Food for you is what? Food is about pleasure, generosity and celebration. I never understand those people for whom food is solely about fuel. Food provides an easy way of being generous with yourself and others. It evokes memories of good times…what would the Ekka be without strawberry icecreams??? Veal saltimbocca evokes the Milano Restaurant in the 1970s; laksa always brings back memories of my first encounter with The Malaya in Sydney in the 1980s; chilled soups immediately recall those dinner parties designed by Greta Anna; seafood always tastes better from Stradbroke and never has steak been more succulent than at Medium Rare!
What was your favourite food/meal as a child? Not a birthday cake! Every year my mother would make me a Bombe Alaska for my birthday. It was so exciting: the lights would go off and the brandy would be lit….crisp on the outside it was filled with ice cream and strawberries. It was fabulous.
What did you have for dinner last night? Roast chicken and red cabbage coleslaw; grilled figs and yoghurt.
Favourite restaurant? Spirit House for special occasions. Either The Continental Café or Simpatico for more regular feasting, and my local café Bellesis for breakfast or occasions where there are diverse tastes, incomes or finicky children.
Do you grow food, and if so, what? I do not grow food but I have an open invitation to raid the garden of my next door neighbours who have a great selection of herbs.
Local hidden gem? The Fruit Barn at Dunwich…great coffee, cakes, salads and vegetarian snacks with an unexpectedly wide range of fruit and vegetables and up market delicacies.
Your favourite food shop? Allsop and England at Coorparoo – organic butcher, great service…always happy to cooperate with my attempts to cook new recipes.
What do you hope never to eat again? Mass Produced Mud Cake ubiquitous at work morning teas….or white chocolate.
How often do you cook? I cook every day.
Most used cookbook? Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion.
Enough of salad. With the hint of a light, cool breeze coming off the river at night, it is time to pull out the soup bowls. And to put in the bowl? At the moment, I can’t go past Libyan lamb soup.
There are many variations of this traditional Libyan soup and they all have that warming, unctuous quality of a great cooler weather dish. The soup has the spice palate of the Middle East with coriander, cumin and mint mixed with little nuggets of lamb. The majority of recipes add in chick peas, and though normally a fan, I prefer to use pearl barley in this recipe. It is one of those soups you can make your own. I also like to add in some vegetables such as pumpkin to make it a more balanced dinner. As well, you can experiment with the spices. I have included the basics below but sometimes add in ras el hanout, a small piece of cinnamon or crank up the chilli.
Libyan Lamb Soup
500 g lamb
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic
1 tspn ground coriander
1 tspn ground cumin
1 tspn ground allspice
1 tspn of chilli powder (or one fresh chilli)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 tin of tomatoes
50g cous cous
Handful of chopped fresh mint and parsley
Lemon wedges to serve
First of all chop the lamb very finely, until it is the size of small pebbles, and put aside.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion until slightly golden and soft. Add the chopped garlic and fry another couple of minutes. Then add in the coriander, cumin, allspice and chilli and stir for a couple of minutes. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and put aside. Add some more oil to the pan and increase the heat. Add the lamb to brown and keep it moving around the saucepan.
Turn down the heat and add back in the onion and spice mixture. Also add in the chopped, tinned tomatoes, the water and the stock. Give it a good mix and add the pearl barley (or chickpeas). Stir again, put the lid on and set it on a low simmer for an hour.
After an hour, add in the cous cous, parsley and mint and take the saucepan off the stove and let it stand for three minutes. Serve in big bowls, because you will want a lot, and serve with a quarter of lemon.
A new generation of food magazines are blurring the distinction between art and food. These highly curated publications seek to explore new ways of thinking, writing and presenting food. In contrast to the glossy temptations of Gourmet Traveller, the aesthetic of the new food magazines is decidedly matte, both in paper and intention. Food is seen as a metaphor for a range of human activities and this frees it to be explored through many approaches, some of which have only a marginal relationship with food. Below is a snapshot of some recent food inspired magazines.
Cereal: In Pursuit of Food and Travel
Cereal is a new magazine with the first edition published late 2012. It is a substantial publication and structured like a book and includes six chapters with headings such as Copenhagen and Carrots. The aim of the editors, based in Bath in the UK, is to explore subjects in-depth, and allied with beautiful imagery and design to create a magazine which can be read and re-read. The format works with a combination of historic overview of selected foods, recipes, personal stories and interviews. For example, the chapter on matcha, a powdered Japanese green tea, has detailed article on the history and ritual of making matcha, a story about a tearoom in Bristol that specialises in matcha and a recipe for a matcha cake with ginger and lemon.
The photography is beautiful and the layout clean and it looks damn fine lying on the coffee table.
Cereal – available from Scrumptious Reads, $20.00. www.readcereal.com
Gather is another substantial publication designed to sit on your shelf for some time. Printed in the US, it is seasonal and recipe based, with the first edition coming out in the Northern summer 2012. The journal follows the courses of a meal with chapters from Amuse Bouche and Cocktails through Starters, Mains and Desserts. The final chapter is on Salt and covers the many types and uses of salt as well as recipes for salty treats such as peanut brittle.
The recipes are accessible and show influences from Asian through to Middle Eastern and includes starters such as oysters with a summer vinaigrette and shaved asparagus salad with poached egg. For mains the stand-outs were grilled pomegranate chicken and steak and caponata. Gather is a great addition to any recipe library, but for Australian cooks, we will always be a season behind (or ahead) when the issues are released.
meatpaper has been going for five years and is the most established of the new food journals, though it often has only an elliptical relationship with food. Unsurprisingly, the focus of the magazine is on meat, and to reinforce the love, many photos of meat. There is much to find out about meat with Issue 18 including articles on making bollito misto which is a medley of boiled, fatty meats from Northern Italy, Hungarian sausages, and for the adventurous, a recipe for a Turkish custard dessert made with chicken breast. To counter balance the meatiness, there is four page spread on the national dishes of the world. Australia’s, was predictably, the meat pie though our near neighbours in Papua New Guinea are much better off with mumu, a dish pork, sweet potatoes, rice and greens cooked in an earthen oven. The Canadians have to make do with poutine, described as french fries covered in cheese curds and brown gravy.
meatpaper is both ironic and serious at the same time. It is published in San Francisco and its focus is more domestic than some of the other magazines but this is redeemed by arty graphics and a curious take on all issues meat.
Condiment:Adventures in Food and Form, the most self-consciously arty of the magazines. Published out of Melbourne, the focus is relentlessly global with articles from Germany, Japan and the United States. The magazine is highly graphic with collages, photography and selected works by particular artists. The writing has a manifesto feel about it as the writers explore the far reaches of what is gastronomy. For example, Cameron Allan McKean, in his piece on walking towards an expanded gastronomy and ponders that ‘chemical and molecular science did not free food through molecular gastronomy, it tethered it to technology and abused it: a fearful overwrought approach to food.’ Like the other magazines, there is a desire to stretch the notion of what is food writing and to do this through exploring the links between food and art.