Archive for category ‘Food and Wine’

Noshtalgia

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

by Martin Field

How the rich live
A long while back, we had a big New Year’s Eve party at the beach shack. It was one of those turns where everyone mucked in and shared.

One very wealthy couple (luxury holiday house at Portsea Back Beach etc.) brought along two bottles of beer and a can of four-bean mix. ‘Just put the beans in a bowl with some dressing,’ they said graciously. Later we learned that they’d borrowed the two bottles of beer from another guest on the way in. ‘Just so it looks like we’re bringing something.’

We drank the beer and kept the can of beans for years as a conversation piece.

Noshtalgia

Posted by Martin Field on 11 February 2007 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Mango juice in Peshawar
In 1971, I travelled the hippie trail over land (and sea) from London to Melbourne and stayed a little while in Afghanistan, which was as peaceful as you’d like. We left Kabul late one afternoon in our clapped out bus, heading to Pakistan via the Khyber Pass. Somewhere in the Pass we stopped at a lawless village where fierce-looking Pathans wandered round with rifles and bandoliers. Most things banned in the rest of the world were on sale there. Cheap.

We headed onwards to Peshawar and stopped in the dark by the steamy roadside to camp. Out of the night came an armed local with whom we shared a smoke or two. He looked up suddenly and disappeared into the scrub. Next thing up drives a Pakistani army Jeep with a lieutenant and a couple of off-siders. They told us it was unsafe to camp there ‘Too many bandits.’

Too tired to move on we insisted on staying so they went off and came back later with six more soldiers (and a welcome jerry can of drinking water) and spent the night with us. In the morning, they accompanied us to the next village and took us to the well where they’d got our water. It was full of scum and algal bloom…

I didn’t fancy another glass of sludge so from one of the many stalls along the road I bought what I thought was a bottle of soft drink – it was icy cold mango juice – the quintessence of fresh mango to my dry and bacterially laden tongue. This heavenly mango juice sustained me on my trip through Pakistan. After all these years, I can almost taste it now.

PS I met one of my fellow travellers in Melbourne years later. He too had drunk the scummy water that night and still had an immovable colony of dysenteric amoeba residing in his guts to prove it.

Cheatin’ in the kitchen

Posted by Martin Field on 3 December 2006 in Food and Wine

Puffed sangers in the electric samosa maker
by Martin Field

Our resident genius R&D chef, Beery Mag, has created yet another culinary mistresspiece. She calls it ‘Electric sandwichmaker leftover puff pastries’. (No surprise that Beery dropped out of her copy-writing course early.)

This is one of her variations on the theme. Defrost some sheets of frozen puff pastry. Heat up the non-stick sandwichmaker – one of those with two square compartments, each divided into two triangular sections. Rifle through the fridge for some non-toxic leftovers.

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Noshtalgia

Posted by Martin Field on 3 December 2006 in Food and Wine

Muttonfish at Apollo Bay
by Martin Field

One summer, when I was about twelve years old, I went camping with friends and we set up our tents by a creek near the surf, down Apollo Bay way. Rob and I spent the days getting sunburnt, trying to bodysurf, fishing, chasing elusive crayfish and generally mucking about. To quote Noel Coward, ‘I couldn’t have liked it more.’ While snorkelling below the turbulent water line we scraped from the rocks a number of strange-looking, ear-shaped shells. I thought they were a sort of large sea slug but Rob’s dad Art told me they were muttonfish, which, he said, the locals used for fishing bait.

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The vego jackaroo

Posted by Martin Field on 30 September 2006 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field
So whaddaya reckon vego wine writers do on their weekends off? In my case they round up cattle. Yeah. Sounds incongruous, whatever you want to label it – but it happens.

We’ve got friends who run a cattle property where they make a little wine on the side. They occasionally invite us up to the farm (1500 acres – a herd of three or four hundred Black Angus beasts at any one time) for the weekend. But it ain’t a lolling round the open fireplace, drinking Scotch, country house in tweeds weekend. It’s a full-on, get yer hands dirty, sweaty old Akubras, hideously dirty jeans, up to the tops of yer elastic-sided Blundstones in sheeit and don’t turn yer back on the shaggin’ bulls weekend.

Socialising cows
The boss cocky had a plan. Nine visiting, well-hung, stud bulls had been bed and breakfasting and socialising with around three hundred cows and calves, in three non-contiguous paddocks. Now it was time to move the three different mobs of cattle to the cattle yards to inoculate the calves against seven different kinds of deadly bovine ague.

This exercise involved a quiet enough ramble along a few kilometres of back roads. The country air perfumed with the smell of gumtrees and cow crap that combined into a not unlikeable fragrance. The walk is accompanied by the lowing (and highing) of the cows and the ear-splitting shrieks of hundreds of amused, sulphur-crested cockatoos who have turned out to watch the passing parade. And as you amble along, shouting such endearments as ‘Move yer stupid *%*#& arse!’ you hope that the local boy racers don’t come hoon-mobiling over the next rise in Top Gear fashion, en route to hamburger heaven.

You persuade each mob to enter the yards and then try to separate the calves from their mothers and the rather promiscuous, polygamous bulls from their lovers – none of them, it seems, wanting to say farewell. There’s much yelling and effing and blinding and not a little dangerous excitement before the calves are channelled, wild-eyed and reluctant, into the race.

Self-inoculation
This is where our Farmer Giles administers the aforesaid, multi-functional inoculation from a backpack, via a mean-looking hypodermic into the hide above each calf’s neck. The calves have other priorities. They’re practising for the next calf Olympics. Apparently their events will include reverse parking, leap-frogging, piggy-backing, playing dead, and self-throttling through the steel bars on a cattle race. Consequently Farmer ‘this won’t hurt a bit!’ Giles not infrequently shoots the vaccine (ironic that) into his thumb. As a result it can be safely said that he won’t ever suffer from certain unspeakable cattle diseases in his allotted life span.

Raging Bulls
Eventually, the on-loan, not quite shagged out bulls have to be moved into separate pens to be picked up and returned to their home the next day. This is when the fun begins. Picture it, there are three yappin’ dogs whose aspirations in the cattle herding arena far outweigh their capabilities. Us two city folk are driving an old Subaru 4×4 ute; gentleman Farmer Giles is in a big Toyota ute leaving his partner quite unprotected riding a none too stable, all-terrain vehicle. All of us are in a large paddock where we’ve cornered nine huge, lascivious, red-eyed, rampaging, rootin’, tootin’, fightin’, we’d rather be shaggin’, dustin’ and pawin’ the ground, angry bulls.

All we had to do was push them through rather narrow gates then separate them into individual pens.

They had other ideas…

Much later, congratulating ourselves on our survival as wranglers, we eat a huge dinner accompanied by a few bottles of fine red and then loll around in front of the open fire sipping a few shots of Laphroaig as a night cap.

Then Farmer Giles suddenly remembers that there’s another mob that has to be done early the next morning.

Cheatin’ in the kitchen

Posted by Martin Field on 29 September 2006 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Bloody eggs!
E-vine’s ever-industrious R&D chef – we’ll call her Beery Mag – has come up with a sensational Sunday breakfast, hangover heart-starter. She admits that like all recipes this is a variation on a well-known theme. She calls it Piquant Pick-me-up Poached Eggs.

Ingredients: a cup or so of tomato juice, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a dash of Tabasco sauce, coarsely ground black pepper, free range eggs, a shot or two of vodka – optional.

Mix all ingredients except eggs and vodka in a shallow non-stick pan and bring to a trembling simmer. Break an egg into a small saucer then slide it from the saucer into the simmering brew. Poach for three and a half to four minutes, until the white is firmish, occasionally spooning the hot liquid over the yolk.

Meanwhile, depending on the state of the head, throw a shot or two of ice cold vodka down the throat while spreading thick slices of wholemeal toast with butter. When the egg is poached to your liking remove it from the pan with an egg slicer and place it on the toast, along with a spoonful or two of the poaching liquid as sauce – season with salt and pepper.

Keep leftover cooked juice in the fridge to use in tomato-based sauce recipes.

Wasabi or not Wasabe – read the label

Posted by Martin Field on 24 August 2006 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Wine lovers will probably know that under Australian labelling laws a wine can be called by the name of a single grape varietal, for example, cabernet sauvignon, if the bottle contains at least 85 percent cabernet sauvignon.

I was reminded of this legal requirement whilst reading the ingredients listed on a bottle of S&B Wasabi Sauce I purchased recently. It contained not 85 percent of Wasabi (or Wasabe), not 33 percent, not 5 percent, but a miniscule 0.1 percent!

The ingredients, in order of descending proportion, were: water, rapeseed oil (contains antioxidant 306 – tocopherols concentrate, mixed), sugar, tapioca starch, horseradish (4.5 percent), salt, corn starch, vinegar, egg yolk, emulsifier (475 – polyglycerol esters of fatty acids), flavour, thickener (415 – xanthan gum), wasabi (0.1percent), spices, acid (330 – citric acid), flavour enhancers (621 – monosodium L-glutamate, 635 – disodium 5′ -ribonucleotides), colours (102 – tartrazine, 133 – brilliant blue FCF).

NB. In case you were wondering, I have translated the mystifying number codes into the names – in italics – of the mystifying chemicals they represent.

How can this be? Don’t ask. But I expected, naively perhaps, that I was buying wasabi sauce and that it would contain a significant amount of that ingredient. I would have been similarly annoyed if I’d bought a bottle labelled tomato sauce and found that it contained only 0.1 percent tomatoes.

Field trip – sunny winter holidays in Noosa

Posted by Martin Field on 24 August 2006 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

We’ve been on holiday, checking out the Noosa scene. The region is the hub of food and wine activity on the Sunshine Coast and we like it so much we’re planning to move up there in 2007. Not least of the local attractions is the weather. Having experienced one the coldest winters ever in Melbourne we found ourselves on Noosa beach enjoying sunny skies and daily temperatures of 22C.

Mostly we whizzed around real estate offices looking pensively (and apprehensively) at photos of million dollar plus houses. Luckily, however, there seemed to be a few derelict hovels that might suit our budget when it’s time to pack the wine cellar.

There wasn’t much time to do a tour de cuisine but we checked out a few local eateries. Highlights included Gusto Riverfront Restaurant – a bright friendly place on the river waterfront with knowledgeable chatty staff, a separate vegetarian menu for non-omnivores, and super fresh ingredients – their gnocchi was a treat. Gusto, 257 Gympie Terrace, Noosaville, Queensland, Phone: (07) 5449 7144.

It’s a bit of a drive but worth the effort to locate (correct usage) the Spirit House in Yandina; a Thai influenced place set in stunning tropical gardens. The setting is reminiscent of Poppies Restaurant in Kuta, Bali, if you’ve been there, and similarly redolent, with the occasional faint waft from the kerosene lamps that dot the gardens – but without the exotic aroma of clove cigarettes – if I may digress.

None of us coped well with the American-style, semi-formal, ‘sir’ and ‘madam’, ‘Hi my name is Gaston and I’ll be waiting on you today.’ service. But our friends enjoyed their generous serve of Whole Crispy Fish (schnapper) with Tamarind & Chilli Sauce. I was less excited by my Indian Gujarat Vegetarian Curry with spiced Pistachio Panir Dumplings, which I thought expensive at $27. See their menu. Spirit House, 20 Ninderry Rd. Yandina, Queensland – Phone/fax:(07) 5446 8977.

For an old-fashioned beer and snack you can’t go past a balcony table at the Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Clubhouse. An ice-cold schooner of beer, the sun, the surf, the surfers, the sand. ‘Aaahhh… Stella Artois…’

Cheatin’ in the kitchen

Posted by Martin Field on 7 July 2006 in Food and Wine

by Martin Field

Tomato juice as stock
Tomato juice is not just a handy breakfast juice, it’s also a great morning after pick-me-up – mixed with a splash of Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper, and, depending on your constitution, a shot of vodka.

But don’t forget tomato juice in the kitchen; it is an excellent substitute for stock when you need to thin gravies, curries and tomato-based sauces. Tip: to off-set the acidity you get sometimes in tomato-based dishes, add a teaspoon or two of sugar – works wonders.

I can’t believe it’s not better: spreadable butter from the fridge
It’s easy to make your own spreadable butter – spreadable straight from the fridge, that is. Take a block of good butter, cut it into smallish cubes, soften it gently but do not under any circumstances melt it. Whiz it in the food processor/blender and as it is whizzing pour in approximately half its weight in extra virgin olive oil. For example, if you use 500 grams of butter add 250mls of oil. When the mixture is well combined place it in an airtight container in the fridge. Use as you would butter – for spreads or cooking.

There is an added benefit here for those who worry about dietary fats. The blend, though buttery to taste, now contains less cholesterol and saturated fats than butter and has more beneficial monounsaturated fats.

Bali Booze

Posted by Martin Field on 7 July 2006 in Food and Wine

by Bruno of Balmoral

Jest back from Bali. It was quiet out on the streets of Kuta, partly because of the soccer but mostly due to an observable lack of Aussie tourists, surfers and families. The resulting reduced number of flights meant that our planes coming and going were almost full but we noted that most fellow travellers were a bit on the grey side with only a smattering of younger surfers on board and the only child under 15 being a babe (in arms).

I used to joke a few years back that there was at least one shop for every tourist in Bali, now I’d have to adjust that to 50 to one, and naturally the competition is fierce and the desperation, very sadly, irritating. If it wasn’t for the expat business people there wouldn’t be any business.

We had dinner with a hotel owner one night and he said he had 10 guests at his large establishment, all older returnees, and that he’d been selling off bits of land he owned to maintain his (admittedly comfortable) lifestyle. Apparently the drop off in Bali tourism has also had a big impact in Java, where resort investors, furniture, clothing and handicraft manufacturers etc are being hit hard by the downturn.

Good value wine is still hard to find in Bali though we found a decent 2004 McWilliams Hanwood Shiraz at my favourite local restaurant, Warung Sobat at Kerobokan, for around A$20 and it went down rather well with a spicy Rendang Sapi (A$4).

Ann took me to a rather more upmarket establishment for my 61st. Lovely looking place called Warisan where we were seated on a broad patio overlooking the rice paddies with the usual superb sunset lending us a rosy, reflective glow. The wine list featured a 2002 Grange for around A$600 but we settled for a St Emilion Grand Cru Chateau Trimoulet ’99 for about A$90 which, while not ‘off’, served to remind me that I was past my prime and had spent far too many weeks cooking in the sun on Kuta Beach.

And I do quite like the local Hatten Rose which sells for about $10. It’s relatively low alcohol and has a crisp, dry, almost mouth puckering finish which perfectly suits a tropical setting and saves on mouthwash. Goes well with Gado Gado and Sate Ayam, cutting through the oily peanut sauce a treat. I usually knock over a bottle of this every night with dinner (in Bali) but have never yet had a hangover as a result. The same cannot be said for the Hanwood which, coincidentally, was served on both our Australian airline flights. Yellowtail used to be ubiquitous in cattle class but seems to have ‘tailed’ off a bit.