You need month-old, farm laid, free-range eggs at room temperature for this to come alive. In the same way the Italians will make pasta the hero, if you get the eggs right, and you know the chickens are loved, you can make an omelette above and beyond amazing. Smoked pork and prawns are a classic match, pad the middle out with heaps of diced onion for sweetness, cheese for cheesiness and then the mushrooms act like a sponge, soaking up the goodness. You need to make it right, sealing the outside to lock in the flavour for full effect, so follow Maggie Beer’s procedure as a guide if you’re not sure. I’m eating this as I type and there are little bits of drool on the keyboard.
Garnish with sorrel and paprika. Season well. Serve with fresh farm grown lemon and tomato chutney.
As decadent as a Mayan sun God’s gold stash and tastier than melted cheese on chorizo.
Make the meat sauce with pork and veal, onion, chorizo, tomatoes, red chilli, Pedro Ximenez, Manzanilla, garlic, cumin, paprika, in that order.
Make the tortillas with wholeground Mexican stone ground white corn flour, mixed with truffle oil, salt, water and some sugar. Get the consistency to a point approximating smooth, dry play doh. Dry grill them in your biggest, heaviest pan.
Top with fresh tomato, avocado-heavy guacamole, heavy as a mofo sour cream, coriander, truffle oil and grated cheese. Put some lettuce or similar on the side.
Matt: What about our dream of buying a yacht and sailing it home from The Mediterranean Sea?
Bec: What are you talking about?
Matt: I told you this the other day. Our retirement plan. We need to practise being boaties, or we’ll get to retirement and be total boating newbs.
Matt: How about we build a BBQ firepit pizza oven area in the back yard, with wooden bench seats and a firepit and a BBQ area?
Bec: Yep. Let’s go to Masters. But let’s start with something simple. Make some bench seats first. I don’t want to commit to the rest until you’ve proven yourself. Otherwise we’ll end up spending $1,000 on landscape supplies and they’ll sit over by the fence gathering dust. Like the last $1,000 worth of landscaping supplies.
Matt: I am going to build that retaining wall I was talking about, I just need to wait for the weather to warm up a little.
Bec: In summer you said you had to wait for it to cool down a little. Either way, let’s just go.
Matt: OK awesome. But Masters won’t have the range of supplies we need. We need to go to that tradie’s timber warehouse across town.
Bec: Won’t Masters be catering for people like us though? People who are doing little projects like this one?
Matt: Look, if it makes you’ll happy, we’ll go there, but we’ll be wasting our time.
*20 mins later*
Bec: Oh, look at those pieces of wood at the entry there. Outside. On special. They look pretty wide. Aren’t they exactly what we need?
Matt: I doubt it.
Bec: Excuse me (speaking to Masters Guy) – what do you use this wood out the front here for?
Masters Guy: Lots of stuff, but it’s particularly good for bench seating. We’re seeing a lot of young couples come through who buy it for bench seating.
Bec: We’ll take four planks please.
Matt: We only need two planks of this, but it’ll be so annoying because we’ll have to cut it up with the chainsaw.
Masters Guy: We can cut it here for you. Free of charge. Whatever size you like.
Bec: Is the first cut the deepest? HAHAHAHAHAH.
Matt: We need some coach screws now.
Masters Guy: What sort of coach are you building?
Matt: We’re building some bench seats actually.
Masters Guy: Yes, I figured. That was a joke. Sorry.
Bec: Don’t apologise to him. He’s just a bit slow. And jealous of your joke.
Masters Guy: Over in aisle 9.
Bec: What are coach screws?
Matt: They’re like a cross between a bolt and a screw. They’re for holding heavy timber together. They take a while to drill and implement, but they’re worthwhile.
Bec: This project isn’t going to take that long though is it? Don’t you just have to ghhhhzzz the wood together?
Matt: Ghhhhzzz it?
Bec: Yes. You don’t know what that is?
Bec: Look at my body language – ghhhhzzz it. *Moves arms forward in drilling motion*
Matt: You mean use a drill?
Bec: Yes. Haven’t you seen The Block?
Matt: Is that the one with the twins?
Matt: I hate that show. It’s full of stupid city people trying to build stuff in inappropriate clothing and hairstyles. Speaking of which, the clothes you’re wearing are too good to be working in the yard. You’ll have to change when we get back.
Bec: I will really only be doing light, cosmetic work, and then I’ll probably get tired or bored, so they’ll be fine.
Matt: Sounds right. So what work are you going to do?
Bec: I will move about three rocks, and then I’ll probably sit down and take photos of you working, and Instagram it.
We know the chickens (Marcia Hines, Kamahl and The Very Leggy Rhonda Burchmore) live happy lives because: a) they are so unafraid of anything they harass the dog if we’re not careful; and b) they lay three eggs a day, like clockwork. If you have equally happy chickens, or access to an egg shop, here is a solution.
Roughly chop up five large cloves of garlic
Caramelise those off in a large pan with a roughly diced leek in far too much olive oil, probably 1/4 cup of it
Add diced chorizo and a diced capsicum, fry that some more
Season with salt, pepper and cumin
Keep the heat on full, keep plenty of oil in the pan, add in a roughly diced avocado, in big chunks
Beat up 8 eggs and 3 tablespoons of butter, pour those over the top of the mix in the pan
Keep the heat on high and watch the eggs bubble a little – this aerates them
Turn the heat off, sprinkle with grated cheese
Put the pan in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees
Cook for 15 or so minutes until firm and until a nice oily, eggy, cheesy, chorizo, leek and garlic crust has formed on the outside, but don’t over-cook so it dries out
Serve with a garnish and drizzle with black truffle oil
I’ve been buying this wonderful honey aioli from the deli but at $9.95 for a little jar, it’s breaking the bank. One night of fish and chips and half the stuff is gone. I figured I’d make a litre of it myself.
The trick here is to be patient, especially when you’re starting out. If you get greedy and lazy, and start pouring too much oil in you’ll come unstuck. Canola oil is the key I think, if you base it on olive oil the taste is just so strong. This recipe is based on the Larousse Gastronimique version, with added extras for nom.
Here’s what you need:
6 egg yolks
3.5 cups of canola oil
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp wholegrain mustard
3 tbsp honey
4 tbsp water
4 tbsp mashed potato
2 tsp salt
Combine the egg yolks and garlic in a blender. Keep blending on low and start adding the oil a few drops at a time. Increase the flow rate to a very slow drizzle once it’s started emulsifying nicely. Once you’ve added a couple of cups of oil, transfer to a food processor (the little blender blades won’t be able to keep up once the blender is getting more full). Keep adding the oil and then add the olive oil.
Mix up the rest of the ingredients (except the mashed potato) in a container and then slowly pour them in. Add the mashed potato and whiz on high for 30 seconds.
It was one of the key pieces of marriage advice they’d received from Bec’s Dad after saying he didn’t want to give them advice – “Don’t renovate.” They didn’t, but they did buy, fix, and move some furniture, which was horrendous.
The day began with a visit to a series of smelly antique stores. Bec was polite and feigned interest on occasions where she’d she left her iPhone in the car, whereas Matt loved shopping for antiques. Nothing was suitable though, which pleased Bec, as she’d invented the game “Guess how many people have had sex on this couch/table/chair?”
After failing with antiques, they tried a second-hand store, which Bec was more comfortable with, as it meant fewer strands of human genome. Matt spotted a table and got excited – it was cheap and he could see the potential.
Matt was desperate for a project – they had a rainy long weekend ahead of them, and as he’d made a new year’s resolution not to drink before 5pm on any non-public holiday day, he needed something to occupy his time, or he’d have to talk about relationships with Bec. The table was purchased.
Matt and the store owner struggled with the table for 15 minutes, lifting it onto the roof, in the rain. Bec helped by staying in the car and playing on her iPhone.
The drive home in the wind and sideways rain saw the table slide along the roof, with Bec and Matt gritting their teeth hoping it wouldn’t fall.
Matt: So darling, when we get this home I’m going to need your help to get it off the roof before it gets any wetter.
Bec: Arrrgh. I HATE lifting stuff. It hurts, and it’s annoying, and you’re stronger than me and I’m not a removalist.
Matt: Darling it’ll take two minutes and it’s done. And you’ve always done a great job lifting the kayak and canoe off the roof.
Bec: Yes and that always works out well. I believe we have fought EVERY time whilst lifting.
Matt: If you help me, we can talk about your friend’s upcoming wedding for half an hour.
When they got home Bec helped lift the table off the car roof. They yelled at each other four times, then Matt disappeared into the shed for three days (as Bec would tell the story), only popping out to ask Bec if she thought if it was “sexual, me being all manly with the sander and everything?” Bec however was more focused on watching DVDs and moving far away from her wedding day weight.
On the second day, Matt announced that he had taken the legs off the table and would be driving his car over the top of the table to fix it. It had become somewhat swollen and buckled in all the rain and needed straightening. Bec informed Matt that he’d break the table and not to do that. Bec was in the shower though, so Matt ran up to the shed, got in the car, drove over the table and broke it.
For the next few hours Matt sulked about the broken table, and Bec ignored him. After some beers he was in better spirits and decided the crack added ‘character’ to the table, and repaired it as best he could. According to Matt he did such a great job “You’d never even notice the crack, unless you were specifically looking for it.”
It was then the time they’d been dreading – the carrying of the table from the shed to the dining room. Bec was in the midst of reading a heavy-hitting news.com.au article, so was annoyed for the interruption. When she arrived at the shed, the instructions were clear “You hold that end, I’ll walk backwards. Let’s get this over as quickly as possible.”
Bec couldn’t see anything ahead of her due to the length of the table, and Matt didn’t look behind, which resulted in missteps, stubbed toes, and scratched ankles. After seeing all of her toe bones exposed, Bec put the table down, yelling “I’m done with this! It’s stupid, you’re not telling me what’s in front, and I’ve zero skin left on my feet.” “Darling we’ve just got to get it up the stairs, and then it’s done. I’ll tell you what’s ahead of you.” “Fine.”
As they were climbing the never-ending stairs, Matt said “Just one more stair to go,” which Bec was appreciative for, except he meant for him. Bec knocked her ankle on a stair, slammed the table down, and refused to carry it.
Matt called his brother, he came over, and they carried the table the two metres from the deck to the dining room.
“That wasn’t so hard,” said Matt.
“Yes it was,” said Bec.
“We should so buy an old house to renovate,” Matt said. “It would be fun. I could sand it.”
“You spent three days in the shed, and all you have to show for it is a broken table,” Bec reminded him. “It would take us ten years to renovate a house because you’re so easily distracted. You haven’t even finished painting this table leg, I can see where you’ve kind of done around the outside a bit and then left it, probably to inspect an interesting looking ant. Are you planning on fixing it up, or are you just going to leave it?”
“Hey, look at that wine rack. It would look good in white. I’m going to paint the wine rack white,” said Matt.
Dice the pineapple and apricots into centimetre cubes
Put the fruit, wine, rice, stock, cinnamon sticks and vanilla into a tagine (or a casserole dish)
Finely dice all remaining ingredients, grind the cumin seeds, and fry on high heat in a heavy saucepan
Mix everything in the tagine and bake at 180 degrees for half an hour, or until rice is cooked, fluffing up regularly with a fork
Dice 1/2 capsicum and other bits into a salsa, add the oil, juice from one lemon and marinate the cutlets for as long as you can. Ideally a few hours. A week might be too long. Don’t get carried away.
BBQ them with the 2 cinnamon sticks from the risotto, nom
Garnish with coriander leaves, cinnamon, lemon wedges and julienne capsicum
Drink some red wine. Lots of red wine.
When you date a gluten-free vegetarian you have to like salad. It’s easy to get sick of lettuce too, so when we had this amazing barley and pomegranate salad on the weekend at a BBQ I was blown away.
By gosh, was it delish. We had to go before I could grab the recipe, but I think, *think* this was what’s in it:
1.5 cups of wholegrain barley, washed, and then boiled for 35-40 minutes in 5 cups of water. You could also probably soak it overnight in 3 cups of water and lime juice and then quickly cook it off. Don’t soak or boil it for too long or you’ll end up with mush. Let it cool down before you serve it.
A block of good, strong, Greek goat feta, cut into cubes, or crumpled. 1cm Cubes would look better with the round pomegranate seeds
The seeds from three pomegranates, or more if you’ve got heaps. Go nuts.
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.
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.
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
3 tbsp white truffle oil (optional, but divine)
Gourmet fancy-schmancy corn chips
Guacamole (make it yourself, it’s dead easy)
Coriander leaves to garnish
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.