Sunday, May 29, 2011

Food for the sick

As the cooler months set in so too does the prevalence of illness. A few weeks ago the man was feeling 'poorly' and whilst I'd prefer to have been out and about rather than listening to him hacking away I do find providing comfort food comforting. Though I have to admit this task is a little fraught in our household as our cultural differences mean definitions of 'comfort food' vary.

During our recent visit travels I discovered that 'lightly' spiced soggy lentils is what northern Indians turn to when they are feeling  a little 'delicate'. I love the fact that no dish, not even that for the ill, comes with out spice. Asking for no chilli just meant dishes had extra pepper or ginger or other 'warming' flavours added! And I soon discovered that Congee (soggy rice porridge) was the Chinese version.

My idea of comfort food is more in line with the classic tradition of Chicken Soup, lovingly referred to as 'Jewish penicillin'. But my preference includes plenty of restorative vegetables not just watery broth. The corn chowder I eventually cooked was well accepted but I've learnt to add that 'little spice', even if its just a side dish of  chilli paste.

I hope you stay well this winter! If not rug up and call on foodie friends to supply comfort food, it will be good for their soul, but make sure their idea of comfort is the same as yours!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Where's the chickpea's?

Its lunch time and a salad with a bit of equilibrium sounds like the go rather than the more substantial chicken focaccia come burger that MDC ("my dining companion") has ordered. But once our plates are sitting in front of us I feel like my choice was just not right, mine seems a little 'light' and those fries on the other plate look tempting. Now that's when I know there's really something wrong - when fries look enticing!!!  That's not to say I can't be persuaded to indulge in a bit of fried spud, but not those out-of-a-bag skinny numbers. I'd already been silently dismayed when the customer on the next table ordering a bowl of such for her lunch, its not just the health aspect, its just the lack of culinary balance! That's it balance, there must be something missing! The attraction was the combination of roasted pumpkin, roasted parsnip, rocket and chickpea's topped with saganaki (grilled haloumi). Just a minute where's the chickpea's?  

A  quiet word with the waiter who suggested a replacement salad, which I didn't think was necessary although I did agreed when offered the missing legumes, and my salad was as it should be. I like the fact that the mistake was dealt with efficiently. Don't forget the chickpea's, I love the nutty creaminess of these little guys. And  if anything had to go I'd ditch the parsnip, it was a little on the 'woody' side. The chicken in the focaccia was delightfully smoky which combined well with the turmeric flavoured yoghurt, a nice change from mayo. (The fries where crisp and 'clean' tasting).

... and I'd heard that the Vanilla slices where a hit, so decided to take a couple home to share for supper. I can see why they are popular, more creamy than custardy makes for a decedent texture but I do think the pastry needs to have a little more 'crunch' and I'm a fondant lover so icing sugar just doesn't make the grade not to mention the 'dusting' one gets upon consumption.

Station Street Cafe,  26 Station Street Nunawading
Station Street Café on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The value of stock - chicken stock that is!

Some time back I blogged about making risotto and I was given stick about my 'righteous' attitude towards home made stock. I suppose I'd have to concede that the waft of 'poultry essence' infiltrating every nook of ones home for hours on end might be a bit much for those who have an olfactory sensitivity. But today, after making my first batch in ages, it still seems worth it; well chicken stock at least, beef is a little more effort and I'm usually banned from fish stock when the family's about!

Firstly the bones are free at most poultry suppliers if you invest in just one other product, the preparation of the carrots, celery and onions need only be rough and then once the waters added and it comes to the boil it happily simmers away for a few hours. Cheap, easy and ready to be transformed into all manner of tasty delights.

Just over a litre flavoured with some ginger, garlic, soy and chilli became fish ball noodle soup for dinner. 150 mls went into a Neil Perry recipe for braised chicken from the Good Weekender section of the Age newspaper, to be served with soft polenta tomorrow. And lastly there's a two litre bucket to go in the freezer or perhaps make a risotto in the next few days.

I suppose there is also the grisly task of discarding all the 'debris' once the stock has been drained off. Perhaps it's a cook thing, and I know that there are some reasonable commercial products available so one doesn't need to resort to stock 'salt' cubes. I'd still like to believe there are a whole host of 'domestic' stock makers out there enlightened by the magnificence of fresh stock!