Food: Have you...

Just discovered a really interesting food blog, STUDIOKITCHEN, written by chef Shola Olunloyo. It's got lots of cool technical experiments, and good ideas. Most interesting post I've found so far is this have you post, which just asks some simple questions about things you should try cooking.

Kombu

Have You wrapped fish in Kombu and poached it gently. No I haven't but it sounds divine. I'll try it shortly I think. Fortunately I work above a large Asian supermarket.

Have you just for the heck of it made Miso Soup lately with Dashi and Bonito. No I haven't and it's insane that I haven't! Miso soup is one of the easiest and most delicious quick meals you can make. In fact, I think I'll make some tonight! I'm a big fan of (rehydrated, dried) Shiitake mushrooms in mine. And with the weather turning cool, there's nothing finer than a warming bowl of soup. Well, maybe a really hearty stew, but nothing finer for a weeknight.

Smokey lamb

On the weekend I finally got around to trying out the new smoker box I bought for the barbecue. It's just a small stainless steel box designed to hold some wet wood chips, with a couple of holes to allow smoke to get out. You put it right on the burners on the barbie and lower the hood.

A while back I bought the smoker, and the same weekend bought a lovely piece of biodynamic lamb shoulder from the market behind our house. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to cook it, so it ended up in the freezer.

I rubbed the outside of the meat with a little salt and a bunch of chopped rosemary, that's all. Temperature at the top of the hood (where the thermometer is) was around 120°C, which means it was around 90-100°C around the meat. Cooked for four hours at this temperature the lamb was beautiful: still a little pink in the centre.

The smoker contained manuka chips, soaked for 20 minutes in water. I refilled the smoker once during cooking, as it burnt out after about half an hour, so there was probably about an hour of smoke.

The result was spectacular. Beautiful tender meat with a lovely smokey taste. The outside was a deep ruby brown from the smoke.

Next effort, I think, will be some reasonably quickly cooked sausages with the smoker on. But I need to buy some more woodchips. I'd ask Scott to bring some up from Tassie at the weekend but I'm not sure virgin forest eucalypt would go so well with meat.

Pea Pretz!

Pea Pretz

One of the good things about working in the CBD is the Asian food. At the bottom of World Square, where I work, is an Asian supermarket. I'm enjoying finding all the weird and wacky snacks.

Today's discovery was pea flavoured Pretz. Quite a hit with the office they were, too! They're kinda pretzel textured long sticks of salty, pea-flavoured goodness. Yummy!

There were also some other wacky flavours like "roast" and "salad". Even better, it seems there's also Beer Pretz which sounds brilliant!

Great food, I won't be back

Le Pain Quotidien, corner of Fitzroy and Bourke Streets, Surry Hills

Holly, Rachel and I popped into this restaurant a week or so ago before heading up to the football stadium for a dismal Sydney FC match. We'd walked past it a few times and peered into the window, and had wanted to try it out for ages.

Le Pain Quotidien means the daily bread, and this place really does make exceptional bread. Chewy, full-flavoured, real bread. It seems to be an international chain expanding all over the place.

The room itself is spectacular. It seems to be a converted warehouse space, with high ceiling and lovely raw wooden floorboards. A very warm, rustic feel which, given our miserable summer and particularly the miserable evening that day, was rather pleasant. It'd be a great space to linger over a few bottles of wine and some grub with friends in mid-winter.

The food centred around bread and things to have with bread. Between the three of us we ordered the Tuscan platter of ham, tapenade, pesto, soft cheese and gerkins, and a beautiful pot of Beef Bourguignon. Perfect food for a lazy and social meal, dipping bits of their amazing bread into the rich stew or slapping antipasti odds and ends on.

I was a bit surprised that for both dishes, and with three people at the table, we only got five meagre pieces of bread. We'd mown through the bread before we were even two-thirds through the bits that go with it, so I ordered some more. And this is what pissed me off: the waiter brought out three more little pieces of bread, and I got charged $4 for the privilege.

Now I recognise that these guys have to make a buck, and their meals are pretty reasonably priced, but charging more than a buck for a slice of bread sticks in my craw. Not providing enough to reasonably eat the meal doesn't help matters.

So while the place is excellent in every other regard, the pricing policy didn't make me happy. If you live nearby, it'd be a great place to buy your bread and sandwiches. Perhaps knowing you'll be charged for bread, you won't be as annoyed as I was and will quite enjoy it.

Comfort food: ramen

I've had an upset stomach the last few days, even had yesterday off work. Not very pleasant, and I missed the Melbourne Cup festivities. To help recover, I've been eating quite bland food, without spices or dairy products. Last night that meant some tomatoey broad beans on toast, which went down fine.

Today, back at work and hunting for a bland lunch, I discovered On Ramen on Hay Street, Haymarket. Ramen entered my repertoire of comfort foods on a cold Winter day in Tokyo. One of my colleagues took us down the road from the Spike offices to a tiny ramen joint. The place had about six bar stools and you sat slurping at the bar while the owner cooked up your simple, but delicious, noodles. There were also gyoza on offer.

Behind the owner, a boiling pot of stock looked like it'd been going since the post-war reconstruction, with the occasional onion or pig thrown in and the water topped up each day. The owner would take some parboiled noodles, dunk them in for another boil, then serve them up covered in the amazing stock and whatever meat you'd selected. Even for this simple meal, the presentation was brilliant.

So does On Ramen, Shop 4, 181 - 187 Hay St, Haymarket match up? I think so! Tasty noodles and soup. My pork belly and miso ramen was pretty good, though the pork was probably a bit sweet for my tastes. The salty, rich broth is exactly what my recovering body needs. If chicken soup is Jewish Penicillin, surely ramen is the Japanese version?

Note to Americans: Ramen does not mean instant noodles.

Dining with food bloggers

Food porn shoot

I really enjoy Grab Your Fork but gee, going out for dinner with her must be a bit annoying. Those gorgeous photos of the food don't take themselves! In this post she records a Yum Cha with a bunch of other food nerds. And look at all the lenses!

Much as I appreciate her excellent blogging, and the spectacular photos, it'd be kinda off-putting dining with someone snapping every dish.

In other food news, we went to the Food for the Future Fair on Saturday in Chippendale. It was quite small, but really lovely. Beautiful warm weather and a very relaxed atmosphere. I've always loved the area, and miss living on Rose Street. Now the community has planted loads of edible plants in the streets, and are doing a community composting project.

The fair could have used a few more stalls, but it was pretty cool nevertheless. I would have bought more vegetables if our garden hadn't suddenly jumped into productive mode and we hadn't got our fruit and veg box that morning.

Saturday night we had a few people we'd run into at the fair around for an impromtu spring feast from the garden. I made a couple of bruschetta from garden ingredients. One was blanched baby broad beans with mint and slivers of parmesan. The other was blanched black Tuscan kale (cavolo nero) with sage and feta. Yummy!

I'm looking forward to more from the garden. We also had the first brocolli last week. We've been eating delicious rocket for a month or two now. Next up should be radish, snow peas, lettuces and more broad beans and brocolli.

Kidneys in sherry and cream

I've got some mates coming around tonight for offal, beer, wine, whisky and poker. A boys' night, with SWMBO banished for the evening. I've just bought some lamb kidneys, sherry and cream, and plan to do some devilled kidneys, kind of like this recipe. Yummy!

Also on the agenda is a leg of roast lamb with the usual roast veg. Dunno what we'll do for dessert. Probably whisky.