Obsessed with tomatoes

In Adelaide this time of year, anybody the least interested in cooking will be thinking of little other than tomatoes, day in and out. We have some sort of heirloom tomatoes growing out the front – whether we will get edible fruit from them, I don’t know, but the bush is happily beavering away, it’s got three stakes holding up some of the branches and it has green tomatoes in abundance.

Meanwhile, I’ve been buying heirloom tomatoes in bulk at the Wayville Farmers’ Market. Once ripe enough, I’ve been frying onions and garlic in ghee (sometimes in olive oil), adding chopped tomatoes and cooking on a low heat until they are disintegrating, and then on a high heat to thicken the sauce. During this process I add a little sugar and salt. After cooling, each batch goes into the freezer. Some will end up in pasta sauces. Some will become curries or chickpea dishes.

The sauce I’m making has a marvelous depth of taste and colour. This is partly due to the rich red, strong-fleshed tomatoes I’ve been using. But I have been adding some black tomatoes too, which I’m sure improves the colour.

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And the winner is….bircher muesli in Adelaide

On the hunt.

In the good old days, Jones the Grocer existed on King William Road – a site that’s been empty for a long time now. There, amongst much lovely food, they offered bircher done as you pleased. That is to say, you chose fresh fruit or stewed and, having narrowed it down to the latter, as I always did, you had then to decide which stewed fruit to take this time. The meal you ended up with was large, but in balance!

Chianti Classico Hutt St Adelaide
with quince & rhubarb, coconut yoghurt, orange syrup, toasted pistachios. 16.90
One does not necessarily need choice in bircher, but balance is not optional. Chianti has done various takes on this dish over the years and its new version is the best, an observation that other long standing customers there have also made. The serving size is right; consistency is lovely – not to heavy, not too runny; it is not too sweet; it has a nice proportion of additions to the oats component and it looks exquisite.

Sublime Cafe East Ave Clarence Park
blueberry compote, toasted coconut, chia & honey 14.9
Extremely thick and ultra sweet. Too much like dessert, not enough like breakfast. Not enough like bircher. My dining companion couldn’t finish it but took it home for her kids to eat after dinner.

Trouble and Strife Goodwood Road
Coconut Bircher, apricot, yogurt, nuts + blood orange syrup 14
Sorely lacked balance. A vast plate of oats with a very small pile of apricots to go with it. If it had half the oats, even if they hadn’t decreased the price, I’d be more likely to order it again.

Bricks and Stones Unley Road
Bircher Museli, natural yogurt, coconut, seasonal fruit & nuts 16
Much better balance than Trouble and Strife’s. When you eat bircher, it should be possible to eat fruit as well as oats in every mouthful. It isn’t as elegant as Chianti’s. If it were my local, I’d eat it regularly. But I’d always have Chianti’s at the back of my mind.

Saag gosht: two ways, Jaffrey’s and Rushdie’s.

An Indian shelf would scarcely be complete without a recipe or two for this.

Saag gosht a la Madhur Jaffrey

Ingredients
8 tbsp vegetable oil
0.25 tsp black peppercorns
6-7 cloves
2 bay leaves
6 cardamom pods
175g onions, peeled and finely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2.5 cm cube ginger, peeled and finely chopped
900g lamb shoulder, cut into 2.5cm cubes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
0.25-0.75 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
5 tbsp natural yogurt
900 g fresh spinach, trimmed, washed and finely chopped or 900g frozen spinach, thawed out
0.25 tsp garam masala

Method

1. Put the oil in a large pan and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, put in the peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves and cardamom pods. Stir for a second. Now put in the onions, garlic and ginger. Stir and fry until the onions develop brown specks.

Now add the meat, cumin, coriander, cayenne and 1 tsp salt. Stir and fry for 1 minute.

Add 1 tbsp of the beaten yogurt. Stir and fry for another minute. Add another tablespoon of the yogurt. Stir and fry for a minute. Keep doing this until all the yogurt has been incorporated. The meat should also have a slightly browned look.

Add the spinach and the remaining 1 tsp salt. Stir to mix. Keep stirring and cooking until the spinach wilts completely. Cover tightly and simmer on a low heat for about 1 hour 10 minutes or until the meat is tender.

2. Remove the lid and add the garam masala. Turn the heat to medium. Stir and cook another 5 minutes or until most (but not all) the water in the spinach disappears and you have a thick, green sauce.

3. Note The whole spice in this dish are not meant to be eaten.

PS: My experience with particularly tough looking meat, in this case some gravy beef.  I cooked it for an hour with extra water added to cover the meat completely, then reduced it to what it would have been otherwise, added the spinach, cooked for another hour or so. Did that yesterday, ate it today. It was divine, the meat melted in the mouth, the spinachy sauce was creamy.

And Rushdie’s version

Ingredients
900g boned leg of lamb
2 bunches spinach washed & finely chopped, less stems
175g onions finely chopped
1 tblsp garlic finely chopped*
1 tblsp ginger ” “*
225g tomatoes ” ”
6 tblsp cooking oil
½ teasp tumeric**
1+ teasp chilli powder**
2 teasp ground coriander**
2 green chillies finely sliced

Method
1. Fry onions til golden. Add garlic and ginger, fry 1 min and add ** spices. Stirfry for a few minutes and then add meat.

2. Brown meat while stirring to mix well.

3. Add tomatoes and 120 mls water. Cover and simmer for 25 mins. Check for sticking and add water if necessary. At end of this period can add 120 ml water. If cheap meat continue this process for longer. Should be half cooked at least.

4. Add spinach, mix well. Continue cooking slowly over low heat until meat is absolutely tender.

5. Turn heat up, add chillies, stir-fry till extra moisture disappears and the sauce is thick, rich and clinging to the meat.

I used to think this was better than the Jaffrey recipe, but now that I’ve revisited MJ’s recently and was greatly enamoured of it, I’m not so sure. Maybe it needs a cook off.

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Fringe/Festival Adelaide 2018

This is a WIP of shows we are going to.

F20 7.30pm Bakehouse 60 minutes
The Unknown Soldier

F24 2pm
Great Detectives

F24 6pm Barr Smith Reading Room
A Medieval Market Place

F25 4pm 90 mins Grace Emily
Ukelele Death Squad

F25 7.45 Band Room Crown and Anchor
Marathon

F26 6pm 70 mins Buckingham Arms Hotel
Dickinson’s Room

F28 6pm Bakehouse
Gratiano

F28 7.30pm 65 mins Bakehouse
Shell Shocked

M1 7.30pm Bakehouse 60 mins
Mengele

M3 2pm Gallery Room National Wine Centre 60 minute
Box and Cox

M3 7.15pm Producers’ Warehouse 235 Grenfell St, Adelaide
The Ballad of Frank Allen

M4 3pm Holden St
Hitchhiker’s Guide

M4 4.30pm Holden St
That’s a Fact

M4 6pm Holden St
Flesh and Blood

M7 7.00pm 65 mins Garden of UD
Fleabag

M9 6pm St Stephen’s Lutheran Church
Another G&S for you

M9 9pm Bakehouse
Between the Crosses

M11 6.30pm Holden St
Once Were Pirates

M11 7.45pm Holden St
That Daring Australian Girl

M12 5pm 4 hours Festival Theatre
Kings of War

M14 Garden of UD 9.30pm
Rich Hall

M15 2pm Banquet Room at Fullarton Park Community Centre
Three Little Sisters Come to Unley – An Andrews Sisters Tribute

Char Kway Teow

Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

1 kg/2 lb fresh rice noodles
250 g/8 oz barbecued pork
250 g/8 oz small prawns
2 lap cheong (Chinese sausage)
125 g/4 oz fresh bean sprouts
3 tablespoons oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
3 shallots, finely sliced
3-4 fresh red chillies, sliced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 eggs, beaten
4 spring onions (scallions), chopped
salt and pepper to taste

I wrote this up in Geneva some time ago….now I’m in Australia and fresh noodles abound.

I’m in Geneva, so mine is missing fresh noodles – arrgghhhhhhhhh! I am assured that I can make do by cooking dried noodles the night before and then have them sit in the fridge until using them the next day. We will see…

Also, I’m not a big fan of Chinese sausage, so it’ll be getting the gong.

These directions are from Charmaine Solomon Encyclopedia of Asian Food

Method

Pour boiling water over noodles to soften and separate them. Drain in a colander. Slice pork finely. Shell and devein prawns. Steam sausages for 5 minutes, and when plump and soft, cut into thin diagonal slices. Rinse bean sprouts and pick off tails.

Heat half the oil and fry garlic, shallots and chillies until soft. Add pork, prawns and sausage. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until prawns change colour. Add bean sprouts and toss for 30 seconds. Turn mixture out of wok, heat remaining oil and stir-fry the noodles to heat through. Add soy sauce and oyster sauce and mix. Push noodles to side of wok, pour eggs and spring onions into the centre and stir till set. Return fried mixture and toss with the noodles. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Rise and Grind (Adelaide) vs Bishopgate Kitchen (London)

On the weekend we went to breakfast at Bishopgate Kitchen (Spitalfields).  It’s part of a posh chain and I hope that we saw the worst of it. Mine was probably worst. I ordered poached eggs with smashed avocado, side serves of salmon and bacon and loose-leaf tea.

I got a plate so challenged to fit what was on it that the bacon was chucked on top of the salmon. The avocado wasn’t smashed, it was pureed with a large quantity of vinegar, such as you would put on avocado to stop it discolouring if you made it about once a week. It was inedible. The bacon had been cooked much earlier than it was served and was only lukewarm as were the overcooked poached eggs. The ‘loose leaf tea’ was a teabag. When I asked the staff about that I was cheerfully told that yes, they should change that. Apparently they changed hands several months ago. Well, that would explain why they haven’t yet updated their description of the tea. Rome wasn’t built in three months. As it happened, later on in the day I had a cup of tea at the Maritime Museum’s cafe, also described as ‘loose leafed’ and also a teabag. Maybe real loose leaf tea doesn’t exist in London anymore. Maybe they don’t even know what it is. The ‘fresh’ orange juice was not made on the premises, upon further interrogation, which in my opinion means it isn’t fresh. I know Londoners beg to disagree on this.

Neither of my companions had better food, but they are born and bred in the UK, so they are used to being dished up stuff that wouldn’t let a cafe last a week in Australia. So they ate all theirs, blissfully indifferent to what they’d shovelled down.

Today we went to Rise and Grind, our closest cafe in Clarence Park (Adelaide). It was Carnavale on our last visit and the change is definitely for the better. The menu is a small but interesting selection, healthy options that sound enticing. We started out simple. I had poached eggs with a side serve of spinach, presented on turkish bread, toasted. Manny went for the smashed avo (with feta etc) and poached eggs on dark rye (maybe, I’ve guessed the bread). The avo was everything that the London version wasn’t. Vinegar? If it was an ingredient, we didn’t notice. It was excellent.

Coffee was high standard, tea was good – thought I balk at $6 for a pot, it seems a lot for a cafe. I took a mug for $3.70.

First impressions is that it is a cut above the standard of its predecessor and we are thrilled to have it at close quarters.

My only complaint is that Rise and Grind need better signage. It is mainly an ad for FACEBOOK, as it was for the predecessor too. Weird.

 

 

 

 

 

Experiment replication – an example of failure

Much talk is made of the crisis in replication in various areas. I report one experience.

In 2010 I was the lead author of a research paper which was presented at a conference in Melbourne. We were investigating the idea that if people said ‘fuck’ while talking, that speech recognition would improve – the Holy Grail of those working in the area. It was intuitively obvious to see reasons why that might happen.

We had available to us an online game my co-author had developed as advertising for the movie Despicable Me. It was the first (only?) speech enabled internet game. The user would tell Minions to do things and they would do them. While developing it, Manny figured that it would be used mostly by boys of an age to find it vastly amusing to say ‘Fucking play table-tennis’ as an alternative to ‘Play table-tennis’. Etc. As he tested the system he had the idea that maybe he was being recognised more when he used the word ‘fucking’.

So we devised a test where people were given a set of randomly generated orders to give the Minions. They all included expressions without swearwords, with ‘fucking’ and with other swearwords instead. Nobody knew why they were doing the exercise. For lack of resources I asked people I knew to do this for me. We had a small group, but I thought a reliable one as a consequence.

We established statistical significance for the hypothesis that ‘fuck’ as an intensifier did improve recognition. You can see What’s the Magic Word? here.

About a year later we decided to do the experiment again. I didn’t have any more friends left (I know, it’s sad) but we had the resource available of AMT – the Turk. We did not achieve statistical significance. There were various possibilities as to why that was. Of course it could have been that our first experiment did not produce accurate data. But we had to acknowledge two important differences in the nature of the data collected which might also have been at issue. Firstly, using lowly paid (though we paid them much better than going rates) Turks. Secondly our Turks were US based. In our first experiment our users had been mostly Australians with a few English thrown in.

Ideally we would have used Australians again. However, at the time (I don’t know about now) this idea of crowd-sourced labour had not come to Australia yet. Furthermore and rendering the idea of a close if not exact repetition of the experiment impossible, the Minions game was taken offline and we could no longer use it.

We do think from time to time of exploring the ideas further, but the one thing we can state for sure is that neither we nor anybody else can repeat our original experiment.

postscript:

For anybody looking at the paper, please note that it had a second agenda which is why it is oddly written by normal standards of academic work. Having proofread various papers in the same area which struck me as excruciatingly boring, I questioned the idea that one had to write in that way in order to be published. I wanted to write something that would be both interesting and intelligible to a person walking in off the street to listen to the paper being presented. In fact you have to pay a lot of money to go to academic conferences, so people off the street are excluded. I believe that is wrong and I believe that many, if not all, academic papers could and should be written in ways more accessible to the population at large.