Saturday, February 27, 2010

Simple Pleasures.











Heirlooms, Sonoma Kamut, Willowbrae Chevre Goats Cheese and some Maldon Salt. The perfect breakfast, from the Everleigh markets. Add a Soprano's marathon on DVD and one delightful boyfriend, and you have life: simple with salt and creamy goat cheesey beauty. This cheese is serious stuff, get some in you.

Amen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Pretty Little Ditty for the Best Kebab I've Ever Had.

The International Terminal at Sydney Airport has a pretty scary little line up of Customs dudes, which is pretty much the only reason I didn't try to sneak one of these Sahara Kebabs into my hand luggage on a recent trip to NZ with Dan. Although its taste certainly justifies the risk. This phenomenal kebab is a bit of a pre-international flight ritual. Years ago, Dad and I were hungry and seeing someone off somewhere. Being Good Little Lebs, we turned our hooked noses at all of the other dirty little food court offerings and went straight over to Sahara, a shimmering mirage in a dessert of greasy blandness. It was here that something whimsical happened: For the first time in years, we got seriously, and officially Kebabed. Daddy-O and I both haven't had good kebabs since this little place we used to go to in Burwood closed some time in the late eighties, so we always order one only ever hoping to approximate the general impression of kebably goodness, but never expecting actual satisfaction.

Enter: Satisfaction, Stage Left.

Ya Habibi! Mouth Joy in Major! Fresh, salady, hommous-garlicked insides with spiked sumac onion and rich, lebanese crazy chili sauce, flickers of deep grilled chicken/lamb/beef all in perfectly crispy bread - and No excess grease! Most kebabs are too oily to be enjoyable, but this is a bang on balance of dryness to creaminess to oiliness to breadiness. God. The sharpness of the salad doesn't win out over the heaviness of the meat, it just sways with it. So good. If Kebabs are about proportion (and they are), then this is a bit of a Sophia Loren. Perfect. It hurts to remember it. Going overseas is now immediately associated with a Sahara drop in. When Dan and I booked the tickets, I actually said in my head: oooh, kebab time. But there is a problem with choosing this as a subject.

You know, kebabs are a little bit like tarty blondes, they don't have a respectable place in society, but everyone loves them. What gives? This gross travesty of culinary snob-foolery must be remedied at once! And it is in the spirit of correcting this spurious injustice, that I dedicate, most humbly, this: Ode To Kebab.

Greasy, and dirty, and the object of scorn
But late at night, and in the rising morn
They scoff me down, when all else is closed
But in the daylight hours, they turn their nose
But what could be more delicious, than I?
I can make them grunt, I can make them sigh
Upon freshly baked bread, I take my base
And with so much filling, to garnish your face
Garlic so dreamy, but of such willing spike
Saucy Chili throughout, Oh what's not to like?
The Hommous, so creamy, It's Lebanese Mayo
The delight in your memory, so long it will Stay-O
If authentic you be, you'll skip on the cheese
Cause if it's got that in it, then it's aint Lebanese
The trick, if you're wise, is to fashion a ballad
Of Tomato and Lettuce, of Onion and Salad
Fill me up, with so much of this
And when you bite into me, it will feel like a kiss
The bite of the freshness, is what the heaviness yearns
It is upon this question, that a great kebab turns
On ample salad and sauce, your meat shall dance
And you'll have a much better time, at fitting your pants
The rich, wondrous meat, can then sing its song
Even if you're hungover as hell, or have emerged from a bong
And when they toast me, have them toast me well
Have them toast me and toast me, as though I'm hell
I need the burn from some toasting, to give me some crunch
Floppy bread with soggy insides, is not much of a munch
Food should have spunk, food should have soul
Food should leave you feeling blissfully whole
Respect me, please, I am ever so worthy!
- Even if I make you just, a tad bit curvy
Protein, Good fats and Low G.I carbo
For everyone from Pete, to Greta Garbo
Relish me, Treasure me, Gobble me now
I'm perfect, I'm exotic, I may contain cow!
Shame on you all, for making a guilty pleasure of me
I dance over maccas, I beat out oporto, I kill KFC!
If you ponder me long, if you ponder me true
You'll see I'm all it takes, to truly please you
Look deep in your bellies, and find time for Kebabs
I'm real, unlike a whopper, I'm not made in labs
And those of you, who prefer your food from a Hat
You really need to get over that
Poached Fish with Saffron? Truffle with Duck?
Oh, you really are a snobby F___

I am organising a night out to the terminal just for some kebabing, no tickets or passports required. If you're heading off somewhere, trust me! TRY this. I was standing in line waiting for one and didn't want to be silly by gushing to the guy I was ordering off, but once i'd placed my order this old lady leaned in and said 'that was delicious'. Can you imagine how good a kebab has to be in a food court to get someone to go back and comment? Pretty bloody good is the answer to that, for you dull Dora's.

Sahara is somewhere in the International Terminal of Sydney Airport, just beyond the check in gates and before you get to customs, it's sort of opposite a news agent. The next time you are flying, lower your tray tables and lift off into one of these, the chicken is the one I usually get, but the lamb is delicious as well. The owners are lovely people, too.

Consuming a Sahara Kebab before you fly is a wise life strategy, because if the plane goes down, you at least know you went out happy. What more can we take from this life but the memory of a few, solid meals? x.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

One Hundred Slices of Cake.

Precisely the least, the softest, the lightest, a lizard's rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment - a little makes the way of the best happiness...Baited breath, a flash of stunned sugar, a moment of pulse-throbbing, anticipated delight, hovering, almost tangible, and then...cut, slice, deeply, deeply. Oh So Slowly-thickly-sickly and down like dreaming. Dilated pupils and down and through marizpan shell and into fudgey, dense, chocolately subconscious oblivion, all the way down, through and in, until the knife falls back into its own silvered weight. Another moment. Sound comes rushing back in. A shaking hand. Release. CakeKnifelings...

God.

Having a cake commissioned for an event is fun. Having an over the hill/not over the hill cake made for a joint 30th and 25th from crayon green icing with figurines cast in solid sugar to form a likeness of you, all encircling a dirty, dark, wonderfully chocolated secret inside is not merely fun, but rather, one of the simplest and most astonishing pleasures that can await you in this crazy, torrid stupour we call life.

Determined to make 30 more three-oooooh!! than three, Oh...An over the top Very Versailles CheckThisOutAntoinette cake was definitely in order. No home made-one tiered cutesy bumbling baker job was ever going to make the cut. What was required was a truly ridiculishious creation, and luckily for me, my oldest friend and mother of two delightful ranga babies knew a cake maker whose skill and imagination had nothing on my own. Once I saw it it was off with my head! This is the vision of Confection-Perfection Baker Belinda MacDonald, blown in from the depths of her mind's eye, formed and frozen, in comic, coloured sugar:

The detail, down to shirley's nose ring, was absolutely hilarious, it kept drawing gasps and laughter from everyone I showed. As the cake got hauled between redfern and the Sheraton and the Sheraton and the City during a summer downpour (almost falling over in the lift), we had to stop to give curious bystanders a bit of an envious peek, everyone was smiling, saying it was the coolest cake they had ever seen. It was so much more than a pretty face, though, it tasted like making chocolate babies. Amazingly beautiful dense-chocolate-with-layered-iced-chocolate-in-wet hiding-insides aside, there's something else you really ought to know about...

The essence of cake, has always been in the way it cuts. A good cake is heavy. A good cake is dense. A good cake stands up to a sharp knife. The cutting doesn't occur quite in the realm of the cake or in the realm of the knife, but somewhere in the gloriously charged void between. Cutting this glorious creation was an experience that only traversed perhaps 4 earthly seconds, but I can, and will recall for you, the ache and the agony, the rise and the fall, the ebbing and the flowing of every little thought, emotion, triumph and quiver that dwelled therein. After informing Shirley that despite the fact that it was a joint birthday, the real cake cutting was to be all my greedy own and that she was only allowed to place a ceremonial hand, daintily atop mine, applying no pressure whatsoever, only for the sake of the appearance of justice. She was merely the tigerlily-clad doll to my surgical ventriloquism. Because it's never just been about the cake, it has always, always, been about the cake, and the knife.

It started gently, as it always must. Knife poised atop the apex, where the longest ambroysial arc of cutting can allow itself to unfold. Poised above iced beauty, hovering atop something whole, complete and with sticky, sugared integrity. Something created that needs to be gleefully destroyed. A cake before it is cut is like Innocence before its own fall: tragic, beautiful and necessary. The knife waits, and the warm fingers that wrap around the cool metal contain the circuits of dizzying blood that travel up the arm and circle furiously around the brain, where, despite the din of the people and the drinking, and even the happy birthday laments that ought to be song, there is only a steely calmness and resolve, only a focus and a will as sharp as the blade it commands. It's intuition, it's felt. You begin. And there's the push down, just a little, you want the weight and the denseness of the cake to rise up against the knife, a good cake will fight you a little, won't give in right away, even though the knife will always win, and must always win. Then you dip down at an angle and you cut, you cut sharp and down and straight and through, a little more slowly than you'd like, to draw it out, you close your eyes and you smile, and the knife plummets, dives through centimeter after centimeter of corrupt chocolate confusion, it keeps going and then, in the fury of its own excited force, it stops. And so do you. Eyes open and sighs escape from deep within. It's a consummation that cannot be explained. It is sheer beauty as motion, it's a sense that hovers somewhere between touching and tasting, somewhere deep in the folds of a private imagining. God. Hands down the best cake I have ever cut. It cut me. So glorious and perfect, so full and true. Love. Anatomical pieces of brown-green cake. Slice after slice, laid bare and exhausted on generous plates. The sacrifice over.

The quiet after the crescendo. My heart was complete, each tranquil atrium and ventricle, release pumping back into the body. I am not lying when I tell you it felt like leaving earth for a second, like leaving legs and feet and the floor beneath them behind. In moments like that you just seem to float.

Here are examples from Belinda's collection (photos by Belinda) of her style, which isn't only for tragic 30 year olds. Isn't this so beautiful? The gentle white is like a shimmering, iced cloud against the pale pink and brown. Wedding cakes are a long way off for me, though.

Belinda, you are simply Amazing! This is only a part time gig for her, if you can believe it. She made our wonderful cake with only a weeks notice. Beyond telling her the concept of the hill and the two people on either side, all of the flares of imagination were Belinda's own. She said the cake took on a life of its own once she started making it, that's usually what great artists say after making something. I can't recommend Belinda enough, if you need a cake for anything at all call Belinda on 0417 294 623. I really think you should be quitting your day job and doing this full time, thanks so much! Shirley and I were very chuffed.

If a perfect cake wasn't enough for complete birthday joy, this is my new global blade baby, engraved with love from three adorable stooges: Li Lay, Hela and Howie. Ta! I can't wait to cut up the world and everything in it!

This is the 100th post from the cake + the knife! How exciting.

Also, a mention to the best birthday co-host ever! Happy Birthday to Shirley, if you're this sarcastic and cynical at 25, I don't even want to know you when you turn my age. Your ill humour and nasty comments followed by a glowingly radiant smile honestly made the night amazing x.

This is danny gobbling the figure head of sugar me while I inadvertently threaten his life.

Cake Out.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This Little Piggy Went To Market...

...And so did this one...

...and this one came too!

...Oh, it's true, what they say: you Snooze, you loose - and if it rhymes, then it can't be a lie. Snoozing and losing, what's the deal you guys? While the rest of you were cocooned in your silently snuggley bedding, oh so soundlessly asleep, dreaming of betrayal and scandal and your teeth falling out while a stranger chases you through the bleak darkness that is your innermost self, while outside a grey but brilliant sky rained you a sulky-silvered lullaby, the rest of us were flipping the proverbial bird to the morning rain and having a bit of a damn good time at The Everleigh Market. CakeKnifeBabies! Wake up and smell the Toby's! Breakfast in bed is for grandmas, this is how the cool kids roll...

...Beautiful bouquet green herbs. Vivid-Alive-Could-Never-Contrive-Green. These brilliant bunches look like they were picked on Pandora. Singing Basil and Peppery Coriander, and stalks of perfectly prim plum hued rhubarb, all gathered up in cosy bunches, waiting to be sweetly poached and softly bitten. But it's not just the products you go to market for, it's the whole experience of buying them. No offence to any depressed Woolies check out chicks, but would you get a load of this guy?

...A smile like that can only occur on the surface of a truly happy mouth that is getting an adequate intake of beautiful antioxidants! Everleigh is full of friendly, beaming faces that know what they're selling you. Perhaps because most of them grew, picked, baked, mixed and cooked it up themselves. So social and convivial. Usually the only way you can get to meet a stranger around these parts is by getting rolled by one. How pleasant to wake up to a whole community just around the corner, this is a great way to shop and dawdle and look and touch (when no one is looking). And to Taste. Oh, to Taste. Believe me when I say you'll want to be tasting from the abundance of samples out on little, welcoming plates. Try to locate this smiling man and get a molar into one of his nectarines, they were the most blinding i'd had this season.

Now, if you come from a Lebanese family, an heirloom isn't a lacy, fragile precious something your fumbling but doting great-grandmother bestows you with upon your coming of age. No, no, no. An heirloom, for a little Lebanese girl, is a comically big, mishapen, glob of twinklingly tantalizing tomatoed deliciousness. These things are like a deformed fist shooting out of a bud. I love them! Heirlooms are varieties that have been passed down through several generations. If they were people, they would be well-bred Old Money. And as a tomato, they boast more flavour and character than most. These aren't little red riding hood tomatoes, to be sliced up nonchalantly and pressed against ham and cheese within some sourdoughed claustrophobia. No, these tomatoes are a damn meal in itself. I remember Dad getting a plate and a knife and just cutting one the size of half my head up, slicing wedges here or there and gently salting them. Hela told me I had to meet the Tomato Man at Everleigh who has them in a rainbow shade of exotic varieties. You don't argue with people from Poland, and so meet him, I did.

This is the Black Krim, it comes from around Russia, and let's face it: with a name like that you have just got to try one.

Or one of these shy little pale green babies. So beautiful! I got lost staring at these for a little while. Don't store them in the fridge, tomatoes are really quite delicate in flavour, if you make them too cold then all of the essential oils in them don't release their flavour so readily. I think this is true of all fruits, I don't like them once they've gone frigid (grapes and watermelon are an exception).

Lookie here at these muted scarlets and golden yellows. I don't know if it's the sadist or the glutton in me, but I would love to see these all hacked up with a too-sharp knife and presented on a big, rustic silver platter. All the wonderful colours smudging into themselves, with just a sharp flick of some sea salt and a drizzle of drunken olive oil, and maybe some basil, too. But then again, what won't an Arab put oil and salt on? Such precious produce, like globs of gleaming, glowing gems for refracted light to dance upon. You just know that they are packing more flavour than the pre-suicidal ones you see morosely lurking in supermarket aisles, their muted tomatoey cries for help, lost amidst the cries of some puny, withering Basil.

If you haven't tried the award winning Brilliant Food product line up, take your cue from Homer and use some free samples to try, try, try and maybe not buy. What these guys have done is taken amazing fish and either smoked it or made delicious condiments and creams out of it, which become a really accessible way for you to add fish to your diet. The Smoked Ocean Trout Rillettes is a spiced, smooth fishy paste that is just begging for some Sonoma bread to get all into a slather over. Bowie and Roxy love the freshness of these products, and so do the judges who keep giving them awards.

This is Rick, chatty and with my kind of humour, but I was going to like him anyway, for reasons more gastric. Rick is the Emilia Organic Pasta Dude, and that's a wonderful thing for a man to be. Emilia is a Sydney based pasta range I used to get for Danny from The Wholefoods House, he loves their fresh fettuccine and linguine and their amazingly rich and deep little potted pasta sauces. This is a precious brand, using free range eggs and meats and even boasting a spelt line of pasta.

Tell me, then, how do you like your tortelli? With Duck and Truffle? Or with Artichoke with Ricotta and Herbs? With Crab and Prawn? Or are you a ravioli kid? Rick made us try the beetroot and 'chev' with a creamy sauce, so, so good. Hela and Hakim were getting their toothpick on very well, indeed. The sauces star richer than Berlusconi italian mushrooms and thick, yielding cream, spicy tomato herb, pesto with parsley and macadamia... Cheesus Christ. Effortless, amazing Italian in big steaming bowls, all organic/free range and rich and true.

Oh, Mushrooms. Mushrooms are stultifying. They're more profound than most things in life. You can ponder a fine mushroom forever and still not be done. Mushrooms are many and mushrooms are madness. People who love mushrooms don't love them calmly, they love with a little bit of fungal fanaticism! They sit up in their chair and love them! I once went to a place in Japan called Mushroom (in Japanese) which had an entire menu built around more varieties of mushroom than I ever knew existed. The lovely chef told me that in autumn there are 42 kinds of mushroom on his menu! Living in Australia as a fungal fanatic can be a little difficult, but boutique mushroom growers are mushrooming up all over the place. Delicate and earthy, they taste like something deep and secret, and are rich enough to carry a meal without any meat. They love a knob of salty organic butter and a little finely chopped herbs. And then they are Ready. Ready to get your eyes rolling into the back of your head, around through the parietal bone and out of your inner ear canal and onto the startled floor!

I was going to talk to the mushroom guy and do a bit of investigative journalism for you. I was going to impress you with little tidbits and cooking tips. I was going to regale you with tales of where they are grown and how. But after the mushroom guy saw me staring dreamily at his wares for what must have been more than 30 seconds, and especially after he overheard me saying 'FUCK, i just LOVE mushrooms', it got a little bit awkward for everyone and Hela pushed me along to the next stall.

Don't let that daunt you, though, there are a stack of recipes at this stall for you take home, giving you lots of ideas and techniques that will make you swoon for the 'shroom, if you are indecent enough to not do so already. The flavours are so subtle and the mushrooms themselves are so soft and delicate, you really feel like just running your adoring fingers through them and stroking their silky, winding backs. Mushroom molestation. It could be a crime in 2010.

Oh, Sonoma, when don't I have something to say about thee. The bombtastic parcels of earthen-ly baked beauty are all here in a happy little bread scrum for you to pick and choose.

That, in the middle, is my darling Kamut, it's the best bread I have ever bitten into. Danny and I use it to make larder luncheon thick, old fashioned Austen-esque turkey and cheddar sandwiches with amazing butter and a little salt. The bread is divine. It's silky, perfectly poised between moistness and dryness. It is the Daniel Craig of breads, delicious and powerful, and so, so intense. I tried the Miche for the first time in a cafe in Sydney the other day and loved it as well. It tastes wholesome and nutty and has a beautiful texture to it. Both the spelt and regular granolas are also up for grabs. I just have to point out that when I say 'regular' I still allude to the most spectacular granola on the face of this earth. If a parallel universe existed and I could live in it simultaneously, happiness would consist of eating Sonoma granola there and here. Crunching it up all over the bloody universe. I bought some for Hakim, if he has fallen yet, he's shortly about to.

Eumundi Smokehouse Sausages and I go way back (not as way back as the gym and I, though). Try some at Everleigh if you haven't already, they're usually fresher and have a better range than at any shop you can find them in. They're gourmet but not at all wanky, each sausage has rich, well balanced flavour and is beautifully seasoned. They're intelligent sausages. So many new sausages have all these crazy combinations, they taste different but they don't actually taste good. Eumundi's are always delicious, and still manage to be different. I've put them into sandwiches and topped pastas with them, eaten them grilled with salad and veges, and even made potato stews and soups with them, which was very Irish of me, indeed.

You're a sparky readership. You get the gist, right? There is all this and more, ice cream sandwiches, citrus spiked, giant marshmallow, veges and fruit, chocolate and pate, fresh roasted coffee, sticky salty sausagey somethings and greasy bacon and egg rolls staining your fingers with sauce, beautiful yoghurts with sweetly scented fruits and honey and spice, and mousses and dips and breads and cupcakes and lollies and oils, in every flavour under the rain. There's a fair bit of gluten-free going on as well, which is also something to get excited about.

That's sausage in a pan.

And that's some delicious lamb.

Any time you feel lazy about getting up early and getting into the markets, I want you to roll over on your sleepy side and think of The Polish Workhorse, aka Hela. This amazing lawyer to be not only gets up early to walk into Everleigh in the rain, she does it before she goes to her regular Saturday swimming lesson, in the rain. That's the kind of discipline that is truly inspiring. If you're not inspired by that, then check out the fluro pink cossie!

The Everleigh market happens every Saturday, 8 am - 1 pm, at 243, Wilson St Darlington, next to the old carriageworks.

This is a much more European way to shop, it's more involved, has more of an aesthetic and lets you take care of yourself, your friends and your family with far fresher produce and meats than you're likely to find in a supermarket. And it's fun, all the while exposing you to things you might not normally try. Get some friends together, if you have them, and make a morning of it, the Glebe markets are only a 15 minute walk away if you feel like moving onto fashion afterwards.

But who wants to go near clothes when your gloating belly is so full from the salacious act of 'sampling'. Oh, a word of advice to new samplers, don't be shy. Hakim was a first time Everleigh boy, after politely taking only the smallest offering when we first walked in, about 20 minutes later he was colonizing the front of any stand, with seasoned pro Hela in tow, and just taking it as quick as they could offer. It's dog eat dog out there, push, shove and elbow your way to deliciousness. That way you get some cardio in as well.

Everleigh Market is what Sydney needs more of, trust me when I tell you that we very happily cried wee wee wee, all the way to Max Brennar in Newtown for Hot Chocolates afterwards. That was a good day!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Photographic Study, Mostly in Macro, On How Best To Love A Murdered Squid...



































Coriander, Lime + Peroni-Drunk Battered Market Fresh Squid,

starring:

Tats, On the Knife.

+

A-Dog, On the Lens.

Thanksu very much to Mr H.H. Even though he didn't think it was perfect when it was done, this was some seriously spunked out squid. Let's hope you're having fun on that delicious island and fulfilling the other (non USB) half of your promise. Squid isn't the only thing you ought to be scoring! I miss you! x Becky.