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’.
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!
Line your dish with slices of the Swiss roll. Squish them up and fill any spaces you see.
Top with the sliced strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.
Pour vanilla custard on top of the fruit layer.
Slather raspberry yoghurt over fruit and custard.
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…
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.
It’s been a week and the trifle is still edible. It’s also nicer a couple of days after being assembled.
It seemed to be one of those days: you can’t say or do the right thing and your loved ones are incurably miserable. It does leave one wondering why one bothers to get out of bed at all (being an unemployed bum, I can exercise that luxury, should I want to).
Given my shit record for standing up @becksley (or good, depends on how you look at it: good at standing up, bad for standing up), I was determined to accompany Tristan on his work commute and hang in the city till it was time to see the lovely lass in question. This meant what’s become a fairly regular habit of accidentally annoying the baristas at Cup of Truth in the morning.
It’s a sad day when even Courtney’s flawless soy Magic doesn’t make me grin like a fool.
So off I trotted to my former workplace, Elevenses where dear Shanny lovingly made me a pourover of the Toby’s Estate Guatamala El Tambor CoE #7 which incidentally has notes of fresh toast (non sequitur: oddly enough, Shanny’s name autocorrects to ‘shabby’ on one of those smartphones).
Armed with some poetic inspiration thanks to one of Shanny’s neologisms, I left with my tail a little less between my legs to see B who is, it’s fair to say, quite obsessed with macarons. She can make them (quite proficiently from what I can glean) and she’s also written a really cool zine about them. In typical angry-ranty-adorable B fashion, she declared that an establishment whose name I shall not mention made macarons of fairly average quality and that it was imperative we both visit La Belle Miette on Hardware Lane, CBD.
I’d like to think that I’m immune to fads – macarons included – but I realise I’m hardly an impartial judge. If B was mad keen on these saccharine treats from La Belle Miette, they must be pretty bloody good. As soon as one sights the shop, you can’t really help but be infected with girlie glee – it looks utterly charming and stocks a select range of beverages designed to appeal to your inner Francophile – artisanal soft drinks in reusable bottles and Mariage Frères tea.
Your main problem with the macarons will be what flavours to select (to eat in, or take home in beautifully designed boxes to protect your yummy treasures) and how many to stop at. I began with the rose, cherry blossom and sake, and a brand new offering – wasabi. The rose is one of those macaron flavours I always order when available – it’s not too sweet and I like that flower-burst-in-my-mouth quality it has. This did not fail to please. Vanillary, buttery goodness. The cherry blossom and sake, I confess I expected a little more from – I couldn’t really taste the sake and felt that the cherry blossom could be a little more ‘flower-bursty’ (yeah, look at me, all technical-like). Oh, but the wasabi, WOW. Perfect marriage of sweetness with the added kick that only wasabi could have. I do also love their doilies – my mother used to crochet ones just like this when we still lived in England! Sadly, when we came to Australia, her crotcheting style remained firmly stuck in the 80s (it still is, alas).
B said that strawberry is one of her ‘measuring macaron quality’ flavours, like rose is to me, so she started off with the strawberry and vanilla, and a pink grapefruit. She donated a pinch of the latter to me – a touch of the mouth-puckering sourness of the fruit was pleasingly evident.
Ding ding! Round two!
I’d been greedily eyeing the raspberry and the 72% cocoa chocolate single origin Venezuela macarons. B also had a chocolate one and added a violet and blueberry one too. The raspberry one had even more scrunch-up-your-face tartness than the pink grapefruit, and I was pleasantly surprised by how bitter and not-sweet the chocolate one was. It is rich and has a lot of depth in its flavour. It being bitter is not a slight – quite the opposite, actually.
The texture of the macarons is very consistent – slightly hard shells yet soft but not bone-dry. I want to say they are slightly moist but that’s not quite right either. The ganache complements the shells wonderfully and is not overdone in sweetness. The owner Maylynn is lovely and was happy to natter to me and B about all the secrets of macaron making (which sadly is lost on me given my lack of culinary prowess). B looked like she was in her element, talking to a professional trained hardcore in France. Fellow food blogger wankster Em who can actually make macarons unlike my sorry self has also visited and reviewed La Belle Miette: I urge you to read her aficionado account.
I wouldn’t normally say such things, but should you happen to get into a fight with someone and wanted to make it up to them, you could do little wrong than to buy a box of wonder from La Belle Miette. In fact, I’m off to start engineering fights right now…
*miette means ‘crumb’ in French, but I also fondly recall that Penfold from Danger Mouse is partial to the trepidatious exclamation “oh crumbs!”.
My reason for asking Mike to do a post for Eat, Drink, Stagger was purely selfish. We’ve met briefly in person, but it was on Twitter that I learnt that he has a real love for cooking, but more impressively to me, he’d bought a blow torch specifically to finish bombe Alaska, the dessert of my dreams. I can picture it now my mother’s 70s cookbook and recipe cards – it looked impossible to make! I still haven’t tried the fabled dessert, but hope to one day. I was seduced by those meringue waves…
What also impressed me about Mike is that he really loves cooking and is a ‘nerd’, and thus living proof that the two attributes aren’t mutually exclusive. Bombe Alaska is clearly a dessert attempted by those who take their kitchen activities very seriously. I absolutely loved reading about Mike’s bombe endeavours, and hope you enjoy reading about them too. You can find him on Twitter at @unearthlymike, and he also has a website which details his professional life.
Why hello there! I didn’t see you come in! I’m Michael, your guest blogger for the evening. Come. Sit. Make yourself comfortable and I’ll tell you a tale. A tale of a man and his dessert.
It all started back in February of 1903, when I was a young lad growing up in the Bavarian Alps. No – it actually started one particularly unusual night in the September of 2009. Why was this night so unusual? Because I decided to rot my brain a little further with some so-called reality TV. Celebrity Masterchef to be precise.
Who were the celebrities appearing in that particular episode? I don’t remember. It’s not important. Please refrain from asking questions until I’m finished. It’s dangerous to interrupt a man as he rambles. You wanna get stabbed!?
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, growing steadily bored as the episode progressed, my interest returned when it came to the final challenge. Bombe Alaska.
I watched as the celebrities struggled to follow the recipe they had each been supplied with. I think this is what originally appealed to me – the apparent difficulty of the dish. If I could master this, I could cook anything. But more importantly, it seemed like a dessert that under the right circumstances could lead to a little boob groping.
So I gave it a shot and was promptly charged with indecent assault. Then I realised I had things in the wrong order and needed to make the dessert first. To cut a long story short, it was an average result. The first bombe turned out the best. As I continued, there was a steady decline in quality, as illustrated in the graph below.
For a long time after, I was haunted by the unforgiving face of Matt Preston, scoffing at my less than perfect bombes. I saw him everywhere (but mostly in advertisements, hawking products vaguely related to cooking). This just fuelled my urge to get this recipe right.
Now, many months later, I’m going to attempt the tricky dessert a second time. Yes, this is Bombe Alaska 2: Electric Boogaloo. Documented in Technicolour for your viewing pleasure.
Grab a stone tablet and a chisel, because the ingredients are coming up riiiiiiight…… n…. right nnn…………. NOW!!!:
The first step is to make the ice cream. I know, I’m excited too! Half fill a pot with water and bring it to the boil. Reduce to simmer and place a bowl over it.
Bust open the eggs and separate the yolks from the whites. Make sure not to get any yolk mixed in with the whites. If you do, you fail at life and your meringue won’t work. Store the whites in a refrigerated time-capsule for future generations. Combine the egg yolks, caster sugar, and vanilla bean innards in the water-heated bowl.
Using an old-school vintage hand beater (a whisk would also work) whisk the mixture off its feet with romantic gestures. Or just until it becomes thick and pale, like a chubby albino.
Once your mixture is ready, remove the bowl from the pot. Use oven mitts so you don’t drop it like it’s hot. Because it will be. Congratulations, you just made custard. If that’s what you were hoping to achieve, STOP NOW!!! Otherwise, mix in your crème de cacao and thickened cream. PROTIP: The alcohol in the crème de cacao will stop your ice-cream from setting too hard.
This is where the cocoa (sifted) should be added too. I didn’t put any in when I originally made this, and the crème de cacao didn’t give a rich enough chocolate flavour for my tastes. Or any chocolate flavour at all…
Pour this mixture into a plastic container. Old ice cream containers are great for this. Seal it with the lid (if you have one) or some foil and put it into the freezer until firm. A few hours should be fine. Go and watch Avatar or something.
After the credits roll, it’s time to churn the ice cream. Using a knife, slice it up whilst muttering, “Stabbity, stabbity, stab, stab.” This will not only help you release years of suppressed rage, but will also make the ice cream easier to mix. Fire up an electric beater and churn that mother like your life depends on it! Return to the freezer and watch Avatar again.
You can repeat the process as many times as you want. More churning will produce creamier ice cream and give you a better grasp of the Na’vi language.
Alternatively, if you are impatient (what, you don’t like Avatar?) and have an ice cream maker, use that.
For the purée, put your orange, sugar and juice in a saucepan and heat on medium. I actually used two oranges when making this recipe, but found the end result to be a little overpowering so I cut it back to one in the ingredients. Stir occasionally until the liquid is evaporated.
You can use this time to prepare your moulds. But don’t let your purée burn! Or so help me, I will come to your house and give you such a telling off!
I used disposable cups lined with Glad Wrap, but a hollowed out human skull would do the same job.
Once your orange is ready it’s time to ask yourself, “Will it blend?” You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out that [spoiler alert] it does!
Remove your ice cream from the freezer or ice cream machine. You may need to let it soften a little, or churn it one last time before folding in the blended purée. Don’t over-mix it though, I know how excitable you can get. We just want a ripple of orange running through the ice cream.
Transfer the mix to your moulds and return to the freezer. I ended up with enough for three bombes. So that’s one each for you, your date, and the camera guy.
Meanwhile… start preparing the optional presentation part of the dish. Or don’t. I’m not going to tell you how to live your life.
Spend a quiet moment reminiscing about your custard-making past. Use that same ‘bowl over simmering water’ technique to melt the chocolate. Dip orange wedges into the chocolate but only coat half of each slice. Place them on a plate covered in Glad Wrap and shove it into the fridge. Eat any remaining chocolate as you wait for the ice cream to set again. You know you want to.
When the ice cream is solid, start preparing the meringue. Dig up your time-capsule and put the egg whites in a bowl. Using an electric beater, beat them like a misbehaving child. Staying with the same metaphor, gradually add sugar to keep them from telling anyone. Your meringue should be ready when it forms soft, white peaks.
Remove one bombe from a mould and place it on the ugliest plate you can find. Doing this one at a time (and leaving the others in the freezer) will keep them from melting.
Grab a knife and spread a thin layer of meringue (about a half centimetre thick) onto the bombe.
Brown this using a blow torch whilst singing Pat Benatar’s ‘Fire and Ice’. I picked my torch up from House, who sells kitchen products when he’s not solving medical puzzles.
Any leftover meringue can be baked in mounds on a tray at 90 degrees Celsius for 90 minutes, so as not to waste it.
Arrange three of your choc-coated orange wedges on the side of the plate. Repeat the spreading, browning and wedging for the remaining bombes.
If you followed these directions exactly, you should have gained at least 10,000 EXP. More than enough to level up and face the end boss.
Finally, grab some lube and contraceptives because you are going to get laid!* Even I want to have sex with me for making this!
*Actual results may vary.
As an afterthought, this would also be great with strawberries instead of oranges. Next time Gadget, next time…