Archive for category ‘Food and Wine’

Hierarchy of nuts

Posted by Martin Field on 22 April 2008 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Nuts are a favourite accompaniment to wine. They are delicious when served with bubbly and other aperitifs and a plate of nuts and dried fruit is obligatory when savouring a vintage port after dinner.

But did you ever notice that in any bowl of mixed nuts, in shell or not, certain varieties are always eaten in exactly the same order of preference?

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Noshtalgic cheatin’ in the kitchen

Posted by Martin Field on 27 February 2008 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Pickled eggs ‘n Scrumpy
I was telling Beery Mag about getting legless on scrumpy (a strongly alcoholic rustic cider) on the morning of a mate’s wedding many years ago.

We rode borrowed motor bikes down narrow hedgerowed lanes near Rockwell Green in Taunton, Somerset, and stopped for morning tea at a quaint little tavern that sold cider.

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Noshtalgia

Posted by Martin Field on 19 December 2007 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Barbecued lamb flaps in Alice Springs
Lamb flaps, as I remember, were barbecuing over a smoky wood fire, near the old water hole at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. Our hosts were members of the Pitjantjatjara and Tangentyere people and one of the guests was Peter Brook, visiting the Alice following his involvement in the 1980 Adelaide Festival.

As dusk turned to dark, a local guitarist played Slim Dusty songs and we sat around drinking beer and wine, chewing the fat and gnawing the lamb in the sandy, waterless, riverbed.

Afterwards there was a party in town in honour of Peter. He asked if he could get a lift there with us.

‘Sure,’ I said. ‘If you don’t mind riding in back of the Moke with Kali the Blue Heeler.’ Here I should mention that there were no seats in the rear of our yellow Mini Moke, rather an uncomfortable metal shelf, and no seat belts.

He didn’t mind, and we were treated to the sight of this eminent director, no doubt used to more luxurious transport, crawling onto his uncomfortable ‘seat’ while the dog licked his face in welcome.

He survived the trip and we partied on.

Noshtalgia

Posted by Martin Field on 14 November 2007 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Two Faces Restaurant
In the early 1970s, Two Faces was Melbourne’s, perhaps Australia’s, best restaurant. Run by that great restaurateur Hermann Schneider, it offered a classic European menu and an extensive, cosmopolitan wine list.

I well remember my first visit, around 1974. I was so intimidated by its reputation for being expensive that when I rang up to book a table I asked how much a dinner for four with wine might cost. I can’t remember the quote, but it was just affordable.

Four of us turned up in the classy dining room, which was decorated elegantly and conservatively with dinner-suited waiters. The menu listed one dessert as, ‘Mangoes in Champagne’. Two of our party asked the waiter if they could have this as an entrée. ‘Certainly Ladies,’ he replied.

Back then, it was not possible to obtain fresh mangoes in Victoria, due to plant and fruit fly quarantine laws. My pushy friend Claire said, ‘We don’t want them if they’re not fresh, I don’t like tinned mangoes.’

‘Madarme!’ He was horrified at the suggestion. ‘Madahme,’ he accentuated the last syllable as he glanced around conspiratorially. ‘Madame,’ he whispered. ‘It is illegal… but they are fresh.’ Then, even more quietly, ‘We fly them in on a private plane.’

This was the beginning of a magnificent dinner, accompanied by excellent wine. We went back over the years for special occasion dinners and damned the expense.

Faux Crème Fraiche

Posted by Martin Field on 21 September 2007 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Crème fraiche frequently pops up its tangy head in recipes broadcast on English TV cooking shows, but when you go to shop for said recipes this vital ingredient is rarely to be found – at least on Australian supermarket shelves. When you do find some, it is usually packed in tiny containers carrying a boutique brand name and a hefty price tag.

We asked Beery Mag, our R&D chef for an easy recipe for making crème fraiche in the home kitchen. As usual, she came up with the goods.

Beery: ‘This essential ingredient is not literally fresh but is actually a lovely drop somewhere between fresh and sour cream. To make a batch take about 600mls of fresh cream – though not that hideous thickened cream made with gelatine. Gently heat the cream to body temperature, about 37 degrees centigrade. Use a thermometer – preferably not a rectal one – or a clean finger to test.

‘Stir in about a quarter of a cup of cultured buttermilk. Leave it covered – a soup thermos flask or a yoghurt maker is ideal – at room temperature for 24 hours, then refrigerate. The cream will thicken somewhat and acquire a delicious, slightly acidic tang along with a buttery nutty flavour.’

She advises that her faux crème fraiche will keep in the fridge for a week or more and reckons you can use it in any savoury dish in place of cream and that it goes wonderfully with fresh strawberries. Another of her tips is to create a dessert topping or sauce by beating a cup of the chilled faux crème fraiche with a third of a cup of chilled botrytised white and half a teaspoon of pure vanilla essence. Yummy.

‘Use the leftover buttermilk in place of milk when making pancakes and muffins. They’ll taste just gorgeous’ added Beery – who tends to gush occasionally.

Noosa Farmers Market

Posted by Martin Field on 15 September 2007 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

‘Do you miss Melbourne?’ It’s the main question Melbournians and others ask about our move to Noosa. ‘Nah.’ I answer. ‘Could be a greater range of ethnic restaurants up here. But nah. The things I like about Melbourne are just fading away as I become more acclimatised to the sub tropics, the warm surf and the local lifestyle.’

And the local attractions are many. For example, it’s only a short stroll to the Sunshine Beach Surf Club for a pot of Coopers Pale Ale and a spot of whale watching from their terrace bar. And then there’s the Noosa Farmers Market. We go there every Sunday morning early. Early because the bloke with the perfect tomatoes for five bucks a kilo sells out quickly.

One of the delights of the market is watching the customers. Many locals of course, and tourists from all over. Kens and Barbies from Miami or Noo Joizy in matching candy-striped playsuits. And there is a certain Noosa type that always catches the eye.

Take a typical couple: one’s hair is shortish and permed, bottle blonded with shady roots. The face bears a jaundiced solarium tan and a smile that is really a grimace, driven by one too many facelifts. The eyebrows for the same reason are raised in permanent enquiry. Unfortunately, the taut skin above is belied by the turkey wattle below. The body is typically clad in a colourful but saggy top and a pair of ‘does my bum look big in these?’ designer jeans, best worn by teenagers. As for his good lady wife…well, enough said.

Strangely, when I described this species to our Gold Coast friends they said they were probably from Toorak. Our Sydney friends said they sounded like Gold Coasters. Our Melbourne friends said they’d met many people like that from Sydney’s north shore. You just can’t tell.

And, as you wander through the crowded stalls, a strange but likeable fragrance wafts by. A whiff of frying pancakes blends with the pungency of patchouli oil adorning ageing hippies down from the hills. This in turn mingles with a miasma of Chanel No 5 dabbed extravagantly on Noosa socialites. Next you notice the rich roasting aromas swirling from the Auswana coffee stand, along with top notes distilled by the hot morning sun from the multitude of surrounding eucalypts. Just having breakfasted, your nose is already triggering thoughts of what’s for lunch.

Noosa is a noticeably expensive area but the prices at the market are surprisingly low. Sourced from the Sunshine Coast and the hinterland, much of the fruit and veg is organic, or at least spray free, and often cheaper than that sold at local supermarkets – and presumably much fresher.

Last week we bought eight Tahitian limes for $2. Three beautiful big fresh ears of corn for $2.50. Some ‘Swiss’ style Tilsit from the Fromart cheesery for $31 the kilo. Then there were the punnets of strawberries, netted bags of macadamia nuts in shell, tangy passionfruit at giveaway prices, free wine tastings and other lovely stuff in abundance.

The Noosa Farmers Market is a feast and it’s fun. If you’re in Noosa for any reason at all, you cannot afford to miss it. Sundays until noon at the footy ground, Weyba Rd Noosaville. Plenty of parking.

Early days in Noosa

Posted by Martin Field on 30 June 2007 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Fauna and flora
I’ve been off the air for a while – not least of all due to months of house selling and buying, household removal and acclimatising to the sub tropics. We’ve moved from a house a few kilometres from Melbourne’s city centre to sixty acres of eucalyptus bush in the hinterland of Noosa, Queensland. Our temporary accommodation comes complete with lace monitors (big lizards), scrub turkeys, carpet snakes, feathertail gliders and paralysis ticks. Oh, and a lot more sunshine than we’re used to.

Not just Hastings Street
Getting acclimatised means getting around and checking out the local scene. One thing you learn quickly after visiting the local eateries is that Noosa is not just glitzy Hastings Street.

For example, the restaurant strip in and off Gympie Terrace, Noosaville, is first class. For starters, check out the Italian style cuisine at Pilu Ristorante E Bar, at 2/257 Gympie Terrace. We dined there a few weeks back and I went there again for a Noosa Long Weekend tasting of Barambah Wines.

Barambah is made in Queensland’s South Burnett region by winemeister Peter Scudamore-Smith. His Barambah First Grid Verdelho 2007 is a stunner. Water pale, with a fragrant kiwifruit and fresh cut cucumber nose, it displays a lively palate of fruit salad cut with citric tang. Could be the region’s answer to NZ Sauvignon blanc. About $19 – order via the website (www.barambah.com.au)or email manda@barambah.com.au.

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Travelling Blues

Posted by Martin Field on 30 June 2007 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Someone once alleged that the journey rather than the arrival was ninety percent of the fun of travelling – he or she must have always travelled first class. Moving the household from Melbourne to Noosa entailed driving twice up the Newell and Bruce highways – some 1900 kilometres each time. We stayed at various inns, hostelries and motels and it was like a trip into the past. Quality control and modern amenities appear to be very low on the accommodation industry priority list. Here are a few items that annoyed me 20 years ago, and still do.

Slimy shower curtains that cling to legs like glad wrap
Mini fridges where the freezer is fully occupied by impenetrable permafrost
Bathroom vanity basins that hover adjacent to or just above the toilet bowl – be careful with your toothbrush, specs and dentures
Threadbare bath towels the size of large handkerchiefs
Sachets of instant tea dust and instant coffee that taste of mud – or nothing
Nano-serves of milk, butter, jam, honey and tomato sauce in plastic squeezy things
Absence of individual bedside reading lamps or, worse, bedside lamps that could light up the MCG
Polyester blankets and sheets
Filthy toilets at service stations and municipal rest stops
Electric hand dryers – your hands are still wet after five minutes of gesticulating wildly under tepid zephyrs
Beds with sheets and blankets tucked in by sadists
Tablets of soap that smell like Bangkok Bordello Number 5, so small they are in constant danger of inadvertently disappearing into various orifices.

I should add however, that the standards of accommodation associated with travelling in Australia are a joy compared with those I have experienced in Europe.

Flavours of Slovenia

Posted by Mike Tommasi on 16 June 2007 in Food and Wine

Vesna and Dušan ČarmanTraveling for work is much more enjoyable if you can fit in some gastronomic discoveries. This week in Slovenia I took my friends Harry and Vondelle to the Gostilna Pri Danilu, in Reteče near Škofja Loka, close to Ljubljana. I had written a few notes on my last visit there about a year ago on this blog. This time my friend Tomaž Sršen was away in Munich where he was attending a concert, so while enjoying my dinner he sent me an SMS from Munich: “Aerosmith rocks!”.

I am not sure if going to a place twice qualifies one as a “regular”, but that is certainly the way I felt when the Čarman family greeted us at the door. The new sommelier, Gregor, took care of us expertly as we navigated through the excellent gastronomic menu, theoretically a 5 course meal, but in fact three extra smaller dishes complete this generous panorama of traditional Slovenian cooking reinterpreted in a contemporary key. Of course, each dish is accompanied by a glass of Slovenian wine.

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Gourmandising and Nobelly rotten acid

Posted by Martin Field on 6 April 2007 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Indigestion, wine and sin
As a typical big eater and drinker, it’s hardly any wonder that I’ve suffered for years from chronic indigestion. I love highly tannic reds, white wines acidic enough to strip the duco from a car, smoky shots of single malt whisky, chili-laden food, and all that stomach attacking stuff.

So how has my doctor treated this indigestion so far? Never bothered mentioning it to her. Due no doubt to my early Catholic upbringing, my subconscious figured that the alimentary discomfort was spiritual vengeance for my sins of gluttony. I learned to live with it.

Balloon breath
Then Lucy went to the doc and complained about her ongoing indigestion symptoms. The doc gave her a capsule to swallow and 10 minutes later had her blow into a silver balloon. The balloon, complete with breath sample, then went off to the pathology lab for testing. The diagnosis? Indigestion caused by the bacterium Helicobacter Pylori.

She was prescribed a one-week course of Nexium – a triple dose regime comprising an acid suppressant and two different antibiotics. Four weeks later, she took the breath test again and the doc pronounced her cured.

HP source – Catching acid
Mmmm. Maybe I was also suffering from the dreaded H.P. Indeed, the doc’s fact sheet stated that the bug could be transmitted from person to person. So it was off to the clinic for some balloon blowing.

Yep, it turned out that my stomach lining also harboured the dreaded bug. The doc prescribed the same treatment; with similar success. I still eat and drink prodigiously but no longer experience the dreaded ‘heartburn’. More importantly, I’ve minimised the risk of reinfecting the family.

Prize winners
The 2005 Nobel Prize for medicine went to the two Australians, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren, who discovered H. pylori’s role in causing peptic ulcers, gastritis and various chronic stomach inflammations – some of which can lead to cancer. They also developed non-invasive diagnostic techniques and a cure – for which we should all be extremely thankful.

According to one H. pylori fact sheet I read, it is estimated that up to half the human population may carry the bacterium, although many carriers are asymptomatic; that is, they display no symptoms.

Gulper? Slurper? Chronic indigestion? Ask your doc for a silver balloon.