bali sate lilit

You probably know all about satay.

It’s little slices of meat (usually chicken, lamb or beef), marinated in something suitably exotic and spicy, before being threaded onto a skewer and then grilled. It’s served with a peanut sauce that has just the right amount of chilli added.

I remember clearly when I first came across satay sticks. It was year 9 and I was taking Asian Social Studies at Bombala High School- a little town just north of the Victorian border. With a population of around 2000 people, and it being 1980s Australia, words like satay and Indonesia were, well, foreign. The satays back then would have been made with watered down peanut butter. We certainly didn’t have access to the ingredients that we do today.

But our teacher was from the city and she had Travelled (or at least dreamed of Travelling- before she followed her husband to our little school)…and I was hooked. So much so that when we moved schools just 6 months later, rather than taking the option of changing subjects, I chose to continue Asian Studies by correspondence for the next 18 months. I continue to be fascinated by all things South East Asian.

The satay we prepared at Bumi Bali cooking school was very different to those I know from Malaysia or Singapore. These ones- Bali Sate Lilit- are minced spiced meat which looks like it has been squashed onto a lemongrass stalk.

Appearances are, however, very often deceiving. The ball of spiced (in this case) chicken is wound around the stalk…and trust me, it isn’t nearly as easy as it looks!

the ingredients for the day. Photo credit to john…

Most Balinese foods build from a flavour base called Bumbu Bali. This basic spice paste is a flavourful mix of shallots, garlic, chillis, galangal, turmeric, coriander seeds, candlenuts, dried shrimp paste, peppercorns, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, sesame seed and coconut (or vegetable) oil. Phew.

bumbu bali- the ingredients

This paste is used simply in meat dishes (25g paste to 100g meat), or less simply in curries, the above-mentioned sate, and salads.

We used it in everything we prepared at Bumi Bali:

Sayur Urab- a flavourful salad made from long green beans, cabbage, carrots, grated coconut (check out the photo of me grating), lime, chillis and more shallots.

Tuna Sambal Matah- grilled tuna with a raw sambal. Sambal means “hot sauce”, so you can use your imagination. Suffice to say, the sambal is as ubiquitous to Balinese food as Bintang beer is in an Aussie’s hand beside a Balinese pool.

Tempe Manis- a spicy vegetarian dish using deep fried tempeh, or fermented soy bean paste. Tempe is similar to tofu, in that it takes on the flavour of whatever it is cooked with. Same, same…but different.

Opor Ayam- a Balinese chicken and potato curry that was embarrassingly easy to prepare.

Sambal Udang- prawns cooked in Bumbu Bali and coconut milk.

To be honest, by the time we got to the chicken and prawns, we were all so full that we could scarcely manage a taste, but heroically, we did. And even found room for a black rice, coconut pudding. Desserts, it seems, go into a different part of the tummy.

black rice coconut pudding

Bumi Bali is not one of the most fashionable cooking schools in Bali. The class isn’t taught by any world famous chef in the surrounds of an awarded restaurant or a 5 star hotel. Instead, the class is taught by a Balinese local- and the experience is honest, educational, and above all, enjoyable.

In short, Bumi Bali is the best 25,000RPI I have spent in some time- and the yummiest 5 hours in I can’t remember when.

My Rating (for what it’s worth):

Participation:

This is not a class where everyone will make an entire dish. With just one bench, the emphasis is on participation in the process rather than individual execution of the recipe. Each of us were called up to do, what our teacher called, “jobs”. That’s ok. All ingredients are pre-chopped- which suits those who aren’t comfortable with a knife. I like to get my hands a little dirtier, so for that reason would give it a 6.

Recipe Quality:

The recipes are incredibly tasty, but I did have to make a lot of notes in the process as in some cases the ingredient list and method was incomplete. I tend to regard recipes much like the Balinese regard median lines- on an indication only basis- but for others, this could be frustrating. For this reason, I would rate the recipes a 6. Take the notes and you will have no problems replicating at home.

Value For Money:

This class is amazing value. 9

Environment:

The premises are open and clean, and like an oasis from the Ubud humidity outside. Tranquility rating 7.

The Instruction:

Our teacher spoke English well and provided great instruction on the ingredients used- many of which were unfamiliar to the Europeans around the table. We use most of these at home, but I suspect we may be the exception. The experience of touching and tasting these was invaluable and I was particularly interested in hearing about the traditional medicinal qualities of the spices. 8

Overall Experience:

From the market visit to the eating, this class represents great value and great fun. We had a great bunch of people around the table with us- and that also makes a big difference. I’d rate it a 7 overall.

The young French couple sitting beside me were newly weds.

Not look at us, loved up, sickeningly happy newly weds, just fiddling with the ring a little too often to be used to it newly weds. That, and the quiet happiness that seemed to emanate from them… Delightful.

Actually most of the 18 people in yesterdays cooking class at Bumi Bali were French- after all, it was a cooking class…And, at 250,000RPI (or $28 Aussie dollars at todays street exchange rate), the best value 5 hours food and entertainment I have had in I can’t remember when.

We started the morning with a walk through the narrow streets of Ubud to the market with the objective of exploring the vegetables and spices we would be using.

The market itself is like something from a different time. Accessed via a series of narrow laneways in the centre of Ubud, you emerge into a multi-storey cavernous space that is a multiplex of Balinese trade.


Pretty well anything and everything was on offer. We were supposed to be there to check out the produce, but, to be honest, I was more fascinated by the market vibe, the groups of ladies making offerings for sale. With so many more women working outside the home now, even this task has been outsourced!

Baskets of flower petals and various other ingredients were piled up ready for assembly into the tiny baskets that are left on shrines, temples and footpaths.

Oh and eggs. Stacks and stacks of eggs. Eggs in baskets, eggs in buckets, eggs piled high in narrow corridors, eggs in cartons. Eggs.

…and of course, the vegies and spices that we were officially there to see, touch, smell and learn about…

Next time: the recipes…

Wellingtonians have this joke. It’s about the weather- as most things Wellingtonian are.

In fact you are reminded about the weather from the minute that you land, if not before if there happens to be a southerly blowing (you get an awful lot of landing for your money at Wellington Airport). Perhaps it is the wind farms (that generate enough power to service the city) that you see from the air on your approach? Perhaps it is the sideways view of the runway on a particularly blowy day?

It will certainly be the assortment of wind sculptures as you leave- the Madonna bras (these conical shaped wind indicators), the giant needle (that balances seemingly impossibly like one of those 1970s bird dipping into your drink things that you absolutely never want to see pointing downwards), or the spinning squares, or the spinning smarties.

Anyways, the weather is important. Which brings me back to the joke. Complain to anyone in Wellington about the weather and you will invariably get the reply “you should have been here yesterday, it was perfect then…”

Last weekend, we must have arrived yesterday- because we had a whole weekend of yesterdays. Bright blue sunny skies, clearer than you can imagine clear skies to be. It seems to be bluer down here, brighter somehow.

For us, flying in from an unseasonably warm Sydney, the temperatures were still cool, but for Wellingtonians, it was perfect Spring weather. Shorts and t-shirts even. Hmmm.

Lolling on beanbags at the pub. St Johns- an old ambo station, now a gastro pub on the Harbour. Pic by me.

But then this is a city which is built around a beautiful, yet hazardous harbour, has incredibly steep streets that can only be (sensibly) reached by cable car or in low gear and has some of the best food in New Zealand.

Maranui SLSC. A Table with a view. Pic by me.

Not as internationally cosmopolitan or activity based as Queenstown or as business and financially orientated as Auckland, Wellington is one of those towns where it is difficult to get a bad cup of coffee- unless you make a mistake and venture into a Starbucks.

Wellington from Brooklyn Hill near the Wind Turbine. Pic by me

It is also one of the most active cities I have ever visited. It is easy to keep fit here- the hills make sure of that. On a sunny day they (the hills, that is) are full of people walking, running and cycling- and mostly uphill. Why? Because they can.

Anyways, to the tourist bits. Obviously the cable car. I have posted pics on that before. The only (sensible) way to get to the top of the Botanical gardens and a wonderful view- the alternative involves a buns of steel buttock clenching, thigh burning climb. At this time of the year the gardens are full of spring bulbs and simply glorious.

Mount Victoria is the main panoramic view, but also venture up Brooklyn hill to the wind turbine. Just magic…but icy when a southerly is blowing.

If you are into movies, Peter Jackson has done more than anyone else to put Wellington on the map- to the extent that Wellington is now referred to lovingly as Wellywood. His studio is located in the suburb of Miramar (which itself is worth a visit for the art deco Roxy Cinema and some pretty cool cafes) and is where they are currently filming The Hobbit. He has come a long way since the days of the rather feeble and completely cringeworthy Meet the Feebles.

There are a few tourist companies that run Lord of the Rings tours around Wellington to see where key scenes of the trilogy were filmed. Most now include a visit to Weta Cave where you can get a behind the scenes look at what goes on in the studios. In case you are wondering, a weta is like a cross between the biggest cockroach and the biggest preying mantis in existence. Australia might have the greatest conglomeration of poisonous things, but New Zealand has the giant roach like creature. Something more to be proud of.

An unmissable is Te Papa Tongarewa– Museum of New Zealand. Maori culture, history, a Marae (communal meeting place), the earthquake house, plenty of interactive stuff for kids & a colossal squid. Oh, and the bits of Pharlap that aren’t in Australia. Pharlap was arguably Australia’s most famous racehorse, but was bred in New Zealand and died under suspicious circumstances in the US. This all happened back in the 1930s, but he was so revered that his heart is in Canberra, his hide in Melbourne & his skeleton in Wellington. Poor bugger. Oh, and the conspiracy theories still rage.

There are always new rides and exhibitions, so always something new to see. Just don’t leave without paying a visit to Te Papa Store. Some amazing shopping opportunities there.

If you have access to a vehicle, take a drive around the coast. Places like Makhara Beach have a desolate wildness, while Scorching Bay and Seatoun are well worth a look-see.

Driftwood at Makhara Beach. Pic by me.

Also within easy reach is Martinborough in the Wairarapa wine region. Regular readers of this blog know that I am partial to a glass of decent grape, and there is plenty to be had here- with most of the wineries within cycling distance of the town…I know, because I’ve done it!

All this aside, the reason I visit Wellington in September/October most years is simple- WOW.

The World of Wearable Arts Award Show, to be precise…but WOW is so much more descriptive. Not a fashion show, not an art show, not standard theatre, WOW defies description in a bladder busting 2 hour no intermission, no commentary, no speakies spectacular involving music, dance, amazing stage design and, this year, a bit of opera, ballet and some sheep and gumboots. Did that come out the way it was meant to?

Naturally the focus of the show is the award entries. And these are pretty cool. Wearable arts made from suntuff roofing material or cable ties or sheet metal. There are always a few plastic bag entrants, but this year there was also an amazing dress crafted from eggshells that had been individually died reminiscent of an impressionist painting. Another had been made from horse hair, whilst the highlight for my 13 year old daughter was a man wearing little else but a strategically placed bouquet of flowers and a fig leaf on a body stocking. That’s 13 year old girls for you.

My Scorpio hubby doesn’t do fashion, theatre or art, so was understandably reluctant to accompany us this year…but is now a convert. The comments “not just for chicks” and “so much to look at” were heard to leave his lips.

Check out the website for more information and show previews. Follow the links to see some pics of the winning entries. Just amazing. If you are interested in going next year, you do need to plan ahead as the 2 weeks worth of shows sell out quickly in March.

And as for shopping? I’m not a huge shopper, but Cuba St has some really cool little out of left field boutiques and gift shops. One of my faves is Abstract Designs- I love their pressed metal wall art and bowls. The Old Bank Arcade also is worth a look, as is Featherstone St for fashion. Just wander… and, with some luck, you will also arrive yesterday.

This post was first published on Jo Tracey Astrology in September 2011.

Want more Wellington?

Check out:

Like Wow…Sheepies, Chooks & a Little Culcha

Like Wow! Wellington

east bali. pic by grant.

This post was originally published over on Jo Tracey Astrology during December 2011.

OK, this post comes with a possibly one too many bintangs and just a little too much sun warning…is there such a thing as too many bintangs or too much sun?…actually, the answer to the question is obviously a responsible “yes”- moderation and sunscreen being the keys to life, of course.

To back track, I am in Bali with my family- and will be until after Christmas. Yesterday was a big sight seeing day. I could say that it was because the Moon was moving through Scorpio and activating my 9th house and we wanted to get to the truth of the Bali lying beyond the covers of Kuta and Legian…actually that would be right… It would also be that I stumbled across this amazing restaurant in the East of Bali after finding it accidentally on Twitter. More on that later…

taman tirta gangga. pic by me.

Taman Tirta Gangga. Yep, I’ve checked the spelling.  Just out of Amplura, this is the work of Amplura’s water loving Rajah who had a go (apparently this was his second shot) at building the water palace of his dreams. The triple Pisces in me gets that.

This place has koi and lotus blossoms and water lillies and gargoyles and bridges and is a water temple fantasy. Way too many children swimming there for me to ever be tempted. The French had it right when they call a pool “la piscine”.

The 11 tiered fountain is pretty cool (see my photo), the hawkers outside are not.

taman tirta gangga. pic by me.

Hubby and TTM (Taller Than me) did the hop a long stepping stones in the water maze thing. I did not. A gargoyle attacked hubby. Its teeth were pointy, apparently.

OK, onto Tenganan and a step back in time. In any other country this place would be a cult like place, but Tenganan, home of the Bali Aga people (said to be the descendants of the original people of Bali), about 300 families to be semi exact (is there such a thing) is more of a semi closed community.

According to the Lonely Planet Guide, these guys are apparently conservative and resistant to change- but not to the tourist dollar. Whilst that comment might seem a little cynical, this place is not. Nor is it a creation for the tourists- it is the real deal. It is also extremely photogenic.

tenganan. pic by me.

Cars are not allowed, but the ubiquitous motorcycle sneaks in. Inhabitants have to marry within the community or be banished forever. Our driver said the men here are very lucky because the women of Tenganan are uncommonly beautiful because they do a lot of weaving inside. Go figure.

tenganan. pic by me.

The place has an amazing charm and an even more amazing low key sales technique. The specialties from a shopping viewpoint are scarves, painted eggs (with the number of chooks running around, eggs would be in plentiful supply) and intricately painted palm leaves called lontan.

framed lontans. pic by me.

The words and pictures are inscribed using a super sharp blade and then ink is smudged over- the technique is very similar to that of a tattoo. I was tempted, but Scorpio hubby was very ‘and where will you put that one Darlin?’ The voice of reason.

tenganan. pic by me.

The menu at Bali Asli was “printed” using this technique. Very cool.

Backtracking before lunch was a stop at Semarapura, commonly known as Klung Kung- try saying that very fast after an arak attack..

This place was once the centre of Balis’ most important kingdom and also the scene of the last sacrifice to the blood when the King and his followers chose to march out to certain death from Dutch gunfire rather than an ignominious surrender.

Anyways, it is impressive and well preserved. The Hall of Justice is decorated with a series of karmic lessons- quite apt for what was in essence a supreme court for village life.

klung kung. pic by me.

The road from here through to Sideman and then onto Duda is a green haze of, well, green-ness. Rice fields, corn fields, soy beans abound, and then sheet after sheet of rice and cloves drying in the sun. Tucked in amongst all of this we tasted some arak from a home distillery. Made from coconut, the only description is rocket fuel.

east bali. pic by me.

It is also the alcohol that was used as the base for the cocktails we had at Bali Asli, although I suspect the source of that arak was perhaps more legal than the substance we tried in the village.

Bali Asli defies adjectives. Breathtaking views, awesome food, a sublime experience. A lunch that will go into the memory banks as memorable, when we drag out, as we do, our memorable meal experiences.

bali asli. pic by me.

The creation of Aussie chef Penelope Williams, Bali Asli sets out to provide visitors with real Bali flavours- not the watered down version. The menu changes daily- depending on what is fresh at the markets, fresh from the sea, or fresh from someones’ garden (yesterdays long beans came from Wayans’ garden, the fern tips for the remarkable fern tip salad came from Pak Dewas’ garden, and the black beans in the soup were from Dewis’ garden).

The cooking is simple and immaculate, as is the kitchen. All dishes need to be able to be completed in traditional ways- which was fortunate given that we arrived during a power cut.

This meant that the restaurant was whisper quiet- just the soothing sounds of running water and the repletion of the gamelan (the Indonesian instrument thing- sort of like a big xylophone).

crackers & sambal. pic by me.

We ordered the Bali Asli Megibung, which is sort of like a tasting plate and something unique to the regency of Kerangasem. Yesterdays had on it:

Jukut Mangka mis undis- a vegie soup of young jackfruit with Balinese spices & black beans

Sate tuskuk besiap- chicken satay sticks

Pindang goring sambal tomat- fried local tuna with a zesty tomato sauce

Pesan Telengis- grilled banana leaf parcels filled with coconut and Balinese spices and fresh locally caught ocean fish

Pelecing Kacang Panjang- steamed long beans shredded and mixed with a zesty tomato sambal & fried peanut

Urab Paku/ Kacang barak- salad of young fern tips with red beans, shredded coconut, bali lime and shallots.

bali asli’s megibung. pic by me.

TTM was horrified when she went to use the loo and was confronted with no wall- just an unimpeded view- absolute open-ness out across the rice fields to the foothills of Mount Agung.  As is typical of this time of the year, the great volcano was shrouded in clouds and mist, but was no less spectacular for that.

loo with a view. pic by me.

Bali Asli- a taste of the real Bali…and what could be more Scorpio Moon than that?

On that note, I’m about to pretend to get some exercise and walk up the beach to Seminyak to find a bar to watch the sunset from.

Until next time…

views from bali asli. pic by me.

Want more Bali photos?

Check out these sets of Flickr from me:

East Bali

Bali Asli

On the Spice Trail

The Road to Kintamani

Bali

hosier lane. pic by me.

This blog was originally posted at Jo Tracey Astrology in January 2012. I am gradually moving all travel posts over here.

Into street art, or what people used to call graffiti before it became artistic and trendy? Some artists now are completely mainstream and sell their work through galleries and for huge amounts of money.

Melbourne has embraced the artform and is now running competitions and sponsoring artists- all part of the whole edgy scene. There is, however, a huge difference between street art and nuisance tagging or graffiti.

If you want commentary and detail, there are a few companies that specialise in walking tours around the city, through the laneways etc. There are walking tours for chocoholics, for vintage shoppers and for those who want to check out the seedy underbelly. But, I’m a tight arse and prefer to wander on my own. In any case, throw some comfy shoes on, grab your camera- this is my guide to the best of the street art in the CBD…at the moment anyway! Remember the transient nature of this stuff- it is changing all the time…which is just one of the things that is so cool about it.

flinders st station. pic by me.

Start at the steps at Flinders St station. Everyone meets on the steps, under the clocks, so it is the perfect place to begin your walk from. There was even a song written about the clocks- Under the Clocks– Weddings, Parties & Anything did it…here is the link (“is there anywhere you’d rather be than with me at the MCG?”)…

Anyways, we’re starting at the steps. To your right is what I happen to think is an amazing space and others consider an eyesore- Federation Square, or Fed Square. It was supposed to have opened in time to celebrate the centenary of Australian Federation in 2001, but was a couple of years late.

So now as well as being on any design students must see list, it is also used in case studies for Project Management students as a demonstration of what happens when scope creep isn’t properly costed, analysed and risk assessed. For my money, it is also a great place to hang out, veg out, have a drink or a meal and watch sport on the big screen.

Besides, I like it.

From here walk straight ahead, up Swanston St and take the first street on your right- immediately behind St Pauls Cathedral. This is Flinders Lane.

hosier lane. pic by me.

Hosier Lane, on your right, just before Russell St, is arguably the jewel in the crown of Melbourne’s street art. Always changing, it seems as if every available inch is covered in colour.

At the bottom of the lane is Movida Restaurant- amazing Spanish inspired food. Both this and the neighbouring café have built the art into their outside fitout. Keep an eye out for the light boxes on the wall- Hosier is also an official arts installation.

hosier lane. pic by me.

Back on Flinders Lane, head to your right, up the hill, crossing over Russell Street. Just before you come to the next cross street (Exhibition St) is AC/DC Lane. The art here is currently a little worse for wear and all in the genus flannellus rockus ie based around the rock band AC/DC.

Re-trace your steps back down Flinders Lane. Cross over Swanston Street and use all your powers of discipline to walk past the edgy fashion stores- time for serious shopping afterwards.

The first almost lane on the left is Scott Alley. It is known for having just one piece, a Banksy (the  name in street art) behind Perspex. Stop if you want.

centre place. pic by me.

Next on the list is Degraves Street and Centre Place. If your exertions so far have left you caffeine deprived, stop here. If not, head to your right up Centre Place. Right before the stairs take a left into what looks like a dead end with dumpsters. There are often buskers in here. There are also some really cool pieces- large and bold.

centre place. pic by me.

From here you can walk through to Collins Street (if the mall is open- alternatively you will need to back track into Flinders Lane and take a left to Swanston St). Cross the road and walk through The Block Arcade, taking care to resolutely ignore the pastries and chocolates.

block arcade. pic by me.

This will bring you to Little Collins Street. Turn right and keep your eye out for Union Lane (on your left- just past the Royal Arcade and the Walk Arcade). Some great art in here.

union lane. pic by me.
union lane. pic by me.

Follow Union Lane through to Bourke Street Mall. Turn right, cross at Swanston and then head up Swanston just one block to Little Bourke Street. The gates symbolize the entry to Chinatown. Come back here for a meal or some dumplings- plenty of great options.

entrance to little bourke st. pic by me.
chinatown. pic by me.

Take the third lane on the left- Heffernan Lane. The art here is a little more difficult to see and consists of what appear to be street signs or shop neons. Take your time, read the motivational signs and work out what is real and what is art.

heffernan lane. pic by me.

From here it is through to Lonsdale Street and the start of the Greek precinct. Check out the pastry shops- what’s a little baklava or spanakopita when you have been walking so far?

Head left down Lonsdale Street and back across Swanston Street. Take the first lane on the left- Caledonian Lane- and follow the distinctive aroma of eau (or should that be eeeeuw?) de dumpster. It’s pretty manky down but the colour is great. My favourite here is a rather dire warning to lane patrons as to what will happen to various body parts if they continue to use the doorway as a urinal. Hmmmm.

caledonian lane. pic by me.

Follow the lane through to Little Bourke St and you will find yourself at the back of department stores and shopping central.

Want more? Hop a tram up to Fitzroy, wander up and down Gertrude Street before heading down Brunswick Street. Lots of wall art in the side streets- and the shops and cafes are well worth a look.

Links to some street art photos from previous visits can be found here, and more from January 2012 here.

Other Melbourne posts over at Jo Tracey Astrology:

Melbourne- My way

Melbourne in a weekend

union lane. pic by me.

roasted beet and rocket salad

This recipe comes from Annabel Langbein’s Free Range Cook which, incidentally, is a brilliant book.
Peeling the beetroots can be a bit of a palaver- they have a habit of jumping off benches and attacking clothing or any surface that either is, or used to be, vaguely white.
Having said that, this is an amazing salad, easy to assemble, and one that has become a favourite for whenever we entertain.
Tonight it is an offering for dinner at a friend’s house.
What you need
v4-5 medium beetroot, peeled and cut into wedges. Make sure you use rubber gloves, this stuff is lethal.
vA couple of cloves of whole peeled garlic
v2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
v1 tablespoon brown sugar
v1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
vrocket leaves- 200g or so
v1 handful baby beet leaves (if you can get them)
vjuice of 1 lemon
v1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
v1 cup roasted almonds
v120g feta cheese, crumbled or grated
What you do with it
vPreheat the oven to 180C
vMix the beetroot, garlic, 1stlot of olive oil, sugar, and vinegar together & spread over the base of an oven tray which you have conveniently thought to line with baking paper earlier.
vRoast for 40-45 minutes. The beets should be tender & starting to shrivel a little. Let them cool in the tray. Discard the garlic- that was only there to flavour the oils.
vToss the leaves, lemon juice, the pan juices & the rest of the olive oil together
vScatter through almonds, the beetroot & the feta.


The usual small print applies when reproducing recipes- all rights & huge thanks to the author- in this case Annabel Langbein. 

When I visited New York, all I wanted was a photo from the Top of the Rock, the Rockefeller Centre of the skyline- a bit like Patsy in the New York episode of Absolutely Fabulous. Somehow I don’t think it was quite as cold when she was there!

and again, in the other direction
with a fish eye lens for a wider view
from the top of the Empire State Building on a freezing night
from Brooklyn Bridge
from the river

After the skyline photoaday I got to looking at some of the skylines I have in my photo library.

So I figured I would post some.

Firstly, Hong Kong.

from a cable car

from a cable car high above the airport

from Aberdeen Harbour

Aberdeen Harbour. Pic by me.

from Mt Victoria aka The Peak

mad about mac

You know those moments when the need for comfort food is just so incredibly great that there can be no resistance. This isn’t just binge mac attack, this is pre-meditated binge mac attack, taking mac to a level higher than it has ever been before.
This recipe feeds 4, very generously, so if this is being prepared for 1, halve the recipe (yes, I know the numbers, but it doesn’t really work quartered- I’ve tried…) and cut the cooking time by a few minutes.
Another warning, this is rich, seriously rich, heavy and supremely fattening. It doesn’t work with low fat cheese, so don’t bother trying. What I’m saying here is, if you commit to it, commit with all available information ie it will take at least 10 years on a treadmill to work off a single serve- and that’s cool, as long as you are aware. Serve with a green salad on the side to help cut through the lusciousness-you’ll need it.
This is also one of those recipes where you have to be prepared, you know with ingredients measured and ready to go- a certain amount of multi tasking is required to bring this baby together.
So, you still want to try this one? Savour every single textural mouthful? Here it is…Souffle Macaroni Cheese, or as we call it Cheffy Mac.
What you need:
250g macaroni
50g butter
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
50g plain flour
550ml milk
fresh nutmeg (grated)- about ¼ of a whole one
150g mascarpone
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten, free range of course
100g finely grated cheese- cheddar or gruyere or whatever you have similar
100g finely grated parmesan, parmigiano reggiano or romano- fresh, not that plastic grated stuff
4 egg whites
salt and pepper
Putting it together:
Prepare your ingredients, prepare your dish (something ovenproof and deep enough to take the mix and allow for the puffing thing that soufflés are supposed to do) by buttering it, prepare the oven (200C).
Let the multi-tasking begin!
·      Pop the water on to boil for the macaroni. I’m assuming you know how to boil pasta, but if not, follow the instructions on the packet.
·      In another saucepan, melt the butter, add the onions and cook gently- that means you don’t want them to brown.
·      Add the flour and stir to make a smooth paste. Gradually add the milk, stirring the whole time, and then whisk until it is silky smooth.
·      Add the salt, pepper and nutmeg and let it heat through for 5 minutes- keep the heat super low, you don’t want it catching.
·      Turn off the heat, whisk in the mascarpone, eggs and cheese, holding back 50g parmesan to sprinkle on the top.
·      Pop the buttered dish in the oven to heat through
·      By now the pasta water should have boiled, so throw in the macaroni- it only needs 4-6 minutes- remember, it will be getting longer in the oven.
·      Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks- they don’t need to be stiff enough that you can do the whole upside down bowl on the head trick, just soft peaks.
·      Drain the pasta, then stir it through the cheesy mix.
·      Lightly fold in the egg whites- you want to preserve as much of the air you’ve beaten in as possible.
·      Pour the mix into the warm dish, scatter the reserved parmesan over the top
·      Pop it back into the oven for 15-17 minutes, or until it is puffy and lightly browned.
As with all soufflés, this one needs to be served immediately, so make sure you have already rounded up whoever it is that will be sharing this masterpiece of lush comfort with you.
Oh, this recipe originally came from a Delia Smith Book…I think it was the “How to Cook” one…and one is loathe to meddle too much with anything Delia has tested!
Every so often one visits a restaurant that is truly spiritual, magical and all those other words with an “al” suffix. Even less often is the food served there is sufficiently inspirational to live up to the promise of its surrounds.
Spirit House at Yandina, in the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast delivers on both.
Last weeks visit was not our first, just our most recent. In fact, I have long said that if I ever got married again (naturally only to my husband) the deed would be done at Spirit House.
Essentially the restaurant is comprised of a main open air building with two covered wings forming a frame to the water feature which is home to ducks, water dragons and lillies. Lizards climb the walls and the trees to bask in the sun. The flash of blue from a kingfisher is bright as the bird dive-bombs for whatever it is that kingfishers eat. Wispy plumes of smoke from incense wafts into the air, providing protection from mozzies, but also makes the whole restaurant somehow more temple-like.
But it’s the food that is why this little restaurant in the middle of the tiny village of Yandina is so often fully booked.
My friend and I started with a serve of hot and sour lychee scallop garnished with pork crackle. Our husbands opted instead for a shot glass filled with chilled tom yum with a perfect coffin bay oyster and garnished with micro celery.
These were so good that 2 things happened:
·      I forgot to take a photo of either dish and
·      We ordered another couple of glasses each!
Spirit House dishes are designed for sharing, so share we did, with each course as good as the next and with each of us being unable to choose a clear favourite.
So what did we eat?
·      Chargrilled white pepper cuttlefish with cashews and crispy green pawpaw salad
·      Pan roasted yellowtail kingfish with green chilli nahm jam and crispy shallots
·      BBQ chilli jam chicken with smoked green chilli relish and crispy chicken skin
Spirit House also have a range of pastes and sauces for sale, a cooking school that is almost as difficult to get a booking for as the restaurant and a range of cookbooks that have the distinction of being the most used books in my kitchen.
If you want to know more, check out the website- the link is here.
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