Thursday, October 30, 2008

Two Cops, One Revelation & The Counsellor In The Coconut


That used to hang up in the old room above our bed. I scrawled it on a whim after I had put up a bunch of photos of Dan and I on the world trip. It is a word that we both used for us, but truth be told, I have always been a lucky person. Any time that life's meaning has threatened to unhinge itself, I usually become the amused and grateful recipient of some timely, random, beautiful curve ball of unexpected kindness. I have FGFs (Fairy God Folks) all over the world. Enormous hearts always seem to find me when I need them. There's Vonnie and Rob on a Perth beach as the sun is just beginning to rise, Hamid and his family in a desolate Jordanian Desert from another century, still writing to me a year later, Gabbie on a farm in Victoria sewing quilts and sending me emails every time she senses something's going on with me. Beautiful, beautiful people all over the shop. I can now add two detectives from a Sydney police station to that list, amazing souls who, unfortunately, have to remain nameless. The stickers don't lie, cops are tops, and this is why...

I was driving home from a nice, sober night out, about to make an absolute mistake. Silly Amanda and Wise Amanda were at it in the rink, I think it was round 7. Wise Amanda was copping some lethal uppers to the jaw and Silly Amanda was moments away from total knock out. No need for details, but my mind was weaving between doing something and not doing something. To Be an idiot or Not To Be an idiot, that's always the question. It's okay when your mind weaves in and out of things, but when the big blue car you're driving that has a broken indicator, starts to weave in and out of lanes in front of an undercover cop car at about 10pm at night: Not So Good.

With one point left on my license and the last shards of my dying sanity, I got out of the car and handed over my license. The voice in my head is all expletives at this point. Two detectives, a cool looking lady, and a Canadian guy who kind of reminds me of Dr Phil, start with the questions. After establishing that I am not drunk, armed and only mildly dangerous, we somehow start talking about life. My life, to be exact. No joke, these cops and I get into the whole, entire breakup story on the side of a busy Eastern suburbs road. 

After five minutes I am leaning against the boot getting some hilarious relationship advice from this father of two and woman about to be married. They're counselling me on love and men and life. An hour later, siren lights still flashing, I have laughed my absolute ass off at some of the funniest stories and jokes I have heard in ages. In the middle of it all, after having shown me a photo of his two beautiful kids, the Canadian detective told me that he had read all the Harry Potter books to his children. Apparently there is some character who is constantly draining Harry, he steals his energy or something. He looked me in the eye and told me that it doesn't have to be hard, life/relationships etc. That the struggle can sometimes be a sign to stop the fight and just see what happens when you do. Something about the way he looked at me when he said it hit home. Light Bulbs. Not from the sirens, metaphoric light bulbs, silly. I looked back at him and didn't say anything. If something isn't working you don't have to keep trying to fix it, the need to fix it can actually be the problem. 

Simple stuff, yeah, but mine is one very thick skull.

He then told me to book myself into the Observatory Hotel for a wrap, a facial and massage, to take up rock climbing so I could meet some good men (wtf?) and to go back and finish the last semester of my law degree. Heh. Then they both hugged me hard, told me to come visit them soon and sent me on my way (ticketless, of course). They are so getting boxes of Colefax chocolates next week.

People are so lovely they break my heart. I am still smiling today at the thought of them. Lucky, huh? Two brilliant people coming along just when I needed them to. Well, If I was at any risk of forgetting the Canadian's advice, I was reminded of it again today by a hapless coconut.

That hairy little fruit has been hanging out by the kitchen sink for a few days now. I look at it when I walk by, it looks at me, neither of us say anything, then we both go back to what we were doing. Coconut has never been a particularly favourite flavour of mine. I find it a bit sickly and too rich. Even as a little kid, I used to give bounty bars the Big Snub. I was a rather ravenous little child (ie. fat), so to say I didn't eat one type of chocolate is really saying something. That was, however, before I knew about a little thing called lauric acid, and before I discovered Laksa. 

Coconuts got a bit of a bad wrap as of late, largely for two reasons: their saturated fat content and the fact that they look pretty retarded as part of a grass skirt ensemble. Scientists are at it again though, confusing us with new information every 5 years or so. The lauric acid in coconut oil (which comprises about 50% of the total fatty acid content of any given coconut) has been found to have pretty amazing healing properties, particularly for people with Crohn's disease, chronic fatigue and other bowel related disorders. But more of that later.

So i'd been sussing out this fruit, wondering how the hell to take it apart. I just couldn't work out how you'd get through to the flesh. Mum and I were having some tea in the kitchen today and I kept looking at the coconut on the sink, trying to figure out how i'd hold it down, what type of knife i'd use, whether it would be a good idea to place it on a chopping board or not. I couldn't get it to compute it in my head. The fruit just didn't make sense!

Amanda (to her peaceful, serene, gentle and patient mother): Mum, how do you cut a coconut?

Mum (to her sadistic daughter who takes extreme joy in destroying things with mess and instantaneous bursts of joyous fury): You don't cut coconuts, you take them and throw them on the ground and they split open...

!!!!!!

Say What!?

Seriously, after a mad dash to my room for my camera and about 15 seconds later:
Jesus. Bloody. Christ. Talk about the most satisfying moment of my whole entire life. I am smiling broadly as I recount this to you. Hold my hand for a sec, I am going to take you through the whole glorious process: I just took it, read it its last rites, wrapped my palm tightly against the curve of the doomed body, held the quivering weight of it poised against an anticipating sky, and, with an evil grin and all the force of one very bad year blazing through my Shoulder Internal Rotators, I smacked that bad boy back down to earth with all of the fury and glee of dark and wicked forces. That fruit didn't just crack open, it entered into Amanda imposed annihilation. Watching the cracked up coconut, all splayed out on the afternoon concrete of our driveway...If I was a smoker, this is where i'd be lighting up....ahhh. That's one for the grandkids.

Just like the Canadian said, there I had been analyzing and calculating all week how to disassemble something that looked so tricky, so impenetrable, but all along it was really simple. Maybe relationships are the same. Maybe when you stop working so hard, that's when things really start to work.

Fortune Cookie pointers aside, you simply MUST smash a coconut once before you die, the release is apocalyptic, just do it, I don't want to hear another word about it. It'll get you in touch with your inner Arab. 

So it turns out there is no need for counsellors, friends, yoga, meditation...just take one coconut, smash heartily into ground and enjoy the biblical catharsis that washes over your awed, silenced soul.
Violence aside, coconuts have some culinary value too. I enjoyed eating chunks of the flesh, the texture is really nice and it tastes much less coconutty when it's fresh flesh you're eating. I use some coconut shreds in gluten free baking, if you mix it in the right ratio with other gluten free flours, you actually don't get a coconut tasting cake/crust/biscuit at all. Coconut's oil content means it gives a good moistness to otherwise dry mixtures. I love a little bit but not too much of it in curries and laksas as well. If you can get laksas made without too much sugar or bad oils, the coconut oil in them will do great things for your body on the anti inflammatory and antimicrobial score. I usually feel quite revived and energized after I eat them. Pacific Islanders have long revered the healing properties of coconut, their "tree of life", it really does boast some impressive research results. If you want more of a run down on all of the things coconut can be beneficial for, go here.
Next time you see one in the shop, pick one up, not just for the violent prelude, either. So often I am surprised by how much we confuse the actual taste of real, natural things for the artificial shadows of them that we encounter in processed, commercial food. Real coconut flesh has a much more delicate flavour than what I normally associated with coconut. It's not about to be a favourite fruit, but I did enjoy it. 

So, that's coconuts... Get cracking.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Supercilious when wet..

On the stage of life, there are certain things one intuitively knows to play down. I come from a very open family, but there are certain aspects about me that I have learned to lie about..just a smidge. Ooh..Tell me more, you say! Bet you never knew I lovelovelove ABBA, or that I have never really read a newspaper in my entire life (and never intend to), that I am utterly tone deaf, or that I sleep with my hands balled into nervous little fists, that rodents, dancing in public and loud noises all scare the life out of me. I also don't really care a whole lot about the environment even though everyone tells me I should, and I have to look up the word rythymn every time I write it because I will never learn how the hell to spell it (Did you mean: rhtymn, yes, yes I did mean rhtymn). Those are all fairy understandable, forgivable things to be embarrassed about, yes? It is a whole other story, however, when you have to lie about knowledge you have. Not just your knowledge on one subject, but rather the extent of that knowledge in particular. 


Forgive me Father, for I have sinned...I have been lying about water for a long, long time, and this is for one very simple reason, water knowledge has become the identifying characteristic of the worst sort of social creature that ever lived: the Yuppie Wanker. Now I hate YW's as much as the rest of you, so, in a feeble attempt to absolve myself of the above charge, the overpriced lawyers I paid for with Dad's money have advised me to take this opportunity to make the following disclaimer: 

one: I have been drinking mineral water as my tipple of choice since i was five (long before it was cool to do so), 
two: water is pretty much all I drink (besides tea), even when at a pub or a bar, 
three: I really, really can tell the difference between types and brands, blindfolded, with my hands tied behind my back and possibly even while being simultaneously inverted and circled by chanting, naked gypsies. 

So there. That either makes me not a YW or the biggest YW of them all. But I am going to tell you about water regardless, and I don't want to see even one shadow of a smirk, are we clear? Good.


Water is pretty deep stuff. I am doing some first year chemistry and biology these days and discovering things like polarity and tensile strength, all these quirky little traits water has that I never knew about. But I barely passed chem, so I am going to stick to my topic of incredibly high distinction: taste. Water, even before you talk about things like origin, brand, sparkling, still, spring, filtered and tap, is a book you should judge by its container. What you're looking for in a bottle is something hard. Whether it be glass or plastic (glass is more ideal in terms of the clarity of taste), a hard bottle means that less of what is in the bottle (icky chemical things) will leak into your water. Good plastic water brands always come in a hard bottle, Fiji Water and Mangrove Mountain are two good examples of this. Cool Ridge is the worst water brand on the Australian market, in studies it has come up as having the highest aluminium content, no surprise, it tastes like liquid crud and the bottle is thin plastic that easily gives when you squeeze it. Cool Ridge, sorry to push it with you, folks, is a bit like a hooker carrying every type of STD you can imagine, please take my advice and quench your thirst elsewhere. Mount Franklin is your best basic bet, it's just filtered tap water, but it has quite a clean taste and comes in a decently hard enough bottle. 'Spring water' in Australia just means filtered tap, which, if it doesn't taste too metallic, is a fine choice. Evian, which I do love when I feel like something a little saltier, interestingly comes in a softer bottle, trust the French not to follow the rules!
I met the water of my dreams in 2005 on that NZ trip I told you about. Antipodes is the Grange of water. I was taken with the name when I saw it on the menu at Huka Lodge, so I ordered some, expecting it would be nice and clean, being a local NZ water and all: Love at first sip. Time stopped when I saw the bottle. I love its shape, old fashioned, full blown glass, gentle and solid and boasting the most clean tasting water I have ever had. I still have that first bottle, i'll keep it forever. I got in touch with the company upon getting back to Australia, they told me they were going to launch here in 2006, since then I have been happy to come across Antipodes in lots of shops and restaurants (About Life in Rozelle stocks it). It has a rich, sharp taste. It tastes like water that has lingering traces of the memory of the salt and the pith of the rocks it has lain against. It tastes like the depths it comes from. I prefer the still version to the sparkling. Like really great mineral water, it has a kind of green taste to it, it's hard to describe, but it's the complete opposite of dull, there's almost something dynamic in the way it hits your tongue. It's not at all tasteless, just earthy and silent.
San Pellegrino is okay for sparkling, I find San Benedetto a little nicer though, it's a gentler sparkle that tastes less mineral rich, which is good if you're fine dining and don't want to dull the flavour of the food. Personally, I have always hated Split rock, it's just way too strong on the mineral taste for me. I think they released a lightly carbonated one, but it still tastes really strange. Punk Rock Perrier is my favourite for sparkles. This is the one I have been guzzling since I was a knee high. It's not really connoisseur water, but it is damn good on a hot day, with a burger, or with chinese food. The burn on tongue is like a nice punch on that spot somewhere between the back of your throat and behind your nose. Your eyes kinda sting after. Heh. It's nice. Stay away from the lemon and the lime version they recently came out with, though, ick!
Sparkling water can be quite acidic, it's not something to drink too much of, but if you're hooked on sugar laden soft drinks, this is a good way to get more water into yourself and still have some of that bang that comes from the fizz. At home, I drink filtered tap, I usually squeeze lemon or lime in at night if I'm kicking back with a novel, it's really refreshing and nice before bed, a highly alkalizing nightcap. Water that is room temperature is gentler on the body than water that is freezing cold. Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine believe very cold water is bad for the digestive system in general.

So, that's pretty much everything I know about water. Now you're a YW too!

Don't hate, hydrate.

...and there you have my worst one yet. Okay, smart asses, let me have it...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Photographic Study of What Happens When a Goose Cooks a Chicken (with an Addendum in Ricotta)


Some people are their eyes. Some are their faces or the way they laugh. Some are their voices. Others still, are their smile. Amanda King has always been her smile. Beautiful, isn't it? Don't be fooled though, this angelic mouthed, rosy cheeked, freckle faced mother of two and I met at a somewhat darker chapter of her charmed life, in what I shall from here on refer to as her 'former days'. Amanda got kicked out of her school and sent to mine after a physical altercation between her and another lass...the other girl never stood a chance and we all learned never to make Miss King angry. Heh. She hates it when I tell that story, but my, my, how time changes us all! This former property management powerhouse is not just a mother to macey and zac, she's done more than her fair share in raising yours truly. Her home and her life always beckon to me. Peaceful, warm, full of the joy of love and happy kids running around and morning serendipity in sunlight streaming in through open windows onto honey coloured floorboards (we're ignoring dirty nappies and Soldier breaking fences every other day). Amanda is literally the happiest person I know. She's not a total fairy tale, there have been a hard few years, but that smile beams out regardless. Growing up, it was always Dad I remember wanting to be like. That rocky, stocky five foot two giant, all big wig wheeler dealer business man. Reading and drinking and talking, always going to lunches and dinners with a whirlwind of people to wade through in a some kind of social euphoria, loud and blazing, heard, listened to and seen. All sound and incendiary fury. Mum, however, was always behind the scenes. She was quiet, unassuming, kind, wise, caring. Still is. Wordlessly, she wove herself into the home and into the spaces of our lives. Through the way she cooked for us and cared for us, through the way she was always present, always available, it never occurred to us not to feel anything other than incredibly loved. I grew up adoring my mother but wanting to be nothing like her. My ambitions were loftier than sky scrapers, they were never going to be satiated by the confines of a cosy suburban kitchen. I was totally Tom Cruise circa Cocktail. Which is admittedly better than Tom circa Oprah's couch, but nothing to be incredibly proud of. Amanda King isn't the only one who's changed. Ego has been eclipsed for a desire in life for what is simpler. A while ago, I decided there was more truth and depth in being Good than in being Great. Ever since I have fallen into this idea of myself, I have discovered a new appreciation of my mother, and have subsequently held Amanda up as the best incarnation I know of someone who has, with much difficultly and more love, crafted a home, a life and a family that is truly something worth envying and living up to. So, this piece is for Miss Amanda King (she's actually Mrs Amanda Kaharni, but even her husband still calls her AK), and for all the wonderful things that she does quietly, behind the scenes, just like my Mum and probably yours. Dinner at Amanda's usually goes down on a Wednesday, with Sylvie and macey and Zac. 
Now, i'm no spring chicken, but that doesn't mean I can't cook one, or take bloody adorable photos of them in the process! I took charge of the kitchen and the cooking this time, with 3 bags brimming with luscious organic food, alot of mess, quite a bit of confusion, and shitloads of swearing, the following menu came into being:

Roast Organic Chicken with Garlic Herb Paste and Potatoes +

Chocolate Crusted Ricotta tart with VanillaLemonOrange aka The Take Me Tessa Tart.

The former was an adaptation of Jude Blereau's recipe from Coming Home to Eat, the latter was my first foray into the wonderful world of Tessa Kiros Cooking. I recently purchased  Falling Cloudberries, it's one of the spunkiest cook books i've ever seen. It looks like fantasy and family and childhood and love and food and colour and words: precious stuff. Flipping through it and reading snippets here and there has already imbibed me with a lifelong devotion to this raven haired foodie with the most desolately wild eyes you ever saw. I'm sure i'll have more to say about Tessa as I test out more recipes, but trust me, this woman gets food. It's beautiful work, beautifully written.
Now, I am going to be honest with you. Like my love life, this chicken wasn't as amazing as i'd hoped. Someone out there knows how to roast the perfect chicken. She probably dwells in some shanty cottage on the fringes of the Andes and hasn't spoken a word to another soul in over 50 years, one things for sure, I don't know her and I never met her. I won't give up, rest assured, but some lovely birds are going to waste in my earnest endeavour, kind of like my brothers attempts to find true love! There is a recipe in Roast Chicken and Other Stories i'll try out next, but here's the current attempt with some tips on what not to do.
This recipe called for cutting the chicken up so it would cook more quickly. I crammed too much chicken into the dish, it was all packed in very tightly, which is probably why it didn't crisp up that well in the end. What you need:

Chicken, Organic if you please
1 head of garlic
30g of good Butter
Mixed fresh herbs, with sage if possible (oregano, thyme etc)
Olive Oil
Pepper
Salt

Turn the oven dial to 200 degrees.

With all of your latent anger, frustration and girlie angst, you mortar and pestle the herbs with the pepper and the garlic, then add the butter in and mix by hand or food process it. Let the chicken be at room temperature before you dismember it into a sadistic array of wings, legs, breast etc. Rub sea salt and pepper into the chicken and then molest it (heh, thats what it feels like!) with the buttery paste, slip some under the skin to maximise the penetration of flavour into willing flesh. If you don't want to score yourself a stint at Long Bay for aggravated sexual assault of innocent chook, get some consent happening first. An hour later, in theory, you have beautifully crispy roast chicken with buttery herby flavour. I added some olive oil, you don't need it with all the butter, but if you're Arabic, it just doesn't seem right to roast something without the use of the Good Stuff. My chicken turned out a bit more poached in parts than roasted. Better luck next time. If you're in the know with any roasting tips, share away. I need all the guidance I can get.
And the moment we've all been waiting for, CAKE! Seriously, everything before and after CAKE is just not worth paying that much attention to. For The Take Me Tessa Tart, the following ingredients will have to be procured from shady street sellers in mystical lands beyond the river and to the right of the forbidden grove:

The Take Me Tessa Tart:

Crust Stuff:
100g butter (organic and good quality, youll taste the difference here)
85g caster sugar
150g white spelt flour
30g dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg

And for the filling:
3 eggs
140g caster sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange rind (organic, all the pesticides are in the skin)
750g ricotta (paesanella if you can get your paws on it)
1 vanilla pod (or 1 teaspoon of paste/essence)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons of orange juice

Tessa's original recipe is with plain flour and is vanillaless, only minor changes, stick the original if you can't be bothered with locating spelt.
Oven at 180 degrees. At least an hour before you begin cooking the cake, you need to start the crust. In a food processor, marry the butter to the caster sugar until its all creamy like, then go in the sifted flour and cocoa, followed by a beaten egg (first it was the chicken, and now its the poor bloody egg). Once it's all mixed, you make a chocolately disc of it on some glad wrap, then wrap it all up and put it into the fridge so it can set, this takes at least an hour, Tessa advises us. 

You then take out the dough and roll it over a floured surface. This bit is trickier than it looks. Amanda got a few good laughs watching repeated attempts to get this right. In a tart or springform tin lined with baking paper, press the dough in tart shell form. Tessa then says you should bake it for 5 mins with some uncooked rice in the base to dry the mixture out a little, we skipped this step, dont you! 

The filling mix is the stuff of baking dreams: whisk eggs and sugar until it all thickens beautifully, then goes in ricotta and rind, keep processing til smooth and lush. Then you spike it with the lemon and orange juice. I added the celestial contents of the inside of a warmed vanilla pod to this. The smell is just hot. What was not devoured of the raw ricottavanillacitrus glory was then poured into the cocoa embrace of the delicate tart crust. You bake this bad boy for 30-40 minutes, it should look set and a little yellowed on top when it's done.

Recipe advises that you wait til it cools before you cut and eat. AS IF!

I am not a huge ricotta fan but this is just so ridiculously luscious it's not funny. It also looks quite striking, my version was not nearly as pretty as Tessa's, but it really is the kind of end result that makes baking worth it.

Yet to be confirmed is my highly active suspicion that Amanda has already demolished the leftovers.

To Sam: Happy Birthday!
To Miss Sylvie: Happy Engagement!

To Amanda: you'd better do some hard yards on that exercise bike today xx thanks for letting me mess your kitchen and swear in front of your impressionable, sweet, young offspring.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Teleological Argument for the Existence of God..



There are always 3 good signs you're getting older: One, you start to believe things you used to think were utter nonsensical crap, two, you start to care what people think a lot less, and three, you usually become increasingly incontinent. I'm working through stages one and two at the moment. You also start to reminisce more frequently...back in my blissful days as a student of philosophy, we looked at several ways of arguing for a proof of the existence of God. Highly important work, i'll have you know, nothing as indulgent or frivolous as those sorry bastards wasting their lives doing education and nursing degrees. We were in the trenches there, actually working out the hows and the whys of this thing called life. The joke was you come to philosophy to learn about life, and you leave learning about 'life'. I have actually road tested that joke a few times socially, yeah, don't you make that mistake either. One of the so called God proofing ideas was the teleological argument. Telos means the 'end goal' (or something like that) in Greek. The gist of the argument, for those of you that aren't swapping notes under the table already, is that if the world is so beautiful (stars, moon, sun, ocean, people you love, nietzsche's eyes etc), and so suited for life and living (air, water, geo-chemical conditions I know nothing about), then God must exist, cause all this couldn't be here by mere chance, randomness can not come up with the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Earl Grey or Baths with Lavander or the way my mum and dad pretend to not really like each other. Randomness can not explain chocolate, or soughdough Sonoma bagels, it can't explain love or poetry or how funny it is when some one falls over in front of you. This was before my days as a sentimental sob, so of course I thought that proof was a load of self righteous horse shit. I was 19, so I knew it all, life was easy, straight, self determined etc, God didn't exist, and certainly not for telelogical reasons. 
What a different Amanda we have become these days. Amanda Then wouldn't even sit near Amanda Now on a bus. Actually, both Amandas don't do buses, and probably never will, so scrap that idea. Life is different, meaning is all there is, there is the idea of order, of meant to be, I am very fatalistic as of late. Love has done it to me. Not just love of people, either. 

The love of Mangoes.

Mangoes. Mmmmmangoes. Jesus. Bloody. Christ. Mangoes. I have eaten at least one mango a day every day they've been in season for as long as my memory winds back into itself. I love mangoes. I love mangoes so much. God can not not exist when there are mangoes. Not possible. No way. Nup. Talk to the stickywithmangojuice hand. That's it. Mangoes = God. I like mangoes so much, I actually think about them sometimes. What makes the perfect mango, the colour, the shape, the origin, the smell. And the ancient, torturous and beautiful play of Time In Flesh: when to cut, when to slice, when to dissect, when to savour. 

I love mangoes so much I necessarily have to hate Mangroves, those shitty 2 additional letters mean that my heart leaps when I see the word in print or hear it said. But it's Mangroves, not Mangoes. Which sucks, right? It's a bit of a tease, they should have christened those ugly swampy trees that have nothing to do with my proof of God something else.
The Anatomy of Mango is a simple science:

Those are Northern Territory Mangoes, not too bad, but QLD still produces the best. I personally like the tear dropped (boob, if you ask wally) shaped ones, not the round ones that look like a globe. The tear ones have a more delicate taste, more nuanced, the round ones are a bit too tangy and too sweet, they also taste like dirt/earth a little more than their more celestial mammary shaped cousins. Ripe mangoes smell ready. If it's got no smell, don't buy it and don't eat it yet, I know, I know, easier said than done. But saving yourself for ripeness is way more rewarding than saving yourself for marriage, trust me on that one. Good colour is not yellow, its a deep orange with flecks of redness, but if the mango is too orange and not yellow enough, it's likely to be a round one that has that crasser taste that misses the mark of mango perfection. 

I've never been a fan of those Old Schoolers who slice the cheeks into dicey squares and then flip. Nup. Sooo 1980's... You're really not having the full mango experience if that's still your surgical method. Too much mango gets lost, but not only that, the joy of mango mouthfeel is the idea that you sink your teeth into bound flesh and feel it gently, seductively give way, loosen and soften into your mouth while you suck, taste and pull away with your teeth. To actually have the mango in little cubes robs you of the unsaid glory of the sinking of teeth and the wrapping of tongue, the ripping of flesh, it's too clinical, not messy, not earthy enough. Not for me, anyway. The Amanda school of cut is a lot simpler, but also a lot more sensual, so put some gentle music on, light a candle, close the door and do the following: Take mango, with a sexysharp knife, cut both cheeks free of the seed, right along the seed, let the knife scrape so you don't jip yourself. Take both halves, cut in half in the middle. Take one quarter, sink teeth in, scrape teeth back and take a slow, juicy, sunken bitesuck. That's how it's done. Cut the little 1cm or so sides on the left or right of the seed, I usually eat those before the quarters, being nearer to the seed, they are not as fleshy or moist as the cheek sections, so that way you save the best for last in what is a progressive trajectory of delight!

I don't like mango cheesecake or mango smoothies etc. Just give it to me straight. Unadulterated. Hardcore. Perfect. I don't want traces of mango taste. I want mango.

Little ambitious dreamer that I was, I used to throw the seed from every mango in the garden as a child, hoping we'd one day have our (my) very own mango tree. Never happened, but it doesn't matter: I have a Lebanese mother, ie: if there's not ten times too much of everything, there is not enough. That beautiful woman, May Bechara, has always bought them for me by the caseload. I usually suss out the case and figure out which mango, based on colour/smell/feel is the first to go, I line them up, then I shoot them down. One. By. Juicy. One. 

None of those mangoes in that case are ready to be eaten, so i've worked myself up for nothing. And I can't do any sexy mango flesh shots, cause you know the rules about not cutting when the mango is not ready.

Rediscover them if you haven't had one in a while, the season is really kicking off for them now and they are starting to be a little cheaper. But seriously guys, 4 bucks a pop for a mouthgasm and the sureness that God is rocking it out there somewhere is as good value for money as you're ever likely to get.

Mangoes: light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

hey now, hey now, don't dream it's over(cooked).

Zeb likes fish. They're delicious. That sticker takes me back to the good old Norton Street Days. One house, four kiwis, lots of boxer shorts, beer bongs, bbqs, random blasts of nakedness, tom walking out mid conversation or showing his tail bone, gretch cooking pasta and looking at scary magazines, mat brushing his teeth and eating perky nanas, cosby falling through the odd roof sort of fatally injured then getting up and looking for a beer anyway, semi naked accordian playing to late night bus commuters, the weird and very evil smell in the kitchen that never really went away...... and all of it to Bleed American.
Zeb and I got off to a shaky start, I made the mistake of telling him what I actually thought of the plot of Dawn of the Dead while it was playing, he waited a moment, made some small talk, and then left the room. oops. Our bond was made of sterner stuff though, so after getting to know each other and a lot of heart to hearts over 2 years, i think we've finally got some good loving going between us. I should probably be entirely frank with you about something: Zeb likes seafood the way most normal people I know like sex. Don't get me wrong, he enjoys sex as well, but it's just not the same. His father, Chaddy, is a very eccentric formerboxerfisherman from NZ who defies any description whatsoever, I have met him and I still don't quite believe he exists. Suffice to say Chaddy has a dog who can fish. Yeah, no joke. This has alot to do with why Zeb knows most of what there is to know about things that come from the deep (he was slurping muscles from a little tub while we discussing his love of seafood, should there be any doubters remaining among you). We caught up for a mutual sob over our brokenheartedness in Newtown a while ago when I realised he was blog gold begging to be mined. He promised me he'd show me how he smokes a mackerel. Actually, I made him promise me he'd show me how he smokes a mackerel, the things I do for you guys...
So that's a Mackerel, boys and girls. It's not just any old mackerel, either. It's a mackerel from Zeb's nephew, which he procured from a boat in Cairns that supplies all the other boats that fish in the area. Sounds a bit mafioso doesn't it? Keep it between us, now, we want to eat the fishes, not sleep with them (yeah, tragic, but as if I could resist!). The fish was frozen, and has to be preped before it's cooked, usually a day before. 
That jar is a 50/50 mix of salt and brown sugar. I wanted to try a spoonful but I didn't. Zeb showed me how he gets these mammoth fillets of mackerel and rubs this salty sugar into them in generous amounts, then wraps them in gladwrap and puts them in the fridge over night. The fillets absorb all of the salt and sugar beautifully. When I saw the fish come out the next day, it had a glistening, delicate pinky colour that I found surprising after seeing how white it looked frozen. 
It was very simple to do, nothing complicated at all. He took the soft fillets and laid them out in little fish cradles he made from foil. The tricky bit is this: Zeb has a whizz-bag little smoker thingie. It's amazing, cheap as "chops" he told me, they retail for about $100. I didn't check the brand, but knowing Zeb Raymond Chadfield, I am almost positive it was a Mac. The fish smoker is so nifty to watch being lit up and assembled, i'd love to get one one day. The really exciting bit wasn't the smoker or the fish though. And here's the gem...
Zeb, get ready for it, used manuka wood shavings from New Zealand to smoke the fish!!! Holy Hell. Esoteric and Obscure little quirks like that are my whole justification for living this sordid life. I watched in awe as he took out this delicate little bag of shavings and told me to smell the contents, it was beautiful, deep and woody, it reminded me of being at Muir Wood in San Francisco with Dan, you know that smell that's just inherently green and wholesome, that was it. I image it's a tad like having a rain forrest up your nose..sublime. So these shavings go into the little smoker and as it all burns and smokes the fish (the actual smoking doesn't take very long, maybe 20 minutes), you get the most divine smell, a mixture of manuka and fish and some sweetness. Katie and I were salivating on the porch. It was all happening under this magically gentle porch light glow in the night, the golden-ness of it all and seeing Zeb work his magic made me feel like some lucky 6 year old whose Dad take them camping for the first time (this is all going on Enmore Rd in Newtown, mind you, so that's no small feat).
The fish was served with a beautiful salad, it was lovely, you could taste the smell of the wood so cleanly, it was a good balance of flavour for what is quite a meaty fish. I like my fish rarer than Zeb does, but that being the case, it could just be smoked less to suit individual tastes. As if that wasn't enough, we had some of the most beautiful bugs i've ever tried. Zeb sautees them in cream, dill and onion in a shallow frying pan for a little while. The cream and the dill blend winningly, sharpness and richness canceling each other out in beautiful harmony. We had some wine from Nelson as well, while a life sized, cardboard cut out of Buffy and some South Park kept us entertained. Classy bastards, aren't we. Hey, don't say anything... but Buffy didn't even have any salad, frickin anorexic actresses make me sick.
Thanks, Zeb. You can share the treasures of the deep with us any time. For Chez Zeb opening hours and menu listings, simply direct yourself to facebook and enter Zeb Chadfield. It's the perfect place for some good fish, some kiwi tales and some star watching. 

You don't leave for London til April, but I am going to wish you the best of luck in the UK, you're one of the most hard working and driven people I know, there's no way you won't make in London...and if you don't, i'll join you under the sea. There'll be no accusations, just friendly crustaceans..under the seaaaa. xxxx

Given that their new album is called Upstream, which makes it highly fitting in the midst of all this tomfishery, here's a link for the band Between the Devil and the Deep where you can get their new album, haven't heard it yet but these boys are just so lovely you should get one anyway: here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Silo Bakery, Canberra

Hello? Is there anybody there? I've been a bad girl, I know, no updates for over a month. Unforgivable. Deplorable. Getting you all hooked and leaving you hanging... Then again, YOU try writing a semi absurd food blog when you're dwelling in the doldrums of Dumpsville. Honestly, that's the really annoying thing about temporarily losing your will to live, it makes it incredibly hard to get stuff done. Heh. I am going to have to take this one piece at a time, so be patient with me. I have so many pieces to write up, i've been amassing them, but there was one review that definitely could not wait another day. Those of you who know it already love it, for the sorely uninitiated, sit up straight, hold your breath, whet your appetite and clear your schedule for a mad dash to our nations capital for some seriously impressive bellywonder: This is Silo Bakery, and this is How It's Done.

That's Graham, a twinkle eyed foodie with a sharpness, an intelligence and a style that is reflected in every aspect of this beloved Kingston haunt, which is the brainchild of he and his wife, Leanne, who is pretty much the Albert Einstein of Baking. Graham is exactly my idea of a true foodie, easy to like, discerning, gentle, politely warm, passionate about quality and generous. It never ceases to amaze me how many lamentable souls you come across in the food industry. I have met quite a few cafe/restaurant owners and cooks who wouldn't be out of place in the ranks of the Gestapo. There's a kindness in Graham and in this place that tells me that he has a good sensibility about people and enjoys sharing wonderful food with them. Having someone like that at the helm always seems to be what separates the good places to eat from the really great ones. Candice, Yoni, Paul, Ben, Rowan (you should know the Canberra crew by now!), they all go gaga over the pastry pyrotechnics that occur in this wonderful kitchen, five formidable days of the delicious week. 
You've heard about good carbs and bad carbs, oui? Well, at Silo there is no such thing as a bad carb, per se. They're all pretty damn amazing. I am sure Miss Cindy will have something to say about it, being my swiss-tart-nazi and all, but this place is turning out the most divine tarts you can probably find from a commercial kitchen. Beautifully rustic and simultaneously wholesome and decadent to behold. Generous slices of sweet somethings burgeoning with perfumed fruit, of spice and of sugar, make seductive eyes at you through a taunting glass display window. All of these beautiful creations look like the product of some provincial housewife's sunday afternoon, left to cool on an earthen window sill. This is my idea of 'Cake' in its Platonic form. These are seriously spunky sweets.
Lucky Candice told me about a recent visit where it was suggested by Graham that a quince tart would be the perfect completion to her meal, when a man like Graham makes that kind of post meal proposition to you, you do what you're told. She was at a loss to describe the taste to me, she has a PhD in English Literature and Philosophy, as well as a ready passion for great food, for her to have literally run out of words is really saying something. Easily the best tart she has ever had. If quince is a tad too Eden-before-the-fall for you, then go for the Chocolate and Prune Tart. Every day these ovens fire up fresh batches of the best tarts, pastries and croissants you can find, and every day they sell out.
Breakfast and Lunch are seasonal interpretations of Mediterranean and European flavours. The wonderful sourdough and pastry weaves itself through a menu that does not shy away from doing its own thing, and doing it with some of the most exceptional produce, meats and cheeses you can find. A little bowl of sharp olives distracted us until a beautiful lunch of pizza with eggplant and labna came along. The cheeses featured in the menu are straight from the impressive cheese room which is tucked into the back of the restaurant like a wonderful punctuation mark on the end of an edible sentence. There are beautiful options on the menu for more casual plates of antipasto and cheese, sandwiches, or more elaborate pizza and salads.
I have added Breakfast At Silo to my shrinking list of things to do before I die. There are so many things on the menu I would like to try. Autumn and Winter apparently usher in the serving of some impeccable soups, which pretty much sets in a stone at least one trip to Canberra when things start to freeze up. There is also a mushroom pizza with salsa di noci and blue cheese which I have no intention of shunning. I had a lovely, not too spicy chai with the meal, the milk coming in that little bottle which is just about the most adorable thing i've ever laid eyes on. Cosmorex is the coffee brew, and it's universally raved about, strong without bitterness. What more could you want (besides a Sydney outpost)? This place, sadly, has no Sydney equivalent. Booking for lunch is a very good idea, with breakfast though, you'll have to take your chances. Cheese. Wine. Tarts. Brioche. Sourdough. Olives. Tea. Coffee. Pizza. And all of it exceptional. A high ceiling crowns a busy, slightly shadowy atmosphere, with all of the beautiful commotion of a bakery, a kitchen and an eatery. The place feels bustling and private all at once. I could easily enjoy a big, loud, rollicking lunch here with lots of wine and laughter or a quiet romantic tryst...heh, if only Silo served freshly baked boyfriends to make the latter possible! It's an epic shame Dionysis never really existed, this place was positively made for him.

Silo Bakery.

This place doesn't justify the drive to Canberra, it justifies the walk.
Australians all let us rejoice...

At: 36 Giles Street, Kingston, Canberra.
Ph: (02) 6260 6060

Tues - Sat: 7am til 4pm