Because today, December 12, we are heading over to Norway to celebrate the 1863 birth of the artist Edvard Munch. Munch is most famous for his painting The Scream, painted in 1893.
I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.
– Edvard Munch
The Scream has achieved pop culture icon status appearing in The Simpsons, Doctor Who, inspiring the mask in The Scream films as well as appearing on countless t-shirts, mouse pads coffee mugs, anything you can name from the sublime in this divine dress by Deconstructess:
To the ridiculous!
if you are suffering from existential angst, The Scream Cocktail, may just be the cure. Because, as we all know:
You put the lime in the coconut and mix them both together,
You put the lime in the coconut and then you’ll feel better”
– Harry Nilsson
Deeee-licious! I feel better already!
I had a query recently about whether or not I would allow someone to guest post on here. The answer, is a big, yes, yes, yes and the History Happy Hour may be the perfect place to start!
Why not celebrate a historic event in your neck of the woods by writing a post? I can help to find you a cocktail, or you can provide your own, just let me know if you are interested.
A few weeks ago I, was chosen to be one of the brand ambassadors for The Spice Peddlers, a great shop in Sydney selling a fabulous range of herbs and spices!
Each month, they will send me a different spice or spice blend and I can play with it as much as I want.
Happy days people, happy, happy days.
I can’t tell you how excited this made me. Well, I can’t tell you…but I can can show you.
There may have been a bit of spontaneous dancing round the kitchen.
I may have done a little bit of this… Followed by a bit of this…
I drew the line here.
It seemed a little bit too Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks…
But I was right back into the groove with this…
That’s how excited I was.
Then I got my first blend and…the fear kicked in. What if it was terrible? What if I was totally uninspired? What if what I made turned out awful? What if the sky fell on my head? You know the usual nonsense panicky “I’m not worthy” that plagues the best of us at times….
So first things first. Which for me was to open up the pack, lick my finger, dip it in and have a taste.
Yeah, I know…
So much for the first unfounded fear. The team at the Spice Peddlers had sent me a container of their Middle Harbour Seasoning. This is a blend of sea salt, lime leaves, lime zest, Tasmanian Pepper, black pepper, green peppercorns, lemon myrtle, dill, chervil and green and white onion.
Otherwise known as delicious! It’s tangy from the lime, zingy from the pepper, punchy from the salt with a very slight herby, aniseedy undertone. So good. So, so good.
This would be perfect just spinkled on pita bread which is then toasted in the oven until crispy to have with dips and a lovely crisp cold glass of white wine on a hot summer day. And you know what? I’ll be doing that very soon.
However, for the purpose of experimentation I wanted to get a bit more fancy.
We are heading into party season and I wanted to experiment with some new fingerfood dishes…have I ever mentioned how much I love fingerfood? There is something magical for me in a party pie, a mini burger, a bite-sized pizza, a canape….you get my drift.
I was once waxing lyrical to a friend about how if I owned a restaurant it would only serve small bits of food and wasn’t it crazy that no one had ever thought of that before?
She gave me a look. You know. That look. “They’re called tapas bars” she said in a voice that suggested she was speaking to the mentally incompetent.
My idea is to have cocktails and fingerfood and it would only be open for the cocktail hour…
Ok…never mind…it’s a tapas bar.
Damn those Spanish and their eerily prescient good food ideas.
Let’s quickly move on and talk about some of my better ideas…like this:
Smoked Salmon and Herb Frittata
Makes 16 mini frittatas
8 eggs 400ml cream
4 spring onions
200g smoked salmon, chopped
2 tsp Middle Harbour Seasoning
1 tsp chopped tarragon
1 tsp chopped chervil
1 tsp chopped chives
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 150º.
Whisk together the eggs, cream and milk.
Add the spring onions, salmon, spice mix and herbs and parmesan.
If not using the spice blend, season with salt & pepper and increase herbs to 1 tbsp each.
Pour into greased muffin trays and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until base and sides are set. Serve sprinkled with additional chives.
Except again, I subbed in the Spice Peddler Middle Harbour Seasoning for half of the herbs and I also sprinkled a little bit of the mix on the top of the pastry before cooking.
The mixture for this is delicious. However, when I make this next time, instead of the “pastry” mix in the Serious Eats recipe I would use a really light crispy buttery shortcrust pastry or even a filo.
As soon as I tasted the Middle Harbour Mix I knew I wanted to make cocktail with it..and what else would go with a lemony, peppery zingy herb mix than a Bloody Mary?
Can i just digress for a moment to talk about how much I love a Bloody Mary? I love a Bloody Mary the way Don Draper loves a Manahattan. To me they are the height of sophistication. In my mind, enjoying a Bloody Mary is like enjoying oysters…when you can do it, you know you’re a grown up. Even more so if you can down one before noon!
I’m also a big fan of drinking my vitamins and all that tomato juice, has to be good for you!
This recipe is probably the best one I have tried. I think it’s the splash of sherry which adds a teeny bit of sweetness into the mix that does it – and I used the Spice Peddler Middle Harbour instead of the celery salt and also to rim the glass.
OMG, this was sooooo good, it set off another bout of dancing…
200ml tomato juice
1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp Spice Peddler Middle Harbour Seasoning or Celery Salt
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
6 drops Tabasco sauce
Splash of cream sherry
Stir Ingredients in a mixing glass with ice, strain and serve!
I’m going to be spending my week perfecting my moves from my new favourite possession – the Barbie Allen Dance/Exercise Book.
She has an entire routine for Xanadu which I may share as a special Christmas Present for all of you…hell, if I get full enough of some Christmas spirit (we here at RFFMT are quite fond of a little bit o’ Hendricks for the holidays) I may even dance it for you!
I’ve struggled to write about Hoi An and I only just realised why – I like it just a little bit too much for my normal snarky tone to be used. There’s nothing funny about Hoi An. It’s lovely to look at, a great place to spend time…in fact the only downside is that because everyone else loves it too, it’s in danger of becoming overpublicised and losing everything that made it charming in the first place…Huh…it’s kind of like the Ryan Gosling of Vietnam. (Shut up, I haven’t mentioned him for MONTHS…)
One awesome thing about Hoi An, is that the old town is car free. You still need to beware of crazy bike riders but the old town really is a haven after the hustle and bustle of a city like Saigon. The other lovely thing about Hoi An is that it’s small enough to walk around and see everything on foot. Alternatively most hotels have bikes either, push bikes or motor bikes, either included in the room rate or that you can hire to explore the local countryside (which I recommend – rice paddies, great beaches, it’s really pretty and flat so easy to ride even if, like me you’re not an avid bike rider).
We stayed at the Vinh Hung resort, marked by the number 1 in the above map. This was a great resort and has a boat that takes you into town. Who needs a bike?
If you ask nicely they even let you drive…
The town itself is famed for its silk, and gorgeous coloured lanterns are a popular souvenir.
And if you think this looks pretty during the day, look at it at night!
By day the mustardy coloured buildings and the purple flowers are a striking combination…
Hoi An is a great town for tailors. They are everywhere although there is a mass of them along Hoang Dieu, across the road from the cloth market. Also on Hoang Dieu are shoe makers who will hand make shoes for you for fraction of what you would pay for something mass-produced. And you wonder why I love this place!
My favourite tailor and shoe maker below:
Hoi An is also a great place for food and a great way to learn more about Vietnamese food is to do a cooking course. I’ve done two, one at the Park Hyatt in Saigon and also one at the Morning Glory Restaurant in Hoi An. Both were excellent. The format for both was similar, a trip to the market to familiarise yourself with the raw ingredients….
Then on to the school for some learning and, better yet, some eating. At the Morning Glory class we made a number of standards of Vietnamese food including:
Rice Paper Rolls:
My favourite – Green Mango Salad
Turmeric Chicken Skewers
And yes, all of this tasted as good as it looks. Maybe even better.
You can find the Yotam Ottolenghi version of Bahn Xeo here.
And Luke Nguyen’s Green Mango Salad with Tiger Prawns here
For the Turmeric Chicken, which was awesome, you’ll need to go to Hoi An.
After some hefty shopping and your cooking class, or just because it’s hot, hot hot, you might be in need of an afternoon libation. And you can do a lot worse than the Q Bar for this..
One of the specialties of the Q bar is a Tamarind and Ginger Martini which is awesome!!!
Here is my version:
I based my recipe on the Tamarind Ginger Fizz recipe from Food 52 which you can find here.
Spicy Tamarind Ginger Martini (makes 2)
Spicy Ginger Sugar Syrup
1 knob of ginger about as big as your thumb, sliced
2 small birdseye chillies
1 length of lemongrass about 10cm long, chopped
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
Combine in a saucepan. Boil until the sugar has dissolved then take off heat and allow to steep. Transfer to a container and refrigerate. Can be kept in the fridge for 3 weeks.
Orange Chilli Salt
Zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp dried chilli, ground to same size as the salt (I kept mine a bit chunky)
Mix ingredients together and place on a plate.
Tamarind Ginger Martini
1/4 cup Tamarind pulp
1/4 cup Vodka
1/4 cup lime juice
6 springs of mint, preferably Vietnamese mint, plus more for garnish
Soda / Seltzer water to top up
Strain ginger syrup and reserve the chillies.
Combine tamarind pulp, ginger syrup, vodka, lime mint and vodka in a shaker with some ice.
Slide an orange or lime wedge around the rim of the glass and dip in the chilli salt.
Pour the vodka mix into the glasses about 3 /4 of the way, topping with the soda water.
Orange & Lime Wedges
Chilli from Syrup mix
Piece of Crystallised Ginger
Garnish the drink with the orange and wine wedges, the chillies, the sprigs of mint and a piece of crystallised ginger.
There’s so much more to say about Hoi An…but you know what? I’m not going to…just go there, you won’t be disappointed.
Actually, I’ve changed my mind, whatever you do, don’t go there. It’s awful. And while you’re at it, leave Gosling alone too. There are some things in this world that should be just for me!
I’ll be spending my week absolutely, definitely, 100% not booking my next trip to Hoi An…have a fab one whatever you get up to.
I fully intended this week to be devoted to Eat your Way To Love and Beauty, but somehow I ended up drinking my way to oblivion and incoherence!
But you know what? I can now honestly say that I didn’t spend the weekend getting tanked on cocktails. I spent the weekend doing research and development. For you dear readers, I did it for you! I’m selfless like that.
I found a version of the first cocktail I made, the Oh Calcutta, in Eat Your Way To Love and Beauty. This combines pineapple, grapefruit, lime and…. curry powder! Yep, a curry flavoured cocktail!
The Swami’s version of the Oh Calcutta suggests you mix the ingredients with spa water. I assumed that was a euphemism for vodka when making my version.
Now, I normally like my cocktails pink and sweet so this was a bit of a shock to my system! Initially I wasn’t too keen on it. Gradually though, the Oh Calcutta won me over. It’s actually has quite a complex flavour profile (whoo hoo, look at me using the foodie words!). There was a slight bitterness from the grapefruit, sweetness of the pineapple, heat from the curry, sour from the lime…the more I drank it the more I liked it!
I was still thinking about it the next day and I decided that, interesting as it was, it needed something more and that something was a little salty kick. So, I made it again but this time I edged the glass (badly) with some ginger salt. I made the ginger salt by bashing some ginger to death in the mortar and pestle and then adding some salt to the mix. I twirled the glass in this. It doesn’t look great but it tasted amazing!
In my first version I toppped the entire drink with grapefruit juice instead of using a mixer, in the second version I mixed grapefruit juice and sparkling water. The result was slightly less bitter which I preferred. I also used ruby grapefruit juice so there was a pink tinge to my cocktail!
I’m now thinking ginger beer would be good in this too….version three may well happen next weekend!
Just in case this has piqued your interest in a curry cocktail, I found a few more versions to tantalise your taste buds bouncing round on the interwebs…
But the weekend of cocktails was not over because it’s feijoa season and thanks to a tree that is fully laden over at my mother’s house we are swimming with them…
For those of you unfamiliar with a feijoa (aka the pineapple guava), it is a fruit much beloved by New Zealanders, and apparently Russians and Californians. It is:
“green, ellipsoid, and about the size of a chicken egg. It has a sweet, aromatic flavor. The flesh is juicy and is divided into a clear gelatinous seed pulp and a firmer, slightly granular, opaque flesh nearer the skin”
Boo, Wikipedia boo! That does nothing to convey the joy of the feijoa – huh…come to think of it from now on, I’m going to be calling them fe-joy-as. I once read in an aromatherapy book that you need to be careful when burning Clary Sage oil because the smell of it can make you feel as if you are drunk! I feel a little bit the same about the scent of a feijoa, it is a kind of fruity, floral, heady smell that…it’s what I imagine heaven smells like. Not that I’m likely to find out. There is no doubt in my mind which way I’m heading.
Feijoa Marketing Board…don’t even think about it stealing this, I’m slapping a ™ on “Fei-joy-as…what heaven smells like” ASAP. Happy to negotiate with you on the licensing of my intellectual property for your commercial gain though. Call me. I’m easily bought.
Mind you, someone at the FMB is doing their job. These babies are currently selling in the supermarket for $2 each!
When I told mum I was going to do some feijoa cooking for this she wanted to know if I was going to make jam. It’s that kind of comment that makes me wonder if I’m actually adopted….Jam. Pffft…why make jam when you can make cocktails?
I found a wonderful blog called Feijoa, Feijoa which is bursting with recipes for feijoas and has an whole section devoted to cocktail recipes.
I made the Odessa Cocktail purely because I had all the necessary but each one of the cocktails sound delicious. And as for the recipes…this may well become one of my favourite sites! There are also several jam recipes for my mother to make.
The recipe for the Odessa Cocktail can be found here:
If you’re wondering why my simple syrup looks like Coke or coffee , it’s because I only had brown sugar in the house. I think it worked though, it added a treacly depth to the syrup. (coincidentally, Treacly Depth would be the name of my indie band…)
The Odessa is a lovely cocktail, it’s sweet but with a little tang from the lime and exactly the kind of cocktail I normally love! Coming after the Oh Calcutta, it seemed a little simple but it was still delicious! My advice to anyone making it would be to strain it really well. I put mine through a tea strainer and it was a little gritty. I would use a finer strainer next time.
I’m going to be spending my week sidling up to people outside the supermarket and asking “Psst…want a feijoa? ..One fifty each or three for three…and they smell like heaven”
…my local green grocer where they are currently selling trays of strawberries for $6. My sincere apologies to John Lennon for that absolute travesty but just in case you are not utterly awestruck by this, let me reiterate. A tray of strawberries for $6. That’s 16 punnets. For $6 dollars. The world may have not ended on December 21st but it has surely gone mad!
How do farmers make any money when the (literal) fruit of their labour is being sold off at about 40 cents a punnet?
Maybe because the week before Christmas punnets of strawberries were selling for $4 each!
I know, it’s not the farmers, it’s the wholesalers and the grocery shop owners and all the people in between who add their mark up. The farmers probably got paid the same for the $4 strawberries as they did for the 40 cent strawberries.
My joy at my bargain buy lasted until I had to carry, not only all of my regular fruit and veggies, but an additional four kilos of strawberries, from the shop to my car. By the time I reached the car (it was a hot day and I had parked some distance away from the shop to get a spot in the shade), I’d stopped thinking “I’m the best shopper in the world! ” and “I’m in berry heaven” to “What on earth am I going to do with four kilos of strawberries?” and “How can four kilos of strawberries actually weigh a ton?”.
My first task, on getting home, was to sort the strawberries – a few in each punnet were overripe and were starting to get a bit manky. The perfect ones went into a colander and the fridge for eating. We have been feasting on these all week.
The almost perfect berries went into a bag and into the freezer whole. I puréed the somewhat bruised berries and placed them in 6 containers in the freezer where they will be great for smoothies, muffins, etc later in the year. Finally, my kitchen helpers, Oscar and Lulu, were on hand to dispose of the fourth group being the few badly bruised berries that were left.
We have been eating strawberries all week – by the handful whenever we feel a bit peckish; for dessert with cream (Mark) and ice cream (me) and for breakfast with mango and vanilla yogurt:
I have started making a strawberry liqueur based on the link below with some tweaks inspired by other recipes, most notably, I am putting the sugar in from the start.
I searched high and low for tarragon yesterday; I went to three greengrocers and I could not find it for love or money. I decided to use basil instead.
I was so excited about making the liqueur and trying to track down the tarragon, that I completely forgot to check the other ingredients. I knew I had strawberries, I had vodka. I was searching for tarragon. And who particularly someone who bakes regularly, doesn’t have caster sugar? Me apparently. Grrr… Such a newbie mistake!!!
So today, I ducked into the supermarket to pick up the caster sugar and found piles of tarragon. As I had another recipe for tarragon and strawberries I was aching to try, I bought a bunch and pulled the basil out of my would be liqueur and popped in the tarragon and sugar. All the sugar sank to the bottom and when I tipped it upside down to mix it in, it made these drippy pale pink stalactite type things that looked awesome! The mixture is also already a fabulous pink colour. And it’s only Day 2. Imagine Day 30.
It’s Mark’s birthday tomorrow and the temperature is set to soar. Baking in my tiny kitchen when it’s anything above 30 degrees outside is not something I relish. So, I’ve decided that he will get a White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake Semifreddo in lieu of a traditional birthday cake. I’m aiming for quirky but cool. We’ll see how that works out. I also need to get busy making it. Which means that my strawberry and tarragon salad recipe will have to wait until the next post.
On a more sombre note, and speaking of temperatures soaring, many parts of Australia are currently experiencing devastating bushfires and my heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones, homes and belongings in this tragedy and to the brave people, many of whom are volunteers, who are so valiantly fighting the fires. You are in my thoughts and prayers.