fantasy foosball warm-up

Back when the FIFA 2014 World Cup was happening, Untappd was offering limited edition patches of pride to show others what you’d been tippling or as a reminder of Awesome Beer #793 sampled (perving on some of my beer-nerds’ Untappd feeds could prove this is not exaggeration). As long as you drank a beer from a country competing and checked in, it was fairly easy to get the badge, even halfway through the tournament.

At this particular time, I was three months into the part-time job of holding down a regular sleep pattern and clung onto it greedily. Alas, this meant missing live coverage of England excel at losing or be supreme in defeat. Thankfully, there’s never a shortage of professional sportsmen displaying excellent potential as thespians when brushed ever so lightly by opposing team players. Said fallen player would jump up faster than Sherwin & Liggett could iterate to their listeners that any player (player? player of what? Board games?) got a red card (if they were football commentators…).

Even if you’re a casual football watcher, you’re bound to witness one of these stunts. Refs miss seeing them constantly, regardless of where the tournament’s progressed in knockout stages. It was still going to be fun to watch the rest of the games, even if it was

My culinary prowess is rivalled only by my struggle to keep a healthy sleeping pattern. Why I would upset this balance by supporting a Kickstarter campaign for the very first issue of The Cleaver Quarterly and convince myself that I could indeed follow a recipe for  ‘Sichuan mulled beer‘, before reading the periodical seemed delusional. Previous attempts – expressionist pastiches – of Laura Calder’s mulled, spiced red wine taught me that if your base ingredients are substandard (ie. shite wine, citrus rind with globs of pith), then the end product is going to be an equally undesirable commodity. A puffed-up way of saying that I was prepared for defeat if the call to use the kitchen for warm alcoholic beverages ever piqued my interest.

However, Melbourne finally grew seriously glacial balls this year. One wintry day after coming home defeated by cold and most human beings (save the social welfare personal contact interviewer, who happened to be…nice?!), if I stuffed up this mulled beer thing, it wouldn’t matter too much, right? Screw previous kitchen failures, ha!

I thus present the dress rehearsal: creative arts or writing majors, actual football fans and culinary experts need not read on. Hopefully this pastiche commentary will grant Phil & Paul some reprieve (it should).

Advert campaign shows Pabst Blue Ribbon lager but corporation-crap-cook lone-wolf-blogger went with Australian wildcard McLaren Vale lager. Initial sip indicated its strengths and weaknesses were even, or equally as in/offensive as one another.

(…)

Oo-err, play is stopped fairly early in the game for a substitution, what?! Fresh kumquat/kalamansi rinds in, dried orange ones back to the bench. Sichuan province in China is shaking its head at this mestiza pollution! Opposing team’s coach is as livid as Sisyphus dragging boulders over cobble lanes.

(…)

First yellow card issued! It is not a good time for a toilet break or coverage is-sues. Pantry raid yields dried red berries that I’ll back against the favourite, goji berries.

Uh-oh, nasty words between opposing team players. Rock sugar missing perfectly positioned header. Palm sugar takes possession, ooh, an upset. Own goal. Palm sugar’s team is, like, totally, devo, maaate. F*ckin’ robbed. Dried red dates watching in disgust – no point hiding it, poor coach mutters to team physio. Random plum sauce meat marinade is not dried red dates, oh dear. Even with goji berries, an effort was made (soaked in a few tablespoons of boiling water to plump them up prior to tournament). Back on the bench of that same team, pomegranate molasses is making rude gestures at not being able to demonstrate an obvious recovery from knee surgery complications.

Rice wine threatens to pull sponsorship from one of the playing teams – advert poster displays their logo next to that of ‘vinegar’: yes, rice wine vinegar instead of rice wine. Subtle but costly mistake? Depends on future sponsorship/Faustian bargaining, flavours for favours. Umeshu for umeboshi? As Ali G might say fittingly, we ‘digest’.

(…) Many apologies for that break in transmission, our viewers back home missed a good deal of hyperlocal anecdotes and related psychogeographical history not relevant to the commentary, but we’re back. Mixture’s in a pot and simmering for three (or so) minutes. Now for the ladling equal quantities into two mugs – trickier than it sounds when blood sugar is at trembling-low point. Half time – the separate cinnamon-sugar mixture as sweetener is brought onto the field, mixed into the concoction to personal preference. It proves fortifying - Sichuan province, China: absolute genius at making passable alcohol drinkable, looks like this game is not going to be a draw after all! That’s the end of the coverage – back to the local commentary team. Thanks for listening, you’ve all been the pineapple of politeness, till next time.

This ‘dummy run’ was deliberate: I’d genuinely forgot to buy red dates so the plum-sludge-marinade was a panic substitution. A moment later it occurred to me that pomegranate molasses could have been more fitting. You’ll need 1-3 cans/bottles to make up 750mL of beer for mulling and various pantry-occupying spices. The sole oddity of the final product was a weird, chemical bitterness sillage atop the dominant top notes o’ cinnamon, despite using a non-reactive saucepan. The beer (pre- and post-mulling) didn’t have it, there wasn’t any pith on the fresh kumquat rinds (again, thank you Ms Calder for teaching me that the hard way when infusing white wine for summer…). Why would it smell like awful beer when it didn’t taste like it? Any consumables/products used and/or mentioned were paid for by myself, or legally foraged. In fact, I’ve chosen two different beers for future mullification, given this initial attempt was passable. These near-future gustatory/science experiments will have pictures and be documented properly. Not like above, as if it were an unfinished live art installation. Pinky-promise-swear!

south side sprawl – it’s not pronounced Bolognese

It’s not pronounced Bolognese. My semester of French tells me that much.

Boo-lounge-err-ree? Not sure that’s right either.I should have paid more attention in class, dagnabbit!

However it’s pronounced, Chez Dré patisserie boulangerie is a welcome addition to the South Melbourne lunch scene.

Once up the alley-way, and through the snaking entrance, you are presented with a remarkably large and bright space. A beautiful purpose-built kitchen is on display for diners to peak through at the madness. The brain child pastry chef Andrea Reiss (who like my EDS co-conspirator, Gem, is also a mestizo).  If you feel so inclined, you can view the transformation on Chez Dré’s previous website.

Given this is part of the South Side Sprawl ‘series’ of posts, I was eating during my lunch hour, and again convinced my workmate Daniel to lunch with me. After the required uming and ahing, and consuming of a short black and latte, we selected our dishes. While I didn’t catch the blend used, the coffee was solid.

Daniel, having recently made a Moroccan salad at  home, decided to contrast his with Chez Dre’s offering.

While I didn’t get to taste it, Daniel found it a little unexciting – he was a fan of the chutney, but thought it needed more points of interest to liven it up. It did also look a little messy from the other side of the table.

To continue the midday Moroccan madness!, I went with Moroccan-style baked eggs. I’ve had many a ‘nom-time’ experience with baked eggs at places like Big Dish, and this was no exception. The minted yoghurt provided a nice cut through the acidity of the tomato base. My only minor gripe was the eggs were slightly overdone.

On a previous visit I had the ploughman’s lunch – a hearty affair, with its terrine being the highlight for me.

Despite the fact that I nearly killed a co-worker last time I brought macarons to the office (damned anaphylaxis!), I somehow managed
to saunter out to lunch with petty cash to buy macarons. Apparently macaron lust knows no limits.

Securing two of each of the day’s flavours, they were quickly disseminated to my fellow office dwellers. Unfortunately, I can’t remember all the flavours (marmalade, chocolate, salted caramel…and…and…two others) but I do remember they were all well received. While I don’t necessarily agree with all the hype in the foodie world surrounding macarons, I am a massive sucker for a good one. While I don’t have a great ‘palate’ for the subtleties of macarons, these ticked all the boxes – crisp outer shell, soft but not chewy inner shell, and balanced and flavoursome filling. For me they are on par with the well thought of La Belle Miette.

I do believe I will be back, with my mestizo other-half.

Chez Dré on Urbanspoon

lie back and think of England

Home.

After two months in hospital (incidentally, if you’re curious, I have blogged about its food in the past), finally I was home. Well, not quite. Straight after hospital, I went to Sydney to attend the 2011 Eat Drink Blog conference.

I’m still adjusting to life after hospital so I won’t be writing about the conference but I can give you my ‘cricket highlights’: I met lots of ace folks, ate lots of ace food and got to hang out with some (shock horror) non-foodie mates. Hours of Test matches in a non-airconditioned home after having moved from the UK to Australia is possibly character building but really bloody boring. The highlights after the news bulletin, however, is another matter.

It was, of course, good to head home. Lately I find I miss England so I decided to try my hand at making trifle, as one does when one misses home (no, I don’t quite get it either).

To warm up, I deliberately started with a piss-easy recipe: it’s common knowledge I’ve little prowess to speak of in the kitchen – nope, it’s not a schtick, it’s actual fact. Not really something I’m particularly proud of, it just is. There are several boring reasons for this, none of which I feel the need to disclose. Anyway, I couldn’t fully read the recipe @eatnik had posted on ze twitters, so I Googled a few and started with one entitled ‘big berry trifle’.

selected berries

Fair warning: I got dumped so no more fancy photos: for now, it’ll be my crummy phone ones. Back to the blog’s roots, yo.

To say I mucked around with the quantities and used an inadequately deep dish would be an understatement. Make sure you don’t do the latter!

Swiss roll

Line your dish with slices of the Swiss roll. Squish them up and fill any spaces you see.

Swiss roll lining

Top with the sliced strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.

mixed berries on Swiss roll lining

Pour vanilla custard on top of the fruit layer.

vanilla custard drowning fruits

Slather raspberry yoghurt over fruit and custard.

raspberry yoghurt on top of the custard-drowned berries

I managed to barely fit one more Swiss roll layer on top of all this, then smoothed the whipped cream over said layer. At which point it became clear my dish wasn’t deep enough…dear god, trifle-making is becoming a metaphor for my life…

finished trifle

Enjoy with a cup of strong tea and the promise of a coronary. I was going to have a glass of elderflower cordial but it was too gloomy an afternoon.

final product

It’s been a week and the trifle is still edible. It’s also nicer a couple of days after being assembled.