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Month: February 2014

Cheap Love and a Cheap Date…Happy V Day!

As Valentine’s day looms,  I thought I would take a leaf out of the lovely Emily (aka Yinzeralla’s) book and share one of my dating horror stories with you.

Then we’ll have a cocktail and drink to forget.

Cheap Love Cocktail
Cheap Love Cocktail

But first lets step back in time to the late 90’s.  I was fancyfree and footloose.  And I met a boy who was funny, handsome and smart.

Or so he seemed the night I met him.

Mind you, my view may have been slightly skewed by a shit ton of booze and a pair of inch thick beer goggles. He called me a few days later and we arranged to have dinner at a Thai restaurant in the city.  He claimed it was the best Thai restaurant in Melbourne.  I’d never heard of it.  This should have been a red flag.


Cheap Love Cocktail
Cheap Love Cocktail

It wasn’t.

The place looked like it should have been condemned.  And believe me, I had plenty of time to examine it as I waited for him to show up.

At 15 minutes, I ordered a glass of wine and placed mental bets on which cockroach would crawl up the wall faster.

At half an hour I called his cell.  It went to voicemail.  I ordered another glass of wine. And, bored with the cockroaches, I counted the rest of the health code violations.

He arrived 45 minutes late.  “Got caught up” he said.  No sorry.  Just “Got caught up”.

Another red flag.

Cheap Love Ingredients
Cheap Love Ingredients

Which I ignored.

Because I’m stupid.

And you  know, it wasn’t like he was a brain surgeon, who couldn’t put down the scalpel to make a call.

He was an auditor.

Third red flag.

We moved from the bar to a table.  He ordered two Coronas.

“Wow, you  must be thirsty” I said. “Two beers”

“One of them’s for you”

“I don’t drink beer”

“Beer goes with Thai food.  No one drinks wine with Thai food.”

Yeah?  Just watch me.  Waiter?  Another Sauv Blanc please.

Cheap Love Ingredients 2
Cheap Love Ingredients 2

He then proceeded to order for both of us.  And let me tell give you a little clue gentlemen who read this…this is not Mad Men retro sexy.  It’s arrogant and obnoxious and patronising and makes your date want to punch you in the face. Repeatedly.

And quelle surprise, he had an unerring ability to pick the exact things on the menu I least wanted to eat.  Not that I wanted to eat there anyway.  Refer  back to my comment about the cockroaches and the code violations….

So,  by now, I kind of hated him and just wanted this farce to be over.  He could have two meals to go with his two beers.  I ordered another glass of wine.

He frowned.  “That’s your second” he said,  voice aghast.  It was actually my fourth but who was counting.

“Yeah, I know” I said.

“But….but…they’re seven dollars a glass”

“I’ll pay for them,”  I may have said this through gritted teeth. Then next time the waiter passed, I asked him just to bring the bottle over.

Muddling the Cheap Love
Muddling the Cheap Love

My date then talked about himself the whole meal.  And ate all the food.  Often at the same time.

That was delightful and endearing.  Whoops, no, I meant disgusting and nauseating.

When the bill arrived, I put down a 50 for the food I hadn’t eaten, (I paid for my wine separately).  He claimed not to have any change, pocketed my money and paid on a card.  I’d eaten a piece of broccoli and a spoonful of rice.

He then asked me how I was getting home.

“Taxi” I said.

He offered to drive me home.  Which seemed like an incongruous act of chivalry.  But yeah, ok…given I had paid for six fifths of the dinner I reasoned he probably felt he owed me.

So we drove to my house.  Parked out the front.  He turned and gave me a look of intense expectation.

I’m sure I didn’t do a good job of hiding my horror.  He honestly didn’t expect me to kiss him did he?

Cheap Love 3
Cheap Love 3

Short answer, no he didn’t.  Because the next words out of his mouth were  “So, what would a taxi here cost?”

“Twelve….maybe fifteen dollars”

“So how about you put in ten for petrol?”

I didn’t have a ten.  He took the twenty I gave him and drove off.  Thankfully, never to be seen or heard of again.

I went inside and made myself a grilled cheese sandwich.  Nearly a hundred bucks down and I still had to make myself dinner!

But, enough about him.  Let’s talk about the Cheap Love.

Cheap Love 4
Cheap Love 4

Parfait Amour, meaning Perfect Love in French is a much maligned liqueur, redolent of the 1970’s and sickly sweet concoctions.  However it is a gorgeous colour and my  local alcohol shop claims it is used in many romantic cocktails.

“Flavoured using rose petals, vanilla and violets it is no wonder that Parfait Amour is so closely associated with love”

Wait up what?  Rose petals, vanilla and violets?

You may as well just say raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens….


Parfait Amour
Parfait Amour

So , what could be better than celebrating Valentine’s Day with a cocktail made from a liqueur called Perfect Love?

And voila…..

The Cheap Love Cocktail

To make the Cheap Love, you mix Parfait Amour with  delicious berries, yummy orange and lovely lemonade.

So on the surface this should be the most amazing cocktail ever right?

Hmm, yeah….Not so much.

Best I can say is….it wasn’t awful.

And that’s what you call damning something with faint praise…

No, seriously, it wasn’t bad, it was just….bland.  And horrendously, tooth achingly, sweet.  And that’s coming from someone who has been known to sit in front of the telly with a tin of condensed milk and a spoon!

If I was to make this again,  I would add some zing, maybe with some lime juice and also maybe a kick of a flavoursome gin like Hendricks – I think the floral notes in the Hendricks would combine well with the floral notes in the Parfait Amour.

And now that I have a bottle of it to get through, we may be seeing a little bit more of it on here.

I can’t hardly wait.

Anyway, Happy Valentines day everyone, and in a complete reversal of this post may your dates be sweet and your cocktails cheap!

Oh and sorry, sorry, sorry if you got a bulk lot of everything I ever posted yesterday….we’re having some technical problems at la maison de la retro food!

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Get Me To The Greek – Spanakopita – Daring Kitchen

God Bless the Greeks.  They invented democracy, philosophy and some damn fine food.  Including fried cheese.  How good is that stuff?  You take cheese…which is one of my all time best ever foods to begin with…and fry it.  That;’s not even eleven.  That’s twelve! Possibly thirteen.  But, I digress, yeah, I know opening paragraph…and we’re already off track, because today we’re talking about the second wonder of the Greek cuisine pantheon…(or should that be Parthenon?) the cheese and spinach pie, also more formally known as the Spanakopita.

Spanakopita 1
Spanakopita 1

I live in Melbourne, which as anyone in Melbourne will tell you has the largest population of Greek people outside of Athens.  I have no idea if this is actually true or just one of those urban myths about the city you live in.  Regardless of numbers, there are a lot of Greek people and hence a lot of super delicious Greek food.  In fact, just as much as some families have the local Chinese or Indian restaurant, my family would go Greek.

No, not like that you bunch of perverts….I meant we would celebrate family occasions at the local  Greek restaurant.

Spanakopita Ingredients
Spanakopita Ingredients

Mind you, this did come after a debacle at the local Chinese.  You know the classic tale of the gauche family who drink the fingerbowls?  Not that old chestnut for my family.  No way.  Uh huh.

We’re a much classier lot.

So when, towards the end of our meal, the waiter delivered some small bowls of water to our table we dutifully dipped and dunked and positively soaked our fingers revelling in our (sub) urban/e sophistication.  He then reappeared with a plate of…I can best describe them as  caramel coated sweet dumplings.  The idea being that you dipped your caramel dumpling into the icy cold water thereby changing the caramel from a hot liquid to a crispy shell. We all looked to our now slightly grubby bowls of warmish water and the thought of dessert suddenly didn’t seem so good.

Now, I can’t speak a word of Mandarin, but believe me, that wasn’t a prerequisite to  understand what our waiter was muttering as he swished away the original bowls.  There is a certain tone people adopt when they say “You people are morons” that is pretty much universal.

We celebrated with Greek food from then on.

Spanakopita Ingredients - pre massage
Spanakopita Ingredients – pre massage

The February Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex. The challenge brought us to Greece with a delicious, flaky spanakopita – a spinach pie in a phyllo pastry shell.  I had thought I was au fait with the cooking of this particular dish as it is something I make fairly regularly.  However Audax’s version had a few curve balls.

First there was massaging the ingredients.  It made me think about those Wagyu cows…

Spanakopita 2
Spanakopita 2

Then post the massage there was the squeeze….this was both kind of disgusting and a shit ton of fun.

Squeezing...kind of gross.
Squeezing…kind of gross.
Squeezed Spinach (and my abnormally large man hands)
Squeezed Spinach (and my abnormally large man hands)

Post the squeeze, you end up with two bowls.  Once containing a dry mixture, one containing a milky green liquid.

Post Squeeze Spanakopita
Post Squeeze Spanakopita

It is at this point that I would diverge from the recipe as given by Audax and add some more cheese into the dry mixture.  I don’t know what happened to the cheese but somewhere during the massage or the squeeze it kind of disappeared, leaving a less cheesy spanakopita than I  would normally have.  For me, it’s all about the cheese.

Anyhow, then you add some couscous to the liquid and let it soak it all up.  This is utter brilliance.  The couscous bulks up the mixture so you can have a higher pie and it stops the bottom pastry getting soggy.

Spinach Juice and Couscous
Spinach Juice and Couscous

Another brilliant idea?  Cutting the squares before baking.  Stroke of genius!

Pre-Baked Spanakopita
Pre-Baked Spanakopita


Spanakopita - hot from the oven
Spanakopita – hot from the oven

You can find the recipe here.

Huh, I just realised I’ve mentioned fried Greek cheese in at least two out of the last three posts.  I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something.

I’m going to be spending my week having at least one trip to the Paradise of Lindos to partake of some plate smashing, some haloumi and maybe even a little bit of this…


Have a great week whatever you get up to!

Signature 1 Vintage Valentine Quick as Wink2


Holy Prune Kebabs Batman…It’s Cheesy Meaty Goodness on a Stick Part 3

So, we had our first bbq in the new house on the weekend.  And to celebrate, I made the Prune Kebabs from Nancy Spain’s All Colour Cookbook. Before we sail this ship we call the Titanic into that particular iceberg, let’s talk about kebabs.

Prune Kebabs
Prune Kebabs

There seems to have been no standard spelling for food before about 1980.  I’ve seen these things spelled Kebabs, Kebobs, Kabobs and even Kaboobs….

I’m actually a little disappointed we didn’t go with Kabobs.  It sounds likes something out of Batman.  KA-BOB!

Whereas kaboobs?  Another thing altogether.

But I digress.  Where were we?  Oh yeah,  Nancy’s kebabs…Nancy’s Prune Kebabs.  Jeez, Even I’m distracted by Dolly’s boobage….I can only  imagine what it’s like for all you boys….

Actually, one more. On a slightly more disturbing note, did you know if you Google image “kaboobs”  this ranks quite high in the list of hits:

google Images

WTF?  I don’t want to know.  Seriously I don’t. Please no one ever explain the link to me.  Ever.

Ok back to biz.  Which was Nancy Spain’s Prune Kebabs.  Nancy recommends these as being popular with  teenagers.  I find that hard to believe.  It’s not like McDonalds didn’t exist then.  Believe me, none of the cool kids were chomping on Nancy’s Prune Kebabs.  Not when there was even the remotest possibility of two all beef patties, special sauce etc.

Also, given their renowned laxative properties, I would have thought Prune Kebabs more suited to the older gen.

But what do I know?

Sweet FA apparently because this recipe just lurched from one disaster to the next.

Issue 1.

Doing my mise-en-place  I realised I had no apples. It must be the only time in the history off the world that we have not had an apple, any apple in the house.

Solution 1

Checked all the other ingredients just to be sure and went down to the shops. Bought apples.  Did not realise until a week later when I came to scan the recipe to post that it also needed tomatoes.  I swear I must have originally read this recipe in the dark. I didn’t miss them.  Use them if you got ’em, if not never mind.

Prune Kebabs Mise En Place
Prune Kebabs Mise En Place

Issue 2

Nancy suggests soaking the prunes over night which I forgot to do.  I also do not care for Mango Chutney so subbed in some caramelised onion relish. Maybe because I hadn’t soaked them, stuffing the prunes with the relish was nigh on impossible.

Creative Innovation #1

I smeared the bacon with the relish then wrapped the prunes up in the bacon.

Prunes and Bacon
Prunes and Bacon

Issue 3

There was a problem with the cheese.  A few problems actually.   First , Nancy suggests processed cheese.  I would rather eat my own snot.  I had some nice cheddar.

Issue 3.1

At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, cheese melts. So, how do you cook a sausage and bacon on a bbq without having the cheese melt away to nothing? Also it kept breaking off the skewer. In retrospect, I should have bought some of that super delicious Greek frying cheese.

 Creative Innovation #2

I took the sausage out of its skin and made it into a little meatball and popped the cheese inside.  It still leaked a little bit but if it hadn’t been wrapped in the meat, you may as well not bother with it.

Prune Kebabs Cheese Meatball
Prune Kebabs Cheese Meatball

 Issue 4

I made two kebabs on my metal skewers then went the drawer to get the bamboo skewers. Only we had no bamboo skewers in the drawer. . .Or the pantry.  Or any other place in the house.  I can only think we left them at the old house .

So now we’re officially shit out of luck.

And skewers.

There’ no way I was getting in the car and driving to Safeway again.  It was as hot as hell out there.  In fact I’m blaming the heat on my utter scattiness – we had at least 6 days in a row over 40º.  (That”s over 100º for my American friends). My brain is melting.

 Creative Innovation #2

Brain melt or no, I may not have had skewers but I had rosemary. And you know what?  Those rosemary mini kebabs were not only as cute as hell, but they smelled crazy stupid good when being bbq’ed and gave an extra flavour boost to the kebabs.

Rosemary Mini  Kebabs
Rosemary Mini Kebabs

Finally, they were ready to go on the bbq.  Good thing I was also making the cocktail that will feature in my Valetines Day post at the same time because I needed a drink after all that!

Prune Kebabs
Prune Kebabs on bbq

Prunes and bacon are always good.  The onion relish was a nice addition as was the smoky flavour of the bbq.  The recipe called for chippoloatas, I couldn’t find any so I used a  spicy Italian fennel sausage from my local butcher.  This was really nice with the cheese that didn’t leak out all over the bbq.

Prune Kebabs 3
Prune Kebabs 3

The two revelations were the apple…who knew bbq’ed apple was so good?  It got a little bit charred and slightly soft but still crunchy, it soaked up the flavours of the bacon and the sausage, apples go fabulously with cheese…it was a real winner.  And the other thing I loved was the rosemary.  This was the opposite of the apple in that whilst the apple was busy soaking up all the flavours around it, the rosemary was just putting it all out there…the aroma as this cooked was awesome and the skewered items really did pick up some of the lovely rosemary flavour and aroma.

I have included both Nancy’s original and my adaptations below.

If you want more cheesy meaty goodness on a stick, you can look at:

Part 1 Here

Part 2 Here  – this one also features prunes and bacon.

Here is the orginal Nancy Spain recipe:

Nancy Spain Recipe

Have a great week. We’ll talk cocktails soon.



Signature 1Vintage Valentine Quick as Wink2


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