Welcome!

Welcome to Villa Tempest.

We we are a mixed family of Australian and German origins who have recently relocated to Shanghai, China and we pride ourselves on exploring and sharing global cuisine, from time to time giving it an Australian and/or German twist. This Blog aims to showcase some of those explorations into global cuisine and culinary traditions.

 

Please feel free to drop by, as often as you please.

The Pieman at Villa Tempest.

Culinary Traditions underpinning the development of Australia’s Chiko Roll

The Chiko Roll is an iconic Australian fast food item. Essentially it is a savoury pastry roll filled with a meat-vegetable-cereal filling and deep fried. Here we examine the history behind the Chiko Roll and explore the culinary traditions that underpin it’s development and creation.

Chiko Roll (source: http://www.simplotfoodservice.com.au/product/Chiko-Rolls)

History

There are many sites on the web redistributing various versions of the history and development of the Chiko Roll. Most can be summed up by this Museum Display case caption:

The Chiko Roll is an old-fashioned fast food which is still sold in shops today! It was first sold at the Wagga Show over 50 years ago. Wagga was the birthplace of the Chiko Roll. The inventor? A Bendigo boilermaker named Francis Gerald McEnroe. “He made his first rolls on a small hand-fed sausage machine. They were made of boned mutton (lamb), celery, cabbage, barley, rice, carrots and spices. This combination was then wrapped in a thick egg and flour dough, then fried. Both ends were hand-painted.” (source)

… and according to, Wikipedia  the font of all modern internet wisdom: the story (the Mythology? the Legend?) goes a bit like this:

In 1950, McEncroe saw a competitor selling Chinese chop suey rolls outside Richmond Cricket Ground and decided to add a similar product to his own line. McEncroe felt that the Chinese rolls were too flimsy to be easily handled in an informal outdoor setting, and hit upon the idea of a much larger and more robust roll that would provide a quick meal that was both reasonably substantial and easily handled.

So, where did he start? What were the origins and culinary traditions that informed this boilermaker and allowed him to develop a roll so popular, and yet that is still to this day, is so baffling to the public and to professional chefs alike?

Culinary Traditions

First, a summary:

Francis Gerald McEnroe was a Bendigo boilermaker, that apparently sold fast food items at football matches. In 1950 he saw something called a, “Chop Suey Roll,”  decided to make it better, and revealed to an adoring Australian Public, this deep fried savoury pastry roll at the Wagga Show.

According to Cooks Info, today:

The Chiko factories make as one long roll which is cooked, then sliced, then pastry ends are added, then the rolls are fried a second time.

So, let’s start where most people don’t, with the pastry.

Deep Fried Pastry

In “The English & Australian Cookery Book” by Edward Abbot (apparently Australia’s first published cook book, 1864) on page 17 under section VI – Frying, Abbot refers to Veal Rissoles and states to:

Mince and pound veal fine; grate into it some remains of cooked ham. Mix them together with béchamel sauce; form into balls, and inclose (sic.) each in pastry. Fry them of a nice brown.

Veal Rissoles

A more contemporary (to McEnroe) reference comes to us by way of a Recipe for, “Pastry Rissoles” (Self Help Recipes and Household Hints. 1932. New Zealand. p67) in which we are entreated to:

Roll out pastry and cut into rounds, place a little of the mixture on each. Damp the edges, fold over and brush with egg and dip in breadcrumbs or finely broken vermicelli. Fry in deep fat.”

Thus, it would appear that fried pastry was a commonly known culinary concept in both Australia and New Zealand even from the earliest days.

Pastry Rissoles

Why a Roll?

Well, we know that sausage rolls have existed for quite some time, apparently McEnroe, felt his market niche was in a fried roll, so making a Chiko Roll, inspired by the Chop Suey rolls of his competitors was possibly a better option to that of trying to make a better, baked, sausage roll.

But wait, what is this “Chop Suey Roll,” that has been mentioned? Is it a spring roll, or an egg roll? What exactly, and who made them?

From the Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Labour and National Services, in the book, “Standard Recipes for industrial cafeterias and other large food services” (1957, p97) Chop Suey is a mix of stewed meat and rice. (boned veal, fresh pork, celery, onion, stock; cooked rice.)

Chop Suey

It would appear then, that a Chop Suey Roll was a typical Chinese Spring/Egg Roll with Chop Suey as a filling. But wait, there is another roll of interest to us, and this one gives us almost all the ingredients for the filling as well as the dimensions for the final roll, oddly enough.

Also from “Standard Recipes” (pp112-113) we are given a recipe for “Cornish Rolls” which incorporates a firm sausage of minced meat, stock, carrots, turnips, swedes, cooked potatoes, parsnips, onions, salt, pepper, flour-water thickening, short or flaky pastry, and coloring. The pastry is rolled out to 6”-8” wide and length to suit a standard sheet pan. However, the pastry is filled cold, rolled pinched, baked and cut to serving size. It also mentions that cooked meet can be substituted for raw.

Cornish Roll

So, we sort of have a contemporary method here, plus ingredients close to what McEnroe is said to have used, but its missing the barley, cabbage and celery. In addition to this, it seems that McEnroe modified the pastry dough to include egg, perhaps to improve the frying characteristics of the dough. What ever he did though resulted in a dough of extraordinary and distinctive character.

The Filling

The modern Chiko Roll contains the following listed ingredients:

Wheat Flour, Cabbage, Water, Cooked Barley (Water, Barley), Carrot, Beef, Animal Fat (Beef), Cereal (Wheat), Celery, Onion, Green Beans, Textured Soy Protein, Salt, Sugar, Acidity Regulator(450, Sodium Bicarbonate), Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein (Contains Soy), Spices, Emulsifier(471), Colours(102, 110), Flavour Enhancer(635), Antioxidant(320).” (source: http://www.simplotfoodservice.com.au/product/Chiko-Rolls)

However, disregarding the modern Chiko Roll ingredient list for now, let’s revisit the ‘original’ story – “mutton (lamb), celery, cabbage, barley, rice, carrots and spices.

Compared with the filling for Cornish Rolls, there’s turnips, swedes, potatoes or parsnip included, some missing ingredients. Why these particular ingredients and why put them in? The rice, I think is a tilt at the Chop Suey in the Chop Suey Roll.

Next, if we take a look at a recipe for “Lancashire Hot Pot” (Standard Recipes, p102) we find the ingredients include: stewing meat, haricot beans, barley, onions, leeks or celery, cabbage, carrots, turnips, swedes, salt, pepper, potatoes, and stock.

Lancashire Hot Pot

Now, consider “Scotch Broth” (Standard Recipes, p53) with includes: mutton shanks, mutton broth, pearl barley, flaked oatmeal, carrots, onions, turnips, celery (if available), salt, pepper, and parsley.

Scotch Broth

All of these recipes have their own typical home equivalent, so it is not unreasonable to consider that the Chiko Roll was originally a stripped down Lancashire Hot Pot – Scotch Broth combo with rice tipped into the mix, and made along the lines of Cornish Rolls. Thus we have mutton, pearl barley, rice rather than oats, onions, cabbage, celery, carrots (for color), salt, and pepper; whilst omitting most of the other root vegetables and the haricot beans.

Spices

Salt is often treated these days as a separately listed ingredient. Salt and Pepper, in the past were often called Seasoning for simplicity. But what about other spices? A common additive for soups and stews in Australia was, Worcestershire Sauce. In our recipe for “Chop Suey” (above) it is mentioned that, “Worcestershire Sauce may be added as an accompaniment if desired.

Thus, it is not unreasonable to conjecture that it may also have been used here, to add something to the savouriness of the filling mix.

Observations

The Chiko Roll has a long and distinguished pedigree in Australian and New Zealand cuisine traditions, traditions built on a backbone of a British heritage. There is no doubt that the Chiko Roll was a new twist on original favorites, combining several different dish formulations together in a response to perceived flaws in the Chop Suey Roll. As a result, McEnroe created, what is now undoubtedly one of Australia’s most iconic foods, keeping alive, what is otherwise a forgotten food tradition, that of the fried, pastry rissole.

The Chiko Roll, undoubtedly, is no rissole, nor is it a White Australian knock-off of a Chinese snack. Instead, it is a fried variation on a baked, Cornish Roll, using the ingredients common to it, Lancashire Hot Pot, and Scotch Broth. A hearty, fried savory dough item that springs from a long culinary tradition common to the United Kingdom and it Colonies. This iconic Australian food item deserves our respect, and not our bemused, mystified derision.

So next Australia Day, include the Chiko Roll in your food menu and take a moment in silent respect for Mr. Francis Gerald McEnroe, the genius that is the Chiko Roll, and the humble food traditions from out of which this culinary star was born.

References

  1. Museum of the Riverina. “The Gold Chiko Roll.” Wagga Wagga City Council. Published 5 June 2007. Web. Accessed 11.11.2016. <http://museumriverina.com.au/collections/highlights/the-gold-chiko-roll#.WCWH6zuBOkp>.
  2. Wikipedia. “Chiko Roll.” Revised 20 September 2016. Web. Accessed 11.11.2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiko_Roll>.
  3. Oulton, Randal. “Chiko Rolls.” CooksInfo.com. Published 17 September 2006; revised 12 März 2010. Web. Accessed 11.11.2016. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/chiko-rolls>.
  4. Abbot, Edward. “The English & Australian Cookery Book” London, UK. Sampson Low, Son and Marston. 1864. Reprint. The Culinary Historians of Tasmania. 2014.
  5.  Johnstone, Kathleen B., Self Help Co-op.  “Self Help recipes and household hints.” Wellington, NZ. George W. Slade Ltd. 1932.
  6. Department of Labour and National Services. “Standard Recipes for industrial cafeterias and other large food services.” Melbourne, Au. Commonwealth of Australia. 1957
  7. Simplot Food Services, Australia. Image: Chiko Roll  http://www.simplotfoodservice.com.au/product/Chiko-Rolls

 

Citation

Tempest, Tsc. “Culinary Traditions underpinning the development of Australia’s Chiko Roll.” VillaTempest.de. Published 11.11. 2016. Web. <https://villatempest.com/2016/11/11/culinary-traditions-underpinning-the-development-of-australias-chiko-roll/>

Lufthansa Cocktail Liqueur – A DIY Recipe

What motivates you? For me, it trying to track down or develop a recipe for some obscure, shrouded in mister and time, recipe for some such thing. Today, I present for your consideration my efforts to explore the Lufthansa Cocktail Liqueur.

History

Developed in 1955 by Mampe for Lufthansa, apparently they developed three bottled products, Party, Bitter, and Dry Martini. They were pre-bottled to make it easier to mix in the galley of the Plane. It would appear that “Bitter” is what is known today as the “Classic” mix.

The cocktail, apparently fell out of favour in the mid 80’s but was revived for its 50th Aniversary in 2005 by Berentzen amid a marketing hype of nostalgia. The Berentzen remake contained apparently 12 premium ingredients (Marketers! shades of kfc’s secret original recipe, don’t you think?) and came in at 30% alcohol.

In 2015, ten years later, Small Big Brands gave the drink another makeover, bringing it down to around 15.5% along with adding 6 other mixes to the lineup. It is safe to say that this current incarnation of the Lufthansa Cocktail is a vastly different drink.

Status Quo

According to Lufthansa Magazine, to make a Lufthansa Cocktail you need to mix the liqueur in a 1:1 ratio split. That is, one part liqueur to one part mixer. This mixer can be orange juice & lemon juice, soda water, sekt, or champagne. We also know that the original cocktail liqueur was described as an orange-apricot liqueur. The cocktail that the guest got to drink would vary in alcohol content between 15-21% if we go by Berentzen’s ABV. The Lufthansa Cocktail Recipe typically calls for a 40ml measure of Lufthansa Cocktail Liqueur. Why? Because that is the size of the little single serve bottles of spirits on the plane.

 

Looking at what Mampe was familiar with, we could hazard a guess that it was some portion of Mampe’s Halb und Halb, plus a small addition of Mampe’s Bittere Tropfen, and then some additions to balance out the sweetness, bitterness, and alcohol content of the final product. Either way, the serving suggestion was on the bottle.

With no listing of the ingredients in Berentzen’s mix we we have no direct link between the current and the past, other than both were 30% abv. But! Take heart, there is enough to put together an educated guess, and combine the ides of the past with the reality of the present.

Perameters

750ml Production Volume

30% abv

Orange, Apricot, Sweet & Bitter notes

The current Lufthansa Cocktail Classic offering lists: Rose Vermouth, Bitter Aperitif, Raspberry Eau de vie, and Elderflower, and is described as fruity, fresh, balanced between sweet and dry.

Rosé Vermouth is typically around 17.5% abv (current recipe doing the viral rounds); Bitter Aperitif is around 39% abv (note: older cocktail recipes often refer to using Orange Bitters) – this fits our preferred profile; Raspberry Eau de vie is a liqueur of around 45% abv, and Elderflower is typically used as a syrup, i.e. 0% abv.

In my personal opinion, the balance of this above, strongly shifted towards sweet and fruity, away from orange and apricots and more towards berry fruits. The strongest alcohols here are the bitters and raspberry Eau de vie, which become the dominant portions in this mix. The syrup and the vermouth are both diluents, yet, while the vermouth may perhaps have a strong impact on the flavour profile, we really don’t know in which direction this Rosé Vermouth is profiled.

However, this gives us a starting point for pulling together some target products to mix together.

The List currently stands at (German Products, chosen for no particular reason other than this was originally a German concoction – Disclaimer: I make no claim to any endorsement here, implied or otherwise. I have no connection with any of these products, companies or parent companies.):

Belsazar Rosé Wermut; The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters; Prinz Himbeergeist; and Monin Holunderblütensirup.

Let’s add one more product which I will use in our subsequent recipe, Prinz Marillen-Schnapps (clear Apricot Brandy). We’re adding this because orange and apricot are the principle flavours of the original recipe.

The Recipe

The following recipe is my best guess at a Recipe for Lufthansa Cocktail Liqueur (Lufthansa Cocktail Likör) it is not the original recipe, nor is it the recipe for any of the subsequent incarnations, but it is informed by what’s been written on the subject and some educated mixology guesswork. So, enjoy, if you will the only recipe on the web for this bottled cocktail mix.

Lufthansa Cocktail Liqueur Recipe (Lufthansa Cocktail Likör Rezept) 30% abv.

250ml Belsazar Rosé Wermut – Rosé Vermouth

370 ml Prinz Marillen-Schnapps – Apricot Schnapps/Brandy

75 ml  Prinz Himbeergeist – Framboise/Raspberry Eau de vie

20 ml The Bitter Truth Orange Bitters – Orange Bitters

55 ml Monin Holunderblütensirup – Elderflower Syrup

Combine all the ingredients, mix well and bottle. Makes 1 x 750ml batch. Serving Suggestion: To 2 full measures of Liqueur add an equal portion of well chilled Sekt or Champagne. Serve in a tumbler over ice, or in a saucer rimmed with a lemon segment and dipped in sugar. Garnish with a slice of lemon, or a cherry.

Addendum.

It should be said that “Lufthansa Cocktail” is a proprietary name, and the “real” recipe is secret. That being said, anyone who has drunk this cocktail in the last 10 years or so has not drunk the original but one of the authorized variants. Anyone who remembers the original has a dimming memory of something experienced more than 30 years ago.

I have never drunk this cocktail mix, and like many today, have an interest in it only to satisfy the wishes of someone in our parentage who is  reminiscing over this once luxury indulgence. So, keep this in mind. What you are making here is a best guess attempt at something that few remember, and if someone close to you claims to, then they are laying claim to a fond memory and your role here is to elicit and stimulate that memory. I hope, this recipe does help you do that.

The Fascinating History of Waldorf Salad

Waldorf Salad is an old salad, a fascinating salad, a salad common to my childhood, but why did I wake up yesterday and need to make it, to revisit it and the taste of Waldorf Salad as remembered from my childhood?

No-one would have guessed that by the end of the day, I would have immersed myself in the fascinating history of perhaps the most famous celery and apple salad in the western world?

When the Waldorf Hotel in New York opened in 1893, the Swiss-born maître d’hôtel, “Oscar Tschirky” created a simple apple and celery salad for the gala opening, later publishing the recipe in 1896, in his encyclopaedic tome, “The Cookbook, by Oscar of the Waldorf.” (1896, p433)

What we can see from this recipe is that over the intervening period of 3 years, this salad remained essentially a dish of apple & celery, dressed with mayonnaise. It is more than likely that this would have been presented in an elegant manner, but there is no mention in the book about garnishing  (a fascinating read that fills in many of the blanks) this salad.

By 1907, however it appears the salad had either undergone some modification and variation, or the principle garnish became part of the ingredient list. Either way, Escoffier, in his, “A guide to modern cookery” (1907, p.623) lists apple, celery root (celeriac), walnuts and mayonnaise.

What’s interesting here is no ratio given for the walnuts and they are fresh, or soft walnuts with no skin. It is interesting to consider, in looking at this recipe as well, the question: Did Escoffier, the most famous chef of his day, presume to teach Tschirky how to make a balanced salad through publishing this recipe, or is he putting his own spin on it, as famous chefs are wont to do?

Next, we have mention of the salad, and how to garnish it, in the Boston Cooking-School Cookbook (1911, p339), by Fannie Merrit Farmer yet walnuts don’t feature in the suggestions.

The next, “authoritative?” mention of the salad with walnuts, and commonly quoted on the web, is apparently in George Rector’s, “The Rector Cook Book” (1928) however, I can not find an actual online copy of the recipe.

It is interesting to note that 6 years prior to Rector and 15 years after Escoffier, nuts: in this case almonds and pecans; get a mention by Marion Harris Neil in her book, “A Calendar of Dinners, with 615 Recipes” (1922, p 159)

Two different types of nuts and quite a substantial quantity. The introduction of lemon juice and sugar and a faux mayonnaise dressing. Hmmm…

What is clear though is that nuts, in general, and walnuts more specifically, have been been an, on again, off again inclusion, but walnuts are now considered the traditional garnish ingredient, and indispensable component in this salad.

By 1977, the Waldorf Salad had become so tired that it was featured, perhaps as the poster child for the differences between British and American cuisine, in a Fawlty Towers sitcom. By this time, grapes had apparently become a ubiquitous and essential ingredient.

As a testament to the Salad’s international appeal, Barbara Rias-Bucher included a recipe in her book, “Das Grosse Buch der Guten Kücher” (1995, p60)

which is somewhat reminiscent of Neil’s, including lemon juice, sour cream, salt and pepper as part of the recipe.

In spite of the fact that Chefs of all sorts, and cookbook authors, have been putting their own stamp on the recipe, and ingredients, Robuchon’s, “Larousse Gastronomic” (2009, p1142) preserves the original recipe and simply states that walnuts were added sometime later, with no further attribution.

It is clear from the history seen here so far, that there has been some common threads, and perhaps two schools of thought, guiding the development of variants of the Waldorf Salad, towards how we perceive it today.

Now, the “taste” of Waldorf Salad, well of the salad that I remember from the 70’s and 80’s, or if you prefer, of late last century, was pretty much the lemon and sugar, mayonnaise, walnuts, apples and celery version.

I remember clearly the mayonnaise – gloopy, all over the place, swimming in it, mayonnaise – the shop bought kind, like “Miracle Whip.” I was never a fan of mayo, actually of anything that contained a noticeable vinegar hint. The apples were cubed, and the celery sliced across the rib. I think mum might have try variants with sour cream and or yoghurt, basically something similar to Barbara Swain’s, “Cookery for 1 or 2” (1987, p52)

but I don’t really recall it so clearly anymore, so I guess I’ll just have to eat my way through salad history and see.

Original Waldorf Salad

So, let’s start with the original Waldorf Salad and Oscar’s recipe. This what we need:

Some mayo, a green apple, a rib of celery and that’s it. The apple corer/wedge-slicer is a wonderful bit of kit, easy to use and you don’t need superior knife skills. Works equally as well on cucumbers.

Method:

  • wedge and core the apple, then slice the apple wedges in half lengthwise. make sure there are no seeds in the apple slices.

  • Swap out the cubing blade and replace with the v-slicer mandolin then slice up the washed rib of celery

  • Take equal amounts, more or less of apple cubes and celery slices and combine them with a good mayonnaise. Use only enough to lightly coat the ingredients

  • Plate up in any manner you wish, I used a ring mould and garnished with some chopped celery leaves for a bit of colour.

Traditional Waldorf Salad

  • Prepare the salad as above and garnish with a sprinkle of coarsely chopped walnuts

A 1980’s Waldorf Salad

Proceed similarly as above but note the following additions:

  • After preparing the apples, douse them in a little lemon juice, toss well to help combat browning of the apples
  • use the fine dicer on the Nicer Dicer Plus to chop the walnuts, its quicker and more uniform than with a knife.

  • plate up the salad in a suitably sized cup of lettuce leaf
  • garnish with chopped celery leaf, walnuts and a light rasp of lemon zest

A Contemporary Waldorf Salad

These days people are looking for ways to make their salads much lighter, and more fat free. This often involves, using low fat mayonnaise, mayonnaise made from so-called “healthy oils,” or by cutting the mayonnaise with sour cream, lemon juice, water, milk, yoghurt, or even substituting with a yoghurt dressing for the mayonnaise altogether. Other ways of shifting it up is to change the way in which the salad is presented, using other celery components and lettuce substitutes and garnishing with various other fruits such as grapes, dates, raisins, etc.

One of the biggest issues I have with the traditional salad is that it is heavy going from a physical standpoint, you really have to chew on it. One change that makes the salad feel so much lighter is to change the way the ingredients are prepared. Keeping all else more ore less the same, here’s how to change it up, considerably:

  • using a V-Slicer mandolin with the fine julienne fitting, slice the apple into matchsticks

  • Using the end of the celery bunch, peal away the dirty bits and julienne

  • toss the apple and celery together with a coating of lemon juice and a scant amount of mayonnaise ensuring that all the apple and celery is lightly and evenly coated, but not dripping in mayonnaise
  • Shred the green tops of a lettuce, and place in the bottom of a ring mould, lightly drizzle some lemon juice over the lettuce and layer some quartered walnuts on top

  • top with the julienne of apples and celery and garnish with shredded celery leaves, a sprinkle of diced walnuts and a rasping of lemon zest
  • drizzle a few drops of extra virgin olive oil around the plate and sprinkle the oil lightly with any red chilli powder of your choice. Alternatively you use ultra fine chilli strings, or curled slices of bell pepper…

and there you have my take on  a gently dressed, easy to chew, flavourful and well textured, crisp and light, contemporary Waldorf Salad, that is true to both the original, and the tradition, elements of the dish.

Enjoy.

Addendum: (2016/06/08 at 9:09 pm)

…and so, in cruising the web I found another article that does a decent job of exploring the salad’s history; it referenced a pic in a magazine and an interesting pic that it is. The recipe discussing plating in an apple cup.

Thoughts on Diet, Dieting and Menu Planning

When I was a lad, back in the 70’s of last century, I was told that my grandfather had a lifestyle crisis when he was 40. Almost blind, alcoholic, and a size 44 belt (…that’s a 44″ long belt.) After “Studying” Pritikin, and Davis, (she was his pinup poster girl of diet), he then took control of  his diet and changed his eating habits and doubled his life expectancy. He lost the weight, became less blind, more active, and famous for swimming in the Daylesford Lake during Winter, even when it snowed. He eventually died of prostate cancer at age 86.

These days, my wife, like many women has her ups and downs with personal self image, and seek assistance through various current, all the rage, “it works…” – sorta kinda fad diets like Dukan, and other high protein, low carb diets. Because of this, and being a stay at home dad, I am confronted, and somewhat conflicted with the various recommendations and the implications of them on the household kitchen, menu planning, cooking, and meals in general. Especially given that I harbour polar opposite views to those of such diets and their guru champions.

Growing up, I was told, by various nutritional experts, that ideally I should eat 4-6 times a day and my food intake should consist of somewhere around 80% Fruit ‘n Veg (including nuts, legumes, seeds and whole grains), and 20% of the other stuff (meat, fats, refined sugars, etc.) My problem however, was that I couldn’t envisage how such an implementation looked on the plate, in actually mentally approaching food in such a way as to be easy-peasy, so la la. Instead I hung on, fiercely, to the Meat-atarian mantra, “My ancestors did not fight their way to the top of the food chain, just for me to be a vegetarian!” And took delight in provoking, otherwise nice people, friends, classmates, etc. who consciously made the choice to be, “Vegos.”

Since then I’ve spent 8 years in China, 4 years in Vietnam, and 4 years in Germany. Both me and my wife felt better, looked better in Asia. so, to some extent I understand those who advocate for diets based on the China Study, or less extreme versions of Walter Kempner’s, “The Rice Diet” (pdf), but with a caveat. It wasn’t all good for me in Asia, and extensive “hot” chili ingestion has left me with a highly sensitive gastric system. One that responds better to less aggressively spices foods. The “Western” diet, as experienced by me in Germany, also disagrees with me. High reliance on bread, cheese, meat, dairy, twice a day, interspersed with a main, cooked meal in the middle of the day, also leaves me with a sensitive gut, and gasping for air due to too much gas.

At age 50 now, I guess I’m starting to mellow out a bit, but still I have the problem, I know what is right, but not how to implement it. I wish there was a book that did away with all this Diet crap and just showed me what it all looks like in simple easy to identify building blocks that I can learn and teach to my son, and wife. I’m still no advocate of Starchivore diets, Rice Diets, Mediteranean/Cretan Diets or Atkins/Paleo variants, I believe we as humans are omnivores, using starches, fruits and veg (gathered, foraged foods) to place-mark daily energy needs, supported with  meats, eggs, fish, etc. (hunted foods) as supplemental energy highlights. As such, a “China Study” (pdf) type diet informed by the Cretan Diet (pdf), with a reduced emphasis on red meats, saturated fasts, and refined sugars, is moving in the right direction, i.e. the 80/20 diet recommended to me so long ago, and practically also followed by my grandfather.

Its interesting to note, that the “Vegan” Diet is defined as 75% Carbohydrates, 15% Protein, & 10% Fats according to Neal Barnard, MD. When you look at that, on the surface, considering what I know from the past, that’s not too unusual or strange. where it gets squirrelly is in the moral/ethical/ego arguments over where those fats and proteins should & shouldn’t come from. For me? I simply just don’t care about any vego/vegan claim to some fatuous moral high ground about protein sources, or about, “saving the world, one mouthful at a time.” I’m still trying to come to grips with how this all looks and works in MY kitchen, on a day to day basis, for me and my family. If you ask me there are too many, “gurus” and guru-wannabes that are doing more ill than good by muddying the waters, so to speak, rather than getting down to the absolute basics of, this is what all this means, here, see, its gets no more difficult than this. Do this, exactly like this, and you’re more ore less good to go. no calorie counting, no protein overloading, no out of balance too far to the left or right extremist, foodist, dietry bullshit.

I have to plan meals for myself, maintain average weight, my wife, lose weight, my 10 y.o. super active, sporty son – a growing boy and ensure we all eat well, eat healthy enough for us, eat economically, and eat enough of what is right for us and protect my family from the dangers of, radical foodism. So where to form here? I’ve searched out a variety of texts, one of interest is the 400 Calorie Fix book, which appears to come close, really close to what I’m looking for

(guess I’ll have to buy it to try it) but its just so – urrrggh! frustrating! no look-in-the-book and it appears to have the same problems as all the other Diet fad books. Like wading through the sewer system, groping around with your hands, trying to find a lost ring or two. What I NEED is a seasonal, 365 1/4 days of the year, menu plan for 4-6 meals per day, for adults and school going kids, and honestly even this doesn’t come close, especially at that price for an ebook!

When I, my brother, and sister went to school, we had:

  • Breakfast
  • Morning Recess
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon Recess
  • After school snack
  • Dinner
  • occasionally Supper

that’s 6-7 meals a day for growing kids. Plus mum had regular meals planned, every week such that, Wednesday was hamburg night, Friday was fish, and Sunday we had a roast chook, every other main meal was basically meat, three veg, and starch. And, eggs were eaten once or twice a week, if we were lucky, but always with some bread.

When I started working it changed to:

  • Breakfast
  • Morning Tea
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon Tea
  • Dinner
  • occasional Supper

that’s 5-6 meals per day. Morning and afternoon tea, more often than not, was just something to drink. nowadays I might drink a bucket load of tea and eat once or twice a day, and my wife and son eat at separate times. We don’t eat together and all the routine has been lost. We each have a different diet requirement, none of it wrks particularly well and so I wrestle, again day after day with, why I just don’t get it, why can I not make it work? Why can I not find, “good,” basic information about all of this so that I can get a better handle on things? Why must I go wading through extensive, rabid, polarized, foodist literature (pdf) to find the answers I seek?

Its enough to make one sick!

Maybe that’s the point…

Kitchen Mixers – I think I’ve finally found The One

  1. When I started making pies in Hanoi, several years back, I always wanted a kitchen mixer, something robust enough to be a semi-professional item but couldn’t afford to sling for the Profi models, even the Chinese made commercial ones. So I settled for a Bomann KM 348 CB  [looks exactly like this Clatronic KM 3067 here… do like that pasta dough thingy…],

    It’s put in a reasonable job though over the past 4–5 years and I’ve had to modify all the beaters with some space washers to improve the overall performance of the machine, oh! and it didn’t have a Blender. Guess what, not having one meant that I wanted one… :-(  Other than that, I can’t complain too much about it for being a domestic kitchen item.

    My mum still has her Kenwood Chef, like the one below, (A701A I think) with all the gadgets, well many of them…

    and I remember her being jealously protective of it, so that us kids didn’t, somehow destroy it. I think it originally had green trims and was later replaced with one with blue trims. So long ago its hard to remember. It always seemed to me to be the Kitchen Crown Jewel. Kenwood still has excellent brand recognition to this day, and the price tag to go with it.

    My problem, when in Hanoi, was that I couldn’t access such branded equipment. The choices were limited. After looking at the Kitchen Aid machines in use in professional hotel kitchens, I decided that the Kitchen Aid 8 Quart Stand Mixer might be the way to go…

    …but I couldn’t find a way around to justifying the purchase, then after seeing this,

    I was more uncertain than ever. Larger volume bowl meant bigger dough batches but I just wasn’t making enough pies to validate such a purchase.

    However, today I stumbled across this and I think I’ve finally found it, the one… I think I’m in love  😉

    It costs around €850+ for this Ankarsrum Assistant Deluxe (current brand name for it) but comes with almost all the optional extras, like my Mum’s old Kenwood Chef.

    Now,  the challenge, how to, as a home-based, non-working, stay-at-home Dad, do I actually buy this, ’cause my wife won’t go for it, cooking and the kitchen are not her thing… thinking… thinking… what to do…

    I so want one of these. Cheers.

CHÁNGSHĀ KǑUWÈIXIĀ 长沙口味虾

I wrote a little booklet back in 2012 about this wonderful Chinese dish.

Today, I just updated it, making a few corrections and changing the recipe a little to reflect an improved understanding of the process of making this dish.

Couple of things to add though, if you have access to Louisiana Crawfish, then feel free to use that instead of the Chinese variety. If you don’t have access to either then one option is to use IKEA Kräftor, which on last check are sourced from China and are of the correct crayfish species. Another alternative is to use some other medium to large, fresh water crayfish, e.g. if you’re in Australia yabbies are a good substitute. If using Kräftor, they need to be rinsed and soaked to reduce the influence of the dill that they are packed with.

Oh and one last thing, when adding water to hot oil, be really careful! The oil has to have had a chance to really cool down so that the temperature is around 100°C or a little lower. This is really important!

Have fun.

Changsha Kǒuwèixiā

GEMÜSEROLLE AUF VEGETARISCHE ART – VEGETARIAN-STYLE MIXED VEGETABLE ROLL.

In recent times I’ve had pretty good success with my “Piebase” [a shortcrust style pastry typically used in Australian-style handheld savoury pies) so much so that making it is no longer a chore – I enjoy the process and the results. Now, I’m experimenting with grinding my own flour. This means my piebase is morphing into a wholemeal pastry, but at present I’m still wrestling with grit that is noticeable to the tooth. If I can get this sorted, I’ll be very happy.

Meanwhile, I was thinking about my pietops and sausage roll pastry – a puff or rough puf pastry. Now, it was mentioned to me, by a great bvaker in Tasmania, that I could take ordinary piebase and use it as the détrompé for making rough puff pastry, but like usual I forgot that little detail in the mass of many things happening at the time.

However, today I was researching vegetarian dishes, in particular Indian and Turkish as some of the vegetarians in my German language class are vegetarian, Indian or Turkish. I came across a great website that had a listing for Puff Borek, a Turkish style vegetarian sausage roll, so to speak and reading through the recipe details reminded me of what I’d been earlier told, so… having some leftover piebase in the fridge, I pulled it out and followed the details for Puff Borek Pastry. Two turns later, some chilling and filling with an ad hoc vegetarian filling, and here’s how the pastry looked, out of the oven.

The layered structure is clearly visible. Looking good so far, but what about the crispness, lightness, flakiness? Cutting it open and I couldn’t be more happy.

Basically, what I did was pass the piebase through my dough sheeter until it was about 1 mm thick. I then took melted margarine and laid down a coating on a section of pastry, folded the pastry over itself and repeated the process. This produced three layers of dough with two layers of fat in between. I then butter half on the top of the dough and folded it over itself again. The edges were sealed and the pastry wrapped and placed into the fridge. Turn One Complete (6 layers of dough, 5 of fat). I repeated this process a second time (36 layers … ) and after chilling, rolled the pastry out to 3mm thick, filled it and then baked low in the oven at 250C for 25min.

“Very Happy” with the results. Not hard to do, takes a bit of time, but in the intervals I was able to make the filling, drink tea and do other things. No Problem! This is very easy pastry making at its best. Love it!

On Traditional Australian Pie Base

We all know that a great pie, first and foremost must taste good. The filling should be tasty, tender, moist, not too runny and not too thick but,

…it ain’t a pie if the pie crust just ain’t right!

I know this. You know this. We all know this, so why is it so hard for so many businesses to get their pie crust or pie base right? (AND, why has it been so damn difficult for me to find out about it and get it right?)

Baking is a skill, a skill that scares a lot of cooks because it’s so damn unforgiving of  the, ‘a pinch of this, a dash of that‘  approach to replicating recipes. It requires, rigour, discipline and an even tempered approach on a day to day basis. If you’re the Chef With Flair then you’re probably also, the Frustrated Baker.

Now to add to this, there are so many references to pie and crust on the net, God love the Americans, their indelible stamp has been tramped all over the place making it hard to find any REAL information of value on this topic – pie is made with sweet shortcrust, or its a pizza, and savory pie is a pot pie which has a puff pastry top only… This is truly war of culture, through domination of the available global information on every topic.

Be that as it may, it is finally clear to me that of the little information that is around, this is one area that bakers, commercial bakers that is, are happy to let it slide, i.e. if you haven’t done the apprenticeship, than you just dont know and if you have, well its basic knowledge that everybody, who ought to know, knows, right?

So, here’s a basic run down of Pie Crusts, and a lead into that mysterious iconic pastry known as ‘Pie Base.’

Pie crust is a pastry made basically with flour, fat and liquid. The difference in various types of piecrust pastry depends on the nature of the flour, the nature of the liquids, the nature of the fat, the ratios in which they are combined, AND the way in which they are combined. In Puff Pastry, the fat and flour is folded and layered, a bit like Damascus Steel, and bound with a scant bit of liquid so that when it is baked, if puffs up into a light flaky, crisp crust. In Shortcrust Pastry, the fat and flour is crumbled together like sand or gravel before being bound together with the liquids, creating a denser, textured pastry. The smaller the grains of fat and flour, the ‘shorter‘ the pastry.

Pie Base is a short pastry. It is unlike hot water pastry and it is not like the typical shortcrust pastry known to loving grandmas the world over, either. It is made by what is referred to as the ‘Creaming Method‘ – a method that has been documented, and known to bakers, since at least the turn of the 19th Century – (p336). This method is an alternative method for making pastry, particularly in hot, arid climates.

In essence this method has part of the flour and all of the fat creamed together first with the water until ‘clear‘ and then the final pastry dough is adjusted with the remaining flour, usually by the experienced touch of a skilled Baker. Understand this well, instead of the flour and fat ratios being fixed and the water ratio being variable, here the fat and water ratios are fixed and the flour ratio is varied until the desired result is achieved.

Now, what does ‘clear’ mean? That is hard to explain in words and is something better shown. To get a close idea about this I recommend you look up a few Youtube Videos on a French technique for kneading wet doughs, currently known as the so called “Bertinet Method.’

Here is a method I gave to a friend of mine in New South Wales, after being having my eye opened and being properly educated by a couple of great bakers on the Apple Isle.

Do give it a try and see how this works for you. For me, this marks the end of a long, long search for the Secret to Traditional Australian (Commercial) Pie Base, and the beginning of a, hopefully, even longer time of playing with the technique.

Rice Cooker Kidney Bean and Lamb Stew

  1. Was in the kitchen today, looking at the fridge and the dramatically reduced kitchen cookware at my disposal. I had this lamb that needed to be cooked, or I’d risk loosing it. So, I thought, “stew!” But I only had one, large pot,an elecric table top bbq griddle plate and a rice cooker. “Sweet!” Use the rice cooker as a stew pot, perfect. The recipe is basically a knock it together idea using what was on the shelf, but it turned out super.

    This recipe uses a simple rice cooker as the main cooking pot.

    Ingredients

    4 lamb chops on the bone

    1 tin red kidney beans

    ½ red onion

    ½ leak

    6 dry shitake mushrooms

    2 large cloves garlic

    1 tsp Desert Flakes

    1 tsp Savory (or Rosemary)

    ½ tsp crushed black pepper

    1 tsp fish sauce

    1 tsp soy sauce

    1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

    2-3 cups hot water

    1 cup dry wine

     

    Method

    1. Wash the lamb chops and pat dry with paper towel
    2. Brown the chops well on both sides. You are not cooking them here, just aiming for a good crust
    3. Slice the red onion and fry

    4. Shred leak, and garlic and place into the rice cooker pan

    5. Rehydrate the shitake mushrooms in one cup of hot water, remove from the water, add the water to the rice cooker pan, shred the mushrooms and also add to the pan


    6. Open the tin of kidney beans and add the entire contents to the rice cooker pan
    7. Add the wine, seasoning and sauces to the rice cooker pan and mix everything well


    8. Place two chops into the rice cooker pan cover with some fried onions and then the next two chops and the rest of the onions, top up with hot water to cover the chops

    9. Place the pan into the rice cooker and switch the cooker onto “High”

    10. Bring the cooker to a boil and…

    …switch the cooker to “Warm” then, every 15 to 20 minutes switch the cooker back to “High” and bring to the boil again, switch back to “Warm” and repeat until the meat is done; OR after bringing to the boil, switch the cooker to “Warm” and leave unopened for 1 hour, open check adjust, bring back to boil then set to “Warm” for 30 min to 1 hour or until hunger takes over

    11. When the meat is starting to fall from the bone, remove the chops and rest them for 5 min. De-bone meat and coarsely dice then add back to the pot until ready to serve. Serve with warm crusty bread, or rice, or mashed potatoes and a malty beer

    …and there you have my take on a Rice Cooker Kidney Bean and Lamb Stew.

    Enjoy!

    Addendum:

    The wife said this was the best stew she’d ever eaten. It certainly was tasty.