My blog has moved!

You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A peek in my pantry

Just in case something drastic happens (for example: broken leg, swine flu, blizzard, alien invasion) I like to stockpile dry goods. I get nervous when the cupboard is bare.

Every few weeks I do one massive mission to the proper supermarket to stock up on the basics, so all I have to do is pick up fresh ingredients and I am ready to roll.

The sense of warmth and satisfaction of knowing that I have enough pasta, rice and canned tomatoes to feed an army helps me sleep at night. Plus, all my dry goods get eaten at one time or another, so I never consider that extra can of sardines (just in case) an extravagance.

For anyone who is interested, I have just done a stock-take of my pantry. This doesn't include anything that I have in the fridge however, although now I think of it the fridge could use a clean out. I am sure there are eight types of mustard, three types of capers and an old tomato that could probably take a walk. Downside of share-house living - sharing a fridge.

Inside my cupbord: Pasta: risoni, spiral and spaghetti, rice: jasmine and arborio, polenta, couscous, noodles: hokkien, udon, rice and instant, oil: olive, sunflower and seasame, lentils, chickpeas, four-bean mix, pine-nuts, curry paste: red, green, penang and laksa, coconut milk, canned: tomatoes, bean sprouts, two-fruits, anchovies, sardines and tuna, sauces: dark soy, light soy, shitake soy, hosin, fish and oyster, red-wine vinegar, cornflour and plain flour.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I haven't been Asian grocery chopping for a very long time, but when I do, I tend to bring home a lot of random items, which of course I have no idea what to do with. Which is my next mission, random items will be blogged about soon.

Okay, I'm off to clean out the fridge. Good times. Or maybe I'll look at cooking videos on YouTube. Yeah, that's it!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Peasant food? Yup. Polenta!

I'm poor. It's not a secret, because I'm not alone. Come on, admit it, thanks to the GFC and the constant threat of redundancy, mortgage foreclosure and not having enough money left on a Friday night to buy beer, we're all skint.

Due to my skintness, I haven't been eating out very much, and so have nothing to review for you guys, much to my dismay. I've been caught in a conundrum: pay off credit card asap and sacrifice lifestyle, or carry on being frivolous. I've chosen the former.

As a result of this decision, I have been on a mission to eat cheap, and eat well. Over the next few months I will be looking at, cooking, eating and blogging about the cheapest and tastiest consumables I can find.

Lucky for me, who has no desire to do a Morgan Spurlock, vegetables, pulses and grains are about the cheapest things out there. Today, I am on the polenta bandwagon.

Polenta is awesome. I eat it all the time. Italian translation: cornmeal mush. A traditional northern Italian dish, but with potential ties back the Ancient Greeks, who ate various cereal porridges, or polos. After corn was introduced to Italy in the seventeenth century it overtook all other types of grain because it combined so well with dairy products. Funnily enough, I love polenta because it combines well with dairy products also, namely cheese.

While traditional polenta takes hours of cooking with constant stirring, readily available instant polenta only takes a few moments to prepare, and is very delicious. Healthy too, if you don't put too much cheese in like I do.

Grilled polenta:

Place 2 cups of water in a pot and bring to boil
and add a tablespoon of vegetable stock to water. Add 1/2 cup of instant polenta, and lower heat to minimum. Stir polenta contantly for about 5 minutes. I like to throw in a cup of grated cheese in also. When cheese is melted you're ready to roll.

Polenta can be eaten soft, and it a great companion with stews and casseroles. Or, as I like to do, spread polenta in a flat slice tray which has been lined with clingfilm (makes it easier to get out of tray). Allow to cool and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Slice polenta, add a light coating of oil and gently fry of grill for a crispy outside and a soft mushy interior.

There are so many ways to use polenta: cakes, muffins, slices, sweet, savory - the uses are endless. Polenta is great friends with French and Italian foods, and is easy on the hip pocket. Tasty and useful, I admire that in a foodstuff.

So next time you are at the market, grab a packet. $2 worth of polenta goes a long way. Then go home and Google polenta recipes. Too easy. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Perfect pumpkin soup

One of my earliest memories is of my mother making me pumpkin soup. Thankfully, I always paid close attention as she was doing so, and now I make my own version of this classic dish to take to work for lunch. This meal is quite healthy and filling. Add warm bread roll and you're all set on a cold winters day.

Perfect pumpkin soup:

1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 sticks of celery
tablespoon of olive oil or vegetable oil
salt to taste
cracked pepper to taste
spices to taste- I have been using a Moroccan mix lately, cumin, turmeric, paprika, coriander and chilli
vegetable or chicken stock
1.5 kg pumpkin - I also like to use sweet potato or carrots as well for variety
boiling water, about 1.5 litres
natural yoghurt or sour cream

Finely slice onion, celery and garlic and fry gently in oil for about 10-12 minutes, until translucent and soft

Add spices, salt, pepper and chopped pumpkin/ sweet potato and cook for 5 minutes

Add boiling water until the soup mix is only just covered, and then add stock, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 20-30 minutes at a simmer until pumpkin is soft and beginning to break down

Blend mixture with a hand blender or food processor until smooth. Garnish with cracked pepper, yoghurt and coriander

This soup will last up to four days in the fridge, or three months in the freezer. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Do we really need a food bloggers code of ethics?

I have, in my travels for a delightful (insert sarcasm here) 8000 word research project about the role of new media in public relations, recently stumbled on a website outlining a food bloggers code of ethics. Due to the nature of the beast, I think it would be fair to assume that a large number of you who read this blog also have your own food blogs, so I thought I would share it.

The code, created by professional journalists who also write food blogs, addresses some important issues that relate not just to food bloggers, but bloggers of any variety really. I really struggle to believe - although I am repeatedly told - that there is no difference between the two. There is loads of bloody difference, I am both, I think I am in a position to say so.

The argument questions the idea citizen journalism is a lesser craft, which I believe no, it does not have less of an importance than mainstream journalism. Different yes, lesser, not at all. The code of ethics website addresses the issue quite well, I believe:

"The great thing about the blogosphere is that you don’t have to be a journalist to publish your work in a worldwide forum. In fact, one of the reasons we started this was because we understand that plenty of bloggers don’t have journalism backgrounds and probably weren’t aware of some of the guidelines about image, recipe and quote usage and attribution. The Internet is filled with talented people who put a lot of hard work into their craft, we just want to make sure that work is protected and respected."

Unlike in the real world (which, not coincedentially I get paid for) when I write for this blog, there is no one to fact check or edit my work. I have complete freedom to do as I wish. I do have a backlog of journalistic knowledge to draw from, however, and I think this influences the way I write about food, because I had the journalists code of ethics drummed into me years ago.

An article from the September/ October 2008 Columbia Journalism Review, The Bigger Tent, by Ann Cooper aims to address the differences between citizen journalism and traditional journalism. Cooper cites former NBC corespondent, David Hazinski: "calling a citizen iReporter a journalist is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a 'citizen surgeon' or someone who can read a law book a 'citizen lawyer.'" Hazinski believes that the differences between a journalist and the average citizen with a laptop and an internet connection are education, skills and standards. I have to say, I agree.

I realise I am opening up a big can of worms here, but I'd like to hear from anyone who has a read of the code of ethics who writes a blog but doesn't have a writing/ media background. I think my media knowledge warps my perception of citizen journalism, and I am looking for a view that is biased on the other side of the coin. Do other food writers out there in the blogosphere think a code of ethics should apply to them? Remember that the journalism code of ethics is not compulsory either, although being really unethical would get you sacked, really really quickly.

I think a bloggers code of ethics is a good thing. The writers of the code explain why they do too:

"As the blogging world expands exponentially, more and more people in the culinary world believe that
food bloggers—as a groupare unfair, highly critical, untrained and power hungry individuals empowered by anonymity. As trained journalists who happen to be food bloggers, we feel it is unfair to be labeled something we aren’t. By creating a food blogger code of ethics, we hope to draw attention to the food bloggers who hold themselves to higher standards."

So I see it as a two way street. Citizen journalism is a valid and essential practice, and I think "old media" will need to let go of some of the conventional attitudes it holds about itself to keep up with the pace. But if citizen journalism demands the same recognition and respect usually reserved only for traditional media, they will, as the code says, need to collectively hold themselves to higher standards.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A love letter for food

Reading another food blog this week, Eating Asia, I discovered a post about a New York grad student, who was collating love letters about food for her thesis project.

"Let your food know how you feel! Comfort your comfort food. Break-up with your weakness. Recollect a passionate encounter. Reminisce about good times," My Food Valentine encourages.

After reading the Eating Asia post, I felt compelled to write a love letter to my favorite food of all time: dumplings.

I had almost as much fun writing my letter as I did reading the others. This is a really cute concept, that explores the wonderful relationships people have with food. There is always a lot of negative connotation about how food effects us, anorexia, obesity, diabetes, it is nice to see a positive and creative angle.

Thank you Eating Asia, for being such a great blog. You are this armchair traveler's pseudo culinary adventure, I am very grateful.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Viva Italia! Lamb braised with vinegar and green beans.

I've never been a massive fan of Italian food. That's not to say I didn't like it, I really do, but I have been leaning more towards an Asian bent in the last few years. When I go out for dinner, I never think Italian. Sure, I'll whip up the odd risotto or spaghetti, but not in a really authentic way.

In the last few weeks I've had Italy on the brain. Lucy is about to head to Venice for a culinary/ artistic jaunt, and I am a bit jealous. Put this together with the May 2009 issue of Delicious magazine, the ultimate Italian collectors issue, and I've gone a bit crazy for Italian flavor and produce.

So far I have made four meals using the recipes from this one magazine, that is what I call value for money. This evening I am making stufatini di agnello con l'aceto - lamb braised with vinegar and green beans, and I will share it with you, in hope that everyone will go out and buy a copy of this consistently brilliant publication.


1/2 cup olive oil, 1.2 kg diced lamb shoulder, 1/2 onion, chopped, 2/3 cup good quality red wine vinegar, 450g green beans trimmed cut into 4cm lengths, roasted or mashed potatoes and a green salad, to serve


In a flame proof cassreole dish that is large enough to hold all the lamb, heat oil over a medium-high heat. Brown the lamb, in batches for 6-8 minutes until sealed all over. Remove all lamb from dish. Add onion and stir for 4 minutes or until transclusent. Return all lamb to pan, add the vinegar and some salt and pepper. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low. Add beans and a little more salt and pepper - to taste - then cover and gently simmer 1 1/2 hours until lamb is very tender.

Serve with potatoes and a green salad. Serves 4-6.

As I am not cooking for six people, I have cut all my ingredients down to a third, and it worked a treat. I thought some wilted spinach with a dash of lemon juice and toasted pine nuts would really compliment this dish. I didn't have any potatoes, so I substitutes plain cous cous instead, which I cooked in a light vegetable stock. This recipe is delightful, and so easy. One of those put it on and forget about it types. I'm road testing this one for a future dinner party, and the verdict: fool proof.

Next on my list, the May 2009 edition of Gourmet Traveler magazine, which is spruking itself as 'the best of Italy'. Stay tuned for more kitchen adventures.