Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Kitchen Crusade / Pilgrimage

I have just recently completed a Margaret River cram session with my friends Jayne, Matt and Callum. It is so named because we basically burned down to Margaret River on the Friday after work, busted out a full day of wineries, cheeseries and chocolateries on Saturday, then busted it back Sunday mid-morning.

We headed down because apparently we are incredibly knowledgeable and intelligent (how did this even happen) and came second at a real, proper and serious quiz night… by the way, best runner-up-at-a quiz-night-prize ever.

Let me tell you something: that is the way to spend a weekend.

So, Margaret River is the business because of its food and wine fare, which obviously I am a fan of. If you wondered why this is obvious: firstly… stop reading this blog immediately and back away from the computer slowly, secondly: there’s a clue in my title, in my blog post topics and in the regularity of my culinary experimentations… but you probably didn’t read that because you’ve already backed away… hmm.

We obviously didn’t get everywhere, we don’t have magical fast moving / wine consuming powers, or a time turner, but we really did put in a sterling effort.

My day highlights included:

Happs Winery.

Reason: the staff people were super friendly (but not crazy overzealous WINE IS MY LIFE AND I MIGHT EAT BABIES friendly), the wine was wicked and they had COUNTER BISCUITS and CHEESE complimentary and for free with the tasting. I am a big fan of their Preservative Free White and my god their fuschias (even though I usually don’t like sweet wine) were sweet as in taste and sweet as in tasty. Also: their Muscat… swoon (not from over exposure to wine, from over exposure to awesome.)

Howling Wolves Winery.
The service was pretty good, but it’s the wine I was about there. It was inexpensive and catered for a huge range of tastes, sweet drinkers (weirdos) and not-so-sweet drinkers. Their white shiraz is nice, something a bit different and only $14.
I just realised if you don't know much about wine that last statement may have suggested I am somewhat of an aficionado ... I think I might need to clear something up here... ahem:
I'm not.
Look: I’m no wine connoisseur, I can’t critique a wine on its palette and I don’t smell it or whatever, and the only real differences I can point out between different kinds of wine is if they're pink or red or white, a bit too sweet and if I like them or not... so don’t think this is all gospel wine critic stuff. It just tatsed good, okay? And the price tag was worthy of my attention.
They also had this White Liqueur that was apparently only released six weeks ago. Let me tell you something, co-crusaders, this stuff was the business. We all bought a bottle of that little chestnut-o-awesome. And, in keeping with my exceptional wine-tasting-palette, I can’t explain the flavour except for: it was sweet with an over-whelming hint of deliciousness. See, I know my stuff about wine tasting rhetoric and flavours.

Amorous Rant:
But the shining gem of the day, the brightest of the highlights (so probably fluoro yellow) was my visit to Providore. I hadn’t been there before. To be honest, I hadn’t even known it existed. This is a sad truth that I am not proud of, but due to my often brutal, though ever-present, penchant for honesty, I will admit to it.
Providore is like a melding of all the things I love: they have their own garden there where they grow vegies and herbs for their café, they have free-range chickens (real alive ones), they have a vineyard (Coward and Black Wines- which, in addition has a proper awesome, not sickly sweet rose), they have a gourmet food shop, they sell fresh baked baguettes (the dough for which is shipped from France), they have a beautiful out door section to their café, they have a fresh, simple menu with organic and free-range produce, they have ample tasters, they have friendly, down-to-earth staff.

Look: I know that sentence was far too long. It had far too many commas for its own good. But I was trying to create an effect, okay? I wanted you, my dear reader, who I value and esteem, to understand the sheer outrageousness of how much this place appeared to be designed exactly to my taste.

And it was my taste. It so very was.
For lunch we grazed on the stuff on their "side dishes" menu... here are some pics for posterity, and so you believe me, because of your critical reading skills and naturally enquiring mind. Well, I cater for you, critically-minded-co-crusader! Never say I don't do anything for you. Because that would clearly be lying and questionable, based on the following pieces of evidence. I did this for you. That's how selfless I am.

(Baguette with garlic olive oil and dukkha)

(Aioli, fries [o-awesome], rosemary kalamata olives and that rose I was waxing lyrical about)


(Crumbs and remnants)

Do yourself a favour: go there.

And it seems I am generally agreed with according to urban spoon... oh urban spoon, how I adore thee....

Providore on Urbanspoon

There are a was one major thing that I saw there that inspired this very blog entry...

1) I encountered a great gift idea that we schemers could maybe steal and adapt slightly so that we don’t get sued for breach of something something.

This was basically awesome packs of gourmet stuff ready to be cooked, like Porcini mushroom polenta, or chocolate cake ingredients (just add milk, eggs, butter). This idea is a bonanza.
There have been plenty of times when I have had to get several smallish gifts for people, to say thanks, or for a at Christmas time. This idea would work so well and could actually provide people with a gift they will actually use, unlike lame, strange coloured bath salts or another box of chocolates, which while lovely can seem a bit impersonal.

You could put them into pretty jars,

So here are some ideas for you that I came up with…

Ready to go risotto:


Porcini mushroom and tarragon.

You need:
A nice jar
Arborio rice
Dried porcini mushrooms
Garlic powder / granules


Grab your self the nice jar, find out how many cups of arborio it takes to fill the jar almost to about 2cm from the top of the jar. Empty out your rice and put into a mixing bowl.

Add to this rice (for every cup)

1/2 tsp of tarragon

1/2 tbsp of chopped porcini
1/2 tsp garlic granules

Then put it back into the jar. Stick onto the jar the prep instructions, or attach them as a tag.... which are as follows:

Tarragon and Procini Mushroom Risotto

In addition to the contents of this jar you will need:

Vegetable stock (1 litre)
1 diced onion
Olive oil or butter


But the stock into a pot on a low heat and let it simmer, you may need to add water to this if you start running out when you add it to the risotto later

Chuck the contents of the jar and the diced onion into a large pot on a medium heat, with enough oil or butter to coat the rice grains quite thoroughly.

Stir this on the heat until the rice and onion become clear (the rice will only become clear in parts)

At this point start adding stock to the mix a ladle or two at a time, allowing the rice to absorb most of the liquid before adding more. Keep stirring relatively frequently to avoid the rice sticking to the pan.
Continue adding stock until the rice is no longer crunchy when you bite into it.
Serve immediately with ample parmesan on top.


Cous Cous a-la-awesome

get you some:
Couse Cous
Slivered Almonds
Sesame seeds
Dried, powdered coriander
Garlic granules / powder
Small zip lock bag

Toast the slivered almonds and sesame seeds slightly in a hot frying pan. Set these aside to cool.
Measure out how much cous cous it takes to fill the jar to about 3 cms from the top, take this out of the jar and set aside in a bowl.
To this bowl for every cup of cous cous add:

1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp garlic granules

Put this into the jar.

Into the zip lock bag place the sultanas, sesame seeds and almonds, 1/2 a rounded table spoon of sultanas and 1 tbsp of the sesame / almond combo per cup of cous cous.
Place the zipped up zip lock bag on top of the cous cous and close up that jar... stick the recipe to the jar, or attach it as a tag.


Turkish inspired Cous Cous

To be served with lamb or chicken


Boil some water or stock on a stove top, then add this, a cup at a time to the cous cous, stirring through until its all absorbed.

Continue adding water / stock until the cous cous is no longer crunchy at all when you taste it.

Stir through the sultanas, sesame seeds and almonds.

Serve immediately.

Pretty up the top of the jar with some paper or some cloth ties with a ribbon and Bob's your great-great-step-aunt... a nice, thoughtful gift.

Any questions or suggestions for gift jars?
Email me, or comment.

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