Gnocchi with Green Beans and Peas

•April 11, 2016 • Leave a Comment

 

Gnocci Beans and Peas.

Sometimes the stars align, the planets seem benevolent and the sun shines, tonights dinner was one of those times and a huge huge thanks to Italy.

In a nutshell it was Gnocci, with a sauce of bacon, red onion, green beans, peas and pesto. And it was ripper.

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Pesto… Make your own

2 large bunches of basil all leaves stripped from the stems put into the bowl of a blender or if using a stab blender, into a deep bowl.

1/2 cup of very good olive oil

3 – 4 garlic cloves peeled and chopped, in the blender.

1/2 cup toasted pin nuts (please take the time to roast them, they taste better)

Blend until all is chopped and pureed, if necessary add a little more oil.

Stir in 1/2 cup grated parmesan

Stir in 2 tablespoons cream

Blend again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sauce

1 medium red onion sliced

2 or 3 anchovies

3 rashes of bacon diced into 1 cm wide strips.

1 tablespoon good EVO

Heat the pan, add the oil and then anchovies, bacon and onion. Fry slowly until the onion is cooked and the bacon done. Then add..

14 green beans topped and tailed and cut into 4 cm battons.

1 cup of frozen green peas

Continue to cook until the peas and beans are cooked aldente.

I use a gnocci I get from Mediterranean Wholesalers in Sydney Road Brunswick. I used one whole pack. I find it easier to cook the gnocci in a dish of boiling water in a frying pan, as it rises to the surface scoop it into the above sauce.

When all is scooped in, add enough pesto to make a decent sauce (about half).. Don’t cook it, it will split and the oil separate just stir it through.

I like a squeeze of lemon and some extra parmesan.

Delicious.

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CHICKEN WITH ROASTED MUSHROOMS.

•September 1, 2015 • Leave a Comment

There is the odd occasion when the creative juices flow and for some reason, dredged up from the very depths of taste and perhaps even some visual. Every now and then, something good comes of it. Last night I must have been inspired, it was delicious.

There was a tray of chicken thighs, some bacon, a bag of Swiss brown mushrooms, a red onion, some fresh garlic, a bottle of our very own PW Anchovy Essence, in the garden some fresh sage, a bottle of cream, a bottle of West Indian style Chilli Sauce, a bottle of good Balsamic.

My original idea was to wrap the beaten down thighs in bacon and grill them, but the thought that more flavour could be added was too enticing. As has happened many times in the past, I swung directions and let my eyes, taste buds and hands do dinner.

I think chicken thighs are a good thing, they are a much better flavour than breasts. I like to flatten them a bit, this can be done between two sheets of plastic and a food mallet, not too thin. I then took a tablespoon of Anchovy Essence, blended that with a couple of cloves of garlic I had crushed, added about eight sage leaves shredded, some black pepper. This mix I then spread on the thighs and rolled them, bacon covered the outside, these I laid in an oval white ceramic roasting dish accompanied by a large red onion that I had thick sliced into four, I then drizzled them with a small bit of olive oil and about half a cup of cream. Into the oven at 150 Celsius for an hour to slow cook. I then halved twenty medium mushrooms and after one hour, added them to the roasting dish, but not on top of the chicken, added some more cream, maybe a 1/4 cup and back to the oven for thirty minutes.

At the end of thirty minutes the mushrooms were cooked and I removed the chicken to a plate to keep warm, I then reduced baking dish with mushrooms and onions until the cream and liquids had become emulsified, a splash of balsamic and a dash of chilli sauce when the reduction had thickened. Placed the chicken on a serving bowl, put the mushrooms around the outside and poured the sauce over.

It was delicious served with rice.

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Tuna… in glass

•June 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

http://goo.gl/fPFdqh

Butter Chicken… so delicious

•June 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

http://goo.gl/4Qzh6B

The food world is fkuked and its all so sad.

•February 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

We are part of Asia, irrefutable fact. Our food influences now, often confused. Our need for speed is evident. We have no time.

As makers and sellers of food, based on best principles, we are obligated to ensure the survival of tradition, the best food to consume and an acceptance of what is todays world.

It is far from easy, often confrontational, frequently at odds with established ways. We see food, its making and consumption in a fluid state, at once changeable and often threatening. We are challenged to make something decent of the food we eat in a rapidly expanding international consumerist driven market.

Control of food has slipped from the hands of quality driven consumers into the hands of wealth driven consortiums, made to be an entertainment and lost to home and hearth. It is interesting to hear comments from leading food importers who defend their position and say that we have no right to complain should Australian industry be effected by cheap imports.

Wresting back this most basic, elemental need of mankind, from the hands of those who clearly do not share thinking peoples concerns for sustainability, organic, natural and delicious food is hugely difficult. Farmers markets, sustainability movements and a growing populace demanding accountability and honesty whilst encouraging and necessary, are slow moving.

Hard to see any time soon that television producers will give up the awful foodtainment money machine, or that multi national corporations will stop the array of practices designed to make food conform to the financial paradigm.

In order to argue this better, it is necessary to face some realities. Big business is never going to loosen its hold on food as a money making device, winding back the clock is not an option. Food as entertainment is here to stay. The only way is to move forward, hopefully with a more balanced view.

I have found it personally confronting to think that the foods, preparation, buying, growing and consuming have, over the years, been challenged, pushed aside and generally made to feel diminished. Meat is a great example. My own family were in the business of meat, my father, his father and my uncles all were engaged in buying, slaughtering and selling meat. They chose the animals destined for the table with care, only the best, they were treated with honour, slaughtered with dignity (by my father) and much enjoyed by those lucky enough to get the meat.

The situation in the meat world today is vastly different, the whole business has been impacted by (occasionally over zealous) meat and health inspectors, imposing regimes designed in other countries. With the inclusion of meat into what we knew as ‘grocers’ and which became ‘supermarkets’, things changed at a very rapid pace. The buying power of these huge companies was such that they could and did dictate to the food growers. Red meat with yellow fat became pink meat with white fat in order to fulfil a perceived market (but actually imposed) need, aided and abetted by feed lot owners who wanted to feed their animals with grain.

The world wide migration of people displaced by war, natural phenomena and the shifting tide of human desire began, every country on earth experienced population changes, Australia began by hosting huge numbers of Mediterranean people, people from UK had long since travelled to this land. Australia began to see people coming to live from all over Europe, each bringing with them their own take on food. Australia was never to be the same again. The USA was such a mixture that no one food style ever dominated, hence the amazing diversity of foods now found there.

While most people welcomed the changes… garlic, pasta, rice, French food, Greek food, Italian food, as a great change from the stodge of UK food, the down side was confusion. In the past we knew where we were going when we went into the kitchen, it was to cook some meat and three veg, now we stood at the doorway and pondered menu. We became vulnerable.

Communication played its part, Australia was a long way from Europe, news took weeks to arrive. Making a phone call to the UK was a very expensive affair. We watched on the movietone news the comings and goings on the other side of the world. We looked in amazement at the complex and beautiful Asian lands. The Government had in place the ‘White Australia’ policy to keep us free of coloured people. Never worked of course. Television arrived, fast transport, instant communication. We were no longer a quiet backwater, we were at the coalface, with no way of getting the coal.

This country seemed to be suffering a crisis of identity, Out with the old and in with the new.

Stability had been a part of the nation for years, now it was no longer there. After the war, Asian countries began to flood world markets with cheaper goods, quality was a thing of the past, now it was all about possession.

Health and health issues became more and more front and centre as the world developed, and yet diseases seemed to multiply. We became confused, indeed still do, as we are told by experts that food we had enjoyed for years was no longer healthy, sugar was bad, butter was bad, fat was bad. We had to learn to consume oil, we needed to retrain our cooking methods, no longer Salad Cream, but a Vinaigrette. No more meat and three veg. My mother was confused, who ever heard of frying chips in oil.

Cities were the places were food was happening, the divorce had begun, city kids thought that eggs came in brown paper bags and milk in bottles. No compulsion existed to relate to food, it was all there laid out in neat aisles for us to fill our trolleys with. We started drinking wine, we had dinner parties using Mastering the Art of French Cooking as the bible. City back yards no longer contained fruit trees, vegetable garden beds and tanks for catching the rain water. All gone. You didn’t need them, all food came in plastic packaging from supermarkets.

We were confused. Retrained.

Think www when it came… changed us? Take a look at any strip shopping centre, many shops closed, the variety of shops now much reduced. I found a ‘haberdashery’ shop in Gippsland, it was like stepping back in time, balls of wool, fabric by the metre and all you needed to stitch, knit and sew. They don’t exist in cities any longer. Who ever has time to knit?

Jet planes, international communication, the world wide web, electronics, so much so soon. Men walked on the moon, we lived longer (not necessarily better) so many changes and so fast. It’s no wonder we could not keep up, we did not know how. Gone the simple pleasure of Jonny the Greeks meat balls in tomato sauce, a bit of crusty bread and some rough red. Too much meat, Jonny was Greek, so way too much olive oil, bread was high carb and rough red indeed!

The down side of a confused and bewildered society is that it begins to lack the will or even the desire to succeed, it begins to develop the prisoner mentality and simply become compliant, losing taste for life. This alone opened the doors to much that is now despised. We were told by the Governments of the day, ‘export or perish’, the opposite to that was import and make money. Its hard to tell someone on one hand to export without allowing imports. And the imports were terrible. Our market was flooded with foods that were less than amazing and avaricious business people very soon began to see opportunities to make money… feed lots, growth hormones, chemical fertilisers, spurious growing and manufacturing all began to be accepted. We saw things like milk undergo the most amazing changes and even today it continues. To the amazement of many, simple pure milk is now banned!!

Along side all of this grew a controlling infrastructure of ‘experts’ who deemed such things as hand cured ham, pure milk, organic vegetables as unfit or improper for human consumption. We witnessed increasing number of people who were gluten intolerant, nut allergies and a growing list. We see these ‘health’ officers growing in power with authority to destroy perfectly good food and close business down. We see food/health officers now with amazing power. This is of course aided and driven by much of the media who dig for news stories.

Having painted a picture that is far from illuminating, it still begs the question, where too from here? My perception is that it is impossible to go back, indeed who would want to, whilst we may yearn for older slower more halcyon days, there was down sides with them too… medical science, little or no equipment to help the busy housekeeper, a very limited cuisine, travel, communication, all less than thrilling. We need to move forward, accept that the world has changed and grown, but make it a better world.

It would seem that the most obvious issue that moves the world today is money. Big business is ever wanting to make greater and greater profits and the investors (us) demand it. Look at clothing, we spend more and more money every year, quality of the garments is awful, but since they are most likely only wanted for less than a year, who cares. Clothing is made in Asian sweat shops where it seems clear that workers are exploited. We follow the dictates of large supermarket chains who have clearly manipulated markets to their own ends. Because of the enormous fear of litigation, the costs, the resulting chaos people are loathe to follow this path. Take a look at the reactions of the big business legal teams, they will immediately issue legal summons should even a whiff of anything threaten their bottom line.

How to fix this, it is perhaps best not to see this matter as ‘broken’ just different. The era of tough and efficient Government it seems is done, we don’t like dictatorial leaders, yet this seems to offer one of the best means to control. The down side of that is Governments like the new income cycles and will be loathe to reduce it. Yet it could be one of the results. It is clear too that Health authorities at every level need to apply across the board regulations in a fare and even handed way. The Food administrations (FoodStandards in Australia) need to be much more rigorous in the way they control such things as labelling laws. The current situation with berries out of China is a case, clearly the issue there is exploitation of a loose regulation to not have to say the country of origin.

In the end it is not hard to see that social orders we now have it is going to change, that two groups will emerge, on the one hand those who simply have no way around issues of time, finance and the need to shop economically, on the other those who are determined to pursue quality, sustainability and natural, have the time to do so and the money. The cradle to grave care many expect does little to engender a need to follow a way of living independently and sustainably.

The changes we are now seeing, the proliferation of Farmers Markets, engendering in food growers and manufacturers a more caring and determined punter who does all they can to push natural product. Slowly because of many issues that are being thrust at Government, regulation will change and we will see situation that are not pitched at international money, but at ways to sustain and maintain living standards.

I would love to offer a solution to make it all right. There isn’t one. There is bewilderment and confusion all set against rapid change. How this will all play out is anyone’s guess. Yet I suspect that unless we do address this problem, then the Earth will one day simply shake us off. We have become too hard.

Skirt and Flank Beef Steak

•September 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Flank Steak and Skirt Steak ARE different.

They do both come from the same region of the beast, the bottom of the stomach, the skirt is towards the front of the animal and the flank towards the rear. The skirt is a long thin strip of beef and the flank is more ‘steak’ like. Both are full flavoured and both need to be treated with respect or both will give a very tough result. However, in Australia this whole thing has become a bit fraught and it is very hard to find both, you will find Skirt, but rarely will you find Flank.

Skirt Steak before marinade

Skirt Steak before marinade

Regardless, Flank and Skirt are cheap or should be, cheap cuts of meat. It is a dry almost fat free piece of heavily grained beef and will require care to both prepare and cook. It is best marinaded for a good few hours and then quickly cooked on a grill plate, BBQ or under a griller.

The flavour of the steak is great, very rich, beefy and must be eaten rare. I suggest for a family meal, two of these will be enough to feed six to eight people. I paid $6.50 per kilo at a butcher in the Asian section of the shopping centre, each piece weighed about 1 kilo.

  1. Steak mallets are useful, I am not convinced that it is necessary, but if you have faith in the ability of the mallet to break up course graining in the meat, then do it. I have also read that it can help to retain the shape of the cut? I preferred not to use a mallet.
  2. The marinade I used was as follows.

3/4 cup of olive oil. I used EVO

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tblspn of Worcestershire Sauce (usually these sauces have sugar as part of the ingredient)

1 tblspn of soy sauce (replaces the salt)

2 cloves of garlic chopped

1 tblspn of chopped thyme leaves

1 desertspoon of dijon mustard

Mix all together and pour over the steaks that you have placed in a non reactive dish (I used a white ceramic dish) turn the meat a few times in marinade and cover with plastic film, place in the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours, but for preference overnight.

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  1. I cooked mine on a ridged grill plate that I knew I could heat to pulsating, the pan has been well used and so I had a surface. No need to oil. Put the plate on a good 4 – 5 minutes before and allow to heat well. Remove the steaks from the dish, which should have been allowed to be at room temperature for an hour or so before cooking. Use a piece of kitchen paper and pat dry. Lower onto the grill plate and cook for five minutes on high heat on each side. Remove the meat from the grill and place on a board, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Carve the meat across the grain in thin slices, the meat should be rare, not raw. Serve on the board. I would not suggest using the marinade as a sauce, it has done its work. Accompany with a good mustard, perhaps some caramelised onions and a salad. I served it with some smashed potato, small baby Pontiacs that were simply boiled, smashed with some olive oil, garlic, parmesan, chopped parsley, salt and pepper.

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Food/Memory

•July 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

What’s wrong with food today.
My family has a fat gene, everything they eat turns to fat. My Pop lived till he was 94 and in rude good health, consuming every bit of fat, butter, cream, cake, biscuit, potato he could lay hands on. He drank beer and whisky and smoked. Most of my Uncles, Aunties and assorted others were the same. Diabetes 2 was not heard of.

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My mother’s kitchen and the kitchens of most families in the 1950’s were uncomplicated affairs with the food being repetitive and simple. The cooking methods in the main uncomplicated and the use of well grown/manufactured product expected and delivered. Local preferred.

My family were butchers, my father assisted the slaughtermen. The animals killed for consumption in the Port Fairy region were all sourced from the Western District and a bit from the Wimmera. Pop and Uncle Syd did all the buying, inspecting the animals before they bought and hearing and seeing how they were raised.

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Vegetables were either grown or if purchased, grown by local growers, not much travelled great distances. Wheat and therefor flour was grown in Victoria and milled where it was grown. Butter was produced locally as was cheese. Additives like spices, salt, pepper were imported. Vinegar made in Melbourne as were biscuits. Vegetables and fruit were seasonal often home grown.
We often ate wild rabbits, wild duck and lots of seafood caught off the wharf and from small, very unreliable boats that bobbed around in the heavy swells. Just because my family had butcher shop, meant nothing. Mum and Dad grew most of the fruit and vegetables we consumed, fruit fell from trees in summer and into mums preserving jars as fruit, jams, pickles chutneys and sauces. Life was very different then.

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Some would say I am old enough to go back to first settlement! From my perspective I seem to have found myself born and raised during a time of amazing change, one foot in the past, yet embracing the future with all it offered, technology, speed, travel and rapid rapid change. Some might say a loss of quality. We maybe did hurl the baby out with the bathwater.
Reflection can be a dangerous thing, comparisons are usually odious. How can you say that the loaf of bread baked by Tommy Digby in Caddy’s bakers in the 1940’s was better than what is baked by bakers today, you can’t! You can say that Tommy’s loaf of high tin made from real flour, good yeast (rightly called sour dough starter) cooked in a wood fired old oven, compared to the ubiquitous sliced and yes, the majors offering of ‘real’ bread is not as good as Tommy’s was. Was the tin of Heinz Tomato soup in the 50’s, same, better, different to that in 2014?
I was amazed when I read an article about Pork, it was about the way that Pigs in Europe were raised and slaughtered and consumed by country people. My assumption was, based on what I saw in Port Fairy, that every pig, including the ones at Piggy Smiths farm, were given food scraps, lots of vegetables, grains and fruits, they turned out to be fat jolly affairs full of flavour. Indeed true that in the past, in European traditions, pigs were very well treated with food. By all accounts, todays pigs are not treated so well. But that’s a story for another time.

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Debutantes ball, supper dances, afternoon tea at the bowls and golf club, afternoon tea with Mum’s group of friends. I was born in times when people took on life in a much different way, more gentle, no dependence on electronics for example. In my young world not even the newspapers had an impact on me and the newsreels we saw at Pins Palace once a week were many weeks behind the event and of little relevance to a country kid in Port Fairy. More relevant was the day to day thrust of life and living that happened.
I look back with great enjoyment at the food we ate, Mum was an adequate cook, Mum’s sisters very good at various things. I ate home made home cooked 90% of the time. What we ate little of was, pasta, rice, noodles, what we ate lots of was wheat (in various forms) potato and pumpkin, cabbage, beans and peas. Tomato was in summer, stone fruits the same, although Mum would always preserve some for pies and tarts during the year. The rhythm of the seasons dictated the diet, even to eggs which were sometimes prolific, were preserved in abundant times, occasionally with disastrous effect.

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My point is that in the main our diets were free of chemicals, that cannot be said of todays world.
Do you enjoy pasta, its a chemical cocktail… look at
http://www.professionalpasta.it/source/pastarawmerials.html
Click on additives. It will surprise and shock you.
It’s not hard to draw the conclusion that the world was a different place, that what was consumed 50 years ago, was demonstrably different to what is consumed today.
Exciting thing is that there is a movement of people, who simply refuse to accept the foods, controlled by such companies world wide as Monsanto through their ownership of seed banks, to the same companies manipulation of genetics and the use of a variety of chemicals that are not natural. Monsanto have singularly been responsible it seems, for manipulation of foods for their own financial ends. The movement of people who reject this and are opting for chemical free, sustainable, organically grown is becoming bigger and bigger and with encouragement may be instrumental in reversing the trends of chemical lifestyles.
Whilst in the end I have no one else to blame but myself for getting Diabetes 2, I think that part of the blame must also be shared with things over which I had no control, the over indulgence in pasta and not in a balanced Mediterranean way, introduction of more rice, again not balanced. We ate bread, pasta, potato and rice, often in the same meal. We still loved cakes and deserts. What hope did I have? But the phenomena world wide of D2 is now well documented, and it may or may not be the extraordinary change of diet, the introduction of foods that had chemical additions. We stopped eating simple and started eating complex.
My cravings now have entered the phase where I want the foods of my younger life. Things like a great mashed potato hold more allure than a bowl of steamed rice. I embrace the simplicity of a good roast, cooked well (no issues of slow cook fast cook hot cook cool cook!!) a lovely soupy stew to dip my bread into, large bowls of salad made with the same dressing I have loved for years. My nose is often pressed up against the window of a bakery and my nostrils inhaling the aromas, sadly my taste buds and my other senses are often not working in sync and the actual consumption of these baked goods is sadly lacking.
So I engage with my taste buds, I engage with D2 and I hope that in the end, my diet is one that will allow me the grace of age and spending the rest of my life in relative good health.

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