FOUR Coffee Delights in ONE

OK coffee is for sure a form of cooking and over the years I have accumulated a host of coffee making machines, mostly very cheap from the local op-shop, but this one just sort of happened for free - a Nespresso one of unknown vintage and hardly working so first job was to apply the tooth brush and bingo it is cleaned out and no longer leaks, but I need to use Moccona capsules as the pump does not seem to have enough pressure to break the seal on the Lavazzo ones.

But what am I to DO with this amazing new (to me) gadget?

Being happy with my morning coffee habits I decided to set this one outside for an afternoon happening/event and I broke out my old Mr Cuppacino steam machine from the op-shop at $6 to give some versatility.

SHORT BLACK

So first of all I use one press of the right button to get the first concentrated shot of coffee which just fills the tiny cup made for this purpose as you can see
and I can enjoy a few sips of the lovely thick black coffee as some would say is the only way to drink it.

LONG BLACK

I then hit the button 3 more times to get all the coffee from the capsule, pour that from the brown jar to the green mug along with the rest of the short black, so we have
ie about half a cup of coffee of similar strength to what I have in the morning, and having Mr Cuppacino at the ready means I can heat it up if needed and give it a frothy "head".

CUPPACINO

It is now time to froth up the skim milk in the stainless steel cup (came with an old steam type non capsule machine that blew up long ago) and spoon some froth into the green cup, with a liberal shake of the Lamb Herbs bottle (which contains some Vittoria Dark Chocolate granules)
and we have my version of "barista" coffee - more like a big mess but it tastes good and I can keep adding froth and chocolate and even apply the steam directly into the green cup to heat it up and revive the head.  And after drinking enough of this format I of course use the spoon to eat the last of the froth with chocolate.

CAFE LATTE

Now I pour the rest of the milk into what is left of the coffee in the green mug and we have
this milky mix that I would not normally drink but it is really not too bad.

Remembering to turn both machines off I then cover them with a box to keep out any rain and put a plant on top in case of wind, and back again the next day.


UK Indian Restaurants 45 years on

In September 2015, at age 70, I went on a trip from FNQ back to good old England [mainly a trip down the Thames] and one of the things I was eager to re-experience was eating Indian Food in the English style as compared to the 1970s when I lived there.

As I carefully planned the trip on the Web I looked at numerous Menus before leaving FNQ so I was not at all surprised that the style of cooking had changed [ie from my initial trip to UK in 1970], mainly I suspect to cater for the ever growing Take-Away market.

And yes once I got there and ate at several "Indian" [though many claiming to be "Indian-Bangladesh"] Restaurants all that was proven to be correct.  FWIW back in 1970s there were more Restaurants claiming to be "Pakistani" than Indian, so there is introduced a further complication.

The big change is that the traditional SLOW cooking style where the meat/chicken is slowly cooked in the curry sauce after first being "infused" with the aromatics has been replaced with the traditional Chinese "SHORT Cooking Style", except the ingredients are Indian and not Chinese.  Or one can also say the style is closer to Thai cooking methods.

The efficiency changes are obvious.  Firstly only a variety of "sauces" [called Balti, Jalfrezi, Madras etc] need to be on hand [and of course may have been frozen] and the meat etc is pre-cooked [in Tandoor if desired and called Tika] and then simply popped in at the end for a quick stir fry before transfer to a Balti Dish or a plastic container for Take-Away.  Secondly the wastage is far less as no decision had to be made up front on how much Chicken Vindaloo and how much Chicken Madras etc had to be slow cooked before the restaurant even opened.  And the "give-away" there is that one can buy a portion of "Vindaloo [etc] Sauce" without it having started life as Chicken, Lamb or Prawn Vindaloo.

And the same goes for the Bangladeshi traditional dish of Biryani [however you wish to spell it], ie no longer is the rice cooked IN the clay pot with the meat, but simply added at the end [plus some "neutral sauce"] as in Chinese Fried Rice style.  So Biryani is essentially same as any other curry plus rice except that THEY mix the two before you get to see it.

The other very obvious indications are firstly not one Menu offered beef and while one might argue the "Holy Cow" bit that was never the case before, so it is simply that beef needs slow cooking.  Secondly there is no longer the all important question posed "would you like the chicken on the bone or off the bone?", because it is no longer COOKED on the bone in the traditional way.

So was it better or worse?

I'll answer that indirectly by explaining that while I have the long term habit of actually COOKING curries about 4 times a week [for over 40 years], I also cook the occasional "Chinese Stir Fry", though without much knowledge/expertise.  The method is to stir fry big chunks of onion and capsican in a wok in hot oil, add a packet of paste (eg Mongolian Lamb) and throw in some prawns or chicken etc and give another short stir fry before serving hot on a bed of rice or noodles.

I always enjoy those meals (ie as well as curries) but they do not have the flavour or variety of what one can experience in Oz at "the local Chinese" to be found in the High St of any Oz suburb or town.

And here we come to the point of the matter, ie "Australian Chinese" has developed a unique Australian version of Chinese cooking (with invented words such as "chop-suey" etc) that over the period since WWII has spread in that same consistent style over the whole of Oz as "an institution" and a successful one at that.

All that was BEFORE McDonalds or Pizza Hut etc.  When these finally came along the consistency of the marketing was controlled by Big Brother.  But the amazing consistency of the "Oz-Chinese" was simply from what Charles Darwin called Natural Selection, ie the selections that were the most yummie like Sweet & Sour Pork were the ones that got ordered all over Oz and therefore the INDEPENDENT thousands of Oz-Chinese Restaurants all fell into line to promote that product.

The result was the much satirized "extensive" menu at your local "Chow Restaurant" where you say "I'll have a 53 and my wife will have a 69".

Back to UK-Indian, for better or for worse, the conglomerate of "Indian Restaurants" decided NOT to use the numbering system BUT everything else about the extensive UK-Indian Menu structure is the same as for the Oz-Chinese.

Terms such as Balti [and please Google re Phall as it is amusing] were invented, the same as for Chop-Suey and Chow Mein in Oz-Chinese marketing, so instead of a heading of "Chop-Suey" etc you will see "Jalfrezi" etc with the same choices of "chicken/pork" etc set out below.

OK, all that is smart marketing [ie in UK as well as in Oz] but to answer the question of which I like the better, it does not really matter as these days ALL my curries are cooked at home generally by the slow method.

But Pataks etc do in fact cater for both with Simmer Sauce for the stir fry method and Paste for the slow method, both for the same "type" eg Madras and if the Simmer Sauce is on special at half price now and then I might buy it, but generally I buy the paste and probably enjoy those curries more for the simple reason that the flavour is IN the meat itself and not just the sauce.

Lemon Pickle - On The Run

I normally make Lime Pickles but at the moment we have here a glut of Bush Lemons and Habanero chillies, so why go and buy Limes when the condiments are locally available free?

So this blog will track the one month gestation period for making a genuine Indian Pickle.
 The basic ingredients are the chunky Lemon on the left, cut into 32 pieces and the Habanero on the right cut into two.
 The jar is from Woolies at $4 and the ingredients are "layered in" together with Hoyes Pickling Spice, about 5 Lemons and 15 Habaneros.
 A layer of Rock Salt is parked on top and tomorrow morning this will greet the sun.
 5 July
The salt has dissolved and the Lemons have begun to "liquify" with the level of the solids down 2 inches and the liquid level 2/3 up the container.
 6 July
I decided to add some big chunks of garlic, ie at this "sunbaking" stage rather than at the end.
7 July
I then decided to add water to the top of the solids to ensure that all contents are in the salt solution as they bake in the sun.

I was wrong re container as it is the $3 "medium size" one and there is a bigger one for $4.  This one is about same size as the Macona Coffee jar I have used to date, which is shown on right rear.

The recipe simply says "a sealed container" but the contents both ferments and expands [from heat] in the sun so using the Macona jar, if you push the lid fully down the pressure simply puts the lid into orbit, but the total seal is good for inverting the jar each night to give it a good mixing.

On the other hand the Woolies jar has a lousy seal so is fine in the sun but to invert it you need to add an extra seal from another jar as shown above to get a fairly good seal.

So just a matter of experimenting to find the best method.

8 July
I added some more salt [on third day]

22 July
Getting near to end of process now and the appearance is not too different from the start [with limes they go from bright green to grey]

The day has arrived to build the pickles and first task is to chop up some ginger.

Then we have some oil [I use Macadamia], Garam Masala, Cummin Seed and Hot Paprika [sorry, forgot to show the vinegar].  The actual recipe is here Lime Pickles.

Note it says garlic and chilli but I have already added those at pickling stage, so up to you.

On left is the ginger and spices etc fried for a few minutes and on right I have inverted the pickles jar into a strainer.

The contents fit 2 Balti Dishes and I spoon most of the liquid into the dishes [remember it is salty so up to you how much you use].

The Balti Dish is placed on a trivet in a pressure cooker with a little water and steamed for a few minutes [in a few stages].  I do this for 2 reasons, to kill any nasties left over from the month in the sun and to get the contents hot without "mashing" it up by stirring too much.


All of the above goes into a saucepan for a final mix/heat and the result fitted into a medium Woolies jar with the rest half filling an anchovy swing top jar.

It should keep for several months in fridge.

Taste test on a chicken curry says very good - lemon is a lot less "tart" than lime and the chillies sort of "dispersed" without making it too hot, so seems that to make it really hot you add chillies [of your choice] at the end.


Frogs' Legs

As much as I love Frogs' Legs to eat, this is not about humans eating them but a Green Tree Snake eating a Green Frog - all in 2 minutes.

Making Ghee

General

This is about how to prepare Ghee, aka Clarified Butter which is used instead of cooking oil to prepare curries and the like.

Anecdotal Mutterings

Ghee is probably the most common cooking medium in the "cooking world" but still is hard to get in Australia which has been familiar with curries for some 40 years now.  It is therefore probably impossible to find in America.

Even if you can find it in Australia, it is rather expensive as either the "shelf" or "cold" forms so it makes sense to simply make it yourself at about 30% of the price.

Method

Ghee is made from butter [normally Unsalted Butter] by removing the parts that cause butter to go brown if used as a cooking medium.  Once these are removed it has a very high smoke point so is as good as any oil for cooking but with a different flavor to impart to the dish.

Start with a packet of Unsalted Butter and a small saucepan.



Heat the butter until a "scum" forms on top [termed ButterMilk] and scoop what you can of that off with a spoon.


Continue to heat and stir but be aware that things happen very quickly at this stage.  You are looking for the murky butter to suddenly become clear by way of seeing the bottom of the spoon and saucepan.

But at the same time the bottom of the saucepan will be turning brown as seen below.


Turn off the heat and set the saucepan aside to cool for 5 minutes or so.  Then pour into a funnel lined with a coffee filter.


I then pour the filtered Ghee into a plastic tub which provides for easier use later on once cooled in the fridge.


Once in the fridge it reverts to the same appearance as the initial Unsalted Butter but of course it is now suitable for heating to a high temperature.  I generally make a new batch at the time of building a curry so in this photo maybe 25% has been used already.

Throughout this process one is presented with a lovely nutty aroma, but if you overcook it you will get a rather less nice burnt caramel aroma, so take care.

Breakfast McCamping

Here is a convenient breakfast offering for camping that avoids the need for packing heaps of stuff and on site messy preparation.  I simply pack 3 of these frozen delights and reheat over the camp stove while sipping coffee before heading out to the Red Claw pots in my canoe.
I prepare these 6 at a time as eggs come in a 6 pack and so does shortcut bacon and freeze them for the trip.  So we start by toasting 6 slices of thick bread and after basting in butter in a thick cast iron frying pan we use a sharp egg lifter to cut out a square, essentially making an egg ring.
Break an egg into a Balti dish and pour it into the hole slowly, waiting for the cooked egg to bind it all together.  Insert the cut-out square towards the end of this process and flip it over to give other side a seal.
Forgot to say that we have already fried the bacon and set aside, so lodge one slice on top and flip again to bind bacon into the rest.
Seal each one in a sandwich zip-lock bag and pop into freezer.  I will add a photo of the reheat process on the next camping trip.


"One Ton" of Soup

General

Here is neat lunchtime feast along the lines of Wonton Soup [aka Short Soup], but a bit more "Multi-Cultural".
Anecdotal Mutterings

I often build this meal instead of doing the "cup of noodles" bit when camping because [as mentioned in other posts] I travel with a pressure cooker for various reasons.

The Essentials

Here are the ingredients
We have a packet of "shelf" Singapore Noodles, a packet of frozen Prawn Wontons, Miso Soup concentrate and some Wasabi [or whatever you might want] to add some "heat".

Place all ingredients in a Balti Dish and boil some water.  Fill Pressure Cooker to trivet level and Balti Dish to top and steam for a few minutes.

Take care to engage the forks on both sides of Balti Dish to remove, as shown [one side only]

And that's it.  Alter the ingredients to your own taste.

Red Claw Curry

General

OK, I know I promised Chilli Mud Crabs but right now I am doing some camping at Lake Tinaroo and have been experimenting with ways to catch and cook the Red Claw [Yabbies] that live there with the Barramundis.

So starting from the other end, here is my first creation and it tasted just as good as Mud Crab and less fiddly to consume.  As long as you don't mind those pleading eyes looking up at you Red Claw offers some artistic ways to actually present the meal, especially with the space available on a banana leaf.  The large Red Claw in this case also offers meat in the claws, so crack them with the back of a cleaver before final cooking to allow the sauce to ooze in.
Sorry that I did not serve this on a banana leaf but I will next time.

Anecdotal Mutterings

It would seem that the main difference between Mud Crab and Red Claw delights is that while I obviously catch my own Mud Crab, one can in fact buy Mud Crab at certain Seafood Markets.  But as far as I know one has to actually catch their own Red Claw.

In any case the asking price for either at a Seafood Market would surely put most people off cooking such a treat.

So here is my own catching ground at Lake Tinaroo above Cairns, with a bit of Mozart from the Bill Gates Garage Band from PhotoStory3.
Just click the > button above to start the video.

After placing the Pots one has to wait overnight for the critters to get sucked into the Pots, so one has to be prepared with the standard beverages like Cab Sav and a good Tawny Port as you can see below.

The next morning.....
The Essentials

As for all such critters, preparation is finicky and time consuming.  In my humble opinion a Pressure Cooker is essential here.  A nice aspect of Red Claw [and Mud Crabs] is that they do not shrink down to nothing like a prawn [or shrimp if you are American] when heated.

A Pressure Cooker is so useful for a variety of reasons when camping that it would seem a must as part of your camping kit, allowing you to enjoy a Red Claw feast on site, but if not they will survive several hours in a bucket till you get home.

Fill the Pressure Cooker with Red Claw with half an inch of water and steam for a short time.

The shell should have gone from dirty brown to bright orange and, after removing the head, use kitchen scissors to snip the outer shell after first snipping off the tail.

Remove the black vein by whatever means - maybe carry a small cut-off paint brush for this job.

Then give the whole lot another quick steam. This will steam clean all the stray bits of vein from the meat and render the meat very white while rendering the shell red.  If you do all this in a saucepan the shell ends up dirty red and the meat dirty white.

Of course if you are Asian you will probably be eating the head and goo as well, hence the scene from Apocalypse Now where the General says "if you can eat this shrimp Captain you will never have to prove your courage in any other way".

Here is a shot of the product after this second steaming, ready to join in with the curry sauce.
Next is the sauce.  In this case I used a Malaysian Seafood masala [ie curry powder] and a tin of coconut cream, and a swag of other things like curry leaves, Asian coriander, garlic, ginger, prawn paste, green chillies etc.  It tasted fine.

I simply added the lot in the picture above to the sauce and simmered for 10 minutes or so.  The amount used for this serving was a bit over 1 Kg of the Red Claw prior to cooking and cleaning and was about right for one [hungry] person along with rice and nan.

So there is my first attempt at Red Claw catching and cooking and I figure there will be many more of both.

Spaghetti Bolognaise

General

I mention in the Introduction that 50 years ago the Commonsense Cookbook was considered [at least by parents of that time] to be invaluable to any young bloke leaving home [and Mum's cooking] to live in a flat or whatever.

Well things changed as the classic Local Chinese Restaurant [essentially the only form of eating out apart from a "mixed grill" at the local Greek MilkBar] seemed to "throw a rib" to new and exciting restaurants, starting with Italian, closely followed by Indian and so on .....

Anecdotal Mutterings

I was introduced to Spaghetti Bolognaise at age 19 in 1964 by my then girlfriend's mum, who was into all these new taste experiences at the time, and the recipe below is essentially the same as what she gave me at the time, albeit it was not till 1969 I got to start my own cooking career, as I went from home to National Service up to end of 1968.

By early 1970's a Bloke's chances in love began to be gauged with just how good he was at making a Spag Bol when the question came up - "my place as yours" and she would say "yours as long as you can cook".  There was a Michael Caine movie back then where he, as the super spy, tells his girlfriend to get out of the kitchen and into the bedroom as it was the only place she was "any good".

Strange thing is that when we first travelled/traveled TO Italy etc in 1970 we found that the "real" thing generally did not contain any meat, and a futile hunt for a "butcher shop" to buy a pound of mince soon explained why.

The Essentials

The start point is onions [the brown ones] and cutting them up [fairly small] and getting tears in the eyes is all part of the ritual of a Spag Bol, but I guess the frozen chopped ones are nearly as good.

In a medium size saucepan throw in a good swig of Olive Oil, and remember that the "virgin question" has more to do with the matters at hand and not the quality of the oil, but extra virgin if you must.  However some of the thicker Spanish Olive Oils can be a bit overpowering so best to go for a lighter Italian one.  Use a wooden spoon to constantly stir the onions over high heat until they go sort of brown.

A pound of mince [500 g] is about right for 2 people and beef is used mostly, although I actually prefer lamb mince IF it is available.  The mince is mixed with the onions and the work of the wooden spoon now increases.  It is important to not allow the mince to "cake" as it goes from red to brown, so you must keep turning, prodding and thumping it until the prods do not reveal any more red bits.

Then carefully pour off most of the liquid by holding the lid of the saucepan slightly off centre so as not to lose any bits of the meat.  I use a Balti Dish to catch the liquid which is a mixture of the Olive Oil and oil/fat seared out of the mince.  And here is other reason for lamb, ie rather than dispose of the liquid [which is "so bad for your health"] I put it into the fridge and after a few hours one is left with a crust of lovely dripping to have on toast AND the dripping from lamb is far better than from beef IMHO.

So why save your health by pouring it off and then using it on toast?  Don't worry about it - you only live once.  But also you don't want the meal to be too oily, hence the next step of searing the remaining meat and onions on high heat for a minute or so until you smell that lovely nutty aroma [also better with lamb], then turn off the heat.  In fact for a really nutty experience try Macadamia Oil instead of Olive Oil.

Now for the saucy bit, and traditionally it is a big blob of tomato paste, thinned out with wine.  But for more bulk a can of Woolies Italian Diced Tomatoes works wonders, maybe still with a bit of tomato paste.  For the wine, the purists say to use the same wine you will be drinking with the meal but with the quality of cask wine [or Bowlers Run at $2.50 a bottle] I would rather keep a more expensive wine for drinking.

The traditional recipe says a pinch of Cayenne Pepper and chop up 2 cloves of garlic [and of course salt to taste] but do as you please here and I think Oregano adds to the Italian flavour [and Basil also has a case to be heard].  So with all that added, stir it all up with the mince and onions and maybe add a little water or more wine if too thick while bringing it back to the boil.  Then reduce to low heat for say 20 minutes, after which it should look like this.
The long spaghetti that also came to Oz back in the 1960s replaced our notion that spaghetti was that short, soft muck that came in tins with tomato sauce, as if a baked bean in disguise.  It became a snobbish thing at dinner parties [as for chop sticks proficiency] to be able to twirl just the right amount around a fork and transfer to the mouth without splattering sauce over fellow dinner guests.  I am sure you know how to cook spaghetti by now IF you can find it on the shelves, ie you will search through umpteen varieties of spaghetti and pasta shapes but just plain spaghetti [of good quality] is the way to go IMHO.

Traditionally Parmesan Cheese is provided at the table to be sprinkled over the meal and once again you can use the ready grated in a shaker or a grind as you go device - up to you.

So that is the basic Spag Bol and with the help of a cheeky little Shiraz [HINT - show you are not a wine newbie by using silent "z"] any Bloke should be able to woo his Olive Oil - be she an "extra special virgin" or not.

Cart Before the Horse


This is a blog about a Kindle book, and if the Kindle Flip Webpage is not above then please go here.

I started to write this book [the 10 pages or so above] 5 years ago at the time I moved from Cairns in Far North Queensland, Australia up the road about 100 klms to the Daintree area, right on the beach, in what is termed a donga.

That was before Kindle came to be and since it has, I got so involved in making Kindle books for others at coversareus.com that I never got any further with the cooking book.

There have been plenty of times when I have thought "now I must include this creation in my book" but because I had never set up the structure of the book it seemed all to hard to do it bit by bit.

But then the requests for the book started to flow in [ummmm, at least my elder son reminded me to share some of the recipes I had used to cook meals for the kids back in early 1990s].

So I then thought that as I would have a blog attached to the flip webpage [as I do for customers' books] then why not do the snippets one by one in no particular order in the blog [and maybe later copy/paste to the book].

So that is what I am doing.