Saturday, September 27, 2008

Brittania, Bentley

Faggot, haggis & pork pie

It must be in the blood, or maybe it's because my Dad spent an awful lot of my childhood hunting down pork pies that reminded him of Yorkshire. Whatever it is, these days I can't go past a good pork pie. And when the chef's from that neck of the woods too, you know you're on track to getting something halfway authentic.

Brittania is a little shop on Albany Highway, hidden away between tyre repair workshops and cheap rug outlets. It's actually a coffee lounge and lunch bar, but they also have a great deli selection of delicacies from the motherland. And it's all made in-house. There's pork pies, white pudding, black pudding, faggots ($2), haggis ($14.95), mushy peas, steak pies ($1.30 each) and Scotch eggs.

Now I just have to try and figure out how to send it over to my dear old da in Melbourne.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Cooking for Blokes @ Wyening Mission Farm

What do you do when you're a wheat farmer and there's no rain? Cook, I guess.

I was commissioned to head North to wheatbelt country on Sunday and cover a cooking class for blokes. Hosted by the very able team of Ruth & John Young at the historic Wyening Mission Farm, it was such a massive hit last year with the local farmers that the Youngs decided to make it an annual event. Cook extraordinaire & radio jock Ann Meyer ran the day beautifully and brought butcher Joe Princi along with her to handle all the blokey meaty bits of the class. Getting a room full of farmers gazing at their Blunnies geed up over smoked quail is a big ask, but after a few bevvies and remonstrations from Ann they were out of their seats and huddled over the serving counters faster than you could say brisket, musing over the finer points of de-boning rabbit.

I have to say, I was pretty impressed with their food knowledge. When one bloke lumbered up to the front to explain how to make gremolata, my jaw about hit the sandstone-clad floor. More than a few not only knew what couscous was, but had cooked it as well. But for me, the highlight of the day had to be the sausage-making. The guys got right in there, first mincing, then stuffing and finally twisting their pork-and-fennel sausage creations. Naturally, along with sausage-making comes much guffawing, ribbing and general hilarity (the booze was really kicking in by this stage), and I was awed at what many could get done with only one hand, the other one being pretty much glued to a stubby for the duration of the day.

By the end of the class, it was all chalked up as another big success. Ann was an absolute trouper, handling her team, the lads and the rustic conditions - the class was moved into the heritage barn due to poor weather - with aplomb, and somehow managing to turn out massive amounts of delicious food along the way. There was brisket with potato, lemon & saffron couscous, smoked quail with chocolate dipping sauce, rabbit and goat. And, of course, lots and lots of Joe's excellent sausages.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pasta @ The Re Store

Having owned an Italian restaurant in a former life, I find I now can't go past homemade pasta. I still miss my nightly fix of Mrs Q's fettucine with salami, zucchini & olives in a tomato sauce with a smidge of cream. Considering I don't make my own pasta, sugo di pomodoro or salami I've never even come close to replicating it. But at least I can buy fresh pasta. It has so much more bite than the pre-packaged variety and takes far less time to cook. We bought this bundle of fresh fettucine from the Re Store in Leederville today for $4.50 for around 500gm, and I plan to do as little to it as possible. It'll get a dunk in boiling water, a dollop of good sugo (from the nice Italian couple who bottle their own at the Victoria Park markets), some fresh basil and a bit of grated cheese on top. Can't wait.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Jaylea's Patisserie

A couple of people now have told me about how good the pies are at Jaylea's Patisserie, so I thought it time I checked them out. With the whispered promise of pastries, I bribed the little one into the car and we headed out to Willagee. On first impressions, Jaylea's appears to be a typical bakery in a typical non-descript local shopping strip, until you venture inside and check out the rows and rows of Show certificates and blue ribbons festooning the walls, and realise these guys are pretty serious about pies. They've been plied with awards from everyone from the Royal Agricultural Society of WA and the Baking Industry Employers of WA to the Great Aussie Meat Pie Competition.

After much hemming and hawwing and mucking about, we chose two multi-award winning pies, the mince and the steak and cheese. Now there's no way that I'm a meat pie aficionado or anything like that, but anyone with a mouth could tell that these pies are very, very good. Firstly, there's no watery gravy overflow when you bite into them. Secondly, they hold their shape (and content) beautifully, from the very first to the very last mouthful, thanks to a solid casing of buttery, flaky pastry. No spillage, which is, for me, a minor miracle. Thirdly, the fillings are top notch. No tell-tale aftertaste of preservatives and great quality ingredients. The mince was fine, tasty and lump-free, with a thick sauce and no dodgy gristle. The steak in the steak and cheese pie was tender and delicate. At $4 a pop on average they're pretty pricey, but they certainly fill a hole. Oh, and they're available cold so you can freeze them. Cool.

Jaylea's are at 76 Archibald Street, Willagee.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Coffee Conundrum

After interviewing the lovely boys at Zekka today, I couldn't help but feeling a little out-of-sorts. Coffee is not a friend of mine. Don't get me wrong. I love the heady aroma of roasting beans, the happy sound of percolators percing and creamy foam lapping at my upper lip. It's just that coffee and my digestive tract do not get along. And it's left me with a bit of barista envy.

So, to alleviate my funk, I thought I'd seek out all the good stuff I was doing for my body while abstaining from all that caffeine. And found these little nuggets, pilfered from a recent article in The New York Times:

Health Concerns:
  • Heart disease. Heart patients, especially those with high blood pressure, are often told to avoid caffeine, a known stimulant. But an analysis of 10 studies of more than 400,000 people found no increase in heart disease among daily coffee drinkers, whether their coffee came with caffeine or not.
  • Cancer. Panic swept the US in 1981 when a Harvard study tied the drink to a higher risk of pancreatic cancer. Coffee consumption temporarily plummeted, and the researchers later concluded that perhaps smoking, not coffee, was the culprit.
  • Bone loss. Though some observational studies have linked caffeinated beverages to bone loss and fractures, human physiological studies have found only a slight reduction in calcium absorption and no effect on calcium excretion, suggesting the observations may reflect a diminished intake of milk-based beverages among coffee and tea drinkers.
  • Weight loss. Here’s a bummer. Although caffeine speeds up metabolism, with 100 milligrams burning an extra 75 to 100 calories a day, no long-term benefit to weight control has been demonstrated. In fact, in a study of more than 58,000 health professionals followed for 12 years, both men and women who increased their caffeine consumption gained more weight than those who didn’t.

Health Benefits:

  • Probably the most important effects of caffeine are its ability to enhance mood and mental and physical performance. At consumption levels up to 200 milligrams (the amount in about 16 ounces of ordinary brewed coffee), consumers report an improved sense of well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability, although higher amounts sometimes cause anxiety and stomach upset (yep, that's me).
  • Millions of sleep-deprived Americans depend on caffeine to help them make it through their day and drive safely. The drug improves alertness and reaction time. In the sleep-deprived, it improves memory and the ability to perform complex tasks.
  • Recent disease-related findings can only add to coffee’s popularity. A review of 13 studies found that people who drank caffeinated coffee, but not decaf, had a 30 percent lower risk of Parkinson's disease.
  • Another review found that compared with noncoffee drinkers, people who drank four to six cups of coffee a day, with or without caffeine, had a 28 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. This benefit probably comes from coffee’s antioxidants and chlorogenic acid.

Damn, so much for feeling better. For the rest of the article, go here.