food for thought

by michelle

cooking in the fire

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It’s winter here and when the wood-burning stove is going we take the opportunity to use it for cooking. Sadly, the previous owners who installed the stove didn’t buy one with a stovetop but cooking in coals is an age-old method and seasoned cast iron camp ovens (Dutch ovens) have been used for hundreds of years. To cook in the fireplace we placed the camp oven away from the flames and surrounded it with red-hot coals. It’s important not to have any of the coals underneath as the food will burn onto the bottom. It’s also important to turn the pot every 10 minutes or so.

We chose to make a chicken tagine as the cooking method is very similar. Simply start with a little olive oil and layer your ingredients – we used onion, leek and garlic on the bottom, then fennel and bone-in chicken thighs flavoured with fresh ginger, ground cumin, saffron and preserved lemon and seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. On top, chopped fresh dill and coriander (cilantro) and another drizzle of olive oil. Depending on the heat of your fireplace this meal should cook in 30 – 40 minutes.

This method is also brilliant for roasted vegetables of any kind. They taste amazing and get a wonderful char. We included potatoes, pumpkin, red pepper and brussels sprouts. Simply toss the vegetables in some oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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milk bar

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Being an Australian, I grew up with the Milk Bar – our version of a corner store. They were the place to go for a milkshake and would sell lollies (candy) by the piece. Now there’s a new kind of Milk Bar – a chain of dessert and bakery restaurants in the U.S. Christina Tosi is the founder and chef behind the menu which includes cakes for any occasion and some cult classics. We visited the West Village store in New York for some of those favourites.

The cereal milk soft-serve was wonderful. Made with milk, cornflakes, brown sugar and a pinch of salt, it was not too sweet – in fact, just like cereal milk! The surrounding cereal crunch was slightly salty and very crunchy.

The compost cookie has been on the menu from the very first day. It’s had good balance of sweet and salty and includes potato chips, pretzels, coffee grounds, oats, graham crackers, chocolate and butterscotch chips.

Last, but not least, the crack pie. The crust is made from toasted oat and surrounds a rich and gooey butter filling – what’s not to like? It was amazing!

The Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook by Christina Tosi includes all the favourites. You can also find some of the recipes here or you can have your favourites shipped, even internationally!

Written by michelle picker

November 7, 2018 at 12:13 am

New York casual and fast food

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Here are a few more New York foods served in a less formal setting. Definitely worth trying, though.

Barney Greengrass has been around since 1908 and since their window says ‘The Sturgeon King’, that’s what we decided to try. Absolutely delicious both with scrambled eggs and onions and served with a bagel, cream cheese, tomato, onion and pickle.

Russ and Daughters is celebrating it’s 109th year. Also specialising in a huge variety of fish, we opted for a classic bagel with lox (brined salmon) and cream cheese with onion and tomato. When you eat one of these you know what all the fuss is about – incredibly soft melt-in-the-mouth lox with just the right amount of ingredients and a perfect bagel.

Xi’an Famous Foods which was established by Jason Wang in 2005, began as a basement stall in the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing and now has numerous popular locations in New York. They specialise in the unique cuisine of Xi’an which combines Chinese and Middle Eastern flavours. We chose hand-ripped noodles with spicy cumin lamb – a dry version as well as a soup – and a spicy cucumber salad. All delicious and spicy!

La Flor de Broadway, which was established in Harlem in 1968, is famous for it’s Cuban sandwich. It’s a busy little cafe where people line up for Central American fare and Spanish is heard more often than English. The Cuban sandwich lived up to it’s reputation and our second choice of chicken mofongo was also delicious. Mofongo is a Puerto Rican dish of fried green plantains mashed with salt, garlic, and oil then mixed with meat and served with a meat and chicken broth.

Katz’s Delicatessen, at 120 years, is the oldest. An enormous place that was incredibly busy even at 4 in the afternoon, Katz’s is famous for it’s meat. They have seven cutters working non-stop to fill sandwich orders. We opted for a pastrami on rye served with fresh and sour pickles as well as a matzo ball soup. Both excellent – the pastrami was wonderfully soft and peppery.

In my eagerness to taste, I forgot to photograph my lox bagel. The image of the bagel above is by JLR Interactive and is licensed under CC by 2.0

New York

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I’m back in New York with the luxury of time – time to try some more wonderful food! Here are just a few of the stand-out establishments:

Balaboosta (a Yiddish term that means the perfect housewife and mother) is a modern Israeli restaurant by chef/owner Eidnat Admony. On the menu are Mediterranean dishes packed full of flavour.There’s a cookbook too! After a Pilpel cocktail (made with jalapeño infused tequila, poblano, orange zest and lime) we decided to share some smaller dishes and one main – the day’s special of red rice and lentils with spiced labne; hummus basar served with beef, pine nuts and pita; roasted sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) with za’atar aioli; and lamb neck with dates, preserved lemon, freekeh and chestnuts;

Peter Luger Steakhouse is an oldie but a goodie – it’s been around since 1887. Dry-aged steak, fabulous steak sauce and amazingly crisp onion rings;

Guantanamera is a Cuban restaurant with amazing live music every night and excellent food. We ordered tostones rellenos (stuffed green plantains with shrimp); a mixed seafood ceviche served with plaintain crisps; picadillo (minced beef with olives, raisins and peppers) topped with an egg; flan (a classic caramel custard); and tres leches cake (sponge cake soaked in a combination of three milks);

Kopitam is a cheap and cheerful place serving Nonya Malaysian food with a cool rotating sign projected onto the footpath (sidewalk). We had pork deep-fried in a thin tofu skin, minced chicken in banana leaves and pan mee, Hakka-style hand-torn flat flour noodles in a soup with fried ikan bilis (anchovies), pork mince, mushrooms and greens. They serve Malaysian breakfast dishes too.

Written by michelle picker

October 24, 2018 at 12:30 am

salmon in Canada

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You can’t avoid salmon if you travel to Canada, especially in a coastal community like Gibson’s in British Columbia where we spent 2 fabulous weeks. 

There are six varieties of Pacific salmon – Pink, Sockeye, Coho, Chum, Chinook and Steelhead. While in Gibson’s we visited a salmon hatchery and learnt about the salmon life cycle. This is the time of year that the salmon run and we hoped to see some running but we were a little late for the Pinks and a little early for the Coho’s. It’s just possible we ate every variety, though! Here are a few examples:

Salmon and spinach in a flaky pastry parcel;

lime and pepper candied salmon;

salmon burger;

and wild sockeye salmon…..

barbecued on a cedar plank with a miso and maple glaze.

Written by michelle picker

October 16, 2018 at 1:12 pm

pie

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While in Pittsburgh  I took part in a cooking and baking day. We all cooked food that we had grown up with which resulted in a delicious array of savoury and sweet dishes from Australia and the US. The final dish was the star – a blueberry pie made by Jon. Pie is the quintessential American dessert. If you go into any diner you’ll find iconic pies such as apple, pumpkin, cherry, lemon meringue and many more. Coming from Australia where sweet pies are just not as common, I’d never really understood the appeal. So much pastry just didn’t seem worth the calories – until I tasted this blueberry pie. Jon had watched his mother make it many times and although he professed never to have made it before, his pastry work was meticulous and the result was truly impressive.

Written by michelle picker

October 9, 2018 at 2:30 pm

Pittsburgh

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Still travelling – this time in Pittsburgh. Here’s a little taste of some of the food.

Amazingly delicious ribs from Fine Smoke at the 2018 Heinz Field RibFest;

Tacos with grilled shrimp, rice and beans, guacamole, pineapple and black beans on the side from Bea Taco Town;

KFC (Korean fried chicken) with a wasabi and honey dipping sauce, salad and a side of kimchi from Bae Bae’s Kitchen;

and a fabulous fish sandwich made with steelhead trout from Gaucho Parrilla Argentina. Serve-yourself house sauces were Chimmichurri, Smoky chipolte, garlic aioli and mushroom.

Written by michelle picker

October 2, 2018 at 6:53 pm