Saturday, January 25, 2014

This week's compost

1.      Caffeine strips: just what are the risks and the rewards?

‘Clearly, ingesting one strip will give you less caffeine than drinking a cup of average tea, let alone a decent espresso. And it won’t taste anywhere near as nice.’

We are about to be swamped by this pernicious product. Baristas of Sydney unite!

2.      Chinese restaurant owner told to pull down two gigantic 50ft naked Buddhas from establishment's roof

‘The statues were a reference to a old Chinese wives' tale involving Buddhist monks, which features one of them scrambling over a wall to try some soup.

Buddhist followers, known for their peaceful ways, were so angered by their religions leader being used as an advert that they began protesting outside the eatery, demanding the figures be taken down.’

I, on the other hand, find them delightful and I reckon the Buddha would have ROTFL.

3.      Migrant stories given new life by visiting their cafe culture

‘The white china was monogrammed, the teapots solid silver and the mirrors and lighting art deco, but this was no posh city home. It was a typical Greek cafe in country Australia, fitted out in the 1930s and serving generations of hungry patrons for the rest of the century. The Busy Bee cafe in Gunnedah was a prime example, run by the Zantiotis family and open daily between 7am and 11.30pm.’

From Ross and Marie Kelly:

Here is an SMH publication of 20 photos of Maria’s family cafe. I love #4 for its street view (prior to her Uncle backing his FJ Holden through it!)  Number 4 shows Maria’s mum behind the counter as a 13 year old ice cream jockey, together with Grand Mum and  Uncle Peter (Panayoti?) and a fair haired local employee. Also # 7 gives a great view of the Busy Bee’s interior.

4.      Britain’s best fish and chips shops

‘With 2,000 of Britain's 10,500 chippies entering this year's awards (that number has increased by 10% each year for the past three years), there is clearly a growing emphasis on quality. Once-pioneering new-wave chippies, such as the Fish Shed in Topsham or the Tailend in Edinburgh, are no longer rarities. In 2011, the awards organisers Seafish introduced a "best newcomer" gong to acknowledge this growing network of new independents, who – often young fryers, many new to the industry – are bringing a foodist rigour to your cod'n'chips.’

Who knew that Britain has a National Federation of Fish Friers with its own training school!

5.      Burgers with beetroot: a great Australian tradition

‘it wasn’t until the 1940s that beetroot began regularly appearing alongside tomato, lettuce and onion on burgers. That was thanks largely to the openings of the Edgell and Golden Circle canneries in 1926 and 1947 respectively – but one of the more interesting theories, however, suggests the trend has its origins in pranking US troops ashore on R&R.’

You’d be surprised how many people I know find the idea of beetroot on a burger risible. They are even more aghast when I assert that it must be canned beetroot of a particular sweetness. The question is why do I continue to know them! I only take exception in this article to the disparagement of the soggy red stained bun. If I was to go all symbolic about it, why the absence of that bleed would deny us the thrill of imagining we were chomping on the raw flesh of a great Aussie beeve.

6.      Vale Perc McGuigan

Few people other than Perc McGuigan were witness to and a key participant in the past century of Australian winemaking, although he will probably be best remembered for his 26 years as the Branxton cellarmaster-manager of Penfolds' prized Dalwood operation.’

Sunday, January 19, 2014

This week's compost

1.      Sausage sizzle? Wait there’s a snag or two
‘Under regulations introduced by the Immensely Concerned But Tiny Government of the ACT, any organisation that holds more than five sausage sizzles a year, whether it be a Scout group or St Vinnies or a school trying to raise money to send students to a farnarkling competition, must now live in fear of a visit from a squadron or two of health inspectors. The regulations require any such community purveyor of incinerated snags to appoint one of its members a food safety supervisor. A prospective supervisor has to undertake a special course in the art of turning a sausage and pay $150 for the privilege, and he or she has to be contactable, by law, if the barbecue is fired up and the feared health inspectors drop by.’
How did I miss this story! Does anyone out there know if this ridiculous statute remains on the books? If Bazza O’Farrell attempts to introduce something similar in NSW I hope we sizzle savants will take a fork to legislators who vote thusly.

My first shot in the war is this pic attached of my indulgence at the Sydney Festival of a Woofy’s gourmet sausage sizzle.

2.      Separating an egg yolk

You may have seen this done before but not as cutely I am sure. I admit to not having tried it yet but am certainly going to give it a go. Thanks to the Kelly’s for finding and sharing J

3.      Food artistry of a different kind

4.      Don’t even think of knocking Nandos

‘On day six you take one look at the menu and stab yourself in the eye with a fork BECAUSE YOU CAN'T TAKE THE SODDING TEDIUM ANY MORE. By day seven you would kill for some Nando's chicken.’

Dudding the Dordogne with Brit understatement.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


'It was only to be had from the druggists as you nowadays buy an ounce of rhubarb'
 Moby Dick, or The Whale
Herman Melville

How odd, I thought. Why in 1851, the year Melville wrote his compendious novel, would you go to a druggist / chemist / pharmacist to buy an ounce of something that is a staple these days of the home gardener and long-time favourite of the home pie-maker?

A quick search in Google further intrigues. It makes an appearance as a medicinal in the Shennong Bencao Jing (the Divine Farmer's Materia Medica) attributed to the mythical Chinese sovereign Shennong, who was said to have lived around 2800 BC, though now thought to be a compilation of oral traditions written between about 300 BC and 200 AD. Here, from The Rhubarb Compendium, is a description of its uses in Chinese medicine today.

The primary result of rhubarb root as an herbal medicine is a positive and balancing effect upon the digestive system.  Rhubarb roots are harvested in the fall from plants that are at least six years old. The roots are then dried for later use. The root is used as an anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitumor, aperient, astringent, cholagogue, demulcent, diuretic, laxative, purgative, stomachic and tonic. Rhubarb roots contain anthraquinones which have a purgative effect, and the tannins and bitters have an an effect that is opposite that of an astringent.

Closer to home for Melville, I found these recipes for tincture of rhubarb in The American Dispensatory of John Redman Coxe M.D. (Sixth Edition 1825).

" Tinctura Rhei E.L.D.A. Tincture of Rhubarb
Take of rhubarb three ounces; Lesser cardamom seeds, half an ounce; Diluted alcohol, two pounds and a half. - Digest for seven days, and strain through paper. E

Tinctura Rhei Composita L Composite Tincture of Rhubarb
Take of rhubarb. sliced, two ounces; Liquorice root, bruised, half an ounce; Ginger, powdered, Saffron, each two drachms; Distilled water,  one pint; Proof spirit of wine, twelve ounces, by measure. - Digest for fourteen days and strain.

Tinctura Rhei et Aloes E, A
Tincture of Rhubarb and Aloes; formerly. Elixir Sacrum
 Take of Rhubarb ten drachms; Socotorine aloes, six drachms; Lesser cardamom seeds, half an ounce: Diluted alcohol, two pounds and a half. - Digest for seven days and strain through paper. E

Tincture Rhei et Gentiane E.A.
Tincture of Rhubarb and Gentian
Take of Rhubarb bruised, two ounces; Gentian root, half an ounce; Diluted alcohol, two pounds and a half. - Digest for seven days and then strain the tincture through paper. E

Tinctura Rhei Dulcis. A. Sweet Tincture of Rhubarb
Take of Rhubarb bruised, two ounces; Liquorice, bruised, Anise, bruised, each one ounce; Sugar, two ounces; Diluted alcohol, two pints and a half. - Digest for ten days, and filter.
This is an old prescription revived with slight alterations. It might as well have continued its slumber.

All the foregoing tinctures of rhubarb are designed as stomachics, and corroborrants, as well as purgatives: spiritous liquors excellently extract those parts of the rhubarb in which the two first qualities reside, and the additional ingredients considerably promote their efficacy. In weakness of the stomach, laxity of the intestines, diarrhoeas, colic, and other similar complaints, these medicines are frequently of great service."

I have no idea and could find no guide in the book at to what the letters A, D, E or L stand for.

I equally have no idea why Melville was familiar with the medical uses of rhubarb.

This week's compost

Hiya all welcome the New Year.

1.      Bruny Island

What a grim few weeks it’s been foodie posting wise. While waiting for some real news to come along, you might like to check out my short blog on my culinary toe-dipping in Bruny Island.

2.      The Oatmeal

And a cute cartoon from one of my favourite online cartoonists.

I remember when all Australian country towns had only one Asian restaurant, the Chinese, Happily I don't recall ever getting diarrhoea from any of them. MSG and anti-diarrhoeatic?

3.      New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s First Scandal: pizza with a knife and fork

“New York: The pizza arrived, steaming and delectable, a smoked-mozzarella-and-sausage pie presented to mayor Bill de Blasio like a gilded offering to a visiting caliph.
The New York mayor, on a pilgrimage on Friday to Goodfellas, the venerable Staten Island pizzeria, smiled, nodded at his slice and then proceeded to do the unthinkable: eat it with a knife and fork.”

This raises for me the question: Is it ever acceptable to eat a meat pie with a knife and fork. I don’t mean those gourmet fancy nancy kinda ones, I mean your Big Ben type pie.

4.      The milk revolution
“It could be that a large proportion of Europeans are descended from the first lactase-persistent dairy farmers in Europe,”

Quite a lovely article that shows how questions about food tolerances and practices can lead to understanding, or at least theorising, human migration patterns.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bruny Island

Just back from a five day stay on Bruny Island, Tasmania, celebrating a friend's birthday. As you can imagine it was a great occasion to eat, drink and be merry. Happily the group who went down are all massive foodies so much of the local fare was tried.

We stocked up for the trip at a locavore's heaven on the mainland out of Margate, Meredith Orchards and  Fruit and Veg shop (and you really do have to stock up; there is some local veg and fruit on the Island but it's not a range to satisfy a vegan let alone a desperate omnivore) and the Snug Butchery (tho I behaved and did not get a variety of native animal and bird cuts).

Among said fare was a triffic lunch in the beautiful timber and metal airy space of The Jetty Cafe at Dennes Point: I went for the perfectly tender roast quail with red cabbage and caramelised onions. Attached is a small provedore/general store that has excellent local produce - potatoes, garlic, organic eggs, walnuts, cherries, a selection of local wines, smoked meats and cheese, when I was there.

We had our fill of oysters from Get Shucked, fresh as you could want them from the beds not 100 metres offshore from the oyster bar itself, in pristine aqua waters, best on their own or at the most with a tiny squeeze of lemon though their on premises made Worcestershire sauce was excellent if you want to go the way of saucing that plump pillow of creaminess). 

We bought big from he Bruny Island Cheese Company of cheese with perfunctory but perfectly adequate names  like Tom and Bob but whose humbleness may be in part responsible for me forgetting my the name of my favourite which was a soft wine-leaf wrapped delight (I have this urge to call it Gert as in by sea). Suggestion to Cheese Co: Your sales and tasting area is tiny, let be honest, and when you have a tasting party of a dozen or more they tend to crowd out the rest  of us poor sods who can't see the cheese and have a devil of a time then purchasing them. At the same time you have a big dining area that was untenanted the mid-morning we were there into which you could shift said large tasting groups.

Also sampled smoked salmon (average) and salted sardines (excellent) from the Bruny Island Smoke House, and here too behaved and did not tuck into smoked native fauna. Note to the Smoke House: It's difficult to sample your fish if its shredded so fine that the toothpick with which one is to sample it cannot actually spear the morsel - frustration does not help the palate.

We ate our fill of Bruny Black Devil cherries, and youngberries and raspberries from the Bruny Island Berry Farm.

Dinners were accompanied by a variety of Tasmanian wines, not the least of which enjoyed was the Bruny Island Premium Wines Captain's Pinot Noir produced at the southernmost vineyard in Australia.

But you know me, I am up for non gourmet product whenever I can, particularly if it is as satisfying as a curried scallop pie from the Alonnah General Store on South Bruny, plump pink-tounged local scallops in a Clive of India curry powdered white sauce with a nicely crisp pastry (though the base it has to be said was a little damp and stuck to the foil baking cup) scoffed down in the car as the rain squalled outside.  Also pleasured myself post a strenuous walk up to the head of the Fluted Cape and back (brilliant views, echidna, wallaby, birds galore) with beer battered fish and chips at the Hotel Bruny, It was, however, a great disappointment that while there is wonderful seafood in the seas off Bruny, and indeed the Hotel Bruny promotes the pleasures of eating seafood caught by Dave on the day, there is nowhere on Bruny to buy it fresh. For a foodie like me this seems either sad or perverse or both. We also shared an plate of excellent crumbed squid and Chris tucked into the Hotel's Ocean and Earth  - aka surf and turf - of a thick juicy local breed scotch fillet topped with scallops and squid in a light garlic sauce.

 And of course I had to check out the CWA Morning Tea at the Barnes Bay Community Hall. As lovely a ballet of jams and pickles as you could wish for, and a spiced pear cake that rewarded the giving in thereto.

If you go and are on a budget, I recommend staying at The Hideaway on Victoria, Dennes Point.