Category Archives: cookie-foodie antics

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.

analogue Feltron report?

I’m sure all you hip cats are familiar with the Feltron reports, these amazing records of beauty that makes Percy Grainger look sane. Grainger was an obsessive saver and chronicler of his life (it’s myth but the rumour that his cancerous balls preserved in formalin exist somewhere in the Grainger Museum on the Parkville Campus of Melbourne University – dream large guys!). As part of one compulsory musicology subject I took, it required working at the Grainger Museum and doing some Grainger-related research.

One afternoon, I was present when a fifty-year old archive box was emptied out. A small object was wrapped in tissue paper and very carefully unwrapped.

It turned out be a fifty-year-old piece of chocolate bitten into by Grainger’s mother. You could see her teethmarks. Macabre and yet fascinating.

So Feltron ain’t got nothing on him, though we all too can keep similar such statistics by using Daytum. I use Daytum like a mofo but only have displays of things like what I read for public show.

The following zinester, Deth P. Sun of Berkeley, CA has made a zine that to me was what I imagine an analogue Feltron report to look like – it is an obsessive document from September 2009 to February 2010 chronicling what the author has eaten in illustrated form. Both obsessive, a little unsettling and inspiring an odd sort of protectiveness for someone I don’t know and will never ever meet.

In some sort of solidarity, I thought it’d be fun to post partial contents of the pantry of the place I currently call home. Getting a glimpse into a bad cookie-foodie’s pantry is a bit…confessional. Try not to judge me…too harshly.

The Various Things I Eat zine

So is the zine any good? Yes! The illustrations while candid are adorable and carefully drawn and it’s pretty text-sparse given it’s a visual record. See below for an example of a page that typically outlines the author’s consumption which begs some assumptions and questions – he does not really eat that much, or dine out a lot. It makes me wonder just how much this reveals about the author – is he not affluent or struggles financially? Is he not fond of dining out? Does he (and this is uttered in genuine concern) have issues with eating and perhaps not eat as much as he should?

The Various Things I Eat zine, detail

It’s a bit of a different story when he’s on what looks to be holidays and I confess I am relieved to see a lot more entries for the days on the following page.

The Various Things I Eat zine, detail

An utterly charming zine, purchased at zine Mecca Sticky Institute in the Degraves St subway (conveniently located across from Cup of Truth, mmm…). I did buy it a while back for $4 so it might not be around anymore but I highly recommend it if you can find it.

The Various Things I Eat zine, back

It’s a really meticulous, intimate snapshot into an artist’s life and particularly commendable is the zinester really putting themselves out there for intense scrutiny. That often makes for the best art, would you not agree?

cauliflower and cake in the same sentence?

It’s my first cookie-foodie post. Is this how it begins? You see a recipe you think is awesome, you try it out then get addicted to trying out other recipes and before you know it, you can cook?

Here’s hoping.

I didn’t used to cook much but in the last two months, that’s changed a fair bit. No mean feat when you share a kitchen with a psycho Asian mother who seems hellbent on cooking everything with meat.

As with most lifestyle changes, recently my father was diagnosed as being pre-diabetic though (and I’m no stranger to chronic illness so please don’t think this means I am not taking my father’s health seriously) this has been a mixed blessing of sorts. It means more vegies in meals!

So that’s given me a little bit of rein in the kitchen. Where previously my parents would wrinkle their noses at the things I chose to cook and preferred to eat ‘their own food’ (ouch), they’re now more accepting. Meatless Mondays, I’m looking at you!

Yotam Ottolenghi’s cauliflower cake I’d made one time before but felt that it had far too many eggs so I altered the recipe ever so slightly. The recipe I obtained in Ottolenghi’s column for The Guardian, ‘The New Vegetarian’. And no, of course it didn’t look anything like the photo in the recipe but it was well-received: I made it when my friends Jourdan and Klara had a barbeque at their place and it was pronounced “cheesy, eggy, cauliflowery goodness”.

Onto the recipe – you will need:

  • 1 medium cauliflower, 650g-700g (anything up to 1kg works though)
  • 1 large red onion, peeled
  • 100g olive oil
  • ½ tsp finely chopped rosemary (I use a fair few branches as it grows in my garden)
  • 10 medium free-range eggs (I reduced this down to 8 and it’s still fine)
  • 20g chopped basil (I tend to use a lot more)
  • 180g plain flour
  • 2½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric (I reduce this to 1/4tsp because I found initial quantity made it too ‘musty’)
  • 220g grated parmesan, or other mature cheese (make sure to use non-animal rennet cheese)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • Melted butter, for greasing
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds (or black onion seeds or plain sesame seeds; I used these much more liberally than the recipe calls for!)

Preheat the oven to around 180C/350F. Thoroughly wash the cauliflower and cut florets off it – it doesn’t matter if they’re a bit too big because you will need to boil them for about 15 minutes or so until soft. I cut fairly big florets as they break up a little when they’re boiled.

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Time to prepare the mixture for the cauliflower to go into. Chop the onions roughly, but reserve some rings before you go hack on it. Of course, I totally didn’t do that the first time around. The rings go on the cake at the end to make it all pretty-like. Please excuse my appalling chopping utensil. I have something better now, honest…

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Gently saute the chopped red onion and rosemary for about eight or so minutes. I like to go overboard with the rosemary because it smells wonderful! When that’s finished, set it aside to cool – you must let it cool sufficiently so it doesn’t ‘cook’ the egg mixture to which you will add it.

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Whip up your eggs (remember, I’ve gone from 10 to 8 eggs) and basil. When you think the above mixture is cool enough, add that too.

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Sift the flour, baking powder and turmeric into a large bowl. Gradually add the parmesan to this mixture then a generous amount of cracked black pepper and just a little bit of salt (I tend to favour little salt and used 1/2 tsp but you can use up to 1 1/2 tsps).

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Combine the egg & onion mixture with the flour & cheese one gently and mix well to eliminate lumps. I added the dry stuff to the wet stuff in small amounts and mixed through and kept repeating till it was all mixed through.

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Gradually add your well-drained cooked cauliflower florets into the above mixture and stir with care. At this point you should see that some of the florets will break, as they’re nice and soft from being boiled. This is why I recommend that you break your florets up into big-arse florets!

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Grab a nice quiche-like dish and liberally line with butter. Very generously sprinkle black sesame seeds to coat the butter as if your life depended on it. On my first attempt, I did use baking paper as the recipe said, but it was really difficult to get the bloody stuff off the finished cooked cake. I was adamant that I wouldn’t make that same mistake again!

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Spoon your cauliflower cake mix into prepared dish and smoosh it in to fill it up. Yep, ‘smoosh’ is the official word here.

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Remember those pretty Spanish onion rings you set aside? Arrange them on your mix all pretty-like.

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It’s ready to go into the oven! The recipe says 45 minutes, but I’ve found anywhere from 45-75 minutes has been needed. When it’s done, it should look like this:

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I covered it up with a teatowel and set about to our destination, where I eventually cut it up like so:

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Share with friends and/or family. When I make it at home, I serve it with a mixed leaf salad dressed with seeded mustard, balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil.

Seriously, even my father who is a ravenous carnivore couldn’t stop going on about how nice it looked and how good it tasted. He was pretty sure someone else had made it!

I’m learning. Many thanks to my Sydney bestie L for the photos.