full of sugar syrup to replace the natural fruit juices with sugar and this is what makes them so plump and jammy.

Maggie Beer’s (Tanunda, SA) spiced pear paste was also an excellent discovery, matching well with goats’ cheese, both curds and other soft varieties.

To wash all these down, I continually sipped upon the excellent Yarrabank Crème de Cuvée NV (Yarra Valley, VIC), a refreshing sparkling rosé with a lovely, creamy foam.

Sunday, 21 May 2006

amato's italian wine tasting

Yesterday Jonas and I dragged Tim Y to Italian wine tasting at Amato’s in Leichhardt. It was another case of the wine promoters assuming that because we are young we don't know anything about wines (and by young I mean under 30). They focused on the middle aged customers and ignored us, but I made my presence felt and asked a few poignant questions to let them know I was serious. Once we had their attention, I got to try a few very lovely wines, but as with many wine shows the overall selection was pretty average.

My three favourite of the day were the 2004 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio (Trentino Alto Adige), which I have tried on other occasions and always enjoyed; the 2001 Farnese Sessantani Primitivo (Puglia) which leached golden Mediterranean sun; and the 2004 Allegrini Valpolicella (Veneto) made from Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara grapes - young, fruity and berry red.

Friday, 19 May 2006

gulab jamun

Last night I feasted on tasty little Indian treats called gulab jamun. Here's a recipe for them that I found at www.recipedelights.com
1 cup whole dried milk (mawa)
2 tbsp refined flour
2 tbsp
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
3 cups water
ghee as required
1. Mix sugar, water and cardamom powder and cook until the syrup becomes thick.
2. Mix mawa, refined flour, baking powder and water and make soft, smooth dough (Water should be just sufficient for kneading a smooth dough).
3. Make small balls of equal size. Be sure that the balls ("jamuns") are smooth and no crack develops. Keep aside.
4. Heat ghee in a kadhai / deep frying pan.
5. Deep fry the balls over medium heat until golden brown.
6. Put the balls in hot syrup and keep for 10-12 minutes.
7. Gulab Jamuns are ready. Warm before serving.

fridge contents from thu 18 may 06

This is just proof of my tendencies to make pointless lists.
american mustard; dijon mustard; mustard fruits; tomato paste; valentina sauce (mexican chilli sauce); ketchup; bbq sauce; jack daniels bbq sauce no 7; italian salad dressing; paul newman’s caesar dressing; swedish style caviar; cream; sour cream; salsa piccantina (spicy italian paste); tandoori paste; horseradish cream; mango relish; tahini; tom yum paste; chargrilled & marinated capsicum (homemade); gari (japanese pickled ginger); capers; jalapeños in brine; green olives; kalamata olives; cheddar; gorgonzola piccante; grana padano; tasty cheese; tofu burgers; hommous (homemade); lebanese bread; eggs; bread; jalapeño jelly; cloudberry jam; lingonberry jam; gooseberry jam; milka yoghurt chocolate; sugar syrup (homemade); snus (swedish oral tobacco); milk; mineral water; tropical juice x 2; ginger beer; grapefruit soda; tonic water; ruffino lumina pinot grigio (friuli-venezia giulia, italy 04); two churches riesling (barossa valley 05); tosti moscato d’asti (piemonte, italy); ursus sloe vodka; grand boulard solage calvados; bollinger special cuvee brut nv; red oak lettuce; lebanese cucumbers; zucchini; sauerkraut (central european pickled cabbage); pickled beetroot; parsley; coriander; corella pears; granny smith apples.
puff pastry; filo pastry; lemon sorbet; mango frozen yoghurt; strawberry ice cream (homemade); cauliflower gratin; edamame; beans; carrots; corn & peas; swedish meatballs; svenska nubbar (swedish aquavit).

Thursday, 18 May 2006

illuminati campirosa - rosé wine

I'm prolific today. This is my third little babble. I want to tell you about another yummy wine. Two days ago I was home alone while Jonas was doing another of his 12 hour shifts and so I decided to duck into Vintage Cellars and grab myself a bottle of wine for consolation. Since the chances were high that I wouldn’t finish the whole bottle alone (I’m not an alcoholic yet), I needed to get something cheap to justify it. I also considered that buying something tasty while Jonas was slaving away was a bit mean, so I veered towards the rosé fridge because I know Jonas isn’t keen on rosé. Having picked the near cheapest in stock, I scuttled off home to my wine and tuna salad (which was not mayonnaise based, thank you very much). Well, let me tell you: $9.99 was well spent on my 2004 Illuminati Campirosa made 100% from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC (Controlled Denomination of Origin). The vineyard is in the north-east of Abruzzo (one of Italy's Adriatic regions) and whatever they’re doing it’s working. Even Jonas, who came home at 1am and spotted the bottle precariously perched in the fridge, enjoyed rosé for the first time: he finished it off, the rascal! I don’t know enough lingo to describe the wine to an aficionado, but it was cherry pink in colour, had a floral scent and a light, fresh and fruity flavour with a dry finish. But it didn’t have a bitter aftertaste like so many cheap wines often do. Pretty much how they describe it on their website, which was the best of all - the English content looked like they’d used Babelfish and ended up with some bizarre Italian-English hybrid language (eg “It is accompanied to appetizers, salumi light, sweet cheeses, plates made up of fish and meats white women, it deforms you of vegetables”). But for $9.99 a pop, who’s complaining?

fixed quiz

I just took a drinks/cocktail quiz from the Absolut website and I only got 8/12. I’m very bitter about this. Apparently I'm not aware of what proper cocktail attire is and nor did I know how much a ‘pony’ is equal to – well who uses the stupid imperial system anyway!

cherrylicious - cocktail

One of the world's most wonderful cocktails, light and heady all at once. Invented by yours truly!
45ml Danish cherry wine (Kirsberry)
35ml Absolut Vanilia vodka
35ml Kirsch
90ml sour cherry juice
Put all ingredients together in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled. Best served in a martini glass. Makes 1.

Wednesday, 17 May 2006

tim’s story: the life of a fruitophob

You might not be able to believe it’s true, but there are a lot of people out there who don’t eat fruit. They either don’t like it or they are afraid of it. When you realise that fruit is the ripened ovaries of a seed-bearing plant, you might be able to see why the some people are a little hesitant to wolf it down.

Fruitophobia was brought to my attention in 1998 when I met Tim W, a seemingly normal and healthy young man who won’t eat fruit. Although the rest of us (alright, mostly me) tease him and say his aversion is caused by a sexual phobia, Tim maintains that he just doesn’t like the taste and texture. Since all fruits have different tastes and textures, I don’t buy that. Besides, it’s more fun to pretend he has a psycho-sexual problem.

But to be fair, I’ve let Tim explain himself in his own words. This is Tim’s story:

Q: Is it true that you don't like fruit?
A: I really dislike fruit immensely.

Q: What is it about fruit that you don't like?
A: The smell and the texture. Nothing about it is appealing as a food. Smelling a piece of fruit just makes me feel ill. There is no doubt in my mind after smelling something like that that I WILL NOT eat it.

Q: How long has it been like this?
A: I must have been 5 or 6 yrs old. I remember deciding that it just wasn't as good as everyone was making out.

Q: If you liked fruit when you were small, what happened to change it?
A: I am not sure what made me change. I do remember deciding that I didn't like it though, I even went and announced it to my Mum.

Q: Did your parents ever force you to eat it?
A: Once my Mum made me sit at the kitchen table with a peach and I wasn't allowed to leave the table until I finished it. I waited her out and I never had to eat fruit again.

Q: Which fruits have you tried?
A: All of them. Apparently as a little kid I liked [fruit] a great deal and I was addicted to apple juice, but the only times I remember are the time with the peach and another time when we were all eating watermelon and I thought it was just gross. I have to say though that I am a lover of avocado, lemon and tomato and they are all technically fruits. However they have a very different texture and smell.

Q: Do you believe your dislike is psychological rather than physical?
A: Well I think all likes and dislikes are psychological. I wish I could understand why I don't like it. I have gotten over all the other things I didn't like as a child (fish, sport, brussel sprouts) but for some reason fruit still disturbs and disgusts me.

Q: It is said that people's taste buds change and develop every seven years or so and that things you've liked before you won't like anymore and vice versa. Care to comment on this in relation to your fruit aversion?
A: Well I could one day turn around and decide to eat fruit. I don't eat fruit just because I have never eaten fruit, if you know what I mean. Fruit is not something I can escape and I always have opportunities to try it. Each time though I still get turned off.

Q: I seem to recall hearing a story about you, a strawberry and a violent stomach reaction. Care to elaborate?
A: The strawberry? Well I accidentally drank someone's alcohol at a party when I was 18. The friend, who I had inadvertently taken the grog from, made me promise to do something the next day without telling me what it was. Being the nice (and guilt ridden) guy that I am, I agreed. The next day he made me eat a whole strawberry. This was in front of all my friends and, yes, I had a violent stomach reaction. Having said that though I must also say that I had drank a great deal of alcohol the night before, not slept and then gone to a champagne breakfast the next morning. The strawberry was probably the first bit of solid food I had eaten in 18 hours or so. I was very, very sick.

Q: Do you ever feel like you're missing out on anything by not eating fruit?
A: Not ever, although I get told I am all the time.

Q: Have you ever eaten fruit by mistake? If so, how did you realise and how did it make you feel?
A: Violated. I have accidentally eaten pineapple in some East Asian food. When will people realise that pineapple is terrible in anything sweet and sour. Yuck!!

Q: Have friends and family ever pressured you to eat fruit? How does this make you feel?
A: I don't succumb. In fact I probably hold fast even more when I am hassled.

Q: Which fruit tastes the worse?
A: Banana.

Q: Which fruits smell the worse?
A: Mango.

Q: Which fruits look the worse?
A: Almost all look good. It is the smell and taste that is the turn off.

Q: Which fruits feel the worse?
A: Probably any fruit that has gone off. That has to be the most disgusting feeling in the world.

Q: Which fruits come across your path the most (i.e. which fruits are most commonly in things and prevent you from eating them)?
A: Sultanas.

Q: Which fruits do people commonly forget are fruits and try to serve them to you?
A: Strawberries. People just can't believe I don't like them even when they know about my dislike of fruit.

Q: Do you feel awkward at dinner parties when people serve fruit?
A: Initially I did but I just have to stand by my beliefs. If I don't want to eat it I don't have to. Vegetarians are missing out on sustenance by not eating meat as I am sure I am with fruit, but they also have the right not to eat it.

Q: If you've going over to someone's house for dinner do you warn them in advance that you don't like fruit? How do they respond?
A: Well, no you can't do that [warn people in advance]. Sometimes I just have to grin and bear it. Other times I just say no thanks. Often it doesn't go down too well but I just can't go through with it.

Q: Why don't you tell people in advance? If it's because you think it's rude to warn them, don't you think it's ruder not to eat something they've put effort into preparing rather than tell them honestly up front and let them decide?
A: Well, maybe you are right. Not eating fruit is very much a personal choice as is not eating meat or dairy, but to be honest I am in a very small minority and one that many people have not or will not ever come across. A great deal of people a generation above just think I am stupid or immature. They are probably right.

Q: Do you think it's easy to cook without using fruit?
A: Very easy. I dislike cooked fruit even more than fresh.

Q: What would you like to say to other people who also don't like fruit?
A: Well I have met two others and they are lovely people with healthy bodies. Stay strong brother and sister.

Q: What would you like to say to the people who think you're being silly and who would tell you to stop whinging and start eating fruit?
A: Go hassle a vegetarian instead.

Tuesday, 16 May 2006

word of the day

Today at work, Rob made a flourish in the air and asked how to describe the action. I had my trusty online Dictionary/Thesaurus at hand and quickly looked it up, only to find a wonderful new word: genuflect. Guaranteed I will forget it in a week or so, but right now I’m rolling it around on my brain and enjoying it’s newness.
intr.v. gen•u•flect•ed, gen•u•flect•ing, gen•u•flects
To bend the knee or touch one knee to the floor or ground, as in worship; To be servilely respectful or deferential. Synonyms: grovel, kowtow, curtesy, bow, prostrate.
[Latin gen, knee; + Latin flectere, to bend.]
[Late Latin genflectere]
Other words worth considering because of their meanings or sounds: defenestrate, masks, Wednesday, defibrillator, Woolloomooloo.

Monday, 15 May 2006

icing on toast

I'm a sucker for junk food, but who isn't really? When I was in high school I used to buy salt and vinegar chips (crisps) and sandwich pieces of hot hash brown in between. I got a lot of weird looks but I didn't really care because it tasted so damn good.

My father has to be the king of creating junk food feasts: when I was a kid, I distinctly remember my father giving me a block of chocolate and a bottle of coke for breakfast. You can understand why I love him so much! Now that I look back on it I was lucky my stepmother intervened or I'd be the size of a bus now – but try explaining that to a nine year old.

This weekend, Jonas and I were visiting when Dad truly outdid himself: in a spontaneous moment he had bought a tub of vanilla glaze from Pretzel World and then smeared the oozing frosting onto hot toast, added a little cinnamon and created a unique Sunday breakfast. It's not always about the highbrow, gourmet moments.

Friday, 12 May 2006


Today is a cold, rainy day in Sydney. On the bus this morning the grey sky opened up and the rain just started pouring. Jonas had much further to walk than me so I kindly gave him my umbrella. It's a sweet chocolate brown parasol with cute little polka dots in beige and even has a small girly ruffle. I'm sure he felt very spiffy walking to work under it :)

Thursday, 11 May 2006

ice cream & gelato

When I think of ice cream, I usually think of Rome. I spent 7 months eating my way through the city’s gelaterie. In general, gelato in Rome (or perhaps even in Italy) is much better than in Australia because they usually use fresh fruit and real ingredients to create massive flavour explosions. Your chocolate gelato doesn’t come out looking like coloured milk but tastes like a bittersweet black mud of gooey goodness. Here are some of my favourite ice cream experiences:
Glacé, Sydney – plum pudding (dried fruits & spices in chocolate ice cream)
Serendipity, Sydney – black sesame; chilli passionfruit
Tetsuya’s, Sydney – sticky rice & white truffle (as in tuber magnatum pico)
Connoisseur, Sydney – strawberry; cookies & cream; chocolate honey nougat
Godiva, NY – chocolate raspberry truffle (dark Belgian chocolate ice cream with a raspberry coulis swirl and pieces of soft chocolate truffle)
San Crispino, Rome – il gelato di San Crispino (cream flavoured with bitter-honey from Sardinia); meringue (with crunchy pieces inside)
Gel’Istria, Rome – strawberry yoghurt; granita di fragola (shaved strawberry ice) [Piazza Istria, Rome +39 06 85 57 491]

braida - solid italian wines

Braida (Piemonte, Italy)

No, unfortunately I haven’t been to the vineyard but I did get a chance to sample their wines at Vinitaly 06 in Verona this April.

I have been a big fan ever since I tasted the divine Brachetto d’Acqui at Sydney's Otto Ristorante last year, so getting my lips around their other products was great.

The sweet, light and fragrant Moscato d’Asti is superb and they do wonderful things with Barbera grapes producing a wide array of styles, such as La Monella - a light, sparkling red served chilled and perfect for a BBQ.

But I still love the chilled, sparkling and ruby red Brachetto d’Acqui, a dessert wine gorgeously perfumed with rose and strawberry. This is a must try!!

Tuesday, 9 May 2006

in the beginning . . . .

All about me

I was born in Sydney. I grew up in Sydney. I live in Sydney.

I have lived elsewhere in between (Rome, NYC, Daytona) but only for short stints.

My mother is Australian, my father is American. That makes me both.

I have two brothers and two (step)sisters.

I have one Swedish (formerly vegetarian) husband.

Other random family that influence my life and my eating habits include distant relatives in Central/Eastern Europe, an adopted family in Italy, in-laws in Sweden and a mass of family in the USA.

I love to travel (who doesn’t), I love to eat (dito) and I love to experiment with ingredients and recipes.

Why did I start this blog?

Because my friends told me to. They were sick of me talking to them about food and wanted me to annoy strangers instead.

Also, they wanted an easy repository for my recipes so they could access them anytime. Lazy buggers.

I started the blog in May 2006. My aim is to explore international cuisines and try to cook my way around the world, as well as use interesting and exotic (to me) ingredients that I stumble upon.

Things to know

I like
- capers
- chocolate
- chilli
- feta
- gin
- lemon juice
- nectarines
- parmesan
- tequila

I don’t like
- capsicum (peppers)
- celery
- durian
- offal, except for tripe and sweetbreads
- pasta sauces from a jar, especially pesto. It’s just wrong.
- pastry cream
- paw paw / papaya
- sauces thickened too much with rice/potato/cornflour
- shitake mushrooms
- stir fries

Five random facts

When I was 9yrs old a window fell down on my nose and broke it. Instead of going to hospital I chose to go to the theatre with my Mum and watch West Side Story. My crooked nose is testament to this act of silliness and my mother's irresponsibility.

I drink only one glass of water a day, if that. I’m surprised I’m not dead.

My comfort food is soup. Whenever I’m tired, sad or have an upset stomach the only way to solve this is with soup. My ultimate favourite is tom yum goong (Thai) followed closely by pho bo (Vietnamese) with loads of extra chilli and caldo tlalpeño (Mexican). Despite the spiciness in all three, I still crave these soups as a cure for indigestion.

I project emotions into inanimate objects. This poses a serious problem when it’s time to say goodbye to an old toothbrush. It just feels like betrayal after it’s been so good to me.

I love jumping photos. Wherever I go I insist on taking a photo of me jumping in the air. Jonas finds them annoying and humiliating since he has to take the photo, but I really, really love making them (I laugh hysterically). One day I’ll make an album of all the jumps I’ve done around the world. So far I have jumping photos in Germany, Japan, Thailand, Sweden, Indonesia and Turkey. The earliest jumping photo is from 1989 and I even did one on my wedding day!

This photo was taken on the day I started my blog: at work, late at night, awaiting a teleconference with colleagues in Europe. If you look closely, you can see my very first post on the computer screen, moments after I published it.
Contact me at: morselsandmusings[AT]yahoo[DOT]com[DOT]au
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