Monday, 26 February 2007

i'm taking a "wedding" break

Well, this will be my last post for a while.

Next Saturday I'm getting married and so I'll be on a break for a few weeks preparing, enjoying and reflecting.

Please check back when I host Weekend Herb Blogging for the week 5-11 March.

What's WHB? Post a recipe using a herb, fruit or veggie and share a little bit about that ingredient. Then submit your link by Sunday 11 March to be part of the WHB round-up (morselsandmusings AT yahoo DOT com DOT au). Anyone is welcome to join, but it has to be an original post (ie specifically written for this event and no other).

In the meantime, I wanted to say an extremely belated thank you to my BPW buddy, Glenna from A Fridge Full of Food, for sending me the above postcard.

She chose it because "what better symbolizes the friendship between women than food, especially junkfood?" Glenna would never know, but I have a serious donut fetish. I love them simple: warm and covered in cinnamon sugar. Bring it on!

Saturday, 24 February 2007

honeydew & ham salad

Today is the last day of my Chinese New Year Pork Festival, in honour of the Year of the Pig, where I have blogged:

Sang Choi Bau
Pork Mains Recipe Carousel
Ragu di Salsiccia
Pork Vermicelli Salad
Jamon y Higos (ham & figs)
Maiale al Vino (pork in wine)

My seven day pork recipe marathon comes to a close with Weekend Herb Blogging and this juicy, ham based salad I discovered.

I used to hate ham. I always found it too salty and felt sorry that a poor piggy had to die for this substandard meat.

Then something changed.

Recently my sister bought some leg ham and I greedily ate almost all of it, piled high with spicy whole grain mustard.

This recipe reunites that marvellous pairing, and adds the sweet, succulent flesh of honeydew melon as well as earthy roasted hazelnuts.

I used a tarragon mustard that I bought when visiting the Hunter Valley late last year. It added a herbiness that permeated the salad nicely.

I ate this meal as a light lunch, but it would work in a buffet or as a side with a summer dinner.

Honeydew & Ham Salad
Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet Traveller’s “Modern Salads”. Serves 2 as a side.
¼ honeydew melon
250g leg ham, coarsely torn
2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
40g hazelnuts, roasted and halved
1. Peel, seed and chop the honeydew melon into 1cm chunks.
2. Whisk the olive oil, mustard, vinegar and honey together to form a dressing.
3. Combine ingredients in a bowl, toss then serve.

Honeydew melons should have waxy, creamy white to yellow skins and feel slightly heavy for their size. Unlike other melons, they ripen after purchase.

They are part of the cultivar group of muskmelons, Cucumis melo Inodorus group, and are grown in semiarid climates.

Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by Anna from Anna’s Cool Finds. Have a sticky beak to see what else is cooking.


Well that's the end of the pork recipes for a while. I've definately gained an appreciation of pork over this period, but posting something every day has been tough - especially with all my work commitments and the impending wedding.

Tonight is my hen's night. This time next weekend, I'll be floating down the aisle . . . . . wish me luck!


Friday, 23 February 2007

maiale al vino

We’re back to Italy, this time with a simply gorgeous Chinese New Year Pork Festival recipe discovered by Porky herself (aka Amy).

We cooked this last Friday and it was divine, filling the house with the robust scent of rosemary and white wine. The garlic isn’t shy either.

Make sure the sauce thickens and caramelises a little for extra punch, but keep the pork moist and pink on the inside.

Maiale al Vino
Recipe modified from Modenese Pork Chops. Serves 2.
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pork cutlets
1 cup dry white wine
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1. In a large frying pan, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Cook pork in butter, turning once to brown evenly. Remove cutlets to plate.
2. Add garlic and rosemary and sauté until soft.
3. Return cutlets to pan (with juices). Lower heat and add wine, salt and pepper.
4. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes then turn over. Cook a further 5 minutes or until pork is tender.
5. Transfer cutlets to serving plates, and spoon sauce over the meat. Serve with roasted potatoes and carrots.


Thursday, 22 February 2007

jamón y higos

Jamón y Higos

This Chinese New Year Pork Festival recipe is short and sweet.

All it takes is Spain’s premium ham and some juicy, luscious figs.

Brush the figs with honey if you like, then grill them until caramelised. Or simply eat them fresh and soft.

Figs are beautiful things.


Wednesday, 21 February 2007

pork vermicelli salad

In Vietnam the lunar new year is also Tet and that means 10 days of straight holidays for the people!!!

My next Chinese New Year Pork Festival recipe is an inspiration from both Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. From Thai I used the flavoursome minced meat dishes call laab ลาบ and combined this with the tangy Vietnamese salads known as Bún.

In a sense I have a hybrid dish that’s a perfectly delicious summer dinner.

Pork Vermicelli Salad
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 2.
300g pork mince
100g vermicelli noodles
2 garlic clove, crushed
1 long red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
¼ cup finely chopped coriander
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
5 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tomatoes, sliced into very thin wedges
1 small red onion
1. Cut onion into extremely thin half circles. Place in bowl of cold water and leave for 30 minutes. This will leach the strength from the onions and leave you with a mild, sweet flavour.
2. Heat peanut oil in a frying pan or wok. When hot, add garlic and sauté briefly.
3. Add pork mince and brown, being sure to break cooking mince into fine pieces. Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and a dash of fish sauce to add colour.
4. Soften the noodles as per the packet instructions.
5. Combine lime juice, palm sugar, remaining soy sauce and fish sauce. Mix to combine and dissolve the sugar.
6. Toss dressing through noodles. Add half the chopped herbs as well as all the chilli, onion and tomato then toss again.
7. Toss the remaining herbs with the cooked pork mince.
8. Plate noodles then top with pork mince. Garnish with chilli and coriander leaves.


Tuesday, 20 February 2007

ragù di salsiccia (sausage ragù)

Day Three of the Chinese New Year Pork Festival.

Today we’re off to Italy to experience one of the ways they cook up swine.

I love pasta and I especially love chunky, meaty sauces. Of course Jonas’ vegetarianism means that it’s not all that often that I end up making these delicious concoctions, but when Jonas works late, and I have what I call a ‘meat night’, I love to make a simple sausage ragù.

Sausage meat can be so tasty because it’s all the rough cuts, the lard and some spices. What more could you ask for? Italian style sausages are particularly good for this dish since they contain a little chilli already.

And of course, we’re talking 100% pork!

Top the pasta with pecorino not parmigiano.

Giorgio Locatelli recommends pairing pecorino with pork, and this is a man I trust wholeheartedly when it comes to Italian cuisine. Perhaps this is because pecorino (being made from sheep’s milk) is more pungent than parmigiano and therefore better suited to stronger flavours such as bacon and pork.

Ragù di Salsiccia (sausage sauce)

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4.

1 small onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 large spicy Italian pork sausages
2 tablespoons tomato paste
250ml passata (tomato puree)
¼ cup red wine
Salt and pepper, freshly ground
¼ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup finely grated pecorino, to serve


1. Cut the ends from the sausages and squeeze the sausage meat from the skins into a bowl.

2. Mash the sausage meat and break it up a little.

3. Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Sauté onion until soft. Add garlic and sauté until soft also.

4. Add sausage meat and fry, being sure to break meat into smaller pieces like mince. The meat is very sticky due to the lard content so be sure to continually break it apart.

5. When meat is browned, add tomato paste. Fry for a minute or so until thickened.

6. Add red wine and passata then turn heat down and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

7. Taste for seasoning, then stir through parsley. Remove from heat.

8. Stir through cooked pasta of choice before topping with pecorino and serving.

Buon appetito!


Monday, 19 February 2007

recipe carousel #33 - pork mains

It’s Day Two in my seven day Chinese New Year Pork Festival in honour of the Year of the Pig.

Fittingly, this week’s Recipe Carousel is seven pork mains from around the world. We have offerings from Thailand, Korea, Italy, New Zealand, Mexico and the USA.

Enjoy these porkilicious meals!

Gamjatang or pork bone & potato soup is the lengthy kitchen labour of Sue in Korea (My Korean Kitchen). A nasty experience as a teenager almost put her off this soup for good, but after making her own version she’s warming to it again. Gamjatang means potato soup in Korean, but don’t let that fool you because this soup is more about the pork bones (spice and neck). The soup is also flavoured by crown daisy leaves, perilla and Chinese cabbage (Sue should really join Weekend Herb Blogging!) as well as a huge array of flavoursome ingredients like onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, fish sauce, sesame, soya paste and rice wine. It looks delicious, but Sue warns it takes a lot of patience and time (5 hours)! Photo courtesy of Sue.

Oven Baked Ribs & Potatoes is a recipe by Orchidea in Sweden (Viaggi & Sappori). This is an incredibly simple, rustic dish that looks and tastes wonderful. Fresh rosemary permeates the potatoes and pork and the garlic adds extra bite. Baked for 45 minutes then dusted with salt, this would make a great family feast or something a bit special when friends drop in unexpectedly. Photo courtesy of Orchidea.

Pad Krapao Mu comes from Ed in the USA (Is it EDible?). Ed’s parents made a mean version of this dish, uniquely flavoured with fragrant and spicy Thai basil (Ed warns, no Italian substitutes!). Minced pork is cooked with garlic, birds eye chillies, sherry, soy sauce and oyster sauce before wilting through the Thai basil. Served with rice this is a perfect banquet dish. Photo courtesy of Ed.

Mustard Crusted Pork Fillet on Tamarillo Carpaccio is a masterpiece from Bron in New Zealand (Bron Marshall). Pork is fried until perfectly pink pork then encrusted with a wholegrain mustard casing before being served on a bed of sour-sweet tamarillos dressed with olive oil, balsamic, honey and mixed spice. Just perfect! Photo courtesy of Bron.

Tacos de Carnitas is a recipe that Elise in the USA could eat everyday (Simply Recipes). And her father adores this style of pork too: first braised then shredded and finally roasted until tender and caramelised. Best served with fresh corn tortillas, pico de gallo, beans, cheese and some hot sauce. Photo courtesy of Elise.

Milk Braised Pork Chops are a delicious cookbook discovery by Kalyn in the USA (Kalyn's Kitchen). Pork chops are pounded then dusted with whole wheat flour before being browned. Fat-free milk is added and the chops are simmered over one hour to produce a thick gravy and moist chops. The recipe is even South Beach Diet friendly. Photo courtesy of Kalyn.

Pork Riblets Braised in Vietnamese Caramel Sauce is a savoury-sweet snack for Chubby Hubby in Singapore (Chubby Hubby). Aun can be a bit of a glutton when it comes to pork and over buys when good cuts appear at the butcher’s. This leads to excess food and a discovery that some dishes taste better the next day. Case in point are these pork ribs braised in a Vietnamese-style caramel sauce. Shallots, lemon juice, black pepper, fish sauce and caramel produce a highly addictive umami flavour and a brilliant glossy colour. Photo courtesy of Chubby Hubby.

Add your own recipe!
If you want to link in your own pork recipe and share the love around, just leave the link in the comments section. You didn’t have to invent the recipe yourself, just make it and post it on your site. The whole idea of Recipe Carousel is that good recipes are shared with people who love to cook.
Note: Usual comments are more than welcome but all html links must be recipe related (yours or others).

Check out other Recipe Carousel themes: coffee, noodles, cookies, vegetarian mains, nuts, milkshakes, rice, festive food, legumes/pulses, eggs, pancakes, breakfast, raw food, berries, dips, cocktails, pasta, yoghurt, crispy snacks, vegetable desserts, fruit in savoury food, made from scratch, strawberries, jam, bread, seafood mains, ice cream, soup, chocolate and drinks.


Sunday, 18 February 2007

sang choi bau

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

Today is Chinese New Year and it’s the Year of the Pig!

My little sister, Amy, is a Pig. When she was a kid we called her Porky and that was before we even knew her Chinese star sign!

I decided about two months ago that I never eat pork and that I would have to rectify this situation because pork is a tasty meat.

With Sydney in full swing preparing for Chinese New Year, I decided I’d give myself a challenge: I’ll make a variety of pork recipes for the first seven days of the Year of the Pig.

At first I was going to announce this as a bloggers event and invite everyone to make pork recipes - but then some killjoy friends questioned whether roasting, frying and grilling the sacred animal of the year was inappropriate - so I decided to keep this as a one woman show.

So today I announce my Chinese New Year Pork Festival in honour of the Year of the Pig. For the rest of this week you’ll find pig related recipes from around the world:

Sang Choi Bau
Pork Mains Recipe Carousel
Ragu di Salsiccia
Pork Vermicelli Salad
Jamon y Higos (ham & figs)
Maiale al Vino (pork in wine) 

Honeydew & Ham Salad

Apologies, but it’s an unhappy coincidence that my announcement lands on the occasion when Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by the lovely Chocolate Lady at In Mol Araan (the goddess of all things Yiddish). I just hope my pork gluttony does not offend her and my other Kosher pals out there: רעטצמ ינא

Without further ado, I’m kicking off the pork fest, appropriately, with an old favourite from China: sang choi bau.

When I was a kid, and the South East Asian population in Sydney hadn’t taken off to make Thai the staple meal, Chinese restaurants reigned. I remember how exciting it was when a little Chinese restaurant opened up near our rural outskirts home in the far north of the city. Sang choi bau was always my favourite dish.

Sang Choi Bau
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4 as an entrée or 2 as a main.

Iceberg lettuce, broken into small cups
¼ cup canned chestnuts in water, chopped
3cm piece fresh ginger, grated finely
300g pork mince
2 scallions (shallots)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons kecap manis
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Dash of fish sauce (optional)
1. Slice the scallions very finely, separating the hard white parts and the herby green parts.
2. Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan. Add the white part of the scallions, the garlic and the ginger. Fry until softened.
3. Add the pork and the water chestnuts and fry, being sure to continually break apart clumps of mince as it cooks.
4. When the surface of the pork is browned, add the kecap manis and soy sauce. Fry until mince is complete cooked.
5. Remove from heat and stir through green parts of the scallion, saving some for garnish.
6. Put pork into serving bowl and garnish with scallions. You can either serve the meat in a communal bowl from which everyone takes as they go, or you can serve it individually. Serve with iceberg lettuce.
Note: lettuce can be refreshed and crispier if put into freezing ice water for a minute before serving. Be sure to dry leaves with a paper towel before using them.
The Chinese water chestnut Eleocharis dulcis is a sedge (water grass) that grows in freshwater swamps, marshes and flooded rice fields. Its tubular, leafless stems can grow to 1.5 metres tall, although it is cultivated for its corms.

In fact the white corms remain crisp even after cooking, making them popular in Western-style Chinese food. The corms can be eaten raw, boiled, grilled or pickled. They can be even ground down to make flour.

Nutritionally, the water chestnut is rich in carbohydrates as well as dietary fibre, vitamin B6, potassium, calcium, iron, potassium and zinc. But watch out – uncooked fresh water chestnuts can pass on Fasciolopsiasis, an intestinal infection caused by parasitic flukes (worms).

Water chestnuts grow in many varieties across China, South East Asia, India, Polynesia, New Guinea and northern Australia. In the Northern Territory, the native Australian variety is small, sweet and a food source for millions of birds. Water chestnuts are currently cultivated in Japan, Taiwan, China and Thailand as well as in Australia.

I have discovered two very interesting water chestnut recipes from this research (a dessert and a drink) so I plan to blog about these one day too.

In the meantime, please visit the In Mol Araan for the WHB recap and come back to Morsels & Musings throughout the week to check out my Chinese New Year Pork Festival.



Friday, 16 February 2007


Otherwise known as Black Forest Cake.

Today is Sugar High Friday, a very popular event among food bloggers and one which I have never managed to join. Until now.

February’s theme, in line with St Valentine’s Day, is Sweet Seduction.

Our host, Jasmine, from Confessions of a Cardamom Addict writes
Your mission, should you accept, is to provide a sweet that entices and lures. There are a number of ways you can approach this:
• Something you’ve made to seduce someone
• Something you’re planning on making to seduce someone
• Something someone’s made to seduce you.
• Something you wish someone would make to seduce you

I have to admit that I’ve never cooked anything to seduce someone. My cooking skills really took off sometime after Jonas and I had started living together.

By the same token, I’ve never had anything cooked to seduce me either. So no luck there.

But I certainly have a long list of things I wish Jonas would cook to seduce me. And there’s one in particular that I always point to and tell him “if you ever feel like making me something really nice, this is it.”

Alas, he never took the hint.

So with this event in mind, my own desire to taste it and Ashlee’s birthday on the horizon I whipped up my favoruite cake: Schwarzwälderkirschtorte.

I’ve loved Black Forest Cake ever since I was a child and there are numerous reasons why: cherries are one of my favourite fruits; I adore chocolate, who doesn’t?; whipped cream is divine; how can you not love a place called the Black Forest? It sounds so dark and mysterious! Fittingly it was the setting of many Grimm fairytales.

It’s believed that the Black Forest Cake originated in the 16th century in the form of biscuits drenched in Kirsch then topped with cream and poached cherries. Good start!

The Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, is located in the state of Baden-Württemberg which is famous for sour cherries and Kirsch. It is commonly believed that the cake did not originate in the Black Forest but could possibly be named after the origin of the main ingredients.

The earliest written record for Black Forest Cake was in Dresden in 1934 and by 1949 it was listed as lucky number 13 in a list of Germany’s most famous cakes. (My favourite number too – wow, this cake is spookily MINE).

So if you’re ever trying to woo me, just bake me a Black Forest Cake and I’ll be yours forever.

Black Forest Cake (Schwarzwälderkirschtorte)

Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook: 2006. Serves 10.

300g dark chocolate (63% cocoa solids), chopped coarsely
1½ tablespoons Kirsch
155g unsalted butter, softened
250g caster sugar
6 eggs
55g dried breadcrumbs (I used plain flour)
250g almond meal
300ml thickened cream
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
300g canned morello cherries, pitted
1. Combine 130g chocolate, kirsch and 2 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and heat in a bain-marie until chocolate has melted. Stir until smooth and set aside.
2. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer for 5 minutes or until pale and creamy.
3. Add eggs one at a time, allowing each to be fully incorporated before the next is added.
4. Add chocolate mixture, mix to combine then fold through breadcrumbs and almond meal.
5. Spoon into baking tin and bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake withdraws clean.
6. Cool on wire rack then halve cake horizontally.
7. Combine thickened cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract in a bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.
8. Place base of cake on a serving plate then smother with cream. Top with cherries then a little more cream then place top layer of cake over cream.
9. Melt remaining chocolate in a saucepan then pour over cake. Serve immediately.




Saturday, 10 February 2007

roasted apricots w apricot fool

I used to adore stone fruit as a kid. We lived on the northern outskirts of Sydney and many Greek and Italian migrants had set up orchards of peaches, apricots, plum and nectarines. You could buy them from the side of the road in big boxes and eat them fresh.

These days I find it very hard to get good stone fruit. They never have that strong ripe smell and the flesh is often floury rather than tender and juicy. One way to combat the sad side effects of mass food production is to cook stone fruits. I find this brings out the flavour and intensifies the sugars. Roasting, poaching, and grilling can make a difference to a bad batch.

I also like to make apricot or peach pies. My grocer sometimes sells bags of overripe fruit for just this purpose and Jonas is always happy when I bake shortcrust pastry filled with steaming fresh fruit.

In this particular recipe, I roasted the fruits then cooled them to room temperature before serving. The addition of lemon juice and zest to this mix makes for a slight sour citric edge so if you want sweet apricots, omit the juice. I think I will next time.

Roasted Apricots w Apricot Fool
Recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller February 2007. Serves 6.
110g (½ cup) golden caster sugar
11 apricots, halved and stones removed
180ml (¾ cup) dessert wine (I used Botrytis Semillon)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
6 sprigs thyme
300ml thickened cream
Flaked almonds, toasted, to serve
1. Preheat oven to 190’C. Scatter sugar over the base of roasting tray. Place apricots, cut side down, over the sugar. Press firmly to coat then turn over.
2. Drizzle dessert wine and lemon juice over apricots, the scatter with lemon rind and thyme.
Roast for 25 minutes or until apricots are just cooked. Cool completely.
3. In a food processor, purée 4 roasted apricot halves and 2 tablespoons roasting juices until smooth.
4. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Fold through whipped cream to form a ripple.
5. To serve, spoon apricot fool into bowls, top with apricots and then roasting juices and scatter with almond flakes.

This week Weekend Herb Blogging is back at home in Kalyn’s Kitchen. Be sure to head over there to see what everyone else has been cooking.


Thursday, 8 February 2007

jonas' breakfast beans

How’s this for a spur of the moment breakfast treat?

I was totally bored of plain old eggs so Jonas decided to whip up something a little different. The beans tasted absolutely wonderful, spicy and flavoursome all at once. I cannot recommend this recipe more highly.

Jonas’ Breakfast Beans
Jonas’ very own recipe. Serves 3.

300g can cannellini beans, drained
4-5 ripe tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 small red onion, chopped finely
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
¼ cup passata
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced chilli or chilli paste
1-2 teaspoons sumac
1-2 tablespoons Greek style yoghurt
Poached eggs and bread to serve

1. Fry onions, chilli and garlic until soft.
2. Add tomatoes and passata, sumac, bay leaf, salt and pepper then cook for approx. 20 minutes over very low heat. Stir occasionally and add more passata or water if liquid levels decrease.
3. When the tomatoes have broken down and become a sauce, add beans. Cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add fresh herbs and cook for 5 minutes more.
5. Take off heat and stir through yoghurt.
6. Serve with a poached egg and bread.


Wednesday, 7 February 2007

the f word comes to sydney

What a night! I just got back from an evening at Australia’s very own version of The F Word, modelled on Gordon Ramsay’s TV show that screened here on Foxtel.

The premise for this Channel 7 show is that Matt Moran (of Aria fame) leads three amateur cooks (lawyers, doctors, lifesavers etc) to produce a high quality meal for 50 people in a pseudo restaurant. For each dish you decided whether the quality was up to scratch and if you enjoyed it you agree to pay for it.

I got an email invitation from a work colleague (thanks Toni!) explaining how to be part of the show and then I passed the good news on to many Sydney food bloggers. I spotted Julia and Emily there tonight (in fact the chance seating arrangments meant we had a "bloggers corner"). Be sure to check out their reviews as well, since there was certainly controversy over the food.

I spent my night there with Nicki, Slinky Minx and Paul (who isn’t a Yankee but is a Yank).

We arrived early so the security guard directed us to a nearby pub to kill some time. After ordering our drinks (I’m sorry to say I ordered a shandy – with VB!) we were approached by two gentlemen who had spied Paul drinking a James Squire (much more civilised than me). It turned out to be Master Brewer Chuck Hahn! I was so excited since Jonas loves James Squire beers and this guy was their creator. Any Aussie would understand that this chance meeting was stellar stuff!

Once seated in the restaurant it was weird being filmed. At the beginning they had everyone stand and give a massive round of applause about nothing. Then they filmed us all clapping and smiling and looking like fools. Once we were in good spirits they introduced Matt Moran and we all cheered him as he made his way to the kitchen. We then watched as he and three butchers went about cooking for 50 hungry mouths.

While we were eating, boom mics would hover erratically over our heads, following the conversation from one person to another like an angry wasp. From a distance a camera man would inconspicuously zoom in on our filled mouths. Once they were done listening to our awkward attempts at sounding like gastronomic geniuses, they moved on or used our table to film other groups of unsuspecting diners. It was both ridiculous and exhilarating all at once and I found it hard not to giggle.

At one exciting moment I heard one of the crew whisper urgently to another that some “argy bargy” was taking place in the kitchen between Moran and someone else? Hmm, could this turn into a Gordon Ramsay moment afterall? Yelling and swearing? Were we about to learn why Ramsay called it The F Word?

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Moran didn’t spit the dummy during this episode of The F Word.

My sister worked on The F Word in London with Gordon Ramsay and while she said he was like a shar-pei puppy that needed a good ironing out, she also said his fierce and arrogant persona was caricatured for TV. In fact he warned the waitstaff that he would turn into Lucifer once the cameras were rolling, but even this didn’t prepare many of them from ending the night in tears. Lucky my sister isn’t phased by much and her water-off-a-duck’s-back attitude put her in the good books. I enjoyed their high opinion of her when we visited Claridges together last March and was well taken care of by Jean-Baptiste Requien (former maitre d' at Claridges and now Restaurant Director at Ramsay’s The London in NYC).

The other aspect from Ramsay’s version of The F Word that I’m hoping they don’t replicate in the Australian version is the celebrity factor. Let’s face it, Australia pulls some pretty lame celebrities for these kinds of events. Tonight we had Australian Idol runner up, Anthony Callea, and two former My Restaurant Rules competitors, Evan and Bella. This hardly competes with Joan Collins, Cliff Richard and Sharon Osbourne who appeared in the UK series? Or are they the equivalent to B grade celebs in the UK?

I just hope the show turns out to be more than poor Matt Moran being forced to fawn over randoms! (Although, having said all this I sat right next to Anthony Callea and managed to eavesdrop on as much of his conversation as I know he and his friend eavesdropped on ours. He turned out to be quite a sweet little fellow and I won’t think of him as the devil’s peanut shelf anymore.)

Service was sporadic as well. They mixed sparkling and still water and we spotted them accidently pouring Anthony Callea the rest of our bottle of sauvignon blanc then just never bothering to inform us about it. Oh well, it's a TV show. What do we expect?!?

Throughout filming, one thing the production team kept emphasising is that they wanted everyone to be honest and they wanted to hear some real feedback. Controversy makes great TV.

Our dishes were:
Salt & Chilli Squid w Bok Choy
Pork w Kifler Potatoes, Pear, Broccolini & Caper Butter
White Chocolate Pannacotta w Citrus Salad

The squid was cooked perfectly and was doused in a very sweet sauce, flavoured heavily with ginger. The sauce was much too sweet and took on the slightly artificial flavour that heavily preserved sauces do. Fortunately the ginger added significant zing and the bok choy was refreshing. I enjoyed the flavour and would have been happy to pay AUD$10 in a mid-range restaurant or pub, but wouldn’t be impressed in a fine dining establishment.

The pork was wonderful and was easily worth $20. I would never order pork in a restaurant so I was very pleased with the quality of pork that I was served. Cutting the pork with the cutlery was a little tough, but my teeth sliced through it like butter and it was moist in my mouth. It was pink and succulent and the fat to meat ratio was divine (I later discovered it was Kurobuta pork).

The accompaniments, while flavoursome in their own right, probably weren’t a great match. The tiny honey pears seemed somewhat under ripe so they didn’t provide that burst of sweet, juiciness that Moran had probably aimed for. The broccolini was perfectly toothsome although I wasn’t so keen on the caper butter. A lot of the brininess had been washed away and all that remained was a slight hint of caper. The kipfler potatoes were crushed with some fruity olive oil and black pepper, which were tasty in their own right but weren’t a great match to the juicy pork.

My only real criticism was that some portions of the crackling was undercooked and this meant it was ridiculously chewy and impossible to eat. Mine was fine, but three out of four at my table were not.

After the main course, Matt Moran came out to admonish the crowd. Only 20 out of 50 patrons agreed to pay for the pork. What a terrible verdict! I was somewhat shocked by this because mine had been surprisingly good. Four of the 20 people who agreed to pay were at my own table. What had happened elsewhere?

Moran explained that the butchers had cooked the meat perfectly. He addressed some of the criticisms:

The fat on the pork added flavour during the cooking process. Customers could cut around it, as they would a chop bone, should they not want to eat it. I agree that fat often adds flavour and moisture to the meat, although I’m not sure whether people should have to cut around it. Isn’t that part of the kitchen’s job? Having said that, my piece of meat had such an insignificant strip of fat that I happily ate it with the flesh.

The kipfler potatoes were not meant to be served as a mash. It shocked me a little to hear that people expected the potatoes to be a mash. As we had previously discussed at our table, and as Moran almost identically explained afterwards, kipflers are waxy potatoes and are therefore not suitable for mashing. In this instance they were simply crushed with a little olive oil so we could enjoy them in a natural state.

But I noticed Moran provided no excuses for the undercooked crackling.

While I agreed completely with Moran’s comments and felt (perhaps very arrogantly) that some of the audience needed some food education, I also felt that the show was supposed to be about what people were prepared to eat and prepared to pay for. And it seemed they honestly didn’t like the main course.

Maybe that said more about pork than it did about the butchers’ skills? After a vote with my dining companions, we all agreed that we never order pork from a menu. It’s just not a meat of choice. So perhaps our poor butchers suffered because of the humble piggy rather than their cooking abilities?

Onto the dessert.
The white chocolate pannacotta had successfully taken on the buttery flavours of white chocolate, but had an unfortunate gritty texture. I believe the white chocolate had been melted at too high a temperature because this is the kind of texture chocolate takes on when it is burnt. And it doesn’t take much to burn chocolate! It was a real shame because the pannacotta had the perfect balance between jelly wobble and custard flow. The citrus salad of orange and ruby grapefruit had been doused in rosewater, providing a gorgeous fragrance and flavour. Wonderfully salty-sweet pistachio nuts had been roasted to crunchiness and added excellent texture and an earthy palate. Nicki was quick to pick oregano as the tiny green leaves in the salad. A strange choice that seemed to work well. Had the chocolate not been chalky, the dessert would have been a triumph because the flavours were wonderful.

In the end I thought people were very harsh judges, although the instruction kit on our table did say we should judge whether the food was of the “highest restaurant quality”. This seemed to indicate the level of a three or two hat restaurant, but after chatting with the production team they really meant a mid-range establishment. If that’s the case then I think a three course meal for $40 is more than reasonable and that the quality we received was certainly worth the $40. We weren’t at Aria but we were on a reality TV show and we walked out full, satisfied and more than a little tipsy . . . well, at least I was.

If you want info on how to be part of the show, it’s filmed Tuesday nights in Sydney (through February 2007) and all you need to do is call the Production team on 02 9357 1706.

Go the butchers!!!


Monday, 5 February 2007

recipe carousel #32 - coffee

For four years Jonas was a barista. People would travel distances to drink his coffee. He could make patterns by pouring in the milk and one café doubled its coffee sales two months after he started there. He was, in our little world, a coffee whiz kid.

Then there was me.

I’d go into his café and people would laugh when I told them I don’t drink coffee. They thought it was hilarious that the coffee genius dated someone who didn’t even drink coffee.

Well, this year I started drinking coffee. It all began with the cold Frizz Coffee sodas and then I moved onto the real stuff in the mornings. I have developed a real addiction to the flavour, especially when sweetened.

So, here are seven coffee recipes to keep my new love alive.

Winter Spiced Coffee Brûlée is one way to warm cold days and comes from Nic in the USA (bakingsheet). Nic grinds coffee beans with whole cloves, red and green peppercorns and small fragments of cinnamon bark. She recommends going easy on the spices and slowly adding more until you reach the right consistency, otherwise it could turn out to be one hefty cup of Joe. She brews the coffee then mixes it with steaming milk, before scattering the surface with sugar and caramelising with a brûlée torch. Photo courtesy of Nic.

Chocolate Coffee Hearts comes from Haalo in Australia (Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once). On this occasion she provides us with a simple ganache which “results in an exceptionally soft and smooth truffle”. Dark chocolate is added to heated cream and then espresso and coffee liqueur are stirred into the melted product. Haalo then let the ganache set overnight before cutting out heart shapes with a cookie cutter and dusting them with edible glitter sugar. Photo courtesy of Haalo.

Black Trumpet & Coffee Crusted Pork is an invention by Joe in the USA (Foodie NYC). Aiming for “bold and earthy flavours” Joe ground dried black trumpet mushrooms with roasted coffee, then added nutmeg and curry powder to create a crust for roasting pork loin. The pork was wrapped tightly in plastic wrap then allowed to marinate for a few hours. The sweet pork meat was then roasted and served in slices with an eggplant puree. The results, according to Joe’s excited post, were amazing. Photo courtesy of Joe.

BaCiCo Frappé is a summer refresher from Zorra in Spain (Kochtopf) and stands for Banana-Cinnamon-Coffee Frappé. Zorra takes brown sugar, lemon juice and a shot of espresso then rounds this off with a banana, some milk and a pinch of cinnamon. After a quick blend she tops this liquid dessert with whipped cream and some decorative coffee beans. Slurp, slurp! Photo courtesy of Zorra.

Mocha Pecan Torte comes from Zinnur (Our Patisserie). When entertaining over 100 people, Zinnur served this Alice Medrich recipe in thin slices: 8 cakes feed 100 people. This is one of Zinnur’s favourite cakes and even though she doesn’t drink coffee, she adores the way it tastes alongside pecans and chocolate. Zinnur thinks the cake tastes better when it’s made one day ahead, so make the base and then start on the mocha glaze the next day. Photo courtesy of Zinnur.

Chilled Cappuccino Custard in Mini Chocolate Cups is an inventive and detailed dessert from Gattina in the USA (Kitchen Unplugged). Not only did she make smooth custard flavoured with espresso and heavy cream but she created tiny white chocolate cups to serve it in. She painted a silicon ice cube tray with layers of chocolate and piped on a handle when it was ready. Be sure to keep everything in the fridge until you’re ready to serve, otherwise the chocolate cups will melt – fast! Photo courtesy of Gattina.

Mini Coffee Cakes w Walnuts are on at Ulrike’s house in Germany (Küchenlatein). After a warm summer, Ulrike received a bountiful walnut harvest from her neighbour’s tree. She turned these wonderful nuts into cute cupcakes, flavoured with strong espresso and vanilla. Perfect for an afternoon snack with a nice cup of coffee. Photo courtesy of Ulrike.

Add your own recipe!
If you want to link in your own coffee recipe and share the love around, just leave the link in the comments section. You didn’t have to invent the recipe yourself, just make it and post it on your site. The whole idea of Recipe Carousel is that good recipes are shared with people who love to cook.
Note: Usual comments are more than welcome but all html links must be recipe related (yours or others).

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