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.

a fortifying dinner at Daruma Japanese Kitchen

I really envy old people. Somewhere along the line, they get to this stage where they can tell you how they feel about just about everything and not care whose feelings they hurt.

Thus, gamba rehearsals were starting to become bittersweet. The lady who very graciously allows me to come to her house and play with her posse while certain regular members are in absentia was starting to get me down. Don’t get me wrong, I know my playing is bad: I’ve only just started to practise again, am having lessons but not able to do so regularly and my instrument still has a few technical teething problems. However, I love playing so even though I know the organiser will ‘sledge’ me in front of everyone (by all means, criticise but do it in a constructive manner), I still go because I need the experience and there isn’t exactly scores of folks to jam with.

front window

Tristan knew all of this, so he consented to treat me to dinner near the rehearsal venue. Despite getting a good sashimi fix at Matsu Hashi recently, my craving wasn’t fully sated. He suggested we try out a place in Camberwell called Daruma Japanese Kitchen. Again, someone still loves you, Urbanspoon.

I lugged in my instrument and Tris was already there, with liquid refreshment. They have several sakes to choose from and also have a shochu list. Throughout the course of our dinner we ordered three small flasks of sake (large is also available) – Bishounen Junmai Ginjo (smooth, a little fruity, 15% ABV), Kizakura Yamahai Jikomi (semi-dry with a rich body, 15% ABV) and lastly Nenihi Junmaino sake (dry with a mild, rich flavour, 16.2% ABV. Only available in a small flask). The bracketed descriptions are directly pinched off the menu. All of the ones we had were served cold and staff even recommended we wait for particular ones to cool for longer. My guess is they know their sake, excellent!

sake flasks on cold ice

It was unusual, however, to not be drinking beer, especially when signs all about us were telling us that Hokkaido, Japan’s most northern island, is nature on tap: who can resist such a catchy slogan?

Hokkaido is nature on tap

We shared two starters, firstly horenso and enoki mushrooms, cooked spinach with enoki mushrooms in a sesame dressing. They may have neglected to mention that it also had Japanese mayonnaise. Win! The enoki isn’t highly visible in this photo but it was plentiful.

horenso & enoki mushroom

The second starter was scallops cooked two ways, one grilled, one crispy and topped with caviar. It looked impressive and we were both at a loss as to how to divide it and spoil its presentation. The crispy one was rather sculpturesque.

IMG_5155

The one in the shell less so, but still highly elaborate. Both were enjoyed greatly. I would probably suggest getting a serve each rather than sharing – it’s definitely worth it.

one half of scallops cooked two ways entree

My main was a no-brainer; remember, I was here to get my raw fish craving killed. I decided upon the tuna and salmon sashimi and augmented this with maki – tuna, salmon and oshinko. Um, I think the maki may have been the gut-buster…silly me. After eating the sashimi, I was left wondering why this place wasn’t packed to the gills (ha, fish pun!) – by comparison, Matsu Hashi was a blip on the raw fish radar. Their fish was exquisite.

tuna & salmon sashimi

tuna, oshinko & salmon maki

Tristan chose the most exciting main on the menu – the grilled black cod with yuzu miso. It doesn’t look particularly special but once in your mouth, a completely different story.

grilled black cod with yuzu miso

Ack! Rehearsal time. Tristan told me I could head off while he settled up and thus I headed into the night, towards my personal Bermuda Triangle, that damned Camberwell Junction. The restaurant was pretty quiet the evening we dined though it was Monday. It definitely deserves more patronage as it serves excellent Japanese food as well as drinks. I will be back to make my way through more of their sake and sample their shochu.

Daruma Japanese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

ninja-quick stop at Matsu Hashi

One night, me and Tris were invited to our mate Colin’s place for a fillum night. These things are pretty serious affairs: because they’re marathons, he usually posts up a schedule of when each film will show and what time they’ll start so you don’t ring his very loud doorbell and interrupt proceedings, which is perfectly fair (I still feel terrible about the last time I went and greeted him a little too enthusiastically and thus being that noisy person in the ‘cinema’).

We decided we’d dine in the area and I was absolutely dying for some serious raw fish action. There’s not many options in the Clifton Hill/Fitzroy North area that immediately came to mind (though I do recommend Otsumami in Northcote, it can be busy so we weren’t going to chance being walk-ins).

Urbanspoon yielded us Matsu Hashi on Queens Parade.

Counting our pennies, we rushed in. No EFTPOS. Drat. I rush back out, grab some dough from the nearest hole in the wall and immediately decide upon two bowls each of edamame, the delicious, addictive bastards. I don’t think I’ve ever shelled edamame as fast as I did that night: my technique is downpat. They don’t oversalt them either, which I think is just swell.

edamame

As Tristan had been chatting on Twitter to our dear friend Ranjit about unagi, he ordered an unadon. The bento it appeared in was deceptive and it proved to house a more filling portion than originally assumed. Tris remarked that eel wasn’t something he ate enough of, a sentiment echoed by me also.

unadon

How remiss of me for neglecting to mention that we did also receive starter pickles.

starter pickles

Ah, the deluxe sashimi platter! According to the menu, this boasted a premium selection of Hokkaido scallop, surf clam, tuna, salmon belly, kingfish belly and oyster. The salmon and kingfish were superb, being ridiculously fresh but it was obvious that this was not the case with the scallop and oyster, both of which were lightly bathed in dressing.

deluxe sashimi platter

Our meals came out as quickly as we wanted, we scarfed them down even faster then head off to Colin’s to watch films about evil college kids picking on hillbillies and in keeping with our meal’s theme, one about sociopathic Japanese fish merchants. I’m still not game enough to look up online just how much of the latter was based on reality, shudder but do recommend the former for some good, gory laughs (plus it has Alan Tudyk in it. Yes, that pilot dude from Firefly, RIP).

Matsu Hashi on Urbanspoon