Friday, 26 April 2013

An Offall-y Big Adventure Part 1 - Kidneys

{This adventure is in two parts, documenting my experiences with types of offal I'd never cooked before.  We start with kidneys, then move onto brains.  Let's go!}

The blonde behind the counter is grumpy.  Kidneys were clearly an 'out-the-back' item, not in easy reach within the gleaming display cases of steaks, fillets and other more familiar, muscle-centric parts.
"How many do you want?" she asks curtly.
"Umm... 250 grams?" I reply.
"How many would that be?"
"I'm not sure... um... how big are they? They're lambs' kidneys, right?"
She nods, making a vague motion with her hands indicating they're sized anywhere between a 20-cent coin and a char siu bao*.
"I'll just, umm... just a good handful, thanks".

She yells something to a chap out the back, he yells something back.  I stand quietly, waiting for the kidneys, trying not to die of awkwardness.  Eventually, a large brown parcel is proffered to me, feeling a lot more like 500 grams than the asked-for 250 grams.  The price is $2.40.  I hand over the money and skulk away, feeling confused and a little foolish.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Watch Out, We Got A Badass Over Here

Sure, I might look like some small-time city gal, but ya know what?  Life's for livin' dangerously, and I know what it's like to live on the edge.

Why, just tonight The Boyfriend went out with his pals and I went crazeee, baby.
Got myself not one, but TWO lots of deep fried deliciousness - some veggie balls and a serve of confit duck spring rolls.  Got 'em from Ebi Fine Food down there on Essex Street.  Sure, they got the healthy stuff too, soba noodle salad, some real fresh fish, but tonight... I'm dangerous.
I even got the "strange but good jap icy pole" which I ain't seen before.  In this cold weather!
No clue about the contents - could be green tea and grape Jell-o for all I know.

Now, here's the kicker; I sat down in front of the teevee, then ate it all with my bare hands.  Like a savage.

Image from Sentient Machinery

That ain't the only thing I done.  The list of crimes is long and deep.  The kitchen police are gonna bust down my oven door and burn me in the crusts.

There's a place for me in Hell's Kitchen somewhere...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Greed, Inadequacy... And A Recipe For One Mad, Bad Chocolate Pavlova

A lone blueberry flops to the left of the pavlova, a criminal fleeing the scene.  The raspberries are studded unevenly across the surface.  Some are huddled together like hostages, while others lie solitary and stranded, lost and away from the herd. The strawberries are leaking their dark balsamic syrup, sullying the white skirts of cream with rusty drips.

As I poke another errant blueberry into the Sorry Heap it dawns on me that I possess the plating skills of a toddler drunk on laudanum.

Plating is like sex.  If you think about it too hard, too much, or generally obsess about it, it's probably going to be awful.  Or perhaps I've just conjured up this platitude to comfort myself;  the correct placement of fruit eludes me so thoroughly and I am very, very bad at it.  Either way the facts are unassailable - I cannot make food look pretty.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Aunt Adele's Hot Milk Toddy

Even in the 24th century, it seems a glass of warm milk is still the prescribed remedy for sleepless nights.
Not just any glass of milk, mind you, but Aunt Adele's hot milk toddy.
Made in a replicator.  
In space.  
In your funky space quarters (where the towels and pillows are made from an uncomfortable looking shiny material).  
As prescribed by your starship's doctor, Dr. Beverley Crusher.  
Who got the recipe from her good friend bald man whom she flirts with, the Enterprises' Captain Jean-Luc Picard - Adele was his aunt.

Aunt Adele's Hot Milk Toddy (Serves 1 insomnia-riddled Startfleet officer of any rank)*

  • 250ml milk
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)**

Heat the milk in a small saucepan until hot, but not boiling.  Add the honey and stir.  Once the honey has been incorporated, add the brandy if using.   Bring it all up to a gentle simmer.  
Turn off the heat, add the nutmeg and stir.  Pour into a sturdy glass or mug.  Drink and try to avoid all distortions in the space-time continuum, as well as bodgy inter-dimensional aliens that kidnap you in your sleep.
Image by psiwaves

You know you watch too much of a certain show if you end up rifling through your pantry trying to figure out how they make the food.  
I'll pass on the gagh, however.

* Not suitable for androids.
** A 'toddy' is a traditional warm drink with an alcoholic element incorporated.  Nutmeg is mentioned as one of the toddy's ingredients on the show (Star Trek: The Next Generation) so it's in the recipe above.
Alas, from here things start to come undone.  Alcohol as we know it is not replicated on the Starship Enterprise NCC 1701-D (although some of the real stuff is in Guinan's secret stash).
'Synthehol' is a commonly used substitute on the ship, however it barely gets you drunk.  So I've added the brandy as a suggestion, as an ode to proper boozy toddies.  Unfortunately it would seem that a 24th century toddy is not a toddy at all!

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Family Meal: Home Cooking With Ferran Adrià by Ferran Adrià

Libraries are wonderful places.  It was at my local library that I stumbled across Ferran Adrià's cookbook 'The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adrià'.  Although there was no-one else in the stacks, I grabbed it quickly and furtively, hugging it to my chest and adding it to the already considerable number of books I'd chosen that day.

I'm ashamed to say I only opened it when I got home - the lure of Adrià's name was too great.  Whilst I devour books like whales swallow krill, perhaps I should have been more discerning?

After all, at first glance 'The Family Meal' appeared to be your typical large format coffee-table-cum-cookbook affair published by Phaidon.

I own another Phaidon book which I have never cooked from ('Breakfast, Lunch and Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery' by Rose Carrarini) and have never had any practical luck with a book of this size and cheffy reputation.  As I write, Tetsuya Wakada's 'Tetsuya' sits languishing on my bookshelf. 
I know I will not make his checkerboard tuna and hamachi with orange oil, or any of the other one hundred and fifty or so recipes that are within.

Thankfully, this book isn't the languishing type.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

I'm ashamed to admit this but... the great thing about a Quarter Pounder, some fries and a Coke is that all can be consumed one-handed while watching Doctor Who.

Because two-hearted, time-travelling aliens in blue boxes are more interesting than my dinner.

I'll walk myself to the gallows, thanks.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Science! Acids - Taming the Onion

Today I'm going to talk to you about the sour stuff.  Sugar, spice and everything nice is all well and good, but we need the tart stuff, the zingy stuff, the stuff with bite.  Take a mojito, for example.  It's the lime which gives it that satisfying sourness, a good square kick in a sea of sugar.  Sometimes, you need that in a drink.  Or a salad.  Or even a cake.  

Food acids are our friends, because they provides a pleasing balance in each mouthful.  Growing up in Malaysia, I recall rich, bombastically flavoured laksa always served with a side of green calamansi.  You'd squeeze it onto that bowl of hot raging deliciousness, much like you'd squeeze lemon onto battered fish.

If a mouthful of food were a discoball (stay with me here) the various flavours of the food - salty, sweet, pungent, earthy, umami, etcetera, would be the little mirrored tiles.  The sourness, the acidulant in that mouthful would be the flashing lights bringing all those flavours to life.

Red onion... only better.