What’s your death-row dinner?

So it was cocktail night on Friday. To be fair, every Friday is cocktail night. Elderflower martini, if you were wondering.

cocktail night

Moules et frites were on the menu, along with a little Antony Bourdain on the tv – we rock it HARD on a Friday. If you haven’t read Kitchen Confidential, you should. Assuming, of course, you never want to eat in a restaurant ever again.

Anyway, he was in the UK. Close to my heart. Slurping up bone marrow and claiming it to be his ‘current death row meal’. (Btw, I think this show was made in 2006.)

This comment prompted a conversation.

‘What would you have for your last meal, Mr Eleanor? Pizza, curry or steak?’

The answer was, of course, a curried steak pizza with chips on top. You can take the boy out of Slough, but …

Here, I fumbled. My mistake.

‘Ok, Mr Eleanor,’ I said, ‘what would *I* have for my last meal?
‘Er …. er …. lobster? Doughnuts? Cos, you know, it’s your last meal, and who cares?’

Lobster and doughntuts? Well, I suppose it has a certain je ne sais quoi. But, for reference, my last meal would be:

  • Salt and pepper calamari with papaya salad
  • Truffled mushroom risotto
  • Lemon tart with mascarpone

And then perhaps coffee liqueur with some mini doughnuts. I’ll give him that one.

Or at least, that’s what it would be today. Tomorrow? Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve already realised I missed out pork belly – my menu nemesis. The ONE thing I can’t go past …

So, what would your last meal be? The last thing you’d ever get to taste? Go on. Tell me.

Melbourne Good Food & Wine Show

Do you ever go out to shows, markets, fairs with your other half? And feel niggled that there’s someone looking bored and uncomfortable at your heels whilst you are trying to snatch a piece of chocolate, or talk to the maker about their wares? And then you leave before you really want to?

And that’s why I went to the Good Food & Wine Show last Friday by myself. Best. Move. Ever. (Sorry, Mr Eleanor.) I was wonderfully free to roam about at my will, answerable to no one, sliding an arm in between groups pressed together around stands to pilfer a morsel of cheese, chocolate, olives and more and then disappearing to the next stall.

2016-06 June

Eating with your eyes – Sweets for Tilly

Food envy - maybe one day they'll make a gf version

Consumed by terrible food envy – maybe one day they’ll make a gf version

Cheese Alley

Many a happy hour in Cheese Alley

Matt Moran

Matt Moran in the Good Food Theatre

Wine

Don’t forget there’s food too

This is a tiny selection of the things that went in my mouth:

  • Fix & Fogg – peanut butter makers out of NZ with great ethical credentials, producing real, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth peanut butter with no ‘dead orangutan’ (ie palm) oil. Get your hands on the Smoke and Fire flavour
  • Grandvewe – this is real cheese, this is what cheese should be. A piece of beautiful soft, wash-rinded Brebichon is awaiting my attention in the fridge.
  • Kez’s Kitchen – I had a disappointing experience with a gf florentine from these folks once, but the gf Vienna eclairs and melting moments are crumbly, buttery-tasting and just delicious
  • Macaron de Paris – the first thing I ate when I arrived was a butterscotch and macadamia macaron. Since the commercialisation of the macaron, innumerable disappointing versions have started to appeared in cafes and delis. So don’t risk it; eat these ones instead – crisp and then soft, intensely flavoured and big enough to make you feel a little bit naughty
  • Nick’s Beef Jerky – I’m allergic to beef but Mr Eleanor was very happy with the 10 flavours sampler bag
  • Smelly Cheese Shop – I can’t stay away from these people. They are the reason I came back with so much cheese which is now stinking out the fridge. With artisan cheeses from all around the world, what’s not to love?
  • Sticky Balsamic – syrupy balsamic vinegar in a variety of fruit-infused flavours which are crying out to be poured over ice cream, but are also fabulous in more conventional glazes and dressings. I wish now that I’d picked up a bottle of the fig flavour, but my arms were dropping off by this point.
  • Hartshorn Distillery – the world’s first vodka made with leftover sheep whey from Grandvewe. Sounds odd. Ok, it sounds a bit yuck, but if it puts you off then good; that’s more for the rest of us. It is smooth and clean with vanilla notes. A really impressive product.
  • Josef Chromy – with both modern, easy drinking and more complex French styles of sparkling wine, a taste took me straight back to the beautiful Tamar Valley and our Tasmanian road-trip
  • Melbourne Martini – it’s an espresso martini in a jar. Only in Melbourne 🙂
  • Gin Fever masterclass  with Four Pillars, a local distillery with a tasting room in Healesville which has been on my list of things to do for a few weeks. We were treated to their Rare Dry, Navy, Spiced Negroni and new Bloody Shiraz gins. These are distinctly modern styles to my traditional English palate, being smoother and a little sweeter. Yes. That’s just what I need. Gin that’s even easier to drink.

The show in Melbourne is done for another year but if you want to go, it’s doing the rounds and will be in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane over the next few months.
But for goodness sake, go by yourself.

Waffley versatile!

My guilty pleasure is Guilty Pleasures – you know, the show on the Food Network where chefs et al ‘fess up about what they eat when no one’s looking.

They had some on the other day who was talking about macaroni cheese waffles – no, not waffles with mac cheese ON them, waffles actually made out of mac cheese. You can get them here next time you’re in Vegas: Andiron Steak & Sea

So then I started day dreaming about what else you could put between the waffle plates – doughnut batter, zucchini slice mix, bread dough, Yorkshire pudding batter, mashed potato, cornbread batter, muffin batter, cookie dough

We were having risotto for dinner the other night. You can see where this one is going already, can’t you? May I present, spicy tomato risotto waffles with homemade haloumi* and crispy prosciutto

tomato risotto waffles

To the left over risotto I added an egg for its structural properties when cooked and some extra cheese because … I don’t need a reason for extra cheese. They cooked for about 15 minutes in the press on a medium-high heat.

You’re welcome.

 

*That’s a story for another day

Want to invite yourself over to your neighbours’ for dinner?

Sorry TheO’s been so quiet. I’ve become totally obsessed with a new book I started writing – I’ve written half of it in a month! Yes, it’s got food in it 🙂

I did have a moment to share this from delicious. magazine with you though. When I read it, my jaw dropped. I NEED this in my life:

a) because I dream about inviting myself into my neighbours’ houses for dinner when I pass by and smell what they are cooking

b) so I can cook even more every day!

menunextdoor

Menu Next Door – please come to Australia soon!

Planning to eat

Ok, I’m a little bit food obsessed. But I’m speaking to a sympathetic crowd, right?

There are so many wonderfully delicious morsels of food that I have not yet had the opportunity to put in my mouth, and so few meal times left in which to do it. I mean, I might only have another 40 or 50 thousand good meals left in me.

There’s not a moment to spare! I can’t afford to waste a single day on crap, ‘it’s just a source of energy’ food. And that’s the REAL reason why I plan our weekly dinner menu with military precision. I pretend it’s so that we can write a shopping list and don’t waste either any time or any food. But we all know that’s just a ruse.

Although, to be fair, if we don’t have a weekly meal plan, 2 things happen.

  1. Mr Eleanor and I go the supermarket and wander endlessly up and down the aisles picking up random shit
  2. Each evening we assemble in the kitchen to prepare dinner and the conversation goes along the line of:

‘What do you want to eat?’
‘I don’t know, what do you want?’
‘I don’t know, what do you want?’
‘I don’t know, what do you want?’

Ad infinitum

And then we have cheese on toast.

cheese on toast

I once heard a statistic that said British families recycle the same 7 dinners over and over again, week in, week out. I can understand how for busy families that might happen, but I think I might lose my mind. And/or develop some type of malnutrition disease.

I like to think that we eat with variety and always eat something we’ve never had before, but that’s not to say that we don’t have a few rules.

  • Pilates night pasta
  • At least a couple of veggie/fish options for me
  • A night out or take away
  • Slow cook Sunday

So this week’s menu looks like this:

Monday: smoked trout* and courgette pesto / beef ragu pasta
Tuesday: hoki and scallop tacos with pineapple pepper salsa and chipotle slaw
Wednesday: grilled polenta with roasted ratatouille, fried egg and feta
Thursday: eating out
Friday: spicy pulled pork buns with pineapple slaw FRIDAY BONUS: elderflower martini
Saturday: lahmacun  and plenty of beer
Sunday: pomegranate and z’atar roasted chicken with cauli and quinoa cous cous, and tzatziki

I am looking forward to eating this week!

 

 

*Purchased at the weekend from Buxton Trout  – freakin’ delicious, wish I had bought some more.

Food for thought

What the hell are we doing? No, seriously, really what the fuck are we playing at?

There are so many things us humans are doing – to each other, to the planet and to its other inhabitants – that are so very wrong/immoral/cruel/selfish/just pure evil, I can’t bear to watch the news for fear of hearing what suffering we’ve inflicted today.

If you think that, as a single person, there’s nothing you can do to make the world a better place, you’re wrong.

You make informed decisions, and you do as much as YOU can – then the world is already a better place.

This is one person’s contribution to making us all better human beings by thinking about what we eat, and the implications of where it comes from, which made my heart warm a little:

food for thought vanessa kimbell
It’s just a bit of a shame (and more than a little ironic) that it’s not available as an ebook. However, you can use Look Inside to read the introduction (which is thought-provoking in itself) and if you press the Kindle tab at the top of the page, you can tell the publisher you’d like to read this as an ebook – that’s my contribution for this morning 🙂

Bacon’s gonna kill ya!

At the back of last year, the WHO announced that they were placing bacon, along with sausages, ham, deli meats etc, in ‘group one’ of their list of carcinogens – the same category as tobacco.

Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavour or improve preservation.           IARC, 2015

crispy bacon

There’s been a fair amount of hysteria and foot stomping, and probably a few tears. It’s taken until now for me to go in search of their specific objection to these meat products cos:

  1. I don’t eat that much meat – of that, only a little is processed
  2. I didn’t want to find out that I had to give up bacon. That would make me sad

But the time has come. I can live in ignorance no longer.

IARC Press Release
WHO Q&A

So, it seems their objections due to:

  • Nitrates – may form carcinogenic compounds in the body
  • Salt and fat – are risk factors for heart disease
  • Changes upon cooking – may produce carcinogenic compounds when cooked at high temperatures

Its report said 50g of processed meat a day – less than two slices of bacon – increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.   BBC, 2015

But:

To be clear: Daily bacon does not raise the risk to 18 percent — it raises the risk by 18 percent. According to the National Cancer Institute, an average American’s lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 4.5 percent. If you were to eat three slices of cooked bacon every single day, it would bump your lifetime risk from 4.5 to 5.3 percent. That’s a difference of about one percent from daily bacon consumption.   Huffington Post, 2015

So, I think I’m at peace with this finding. I don’t feel the need to make any massive changes to my diet. We had some sausages last week, but they are the first since Christmas. And as for bacon, when was the last time I had bacon? Probably Christmas again. There’s always a chorizo in the fridge to add a little flavour and fat to the odd dish, but it’s used infrequently.

It’ll probably cross my mind next time the offending items find themselves in front of me. I might put a little less ham in Mr Eleanor’s sandwich. I might more carefully check the ingredients of packaged meats. I might put one less rasher in my once-in-a-blue-moon bacon butty. But probably not.

Flavour matching

As of last month we’ve been in ‘Straya for 4 years. A few days after we moved into our new house, a friend of mine came to visit for a week on his way around the country.

geography-875350_1280

Whilst I was still reeling from leaving my job, family and friends, moving house, moving continent, shipping my cats across the planet, finding a new house, moving into that, and trying to find another job, he was in full tourist mode and had done stacks of research.

Oh, and he’s a bit of a foodie.

So one day we ended up at the Richmond Hill Larder. I love that place! They have a proper cheese room – the kind where, when you walk in, you’re hit with the smell of a thousand fusty gym socks. It’s amazing!

They stock a massive range of cheese, a great deal of it from Europe. Which is just as well. ‘Straya has, er, not historically had a great reputation for cheese. Things are getting better in that department though: Milawa Cheese Company, Red Hill Cheese, Blue Bay Cheese and Main Ridge Dairy to name a few.

goats cheese

Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a post about cheese. Although I’m sure you can understand why I got a little side-tracked 😀

Richmond Hill Larder does a wine and cheese matched tasting plate that my friend and I shared. There was one combo that blew my mind: goats cheese and champagne. It was freakin’ phenomenal. The cheese elevated the wine to new heights; the wine made the cheese into something new.

That’s when I started thinking about flavour matching, but was interested in it from a scientific point of view – why is it that aspects of some food match so well, or contrast so perfectly? I read Molecular Gastronomy: Exploring the Science of Flavor by Hervé This. Ok, so that was a bit too much science and not enough food.

But then I found this site:

logo-foodpairing-pink

You pick an ingredient and the site will identify which ingredients combine well based on their aromas, on the principle that ingredients match when they have aromas in common.

But it turns out this principle only really address half the topic. It works on the basis of European cooking where like goes with like, but in Asian cooking, ingredients are matched on the basis that they contrast: the old yin and yang

Yin_and_Yang.svg

Daily Mail: Why do Western and Asian foods taste different?

Nature: Flavor network and the principles of food pairing

I did NOT know that – how interesting!

Matching ingredients on the basis that they contrast is not my cultural background, but I try to give the salt/sweet/hot/sour some consideration when dreaming up my week’s menu. There are some flavour matches that I’ve bumped into along the way that have blown my mind. And they look so inconspicuous:

  • Goats’ cheese and champagne – just go to the Richmond Hill Larder, just go. You can thank me later
  • Mushroom and truffle – keep it simple with a heavily mushroomed risotto liberally doused with truffle oil
  • Rhubarb and orange – get the orange into a rhubarb crumble wherever you can: a little juice and zest on the fruit, perhaps some Cointreau, or mixed peel in the crumble mix
  • Coffee and maple syrup – coffee crème brûlée topped with a maple syrup crack

I was thinking about the coffee maple syrup crème brûlée the other day. I’ve never made it and I’m not likely too. We just don’t ever have puddings. I realised that I’d rather have a drink than a pudding. Actually I’d rather have a cocktail. Oooo! A coffee and maple syrup cocktail – now you’re talking.

Will report back on Friday!