Categories
Corn Vegetarian

Barbecued, Smokey-dokey Vegetarian Nachos

I was supposed to be reading and writing these holidays, but it’s been all arithmetic. Cups, quarters of cups, 165 grams of this, 250 grams of that. I’ve never had so much fun cooking, even if I am stuck on an island with a vegetarian. I’ll forgive her though because she’s an amazing photographer and has been indulging my cookbook fantasies by taking gorgeous pics of the treats I’ve been dishing up. It’s forcing me to be more creative with the way I put food on a plate and I’m discovering little tricks like putting a few strands of red cabbage here and there for visual effect.

Vegetarian Nachos
Vegetarian Nachos

I’m also discovering barbecues aren’t just for meat.

The place we’re staying is in a tiny little settlement called Flinders Beach on North Stradbroke Island, about 30km off the coast from Brisbane. I’ve been here many times before, but always with a gang of male carnivores. There’s usually enough smoke rising off the hotplates to start a war between the Sioux and Cherokee. This time it’s a little different, but I had the idea of putting the smoke to good use.

There’s a grove of paperbark trees nearby and I know Alby Mangels and Co. loved baking with the stuff. The BBQ where I’m staying had no lid, but I figured out a way to use a couple of cast iron pans to create a smokey-dokey setup which channeled the fumes of delicousness onto the food without also funneling ash. Results varied between raging bushfire and birthday candles, but ended up under control and not entirely dissimilar to the way I saw it being done on a beach in San Jose Del Cabo a few years ago.

Mexican food should be smokey. I had no chipotles but I had enough capsicum and birds eye chillies to improvise.

Ingredients

Mushy Bits

  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1 brown onion
  • 2 birds eye chillies
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 2 tablespoons of cumin (or more, or less, to taste)
  • Squeeze of lime
  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 2 corns
  • 3 garlics
  • 3 tbsp white truffle oil (optional, but divine)

Other Bits

  • Gourmet fancy-schmancy corn chips
  • Guacamole (make it yourself, it’s dead easy)
  • Coriander leaves to garnish

Method

  • Char-grill the tomatoes and corn on the BBQ and dice everything else (don’t dice the guacamole or chips, actually, do, it’ll be funny).
  • Put all the mushy bits into a cast iron pan and place it on the BBQ
  • Wrap the outside sides of the pan with paperbark bark
  • Place a larger cast iron pan over the top of the first one so that it holds the paper bark in. Make sure there’s room for air to circulate into the first pan.
  • Cook until the smell of smokey paperbark and nacho mushy bits is so overpoweringly delicious you have to eat it.
  • Eat
Categories
Scallops

Thai Scallops with Orange Chilli Dipping Sauce

Thai Scallops
Thai Scallops

Orange Chilli Dipping Sauce

  • Peel from 1.5 oranges or so, loosely chopped, don’t get too excited
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup ginger, loosely chopped, skin on, be lazy
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 roughly chopped chilli
  • 1 finely diced chilli
  • Fish sauce

Simmer that and reduce it to a syrup which is somewhere between water and honey in viscosity. Strain the syrup into a bowl and add in one very finely diced chilli, a slice of orange and two tbsp of fish sauce. Refrigerate.

Scallops

Put the ginger dregs of what you’ve strained to make the dipping sauce into a cast iron pan and fry it off for 5 mins in sesame oil. Drain that and set aside. Sear the scallops in it later.

Veges

Mix up/make your favourite Thai/Khmer/Vietnamese chilli paste in a wok or large saucepan. Add coconut cream. Reduce way down. Add in some tofu, bright veges (beans, capsicum, purple cabbage). Simmer quickly.

Noodles

Vermicelli

Serve

With a drizzling of fish sauce and fresh coconut cream, scatter heaps of coriander, mint and Vietnamese mint about the place. Drizzle some of the dipping sauce over the top. Add chilli to taste.

Categories
Breakfast gluten-free Vegetarian

Bircher Muesli with Blueberry Sauce

Bircher Muesli
Bircher Muesli

Bircher Muesli used to be something of an enigma for me. A metaphor for health retreats and people named Sven. An option on a breakfast menu you chose if you didn’t eat bacon. It contained sultanas, and oats and fibrous things which stirred the bowels but not the soul. Then I discovered blueberry sauce and vanilla soy milk.

This bircher muesli recipe is still super-healthy, but it’s delicious and creamy and as boring as a weekend away with Bear Grylls. You need to make it the night before. Or for best results, two nights before.

Muesli Ingredients

  • 2 Cups of oats. Good ones
  • 2/3 cup of apple juice
  • 1/3 cup of mandarin juice
  • 1 cup of natural greek yoghurt. As healthy or as fatty as you like. Doesn’t matter either way
  • 2 large teaspoons of vanilla paste
  • A sprinkling of cinnamon

Mix all that in a bowl and leave overnight.

Blueberry Sauce Recipe

  • 2/3 cup of blueberries
  • 1/3 cup of strawberries, stalks removed
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Put that in a saucepan and simmer over a medium heat until it’s bubbling slightly. Mash it up with a potato masher. Reduce it a little until it’s syrupy, but not tooo syrupy, it needs to be easily pourable. Strain it into a jug so there’s no pulpy bits. Refrigerate.

Serving

The next day (or the day after) put the muesli in a bowl. Pour a large hint of vanilla soy milk over the top. Cover gently with strawberries, blueberries, mango, macadamia nuts and a big dollop of mango yoghurt. Drizzle with blueberry sauce. Add a sprig of mint.

OMG.

Categories
Breakfast Corn Vegetarian

Corn Fritters with Avocado Salsa

Corn Fritters
Corn Fritters

I had Bill Granger’s corncakes not long ago. At his signature restaurant in Surry Hills. They were f***ing terrible. As was everything else about the restaurant. They put bacon on my vegetarian girlfriend’s plate. They didn’t even realise they hadn’t wiped the table down until 3/4 of the way through the meal. They got the coffees wrong. They said they were out of potato and leek soup and that we could have pumpkin instead and then brought potato and leek soup anyway. They were even out of orange juice, at breakfast time. And we weren’t the only ones complaining. Don’t go there.

Corn cakes should be so easy to get right, I don’t know how people fail. They always come out too dry. The trick is to go heavy on the corn. And add onion for sweetness. You want mostly corn in there, with two grains of flour and enough egg to make it stick together. Get them crispy on the outside, but don’t burn them.

Ingredients

  • Corn. Der. Heaps of it. So much corn you vision turns yellow. Cut up a few cobs or use a whole tin if you’re lazy. About a cup if you have to measure.
  • 1/2 cup flour or so
  • 4 eggs
  • Coriander leaves, 1/3 loose cup
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • 1/3 of a small red chilli
  • Juice from 1/3 of a lime

Method

  • Mush
  • Fry in oil, like pancakes, but with more oil

Serving Suggestion

  • Rocket and lime juice on the side
  • Avocado/Tomato/Coriander/Lime/Salt/Spanish Onion salsa
  • Greek yoghurt

Serves: 2.5 people

Categories
Health and Fitness

Vegetarianism

There are nine reasons why people choose to be vegetarians. The first is because they have a moral objection to eating animals. The second is because they’re trying to impress a girl and I’ve forgotten the other seven because after a month off meat I have so little iron in my body P&O have been using my stools as rust-proofing.

My vegetarianism falls into the second category of reasons. I vaguely recall the others having something to do with battery-powered chickens. Either way, I’ve reached a moral milestone and I’m now at a point where a point has been proven and I have to make a decision on vegetarinism: to be, or not to be? That is the question. Is it nobler in the mind to suffer the beans and legumes of colonic good-fortune, or to take chopsticks against a sea of creatures and by opposing, eat them?

I can’t decide.

Up until quite recently, let’s call it August, I was of the opinion that unless someone with a stethoscope and a Mercedes reliably informed you that upon eating the flesh of another beast you would almost certainly drop dead, or at the very least, start convulsing with a significant degree of gusto, you had no plausible reason for being a vegetarian. I was as environamental as the next guy – I saw Xavier Rudd in a carpark in Torquay once, I’ve been to Nimbin twice and I’ve been in a Toyota Prius three times, so I got that it was wrong to eat whale meat and dolphin burgers. I got that some people avoided eating pigs or hens which have been kept in pens the size of matchboxes and injected with enough hormones to make a Chinese swimmer change sexes and then change back again. I even got that Hindus don’t like eating bovines on the grounds that they may be gods. If I shared that belief, I would have been willing to give them the benefit of the doubt too – I’ve been chowing down on Big Macs my entire life, it would have sucked to finally get to heaven, and realise it’s being run by cows. Or worse still, cows with guns.

I got all those reasons, and I was happy to avoid eating dolphins and whales and mentally-ill poultry and anything in a can, and anything you’d put on a leash and take for a walk to the park, and anything exceptionally cute, fatty, furry or smart enough to learn sign-language. But that still left a veritable ark of wildlife still on the lunch list. Ducks, for example, the white ones at least, are just annoying. I mean really, who quacks? Sheep are cute for a while of course, but then they just bleat and run around erroneously. If a sheep, I thought, got lost, waddled into an abattoir and fell on my plate, well, bad luck Dolly. And prawns? No-one, not even PETA, not even Michael F***ing Moore gives a f*** about prawn welfare. Prawns were the rats of the sea as far as I was concerned. Tiny little poo-eating exo-skeletal  pockets of delicious.

But then, after not eating any of these flavoursome creatures for an entire month, I began to realise there was more to lunch than ham, more to dinner than lamb and more to breakfast than bacon. Mid-way through I was bleating and tweeting that I couldn’t stomach another salad. Dinner guests politely put up with my lentil soups but I could tell they were thinking twice about ever coming back. Co-workers, who usually reaped rewards from my inability to cook for one and had grown used to an endless supply of my leftover pizzas, lasagnes and curries, suddenly had to contend with chick-pea burgers, soy milk laksa and tofu fondue. The smell of mutiny had hung languid in the air like methane in Mumbai. But as the weeks progressed, my culinary skillset began to adapt. Broad beans started dancing seductively with pecorino and white truffle oil. My digesty-bits felt positively sprightly. Previously ignored sections of menus in my favourite cafes sprang to life and cute hippie waitresses gave me seductive, knowing looks. Best of all, the girl I was trying to impress thought I was, well, impressive.

If I’m ever stuck on a desert island without any lentils and there’s a chicken lurking near a deep fryer and some peri-peri sauce, that thing better learn to fly real quick. But, failing that, and despite some occasional episodes of iron-deficient delirium, I think I’m going to stick at this vegetarian thing a little bit longer. I’m not driving a f***ing Prius though.

Categories
Breakfast Vegetarian

Homemade baked beans with eggs and white truffle oil

Homemade baked beans
Homemade baked beans

Wow. How poncy. So delicious though. SOO delicious.

  • Broad beans (just the beans, not the pod)
  • Fresh as ripe red organic tomatoes
  • Butter
  • Garlic
  • A splash of white wine
  • Some healthy dollops of white truffle oil
  • Salt
  • Cumin
  • Brown sugar (1-2 tablespoons)
  • A little lemon juice

Chop the tomatoes up really roughly. Put that all in an oven-proof receptacle of some kind and bake for an hour.

Crack eggs on top. Cook them until the whites all turn white, not a minute more. You want those yolks to stay nice and runny.

Sprinkle with truffled pecorino and a dash of pepper. Let that melt. If that isn’t the best vegtarian breakfast ever I’m a deep-fried truffled hindu cow.

Ponce on.

Categories
Current Affairs

How I helped bring down the NSW Police Commissioner *cough*

I was going through a box of old love letters, high school photos and other assorted memorabilia the other day and I found a pile of newspaper clippings from my (very brief) career as a journalist for Rupert Murdoch. The papers are starting to go yellow and curly around the edges so I thought I should preserve some of them digitally for posterity.

This article was front-page news in Sydney in 2001. One of Blacktown’s top cops, Chief Inspector John Thommeney, was furious a Police Integrity Commission investigation into a corrupt officer who had helped officers cheat on their promotions exams hadn’t extended to a full review of the promotions system. Another top Blacktown cop was already on stress leave after whistleblowing the corruption and the Chief Inspector of one of the country’s most violent local area commands decided to open up to me about it.

He knew he was putting his distinguished, 34-year career on the line by talking to me but I could tell he felt so frustrated and disillusioned with the situation that he didn’t care. He went as far as accusing then Police Commissioner Peter Ryan, a star recruit brought in from the UK to fight corruption in the wake of the Wood Royal commission, and other top brass of “not giving a shit” about Blacktown Police and putting the community in danger by not raising staff levels because it was a safe Labor seat. After the article was published in the Blacktown Advocate I received a formal written complaint from the Police Commissioner’s office and he accused me of being ‘worse than any Fleet Street hack he’d ever dealt with’. I took at as the greatest compliment of my brief journalistic career.

Blacktown and I had the last laugh though, Commissioner Ryan was unceremoniously dumped from office and fled back to England less than six months later after he negotiated an early exit from his contract. He was upset about the scrutiny of his job from the NSW Government and the media. There were “far too many journalists reporting policing,” he would later say. Shock-jock Alan Jones took most of the credit for the Commissioner’s exit, but I’d like to think I helped a little bit.

I wrote articles which won more awards than this one, but this particular piece stands out the most because of the role it played, albeit a very small one, in bringing down the NSW Police Commissioner. It was also a lot more interesting than the fluff-pieces I usually wrote about 50th wedding anniversaries and Council election issues. I can still remember chatting to Inspector Thommeney in his office at Blacktown Police station as a starry-eyed 21 year old and thinking to myself ‘someone is going to get into a lot of trouble for this, I hope it’s not me’.

Here it is, straight from Wednesday October 17, 2001…

Disillusioned: Fury at ‘lack of action’

Two of Blacktown’s top police officers are so disillusioned with the force, one is on indefinite sick leave and the other has lost faith in the system.

Chief Inspector John Thommeney said last week he and police whistleblower Sergeant Mark Fenlon were outraged the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) had not followed-up investigations into the police promotions system after former Police Association vice-president Inspector Robert Menzies told a PIC inquiry he had helped some officers cheat on exams in return for their voting for Menzies at the police union elections.

Chief Insp Thommeney said Insp Menzies had been an Association representative on on about 150 hearings of the Government Related Employees Tribunal hearing complaints into the promotion of officers.

He said it was outrageous the PIC had not investigated any of the 150 promotion cases Insp Menzies had helped decide.

The PIC is currently conducting public hearings on corruption in the Manly and Davidson areas.

Sgt Fenlon was reported earlier this month to have mis-givings about the focus of this current PIC inquiry.

He was concerned drugs and other police misbehaviour might overshadow what he considered was the root of the problem – a corrupt promotions system.

The real power is in the hands of the person who can influence an officer’s promotion, Sgt Fenlon was reported to have said.

It was Sgt Fenlon who told Police Commissioner Peter Ryan there were extensive problems with people cheating on promotional exams and called for a full PIC investigation into the promotions system.

Insp Thommeney agreed with Sgt Fenlon.

“Robert Menzies had the power to influence and the PIC hasn’t investigated any of the 150 cases he sat on,” he said.

Insp Thommeney said the promotions system was a Pandora’s box of corruption and cheating.

“The Wood Royal Commission could still have been sitting but it was stopped because it was too hard,” he said.

“Police will corrupt anything.”

A spokesman for Commissioner Ryan said the Commissioner had been “happy to receive the information” and would investigate.

Insp Thommeney sais after 34 years of service he was completely disenchanted with the lack of truth and transparency in the police force.

“I’m full of distrust, disillusionment and moral frustration,” he said.

“Dedication and loyalty are just meaningless in this day and age.”

Insp Thommeney said Sgt Fenlon was now so stressed he was on indefinite sick leave and was very much upset about the lack of action on the service’s behalf.

“Mark Fenlon is one of the best sergeants God ever gave breath to,” he said.

“It’s a crime (Blacktown) people don’t get his service because of what they have done.”

He said Sgt Fenlon had no chance of bringing change because management didn’t care.

“Mark is referred to as a Christian zealot by the heirarchy,” he said.

“The organisation really and truly doesn’t give a shit about him. We are supposed to be truthful and transparent, but we are less truthful than we’ve ever been in or lives”

A Police Integrity spokeswoman declined to comment.

Insp Thommeney said Blacktown had been ignored by the top brass and doubted the situation would change.

He also said the police bureaucracy were afraid to tell the community how bad staffing levels were and poor staffing levels were putting the community in danger because it was a “safe Labor seat and they don’t give a shit about staffing numbers”.

“Commissioner Ryan never visits Blacktown,” he said.

“He’s been here once and he walked in the front door … out the back and got in his car and drove off – he didn’t talk to the troops.”

Categories
bananas Cake Desserts

Gluten-free Banana Cake (with carrot cake caramel icing)

IMG_3146Carrot cake would be twice as good if it was made all of icing and no cake. Banana cake is too dry and would be heaps better with carrot cake icing. And caramel. Mmm; caramel. I doubt I’m the first person to have these thoughts but I’m claiming this recipe as my own. Don’t even think about putting any fricking walnuts or anything stupid like that in here.

What goes in it

Cake Bit

  • 3 large bananaas (no need for them to be over-ripe, we’re going to caramelise them)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of gluten-free self-raising flour
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Icing Bit

Layer Bit

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

How to make it

  • preheat the oven to 180°C and line a circular cake dish with butter
  • dice 2 bananas and fry/caramelise them with the sugar and oil in a pan
  • pour the oil out of the pan, into a jug and beat in the eggs
  • place the flour, sugar, baking powder and bi-carb soda into a large bowl
  • mix in the beaten-egg-and-oil mixture, followed by the caramelised bananas
  • bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean
  • leave to cool
  • cream the icing ingredients together
  • layer that mofo up with the remaining banana and cream and caramel