Month: August 2014

RFFMT – Welcome to Book Club

  I joined a book club!

I think it’s kind of weird that it’s taken me this long – I love to read and I love to talk about books I have read.  However, this is a rather special club catering to those of fairly specific tastes.  Don’t worry, I am not about to get all 50 shades of weird on you;  it is a food lovers book club where, instead of novels, we discuss cookbooks.

I am a cook book junkie.   Here is part of my collection.  .

BookshelfThere is also another shelf in a different room that has most of the retro food books. Then there are the hundreds of magazines…..and regular trips to the local library.

So, given this problem predilection when I read in their weekly newsletter that my local book store was starting a food lovers book group, I did a little dance of joy.  No, not quite like this…well…maybe a little.

 The First Rule of Book Club

Each meeting will have a theme.  The first theme was Winter warmers. Members have a choice of three books that they could purchase related to that theme. The books were really well chosen by the owners in terms of both variety, audience and price point.  

Whoo, hoo….new cookbook fix guaranteed.  And to those annoying people who ask “Don’t you have enough cookbooks?” (you know who you are) you can genuinely say.  “I had to buy it, it was for book club”.

 I chose Slow by Valli Little which was actually the cheapest option but I love her work in Delicious Magazine and I knew there would be plenty in here I could, and would, make outside of the group.  I was not disappointed on this count – it jam packed with great ideas for everyday cooking.  And, incidentally, this book was rated the best on value and practicality as well as being visually alluring.

Second Rule of Book Club

You  must cook from the book you have chosen.

This is utter genius.  So, not only do you get your cookbook fix but you also have none of that guilt of buying a book and never actually making anything from it.

I made the Autumn Rosti from Valli’s book, my slightly adapted version of the recipe below.

#100happydays Off to Tasty Reads book club with some delicious smoked salmon rosti

 Third Rule of Book Club

You must have evidence of cooking from the book. 

This could be in photographic form or, as I and some of the others chose to do, you could bring evidence of your cooking to the meeting for the group to sample.

 Best.  Idea. Ever.

I took along my rosti.  We also had an amazing Chicken Liver and Porcini Pate, a killer Carrot and Lentil Soup, a super tasty Lamb and Apricot Tagine with couscous and we ended the evening with a delicious Carrot Cake.  The following pictures of the soup and the tagine are from Valli’s book.  I did not take pictures of the food on the night because “Hey,  I’ve just met you and this seems crazy but I’m going to take photos of your food  and put them on the internet”  is no song I want to be singing. However, in both instances, as with my rosti, the actual product looked a lot like the picture.  

Valli Little's Lamb & Apricot Tagine
Valli Little’s Lamb & Apricot Tagine

 Working within the theme allows you to step out of your normal comfort zone and try something new and or different.  And tasting other people’s goodies can also expand your horizons.  I generally do not like cooked carrots and one of the worst soups I have ever eaten was full of bits of grated carrot.  So I did not look twice at the Carrot and Lentil Soup recipe in Valli”s book. Not interested.  Not even remotely.  In fact, I could not turn the page fast enough.  

Luckily for me, someone else did give it a second look. 

Valli Little's Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup from Slow
Valli Little’s Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup from Slow

DISH OF THE NIGHT.  Who knew carrot soup could taste so good.  How good?  I’m making it as we speak. Damn it was good! Make it.  Make it now!  (Recipe below). You will not be disappointed.  And even if you are? Firstly what is wrong with you?  And second, get over it.  By my reckoning this costs about $2.50 to make. At around 40 cents a serve even if you hate it, which I’m pretty sure you won’t, you’ve lost less than the cost of a cup of coffee.  

 Fourth Rule of Book Club

You must talk about your book. 

This has to be the fourth pleasure of cooking – the buying, the preparing, the eating and finally, the talking.  You got to speak about what you did and didn’t like about the book and learned about the good and bad of the books you didn’t buy as well. It’s really interesting to see what people do and don’t like.  For instance, this was one of the other books we could choose from:

Salt Grill.

Salt Grill

 Let me tell you, this cover was controversial.  People had opinions.  I had opinions.  I didn’t know I had opinions but it turned out I did.  I quite like it but other people thought the dirty spoon was kind of gross. 

The other great thing was that you got to share war stories.  You know how sometimes you make something and despite following the recipe to the minutest degree it just doesn’t work?  And you automatically assume it was something you did wrong?  Well two people from the club made the exact same recipe and had the exact same problem with it.     Coincidence?  I think not.   

 It was awesome.  I can’t wait for the next one, where the theme is Middle Eastern.  I have  chosen Persiana as my book and it looks amazing!!!!

Persiana

Stay tuned!

Have a great week!

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Autumn Rosti with Smoked Salmon (adapated slightly from Slow by Valli Little)

Autumn Rosti with Smoked Salmon (adapated slightly from Slow by Valli Little)

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 large potato
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 1 small parsnip
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbsp chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 80g creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • 175g smoked salmon
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives

Instructions

  • Cut the vegetables in half and parboil in boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain and leave until cool enough to handle. Grate the vegetables on the coarse side of a grater into a large bowl and add the egg, thyme and smoked paprika. Season well and stir to combine.
  • Roll into 12 patties and chill for 15 minutes.
  • Place half the butter and 2 teaspoons of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add half the patties and cook until golden and crispy (about 3 minutes each side).
  • Keep warm in a low oven while you repeat with the rest of the butter, oil and vegetable mixture.
  • Combine the creme fraiche with the lemon juice and some salt and pepper.
  • To serve, add a dollop of creme fraiche onto each rosti, top with some smoked salmon, then sprinkle with the lemon zest and chopped chives.
http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/2014/08/26/welcome-to-book-club/

 Valli Little's Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday in Cambodia: Phnom Pehn: The Worst and Best of Human Nature

Before this holiday I knew very little about Cambodia.  

I had vaguely heard of Pol Pot  and a film called the Killing Fields. I knew some bad stuff had happened there.  And that was about it.

That was about to change.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Whilst in Phnom Pehn,  we spent a morning at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  This is a former school that became a prison (S21) during the Pol Pot Regime.  It is estimated that 20,000 people were imprisoned here.  Seven survived. 

In case you didn’t quite catch that, let me reiterate.

Seven.

Not seven thousand.

Not seven hundred.

Seven.

Out of  20,000.

Here they are:

Survivors of Tuol Sleng
Survivors of Tuol Sleng

And this was only one of the many, many prisons in the country.  All up about a quarter of the population was killed during Pol Pot’s regime. That these were largely the educated people – doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists and bureaucrats only made rebuilding the country even harder afterwards.  How do you even start to rebuild an infrastructure when all of the people who would normally be in charge of that type of thing are dead?

In the museum there are rooms and rooms of photos of the people who were murdered.  Many of the officials from the Khmer Rouge died here. But who really gives a shit if those murdering arseholes turned on each other?  Live by the sword, die by the sword. 

Whoo, look at me getting all Biblical on the Khmer Rouge.

And if you have a defunct political party you would like me to trashtalk, you know where to find me.  

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Back to Tuol Sleng.  What was depressing was…well, pretty much all of it.

But what was truly distressing were the photos of the hundreds of children who were executed.

Jeez….Some of them don’t look old enough to be potty trained let alone be plotting the downfall of the government.  

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Enemies of the State?

 Tuol Sleng is a blood chilling place where the dark marks on the floors and walls are blood stains and the reminders of man’s brutality are everywhere.  I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo of this because it was just too horrible but there was a board of children where their prison ID’s were pinned into the skin of their chests or necks

Murdering arsehole doesn’t even begin to describe the people who did that.

There is a name for them.

Which I will not repeat because I’m a lady.

(That breath of air you just felt?  That was my mother breathing the hugest sigh of relief ever).

But you know exactly the word I mean.

Visiting Tuol Sleng also made me feel kind of stupid.  Why didn’t I know about this?  I studied history dammit! Let alone being alive, albeit a very young child whilst this was happening. It actually made me really angry.  We spent a whole semester in History class learning about the Dutch guilds of the 17th century.  And despite that being a truly fascinating subject (said no one ever) it may have been slightly more important to learn about the stuff that was happening on our doorstep.  Then again, that we did nothing to help the Cambodian people as a quarter of their population was decimated may have had something to do with that.

Rules S21
Rules S21

The people who actually saved the Cambodians were the Vietnamese.  Short version, Pol Pot tried to do his crazy arse genocide thing on a couple of Vietnamese villages.  He too, obviously, was not au fait with recent history.  Because here’s one thing I do know.  If you go into Vietnam and try to push your agenda onto them, the Vietnamese will not only kick your arse but they will also hand your testicles back to you on a platter.  And if you don;t believe me, ask France.  Or America.  Snapping Pol Pot’s nuts was a walk in the park for them. Seriously, it took all of about ten days for the Vietnamese Army to invade Cambodia, take control of Phnom Pehn and send Pol Pot back into the jungle crying for his mummy. 

After Tuol Sleng, our Tuk Tuk driver asked if we wanted to head out to the killing fields.  This is apparently a thing.  We politely declined.  There is only so much horror and unremitting cruelty I can cope with on any one day.   

So after an experience like that, how do you shake the feeling that humanity is not only doomed but deserves to be?

A visit to the Lotus Blanc Restaurant.

Lotus BlancThe Lotus Blanc is an initiative by a French NGO called Pour un Sourire d’Enfant” (For the Smile of a Child) and is a venture similar to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen.  Except without the shitty attitudes and sense of entitlement. PSE trains disadvantaged Cambodian kids in hospitality skills in order to give them a career and a life off the streets.

This was truly the best meal we had in PP.  Not just for the food, which we will get to.  But for the sheer joy of the young people who were working there.  From the wait staff to the cooks, you have never seen a team of people so proud of what they are doing and so delighted to be  sharing it with you.  This place was an absolute delight from the moment we walked in to the moment we left.  It was truly a magical evening.

Lyheang lead the team who looked after us and did a fabulous job!!!  

Lyseang - Lotus Blanc
Lyseang – Lotus Blanc

 Here is our entree which was a prawn (Shrimp) salad.  Just the right blend of chilli and lime to make it truly delicious and you can almost taste the crispy freshness of the vegetables!

Prawn Salad  Lotus Blanc
Prawn Salad Lotus Blanc

 I had a traditional Amok for my main.  Needless to say delicious!  Amok Lotus Blanc

 

Normally we don’t have dessert.   But Lyheang convinced me that the Crepes Suzette would be a good idea.  He was right.

It was flamed at the table:

Crepes Suzette 1
Crepes Suzette 1

 And looked and tasted divine!

Crepes Suzette 2
Crepes Suzette 2

 That this place exists gives me hope.  

If you ever happen to go to Cambodia, please make this a must on your list, it really is worth it.

And it is a powerful antidote to the evil.  

 You can learn more about some of the things I have spoken about by clicking the links below:

About Pol Pot and The Khmer Rouge

About PSE

Have a great week!

Signature 1 Vintage Valentine Quick as Wink2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Molten Umami Meatball Sandwiches

 Hello, hello it’s good to be back!

Umami Meatball Sandwich
Molten Meatball Sandwich

Did you miss me? I’ve been on holidays – three weeks out of the grey Melbourne cold and into the warmth of sunny Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia. The holiday was amazing and I will fill you in on the details over the next few weeks, most particularly about the amazing food.

Here is (literally) a taster….

You know how in most supermarkets you get tasting plates?  For example, earlier today in my local supermarket I got to sample 3 kinds of dumplings (prawn, scallop and mushroom), 5 flavours of kombucha tea and some chia pudding…(yeah, my local supermarket is awesome!)  Well, in Cambodia, the taster plates consist of Bamboo Worms…and only  $2 a kilo!

Bamboo Worms
Bamboo Worms

 And these are deep fried crickets….an even better bargain at half the price of the worms…

Crickets
Crickets

 This is me about to taste one of the bamboo worms:

Cambodia Taste Testing
Cambodia Taste Testing

 But before we go there, I wanted to talk to you about meatballs. As much as we love Asian food, after three weeks of it we were craving something that wasn’t.  Funnily enough, we both had cravings for pretty much the same thing. 

He wanted spaghetti bolognese.  I wanted spaghetti and meatballs.  I was doing  the cooking so spaghetti and meatballs it was!  As I was cooking these, I realised why this is such awesome comfort food (it’s not like either of us has Italian heritage). My meatballs are crammed full of umami flavours – parmesan, mushrooms, tomatoes, red wine….Hmmm…is red wine umami?  Well it’s pretty damn good even if it isn’t.  Also, the original recipe for this called for an anchovy fillet.  I didn’t happen to have any so I added saltiness with a dash of fish sauce…guess what?  More umami!

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and Meatballs (and the joys of a plate on your knee  in front of the telly…it really is good to be back)

The spaghetti and meatballs were delicious and everything I wanted – something to warm our bones in the winter cold, something that was quick and easy to cook after a day of travelling and something familiar – comfort food at it’s best!!!

They also require very little in terms of fresh ingredients so you can keep shopping to a minimum.  And, if you were super organised, you could make a batch and pop them in the freezer before you left.  (Massive sigh).  I would love to be that organised!!!!  

So, it was spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and then, (this mixture makes a lot of meatballs) I made a molten meatball mountain (i.e, a meatball sandwich ) for my lunch the next day.  The meatballs were great with the spaghetti but for my mind, even better in the sandwich the next day.  And Oscar was on hand for any leftovers.

Of which there were none!

Molten Meatball Sandwich
Molten Meatball Sandwich

 Remember these?   Bamboo Worms

 They tasted like this: Aftermath of the Bamboo Worm

I wouldn’t say this was the worst thing I have ever eaten…but it sure wasn’t good.  The outside was kind of crunchy and not so bad.  It was the inside that was gross.  It didn’t taste so much of anything, it just had an unpleasant texture – mushy and slightly gritty. Not to mention the thought that was impossible to dispel.  “That thing in your mouth?  That’s worm guts…you’re eating worm guts…that thing you just bit into, that was probably work heart….”

Not good.  

Thank goodness I found much better things to eat in Phnom Pehn.  Which I will tell you about next time…

Have a fabulous week!    

PS – Is anyone doing the kombucha thing?  I kind of want to grow my own….if you are please let me know!

Signature 1 Vintage Valentine Quick as Wink2
 

Umami Meatballs

Umami Meatballs

These delicious meatballs are crammed with umami goodness and are the prefect comfort food for a wintery night or a delicious lunch the following day

Ingredients

  • 500g lamb mince (or you can use ground beef or a mix of pork and veal)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried herbs or 1 tbsp Gourmet Garden Italian Herbs
  • 120g grated parmesan cheese
  • 8 small mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • For the Sauce:
  • 400g can Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • dash fish sauce
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • To Serve:
  • 200g spaghetti
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley or basil or a mixture
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese (as much or as little as you like)
  • or
  • 1 baguette
  • 4 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley or basil or both
  • Rocket (Arugula), Baby Kale or other green of your choice
  • Shaved Parmesan or melting cheese of your choice

Instructions

  • Place the minced lamb, garlic, mushrooms, onion, herbs, grated parmesan, chilli flakes and fish sauce in a bowl.
  • Season with some pepper - the fish sauce will add saltiness.
  • Using your hands shape into walnut sized balls.
  • Place in fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large deep frying pan over medium - high heat.
  • Fry the meatballs in batches turning for 3-4 minutes until browned.
  • Set aside.
  • Heat the remaining oil in the same pan over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until soft and then add the sugar, fish sauce and wine.
  • Cook until the wine has reduced by half.
  • Add the tomatoes.
  • Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and cook for 5-6 minutes until slightly reduced.
  • Add the meatballs and simmer for 5-6 minutes until the sauce has thickened. If you like a thicker sauce (like me) simmer for longer.
  • For Spaghetti
  • If you are having your meatballs with spaghetti, cook this according to the directions on the packet.
  • To serve, place the spaghetti into bowls, top with the meatballs and sauce and sprinkle over some chopped parsley and some shaved parmesan.
  • For A Meatball Sandwich the following day
  • Split your baguette in two lengthwise and lightly toast.
  • Add the oil to a fry pan and heat, add the mushrooms and saute until soft.
  • Remove and set aside
  • Add the meatballs and sauce. Heat through.
  • Add your greens and mushrooms to the toasted baguette.
  • Load on your meatballs and sauce.
  • Sprinkle with herbs,
  • Top with Parmesan
  • Place under grill until the cheese has melted.
  • ENJOY!
http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/2014/08/10/molten-umami-meatball-mountains/

 

 

 

 

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