Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Canberra Raiders..

When Dan, our new Kiwi acquisition (the jazzy lovely lyre bird Katie) and I all jumped in a car and headed for Canberra, we weren't expecting much. Catch up with some friends, sleep in a little, drive around and see some really nice trees, that sort of thing, well colour me shocked. Not only did we have actual fun, fun in Canberra, but our taste buds casted a unanimous vote and elected this city of monuments, road kill and presumptive cyclists as: A Culinary Treasure. With the help of Rowan-in-a-poncho, Platoon-Sergeant-Levy, finance-journo-with-a-soul-Alex, a suddenly adult Paul, Drunken-bertrand-russell-loving Ben and the cacophony we call Candice, we took this city's flavour for all it was worth. Canberra never stood a chance. Part I of our travels is the products, part II is an inside restaurant tip of the Southern Indian kind that will change life, on earth, as you know it. Now, let's be serious for a moment.
Serious Salsa and Sauces is a brand i first spied at The Essential Ingredient in Sydney. Owner David Miller likes it hot, and thank god for us he does. With award winning concotions like Chili Jam, Chili Jelly, piri piri, Severe Salsa and Chili honey mustard sauce, this is a line of products worth getting very, very excited about. I love spicy food and have toyed a little, with some success, at making it from scratch. I am a label Nazi when it comes to buying things in a jar or a packet, if they have sugar, preservatives or weird sciencey words and numbers in their names that I can't decipher, then my money stays with me, this time, I almost gave them my ANZ PIN and the promise of my first born. These guys are amazing, they are producing the best pastes I have ever tasted with natural ingredients and they have a vegan option (yay for Erin). My Madras Curry Paste contains nothing but ground chilli, garlic, onions, coriander, pepper, cumin, mustard, feungreek, tumeric and salt, it comes with a handy little recipe and it tastes gobsmackingly divine. I have bought the red and green curry pastes and can not wait to start tinkering with them in the kitchen. The lovely lady who sold me these at the market informed me that the green paste has a vegan version that contains no shrimp paste, they have thought of everything! Upon arriving home cranky and tired from Sydney traffic, I whipped up a quick soup from the Laksa paste I bought today: Udon, Laksa paste, beef, tofu, baby peas, corn, enoki mushroom, spinach, coriander and some extra chili paste (from Simon Johnson) which, when bathed in some coconut milk and cream, procured a time halting, steamy, spicy bowl of winterdinnerperfection. I didn't even follow a recipe, just threw some things in with this phenomenal paste and let the rest do its magic. This is the real deal, a Thai chef consulted with the Serious people and gave them his mother's secret recipes for all of these pastes on one condition: that they not be altered in the slightest. Thank god for this Thai Mama's boy, because the results for us are clean, rich, incendiary pastes that wow you with depth and flavour. They are so absolutely wonderful and a great way to introduce yourself to Indian and Asian flavours without all of the know how involved in making dishes from absolute scratch. I am dying to try more in the range. These products can be bought online or at select shops (they turned down David Jones because they wanted to retain more control over their popular product) and all the pastes will keep for a year in the fridge. They cost me seven measly bucks for a bottle. Spice was the siren song at this market, and we followed it drunkenly from curry to tea.
Miss Anthea could sell me anything. A lovely, bubbly lady as sweet as the little brown paper cup of soy chai from her big, steamy thermos that she gladly poured for Yoni, Dan, Katie and I. I always run my nose along any packet of tea, especially chai, and I do this for two reasons: firstly, because I am a little messed in the head, and secondly, because if you can't smell a strong flavour emanating from the packaging, then don't expect it to do a cameo in your cup of tea. Anthea's chai smells amazing, it's about a meter from my noise right now and I am enjoying the scents dancing around in the air as cardamon, ginger, cloves and cinnamon battle it out for my nose's love. I adored this ginger heavy brew and want to try adding a little vanilla bean paste to the pot when I try making it at home.
Anthea is so kind she even has some thorough directions on how to brew the perfect cup on the side of her adorably packaged tea. Use 1 tsp per cup and 1 for the pot (god, how I love quaint little tips like that), 2 parts water to 1 part milk (bonsoy will be luscious with this), add chai, simmer for at least 5 minutes (i'd do much more and i'd keep the heat low), add milk, gently heat for 2 more mins, add 1 heaped teaspoon of honey per cup (brown rice syrup, agave or even a little maple would work too), pour the chai, then "stir, sit back, smile and enjoy"! I don't need to be asked twice! Anthea knows her chai, places that make the tea with all milk haven't really figured out how it works yet. The reason you use water first is because the tea won't fully infuse in straight milk. The other tip to pay attention to is the adding of the milk towards the end, this produces a beautiful infusion and ensures that your milk doesn't burn, milk that is burnt is one of the primary reasons that coffee and some teas taste wrong. Check out the chai bomb which you throw into a pot of tea for 5, or just a hell of alot of heavenly tea for 1. I have never encountered this product elsewhere, but i'll include Anthea's email at the end so you can all bug her for some. And from cloves drowning in tea to cloves drowning in cider...
I was a Hot apple cider virgin until today. Heated apple cider, with lemon, cloves and cinnamon. Jesus Bloody Chirst. Sublime. It was perfectly balanced, sweet with sour, so warming and so spicy. I want to try making it at home. I don't have a recipe but I am guessing you boil some apple juice with lemon juice and then add cinnamon and cloves in amounts to taste, any tips from any of you who have made it? It's like liquid apple crumble, alcohol and sugar free, and my new best beverage friend.

Still in Sydney? Get yourself down to Canberra for a day or a weekend, the markets, the produce and foodie scene is well and truly alive and kicking. The freezing weather is the perfect excuse for hot cups of cider, spicy chai and a rainbow of curry paste purchases. Forget Parliament house, leave the art gallery and the culture for someone else, it's tummy time.

Serious Salsa and Sauces can be purchased from The Essential Ingredient or email

Anthea's Chai, email


e said...

that chai looks great. i need more chai in my life.

amanda said...

i shall bring it to our baking session for danas and we can bonsoy it with some agave and vanilla to tone down the ginger because you dont like ginger, even though you should x

Market Girl said...

What a great blog!

Check out Handmade Canberra's Upmarket, the Chai Girl will be there.
Looking for more foodies too.

Market Girl

amanda said...

hey market girl, wont be in canberra for a few weeks at least, going to try and check you out when I am down there, will add a link for you on the page, thanks xx

amanda said...

ps, please tell anthea hello from sydney.

Market Girl said...

Hi Amanda, I will say Hi from you to Anthea, thanks for a link to the blog, need some more foodies to come along and then lots of shoppers!