Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas

consumerism (i God)
consumerism (i God)
by Mike Reed (aka my dad)
(model is my brother)

My house is a mess, my kids are permanently jacked up on sugar and my jeans won't do up - it must be Christmas!  I keep trying to write a post but my eyes glaze over like Christmas ham.  I'm taking a break and will be back in the New Year.

Thanks for reading in 2011 and in particular, thank you very, very much if you took the time to leave a comment, write me an email or even just "like" a post on Facebook.  Stephanie of The Elegant Sufficiency quotes blogger Shuna Fish Lydon:

“We blog, you comment. Your comments are our fuel, our reason to go on posting, our food for blogthought … the salt on our meat, the eggs in our souffles, the chocolate sauce on our ice cream.” 

I know I sometimes suck at replying to comments and emails but they do make blogging so much sweeter and more rewarding.  So please don't ever be shy - even if you completely disagree, your voice is an important part of the conversation.

We have just finalised our Christmas menu today - Sourdough Kitchen croissants for breakfast with Andrew's Choice ham, lots of gorgeous fat prawns, a big free-range pork roast with crispy taters, pumpkin and grilled asparagus, followed by plum pudding with custard and ice cream.  Christmas may be nauseatingly consumerist in the leadup but the day, at least for us, is always such a welcome celebration of fantastic food and family.

See you in 2012!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Okonomiyaki (aka Japanese pancake)

Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake or pizza) is one of my favourite things.  I wish I could say I discovered it at a quaint wayside inn beside a bubbling brook, somewhere beyond Tokyo, but in fact I first ate them at Highpoint.  These thick vegie-rich pancakes are my shopping centre saviour - made daily, sort of healthy and meal-size for about $4.  When Ajitoya opened in Seddon, giving us a western suburbs counterpart to Fuji Mart or Suzuran, I gathered up all the ingredients to make okonomiyaki at home - and you can too!


You will need:

(Makes two pancakes - recipe adapted from Visual Recipes)

* 1 cup okonomiyaki flour (available from Ajitoya).  This is superfine white flour seasoned with dried seafood and other goodies.  You could possibly vegetarian-ise or frugal-ise it by seasoning white flour yourself (with maybe powdered mushroom, garlic powder etc?)
* 3/4 cup dashi (Japanese bonito stock) or water.  I recommend Spiral Foods dashi above (available from KFL Supermarket in Flemington) which does not have MSG.  You really don't need to use dashi as the flour is seasoned, but I love the extra flavour!
* 1 egg
* Roughly 1/4 cabbage, finely shredded (you may need more)
* 1 carrot, grated
* Neutral oil eg rice bran
* Japanese tonkotsu sauce and Kewpie mayo (pictured below)


Whisk dashi and eggs together (ignore the two eggs - I was doubling the recipe)


Add flour.


Whisk till smooth.


Add cabbage and carrot.  You want it really thick - when it goes in the pan, it needs to sit in a clump, not spread out like a regular pancake.  Just keep adding and mixing until it is a good, thick mixture like the above.


Heat a frypan, add oil (about 1 or 2 Tb) and add a big dollop of mixture.  Push the sides in a bit so it's nice and circular.  You could make more pancakes that are less tall, but I like the contrast between crispy ends and soft, doughy middle.


It is hard to get the timing right so you don't burn the sides or end up with an uncooked centre.  I experimented by adding the mixture in on high, cooking for a couple of minutes then turning it down low.  After about 5-10 minutes, flip and repeat.  You need the top and bottom to be crispy but the middle cooked.  I stuck a knife in and if batter was still welling up, I kept cooking.  Eventually a tiny bit of batter still looked wet, but I took it off the heat, left to stand  for 5 mins and it was done upon eating.  Each pancake probably take about 20 minutes total to be done all the way through.  Sorry to be vague - I am really much more an eatie-foodie than a cookie-foodie!


Put pancake on plate and take tonkotsu (fruity BBQ-style) sauce and Japanese Kewpie mayo (sorry about crusty, well-loved bottle)...


...quickly squeeze squiggles over in perpendicular fashion.  Serve with greens (preferably dressed with addictive creamy toasted sesame dressing, also from Ajitoya).

oko middle

Yuuuummmmmy....  The cabbage becomes soft but doesn't have any stinky boiled cabbage smell.  The pancake is soft in the middle yet tantalisingly crispy on the edges, while the BBQ sauce and mayo combine to give it creamy, tangy flavour punch.  You can cut it into wedges and sell it to the kids as pizza and mine absolutely love it.

I think really authentic okonomiyaki is a bit different - some have topping cooked onto it while in the pan (hence Japanese pizza) while others have bonito flakes and other goodies on top.  I like my simple version though, and it does beat the Highpoint version!

Local identity Nick Ray (of the Ethical Consumer Guide) is putting together a new project called Local Harvest.  Among other things, it will comprise a directory of sustainable food links such as food co-ops. community gardens, pick-your-own schemes, all aimed at connecting you with your food on a more grass roots level, bypassing the handful of multinational corporations who control a lot of our food.  They need funds at the moment to meet their fundraising target to get off the ground - see widget to the right, or check out the website.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sourdough Kitchen

Sourdough, wood-fired, free range - all these buzzwords have been criticised as being yuppie, floaty concepts that will be gone in the next chew-and-swallow of the food trend cycle.  The thing is, the artisan, slow-food model has been around a lot longer than industrial innovations like quick-rise yeast or factory farming.  Once upon a time, all bread was sourdough.  Home bakers discovered that if they left flour and water to ferment and "catch" wild yeasts, it would produce a risen loaf with a pleasant sour tang.  It was only closer to the industrial revolution that yeast was isolated from its wild form, where every house's sourdough starter would be slightly different, and standardised.


In the news recently, a major bread manufacturer has announced an "innovation" in which new additives will mean bread will remain fresh for up to 14 days.  This makes me want to throw up.  Thank goodness then for all our local bakeries and suppliers - Natural Tucker bread from Footscray Market Deli, Hausfrau (bread from Noisette), Waldie's, good ole Bakers Delight (closet pullapart lovers, hands up) and my personal favourite, Sourdough Kitchen.


This is where the old Bowerbird boutique used to be in Seddon and I love the quiet, cool vibe inside.  The terrazzo floor is quaint and strangely soothing as you lean back against dove-grey walls, accented by peasant chic handmade lace doilies.


Everything here is sourdough, from the white casalinga made with organic flour to vegan tray-baked pizzas, fat fruit buns and (no kidding) sourdough croissants.  The bread range begins with classic casalinga and earnest wholegrain before dallying into spelt, sultana and rosemary, and pepita-studded pumpkin territory.  The more standard loaves are available by the half which is a fantastic way for smaller households to never be out of fresh bread.

Latte, $3.50

Great coffee made with Genovese that rarely disappoints.

Pork and fennel sausage roll, $5

The menu is small but confident.  The generous pork and fennel sausage rolls are truly the best in Melbourne!  Sweet pork mince is augmented by the occasional aniseed zing of fennel seeds, rolled in luscious, buttery puff pastry.  An abundance of sweet homemade chutney arrives alongside.

Pizza, $5.50

Three types of square-cut, tray-baked pizza all get the vegan tick.  Here we have wafer-thin potato and rosemary on a chewy sourdough base.  A scattering of salt flakes could take it to the next level.

Sandwiches, $7.50

Hearty, freshly-made sandwiches on thick-cut bread.  Here, bitey cheese complemented tasty pastrami and tangy baby pickles.  Delicious.  Did you know that Sourdough Kitchen are very community-minded, supplying local food co-ops and donating excess bread to the Western Region Health Centre?


I am hopelessly enamoured with Sourdough Kitchen's pain au chocolat - light croissant dough rolled around a Callebaut dark chocolate stick.  The croissants are also fabulous, the sourdough starter giving them a faint but tantalising sour tang.  Sourdough is healthy, ergo, sourdough croissants are healthy.  Right?  Right?

* Okonomiyaki recipe coming next week!

Sourdough Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sourdough Kitchen (Facebook)
172 Victoria Street, Seddon
Phone:  9687 5662


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Friday, December 2, 2011

Pho Phi Truong

UPDATE:  This restaurant is closed; Nhi Huong (2 Sisters) is now at this location.

July to Sep 182

My plan of expanding my children's tastebuds is working...sort of.  They have moved on from grilled chicken to pork chop on broken rice, but they are now all so obsessed with it, they all insist they want it.  Unfortunately, the photo-hungry food blogger in me is always trying to convince them to order something else!

July to Sep 179

Pho Phi Truong is a great place in Sunshine to feed their obsession.  It specialises in pho (apparently MSG free?!) but also has a full menu, right up to banquet-style live seafood.  I like the decor - modern but not cold, still with a bit of welcoming kitsch.

July to Sep 168
Grilled pork shop, shredded pork, egg, pate, broken rice $9

A fine example of com tam dac biet - crisp marinated pork chop, a well-fried egg, a slice of pork/noodle "cake", a tangle of bi (shredded pork skin) and a few pickled vegies.  My only complaint was that the pork chop was very thin.  The kids loved it though.

July to Sep 169
Shaking beef red rice $9

Great bo luc lac or "shaking beef".  This is cubes of beef, quickly "shaken" in a searing wok with just a little garlic and soy, maybe a bit of onion or capsicum.  This beef was really tender and tasty and had just a lick of sauce, the way we like it.  Billy wondered if the garlic might be a bit too overpowering, but I liked it.  Garlic fiend, moi?

July to Sep 173
Seafood coleslaw $18

One of the high points of Vietnamese food for me is Vietnamese coleslaw.  It's just heavenly with lightly pickled, sweet vegetables like shredded carrot and white daikon radish, lots of fresh mint and coriander, the crunch of roasted peanuts and golden fried shallots and your choice of protein.  This seafood coleslaw was superb, with fabulous fresh calamari, good prawns and yummy, thinly-sliced fish cake.  Coleslaws are often relatively expensive, sometimes up to $29.  I'm not sure why, maybe they're a sharing thing for a whole table.

July to Sep 176
Salt and pepper chicken ribs, egg rice $10

After disappointing fried chicken recently at Mr Lee in West Melbourne, these chicken ribs were sublime.  The chicken was really fresh and juicy, covered in tongue-tingling, ultra-crispy batter that was just divine.  If you get in quick and pick off any fresh chilli before it soaks in, the kids love these.  They came with white rice cooked with a little egg (not seen this before).

July to Sep 167
Vietnamese white coffee (iced) $3

My fix - Vietnamese iced coffee.  Wakes you up like a cold shower!  Pho Phi Truong have pandan tea as standard in the thermoses on the tables.  It's very floral and a gorgeous South Vietnamese touch.

ppt specials

Ooh, eyeing off that dau hu nhat rang muoi - salt and pepper tofu.  Oh yeah!  Goi ga farm is coleslaw with free range (ie, "farm") chicken.  Bo tai chanh is a great dish, kind of like Vietnamese "crying tiger" salad (a Thai dish) but the beef is cured in lemon juice before being served in a salad like the coleslaw above.  If you can help with any other translations, or if I have my canhs and chanhs confused, let me know!

Pho Phi Truong on Urbanspoon

Pho Pi Truong
255 Hampshire Road, Sunshine
Phone:  9311 6522
Hours:  7 days, 9.30am-9.30pm

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Pho Phi Truong 1

Pho Phi Truong 2
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