Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Word of the Day: Orthorexia

Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. This is a cool word for a behaviour that pretty much everyone finds annoying: when some diet fanatic starts preaching at you about the One And Only True Diet, you know that they suffer from orthorexia. Whatever it is - Weight Watchers, Atkins, vegan, palaeolithic, raw food, low carb, low GI, the latest fad - they are fanatical about it. All deviations are a crime. That carrot contains carbs, is not low GI. There's too much salt in that lentil soup. That free range chicken was not organic. Milk is poison. Some people can take this to such an extreme that they can kill themselves, or their children.

I was put in mind of this yesterday when reading an article at Shapely Prose. A couple of women from the Fat Acceptance movement in the US were on TV, and they handled themselves brilliantly. You can see the YouTubes at that link. Against the smarmy hosts and the ignorant doctor and the wasted blonde commentator, they looked happy and glowing with health. It's worth a look. The doctor just blew me away though - first she said that we have to look at BMI, not just weight and height. Hello? What does she think BMI is? Then at the end she tried to give some advice on healthy eating - and it was hilarious. Don't drink your calories, there's no nutrients in them. And don't eat white food. Ha! Clearly milk is the devil. The Shapely Prose commenters (including me) immediately got busy on our lists of white food. You know, stuff that's really terrible for you like jicama, cauliflower, parsnips, daikon, tofu, yoghurt, chicken & turkey breast, cottage cheese, cannelini beans, peeled apples...

The Genuine One And Only True Diet, as far as I'm concerned, is moderation. Eat mostly healthy fresh real food. Eat when you're hungry, don't eat when you're not. Don't eat treats every day; that makes them into non-treats. Enjoy celebrations. Don't get obsessive. Exercise your moderation in moderation.

I rather like to mix up things that are 'healthy' with things that are 'unhealthy'. It confuses silly people. Some of my favourite bamboozle'm tricks include:
* skim latte with cake
* salad and chips
* low fat bran muffin with nutella
* real dhal makhani - lentils with butter & cream
* ma po tofu - tofu with pork

I would have a diet coke with my burger and fries, too, but I hate coke, diet soft drinks, and big chain burgers and fries anyway. And I'm not convinced that diet soft drinks are healthy anyway.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Mexican Fiesta

Quite often after I eat out, I find myself wanting to cook something similar. This time it's a Mexican/TexMex bug that bit. I'm making a lamb and black bean chilli, a jicama salad, and mango sorbet. All is actually for tomorrow night. Today we're in recovery from the party, and there's been a lot of lolling on the couch attempting to read the entire internet. In between that, I've had a few bouts of pottering in the kitchen on clean up and meal prep.

The lamb chilli is a variant on one by the Frugal Gourmet, a twinkly avuncular seeming gentleman, who hosted a cooking show in the US at the time I was living there. I bought his American cookbook back then. It seems he wasn't as nice a man as his TV persona. It doesn't pay to google celebrities you like; you may discover them embroiled in yet another church-related underage sexual abuse scandal. Oh well. The recipe is still good. It uses commercial chilli powder and is a bit vague on measurements, so I'll post my variant.

Jicama is a very nice vegetable that's not much used or known in Australia. I buy it from Saigon Grocery in Dickson. This is a wonderful shop - it's Vietnamese, but has a wide range of other Asian groceries. I love it especially for the fresh food. There's cakes and puddings up the front - all manner of interesting and colourful coconut and sweet bean concoctions. Fresh noodles and tofu are in the fridge at the back. It's most noteworthy, though, for the fresh vegetables, which arrive on Friday afternoons. They have the best and freshest beansprouts, excellent herbs and greens, Thai white eggplants, green salad papayas, and all sorts of other goodies. They have good fruit, too - this week they had fresh longans, as well as huge mangoes and a few other things. The lady at the counter was nice enough to warn me that the jicama was expensive before I bought it; and she also saved my reading glasses that I lost. I love her very much!

Anyway, jicama, or yam bean, or chinese turnip, is a native Mexican plant. Its root is usually eaten raw, in salads, salsas, or fruit plates. Lime, salt and chilli are the common condiments. It's crisp, slightly sweet, and mild in flavour. I've used three quarters of mine to make a salad, and I'll have the rest for work lunches. The salad is very simple - lime, salt, chilli, coriander and onion.

Finally, for dessert we can have Clothilde's Mango Sorbet. Only one slight variant - I only had 750g of mango flesh. I just went ahead with that, not worrying about the missing 50g of fruit. I haven't frozen it yet, so I'll have to let you know later how that worked. (Wednesday update: it worked perfectly. Very good!)

Recipe 1: Lamb and Black Bean Chilli
350g uncooked black turtle beans
500g minced lamb
1 large onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 stick cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon loomi - dried lime powder
chilli, to taste
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 large green capsicum
salt, to taste
juice of half a lime

Soak the beans overnight; discard water. Boil gently in fresh water for 2-3 hours, until almost tender. Set aside - they can continue to soak overnight in the cooking water.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Chop the onion, and add it, with the whole cumin seeds to the pan. Fry until onion is softened, than add crushed garlic and minced lamb. Stir well to brown lamb, then add tomatoes, worcestershire sauce and spices (NOT including salt). Add beans, and simmer gently for 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. About half an hour before serving, add chopped capsicum, lime juice, and salt to taste.

Notes: Black beans really do take a long time. In this method they are finished off in the chilli, so they soak up a bit of the flavour and meld in well. These are not Chinese black beans, which are actually fermented soybeans, but an American bean. I got mine from the Essential Ingredient in Kingston. This isn't a bright red chilli, especially if you use chopped fresh green chillies for your heat. The lime is more unusual - and that's not from the original recipe. I think I got the idea from a chilli & margarita restaurant in Manhattan, umm 20 years ago (woah, is that the time?). Maybe. Anyway, the lime and black bean combo just seems right.

Serve it with some tortillas (or pita bread), a small dollop of sour cream, and some salad. Makes lots, with plenty of handy to freeze leftovers.

Recipe 2: Jicama Salad
350g jicama
2 long mild green chillies
1 small red onion
1 lime
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaf
De-seed and shred the chillies into fine straws. Slice the onion into fine straws. Peel and slice the jicama into coarser straws. Mix through the salt, and zest and juice of the lime, and leave to settle for a few hours or overnight. Stir through fresh coriander shortly before serving.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Posh Party Nibbles

A cocktail party surely needs more than just a bowl of chips. For our sundowner today I've got:
  • cured salmon canapés;
  • duck rillettes with cornichons;
  • brie and water crackers;
  • mixed antipasto - olives, fetta stuffed peppers, crudités; and
  • a bowl of chips. Tzatziki flavour - wtf?
The salmon canapés are made with slices of home cured salmon, set on a lemon-dill sour cream, set on pumpernickel rounds. The duck rillettes are from the markets; chef Kim's brilliant terrines and rillettes. The lemon-dill mix is trivially easy - mix lemon juice in to desired consistency, add dill and lemon zest until it seems to taste right.

A jug of Pimm's Cup and a freezer of premix mojito slushies, and we're set. Beth has promised her famous artichoke dip, and Belinda mumbled something about date scones.

Then if we go on to barbecue later, I have Country Pride sausages, Kanga Bangas, and plenty of bread and salad fixings. All set. Happy Australia day, everyone. Yes, technically it was yesterday, but the point is the long weekend. 10 minutes to go...

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Friday Follies, with tacos

I tried two new places yesterday.

It was a pleasant day in the city. After a morning of assorted faffing about on the web and running errands, I met up with my friend Beth for an afternoon movie at the Dendy Premium. After that, I did a little pottering around bookshops, and Impact Comics' new Garema Place shop (yay!), and then I met the Bloke at the Wig and Pen for a couple of beers. We then moved on to Hippo for a couple of cocktails. And since we weren't hungry enough for a proper dinner out, we grabbed some fast food at Zambrero, and went home for glasses of water and a Thin Man movie. I recommend all of these places...

Dendy Premium: This was new to me, and it was a lot of fun. You get a big squishy recliner chair, and you get waited on. There's a semi-private lounge and bar while you wait. The menu features a small but nice range of beers and wines by the glass, as well as the usual bar spirits, and espresso coffees and soft drinks. The waiters will fetch you candybar goodies if the menu nibbles don't appeal. Beth and I had a glass of wine each, and shared a substantial cheese plate, and I had a summer pudding as well. The food and wine bill came to $38. The food is in the $10-20 range, and pretty much all from the classy nibbles food group - gourmet vegetable pizza, mini meat pies, risotto balls. And there were about 3 desserts if you're more in the coffee and cake mood. You can specify when you want the food to arrive at your seat - immediately, an hour in, or whatever. And there's a call button in the table if you need an extra drink.

I recommend it cautiously. For a week day, the price is only $20, but that shoots up to $35 for a weekend evening. And that's a lot to pay for a movie, even with a very comfy chair and in-chair service. But it's great for a little luxury weekday lunch. Shift workers and part-timers, go for it!

For the rest,
Wig & Pen:Beer. For beer lovers. Canberra's microbrewery pub, they serve a fantastic variety of their own beers. There's a regularly changing blackboard of seasonals, as well as old favourites. The bar is decorated with garlands of hops, the walls are covered with their prize winning certificates, and the ceiling features fake Olde Engliysshe oaken beams. Probably plastic. Whatever. Drink beer.

There's other beers in the fridge, and they also stock wine and spirits and stuff, which I suppose is handy if you have a friend who doesn't drink beer. And there's pub grub - wedges, burgers, simple curries. The IPA is wonderful, and the Velvet Cream stout is magic. It's a place for beer.

Hippo: Hippo is quite hip. It's upstairs overlooking Garema Place, so you can sip your cocktails while watching the world go by. Spot Canberra's Goths - all three of them. Watch children climb the weird statue in the dry fountain. Check out the trick cyclists and skateboarders in the chess pit, before they get moved on. Inside the music is a bit on the loud side for a lounge bar, and the staff are a bit snotty about non-alcoholic drinks for the drivers. They totally lack a mocktails list. But the cocktails are good, an interesting selection of creative new ones and the classics. And the dark red walls and chandeliers and red vinyl pouffe seating are nicely atmospheric. They have live jazz on regularly, too.

Zambrero: This is a new fast food place in the city, although it was going in Braddon for a while. I highly recommend it. It's a fast food joint, brightly lit, with metal tubs of salad behind the counter. The style is Mexican: they offer nachos, tacos, burritos and variants thereon. The menu is pick'n'mix - choose your meat or beans, salsa, and sauce from various choices. The salads and salsas are fresh made on the premises - we watched someone chopping red onions and coriander, and refresh the tubs, all nice and hygienic in latex gloves.

The food was delicious - very fresh salads, and the stewed meats were tender and tasty. They seem relatively authentic to me, though my knowledge of Mexican isn't vast. It's not TexMex - don't expect meat and bean combos, or huge slathers of sour cream and cheese. The heat comes mostly from your chosen salsa, but the hottest choice, the Salsa Verde, was not above pleasantly warm. Next time I'll ask for extra jalapenos. But anyway, if you're bored with kebabs, go for a burrito or a pair of tacos instead!

This cluttered, but comfortable, setting includes big squishy red couches, and soda on tap - an excellent choice after a night out. The bar is well stocked with a wide range of spirits and unusual softdrinks. Guests may also choose to lounge in the bar, with its red walls, old leather couches, and burlesque photography display. Or the outdoor spa may appeal - plastic glasses only please, and bring your own bathers and towel. (See ya Sunday!)

Catch Up

I've been a bit slack about blogging this week, but there hasn't been much to note. After the okonomiyaki dinner, we ate out twice and leftovers once. After Wednesday dance class, it was a beer and pizza at All Bar Nun. Thursday featured leftover keema with rice for the bloke, and rice with slices of cured salmon, japanese cucumber and pickled daikon for me. Friday was another night out, but I have reviews, so I'll make a separate post.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Turning Japanese

Dinner was okonomiyaki, daikon pickles, and Japanese cress salad with sesame dressing. It was good. Okonomiyaki is a very yummy Japanese fast food - it's basically a mixed pancake of whatever you want. I ate some really good ones in Kyoto shopping mall food courts a decade or so back. They decorated them with fancy mayo and sauce swirls and spiderwebs - try a google image search...

I added this to my regular repertoire last year, when our temporary housemate, Akiko, taught me how. It's good for using odds and ends of leftovers - ham, bacon, chicken, tuna, prawns, tofu etc. It must include cabbage, but the other ingredients are pretty free. I didn't actually find my proper recipe from Akiko, but I sort of remembered, and it worked OK.

I made a salad with some mixed greens, about half of the greens being Japanese cress. This is like watercress but larger, and even more peppery. You can buy Japanese sesame salad dressing from Asian grocers, but I didn't have any. I improvised with a spoon of tahini, a teaspoon of sesame oil and soy, mixed in to a tablespoon or so of commercial lime vinaigrette. With the pancake, salad and pickles, I'm now well stuffed.

Recipes follow
Recipe 1: Okonomiyaki

1 cup plain flour
1 egg
1 cup dashi
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 wombok cabbage, shredded (about 2 cups)
5 spring onions, chopped
1 cup chopped ham
1/2 yellow capsicum, shredded
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Japanese mayonnaise
Okonmiyaki sauce
Bonito shavings (optional)

Mix the flour, egg and dashi to a batter, and season with mirin and soy. Beat well to get rid of any lumps. Stir in the cabbage, meat and vegetables. It will look very coarse, not like a smooth pancake at all.

Heat up a tablespoon sesame oil in a smallish non-stick frying pan. Add half the mixture, and cook until golden underneath. Turn over, cook the other side, and then repeat with the other half. Swirl over some Japanese mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce - make pretty patterns if you feel so inclined. Sprinkle on some bonito flakes, if you like them. I do, the bloke doesn't.

Note: If you're lucky & careful it won't break when you turn it, but no harm done if it's in pieces... The specialist ingredients like dashi (stock powder), bonito shavings, mayo and sauce are available quite widely - even in some supermarkets. The sauce is based on hoi sin, and if you don't have any, some hoi sin thinned with soy will do. Or go fusion, and try barbecue sauce.

Recipe 2: Daikon Pickle
1 daikon
1/4 cup salt
3 green chillies
1 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons mirin
3 tablespoons white sugar

Slice daikon finely into half moons. Sprinkle over salt, then cover with cold water. leave to soak for a few hours. Drain, rinse well, and squeeze out excess moisture. Put in a nonreactive heat resistant container - a large jar, or glass bowl or the like. Chop chillies coarsely and mix in. Bring vinegar, mirin and sugar to boil in a saucepan, stir until sugar is dissolved, then pour over the daikon. Leave for at least 12 hours before using.

This is a fresh pickle, and probably won't keep more than a couple of weeks in the fridge.

P.S. Yes, I know what the song actually refers to. It wasn't quite that good :)

Another Ham Recipe and a Roo Change

The ham's almost gone now, but it's still featuring in lunches and the occasional dinner recipe. On Sunday I made "Pasta Saltimbocca" - I invented this one, based on the idea of veal saltimbocca, with ham, sage and mushrooms. I had green salad makings and mushrooms from the market, sage from my friend Helen, and you know where the ham was from.

Then yesterday I made a kangaroo keema. I use a keema recipe from Nigella's Feast as my basic, and vary around that. It's more a recovery dish than an actual feat dish - good for the day after the big night. Hers is a very simple dish of lamb mince with peas. Mine had kangaroo mince and green beans. I feel a bit daft even giving a recipe for this - I'll probably never make this exactly the same way twice. I usually serve this as Nigella suggests: with flat bread, rather than rice. Last night we ate it with lebanese pita breads, some lime pickles and mango chutney, and a mango lassi.

Okonomiyaki tonight, I think.
Recipes follow.
Recipe 1: Pasta Saltimbocca
300g mushrooms, sliced
200g ham
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons marsala
1/2 packet spaghetti or other pasta

First, put the pasta on. Soften the onion in the oil, add the garlic and mushrooms and saute gently for another five minutes or until mushrooms are well softened. When the pasta is nearly ready, add the ham, sage, and marsala, and stir well. Drain the pasta, then stir through the ham and mushroom mix. Serve with parmesan to taste, and a green salad.

Notes: this is a nice light meal. If you fancy a richer style, it can easily become a pseudo carbonara with an egg and some cream. Serves 2, with lots of leftovers for lunch.

Recipe 2: Kangaroo Keema
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon hot mustard oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 mild long green chillies, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon dried lime powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
400g kangaroo mince
300g green beans, cut in short lengths to approximately pea size
3 tablespoons Bombay Sandwich Spread

Use a large shallowish saute pan, rather than a deep saucepan. Fry the chopped onion in the oils - be careful to keep the heat low, as mustard oil burns easily. When onion has softened, add the ginger and garlic, and let cook for another minute before adding the mince. Stir well to brown, then add chopped chilli, salt, spices, tomato paste, water and tomatoes. Cover, and let simmer for a couple of hours. 15 minutes before serving, add the green beans and the Bombay spread, turn up the heat, and remove the lid to reduce liquid while the beans cook.

Note: This is how I did it last night. But really it's more of a concept. Vary anything you like - spices, meat, vegetables... It likes a longer simmer, but 30 minutes will do. I usually use frozen peas, not beans. Bombay Sandwich Spread is a condiment from Indian grocers - it's a bright green mix of coriander, mint and who knows what. I have never used it in cooking before, but the normal recipe has a lot of fresh coriander, and I didn't have any. Dried lime powder or "loomi" is a middle eastern condiment made of dried limes. A squeeze of lime juice would also do fine.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Dance, dance, dance

Have I gone mad? I've signed up for so many dance classes that my legs may be in danger of falling off. The bush dance is only for 5 weeks, and not on public holidays, but all the others are potentially ongoing. I might skip swing now and then, if it gets too much.

Sunday: Charleston/Burlesque
Monday: Bush Dance
Tuesday: Belly Dance
Wednesday: Swing Dance
Thursday: Singing lesson & choir practice (That does work the abs, so it's almost exerise.)
Friday, Saturday: fall over in small heap going “what was I thinking??”

Hmm, so where do I put the yoga and walking and cycling?

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Bran Muffins, Part Two

I really want a good bran muffin recipe. I tried again this morning, and it worked much better than last time, but it's still not ideal. In my pre-coffee vaguery I didn't follow the recipe perfectly, so that may be the problem. I think I'll keep this one and tinker with it. I should try the regulation amount of sugar rather than accidentally doubling it, for instance. Oops.

This recipe comes from a bulletin board that I frequent. It's the second of the two in Sinister's post. Here's my Australianisation of it.

Recipe: Treacle Bran Muffins

1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup plain wholemeal flour
2 cups oat bran
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/2 cup raisins*
1 cup milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup sunflower oil
1 scant tablespoon treacle
1 whole egg + 1 egg white

1. Combine all dry ingredients.
2. Combine all wet ingredients.
3. Combine dry mixture with wet mixture and fold together until uniformly combined.
4. Do not overmix.
5. Portion into lined (or sprayed) baking cups and cook at 175ºC until golden and set.

These muffins are light and fluffy and tasty as all get-out; not the dense, chewy, bricks that many other bran muffin recipes produce. Yields twelve standard-sized muffins, and recipe doubles and quadruples well. *Omit raisins, or substitute with mashed or sliced bananas, chopped apple, blueberries, or other fruit of choice.

My Notes:
Treacle is used instead of molasses; the original poster told me not to use blackstrap molasses, and from wiki research, treacle seems to be the right thing. I'm not sure about the flour/rising agent mix. I might just try SR flour next time. This mix is very liquid compared to most muffins I've made, and it doesn't rise very high. Also, I may have needed to give them another five minutes in the oven. They came out a bit too soft, and broke up easily.

To Market, To Market

The growers' markets re-opened last week after their brief Xmas hiatus. Since I was in Thredbo I didn't make it, so yesterday was my first sample of the rearrangement. The parking has changed slightly - there's no access across the market any more; you have to decide on which side to go. Stalls occupy the roadway area where the lucky parking used to be. And it's chaos as nobody can find their favourites any more. There's a table with a list, but if all you can remember is "those nice people with the good apples who used to be over there", you're out of luck. It should all settle down after a while as we get used to it. There are still coffee stands in both buildings, and all sorts of produce all over. There were a few surprises - some of the ones who I would have thought were the genuine growers actually turned out to be their neighbours, or local agents.

I've been missing them, so I may possibly have over-bought. I now have white figs, blackberries, yellow peaches, apricots, new season tart gold apples, sugar plums, new potatoes, capsicum, green chillies, beans, silverbeet, tomatoes, lettuce, japanese cress, sorrel, spring onions, daikon and cucumber. As well as coffee, duck rillettes and sourdough bread. Yum.

With the change in the weather, a soup seems in order. I have a silverbeet and lentil soup on the go. I'm also curing some salmon, with thoughts of posh nibblies at an Australia Day cocktail party next weekend. And contemplating daikon pickles and okonomiyaki, if only I can find the recipe Akiko gave me...

For the soup recipe, follow the link.
Recipe: Silverbeet and Lentil Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 carrot, finely chopped,
2 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
100g silverbeet stems, finely chopped
400g silverbeet leaves, coarsely chopped
150g Puy-style lentils
100g brown basmati rice
1.5 litres stock
Salt, pepper, parmesan to taste

Gently fry onion, garlic, carrot, silverbeet stems and tomato in oil, until softened and golden. Add bay leaves and stock, bring to boil. Add brown rice and simmer for 30 minutes. In a separate pan, simmer the lentils in water for 25 minutes. Drain lentils, rinse well, and add them to the stock. Add silverbeet leaves, simmer for another 5-10 minutes, Season with salt and pepper as desired before serving, with parmesan cheese to sprinkle.

Notes: this is quite closely taken from Il Cucchiaio d'Argento. They say to use meat stock, but veggie stock is fine, too. And then for an extra touch, add some chunks of ham.

Tuesday edit:
I will add, a few days later, that I don't like the rice in this very much. It was fine on day 1, but by now the rice has soaked up a lot of the liquid, and got really squishy. It's more like a western congee than a soup. It's still perfectly edible, and I did quite enjoy it for my lunch today, with some ham sshreds and a sprinkle of chilli flakes. But I'd have liked it better if it were more soupy. I'd have a bread roll on the side.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Balsamic Mushroom and Bean Salad

While we're eating a lot of ham, it's good to vary the rest of the menu. Last night we had hot ham, with baked potatoes, green salad and a balsamic mushroom and bean salad. I'm just finishing the salad over lunch, with added cucumber, celery and a small tin of tuna.

Recipe: Balsamic Mushroom and Bean Salad
250g small button mushrooms
2 cloves garlic
1 400g tin large white beans
1/2 loose-packed cup chopped continental parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic reduction

Drain beans well, and combine with chopped parsley in a heat-resistant bowl. Clean the mushrooms and cut in halves. Heat the oil in a small saucepan, add the crushed garlic, and fry gently until mushrooms are lightly browned. Add the balsamic reduction, stir quickly and tip onto the beans. Stir well, and leave to cool before serving.

The Italian tinned beans I used are called butter beans, but I've also seen "butter beans" refer to the small beans that you make baked beans with. It's not those. Definitely use big ones. I'll add a photo when I get home (I'm posting at lunchtime).

I have a syrupy balsamic reduction that my friend Alex made for me. If you don't have any, just add 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar, and continue cooking the mushroom mix until it's reduced down.

Cooking tonight: Haven't decided. Risotto? Pizza? Okonomiyaki?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Shopping news

Today's Canberra Times reports a couple of interesting changes. EPIC markets have been rearranged, so the big shed now houses only stalls run by people who sell their own produce. The small shed will have all the others. This is a very good idea, and I'm looking forward to checking it out on Saturday. I wonder where the bakers and coffee roasters will go.

Also, my friend Beth and I recently noticed that the "Jones the Grocer" store is no more. It's now labelled "Manuka Fine Foods". It was closed when we were there, so we couldn't ask anyone for the story. The Canberra Times now explains that the former franchisee, Shelley Thompson, is still running the shop. She wanted to stock more locally sourced produce - some of which competes with the Jones lines - and expand on the deli and catering arms of the business. Her ideas didn't fit with the corporate requirements for franchisees, and so there has been a parting of ways.

This sounds quite promising to me. While I do enjoy Jones the Grocer, I have found them to be rather high priced. And Jones the Grocer may be opening a new Manuka store... I wish Ms Thompson luck, and hope that Canberra can support both.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Ham, ham, and more ham. And Blues.

I didn't have time to blog on Friday - in the morning I had brunch at idelic in Kingston, and shopped at the Essential Ingredient. And then it was off to Thredbo for the Blues Festival. That turned out to be a mixed bag - some really good music, some not so great; some crappy venues, some good ones. The daytime venues were outdoors, and very short on shade and seating. Most of the evening venues were too small for the audiences they were attracting. I did get to see Jan Preston, Ray Beadle, Andy Cowan, Mojo Webb and Dallas Frasca, and go for a couple of nice morning walks, so it wasn't a total loss. But on the whole, I prefer Goulburn. It's better organised, and bigger, and you can pretty well always get a seat.

We got home from yesterday in enough time to bake a half ham for dinner - and lunch and dinner again, and some more meals, and then freeze some more of it with the bones for winter soup. Ham doesn't actually freeze well, but if it's going to be used in soup it's OK. I got the recipe from the bloke's Mum, Moira. It's a good one.

Anyway, a serious chunk of ham is a very useful thing to have on hand for summer. As well as just eating it with salads, I like to use it in an extremely simple fresh pasta sauce. And there's always pizza and frittata and risotto for more variety - I'm thinking of a risotto with ham and baby peas later in the week.

Recipes for baked ham and ham pasta follow.

Recipe 1. Moira's Baked Ham

1 ham
1 1/2 cups Guinness
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon ginger
1 cup dark muscovado sugar

Remove skin from ham, score fat into diamonds. Put ham in a baking dish, and pour over the Guinness. Bake at 160C for 3 hours, basting regularly. Mix sugar and spices to a paste with a little of the pan dripping, and rub over the fat. Turn up oven to 200, and bake for a further 30 minutes.

Actually, I used half a ham, and kept the basting and paste ingredients the same, but reduce the initial slow bake to 1.5 hours. The pan juices reduce to an amazing dark spicy gel; it's worth de-fatting and saving this to use as a condiment in sandwiches. Dark muscovado sugar is a rarity here, but is available from the Essential Ingredient. It's a very dark brown sugar with a strong molasses taste; I imagine that regular brown sugar and a tablespoon of molasses would be a fair substitute.

Recipe 2. Simple Summer Pasta
chopped ham
ripe tomatoes
fresh basil
penne or spirali

Peel tomatoes, chop roughly. Mix with ham and shredded basil. Toss through hot cooked pasta. Serve sprinkled with parmesan, with a green salad.

this is more of a concept than a recipe, so no quantities. I used 4 tomatoes, half a pack of penne, and 150g ham today.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Some salads

I'm still feeling a bit overwhelmed by Tetsuya, but I suppose life must go on. We've had lamb steaks marinaded in lemon, garlic and herbs. I made a bean salad. That was Tuesday. On Wednesday I ate low fat hotdogs with lots of sauerkraut. And I marinaded some chicken fillets and made a chickpea salad today.

Recipe 1: Mixed Bean Salad
200g fresh green beans
1 400g tin of mixed beans
2 large shallots
6 large sundried tomato halves (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Steam green beans until just tender; refresh in cold water immediately. Drain and rinse canned beans. Mix both lots of beans, chopped shallots and chopped sundried tomatoes in a serving bowl. Mix oil, vinegar and salt in a small jar and shake well. Pour over salad, and mix well.

Notes: I like my salad dressings very acidic; a higher proportion of oil is more traditional. That pack of sundried tomatoes I bought before Xmas is still making appearances. I think it goes rather well with the tinned beans.

Recipe 2: Caramelised Chickpea and Orange Salad
1 400g tin of chickpeas
1 medium onion
1 large orange
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon plus a teaspoon of white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt

Slice onion in medium coarse half rings. Blanch with boiling water, drain and sprinkle over vinegar and sumac. Leave for at least an hour to rest. Rinse and drain chickpeas; peel and slice orange, and mix in a heat resistant bowl. Heat sugar, water, salt, vinegar and chilli in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved, then boil until caramelised to a golden brown. Tip caramel over chickpea and orange mix, and stir well. Add onion. Leave for an hour or so before serving to let the caramel toffee dissolve into the vinegar.

Notes: I wish I'd had a large bunch of continental parsley to mix with this. I had to be content with serving it on a bed of lettuce.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Pizza and Icecream

Well, I can't compete with Tetsuya...

Tonight we had a quick pizza and icecream scratch meal. I made a pizza sauce, and we topped our wholemeal mini pita breads as we pleased. I had one with kalamata olives, anchovies and red capsicum, and one with ham, pineapple and home-pickled jalapenos. And then I had some of that Gundowring toasted walnut and honey icecream, with a fresh fig drizzled with coffee blossom honey.

The pizza sauce recipe uses oven roasted tomatoes again - this is one of my favourite ingredients, I nearly always have some on hand. I often overbuy fresh tomatoes, not knowing whether we'll eat enough salads, or if the bloke will make enough sandwiches to use them all up. Every week I roast any that remain. They go in all sorts of things - substituting for tinned tomatoes, making simple pasta sauces, or just used as a side dish.

Recipes for pizza sauce and pickled jalapenos follow.

Recipe 1: Pizza Sauce
4 oven roasted tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon each dried oregano and basil
Peel tomatoes and squish well. Mix in other ingredients. Done!

This makes enough for 2 standard shop bought pizza bases or large pita breads.

Recipe 2: Pickled Jalapenos
20 to 30 jalapeno chillies
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups water
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt

Choose chillies that are fresh, firm, and free of blemishes. Rinse well and allow to dry. Remove tops and slice chillies. Tightly pack the chilli slices into sterilised jars.

In a medium saucepan, combine the vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a boil and pour over the chillies. Seal the jars and store in a cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks before serving.

Note: This recipe came from a chap who goes by the name of "chilliman" at my chess site. He uses habaneros, and pickles them whole. If you do this, cut a couple of slits at the top of each chilli to let the vinegar mix permeate. Also, it's not a bad idea to wear latex gloves. Wiping your eyes after cutting up chillies is not a happy thing.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

At Tetsuya's

I finally made it to Tetsuya's. This was a gimme for my 101-1001 list, as we had it planned already. But it's something I'd been meaning to do for years, and I consider myself lucky that Tetsuya is still there. He could so easily have retired, or moved to London or Tokyo. But he's still there - moved from Rozelle to the city centre, in a heritage building that used to house a Japanese restaurant. The Japanese gardens are lovely - we had a view onto one with a large water feature - and the old stone house has several separate rooms, with modern artworks scattered around.

It cost a bomb, and it was worth it. Although the atmosphere and service were not quite up to the ideal of 100% perfection, the food and wine were incredible. Not being wine experts, we chose the wine flight to go along with the dégustation menu, and were very glad of it. The food was spectacular, and extraordinary, and delicious. The wines were always a perfect match, and the sommelier was charming and funny in a very Australian style.

It's currently $195 for the food, and $95 for the matching wine flight. The menu is fixed, but they consult with you about any individual allergies or strong dislikes. The meal stretched out over four hours, with 14 courses, with 10 accompanying wines - in 60ml serves. Full glasses would be very excessive! The service was very good for 95% of the time - professional and unobtrusive delivery, with friendly and helpful information about the details of each course.

Menu and details are below the fold.

0. Bread rolls with truffle & parmesan butter.

1. Cold Corn Soup with Saffron and Vanilla Icecream

A half martini glass of velvety, savoury, and delicious soup. The icecream is not sweet, of course. The bloke, who hates corn, got a mushroom consomme.
2. Smoked Ocean Trout and Avruga Caviar
Accompanied by chilled Tamano Hikari Sake, Kyoto region.
This was a disc of chopped trout, with a smooth layer of tiny caviar on top, and a poached quail egg. A lovely mix, simple and classic. The waitress said it was a scallop mousse on top, but it wasn't.
3. Leek and Crab Custard
Accompanied by a very floral riesling; I don't have a record of which.
A very delicate, almost junket textured, savoury custard with little shards of caramelised leek and a large chunk of spanner crab at the bottom. A divine variant on chawan-mushi.
4. Scallop Carpaccio with red wine vinaigrette
And a 2007 Maverick Hill Riesling, Eden Valley SA, more citrussy and spicy than the previous.
The single scallop was shaved thin, and served with a microherb salad. The texture was almost crunchy, and the vinaigrette included some pearls of finger lime which highlighted this beautifully.

5. Confit of Petuna Tasmanian Ocean Trout with Konbu, Daikon & Fennel; Green Salad.
2007 Henschke Joseph Hill GerwurtzTraminer, Even Valley SA.
Tetsuya's signature dish, by all accounts. This was a more substantial chunk of fish than the previous mouthfuls. Crusted in konbu powder, layed over the daikon and fennel shards, it was divine. The konbu is quite assertive, and adds a meaty umami edge to the fish. The simple green salad was very welcome as a refreshing balance.
6. Raviolo of Queensland Spanner Crab with tomato and basil vinaigrette
2005 Pierro Chardonnay for Tetsuya's, Margaret River WA.
This one was very nice but not mind-meltingly brilliant. The single raviolo was more like a steamed wonton than pasta. The crab was fresh and sweet and the light tomato salad dressing was delicious.
7. Steamed Baby Abalone with Braised Oxtail in Orange
2006 Felton Road Pinot Noir for Testuya's, Central Otago NZ.
A real wow in the mix of textures, an ultimate surf'n'turf. The chewy abalone with a hint of the sea and the soft braised meat with the subtle orange flavour, and the pinot noir melded the flavours brilliantly. But abalone is still tough, it's an overrated ingredient in my opinion.
8. Twice Cooked Deboned Spatchcock with Caper and Olive Jus
2003 Parker Estate Terra Rossa Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra SA.
A pillow of baby chicken leg meat, in my opinon rather overwhelmed by the very sharp and salty jus. Some strips of eggplant softened it and helped the blend, and the rich red wine also helped meld things. This one was only "good", and the wine arrived a bit too late.
9. Grilled Wagyu Beef with lime and wasabi
2005 The Steading Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro, Barossa Valley SA.
A return to amazing! The wine was possibly the most delicious red I've ever tasted - I want a bathtub of it. The beef was utterly tender and rich, and the classic japanese pairing with wasabi was beautifully enhanced with a sliver of ponzu jelly.
10. Comte with lentils
A single spoon of sweet puy lentils, with a fluff of grated cheese. A slightly odd termination of the savouries.
11. Marinated Peach with Vodka & Peach Sorbet; Summer Pudding
2005 Tamar Ridge Botrytis Riesling, Tamar Valley, Tas
A small martini glass of perfectly ripe white peach and a divine soft pink sorbet. Heaven. And a second glass of deconstructed summer pudding - tiny cubes of soaked bread and berry jelly, mixed through actual berries, with a soft tangy sweetened cream on top - perhaps a crème fraîche? Lovely. Better than mine, though I guess Tetsuya doesn't resort to frozen berries.

12. Banana Mousse and Caramel Icecream
(dessert wine continued) I can't say much about this, as I hate banana, but it looked good! My substitute was an amazing chocolate mousse, served with a soft compote of cumquats and some citrussy jelly.
13. Chocolate Terrine with Marscapone and Cognac Anglaise
Romate Perdo Ximinez Cardinal Cisneros, Jerez, Spain
A powerful, knock your socks off, dark, sweet, raisiny sherry matched the thick dark chocolate terrine to perfection. This was a very rich finish.
14. Tea, Coffee, petit fours
They forgot our petit fours! We didn't bother to remind them, as we were so very, very stuffed full. I had a lovely fresh mint tisane; the less caffeine-affected tell me that the coffee was good but not outstanding.

Apart from the little service glitches mentioned, the other minor annoyance was that the room was too loud. But I still feel that it was worth it for the sheer artistry of the food and wine. Would we do it again? Oh yes indeed - but I'm not in a great hurry at those prices. Maybe for my 50th birthday...

Friday, 4 January 2008

A post below the fold

Here is the beginning of my test post with a "read more" link.

And here is the rest of it. Not much, but it seems to work. Unfortunately, it now puts a "read more" link at the bottom of ALL posts, and it seems this cannot be helped. Or maybe it can?

I found how to do this from this site.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

101 things in 1001 days

It's a simple plan: make a list of 101 things that you want to do in the next 1001 days. They must be specific, measurable things - you need to know exactly whether to check an item off, or not. Some should be easy, and some should require more effort. You can include habit changes, but only if there is a specific measure of success. I stumbled on this idea and liked it immediately - and even more when icanhascheezburger mystically endorsed my plan! Best of all, I worked out that if I start tomorrow, 4th January 2008, then I can finish it on my birthday, 1st October 2010.

It's surprisingly hard to think of 101 things, so number 1 will be "finish making the list"! I'll make that my first achievement for tomorrow... Maybe. I still need to specify success criteria for some of the vaguer ones, so I won't cross that off until I have it on my spreadsheet.

And now I've learned how to hide bulky posts, the list is hidden below the fold.

The List
1 see 12 movies in the cinema
2 go to a Blues festival each year
3 see something at the Erindale theatre
4 see Spamalot
5 see an art exhibition
6 go to live theatre 12 times

7 learn how to put posts “below the fold” on blogspot First! (4/1/08)
8 give away 101 things (not books or clothes)
9 get my taxes up to date
10 tidy and discard unwanted old food magazines
11 make a will
12 get my personal papers filing system sorted out
13 fix & update choir website regularly
14 clear out all the stuff behind the couch & on kitchen bench
15 give away 101 books to good cause
16 do my taxes on time each year
17 take 101 items of clothing to the charity bin
18 sort out my digital photos – labels, albums

Fitness & Health
19 get under 80kg
20 get under 85kg
21 walk the two bridges 3 times
22 cycle round the scrivener dam basin
23 walk up Mt Ainslie
24 go for a walk 6 days a week for a month
25 do a season of yoga classes in 2008
26 jog around block without stopping
27 swing dance regularly
28 get under 75kg
29 try some new physical activity
30 do a season of yoga classes in 2009
31 do yoga outside of class
32 walk up Mt Ainslie without stopping
33 go for a day walk in a National Park
34 go without sweets & desserts for one month

35 eat at Tetsuya's - Jan 5th, 2008.
36 go to 6 Slow Food events
37 make my blog recipe & review indices
38 attend some sort of food festival
39 make marmalade or jam
40 maintain my food blogging - at least 101 new posts!
41 try 10 new (to me) restaurants in Canberra
42 take a cooking class
43 do a wine tasting class
44 make a Christmas pudding

45 have a bath in my house
46 mulch side garden beds
47 prune dead & annoying tree branches

48 donate $10 per unfinished task to Amnesty International
49 review list of 101 things in Jan 2009, allow swaps
50 think of 101 things to do (with criteria) - finalised 6th Jan 2008.

51 learn a blues/jazz classic
52 go hear some live music that is not blues, folk or choral
53 do an AMEB voice exam
54 learn to play a simple blues piano piece
55 learn to sing with a microphone
56 learn music typesetting
57 learn a classical aria
58 do an AMEB theory exam
59 sing in 5 choir concerts
60 appear in a burlesque show

61 private
62 private
63 private
64 private
65 private
66 private
67 private
68 private
69 private

70 read or re-read 24 popular science books
71 improve my chess (GK rating routinely over 1400)
72 do a motorbike rider skills class
73 have a professional massage 5 times
74 learn better photography
75 make some candles
76 ride my motorbike around the Cotter loop
77 add 101 books to my facebook library

78 have a long weekend in Melbourne
79 go snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef
80 have a quiet weekend away with the bloke
81 renew my passport
82 travel in Tibet and China
83 visit Kakadu
84 have a weekend down the coast with the girls
85 swim in the ocean, with surf
86 go camping somewhere
87 learn some Mandarin (101 words/phrases?)
88 take a longer motorbike ride
89 take a train across the Nullarbor

90 get better at SQL
91 tidy work computer desktop monthly
92 spend time properly learning a topic
93 get better at Java
94 learn to use Eclipse for web services
95 read 3 tech books cover to cover
96 go one whole week without procrastinating
97 make a work plan in Jan 2008
98 clean private stuff off work computer
99 do 3 monthly reviews of work plans
100 be more outgoing in asking for help
101 recover fun of programming

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Chicken rollups

I sort of forgot about the concept of chicken rollups. It's been ages since I made any. Today I was actually looking for kangaroo at the supermarket, but they were out of stock. Then I saw the chicken breast schnitzel pieces on special.

Recipe: Chicken Rollups
4 pieces chicken schnitzel
1 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
4 teaspoons pesto
4 sundried tomatoes
4 fetta-stuffed baby peppers
8 mini-skewers or toothpicks
Pound out chicken breast pieces to even thinness with a mallet. Juice lemon, and combine with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Marinade chicken in this mix for an hour or so, and soak the toothpicks in water.

When ready, smear a teaspoon of pesto over each one. Add a chopped sundried tomato and a chopped fetta-stuffed baby pepper at one end, roll up and secure with a couple of toothpicks. Place in a shallow ovenproof dish, pour remaining marinade over, and bake at 180C for 20 minutes.

Notes: Serve with a green vegetable, using some of the lemon/oil/chicken juices as a dressing. And of course you don't have to have fetta-stuffed baby peppers! Other nice options to stuff your rolls with include baby spinach leaves, herbs, other cheeses, spring onions, basil leaves, olives, prosciutto... It's not a bad way to use up odds and ends of antipasti. Ham and cheese is very traditional.

Christmas Dinner Risotto

As Christmas 2007 slides off into the past, and a new year begins, it's time to clear out the fridge. A risotto (aka "goop" round these parts) is a good way to use things up, and is also very soothing on the delicate hungover stomach. Of course it's a two part operation, because you have to make the stock at least a day in advance. It's worth it - this is a real Christmas dinner: roast turkey with sage and onion stuffing, in a risotto form. A drizzle of cranberry sauce on top is fun to complete the gustatory illusion.

Prep Recipe: Turkey Stock
1 cooked turkey carcass, plus any skin and meat you can spare.
1 large onion
1 large carrot
2 bay leaves
a good handful each of sage, thyme, and rosemary
a dozen peppercorns
Cover carcass with water, bring to boil and skim scum. Add vegetables and herbs, reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 hours,topping up water if it seems necessary. Strain, and discard solids. Return stock to pan, and boil vigorously reduce to 3-4 cups. Pour into a narrow container and refrigerate, remove fat when cold.

Note: All the bones, plus the wings, from a large "buffe" piece will easily make 4 cups of rich jellied stock. Of course you could choose other vegetables or herbs; this is just what I had handy.

Recipe: Christmas Dinner Risotto
4 cups rich turkey stock
2 cups white wine
1 & 1/2 cups arborio rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium leeks
6 large shallots
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked turkey
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Heat up the stock with the wine. Clean leeks well, discarding coarse greens, but keeping the inner light green part as well as the white. Chop leeks and shallots finely. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and toss in leeks and shallots. Saute gently for a couple of minutes, then add rice and continue to cook for another two minutes, stirring constantly.

Add a half cup of the hot liquid, and keep stirring until the stock is absorbed. Repeat this, adding half a cup of hot liquid and stirring, until the rice is done - about 25 minutes. Taste a grain now and then towards the end to get the time right. Add the turkey, herbs, salt and pepper with the last half cup of stock. When all is done, stir though the parmesan and let it stand for a couple of minutes before serving.

Notes: Risotto is a lot less precious than you might think from reading recipes. You can actually step away from the stove for a couple of minutes to grate some cheese, chop some herbs, or whatever. It is, however, absolutely essential to have a good rich stock; risotto turns out delicious or nasty depending almost entirely on this one factor.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy New Year!

But first, I have to lose the hangover. Why, FSM, why? I only had some champagne. I even diluted it into pseudo-bellinis with Bundaberg Peachee. I usually don't like soft drinks, but this one isn't outrageously sweet. I've been taking it to parties as my designated driver drink.

Last night was a potluck, with lots of singing - mostly attended by choir people, of course. We were lucky with the dinner balance. Other people supplied antipasti, quiche, frittata, salad and cupcakes. I took a hot artichoke dip, and a tiramisu - recipes to follow. The dip was inspired by Beth, who served her variant at her Xmas party. She gave me the approximate recipe verbally, forgetting the quantities, so I googled and found a lot more, and made one up. I must get her real recipe soon. The tiramisu is an old standard, though I did check my Italian cookbook as a reference for quantities. People liked it a lot, yay!

I made the tiramisu first thing in the morning yesterday. I was still half asleep and whisked all 4 egg whites, though I only needed 2. So I decided to make random macaroons with the other half of the bowl. Macaroons are an extremely forgiving biscuit, in that a random recipe will almost certainly work. All you need is egg white, sugar, and ground nuts or coconut. If you vary the quantities, they'll come out flatter or rounder; crispier or chewier; moister or drier; but as long as you're happy with a surprise texture, you'll be fine. These ones came out flat, slightly moist, and chewy.

I took the tiramisu photo at the party, as I wanted to show the layers. And explained this weird action by talking about my blog. At that moment, it finally dawned on me that "the Canberra Cook" might sound rather arrogant. I'm not the only cook in Canberra, duh. As I actually meant it, my blog should be a useful resource for all you Canberra region cooks out there. Oh well, too late to change now. I just added a note to my profile, though.

I have one more recipe to add - a potato salad that I made a couple of days ago. We've been grazing this week rather than having formal meals; and in this hot weather it's nice to have salads ready in the fridge. I used a lot of tarragon - apart from the chopped leaves, the greenery garnish in the picture is yet more tarragon. I have it by the bucketload. It loves the heat, and is growing like the clappers. Tarragon is a good Canberra garden herb - while it appears to die totally in the frost, it springs back to life.

Recipe 1: Hot Artichoke Dip
1 tin artichoke hearts in water
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated parmesan
2 small cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Rinse the artichoke hearts well and squeeze dry. Chop roughly. Put everything except the paprikas into a blender and whizz until well mixed. Pour mix into an oven safe serving bowl, sprinkle the paprikas on top, and bake at 180C until warmed through and nicely browned. Serve hot, with pita chip and celery sticks for dipping.

Recipe 2: Tiramisu
450g marscapone
4 egg yolks
2 egg whites, whisked to stiff peaks
150g icing sugar
200g Italian sponge finger biscuits
200 ml strong coffee
100ml marsala, plus 2 tablespoons
100ml coffee liqueur
1/4 cup finely grated dark chocolate
Beat egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy. Mix in marscapone and 2 tablespoons marsala, and beat well until smooth. Fold in egg whites gently. Mix coffee, marsala and coffee liqueur in a shallow bowl.

Assemble tiramisu by dunking sponge fingers in the liquid for a few seconds. Make a layer of them in the serving bowl. Top with some of the cream, and repeat dunking and layering to end up with a top layer of cream. Sprinkle grated chocolate thickly over the top.

Notes: It's a good idea to do a test lay out of the biscuits in the serving bowl, just to see how many layers you will need. I had three, but if your bowl is wider and shallower so you only use two layers, then you'll need more chocolate for the top. Also, I usually top it with cocoa, but I had this new microplane grater, see...

Recipe 3: Orange Macaroons
2 egg whites, whisked.
150g almond meal
50g vanilla sugar
1/2 teaspoon Boyajian orange oil
1/8 cup candied orange peel
Mix all well. Blob onto a silicon baking sheet, allowing plenty of room to spread. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Notes: It's traditional to put them on rice paper; indeed, it's essential if you don't have a silicon mat. Also, candied orange peel, as opposed to "mixed peel", is available only from specialist foodie shops. So is the classy orange oil. But macaroons are forgiving, remember.

Recipe 4: Tarragon & Mustard Potato Salad
1 kg new potatoes
3 hardboiled eggs
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon leaves
4-6 shallots, finely chopped.
Boil potatoes until just done - about 20 minutes. Mix shallots, tarragon, mayo, vinegar and mustard in a large bowl. Toss drained potatoes into the mix while still hot, stir well. Refrigerate, and top with quartered hard boiled eggs before serving.

Notes: I like to keep the peel on the potatoes, and I really mean shallots, not spring onions. This is a very strongly flavoured salad that goes well with sausages and sauerkraut.

Cooking today: turkey risotto, and maybe a bean salad, as long as I revive enough. Vegemite toast and Berocca for 1pm breakfast...