Archive for the ‘techniques’ Category

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Shelf help

August 7, 2009

cookbooksToday’s post is inspired by two things – first, the empty space we now have in our new cookbook shelves; and second, our chat here about Julia Child, and especially Julie’s & Fiona’s recollections of working from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which Fiona so beautifully described as “my first cooking book mother – the human mother being a frozen chop sort of cook…”

Now, as you can see, in place of our crappy old single cookbook shelf jammed into a corner of the living room are these spacious purpose-built cookbook shelves in the kitchen itself (I know, the top one is a leetle cramped, but good for mags perhaps?)

So I discover to my delight that we need more cookbooks. We did chuck out a few duds when we cleared the place for the reno, so pretty much only useful ones remain.

And all this Julia Child talk has made me think about classics I should own but do not – and I would love your advice. I want to hear about your ‘cookbook mother’ – the book that got you into cooking in a way your own mum didn’t.

I know we’ve touched on this via my Elizabeth David ramble here, but I want to hear more about your early cookery book love affairs. After Elizabeth, it was two Aussie blokes who led me up the kitchen garden path – Paul Merrony, with a slender (almost self-published-looking) book called The New French Cooking in Australia: Recipes from Merrony’s Restaurant, and the other was Geoff Slattery, with a very workable and appealingly instructive book called Simple Flavours. Both of these propelled me wonderfully towards fresh, simple yet classic dishes and flavour combinations. What about you?

And what about those classics every cook should have – you must have at least two or three on your shelves that One doesn’t?  Help me fill the void!

Postscript: A couple of recent birthdays round here have suddenly yielded two beauties since I wrote the above – Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and Greg & Lucy Malouf’s Saha: A chef’s journey through Syria & Lebanon. Happy, happy days in this house!


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Fishy (and salty) business

July 1, 2009

stephsaltcodThe Empress’ Sydney Morning Herald Good Living column this week is on salt cod – mmmmmmmm. She writes:

Since the advent of refrigeration and better transport, there’s no storage imperative to salt fish. But try telling that to the Portuguese, who have bacalhau so firmly entrenched in their culinary repertoire there’s no turning back. Soaking in water renders the stiff, dried fish soft, palatable and ready to be made into any of the 365 recipes the Portuguese have devised for it. But salt cod isn’t only the preserve of the Portuguese. The French are also fans of salt cod, which they call morue, and transform into warm puree with olive oil, garlic and moistened bread.

She samples salt cod French, Portuguese & Italian style.  And it sounds good.

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Cry me a river

May 17, 2009

onion gogglesSenor and I are having an argument about whether I should purchase a pair of these exceptionally snazzy onion goggles.

My view, of course, is yes! Although since our earlier discussion on the topic I have to say Hamish and Jamie were both right, and while I still bawl each time, practice is making – well, marginally better. My dice are neater and the chilling and sharpest knife does make a difference. But still, I can definitely see myself in these.

Senor, however, has been rolling his eyes. I’m used to that. Then, warming to the topic, he quite seriously suggested a scuba mask, because then “at least you can use it for snorkelling as well”.

Please. I can just see myself welcoming the guests at the front door with one of those on my head, I replied. At which S looked for a minute from this picture to me and back again, incredulous, and said, “Are you telling me you’re concerned about what they’re going to look like?”

I still think they’re funky.

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A song to the tong

April 24, 2009

tongsOne of the great pleasures of all this visiting and house-sitting we’ve been doing while our place is renovated is having the chance to play in so many different kitchens.

I have developed quite a list of new gadgets to stuff into my capacious drawers (ooh!) when I eventually get them. 

And a few new sets of tongs will be on the list. I love tongs, and cannot fathom how anyone lives without them.

Over Easter I visited my sister and was aghast to find not a single pair of tongs – not even a crappy old supermarket pair – in her kitchen. As I whined and ransacked every drawer in the place, berating her for her tongage shortage, she looked on, nonplussed, and asked what was wrong with a fork.

A fork. How could she possibly substitute a fork for tongs, I gasped. And she said, with rather too much relish for my liking, ‘Well I probably don’t fry things quite as often as you do.’  

An outrageous slur, of course. There’s roasting, too. And sauteing, and flash-frying, and … hmm. But Senor has also pointed out there’s the whole serving aspect. And barbecuing. And fishing pasta out for testing whether it’s cooked. And – surely other uses!??   Read the rest of this entry ?

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How to chop an onion?

April 20, 2009
What I want: beautiful,tiny, uniform dice...
What I want: beautiful,tiny, uniform dice…

Okay, here’s an embrrassing public confession. I don’t know how to chop an onion.

I mean, I know how to bludgeon an onion into enough smithereens to get away with it once it’s in the food.

But what I want is to be able to chop an onion into small, fine, perfectly uniform dice, in the way that Philippe Mouchel (I think?) demonstrated on last week’s SBS Food Safari. Such calm, rhythmic slicing and dicing, resulting in a pristine little pile of pinky white crystalline onion bits. Sigh.

Watching a trained chef chop an onion is a joy – but how do they do it?  TV chefs either do it at the speed of light while chatting about their organic garden, or it’s so boring to them that they completely skip over the actual mechanics of it. Read the rest of this entry ?