Friday, 26 July 2013

Settling In, Being Busy

We're in! The Fruit and Veg Hall Traders have moved back in. Power tools and new paint jostle next to globe artichokes and sourdough. This has been a big job, with countless early mornings and late nights for builders, traders, staff. 

And it'll take a while for everything to settle in. Some traders are still finishing their fitouts while we're in the "soft launch" phase. But they're back together under the Market roof again. Tired but happy.

Freshly made spanakopita at Market Cafe
All the moving and unpacking has meant cooking's been pushed to the back of the burner for a few. And that's where being at the Market comes in handy. This is a fresh food market and most of our produce is taken home and prepared, cooked and turned into a dish greater than the sum of its parts in the alchemy of the kitchen. But sometimes I'm just tuckered out. And I want to put something on the table that's ready to be eaten, where the hard work has been done by someone else this time.
Nigiri at Sushi Gallery

Really hard work sometimes. I mean, can you make sushi like this? I cannot and that's why I leave it to Tony and his team of experts at Sushi Gallery. (Do not come waving a bamboo mat at me, I am not interested in hearing about it. I want to go lie down. I have been doing things all day.)

Seafood Pie at the Mussel Pot
 These are some of the dishes that can found around the Market and stashed in the fridge for those days when steaming a lobster and making Persian Jeweled Rice seem too much. You can still eat well, and eat healthily ... and be back at your tasks within 20 minutes.

Schroom Burger, Market Lane on Saturdays
This is my kind of fast food, layers of ricotta and spinach wedged between filo pastry, cooked up daily by Vicki and her family at Market Cafe. Fresh soups at Health Bowl Cafe that I can choose from the fridge and heat in mintues at home. Tomorrow I'll soak the chickpeas, skim the stock and make my own. But tonight, it's the sofa and a snooze and that feels just right.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Copper Love

Why do cooks love copper so much? What is about that rosy hue that sends the heart racing when you catch sight of the magnificent display at the Essential Ingredient?

It is, let's face it, the Rolls Royce of cookware - the conductivity of copper means that it transfers heat more quickly than other base metals. Many fine-dining kitchens show a glistening wall of copper sauté pans and, if you're lucky, a tiny mini-pan on your table holding your Paris mash or sautéed green beans.

Copper display at the Essential Ingredient

Historically copperware has been lined with tin. After many years of use, this wears through and must be relined as otherwise it will taint your food and could cause illness. Many modern brands now use stainless steel as a lining, which has considerable convenience for home cooks.

The Essential Ingredient provides tips for caring for your copperware:
- Do not heat an empty copper pan and do not pre-heat before use. Because copper heats quickly, it should be used over a lower temperature than other metals.
- Copper pans should be washed by hand (not in the dishwasher) while still hot, using detergent and a soft brush or pad, not steel wool or scouring pads. If food is burnt or stuck on, soak for up to an hour before washing.
- Copper requires no special treatment but an occasional polish with a dedicated copper cleaner will retain the bright colour. Do not use powdered cleaners as they may scratch the surface.
- The tin lining used on most copper cookware will discolour with time and use, and over the years it may even wear off. Do not use the pan if the copper is showing through the lining. Either have it re-lined or relegate it to a decorative item only. Stainless steel linings are virtually indestructible. 
- Use wooden, not metal, spoons and other utensils.

There's some interesting information here and here on the French practice of using unlined copper jam pans to cook preserves (personally, I always believe anything Christine Ferber, the undisputed Comtesse des confitures says).

Copper is considered excellent for whipping eggwhites and is also traditonally used in Italy for the making of that delightful dessert zabaglione. Cook's Illustrated testing found:
The deep, bowl-like shape of the zabaglione pan is thought to facilitate whipping, and we were curious to see if this was true. We did find it much easier to whisk the eggs in a zabaglione pan than in a bowl or small saucepan. The custard also seemed to cook more evenly in the zabaglione pan than in the bowl or saucepan, both of which collected more bits of overcooked egg. We can only speculate as to why, but it may be that the custard is moved about so efficiently in the zabaglione pan that not one drop remains in one place long enough to overcook. The pan, made of unlined copper, is also an excellent conductor of heat, which is why it is so important to cook the custard over a very low, gentle flame.
Display at Flawless Flowers
 95% of copper is used for wiring, plumbing and industrial machinery, so it's a very small fraction that makes its way into high end cookware and decorations. But there's much more to copper than meets the (gorgeous) eye. Wandering through the Big Top last week, I found Emma Whiting of Flawless Flowers washing down three stunning copper tubs. Emma had been looking for these for ages and when she saw them at a local trash and treasure stall, she pounced.

"They're perfect for tulips, the copper feeds into the flowers' systems and they last longer. Any kind of metal is good but copper is best." I am extremely jealous and will do my best not to pinch them. Ahem. Emma also recommends tipping copper-coated coins into a tall vase to keep your flowers fresh. So, useful and beautiful - who could ask for anything more?

Friday, 5 July 2013

Getting Cosy

Christmas (in July) is coming, the geese are getting fat ....

John Cesters Poultry & Game
Winter, the time to traditionally hibernate, wrap yourself in an extra rug on the sofa and settle in, with a good book and a mug of tea.

On these chilly Melbourne days we need something to ward off the wind, whether it's a woolly scarf, a sturdy coat or a nice thick slab of pork belly. For some primal reason, the desire for fat comes to the forefront - the temperature drops and I'm checking out free range goslings and corn-fed duck at John Cesters Poultry & Game and mooning over marbled steaks at Neil's Meats.

King Island Seal Bay Triple Cream Cheese from the Cheese Shop Deli

And finishing soups with a swirl of olive oil, pulling out the d'Affinois after dessert. Comfort food, much of it created in European winters, was designed to keep the home fires burning in times of scarcity and times of cold.

Of course I'm not suggesting we eat nothing but rich foods. Winter is also the time of thick bean soups, roasted cauliflower and steamed broccoli. Asian greens are at their best and you can just feel the goodness bursting out of the fresh leaves of gai lan and pak choy.

These brilliant avocados are also in season and straight off the truck from Mildura. A skinful of sunshine and packed full of monounsaturated fat. Smashed on wholegrain toast with feta or a little lemon, it's a great start to the day and a bolster against wet and cold commutes.

Come spring, it'll be all green shoots and baby herbs, asparagus and prawns. But for now, it's the rib-stickin' stuff, mash with truffles and a pint of cream to see us through the dark days.

Do you agree?