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bacon from organic pigs can cost anywhere between £12 and £18 a kilo - about twice the price of the pork it is originally made from.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.