Monday, February 20, 2006

Birds Nest

Well here we are and it has been a week of spiders, flavoured vodka and a lot of takeaway. And often the kind of takeaway that makes me wish I had just cooked in the first place - when the food arrives an hour later and the so-called Vietnamese is asianish at best and covered in a sickly sweet sloppy sauce, I start to remember Jamie Oliver showing how he could make and cook a pizza faster than one was delivered. But a new town requires checking out the local restaurants and so far it's been a decidedly mixed bag. There's been some middling pizza and a handful of other so so dinners. Every now and then, it would be *interesting* enough to make me cook nonstop for a few days but boxes don't unpack themselves and when you can't find your frying pan, a quick drive into town seems easier than emptying six unlabelled boxes to locate it.

But amongst all the dross there have been a few good finds. A delicatessen with an amazing range and some imported products I haven't seen anywhere else. My favourite Persian feta at a really good price. Interesting variety in the local supermarkets. And the best kebab I have ever eaten. A heap of seasoned garlicky meat, garnished with salads and wrapped in a soft piece of Turkish bread. I'm not ashamed to say that I've been back already. Partly to check that my appreciation wasn't just moving-exhaustion-and-mild-hysteria-induced and partly because I just couldn't stay away.

And I also scooped up a selection of their pastries. I've never been a fan of baklava and all those honeyed filo type desserts. To be fair, I'd only been offered baklava until recently and it just isn't my thing. But a visiting friend brought a selection gathered from the Greek Precinct in Lonsdale Street and as Melbourne is a city with the third largest Greek population in the world I figured they had to be good. And they really really were. I was suprised at the variety, at how many which appeared similiar would be flavoured with different nuts or slightly different spices and how much I really enjoyed them. So I asked for one of each at the kebab store and while they're all tasty, my favourite is the birds nest pictured to the left. And as soon as I finish the last of the boxes, I look forward to getting better acquainted.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Hello Old Friends

Well we have arrived, us and about fifty thousand boxes, half of which are numbered and labelled carefully and half of which were, um, thrown together wildly. Not that the careful numbering helped all that much, since I have misplaced the list which describes the contents corresponding to those numbers. Oh well, I'll just open another box and get on with it.

My cookbooks have been happily reunited and now have an entire bookcase to themselves. You see, in the old house, bookcase space was at a premium and as I acquired more and more cookbooks, they ended up under the bed, next to the bed. And in the end, in storage. As did heaps of appliances and unecessaries - you know, platters, ice cream makers, colanders. I didn't fuss as I thought they'd be there for a few weeks but it wound up being closer to half a year. And now as I unpack, I find all sorts of things I haven't seen for months, including my much missed kitchen scales. No more holding a can in one hand and a dish of flour in the other!

It's lovely to find these things but I also wonder how much I need all of them. There have already been eyebrows raised as I unwrap certain items and think "Why didn't I give this to charity ages ago? Why on earth did I wrap it and store it and then drag it all the way up here?" Absence makes the heart grow contemptuous ... hehehe

So a couple of them will get carefully repacked and given away. But I've still got 10 boxes to go. And my ice cream maker must surely be in one of them!!

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I take a break from packing boxes (and peeking out behind them at Iron Chef) to advise that we are in the midst of moving (to the country no less!) so posts will be a bit sporadic from now on (I can't use that word without thinking of Clueless.)

There have already been long and irritating discussions with the phone company and short of sending out a technician (and charging over $200 for that privilege) it seems doubtful that they can figure out what the phone number should be, let alone connecting to the internet. So I may be a while.

But the packing process is fruitful. As I fill box after box with books, I discover many lost or long-ignored treasures. I stand there dreamily thinking "Oh, it's been so long since I cooked that!" and "I must get around to making this", forgetting that time is going by and I have already vastly underestimated the number of boxes needed to pack our book collection. You see, I calculated based on the few boxes I'd already packed of paperback novels and the like. This fell to pieces when I started packing the cookbooks, which are often 3 or 4 times the size of a standard paperback. I have been back to buy more boxes twice already and heaven help me if we run out tomorrow because the shop will be shut. Ahem.

I am a thorough packer, which can drive people wild because I will stop and sort through a bag of receipts before putting it into a box. This leaves me days behind schedule and a few hours before the truck arrives I am wildly throwing things into boxes labelled "Deal With Later". I intend to be more organised this time and therefore the wild throwing will take place tonight instead.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Meeting Monsieur Truffe!

You didn't actually believe what I said about chocolate, did you? Actually, it was true - even the Godiva was heat affected and just didn't taste right. So why bother hey? Well, on a tipsy turvy weekend, I wound up gallivanting through raspberry farms on Saturday and so Sunday became marketing day. Not up to facing the hordes at the Vic, I went to the decidedly empty Prahran Markets. They have been trying to enourage Sunday trading at this venue, but it really hasn't caught on. Hardly any vendors open, although there are enough of each to make it worthwhile if, like me, your cupboards are bare (or just full of heat-affected chocolate!).

Anyhow, I was troopsing through and doing some minor celebrity spotting, when I caughy sight of someone far more interesting, Monsieur Truffe. I've come across this gent, selling his chocolately wares, before, but never stopped for more than a glance. This time I did. And I fell, fell, fell.

Here I think that tasting is key. Monsieur Truffe had several varieties on display, with more in the chiller at his side. About five were cut for tasting and away I went. The classic ganache was pleasant but it was the mountain pepper which wooed me. Reminiscent of Dolfin's pink peppercorn variety but much much better. Small shards of native Tasmanian mountain pepperberry and not whole peppercorns, which were, let's face it, a bit much in the Dolfin bar. A crisp finish to the square truffle and then a dusting of cocoa. Exquisite. Superb, in fact.

I mosied through the others but nothing touched me the same way. Some purveryors get edgy when you sample away but Monsieur Truffe seemed delighted, his enthuiasm for his chocolates spilling over. I selected a package of my favourite and he was genuinely apologetic that he only had them in the 12 truffle packet. Trust me, there was nothing to apologise for, they didn't even last 3 days in this house. While he was putting the chocolates into a paper bag, he encouraged me, to try the passionfruit truffle, the only one I'd left untasted and mainly because I was dubious about the mixing of passionfruit with dark chocolate. Conventional dessert thinking had me believing that white chocolate was the only appropriate pairing for this summer fruit. "Oh no" exclaimed Monsiuer Truffe (and I believe by his accent that it was he) "I have used a milk chocolate here and you will see that the taste lingers incredibly in your mouth". I took a bite and swooned. Oh. My. Goodness. It was the sheer essence of passionfruit and such chocolately chocolately heaven. It was, the kind of chocolate that made me want to lie down and beg for more.

Unfortunately, modesty forbade me. That, and the fact that we had just discussed that I could limit myself to one a day and I had just bought a 12 pack. It seemed, well, a little piggy to demand every passionfruit truffle in sight. But I note from the cute packet that he also has a shop at 101 Toorak Road, South Yarra, so maybe I'll pop in there after a respectable amount of time has passed. I cannot see my will to diet lasting long in the face of these incredibly gorgeous morsels. But, while browsing books online, I found one called Breaking the Food Seduction. And I ponder, do I really want to do that??

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Detox: The aftermath

Well February is here and how exactly did I go in Jan? I managed to stick to the detox (until it was broken in spectacular fashion at the end of the month). Yes, true to my predictions, it was socialising which did it for me. Several guests were visiting Melbourne for the first time and really, when showing someone around your beloved city, are you going to take them home and make them eat steamed greens with you? Or are you going to take them out for some damn fine food and suffer the consequences?

Yes, well, you surmise correctly. A couple of restaurant visits, a few gorgeous home cooked meals and detox went right out the window. And even after they'd left, I continued to dabble on the dark side - an ice cream here and nibble of chocolate there. But, and here is the weird thing, it just didn't taste right anymore. Maybe the joys of Trampoline's Hazelnut gelato had ruined Conneisseur for me and I do suspect that the hot days wrecked the chocolate I'd left in the cupboards, it seems to have fat bloom or sugar bloom or something. But they don't deliver their old kick and I feel unsatisfied and yet still bloated afterwards. Blah.

On the upside, my clothing seems to have shifted down a size and while welcome, is not really enough. When pregnant with the Plumbaby, I holed up on the couch with 10 (yes you read correctly) 10 kilos of Valrhona (they were about to stop selling it here in 5 k bags and they were the last two in the shop, I had to buy them okay??) and some of that indulgence is still distinctly evident. So I think I will continue on some kind of modified eating plan for the near future. But, I still find this all rather tedious. I like food. and I like cooking it, buying it, seeking out new forms and buying ridiculous numbers of cookbooks. There are seven food memoirs next to my bed, four magazines and twenty-one cookbooks. I was in a bookshop yesterday and picked up Diana Henry's Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Food To Warm The Soul. It amazed me, every picture, every dish, was of such heart-warming, life-affirming food. I bit my lip and fought back the tears (this reaction honestly stunned me, I do not like to cry in public and certainly not in Dymocks!). I looked at the pictures and thought this is how to eat, this is what life is about. And yet.

The answer, Figman would say, is exercise more. But I'm just not that motivated. My (soon to be ex) personal trainer says that I am the third least enthusiastic person he has ever worked with! This is not a compliment. It is symbolic of my stubborn will and my relunctance to force something I detest on me, for my greater good.

Because, at heart, I am happy in my own skin. I am comfortable being me. And I don't feel motivated at all to change me for anyone else's approval. But the health issues are pertinent and I am going to have to push on until I've finished making babies and can just slide into middle age disgracefully and let myself go entirely. Ahem. Anyway, I think that the solution for me is to buy a cross-trainer (I didn't mind these at the gym and at least I can read while on one) and commit to a daily session. And I'm going to buy Roast Figs, Sugar Snow as soon as I can.