Thursday, October 28, 2010

you're looking at $5 - anti-poverty chef challenge

Red Cross has launched a pocket-size collection of $5 recipes for families struggling to get by in Queensland, to mark Anti-Poverty Week which runs from 17 to 23 October 2010.

'Many of the people we work with, including young families and the elderly, face times when they struggle to put a meal on the table,' said Australian Red Cross spokesperson Anna Boyce. 'The idea behind the $5 recipe booklet is to give a little bit of inspiration to people confronted by poverty, offering meals that can be created out of the smallest of budgets. 'Australia-wide it is estimated around 5% of people experience times when they have no food and no money to purchase food,' said Anna Boyce. 'Everyone has the right to food, shelter, healthcare and the basic necessities - we work with the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Australia and around the world to help improve quality of life.'

Hundreds of copies of the 'You're looking at $5' recipe booklet will be given to Red Cross' Queensland clients for Anti-Poverty Week. The booklet's 16 recipes - which were submitted by staff, volunteers and members of the public - all cost $5 or less to make, and include Red Lentil Soup, Spicy Mexican Beans, Succotash and Deluxe Porridge. The booklet includes recipes and an introduction by former Masterchef contestant and Brisbane local Sharnee Rawson. 'Anti-Poverty Week is a time to build public understanding about the causes and consequences of poverty and hardship around the world and in Australia. It's also a chance to encourage research, discussion and action to tackle poverty,' said Anna Boyce.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

vicki's no-bake cheesecake

The lovely Vicki at work made me this divine cheesecake for a birthday morning tea. It's the nicest cheesecake I've had in years.

250g sweet biscuits
125g butter, melted
375g cream cheese, softened
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp vanilla essence
1/3 cup lemon juice
400g tin condensed milk

1. Grease and line a 20cm spring form tin.
2. Place biscuits in food processor and finely crush. Add butter and process until mixed.
3. Press half of the mix into the base of the tin, and press the remainder around the sides, using a glass to firm it into place. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
4. Beat the cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add lemon rind and vanilla and beat. Add the condensed milk and lemon juice gradually, and beat until smooth and the volume has increased.
5. Pour into the tin and refrigerate overnight.
6. Decorate with diced strawberries and icing sugar, or as desired

1. To make gluten free, substitute gluten free biscuits for the base. I use Arnott’s Rice Cookies (supermarket biscuit aisle) and use approximately 90g of butter as these biscuits are shortbread-like and don’t require much butter to bind.
2. Recommend using 500g of cream cheese if making as per the recipe above.
3. Use 375g of cream cheese if adding melted chocolate (150, maybe 200g?).
4. I substitute vanilla paste or bean for the vanilla essence.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

sassy's jamaican kitchen

376 St Georges Road, Fitzroy North

A pre-birthday dinner on a Saturday night, and a (relatively) new Caribbean restaurant to try out. We head out to Sassy's Jamaican Kitchen in Fitzroy.

The reviews online are consistent and favourable: be prepared to wait, but the food is fantastic. We arrive not long after eight to a less-than-half-full restaurant: maybe eight or nine other diners scattered around a spacious room, sparsely decorated with Jamaica posters and yukka plants, and with a gentle reggae vibe in the background.

Our waiter - the only waiter - offers us chilled water and promises to return with glasses for our bottle of Chandon. In the end, we pour our bubbly into our water glasses. The menu is sparse but enticing. Apart from a few vegetarian starters and mains, there is a choice of fish or chicken, both jerked. Curried goat is on special. In order to try everything, we choose jerk chicken to share as a starter, then one jerk fish and one curried goat.

An hour passes. Happily, I am in good company, and the conversation flows. Most of the other diners leave. Others arrive and leave with takeaway boxes of food, which is fascinating as we have not heard a phone ring once. Sassy himself comes out and starts to clear tables. I wonder why he is not cooking our food, or perhaps whether our order has been lost.

Finally, after almost an hour and a half, our starter arrives. Two pieces of barbecued jerk chicken, a generous dollop of yellow vegetable curry and an upside-down bowl of rice and peas, with a couple of piping-hot sideplates to eat from. To be honest, it is not the best start. The chicken is not heavily seasoned at all, not with chilli, not with anything much. It has either been well over-cooked, or cooked earlier and carelessly re-heated. The vegetable curry is actually quite tasty, and without it the rest of the dish would have been far too dry.

Moments after taking our plates away, the main courses arrive. The same upside-down bowl of rice and peas accompany each dish. The curried goat is not off the bone as confirmed, but it is pretty delicious. Not at all spicy-hot, but very well seasoned and very slowly cooked. Pity there is not more of it. The two smallish pieces of jerk fish are delicious too, one more spicy than the other to my taste. Again, without the vegetable curry this dish would have been far too dry, but overall it was enjoyable.

The rice and peas are a disappointment. The rice is far too dry, and the peas are kidney beans. Would have been good to see proper gunga or pigeon or even azuki peas used. And despite the diners being in single digits all night, we still have to list for our waiter what we'd eaten so he could make up our bill. He tells us this is his third night working here, and it's the busiest night so far.

Nonetheless, it was a pleasant evening. Not sure that I would hold Sassy's up as a perfect example of good Caribbean food: it needs a bit more chilli heat and a bit more care in both food preparation and service to get better marks. Maybe even a bottle of pepper sauce on each table so customers can adjust the heat of their food to taste.

That said, I get the best Caribbean food at home all the time so I know I am fortunate.

Will it be a regular haunt? Not sure if we would ever hop in the car and take a twenty-minute drive across town for any of the dishes we ate. But at $46 for two (not including $5 corkage which we think they just forgot) it wasn't a bad night's value.

Sassy's Jamaican Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 22, 2010


Shop 9 Salamanca Square Hobart

It's not often you get 28C in Hobart of an evening, especially this time of year. It is a lovely stroll down along the waterfront to Salamanca Place early on a Friday evening with the town coming alive, the tall ships moored alongside crowded seafood restaurants, the lights beginning to twinkle across the bay.... and a stinking cold.

Never mind.

Salamanca Place is buzzing. It appears you have to be male, under 35 and wearing a brand-logo teeshirt to get into Irish Murphy's - or at least to be permitted drink a pint outside on the pavement. The Aurora Australia - the big red Antarctic survey vessel - is gone for the summer, the gap on the quay filled with gleaming white motor boats. Gangs of students congregate beneath the trees along Salamanca Place, drinking god knows what from polystyrene cups and otherwise being incredibly civilised.

I wander past the crowds outside Barcelona and James Squire. It's amazing how the young Taswegian women take advantage of a rare balmy evening: most of those outfits would result in hypothermia on most other nights of the year.

Despite the warm evening I am convinced it cannot last. A friendly waitress Ciuccio finds me a table for one inside, tucked between a strangely-matched American couple and a more conventional Australian one. I settle in with a glass of d'Arenberg The Footbolt and my Kathy Reichs novel.

My cold battles with my appetite. Virtually nothing stops me eating as most of you will know, but for fifteen minutes I flick backwards and forwards between gourmet pizzas and a predictable but enticing list of pasta and primi dishes. I have been told the gamberi pizza is off tonight. Contrarily, it is the one thing I crave.

I settle for a rocket, pear and parmesan salad to start, and a prawn risotto to follow. In the end my choices are directed by what I can eat with one fork as I hold a large paperback in the other hand.

The rocket salad is huge but very well balanced. I jab forkfuls of ripe pear, slices of parmesan and rocket leaves drenched in a blue cheese dressing. Most of the walnuts are a casualty of my
clumsy forkmanship and get left behind. So far, so Friday night.

A second glass of The Footbolt heralds the arrival of my main course. I hadn't thought the risotto would be tomato-based and I am immediately disappointed, but convenience triumphs over first impressions and I dig in.

The risotto is... fine. More than tasty. Rice pretty well perfectly cooked. Decent number of prawns. A good smattering of wilted spinach. It lasts me four chapters and I can't complain.

The sights and aromas from other dishes passing by to other tables indicate that this is a decent place. I can only conclude that my cold has numbed my taste buds to the point where everything just tastes ordinary. Everybody else looks thrilled with their food.

My waitress hits just the right balance between pleasantries, eye contact and efficiency. Despite the growing queue at the bar waiting for tables, I never feel rushed. I wander back out into the warm air of the evening, and marvel at the people still dining outside on the square, apparently unaware of the latitude.

The fairy lights on the trees twinkle as I saunter back to my hotel and an early night. As I leave Salamanca Place, the first raindrops start to fall. By tomorrow morning it will be back to more normal Tasmanian spring weather, and we shall have to wait quite a few more weeks for another Friday night like this.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Seddon Deadly Sins

Sunday breakfast, and time to drag ourselves away from our usual haunt, Cafe le Chien in Seddon. Orlando is convinced that equally good but cheaper breakfasts are lurking, so we explore the competition.

Seddon Deadly Sins is tucked away opposite the Greek Orthodox church on Victoria Street in Seddon. It looks pretty small with a few tables outside from which to watch the pre-wedding antics of the people across the road, and a handful of tables inside by the kitchen. But there are tempting little signs on the back door, one to a vine-filled courtyard and one to The Good Room upstairs (no kids allowed).

We sit in by the kitchen and watch the action. Teas come quickly but we have to ask for strainers. The cups and saucers are not pristine: they are freshly washed, but all have tannin stains on them. Yet again, I have to explain to a waitress that providing more hot water does not allow me to control the strength of tea to my liking. Only using less tea leaves will ensure weaker tea. Why is this so hard to understand?

We order something close to our usual. I have scrambled eggs with side orders of mushroom and roasted tomato. Orlando chooses the Spanish eggs - two poached eggs in a skillet, topped with a spicy tomato salsa and chorizo sausage, served with toasted Turkish bread and a side of bacon. The bacon is laid on top of the skillet so the salsa makes it a bit soggy, but it looks good and smells amazing. O is happy enough. My breakfast was perfectly fine, but the scrambled eggs were not as lovely as Le Chien's (probably because they are not laced with vast quantities of butter). As I am on a health kick, it's probably just as well.

One serious downside is the music. We like laid-back weekend music with our late breakfasts: a bit of The Jam or The Stranglers, maybe some Corinne Bailey Rae or old soul. What we get is slightly-too-loud unrecognisable rock. It sets me on edge and suddenly I am ready to leave. The bill is $34 - $6 less than Le Chien.

Will we come back? Yes - we'll give the place one more try. The owner is really friendly and the staff are pretty responsive. Next time we'll try The Good Room or the courtyard, which might make the dreadful music a little less intrusive. But I can't see it becoming a firm favourite.

Seddon Deadly Sins on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

mmmm pizza

Late home from work, I rustle up a quick home-made pizza in less time than it takes to order from Pizza Hut.

Half a garlic Afghan bread, a squirt of pizza sauce, a few chopped-up mushrooms pan-fried to dry them out a little, quarter of an onion finely chopped and barely sweated in the pan, one green chilli and one tomato, a good handful of Weight Watchers grated cheese and a generous swirl of Ischian herbs from the Bay of Naples.

Into the oven, out 15 minutes later, Bob's your uncle. The perfect comfort food, and all for less than 6 Weight Watchers points (if that means anything to you).
A glass of Rutherglen durif and House on the TV, and that's a perfect Wednesday evening for me.