Motorhome Mama Cookin’

I have my first Motorhome Mama Cookin’ post up over on the wonderful @crazybrave’s Progressive Dinner Party. You can read all about my cast iron and knife fetishes, as well as our current Mexican binge, buttermilk biscuit-making & sourcing local produce for inspiration. ๐Ÿ™‚

Fancy Gap fried chicken & artichokes

Having just made the most delicious fried chicken OF MY LIFE, I feel compelled to share immediately! First of all, anyone who wants to complain that ‘this is too hard/too much work/I don’t have the right [insert utensils/mod cons]’, it’s important that you know that we made this dinner in the RockVan, a 1977 GMC motorhome, deep in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Fancy Gap, Virginia.

The RockVan

So go for it โ€“ you won’t be sorry.

Ingredients

1 free-range chicken, jointed (we were fortunate to have a Polyface chicken)

buttermilk

bread crumbs (making your own from a nice loaf of sourdough is best, but after drying slices on the dash while driving, then mangling them with our secondhand hand blender, Stuart reckons we’ll buy some next time for RockVan ease…)

cinnamon

cayenne

turmeric

salt & pepper

onion

garlic

flour

vegetable oil

Method

Soak the chicken pieces in buttermilk for a few hours (out of the fridge so it will fry evenly when the time comes).

Soaking the chicken in buttermilk

Turn the onion and garlic into a paste โ€“ you can do it with a mortar and pestle, but in this case, I cannot see why not to use the hand blender, which is all we have in the RockVan anyway. Set aside in a bowl.

Garlic/onion paste

Blend your bread crumbs until fine-ish, then add all the dried spices โ€“ salt & pepper to taste, but I would encourage you to be liberal with both.

Dredging the chicken in spiced breadcrumbs

Pull pieces of chicken from the buttermilk, dredge very lightly in flour, then in the garlic/onion paste, then in the spiced bread crumbs. You can either shallow fry (with enough oil to virtually half cover the pieces) or deep fry.

Pop in the oven for 10-20 minutes โ€“ totally depends on the size of your pieces, heat of your oven, etc.

Having served ours with artichokes tonight, I reckon I never need anything else for dinner. This is very happymaking food.

Fancy Gap fried chicken & artichokes.

Y’all come back now. ๐Ÿ˜‰

 

Gourmet Poverty

๏ปฟ

In 2005, living in a chaotic house with three kids under 6, I cooked myself sane. And then, in response to lots of requests from friends for recipes, I was inspired to write my own cookbook, which I gave to about 60 friends in Australia, the US and the UK for summer solstice that year. I’ve since sent the pdf to dozens more friends, old and new.

I’ve had a dream that I would pitch the book, which is called Gourmet Poverty, to a publisher one day. The realities of study, work and family life have meant it’s remained low on the priority list. I’ve also long intended to write a second version, which I’m sure I’ll do once we’re out on the farm. But for now, I’m simply going to share it here. It’s full of recipes and stories of where I got them and who we’ve eaten them with, as well as possibly an overdose of photos of my much-adored brood.

For those of you with your own copies, you’ll see I’ve made a couple of minor revisions – I strongly encourage you to cross out the original pizza recipe and follow the new one!

Here it is, world, Gourmet Poverty by Tammi Jonas. ๐Ÿ™‚

Making Yoghurt: A Gateway Process to Cheese-making

Back from endless travels and feasting our way through Tasmania, our normal Farmers Direct milk delivery started up again. We love the convenience of the twice-weekly delivery, which means we never run out of dairy at inopportune times. But then, the day after our big delivery, the kids were unexpectedly invited to shelter from the scorching heat for two days in their grandparents’ pool. This, of course, meant more productivity for Stuart and I, who are both working from home this year, but it also meant more milk than we knew what to do with. Or did it?

I live for the occasional milk glut, when I can make paneer, as it’s a high milk to cheese ratio (you only get a litre of cheese for four litres of milk). But Stuart mentioned yoghurt, and squeeeeee! We were away. I got the recipe from Sandor Ellix Katz’ Wild Fermentation. (I also made paneer and Stuart attempted to make mishti doi, which didn’t set, probably because he jiggled it while it was setting.)

1L full cream milk

1T fresh live-culture plain yoghurt

Heat the milk slowly in a saucepan to 82C (or just under the boil), then allow to cool to 43C (which is where you can just keep your finger in the hot milk). Mix in the tablespoon of yoghurt (I used Farmers Union Greek Style) and pour into a preheated glass jar. NB I only made 500mL due to our desire to make the other dairy delights.

Yoghurt, paneer & mishti doi on the boil
500mL into a jar

You should have pre-heated an esky (unless, like @tomatom, you have access to an Aga to keep it warm), either with jars of hot water or with hot water poured straight in. I foolishly used our large esky, which meant it took a stupid amount of water to heat it up – I used it on the garden the next day, but next time I’ll use our smaller esky and I’ll just pour the water straight in and not bother with the jars.

Yoghurt in the warm esky

Place the yoghurt in the warm esky – I kept mine pretty warm, probably around that 43C mark – and leave it for 8 to 12 hours. Don’t move it, as it likes to be quite still to set apparently.

Next thing you know, you’ve totally made yoghurt! It’s so simple, and so exciting! Mine is sourer than even our favourite Greek style, but I like it that way. I’m now so inspired I plan to try mozzarella – @littleredhen has inspired me and I’ve been watching @beeso’s cheesemaking over on the Twitterz with envy for a year now.

Yoghurt!
Fresh yoghurt on muesli with Stu'd plums

This post is also part of Fight Back Fridays over on the excellent Food Renegade site! Check out the others!

Camp cooking, cast iron style

Cast Iron Camping means a loaded car!

One of the major highlights of camping for me is the opportunity to cook and eat outside for days on end, coupled with the wonderful challenge of limited cold space and cooking with only two burners. When we accepted our lot as ‘car campers’ after having children, with whom we’ve been camping since the eldest was 5 months old (and #2’s first camp experience was at 11days old!), we discovered the joy of Cast Iron Camping and have embraced it in all its tasty results.

First, some basics. Although I would never suggest you *must* travel with these items to make good food (you need only look to Great Depression Cooking with Clara for proof), it certainly makes it more pleasurable for me. Therefore, I travel with two good knives (usually my Chinese cleaver and a 10โ€ Dick – ahem, this isn’t a joke, it’s the brand), preferably my big chopping board, but a medium-sized one will do, a 10โ€ le Creuset (any enamelled cast iron large pot will do โ€“ we scored ours on somebody’s nature strip in North Carlton) and a 10โ€ cast iron frypan. The lid for the le Creuset comes in handy for camp pizza on the frypan too.

I bring along a smaller stainless steel pot as well for cooking the odd sauce or hot chocolate for the kids. Obviously, a spatula & wooden spoon, plus a mixing bowl is helpful. I also try to bring one or two more plates & bowls than we need for dining to hold ingredients as I chop. Arguably not essential but rather pleasant to have along is a stovetop espresso maker… you can indeed make coffee old-school in a pot, but we all know which is tastier.

I like to bring a tupperware of my favourite spices, and absolutely essential (for me) is a container of salt flakes and a pepper grinder, as I can’t bear iodised, granulated salt or powdery pepper. Oh, and this year I started taking my sourdough starter along to make a leavened damper, and let me tell you, it’s worth it! But I’ll get to that…

You never know what spice you might need...

We picked up a secondhand ‘Eva Kool’ esky a couple years ago after admiring our friends’ on repeated long, hot summer camping trips. This thing will keep brie in good form for 10 days, and in fact we’ve seen it keep ice for that long when kept in the shade and with wet towels over it in 40C weather. Between that and our vintage Coleman stove Stuart picked up at a garage sale, we are indeed happy campers. So what do we eat?

Sourdough Damper

As mentioned previously, this is now a staple for us when we’re camping. I’m very glad I only took half of Fran, my starter, as a wallaby ate her halfway through the trip. She made some brilliant bread before she went though. My total aversion to supermarket bread also means we have to make our own while camping, as no good bakery bread will keep well enough. We do, however, rely on tortillas & Sorj bread as our ‘long-life’ option.

The recipe is simple. Pour some starter, flour, salt, water & a bit of olive oil into the mixing bowl. Mix/knead for a minute or two. Put dough in the le Creuset (this is why I bring enamelled cast iron, btw) with some oil in the bottom, rubbing a bit more on top. Cover & let rise overnight. In the morning, it will take about half an hour to bake โ€“ you should flip it after about 20 minutes (conditions of your stove, the weather, your pot, etc will make this vary, of course). The result is a lovely, airy loaf with a crispy crust, thicker than foccacia but not as tall as a normal loaf usually, perfect to enjoy with eggs.

Breakfast

Brekky is important to me. (Stuart would say that’s an understatement.) Having grown up in America with a love of cooked brekkies, I’ve maintained my desire for nearly two decades in a land of muesli eaters. Don’t get me wrong, I like raw oats with nuts & Stuart’s stewed plums, but not as much as I like eggs and roast tomatoes. So here’s a sample of our camp brekkies:

  • ham/cheese/tomato scramble on turkish rolls โ€“ this was simpler than an omelette with the same ingredients as I would normally cook the fillings separately and re-introduce them to an omelette. While camping I was minimising extra washing up, because no matter how fun the cooking is, I’m less enthusiastic about washing up (especially with cold salt water…). I prefer mozzarella for this for the gooeyness.
  • poached egg on mushies with prosciutto & pecorino on fresh sourdough damper โ€“ I poached eggs in sea water with spectacular results.
  • breakfast burritos โ€“ egg, tomato, prosciutto, tasty cheese, optional yoghurt โ€“ Mexican, or American versions thereof, is standard on our menus, and brekky burritos make a nice change to the regular fry up, as well as being a simple option on a day without damper.
  • fried eggs, Boks bacon, fried tomato, fresh sourdough damper โ€“ we sought out local produce wherever possible along our Tasmanian adventure, and Boks bacon, though apparently only ‘bred free range’ instead of fully free range (and there is some controversy around all of this that I won’t go in to as I don’t know the story well enough), is really delicious bacon.
  • roast tomatoes & avocado with hand-whisked hollandaise (on very boring local ‘bakery’ bread) โ€“ I’m cheating here as we made this in a serviced apartment at Port Arthur, but I wanted to include it both to give Ev (who slept on our floor as we all escaped the endless rain) kudos for hand-whipping the hollandaise. It wasn’t as a thick an emulsification as if he’d had so much as a whisk to do the job (I gave him a fork…), but it was delicious nonetheless. You could definitely do this camping, and just fry the tomatoes.
  • french toast from leftover Zum bakery sourdough, zucchini flowers stuffed with chevre & egg, egged & fried in butter โ€“ I couldn’t pass up the zucchini flowers at the Hobart Farm Gate market, and we weren’t sorry.
  • fried tomato & Rare Food bacon on fried day-old sourdough โ€“ I know, we had bacon and we fried the bread. It was so bloody good we did it two days in a row. It’s an excellent solution to stale bread. The Rare Food bacon is from Matthew Evans of Gourmet Farmer fame’s pigs, which the Cygnet butcher then cures. It’s quality product, but the bacon is a little smoky for my palate.

    Zomigod, fried bread is *good*.

You admittedly couldn’t eat such rich breakfasts every day of your life, but hey, we were on holiday and couldn’t resist all the local free range eggs, amazing produce, free range bacon and stunning range of cheeses. Besides, it was important that I share the amazing variety of options one has when camping with you, dear readers. I did it all for you, and I liked it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lunches

Lunches are typically a deceptively simple affair when we camp as brekky and dinner are ostensibly the main acts. Their simplicity relies on picking up high quality local produce and making lovely rolls or a ploughman’s lunch with them.

  • Ploughman’s lunch โ€“ fresh baguettes, avocado, chicken liver pate, Bruny Island Cheese ‘Tom’, green olive tapenade, beetroot dip, tomato, cucumber, pickled walnuts โ€“ we sourced most of these ingredients at the lovely Pasini’s Cafe in Bicheno.
  • Wineglass Bay picnic โ€“ fresh rolls, salami, cheddar, avocado, tapenade, tomato
  • Hobart’s Botanical Gardens โ€“ oysters, BISH smoked trout, Bruny cheese ‘Tom’, tomatoes, cucumbers, Zum Bakery bread

    Happy picnics every day
  • camp pizza โ€“ quick pita/pizza dough, passata, salami, tomato, mushie, shallot, feta, pepper โ€“ make a pita dough from flour, baking soda, salt & water โ€“ you can add a little oil to keep it from sticking. Set aside and prepare your toppings, roll out your dough (I don’t carry a rolling pin as a bottle of wine does the job nicely) and cook it first on one side, then flip it, add the toppings & cover. It should be ready in less than 5 minutes.

Dinners

  • oysters, oysters, oysters โ€“ my new year’s resolution was to eat oysters every day we were in Tassie. Sadly, I failed to eat them on five out of 20 days, but I’m pretty sure I still ate my own weight in them. We reckon the best ones came from Get Shucked on Bruny Island.
    Another reason to carry a pepper grinder
    Prosecco goes rather well with oysters

  • beef stroganoff a la bourguignon โ€“ I often do some kind of beef stew when we camp, mostly because I’m happy to store beef for longer in the esky than most other meats, and it makes a very simple meal on around the fourth night. I improvise each time, and as I made this one, I chuckled to myself that I wasn’t sure whether I was really making stroganoff or bourguigon, nor could I remember exactly how I usually make either, hence I reckon this one was kind of both. I just cook up some onions, shallots & garlic, then add the beef and mushrooms. In the other pot, cook the pasta. Once the beef is just barely cooked, I push the bits aside, add a knob of butter (& a little reserved pork fat from that morning’s brekky), melt, then add flour and brown off before pouring in a bit of wine to thicken. Mix all the bits back through, strain the pasta and mix together in the big pot. You can add a bit of yoghurt or sour cream at this stage, as well as a healthy dose of freshly cracked pepper. Voilร  โ€“ a two pot bastardised but tasty dish. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Nothing fancy here, just noms. ๐Ÿ™‚
  • Chipolata sausages with onion, capsicum & garlic on cheesy polenta โ€“ polenta is a genius camping starch, as is cous cous. I like to mix some mozzarella & pecorino through it to give it some creamy flavour.
  • Soft tacos/fajitas with spicy bolognese, onion & capsicum, fresh tomato, cheese, yoghurt, fried corn tortillas โ€“ I had some frozen bolognese, which served first as an ice pack in the esky, & later a very simple addition for a delicious dinner. I just added a bit of cumin and chili to change the flavour profile, fried up some onion & capsicum, & lightly fry the corn tortillas in oil to improve their store-bought texture. The kids go nuts for these.

    Soft taco
  • Sir Loin Breier Butcher’s eye fillet in shallots, served on fried potato/onion/garlic, topped with creamy mushies โ€“ this butcher in Bicheno (never mind the silly name) is turning out high quality grass-fed beef, as well as a range of sausages and apparently smoked mutton bird in season. This very simple dinner is another camping staple for us. Also, as we had one and a half two many steaks (they were big!), the next day we had more lovely fajitas with them. I do this with lamb usually, making kebabs with garlic sauce and doing my own pitas.
    Steak and potatoes

    Sir Loin Breier Butcher's eye fillet day 2 - fajitas!
  • scallops with onion, garlic, capsicum, fish sauce, sugar, lemon, Vietnamese black pepper, rice โ€“ once again, picking up the local produce pays off, and the scallops from the Freycinet marine farm were excellent cooked very quickly and served with rice.

    Bounty from Freycinet Marine Farm
  • pasta with mushie/garlic/shredded zucchini cooked in passata โ€“ I know I say everything is simple, but seriously, dried pasta for which one makes a sauce with passata and a couple of vegies, topped with the last of your pecorino (another great camping cheese as it lasts for ages) is easy enough for even the most reluctant cook, and an excellent choice after a week or so of camping when you’re meat free (assuming you were eating meat at all, of course) and need ingredients that keep.
  • quesadillas made with Bruny Island ODO โ€“ cheese, tomato, spring onion โ€“ we always travel with tortillas, and quesadillas are a Jonai staple whether at home or away. Very quick, lovely served with yoghurt, guacamole, jalapeรฑos, and/or Tabasco. These were a guilty pleasure using Bruny Cheese’s excellent ODO (One Day Old).
  • vegie curry โ€“ last jar of my green tomato curry with zucchini, ginger, garlic, shallots, garam masala, coconut milk, served on cous cous, enjoyed with Bruny Island Pint Noir โ€“ I can’t imagine camping without at least one curry, and this one was particularly delicious. I credit the garam masala.
  • stir fry with zucchini & egg, bit of vinegar with shallot, garlic & ginger, cooked in pork fat โ€“ yep, you read it. There’s that pork fat again, making everything more delicious. It also means you’re saving and re-using fat instead of working out how to dispose of it responsibly in pristine wilderness. Another nice excuse, eh?

Dessert

Those who know me or regular readers here will know that I’m not really a dessert person. I have a relentlessly savoury palate, much to Stuart and the children’s chagrin. However, some local nectarines and goat’s cheese inspired me to make one dessert on the Tassie holiday.

  • nectarines cooked in butter, topped with chevre and local honey

I should mention that for a long camping trip without a re-supply, I would usually cook & freeze one or two lunch &/or dinner options the week before, such as lasagne, quiche or stroganoff. This means you’ve got extra ice in your esky for the first couple days, and have a substantial, delicious meal as fresh stuff starts to run out. For our Tassie trip, we were only camping 3-4 days at a time with a break to re-stock and do some washing in between, so I didn’t bother.

Another useful trick is to freeze water in ice cream or yoghurt containers for the esky so that when it melts, you have containers for leftovers. ๐Ÿ™‚ And always pre-chill your esky the night before loading it up for the big trip!

May your produce be fresh, your cast iron strong, your knives sharp, your esky cold and your cooking fuel never run out. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy camping, all.

The banal pleasures of cooking

I was recently asked to peer review an article about gender and food preparation, and it brought me back to an old pet peeve when it posited ‘food prep’ as separate from ‘leisure time’. I’ve written about this before in a variety of ways, but the central point for me is that cooking is leisure sometimes, and when it’s arguably not, that is, even when you simply have to get dinner on the table after a long day, it can still be a very pleasurable activity if that’s how you frame it.

Banal activities are too often framed as ‘chores’, ‘exhausting’, ‘tedious’ or even ‘hard’. While I reckon not many people love vacuuming (though I know some who do), cooking has all the ingredients to be anything but boring or a chore. It’s a creative process, it’s nurturing, it can require dexterity and finger memory, linking one to family traditions and far flung places once visited. To reject cooking as leisure or pleasure is a life sentence of perceived drudgery. What a waste it is not to take pleasure from something most of us need to do every day of our lives.

This brings me to the summer holiday we’re on at the moment down at Stuart’s family’s beach house. We gathered here for Christmas with the family, and all up we have been eight grown ups and five children. Summers here are always full of good food and wine, with a heavy emphasis on seafood. This year I arrived with a clear desire to cook myself back into a homely space after a very busy year that saw me interstate constantly for work. And cook I have! I actually feel a bit guilty at my total dominance of the kitchen, and only hope I haven’t kept anyone else from cooking when they really wanted to (though they assure me they’ve been happy with the constant stream of dishes…). I’ve barely even sat down to read for a week, as my mind constantly ticks over what ingredients are in the fridge, formulating new combinations even as the last meal digests.

It started moments after we arrived, when I learned that a family friend who traditionally gives us loads of prawns, crayfish, mangos and cherries had in fact come through with the noms (though we got lychees instead of cherries as I understand this year’s harvest was destroyed by the floods โ€“ I wish all the farmers out there better luck next season, and hope the disaster wasn’t too debilitating for you). Immediately ‘shrimp and grits’, which I so enjoyed in Mississippi last year and have made a couple of times since, sprung to mind. I had polenta (grits being rather hard to come by in Oz), a selection of lovely cheeses (I used an aged cheddar and pecorino) for the ‘cheese grits’, and a beautiful eye of Fernleigh Farms free range bacon. A hint of cayenne pepper, plenty of garlic, the prawns and a garnish of spring onion finish the dish off.

Christmas Eve it was time to play with the crayfish. With a decadent half a cray each, obviously I needed to make aรฏoli. ๐Ÿ™‚ Some small sourdough rolls made from leftover pizza dough (which were actually like little stones, oops!), lightly steamed asparagus and a fresh salad was the perfect dinner the day before the real feasting would begin. We concluded dinner with a fabulous round of D’Affinois provided by my generous father in law, who is renowned for his excellent choice of sensational cheeses. Lucky us!

A highlight of Christmas was receiving a KitchenAid mixer, leading to even more bread making than usual, and much dreaming of the sausage attachment. But let’s get onto Christmas dinner…

We had two small turkeys (only about 3kg each) โ€“ one free range from Birregurra and one conventional turkey, which was a lot plumper than the rather lean organic one. I did two different styles โ€“ one the way my American brother in law shared with me from Thanksgiving, and the other roughly following what I remember of Stephanie Alexander’s that I’ve been making for years. My version of the recipe from Gary involved cooking at a high temperature (220C) for about 45 minutes with no stuffing under an aluminium foil tent, then out of the foil at 200C. It produced hardly any juices and was a bit dry, but still tasty with the onion, garlic, olive oil, butter under the skin, salt and pepper.

The other turkey goes in at about 210C on its side with a stuffing I made from onion, garlic, free range bacon, bread crumbs, red wine, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. After 15 minutes you flip it onto its other side for another 15 minutes, before popping it on its back at about 195C for the final hour. It was totally delicious, as was that stuffing. In fact, I reckon I’d be happy to just eat stuffing for Christmas dinner every year.

For sides I did green beans with toasted almonds and a balsamic reduction, roast beetroot with feta and pepper, smashed potatoes with rosemary, salt and pepper, and someone threw together a simple roast pumpkin. And of course there was a huge free range ham that we’re still enjoying in many forms.

Boxing Day lunch was a very simple affair of ham and fresh bread with a coleslaw made of cabbage, capsicum, spring onion & Stuart’s olives, dressed with more aรฏoli and the leftover balsamic reduction. Wayne brought out the D’Affinois again, as well as a lovely English Stilton and a Saint Agur โ€“ in the war of the French and English, I reckon the French win in the soft cheese department.

For dinner that night I was inspired by a recipe in one of Stefano Manfredi’s cookbooks, Seasonal Italian Favourites, to make a parsnip soup with the lovely turkey stock from the day before. Parsnip, leeks, garlic, Swiss brown mushrooms and a few potatoes made a glorious soup, topped off with a dollop of yoghurt and a few fried slivers of the ham, served with a fresh loaf of sourdough and luscious Lurpak butter.

My KitchenAid also inspired me to attempt croissants for the first time, which is rather hilarious as the mixer is only useful for the initial kneading, and after that, all the fiddly work is manual. Fiddly it was, but I was pleased with the results of my first attempt. Antigone helped me roll them and reckons next time we should roll them out thinner and then do a looser roll โ€“ and I think she is exactly right, the clever girl!

For breakfast the next day I did a simple omelette with the ham, tomato and mozzarella, served with another fresh loaf of sourdough, which I’m finally working out how to give a chewy crumb. I’ve been adding too much starter, I think, creating too acidic an environment to get strong gluten, so I’ve reduced the amount and kept to minimal kneading and long proving times (usually overnight). Thanks to Steve and Collette for your advice on the twitterz!

Lunch was inspired by a visit to the local fish shop, where we found Coffin Bay oysters and local mussels. Obviously this called for a simple Provenรงal style mussels as we had loads of gorgeous tomatoes asking to be eaten up. Onion, garlic, tomatoes, white wine and a hint of basil, served with sourdough sliced, coated with garlic and olive oil and toasted into crostini. Mollusc heaven!

My last effort was to finish off the kilos of prawns, so I made a tom yum goong last night. I had a quick look at the Gourmet Forager’s post on David Thompson’s recipe from Thai Street Food, and adapted it to what I had to work with. Inspired by Stuart’s desire to make a prawn stock with all the heads from our copious bounty, I fried off of the heads and skin briefly, then added water and coriander roots and brought it to the boil. After 15 minutes I strained it out and there was my base stock. I also grabbed the final leg of turkey and made a small stock with the bones & gristle, plus some celery in want of using. I only had it on for about an hour and a half, but it still contributed to deepening the flavour of the prawn stock, which would otherwise have been a bit insipid.

Into the stock went a bit of sugar, then bruised slices of galangal, lemongrass, lime skin (I didn’t have kaffir lime leaves) and chilies. Once I got the piquancy of the chilies, I added quartered mushrooms and tomatoes and cooked for about five minutes, before adding some of the delectable Phu Quoc fish sauce I hauled back from Vietnam and lime juice. A few little flavour adjustments to ensure I had the sweet, salty, spicy, sour combo right, and then I threw in the pre-cooked prawns just long enough to heat them through before serving topped with coriander leaves. I cannot explain how happy I was with the result of this soup!! Years of cooking and paying attention has finally paid off, and constant tasting throughout preparation has got me to a point where I can wing it like this and pull it off. Happy happy happy!

For those who’ve read this far, thank you for indulging me. ๐Ÿ™‚ I love writing and thinking about cooking almost as much as I like doing it. Having developed such a profound love of this banal activity has been one of the most rewarding choices I have made in my life. Thank you to all the eaters who provide me with the opportunity to indulge my passion.

Super Delicious Aรฏoli in 5 minutes!

Okay, I know I said we don’t really celebrate Christmas, but in fact we still do with the extended family and hence I have a present for all of you – a simple recipe for aรฏoli!

I’ll start by saying I’ve made aรฏoli for years, but have never been entirely satisfied with the result until this version. The two keys to today’s success are most definitely the quality of the garlic and the choice of oils. In the past, I simply used extra virgin olive oil, which is often too fruity or sharp for a good mayonnaise of any sort. I found myself often compensating with extra mustard, or too much salt, hence the ‘meh’ outcomes. This version uses a mix of a mild extra virgin olive oil and grapeseed oil.

I probably don’t need to explain the reason for using good quality garlic, but I was lucky to find some locally grown globes where we are down the coast (silly me left our own garlic at home) that are very tasty indeed. Whatever you do, NEVER buy cheap Chinese garlic – aside from the obvious food miles and ‘goddess knows what they’ve put on it’ issues, it has no flavour.

Okay, enough back story. Here’s the recipe. We’ll be enjoying it tonight with crayfish and asparagus. ๐Ÿ™‚

2 eggs

2 cloves garlic

1 T dijon mustard

juice of 1 lemon

pinch salt

1 C extra virgin olive oil

1 C grapeseed oil

Put all ingredients except the oil in a container and hand blend (I use an electric hand blender, but of course you can whisk if you like!). When combined, drizzle the oils in slowly while blending until fully emulsified. Takes about 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Tour de France Stage 12 means Cassoulet!

Presumably most of you have noticed that the Tour de France has been on. Given my recent work travels, my exhilarating participation in the democratic process of establishing a new peak representative body for international students (#allhailCISA), my usual family demands with the Jonai (who are orsm not only in my view, but by global consensus), and my public disavowal of all forms of spectator sport, I really haven’t. In fact, when someone said ‘Lance Armstrong’, I had an immediate case of deja vu/wait, what? But some time ago, I agreed to post something about the destination of Stage 12 of the Tour de France when the lovely Barbara of Winos & Foodies asked for people interested in posting something on the food of particular regions…

See, as my few regular readers will know, Tammi Tasting Terroir is meant to be about understanding, considering, eating and critiquing regional distinctions, variations, meanings and instabilities. So when Barbara asked who was interested in a project about such regional distinctions I think I might have extinguished a star as my hand shot up. But wait, it has to be about France? Hm, my research is about Australia, Vietnam & Italy, but sure, why not? It’s not like I don’t know how to do research… (increasingly, don’t you just ask the twitters?) <hopes her supervisor isn’t reading this>

Tami (one ‘m’, clearly not me, but an interesting confluence nonetheless) over at Running With Tweezers did a gorgeous post on tapenade, tomatoes provencale and roasted apricots for Stage 11, which you should definitely pop over and drool at.

So it’s lucky that I ‘ve been to France. In fact I’ve been thrice. I went with my family at 14 (please don’t ask them for the 4th of July story on the Orient Express), fell in love with Stuart in Paris while working as an au pair to earn enough money to survive (recounted briefly in this poem that is of no interest to anyone except us), and finally, with my entire American family plus our then 5yo, 3yo, & 3 month old children, mostly in the south. And that’s when we made it to the Languedoc region, which is where Mende is, which is where Stage 12 of the Tour finishes this year…

So what do you want to know about Mende, the Languedoc region, and its foods? Well, the critical dish we’re going to discuss here is cassoulet. Of course the region is also famous for its duck confit, and I could tell you about those I’ve made and those we’ve brought back from France in tins, but I’m not going to do that here… According to my much-beloved French sister-in-law, one of the things that makes cassoulet famous is that it takes three days to digest. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So here goes โ€“ I’ve made cassoulet a few times, and it’s pretty hard to stuff up if you’re paying any attention and using plenty of delicious ingredients. The catch is that I’ve been urgently called to Sydney on work (and obviously I should have written this much earlier, but to be fair, I only just got back from two days on the Gold Coast โ€“ speaking at a conference โ€“ and a week in Tassie setting up CISA and researching the ethical raising of pigs. Okay, we also ate a lot of Bruny Island Cheese).

What this catch means is that I’m cheating a bit. I’ve made cassoulet, I’ve eaten plenty of it, and now I’m going to give you a recipe I’ve drawn together from my memory of making it, and recipes I’ve read/tasted/imagined/enjoyed and ask you to make it yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve crowdsourced photos from lovely food bloggers on the twitters (who enjoyed the versions below at Libertine, written up here by @tomatom) since I’m unable to cook it up here in the hotel in Sydney. I’m now tempted to make it for friends on Wednesday night, so will update with photos if I pull that off…

This photo was taken by the fabulous Penny (@jeroxie) over at Addictive and Consuming.

Cassoulet

This hearty stew varies considerably in different regions (and even within them, as per any famous dish made in various households), and it’s fun to imagine the many spirited debates southerners must have about the requirements for pork, quality pork sausage, lamb or duck confit. Personally, I reckon you simply cannot go wrong as long as there is free range happy pork (‘only one bad day’), sausage and duck. Yes, I realise that means this is a very rich dish โ€“ that’s the point. And how fitting that I am offering it to you here in Australia’s depth of winter, as I cannot imagine it having any appeal in the current French summer!

1kg haricot (cannellini is fine, a variety of haricot) beans

1 duck, jointed

700g fresh Toulouse (pork) sausage (free range)

1 free range pig’s trotter

100g free range bacon or speck, roughly chopped

1 garlic globe, chopped

2 onions, sliced

pinch thyme

3 bay leaves

1 carrot, thickly sliced

1 stick of celery, sliced

2T tomato paste (you can also use homemade roast sugo, in which case double quantity)

Salt & pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight. Drain and put on the heat for 10-20 minutes, until soft but still al dente. Take off the heat, drain and set aside. Meanwhile, you should be making a stock from the trotter, garlic, onion, thyme, bay leaves, carrot & celery. Simmer in water for at least two hours to infuse the stock with loads of flavour. When you’re satisfied the stock has a lovely flavour, it’s ready for its next starring role.

Meanwhile, fry the duck pieces just to brown and seal in delectable juices. Also fry off the sausages. You can then slice them and add to the beans or else leave them whole โ€“ this is purely a matter of your taste and aesthetic. Set the duck and sausage aside while stock comes to maturity.

Once both the beans & the stock are ready, and the meat is browned, layer roughly, including the bacon pieces, in a casole, or a casserole dish or oven pot of some sort, ensuring some sausage is pushed in at the top. It’s useful to put the trotter in the bottom for more flavour. Pour half the stock in when you’ve half filled the pot. Stir the tomato paste or sugo through.

I use my le Creuset (I should mention I have one that was a gift, & another that was found in the hard rubbish collection in Carlton โ€“ it has exactly *one chip* in the enamel in the bottom, but somebody threw it out โ€“ lucky us). Pour the rest of the stock into the pot, cover and put in a medium/low oven for around three hours (150-160C). Uncover after the first hour and allow the top to form a bit of a crust, cooking for a further hour or two, pushing the cassoulet down with a large spoon periodically. Pour more stock in during cooking if it dries out too much.

Some people put bread crumbs on top to form the crust, but my understanding is that it’s more traditional to allow the beans and sausage to form their own crust by slow cooking uncovered at the end.

Serve with a scrumptious fresh baguette, preferably homemade. Predictably, I prefer sourdough. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s another photo, this one by the orsm @snarkattack. ๐Ÿ™‚

And now watch the food tour go on over at Barry’s Bistro as the Tour heads into Stage 13…

Simple lemony, garlicky, basil-y hollandaise

You canโ€™t beat a hollandaise soaked stack of goodness on a slow weekend morning. My lovely fellow cook Shel introduced us to the wonders of homemade hollandaise on a decadent flyaway weekend in Merimbula back in 1997 and we havenโ€™t looked back. Iโ€™ve Jonai’d the original recipe as we really like to give it a lift with the basil and garlic.

I’m sure Larousse would not be happy with me, as this version requires no reducing, but I’m willing to bet that you, dear readers, will not be disappointed. The lovely Zoe (of Progressive Dinner Party fame) and her family were instant converts to homemade hollandaise when we enjoyed this on our summer holiday, and her son apparently dubbed it ‘Tammandaise’, a name we now use as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hollandaise Sauce

3 egg yolks

splash of white wine vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

1 clove garlic

handful basil

salt & pepper to taste

200g butter

Method

Put all ingredients except butter into a tall cup and hand blend (or you can put them in a blender). Heat butter on stovetop or in microwave until just boiling. Pour very slowly into cup with other ingredients, blending constantly. Pour over stacks of goodness, add freshly ground black pepper, and enjoy!

Some options for the stacks on which this heaven will be poured:

Eggs from your ladies in the back garden (poached in slow boiling water with 10% vinegar)

Free-range bacon, for those who like Benedict

Spinach leaves for the Florentine-inclined, but nice with Benedict too

Mushrooms (sliced and fried up, a nice addition or to substitute for the eggs so it’s not so rich)

Roast tomatoes

Avocado

Good quality (homemade?!) sourdough bread, toasted

Love on the plate

I am a creature of food and geography

(I)
I ran away from America
trading politics for a new palate
ate mushies on toast in the chill midsummer air
under the shadow of Big Ben.

Then, watching football at the hostel
my eyes strayed to your large, flop-topped form
as you swayed over a pot of top ramen,
and later wrapped me in your Dryzabone in the rain
before Pavarotti in Hyde Park.

In Paris, it was
tin after tin of red kidney beans
splashes of French dressing
our lives forever in
shared containers littered with utensils sharp and dull.

You followed me back to college,
San Diego’s meals were punctuated with your obsessions
one week, carrots, the next, raisins,
no matter how sweet or salty the dish,
we ate your fetishes.

Australia called you home,
so we endured years of frugal living
and expensive flights,
carting Ranch dressing and Vegemite,
until Tasmanian smoked salmon graced our wedding feast.

A year in an Oregon cabin feverish with love
we cranked the handle of our pasta machine
while cabernet flowed down throats
wide with innocence and naivety,
three tenors forced our arms aloft
and our breasts apace.

Returning to Oz via China,
we slurped over-the-bridge noodles in Kunming
lidded with chili paste, matching heat in our
loins and our bowels,
we stared wide-eyed at rows of suspended
roast dogs, and quickly learned
cร i, cรจsuว’, and xiรจxie.

Having failed to share canine in Guangzhou,
we thought weโ€™d try grasshoppers in Oaxaca,
deep fried, coated in chili,
only to watch them sweat in the plastic, uneaten.
We souvenired 7 kilos of Mexican chocolate instead.

Surrounded by exotic, erotic sculptures
in relief on high temples
there in small, significant
Khajuraho we ate alu palak with naan,
sweet curd in earthen bowls,
we discarded to shatter back to their source.

(II)
From the earth, Oscar grows
like a ginger flower inside me,
gifting me his palate, I gave up our favourites,
one after another, spinach, garlic, basil and cumin
a vegetarian could eat no vegetables.

Antigoneโ€™s term in my womb was more
about feast than famine
as I gobbled up sushi
and tacos, burritos and salsa,
we jointly asserted our love
of a Japanese dinner and Mexican lunch.

My final term as vessel for others’ tastes,
I remember nothing but burgers
slathered in hot English mustard
like Atticus, all solid and spice.
I chopped garlic in labour
And birthed him to the clatter of Chinese steel.

(III)
Our kitchens, taste genres of Socratic method,
rhythms of kneading dough, cranking pasta sheets,
and chop chop chopping endless globes of garlic,
the only warm spaces in unheated houses
where we share a taste for desire
desiring taste.