Singapore Trip 2014
Singapore Trip 2014
Singapore Trip 2014
Singapore Trip 2014
Singapore Trip 2014
Singapore Trip 2014
Singapore Trip 2014
13
Aug
2012

Mundaring Truffle Festival 2012

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Another wonderful Truffle season is soon coming to an end. With every smile that accompanies the turn of the seasons from Winter to Spring, there is a corresponding sigh as there is nothing quite so satisfying as being fortified from a cold night outside by hearty food, robust wine, and intoxicating truffles…

The Mundaring Truffle Festival has become a staple event of my winter for quite a few years now, and this years was no different. I trundled up the hill to Mundaring on Saturday morning, expecting to have my ears and nose frozen off like normal, but instead found myself basking in the warm winter sun all day long.

Such a lovely way to spend the day tasting all the goodness on offer from stall after stall packed with truffle goodness.

After being greeted by the charmingly hirsute Earl of Maynooth (He was a character from a Sherlock Holmes novel, and I didn’t really get the connection, but he was a lovely man) we were pointed in the direction of great coffee courtesy of Re from European Foods. Coffee situation sorted we strolled down the boulevard of temptation and sampled their wares. Truffle infused pork dumplings from Jumplings, truffle risotto from Il Paiolo, Rabbit Spring rolls with truffle from Creative Catering, Beef ribs and morcilla from El Asador, a truffled apple tart from The Loose Box, and probably a bunch of others I’ve forgotten.

Perhaps my favourite part of the day however, was heading back into the kitchens for the truffle masterclass run by Guillaume Brahimi, Alain Fabrègues and Emmanuel Mollois. The three French chefs were at their finest on stage. Hamming it up and generally trying to outdo each other in raw Frenchness.

Alain was preparing a scallop entree, Guillaume a beef cheek main, and Emmanuel a tart tartin as you probably don’t know it.
So whilst they were out the front explaining the technique on stage, a small team of chefs were in the kitchens preparing the meals for the packed house of truffle fans.

Led by the head chef of the soon-to-be-open Bistro Guillaume at Burswood, alongside chefs from The Loose Box and Bistro des Artistes it was a formidable line up.

I did my best to stay out of their collective ways while scallops were sauteed rapid style, sauces and purees were blitzed and brought up to heat, and slow cooked meats were taken out of sous vide cocoons and slid onto plates with piping hot jus. Then virtually every plate finished with lashing of freshly shaved truffle.

If i hadn’t eaten earlier I probably would have died in that kitchen. A giant basket of truffles was carted around the pass tables and the smell of each successive truffle being shaved was enough to send my porcine senses into overdrive. I fortunately managed to keep it under control (ok, one or two scallops may have gone missing), and did my best to look respectable as the masters each took a turn of inspecting their respective dishes as they were being plated.

Then a small army of eager faced young wait staff marched dish after dish out to the tables. The flurry of excitement and energy lasting 20 minutes and then subsiding briefly til the next course was due to go out.

Many thanks to the Shire of Mundaring and the organisers for continuing to put on quality events year after year, and I look forward to my seasonal truffle treat next year all the more.

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03
Jul
2012

Pulpo a la Gallega

Pulpo all Gallega

Octopus. The idea of it is so appealing when you see it on a menu… slow cooked, char grilled, tender and fleshy, new born into a sea of olive oil and garlic and Mediterranean fantasy. You could be sitting in a trattoria in Italy, a taverna in Greece, or a whatever they call a place where you get drunk and eat good food anywhere else. It’s a holiday dish, the kind of food you eat when you’re off somewhere else far from home pretending to be young and adventurous and carefree. “I’ll have the octopus and a carafe of the house white” You say with a confidence born from a sun tan you really don’t deserve.

Then long after the memory of the holiday and the tan have faded, you’re back home trying to explain to all your friends just how amazing this octopus dish you had was…So you pick up one up in the local fish monger, and the grim reality of this carnivorous marine mollusk sets in. Octopuses are not pretty creatures. They’re long, wet, slimy, unwieldy things that defy your attempts to nicely put them in a bag, and once you do, more closely resemble the contents of a larger animals stomach, than something you should consider eating.

Of course, we are in the fortunate position in 2012 of knowing that millions of people have gone before us to both cook and enjoy this wonderful creature, and the advent of modern fishing has made it’s capture and transportation to our homes much simpler than bygone eras where you had to wrestle with one yourself. Risking life, limb and ink-eye to get your evening meal.

So in true “What I did on my holidays” fashion, here is a dish that I came to love while traveling around the north of Colombia. It is of course of a classic Spanish dish from the North West region of Galicia, from which it’s name is derived Pulpo alla Gallega (Galician Octopus).

Now there are many areas of conjecture as to which approach to take to cooking the octopus, so I’m not going to go out on a limb and say that my way is the right way, but it worked well for me the few times I’ve made it, so let your conscience be your guide as to how you do yours.

Ingredients

  • 1 large fresh octopus (~1kg in weight)
  • ~1kg potatoes (waxy ones like Ruby Lou or Kipfler work well)
  • The best Spanish sweet paprika you can find
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh flat leaf parlsey
  • 1 bay leaf

How I made mine

Gingerly take your octopus by the top part, which hopefully has the head and beak removed, and is comprised of a ring where all the legs are attached. In a large bowl in the sink, wash the octopus well in cold water. Some people say you should freeze the octopus before you start, as that helps to tenderise it, but I haven’t felt the need to do that (it gets perfectly tender when it’s cooked for long enough).

Then in the biggest pot you can find (the Spanish say it needs to be a copper pot, but I think you can do just fine without), fill with water and a bay leaf and bring to the boil.

Once the water is boiling carefully dunk the octopus into the water and leave it there for 30 seconds. You’ll see the water stops boiling as the cold octopus lowers the temperature, so after 30 seconds, take it back out and let the water come to the boil again. This process of dunking into boiling water is supposed to set the gelatine in the legs and helps to preserve the texture you want.

Dunk the octopus back in and out of the water 3 more times and then leave it in there for around 40 minutes on a high simmer until you can pierce it with a knife and it’s soft inside with some resistance outside.

About 20 minutes into the cooking processes, peel the potatoes and drop them into the pot with the octopus whole. They’ll cook along with the octopus and absorb all that briny flavour. They’ll also turn a slightly alarming shade of red, which you shouldn’t be scared by.

Then when the potatoes and octopus are cooked, take them out and let them cool down on a board, before cutting the octopus into round slices along the leg, and slicing the potato into slightly larger rounds. The arrange the potatoes on a plate or board, season liberally with good sea salt and olive oil, and then add a layer of octopus to the top. Season again with more oil, a healthy sprinkling of paprika, and some finely chopped fresh parsley.

Serve it on it’s own, with some crusty bread, or as the first course in a Spanish feast. Make sure you have plenty of crisp white wine, invite a few people who understand what it’s all about, and enjoy the satisfaction that you can bring the best of the world to your door step if you really want to.

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29
Jun
2012

Colombian Sancocho

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I recently traveled to Colombia with my beautiful wife for the first time. It was a journey of discovery and adventure, great food, cheap rum, and quite a lot of time spent riding horses. In short, it was amazing.

I’ve been married for almost 2 years now, and with Marcela’s patient teaching, my Spanish is slowly getting better. But it’s safe to say that I was as out of my depth in Colombia as a cruise ship giving a drive by to a Mediterranean island (ie: run aground on a frequent basis).

Nonetheless I did my best to persevere and communicate with my mother in law, sister & brother in laws, and my niece as best I could. Which was entertaining for them if nothing else. But after a while the ¿Cómo amaneciste? and ¿Esta cansada? started to come as easily as “tengo hambre” (I’m hungry) and fragments of words and ideas slowly started to meld themselves into something that could vaguely be called communication.

I was introduced to many of the great things that make Colombians love their country. The food, the music, the dancing, the drinking, the family, the football, the landscapes and the zest for life that people have despite a vast majority of them being very poor.

If there is one dish that perhaps can sum up my experience in Colombia, it would have to be Sancocho. Sancocho is somewhere between a soup and a stew (depending on how you make it). But what is perhaps more important about Sancocho than what goes into it, is where you make it.

Sancocho’s home is the street. When Christmas time and holidays come around, Colombians take to the street with a bottle of aguardiente (the local spirit of choice), a blackened old pot, a bucket of water, and as many ingredients as they can get their hands on. A makeshift fire is lit on the sidewalk, and the pot lowered onto it, propped up by bricks, rocks, or whatever spare car parts can be found lying around. Then someone takes on the all important job of fanning the flames while the water starts to boil and the soup is built.

Into the soup goes pork (cerdo), chicken (pollo), oxtail (cola de res), potato (papas), green plantain (platano), cassava (yuca)
onions, garlic, mazorca (big corn that isn’t sweet), coriander (cilantro), and spices like cumin (comino), and paprika (pimenton).

Then the long slow process of the cooking begins. Each vegetable or meat being added at just the right time so that the end result is a deep rich stock (caldo), falling off the bone soft meat, and veges with just the right level of give. It should all hopefully coincide with the point where everyone is drunk enough from aguardiente and tired enough from dancing, and just before someone starts a fight over who gets to choose the next song blasted out into the street via the speakers that have been dragged outside. This is when the soul and body restoring qualities that only a great sancocho made on the street can provide are needed most.

I got to make sancocho twice in Colombia. Once on the street in San Antonio de Prado, Medellin, with my brother in law Hamilton (that’s him fanning the flames in the video), his friends, and all the family. And once just outside the small town of Andes, Antioquia in the heart of a coffee growing region, next to a river, after walking down a hill for a kilometre to get there. Some local kids managed to goad me into jumping off a bridge 3m above the river, and though I thought I was going to at one point, I didn’t die, and there’s nothing like escaping death to bring about a hunger. Sure as hell made the walk back up that hill more bearable anyway.

You can, of course, order this dish in many restaurants in Colombia (or make it yourself at home), but it will never be quite the same as this one.

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06
Apr
2012

With Jon Lewis on 6PR

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Posted in Interview

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Jon Lewis is a hard working man. He does the late night talk back show on 6PR 882 AM here in Perth between midnight and 6am, and every other night he’s on the radio taking calls from all manner of weird and wonderful characters in our fair city. Going over the days events and trying to stimulate some interesting discussion around pertinent issues of the moment.

Jon is a natural conversationalist and a great listener too, so late one Saturday morning when Jon asked if I’d like to come into the studio and have a chat with him on the radio about food and blogging, I said sure, why the hell not. Of course the fact that I’d been at a party and had one too many drinks previously had nothing to do with it.

So here now for your listening pleasure is 16 minutes (I swear it was only supposed to be 5) of Jon and I talking food, blogging, restaurant etiquette and pressure cookers.

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Enjoy (If only to hear the few moments where my voice breaks like a teenager).

** Jon and I were also fortunate enough to spend some time together in Colombia last year. Pictured above / left is Jon with Miss Hooters International 2010, who just happens to be from Medellin, Colombia. Don’t let that distract you from the stirring dialogue though…

31
Jan
2012

Monogram Caffe

Tags: , ,
Posted in Cafe, Coffee, Eating Out, Review

Monogram Cafe Monogram Cafe

I first met Thomas Greene at Boucla in Subiaco. As a newish blogger back then I was rather delighted when he told me he’d been reading my blog and really enjoyed my photos. “I like this man!” Was my immediate and rather cheap response to essentially any form of flattery (seriously, it’s not hard at all people). After chatting to Tom for a while I realised we shared a few things in common. He was a photographer too, and a very fine one at that, having taken trips abroad to places like Egypt to embed himself in life there and explore photojournalism. He also made a damn fine coffee.

After that I saw him at many of the usual suspects, Cantina in Mt Lawley, Mini Espresso in the CBD. It was always comforting seeing Tom behind the coffee machine because I knew whatever the reputation of coffee from that venue, his would be good.

He’s not a geek mind you (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the kind of thoughtful person who puts a lot more effort into his craft than he lets on. I have no doubt his primary school report cards would have been full of such words as diligent, conscientious, and considerate.

Such is the approach he’s taken to his latest venture at Monogram Caffe @ The Grove Library in Peppermint Grove. It’s essentially a pop up coffee stand given a permanent place to live inside the library that Tom has given his own unique style.
An elegant wooden bench which conjures both art deco and Nordic stylings, Tom wheels it out at the start of the day, and back in at the end. It’s a one man show as he goes about his craft making fine coffees for extremely lucky library visitors and those in the know.

The coffee is a special blend of Fiori beans, worked out in collaboration with the fine gentlemen at Lowdown Espresso, and with Tom’s delicate touch it really sings. He has fresh cakes and home made sweet things to go along with the coffee and I can think of few things more pleasant than sitting down with a good book, a lemon tart, and a perfectly made flat white, and then returning the book afterwards because I’m too cheap to buy it…

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Monogram Caffe
Inside The Grove Library
1 Leake St, Peppermint Grove, at the Cnr of Stirling Hwy.
Sundays to Fridays