The one where I do something I didn’t want to.

I am a bitter disappointment to my parents.

I know! Who would be upset with a daughter who’s prone to accidental arson? But when you have parents who are excellent fisherpeople like I do, my aversion to seafood is… Regrettable.

Have you ever been squidding? It’s possibly the funniest activity under the sun that doesn’t include a bouncy castle. There is nothing more hilarious than the Russian Roulette of copping ink in the face.

There’s also the pure relaxation of a day spent cruising around on the open water, reeling in whatever is biting. So when my folks bring home their catch of the day, I’m not usually interested. On the bright side, more for them! No, seriously. That’s my mother’s mantra. There’s usually a sigh involved.

However, in the interest of eating better,I’m forcing myself to like things I wouldn’t normally. I’m learning to love fish. Salmon, to be precise. Asian flavours are a great way to mask that fish taste, if it’s not your thing. It is, of course, recommended that you buy the freshest fish you can. Make friends with your local fishmonger, they will provide you with the best, sustainably caught produce. Or catch your own! Wheeeee!

IMG_5422

This is a great weeknight meal, quick and so easy to throw together. While the fish marinades, you cook the rice, while the greens blanch, heat the sauce. Done, dusted with less than 30 minutes real cooking.

Booyah.

Miso-Ginger Marinated Salmon

From Serious Eats

1/4 cup miso (I used the instant packets)
1/4 cup mirin
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced spring onions
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
4 salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl, then add the salmon and turn to coat. Marinate for half an hour, turning occasionally.

IMG_5423

In a frypan over medium heat, cook the salmon for 3 or 4 minutes each side. The sugar in the mirin will blacken a little bit, but its good. Trust me.

Restaurant-style Chinese Greens with Oyster Sauce

From Rasa Malaysia

Your favorite Chinese greens (I used bok choy and broccolini)
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 dashes of white pepper powder

Bring a pot of water to the boil. Add a couple of drops of oil to the water. Add the vegetables to the water and blanch for only 20 – 30 seconds, you only want them to wilt slightly. Place them on kitchen paper to drain and then place on a serving plate.

In a wok or saucepan, heat the oil and then add the sugar, oyster sauce, water and pepper. Mix well, then  pour over the vegetables and serve immediately.

IMG_5425

IMG_5426
IMG_5424

The sauce for the greens? So. Effing. Good. I just had ground black pepper (the powdered stuff that I normally wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole) in the cupboard, so I used a couple of dashes of that instead of the white pepper used in the recipe.

I would have happily drunk it with a spoon. It’s brilliant.

History lessons and eating pants.

If there’s anyone who enjoys a history lesson, it’s me. I discovered my love of all things past while at university. Too bad I was studying psychology…

It’s commonly believed that Australian history can be a little on the dull side. And while I too subscribe to this train of thought, it can’t be said that we don’t have our interesting characters. Scoundrels, thieves and general wrong-doers litter the history books and tv screens (thanks Underbelly), and add a little spice to our chequered past.

Named after a Kalgoorlie showgirl, and populated by ex-jailbird labour,Lalla Rookh was a mine site north west of Marble Bar in the early 1900’s. There was little positive about the town, except its mess hall. What better place to name a bar offering respite from the drudgery of the CDB and working day?

Lalla Rookh, at the base of Allendale Square (the ANZ Building) is part of the CBD’s burgeoning revival. Taking place along side Sentinel, The Heritage, The Trustee and the soon to open Print Hall, it’s probably the more casual of these venues, but certainly not the least impressive.

Following head chef Joel Valvasori on Twitter and Instagram had piqued my interest in the venue. The process of sourcing and tasting produce and wines; building and installing the kitchen had given a fascination insight as to how someone goes about creating a restaurant, and I was chomping at the bit to get in and experience it all for myself.

I convinced Wade to abandon his dinner plans, and dragged him out into a rainy Monday night. We went a little early, and were told we could sit anywhere – the restaurant was empty at this stage, so we opted to sit amongst the crowd in the lounge. Menus were produced, we quickly decided on a couple of glasses of red wine which wasted no time making their way to us.

The style of food is dubbed ‘La Cucina Westraliana’. When broken down to it’s bare bones, the menu is essentially ‘pub’ food. Schnitzel, steak, fish and chips and pizza, a little bit of pasta; kicked up a notch by Chef Valvosori’s traditional cooking techniques and the gorgeous local and seasonal produce. The venue is fancy enough to be a little bit ‘special’, but fussier eaters aren’t going to be intimidated by a complicated menu. In short – everybody wins!

Entrees were out in a heartbeat. The large juicy prawns were served with pickled cauliflower and thyme mayonnaise, which is fast becoming my favourite condiment. Who knew thyme and mayo made such a tasty combination?

The Farmers Board provided some wins – the Dellendale Cremeries churchill from Denmark was a highlight; and while I’m not the biggest cheese fan, I’d quite happily nibble away until I gave myself kidney stones.

The waiter who cleared our entrees strangely assumed that we hadn’t ordered anything else and so didn’t call for our mains, leaving us wondering if they were making the pizza dough to order.

However, once the error was realised, he explained what had happened and apologised profusely. Personally, I completely understand that mistakes happen, and so long as the staff is up front about it, I don’t mind. No harm, no foul.

Patrick, who heads up the front of house, patiently answered all of my annoying questions on how their first week of service had gone, and swap hospitality war stories with Wade.

Round two of red wines were ordered, and were again great choices.

Wade had settled on a steak sandwich, and I couldn’t resist the mushroom pizza. The steak was medium rare and tender, and the bread was sturdy soaked up all the juices beautifully.

But the stand-out for the night was without a doubt the pizza. The dough is perfection. Thin, crisp but not too much, and has a gorgeous flavour all of it’s own thanks to being cooked in a proper oven. The mushrooms were perfectly silky, with a good amount of cheese. Between mouthfuls, Wade admitted that it was better than most of the pizza he’d had on his recent trip to Rome, a compliment if I’ve ever heard one!

Patrick appeared again to take our dessert orders. The olive oil, manjimup walnut & orange cake and lemon scented fried custard were quickly delivered, and being a hardcore dessert fiend, I wasted no time getting stuck in.

Let me tell you this now. That fried custard? Hands down the most awesome dessert I’ve had in some time. Silky custard encased in a crunchy coating was stellar. Topped with tart blood oranges (and you know how much I love blood oranges), and served with sherbet hidden (surprise!) under a dollop of ice cream.

The custard is so good, that the cake barely got a look in. Poor cake. Though the bitter chocolate icecream served along side was also worthy of a mention, a great counterpoint to the cake.

If you head into Lalla Rookh (and I suggest you do), wear eating pants. You can thank me later.

Lalla Rookh Bar & Eating House on Urbanspoon

Spring! Sprang! Sprung!

It’s OFFICIALLY Spring. I know it’s still raining, but it’s ok. Before long, there will be deliciously sun dappled days for frolicking in fields, dusting off your nautical themed pashmina afghan for a jaunty sail on one’s yacht… Ok, yes, I’ve been watching too much TV. So, no one actually does those kinds of activities. But you know what? I think people should.

Weekends are usually spent running around, frantically playing Life Catch Up. Cleaning, shopping, running around. I vote that you spend one day doing something ridiculously, frivolously fun. For no reason other than you can, and why the hell not?

My awesome friend Jacqui from Where the Wind Blows Her has decided to do one new thing every month, and I’m 100% on board. I’m thinking trapezing, running around in the mud, sailing and mazes. I’m also planning on packing a picnic, a blanket, a really good book and going to lie in the sun (always with sunscreen, peeps) and just chillaxin’. Because doing nothing is good for the soul too.

The Urban Locavore box this month contained some beautiful potatoes and chorizo from Mondo’s. I couldn’t resist this savoury slice I found on the Fitness for Foodies blog, it’s practically good for you! It’s a great breakfast/lunch/on the go/picnic snack. I made it as a welcome home fridge-filler for my parents who had been away from a week – Frankie ate a third of it in a sitting.

Chorizo & Potato Bake

From Equilibre

2 chorizo sausages
4 large potatoes, peeled
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 bunch spinach
200g plain feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup finely grated pecorino or parmesan
4 free range, organic eggs
250 mls single cream
sea salt and cracked black pepper
Italian parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C.

Thinly slice chorizo and cook in a medium sized fry pan for 2 mins each side until browned. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Cut potatoes and sweet potato in half and place in a large saucepan of cold, salted water. Bring to boil and cook for 8-10 mins until just tender. Drain, cool and slice in to rounds.

Blanch the spinach in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 30 seconds and drain well.

Layer a third of the potatoes in the base of a greased 23cm springform tin lined with non stick paper. Layer spinach and chorizo, sprinkling cheese between each layer, and finishing with potato.

Whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper and pour over potatoes. Finish with a sprinkling of parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 mins. Remove foil and bake for a further 50 mins until set and golden.

Sprinkle with chopped Italian parsley before serving.

REVOLUTION.

Tomorrow is May 19.

Not too long ago, I was asked to chaperone (read: babysit) a friend’s boyfriend on a trip to the supermarket. He had been tasked with making cauliflower cheese. He was a 26-year-old engineer. Who didn’t know what cauliflower was.  Needless to say the rest of the trip through the supermarket didn’t go well, as the only thing he knew how to find was Coke and garlic bread. Seriously.

I’m aware that I’ve had a very lucky upbringing with food. I’m also aware that not everyone likes everything. But to not know what a common vegetable was? I was completely gobsmacked.

Turns out, this is a little more common than you might imagine. Kids growing up who can’t identify that milk comes from a cow. Don’t recognise vegetables. Who will not eat anything that doesn’t come out of a carton or a paper bag. Ask your friends who are teachers just how horrifying school lunchboxes are.

I love a sneaky take out as much as the next person. I’m the first one to beg for a bacon and egg mcmuffin if I have a hangover. But that’s not a way to eat. Every. Single. Meal.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow is May 19. Food Revolution Day.

It’s a concept being championed by Jamie Oliver. You don’t have to like Jamie to get behind this one.

We all know the stats about obesity, heart disease, diabetes. We also have been hearing the stories about the terrifying things that Americans are having their food filled with (pink slime – sounds delicious). It’s real, it’s serious, and it’s actually going to kill you.

Tomorrow. Visit your local farmers market. Talk to your local butcher. Go fishing. Make something from scratch. Anything. It doesn’t have to be hard, time consuming or complicated. Teach your kids, teach yourself that you and your body deserves more than what a deep fryer can give you.

Damn the man, save the Empire!
But make ‘the man’ food corporations, and ‘the Empire’ yourself. You get what I mean.

Local lovin’

lo·ca·vore

[loh-kuh-vawr, ‐vohr]

noun:

a person who makes an effort to eat food that is grown, raised, or produced locally, usually within 100 miles of home.
 

There’s a rather handsome man standing on my doorstep.
I’m beginning to regret still being in my pajamas. At 2pm. On a Saturday.

This is awkward.

His name is Paul. He is the founder of Urban Locavore, a local business that specialises in selecting a heap of amazing local produce, packaging it up in a lovely box, and delivering it to your door. The produce that gets delivered varies from month to month, costs $49.95 with a $5 delivery fee.

Talking to Paul, it’s hard not  to get caught up in his passion for the produce. It’s infectious.
The idea is one that he picked up while living in San Francisco, and brought it home to adapt to an Australian market.

‘Locavore’ was the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2007, essentially describing a movement of sourcing food locally that hasn’t had to travel far to get to market. It’s a good movement, supporting local businesses, farmers and producers. Everybody wins, huzzah!
Don’t get me wrong, I love French foie-gras, Belgian chocolates and Mexican tequila as much as the next person. Actually, I take back the tequila part. Chocolates yes, tequila, no. But I love doing the right thing by the WA economy more, and supporting the local guys who do such good work.

I stumbled across Paul and his vision on Twitter at the end of January on a recommendation from fellow foodies who recommend him with a religious fervor. So, I eagerly for his announcement of The February Box.
And I genuinely love every single thing in it.

I’m not a huge cheese lover, and goat has been exiled from my diet since my brother outgrew his dairy allergy as a kidlet. But my goodness, the goat feta from Ringwould is gorgeous. Perfect in Sunday’s baked eggs.


The porcini risotto mix from  Three Birds would make a perfect base for my creamy brie and mushroom risotto. Just sayin’.

Honey from Elixir… Once I stopped eating it from the jar, you mean? It goes in everything. Asian marinades, dressings, on yoghurt… It’s perfect.

Green ginger sauce from Pippali goes beautifully with simple white fish, Asian dishes or with those tortillas that everyone is going crazy for. It’s got a kick, though, be warned.

Finger limes are an Australian native fruit which, in all honesty, I had never heard of before. Shaped akin to a chili, but feeling and tasting like limes; the surprise is that inside, it’s like lime juice caviar. Seriously.
I used them to decorate lemon curd tarts, but Paul said he put it in his beer. Versatile, and worth picking up.

  

And then, the treats. Macarons from Maison Saint-Honore, dark almond and orange chocolate from Whistler’s Chocolate Co and red sparkling grape juice from Voyager Estate. All amazing. I refused to share any of it with anyone.

  

Urban Locavore is a great way to dip a toe into the growing WA food scene, and a great idea as a gift.
Do yourself a favour and say hello to Paul.
Though perhaps don’t wear your pajamas.

(Just to cover all of my bases, I paid for the box, these are genuinely my opinions, there’s no John Laws style cash-for-comments here. More importantly, no one would want to pay me!)