Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Stir fried seafood with rice & kimchee from Min Sok Chon. 1/116 Liverpool Street Sydney, 2000 [02] 9267 7798. Bitchin food for a tenner.

Simon & Holly chow down with a couple of Marrickville Mong Burgers.

Green chicken curry @ Thai Riffic, King Street Newtown. The Masaman was better.

Katie tops off Nick's birthday cupcakes. She da bomb.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Berrima for Christmas

Today was the first Christmas of the Coq au Vin, expertly cooked by Katie, and devoured by Yve, Nana, Katie and me. The weather is a bit dull here today, but that made all the kitchen work that much easier. Some fantatsic pavlova and strawberry mousse by Yve for dessert has knocked off round one. Now we've gotta break out the ham!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Makin (your own) Bacon

Bringing home the bacon

With sales of gourmet rashers on the rise, it seems Britons can't get enough bacon. Tim Hayward is no exception but, tired of shelling out a small fortune on the stuff, he decided to follow in his grandmother's footsteps and cure his own ...

Wednesday December 19, 2007
The Guardian

Tim Hayward and his bacon
Tim Hayward and his bacon. Photograph: Linda Nylind

According to a recent article in The Grocer the average Brit is now eating bacon three times a week and apparently this six per cent rise in sales is down to the growth in popularity of "premium and organic bacon".

Good news for bacon producers, but it should give foodies pause. Fashionably artisanal bacon from organic pigs can cost anywhere between £12 and £18 a kilo - about twice the price of the pork it is originally made from.

People have been salting pork since ancient Egyptian times. All over the world, from the beams of Tennessee cabins to the lofts of Parma, salt pork hangs drying.

It's not some high-tech mystery. Any peasant with access to a pig and salt has made bacon in whatever hut, yurt or hovel they called home. Heck, my granny salted pork in a council house. If she could do it, I thought, then so can I.

Day one: meat

Bacon used to be home cured in sides or "flitches" which, despite being a quarter of a pig, tempts me. In the end though, after a consultation with the butcher, I choose a 2kg piece of boned loin from an amply upholstered organic Tamworth. This will give me about 50 rashers' worth, much of which I plan to freeze in packets of eight.

Day two: sweet

Preserving processes fill cooks with trepidation, dicing as they do with putrescence. Even something as homely as jam making is a campaign of sterilisation against the terrors of mould and fermentation. This is why, somewhere along the line, salting meat became a process we handed over to experts.

Now, staring at a socking great lump of pig meat which I'm intending to leave lying around for a week, I'm suddenly and uncharacteristically nervous. I decide to call in some advice and phone Stephen Harris, chef at The Sportsman in Seasalter, near Whitstable. He's well known for his home-cured bacon and hams, even going so far as to make his own salt. Within minutes he has given me his own recipe for a sweet maple cure and made kind, reassuring noises.

Emboldened, I pour 250ml of maple syrup over the pork, coating it completely, and store it in the fridge overnight. Last thing before bed and first thing in the morning I turn the meat.

Day three: salt

I didn't realise there was quite so much to think about with salt, but Stephen is full of advice and unnerving zeal. We're going to need a fair bit. Granulated table salt has chemical additives to help it flow freely and the sexy Malden crystal stuff costs the same per gramme as cocaine. Sea salt though, particularly the moist French stuff called "sel gris", is pure, comes in big, crunchy lumps and is surprisingly cheap. I lift the pork out of the syrup and rub 300g of salt into it, like an exfoliating scrub. It's a worryingly beguiling sensation.

Day four: metamorphosis

Stephen calls. It's time to change the cure. I lift out the meat and rinse off the salt and syrup. There's been a distinct change. What was a pallid and flabby piece of pig has darkened and firmed into a texture that, for some reason, calls to mind Gordon Ramsay. It is definitely bacon. I work in 300g of fresh salt and pour over a further 250ml of maple syrup.

Day five: obsession

The sea salt doesn't dissolve in the syrup so, at least six times during the day, I plunge my hands into the cold liquid, lift up handfuls of salt from the bottom of the bowl and rub it into the meat. There's something calming about a process that spreads over days. In lulls at work, my mind strays to the fridge. I imagine the flavours working their way into the meat. My four-year-old is fascinated. I've been reading her Little House on the Prairie and she's become obsessed with storing food for the winter. She rushes in from school and immediately asks if she can "rub the bacon".

Day six: madness

Stephen says that, once the cure has been changed, the bacon can just stay in the fridge and only needs to be turned twice a day. Poor fool! How can he know? I'm now attending to the bacon at hourly intervals. At lunchtime I begin speaking to it. It is just before bed, when I'm setting the alarm for the 3am "turn and rub" that I realise things may have got out of hand.

Day seven: triumph

Washed clean of the cure and patted dry with a towel, the bacon looks like something in an 18th-century still life. The fat is creamy, the lean centre dark and lustrous. Bacon is unique among meats in its power to move the soul. Even sworn vegetarians can be swayed by bacon ... if they say they can't they're lying.

Stephen says the bacon can be soaked for a few hours if you prefer it less salty. I snort in scorn. He says it should be allowed to mature for two days - I let it mature for precisely as long as it takes me to sprint to the corner shop for a pack of thick, doughy, white-sliced.

I take off three slices with the staggeringly expensive Japanese yanagiba knife that I've sworn to use only for sashimi and slap them the hot pan. At first, I can't work out why it looks so odd until I realise that it hasn't immediately yielded a pool of milky water like a commercial rasher.

On an average day, the smell of bacon frying can make me salivate but the smell of my own has me howling like one of Pavlov's dogs. Finally I take my first bite. I'd describe the taste but that isn't half of the sensation. There's the knowledge that I've made it myself, the connection with centuries of food history, the towering feeling of having brought home the bacon without an ounce of hyperbole. I choke back a tear.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Chef Rules the Laksa Roost

The 'Chef & The Soup

I was up in Sydney today, and as is my habit, I got off at Central, and immediately paid a lunchtime visit to Happy Chef in the Chinatown Sussex Centre Foodhall.

Martin introduced me to the 'Chef a good fifteen years ago now, and their laksas have well stood the test of time. I've written about them once before on this blog, back in the dim dark, pre-blogger version of my ramblings, now sadly lost somewhere in cyberspace. My fave is either the seafood or seafood wonton laksas....heavy on the seafood, heavy on the coconut, pretty good on the chili (see last photo). And a decent serve to boot. All for a very reasonable nine bucks. A great feature of Happy Chef is their clothespeg based system of kitchen ordering. Sheer restaurant genius!

The Pegs and The Pleasure

My only gripe is with the Sussex Centre bar/drinks counter. It seems they are the only place allowed to sell non-food liquid in the food hall. And at $3.20 for a bottle of ginger beer, they certainly do exploit it.

While in London, I subsisted on the C&R Cafe in Rupert Place, Chinatown. While their laksas were great, and a welcome addition to my rota of lunchtime choices, they just don't come into the same universe as my mates in Sussex Street.

Now, the hunt is on for a suitable laksateria (?) in Hobart. Any suggestions?

Chili aftershock

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bennelong pays out :)

The former PM concedes his seat to Maxine. Australia becomes a better place.
Pic from

Date Description Wagered
05/09/2007 04:28 Single
O/0095416/0000001, Accepted , Decided
Bennelong (NSW), MCKEW, Ma... @ 2.40 (To Win)
Paid: 11.38
AUD 4.74

Scott wins on The Rodent's defeat. Beers on me tomorrow. Enjoy oblivion, Mr Howard.

The Robertson Pie Shop

Mmmboy. Real Robertson good.

On the way down to Wollongong earlier today, we stopped off at the Famous Robertson Pie Shop. With many awards plastered over their wall, we knew it was gonna be a landmark day on our pie tour of SE Australia.

First cab off the rank was the Steak and Kidney for me, and the Potato for Katie:
Both impressed on first bite. The kidney was cooked perfectly, in a good gravy and steaming hot. Katie enjoyed her spud special, but I think remains a loyalist to the regular beef. Not to be deterred, ding ding and round two for me was the chunky beef, with Katie choosing a fine custard tart, complete with smiley cinnamon face (gday Ben):
The beef was great, but I must admit I preferred the mixed texture of the S&K. Pastry great all round...a real pie crust..not too buttery like some of the patisserie style pies we've sampled (Jackman & McRoss...most frustrating..fell apart and had to eat with cutlery!). Katie's tart o'custard was delicious, custard very wobbly, but disintegrated when handled.

All in all, I'd say an eight out of ten for the Robertson Pie Shop. Call in and say g'day!

PS dunno what they put in their pies, but half an hour later, I'd sprouted a new hairstyle and a real bad attitude:

Or maybe it was just the Wollongong sea breeze.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Just rearranged my photos

I've just finished rearranging my online photo albums. Up till July 2006, I had my photos stored with Yahoo! When they merged their service with Flickr earlier this year, I migrated everything across to Smugmug. So now, my whole archive is in oner place, and hopefully arranged in easy to find categories.

One thing I haven't fixed yet is the links between Tassieblather posts and respective photos and/or albums. I will try to get this fixed as time permits, but if you notice any links that don't work, or have any other comments, please let me know.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Second Annual Hobart Beer Festival

Yesterday was the second occurrence of the Hobart Beer Festival. Held on and around Mawson Square, just adjacent to Constitution Dock, and in front of Lark's Distillery, the streets were awash with some 6000 fans of the amber nectar. Somewhat different to your average CAMRA festival in Blighty, this one was:

  • In the blinding summer sun.
  • More Lager than Real ale.
  • Quite conservative in the serving size (ie one $1 ticket = 100 ml of beer!).

Having said that, there was at least one local Real Ale brewery represented, in the form of the Two Metre Tall Brewing Company. Currently brewing in the old St Ives pub building in Sandy Bay, they are soon to shift operations up to the heart of Hop Country (and mighty close to some damn fine water) at New Norfolk. It was great to see a couple of hand pulls on the bar (tho, dispensing into jugs and then into glasses was a bit weird...and frothy:),

Why is it called the "Two Metre Tall Brewery"?

out of which I sampled their Forester Pale and Huon Dark Ales. Quite tasty, and served at a reasonable temperature, they were quite good takes on the types. Hopefully we'll get a gurnsey to the opening of their new brewhouse.

The two major Tasmanian brewers, Cascade (Hobart based, Australia's oldest brewery, owned by Foster's) and Boag's (from the north of the state, now owned by Lion Nathan) were represented. I tried Boag's Wizard Smith "English Ale" out of the bottle. Pasteurised, reasonably bitter, but not really a match for the real deal.

Katie, Becher and Mark soaking up the famous Tassie UV.

Another interesting sample was some Farmhouse style "Inn Cider", currently being made by David Bennett in Margate, just south of the capital, and bordering on the apple-laden Huon Valley. Served quite cold and carbonated, it was quite a refreshing sup on such a hot day, and seemed to pack quite an alcoholic punch. Must say I haven't found better than Julian Temperley's Burrow Hill scrumpy from Somerset. I'm quite keen to have a bash at my own cider, having of course graduated from a weekend course in the New Forest a couple of years ago. Know where to get the apples, just gotta find a press!

There were many other brewers, both large and small represented (Tim Knapstein wines had a lager with added grape that recipe for a headache???)....have a look at my photos for other names to Google. It was a top day all in all...very encouraging to see the Tasmanian brewing industry emerging from the dim dark days of mass-produced cardboard n chemical lager (tho, to be honest [and probably quite parochial], Cascade and Boags draughts are two of the best on the Australian market), and branching out into something craftsman-made and tasty. Not to mention the crowds, and associated company with whom we were imbibing.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The celebrations continue.....

Just back from Bob & Gill's, where there was a bit of a "Judy's Birthday" shindig with the Camping Crew. A great little soiree, with lovely food, plenty of wine and a pod of dolphins playing in the Derwent out the front of the house.

Thanks to Bob & Gill for putting together such a great party, and to everyone else for coming along to help celebrate Mum's special birthday.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Keating's post election spray

Divisive leader who squandered Australia's hopes

Paul Keating
November 26, 2007

On Saturday night, when it was clear the Howard Government had been defeated, many Labor supporters around me said: "You must be so happy." But my emotion was not happiness; rather, it was relief.

Relief that the nation had put itself back on course. Relief that the toxicity of the Liberal social agenda - the active disparagement of particular classes and groups, that feeling of alienation in your own country - was over. And over in the only way that could be final: with a resounding electoral instruction of "No more".

Read the whole article here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Well, it's finally happened! John "The Rodent" Howard is no longer at the helm of Australian government. After eleven long years, Howard and his conniving Liberal cronies were booted out in a landslide by Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party. (story continues below photos)

It even looks like the smarmy git may lose his seat, which he has held since 1974. It would be such beautiful poetry if votes from Australia House in London were the ones that tipped him into oblivion. The unflushable turd* finally goes down the u-bend!

Katie and I played a part in yesterday's result, by hading out How to vote cards for Julie Collins and the ALP in Franklin electorate. By lucky coincidence, we were posted to the town of Franklin, in the Huon Valley. Mum was born there, and my grandparents owned the local store, so while not really a local, there definetly was some genetic connection to the town.

The Greens had a few people handing out there, as well as the ACTU's "Your Rights at Work" campaign, which was bloody handy, considering their preferences in the Lower House were the same as the ALP. Kind of a double pronged attack. There was one bloke handing out Liberal papers for a while, but he scarpered at one pm. In a real show of the conservatives' true regard for the environment, they attached a banner to a tree in the school yard (a giant Sequoia, almost 100 years old and listed by the National Trust) with ROOFING NAILS. Anyway, Julie dispatched her opponent, Vanessa Goodwin without too much trouble. Tasmania actually returned five out of five seats to the ALP in the House of Reps...awesome! Thanks to Mark, Lisa & Merlin for dropping some much needed refreshments and allowing me to go for a bit of a stroll in the afternoon.

In London, I hear that the party booked at the Pendrels Oak pub in Holborn was a raging success. Fifty off people were expected...apparently over three hundred turned up. Must've been some serious pressure on the bar when alcohol was able to be served at 9am! Does anybody have an pictures? Please send! Channel Four News led their Saturday night bulletin with a seven minute story on the election, including a studio interview with ALP Abroad President, Paul Smith.

After we finished in Franklin, it was back to Lindisfarne and the House of Comrade Tim for "Ron's Party". We watched the results come in on the ABC, ate pizza, sang, and drank much beer. I think I've only just sobered up now.

What a day, what a result, what a return to being able to be proud to say you come from Australia!

*Quote courtesy Ivan Pagett

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Burgers from heaven.....

It's tops to be back in the land of the great Greek shop hamburger! This little beauty (Hamburger with the lot $5.40: Meat, egg, tomato, cheese, lettuce, onion, BBQ sauce...pretty good, but coulda done with beetroot and pineapple) came from the EZY store, corner Warwick and Hill Streets in West Hobart, just across the road a bit from where we're housesitting, at Sophie and Braz's place.

AC Butchery - A great logo destroyed

When I lived in Sydney, I sometimes went to a great Italian place in Leichardt called AC Butchery. Apart from their fabulous meats, smallgoods and snags, they had a fantastic logo, which was a cartoon of a laughing cow going through a meat grinder, with sausages emerging from the other end of the grinding machine (see first photo). I used to have a fridge magnet of the logo.

Katie and I were driving along Norton Street the other day, and I spotted the shop. I jumped out of the car and ran into the shop, asking if they still had the fridge magnets. They didn't have any, and in fact the logo has been modified where the grinder and emerging sausages have been replaced by...a serviette! Seems the shop was being harrassed by anonymoous callers, death threats and red paint splattered on their windows...I mean, its only a bloody cartoon!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A quick snifter with Mum

You just can't go to Salamanca Fruit Market without stopping for a quick one at Knopwood's!

PS, for the time being this blog will hereby be known as Tassieblather.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Murali is last hope for Wallaby wannabe.

Mike Ticher
Friday October 26, 2007


Don Bradman was a total bastard, a grumpy, greedy tight-arse, who could not even score one run the last time he played.

This is not my view but that of a satirical TV programme that recently made headlines here in Australia with those lyrics in a song suggesting various dead celebrities were not quite the "top blokes" portrayed in their eulogies.

Bradman is the ultimate sporting hero of our prime minister, John Howard, who identifies as much with the buttoned-up style of the hypochondriac Adelaide stockbroker as with his cricketing achievements. In the middle of an election campaign, which Howard seems certain to lose, he has found time to announce funding of A$6.5m (£2.9m) for the museum dedicated to Bradman in his home town of Bowral - which is not even in a marginal seat.

So he took great offence at the description of Bradman, calling it "distasteful and despicable". Perhaps it was not just the part about being a grumpy, greedy tight-arse Howard hated so much but the reference to Bradman's duck in his last Test innings, since more than one commentator has suggested Howard's own career may be about to end in a similar deflating way.

If it does, international sport will lose one of its all-time great coat-tail grabbers and shameless opportunists, not to mention the worst bowler in the history of photo opportunities. Howard unwisely put his cricketing abilities on display when visiting Kashmir in 2005. As readers of the Clip joint on this page yesterday will know, his first ball, delivered with an unconvincing off-spinner's action, failed to reach - let alone trouble - the unimpressed local batsman. Worse, after he lets go, it trickles towards an onlooker at silly mid-off. From about a metre away he chucks back the ball, which Howard drops.

Undaunted by his incompetence, the PM has appeared at every possible sporting occasion in his 11 years in office, easily surpassing Tony Blair as a statesman capable of surfing on any national triumph and souring any setback. When England won the Rugby World Cup in Sydney four years ago, Howard stomped down the victors' line all but throwing the medals at them, in a performance that led armies of compatriots to write to the papers complaining of his "lemon-sucking grimace", "worthy of any discontented five-year-old at a birthday party".

Not that such ringing endorsements have prevented him donning national sporting garb at all times, above all the Wallabies tracksuits that adorn his daily pre-breakfast power walk. So iconic has the Howard style become that it recently forced a startling change of policy on the Chinese government through what can best be described as tracksuit diplomacy. When the premier, Wen Jiabao, went walking with Howard in Canberra last year he was humiliated by the contrast between his plain outfit and Howard's sparkling Melbourne Commonwealth Games get-up. Wen's advisers have since kitted him out in Beijing Olympics gear for his jogging commitments on a tour of Europe.

Howard's application of clunky cricket analogies to politics is as elegant as his bowling action. In the last election he claimed at one point his Liberal Party was "three for about 268 [in the campaign] but the right-hand opener is still there." This time it needs several hundred to avoid the follow-on, and is wishing it had dropped the right-hand opener before the series started.

Howard is struggling to turn round ominous opinion polls, secure a fifth straight election victory and, most importantly, make sure he will still have the use of his personal RAAF plane to take him to and from the Boxing Day Test at the MCG (cost to the taxpayer last year a mere £5,700). He needs a distraction, a circuit-breaker such as the Tampa refugee crisis he exploited so successfully in the 2001 election. And at this desperate late stage there can be only one contender for the sports-mad PM: Muttiah Muralitharan.

Murali has two Tests before the election in which to snare the nine wickets he needs to overhaul Shane Warne as the leading Test wicket-taker. Howard has form. The last time Sri Lanka visited, in 2004, he was instrumental in Murali's refusal to tour, when he branded the spinner a chucker with the words: "They proved it in Perth too, with that thing." That thing, to be more technical, was the biomechanics test that showed Murali straightened his arm to an extent that was then illegal when bowling the doosra.

Howard might have to bend the truth by only about, say, 14 degrees, to whip up a wave of anti-Murali sentiment. It is an edgy time. The visitors have already had anxious meetings about likely crowd reactions, and plain-clothes police are to be deployed inconspicuously (presumably dressed in body paint and watermelon helmets) to weed out the kind of troublemakers who have targeted Murali in the past.

If Howard could only harness that sentiment, then hold up Warne as the iconic national figure who represents everything good about Australia . . . no, you're right, he's a goner.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

God Save Our Gracious Queen

"God Save Our Gracious Queen"

Today I sung the above words at Islington Town Hall as part of my UK Citizenship Ceremony.

All very formal, with an address from Col. Kay, the Council's Deputy Lieutenant, an oath of allegiance to the Queen, acceptance of certificates and passport wallet, followed by a rousing rendition of The National Anthem.

Well, there you go, I'm now a dual citizen. Unlike Rupert Murdoch. Hah! Oh, and an avowed republican. Sorry, Queen.

Oh yeah, and a big shout to my Grandfather, Henry Plimpton...born 140 years ago in Hackney. Without him, I wouldn't be over here today!