Duck Salad

Really just a variant on poached chicken salad….

I started with left over boned roast duck. Remove the skin/fat, slice into bite-sized strips.

Walnuts, toasted and chopped, each half into two or three slivers.

Apple, thinly sliced. I would have used white grapes if I’d had some to hand.

Spinach, stemmed, washed and chopped.

Dressing:

plain yoghurt
mango/apricot chutney*
white wine vinegar
tomato paste*
salt and pepper

*I would have preferred to use a jam and a green tomato chutney, but I can’t find anything like the latter here in Geneva and my own home made is a million miles away.

Mix all these various things together. Serve.

Baba Ghanouj

We took a picnic lunch on a boat cruise recently, including various carefully-made-by-my-own-hands dishes. The Baba Ghanouj, however, was not one of them. The difference between making it yourself and not, really is worth the trouble. This is my preferred method.

Ingredients from Greg Malouf, part of the incredible dynasty in Melbourne that has taken Lebanese cuisine to fanciful heights while never forgetting its roots.

2 large eggplants
1/2 clove garlic
Salt
3 tbsp tahini
Juice of 1 lemon – to taste, at any rate
200g yoghurt

I try to pick eggplants that aren’t too fat as you want to cook them right through. There is no point even thinking about making this dish unless you have gas hotplates – and gas hotplates you are willing to ruin. You may wish to try putting alfoil around the rings. I’ve never found that helps. A charcoal or wood bbq would also do. NOT one of those oven-outdoors-bbqs.

Get a long metal kebab skewer, one for each eggplant and, well, skewer the buggers. Adjust heat on the gas hotplates so that the flames are the right size for the eggplants. You are going to stand and guard these…turn and turn and turn. You want the flesh to collapse, so that the eggplants are all but falling off the skewers, the skin will be blistered and burnt.

Remove, put on a cake cooling wire and then in a plastic bag. You want to collect juices as it sweats which you will discard.

Take the eggplant out of the bag and take off the skin with a knife or fingers. A recipe might urge you that the least bit of charred skin will ruin the end dish, but I don’t think that is true.

Chop the eggplant rather than puree it, you want it to be a little ‘chunky’, not machine made smooth.

Now you can do one of two things:

(1) Add the other ingredients. Put in fridge until you are eating…

(2) Divide into portions. I like to use some of the eggplant for b.g. and use some for other things. Eg kheema – a fantastic way to flavour kheema. And I make it part of a spaghetti sauce. I imagine there are innumerable great things you could do with it.

On flavouring with garlic and lemon. The usual holds: you can add these things but you can’t subtract, so do it slowly, tasting along the way. You know that thing computer scientists do? They look like they are just having fun but they have their excuse all ready ‘compiling’. Well, you get to do that in the kitchen? Eating? Pigging out? No way. Just testing. I noticed a really lovely way of describing what garlic and lemon are to this dish at The Food Blog… as part of the ‘perfect’ baba ghanouj recipe, different from this one, by the way.

And the juice of half a lemon to give some fire
But remember that lemon juice is only there
To compliment the creaminess of the tahini affair
The taste of lemon juice should not be intrusive
Its existence must remain elusive
Crush a bit of garlic with a teaspoon of salt
Before you use too much, you really must halt
In the same way the lemon’s used discretely
The garlic’s existence should almost completely
Be hidden, it’s there just to balance the fruit
A heavy hand and garlic turns into a brute

Chicken salad

Chicken salad for two

One of those things that tastes good and is good for you.
I imagine omitting the chicken would make a nice vegetarian option. You could add nuts to make it a bit more substantial.

Ingredients

sliced chicken – I had a chicken in the fridge which had been steamed Chinese style, so I used the breasts.
baby leaf spinach
fennel bulb trimmed and shaved
red seedless grapes – nice for the colour, but green would do
half a pear, peeled, cored and sliced

Dressing: mix together
1/2 a cup of plain yoghurt
dessertspoon of Dijon mustard
dessertspoon of chilli jam

Toss through the salad and serve.

Sometimes I want to become a physicist.

I dunno girls. Nobody told me what you got to do in physics. Anna? Was it like this for you?

The Large Hardon Collider
The Large Hardon Collider

Spotted on the banks of the lake here in Geneva.

To put this in XKCD terms: the thing they collide in.
To put this in XKCD terms: the thing they collide in.

Well….I guess it’s a bit like a vagina.

To quote Manny after we speculated as to whether this was on purpose or the result of a sexually educated spell-checking program that isn’t up to speed on physics:

Conspiracy or cockup?

2015 Australian visit III: best club sandwich

I have unaccountable urges from time to time for club sandwiches. The Sofitel in Lyon’s club sandwich last year failed to relieve the urge in a felicitous way.

I was lucky to share the Mandarin‘s club sandwich in Geneva recently and it was better as its price no doubt reflected.

MANDARIN CLUB 29.-
Jambon, Blanc de Poulet, Tomate, Œuf,
Bacon, Laitue, Fromage, Frites ou Salade
Ham, Chicken Breast, Tomato, Egg, Bacon,
Lettuce, Cheese, Fries or Salad

For those who insist on translating those francs into Aussie dollars that’s over $40. So it was no great surprise to me to see the headline here today:

Geneva club sandwiches remain ‘priciest in world’

But the best I’ve had for many a year was at a lovely improved French cafe in Toorak, Mossman Green Tea Rooms. What’s improved? Well, firstly it has a sensible non-French name. Secondly the food is wonderful, unlike any I’ve had in Paris the last several visits I’ve made.

The Mossgreen Club Sandwich $24
Grilled chicken breast, crisp pancetta, egg, tomato, herbed mayo with cress served
on toasted brioche with shoestring fries and winter garden salad

Not the thing for a romantic encounter, it’s only fair to warn you – though I guess what club sandwich is? This one was all over the table – and me – by the time I’d got to the end of it. My elegant luncheon partner Janina watched with aplomb as the destruction took place.

Unfortunately I didn’t get another chance to go back to Mossgreen Tearooms, but it’s at the top of my list when next in Melbourne.

Elegant, light surrounds. Excellent tea served meticulously. Perfect.

On looking real

It was 2009 when Jamie Lee Curtis was photographed without the make-up, photoshopping and so on that protects that sort of person from reality.

“There’s a reality to the way I look without my clothes on,” she says. “I don’t have great thighs. I have very big breasts and a soft, fatty little tummy. And I’ve got back fat. People assume that I’m walking around in little spaghetti-strap dresses. It’s insidious—Glam Jamie, the Perfect Jamie, the great figure, blah, blah, blah. And I don’t want the unsuspecting forty-year-old women of the world to think that I’ve got it going on. It’s such a fraud. And I’m the one perpetuating it….

Some years later when reinterviewed, she had stuck to her guns.

Jamie Lee Curtis in 2013 aged 54 years.
Jamie Lee Curtis in 2013 aged 54 years.

Wherein Manny has lunch and fails a simple problem.

‘I might have stuffed this up’, I said to Manny as he sat down to lunch. ‘What colour’s that?’ He looked at his plate and the answer came easily. ‘Green’. I sighed. ‘Try again.’ ‘Red?’ he asked. ‘I see what you mean about stuffing it up, then.’

Yes, dear reader. My Thai red duck curry was incontrovertibly green. It wasn’t even one of those greens where a person who understands colour says ‘Hmm, that’s a red-based green’. This was just green green. The only thing I could imagine being more green that my Thai red curry is a Thai green curry which must be, I imagine, more green that it’s possible for green to be.