Already autumn

I just had a look at my previous post – written shortly after that heatwave in February or thereabouts…summer kind of got carried away. A lot, too much happened, there was no stopping and I totally missed the roses and a whole lot else.

Some highlights in the warm haze that was summer:

IMG_2011

Sunday roast lunch at Epocha in Carlton. Such a great restaurant space to be in, and a relaxed lunch spot. We’ll be back!

IMG_2019

A couple or so days later, after Fitzroy Pool let us in 10 minutes before closing to find some respite from yet another oven-like hot night, we walked to Backstreet Eating for a couple of vino’s and some small bites (I guess that’s one slight bonus of this kind of heat – appetites long only for water/ anything iced!) We sat outside and had several dishes on the short menu, and all were spot-on. We’re due back for breakfast / brunch here too!

IMG_2068

On the bar menu…a bit of a Boudin Noir project, shown here in its early preparation stage and just before the sausages are tied and  poached. Messy ha! Next up we’ll be doing morcilla.

IMG_2073

We also got hold of green tomatoes and loads were pickled Calabrian style, whilst fried green tomatoes have only just come off the menu, as have tomatoes really, a true sign summer is pretty much over.

IMG_2084

 

In August last year I wrote how we preserved artichokes in the briny Italian style, first in red wine vinegar and then packed into olive oil, below is how we finally served them in late February with bresaola, aioli and a hazelnut picada.

IMG_2096

In keeping with the Italian theme we made Bonet – a chocolate custard-like pudding with crushed amaretti biscuits thickening and flavouring the custard. It is then baked like a creme caramel and is wonderful!

IMG_2098

Just a week ago pine mushrooms started surfacing, and since I swamped my blog with pine mushroom pictures last year, this time there is only the picture of the season’s first dish including pines – with braised jumbuck, shallot, cavolo nero and anchovy.

IMG_2223

And finally, the ‘trend’ thats happily looking to be a permanent one… orange wine. This one was had after work on Saturday night, and is from the Napa Valley, USA.

IMG_2225

 

Morello cherries and a new cake

Summer is cherry season, and whilst we’ve already used sweet (Prunus avium) heart-shaped cherries in desserts at the bar before Christmas, I’ve keenly been waiting for morello or sour cherry season (Prunus cerasus). These smaller, rounder cherries lend themselves so well to pickling, bottling and  sauces and are also the cherries  used for Turkish sour cherry juice. (The cherries used in cocktail garnishes are sweet cherries however, bleached and then preserved in red sugar syrup.)

IMG_1947

I only got two boxes this year – it takes ages to de-stem and pit the cherries, and everybody had done a few by the time the bottom of the box was reached!

Some cherries went into kirsch, and the rest were preserved in a spiced port syrup. Some juice was left over and a sorbet is to follow, too.

Messy

Messy

The birthday cake we make here at Neighbourhood Wine changes every so often, and we’re giving the Marjolaine a break (it would be near impossible to make in this heat anyway) and the old Black Forest cake is having it’s turn. We make it with butter cake, chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, port cherries inside and kirsch cherries on top. A worthy birthday cake indeed.

Black forest cake

Black forest cake

The Marjolaine might well make a return in winter…

Marjolaine

Marjolaine

There they are above, before plating.

Can the real ‘honest’, rustic food please stand up in 2014?

Maybe it’s  our visual-media soaked society’s obsession with pretty pictures and the eternal quest to find something worth Instagramming.  It’s technology. It’s definately all the gadgets available to chefs in kitchens. Also a completely skewed idea of nutrition ( everybody is trying to avoid sugar, but in Melbourne for example the quickest way to become a millionaire is to open a gelati store).  It’s also a hopeless addiction to eating-trends (last year questions about gluten and fructose free options came flying over the pass – kombucha and coconut water stepped straight into the big supermarkets – but this year that’s all forgotten it seems, now everyone is avoiding yeast (last week’s hilarious question over the pass: do we have yeast free bread?)

Erm, speechless.

Maybe it’s the heat here at the moment but its both irritating and worrying that people are thinking about what they’re eating and dining out so much, as well as not at all.

I’ve been in Melbourne for 4 years now and there’s a definite plating trend here that chefs are massively into. It’s a reflection of a global plating fashion, yet its very much Melburnian. Customers  really identify with it here, and see a lot of value in a plate when the end result has something dehydrated, something  distilled, something cooked au sous vide, something pureed, something reduced, something’s a gel and something’s a foam. Alltogether. On one plate. Oh and something has been foraged, something else may be ancient, like an egg or a grain. (pfft…)

Any ingredients in their er, natural state, have firmly been pushed to the uncool side of the playground. Ok, so clearly I am not a fan of this style and when I mean I am into rustic food it doesn’t mean ill-prepared, or the fast-and-loose use of ingredients. I just leave the peas mushy and gently seasoned instead of turning them into the texture of the cream I moisturise with nightly.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid reader of magazines like FOOL etc. where the chefs really pushing the boundaries in the culinary world are featured and discussed. Maybe it’s somewhat like haute couture – it’s the showcasing of a idea and seasonal trend on the runway, but few are wearing that same outfit out there in the real world.

I guess I hope that in 2014 there will be less playing around with food because it seems to be the done thing, and more of a reconnection with ingredients on the plate in their natural state. I guess I really identify with what Dan Doherty (The Duck and Waffle, London) has to say about this, to quote: “I just feel a nod towards how mum would do it, could work wonders. People are always looking for the next thing, always looking forward, but sometimes the way forward, is the way back.”

The original article where he talks about 2014 food trends can be found here.

The Lake House, Daylesford

IMG_1810

What a magical place. We went to the Lake House in Daylesford for a short break, which felt much longer due to the tranquil surroundings and beautiful setting of this country hotel. You can’t help but relax, and instantly wish your stay was longer. Above is a view of the lake in front of the hotel.

IMG_1813

We took a stroll along the lake before dinner, which is edged with so many different kinds of trees, many of them fruit bearing (obviously not right now!), and I even found holly amongst the shrubs!

the lake house

The hotel

The rooms overlooking the lake, ours was somewhere on the left!

IMG_1829

I can’t go on enough about the gardens that are filled with billowing roses, established shrubs and interesting textural plants like tall artichokes and fine sprays of erigeron.

IMG_1818

The tame kookaburras outside the restaurant. It’s the first time I’ve seen them up close and had to take this picture…

IMG_1817

The view from the deck as the sun was setting. Champagne time!

Duck with fermented fruits

Duck with fermented fruits

The dinner was proper 2-hat fare, and used a lot of ingredients from the surrounding gardens and area around Daylesford. This duck entree was a favourite – I liked the fermented fruit.

Local eel with beetroot

Local eel with beetroot

Another beautiful course, using local eel and beetroot, a classic combination and a personal favourite.

Patagonian tooth fish with artichokes

Patagonian toothfish with artichokes

My main was complex, using Patagonian toothfish, artichokes and ham – I was pretty stuffed after this!

Roomservice...

Roomservice…

We finished our wine in the room, a rare gem that needed time and appreciation. Oh, and cheese, too!

The deck

The deck

The deck, a place where it would wonderful too spend way too much time. What a great experience.

A very full December

Some of the things my December got filled with – the month  flew by in a blur and I am only really starting to think back now how busy it was as I sit writing here on our tranquil family farm in South Africa, where I am spending a short Christmas break.

Elderflower

Elderflower

I ended up missing elderflowers so much I planted a little tree, that rewarded me with a flower the week it went in the soil. I can’t wait to use the berries and flowers at the bar!

Messina

Messina

We happened to check out Jimmy Grants in Smith street the night Gelato Messina opened, and only hit a short queue (there’s never not a queue, it seems). The gelato is good alright, but the hype is way too big.

Town Mouse

Town Mouse

Finally got to The Townmouse in Carlton for a date night, and it’s obviously excellent. We tried loads of different plates but the picture went to the berry dessert above because elderflowerlets feature!

The Town Mouse outside

The Town Mouse outside

We also scored a seat outside which was awesome on a balmy night.

Another weeknight meal was spent at Bistro K on the north side of Smith street, and the food was a great surprise – really good! Below is a picture of their bibimbap, but we had some other items too, with shochu (too much, ha!) and it is definitely worth many more visits.

Bibimbap at Bistro K, Smith Street

Bibimbap at Bistro K, Smith Street

Duck, prune and pork terrine with piccalilli

Duck, prune and pork terrine with piccalilli

In the previous post I showed how we prepared the terrines at the bar, and here is a picture of the finished product, made with duck and prune.

 Cherries halved for compote

Cherries halved for compote

Just before Christmas we turned a glut of cherries into compote for a festive dessert.

Green walnuts

Green walnuts

Green walnuts from King Valley, ready for pickling. A lengthy process, where all the green nuts are pricked before they are left in a saline solution, and will only be pickled this coming week.

IMG_1808

Another project with the many kumquats we got, was to pack them in salt. We’ll see where this goes as I’ve never tried it before!

Kumquat, date and almond chutney, pickled cherries at the back

Kumquat, date and almond chutney, pickled cherries at the back

The rest of the kumquats went into a chutney with dates and almonds, and should take about a month to mellow. At the back of this picture are pickled cherries, which we’ll leave for a couple of months before using.

Brunswick from the sky

Brunswick street from the sky

A lunch on the deck of Naked for Satan, worth visiting for the view, worth giving a miss for the pretty rude and dismissive staff. I left the filter on this picture as it was about 40degrees on the day we lunched, and the city really looked like it was suspended in a yellowish haze!

Grapevine fire at home in RSA

Grapevine fire at home in RSA

 

And finally home to RSA to this welcome sight, a grapevine wood fire to braai Karoo lamb chops on. My favourite and most comforting thing in the world.

A day’s work (sort of)

Here’s a bit of a photo-account of what I did in a day shift at the bar. Prep includes dessert and savoury elements which I like. I think this really keeps the day interesting, along with creating new dishes, one of which went on at evening service this particular Wednesday. I included almost everything I spent a bit of time on, although I didn’t think you needed any pictures of me doing the roster (rather time-consuming) and sorting out the bins! There are of course many small elements of prep too, but that would be too many pictures! A good day, and I only start at 11am!

Bench-resting the bread

Bench-resting the bread

We make our bread with a starter which was started/created on the premises, and the dough is made around noon every day. At the same time, the folded dough from the previous day is removed from the fridge, left to come to room temperature, portioned into boules and bench-rested like these above for about an hour, and then baked around 3pm, to be ready for dinner service. Above is snapshot of where the boules take a nap under cloths for an hour.

Cooking meringue

Cooking meringue

Since the bread is resting, I use the oven to cook meringue. These are very small so they don’t take long at all.

Kumquats

Kumquats

A friend brought kumquats and I decided to poach them as I don’t really have time for marmalade or candying at this time of the year. They are halved and then poached in a vanilla sugar syrup and good served with any chocolate-based dessert.

Pork shoulder for terrine

Pork shoulder for terrine

I butcher a pork shoulder, which becomes the base for a new terrine (we do sets of 4 or 6 terrines at one time). The meat is cut into chunks and minced with a coarse die, and the fat is cut in small blocks to create textural variance and keep the terrine moist.

Duck for terrine

Duck for terrine

By now the duck has arrived, and it too is butchered for the terrine, with the leg meat being ground and the breast cut into long strips to form the centre of the terrine, along with dried prunes.

New bread base

New bread base

The new bread base is made, at this stage the salt and last bit of water is not added yet, to allow the natural starter to get, well, started!

Baked bread for service

Baked bread for service

Bench-rest long over, the bread is baked, and for some reason is not slashed today (too busy taking pictures!)

asparagus

asparagus

Prepping and blanching vegetables for service, the above process is where the veggies are being shocked in ice water to stop the cooking process and therefore preserve their colour and quality.

Stock bones

Stock bones

Roasting chicken bones for stock. The duck carcasses are added to this for extra depth in the final stock.

Draining curds

Draining curds

The previous night milk was cultured and left to set, to finally become fromage blanc (fresh cheese). Here I am pouring the curds into cloths to drain the whey.

IMG_1745

The vegetable order arrives, is checked and packed away. In the summer time it’s really important to get everything into the coldroom quickly, to preserve the quality of the produce.

Butchering goat

Butchering goat

The goat has arrived and I butcher it so that it can be marinated overnight, and turned into a braise tomorrow. This is great organic goat from Koondrook.

The marinated goat

The marinated goat

We marinate the goat with thyme, garlic and pepper, as the braise is in a classic, simple style.

pork shoulder

pork shoulder

Finally, I need to cook the porchetta in a slow oven overnight, so I bone the shoulders out, make a herbed bread stuffing and roll & tie the shoulders. They are then wrapped in aluminium foil and cooked in their own juices for 14 hours.

The next post will have some pictures of what all this prep becomes!

Arguing about how to feed the world and wasting tonnes of food in the process

This week a study ‘finally’ proved how much of one English supermarket’s fresh food goes straight into the rubbish tip – read the Independent‘s article  here for the lowdown. Tesco might have made it into the headlines, but they represent every single supermarket chain out there, which represents every household that ever visits a supermarket.

The real surprise and disgusting fact is why this is still a surprise to everyone, and is newsworthy for all the wrong reasons. The UN ambitiously and frantically (or so they’ll have us believe) have been trying to feed the poor third world, but the problem is almost too big now, and has sprawled all over almost every sector of society, because food production is, believe it or not, tied up in everything you touch every day, without going near a meal.

Artist Christien Meindertsma created an interesting compendium of sorts called PIG 05049 which explores in pictures all that is derived from a pig. The  fascinating book is devided into sections: skin, bones, meat, internal organs, blood, fat and miscellaneous. It covers everything from fine bone china to peppermints to insulin. I think this makes the pig just about the most versatile inhabitant of planet earth, but of course this work also points to other interesting issues. Check out what the amazing artist does here.

 

from Fool magazine

from Fool magazine

It’s a dirty chain of us wanting more, the supermarkets creating more enticing products (at increasingly lower prices), us buying more stuff (but we don’t need it), and in the case of fresh food, us then throwing it away because we bought with our eyes,  and it has a short sell-by date (it didn’t cost us anything anyway).

The above paragraph of course applies to you if you live in the first world, or in a developed country – because this chain of events is, as we commonly see things labelled on Twitter, a #firstworldproblem. If you had no money, this isn’t what your life looks like, and the irony here is, no redistribution angel hands that which those with means don’t care for, to those who desperately need it, but can’t afford it.

Which ties in with a brilliant article I read in the latest issue of the Swedish food magazine FOOL.

It delivers a wealth of information on a topic where there is so much arguing/debate and conflicting information, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction from the stuff world governing bodies and corporate moneymakers want us to believe. Some of the most poignant (courtesy of the FOOL magazine article):

  • the world has forgotten how unique agriculture is – it can be compared to no other industry, because it produces for basic human need, but also shapes society, culture, eating habits and of course landscape – but is now treating it like any other industry. This is killing it.
  • To most people it represents a small part of industry in their countries, but the areas we cultivate our food on cover more than 50% of liveable earth.
  • What the farmer in the check shirt and muddy work boots actually represents is not slight – it is our future and how we are meant to survive on earth.
  • Around the world, enough food is produced for about 14 billion people (world population is currently around 7)
  • But 1 billion or more people go hungry, and 1.5 billion are obese.
  • Europeans chuck x10 more food than Africans do, even though a large proportion of Africans do not have fridges or proper food transport logistics.

Why are we throwing so much food away? Too much of it is too cheap. Food is now cheaper than it has ever been.

And so on and so forth. Its pretty sickening. And there’s not really a light at the end of the tunnel.  The only thing that communities can do on a small scale is shun supermarkets and grow your own, or buy at farmers markets and veg markets, which I know is hard to do in practice.

But if you’ve read this far, you care a little, so try and do one thing that will help. Its going to take a lot of people to care a little, because Tesco and buddies don’t give a toss.