Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Do the Monster Mash

Halloween is upon us. How did this happen, exactly?

Unless you come from the old Celtic tradition of guising and bonfires, it seems very American, it doesn't seem very Australian at all. But this generation of children have latched onto it and trust me, they are NOT letting go. There will be broomsticks by my door and cobwebs hanging from the ceiling come Thursday night.
Purple People Eater Cookie, Rumbles Patisserie

There'll be delicious specialty items at the Market for Halloween (why hello creepy cupcakes) - and plenty, plenty of treats.

Louise Harper in the Blanco Kitchen 2012
 There are some ghoulish recipes online - purple potato mash, spooky snacks and so on. Or you can go to the extent of baking soul cakes - the ancient (but allegedly delicious) biscuit behind the tradition of trick or treating.

But for my family's Halloween celebration, I prefer to keep it simple. Old-fashioned stuff. There'll be bobbing for apples and carving of pumpkins. My tip to you: pumpkin carving is way harder than it looks and is made significantly easier with a template and the proper tools. Make it up as you go along and you may end up with a pumpkin carcass which needs a wig thrown over, Cousin Itt style.

If all else fails, then hail the Queen of American Craft, Martha Stewart. Her Halloween ideas page is filled with the ultimate in cute and creepy. Skeletons made from dried pasta, pumpkins with marshmallow teeth, it's just the right mixture of sickly and sweet for your trick or treat.


Friday, 18 October 2013


Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Actually, I'm not going to get into that, although I did see some cute egg cups posing that exact question at the Gluten Free Providore. Today you see, it's all ABOUT THE EGG.

Frankly, I was astounded to see how many different eggs are stocked here at the Market. I mean, you know that there are the two egg specialists Eggs Plus and Whisked, then Ripe and Paddlewheel sell organic and direct-from-farmer eggs, plus the poulterers and then suddenly there are like A THOUSAND EGGS EVERYWHERE. Actually if you did an egg-count, you would find way more than a thousand eggs here, it is just HOW IT IS.

Just some of the selection at Eggs Plus
Whisked and Eggs Plus carry a range of eggs from a number of producers. At Whisked the free range chicken eggs are sorted and sold according to weight: large (61g+), jumbo (67g+) and x-jumbo (73g+).  Paul also sells free range duck and goose eggs, plus organic chicken eggs.

Ivana at Eggs Plus stocks free range eggs from South Gippsland, specifiying on the card that they are fed grain, corn and carrot. You can also pick up free range eggs from Bangholme hens that have been fed a home made grain mix or eggs from Ballarat chooks. The choice (and it is a dazzling one) is yours. If you are super adventorous then drill into an ostrich egg - limited season - and make breakfast for 12 people with just one egg.

Ivana sells chicken eggs from her family farm but her choice is duck egg, for the additional protein, fat and minerals that are not found in chicken eggs. (Duck eggs are particularly suitable for gluten free baking because of this additional protein in the albumen.) She is also fond of a quail egg.

Ostrich eggs at Eggs Plus

I had a chat with Paul from Whisked about what eggs he recommends to Market shoppers:

First of all, I ask what they're cooking. If it's scrambled eggs, I'd choose an organic egg, or a jumbo free range. If they're using the eggs for baking or souffles, I recommend duck and goose eggs as they have a higher fat content and are richer.

The feed is always going to change the flavour of the eggs and the colour - in both the egg yolk and the albumen. The organic feed leads to better colour and flavour - you'll see differences like the consistency, the colour of the yolk, the strength of the shell. The strength of the shell is important because it protects the egg, it helps it stay fresh. So the organics tend to last a fair bit longer because they're protected.

Grasses Farm goose eggs at Paddlewheel

Paul says that you can store eggs in the pantry if the temperature is in the low 20's. But if you keep your eggs in the fridge they'll last an extra 2 weeks or so. The optimum temperature for eggs is 14-6°C. From the day of laying, eggs will last about 6 weeks. And the best way to check their freshness is the float test. Pop your eggs gently in a saucepan or bowl of tap water:

If the egg sinks - fresh
If the egg hovers in the middle - fresh but starting to age
If the egg floats to the top - spoiled

Here are some of the fabulous eggs you can find at the market - as you can see, there is something for everyone!

Milawa Organic Pasture Eggs - D & J Poultry
Grasses Farm Goose Eggs - Paddlewheel
Organigrow Organic Eggs - Cesters
Sunrise Free Range Eggs - Cesters
Healesville Free Range Eggs - Kevin's Poultry
Warrigal Quail Eggs - Kevin's Poultry
Fryar's Kangaroo Island Free Range Eggs - Cesters
Corndale Grove Eggs - Ripe
Wiseman's Organic Eggs - Ripe
Glenrose Biodynamic Eggs - Ripe
Gardenfarm Eggs - Paddlewheel
Annie's Free Range Eggs - Paddlewheel
Ruby Hills Organics Eggs - Paddlewheel
 Puriganics Eggs - Arthur's Poultry
D'Alberto Egg Farm Free Range Eggs - Arthur's Poultry
Keans Free Range Eggs - Gluten Free Providore
Carrajung Free Range Eggs - Pete N Rosie's Deli
Katham Springs Biodyanmic Free Range Eggs - Hagens

Friday, 11 October 2013

School Lunchbox Redux

School went back this week. Parents everywhere sighed in relief at the prospect of an end to sibling squabbling. And then, some time on Sunday night, the realisation sunk in that the school lunches slog was back. Staggering into the kitchen in the early hours to sling together some half-hearted ham sambos with a sad carrot on the side.

(And when I say "parents" I mean me, okay, it was ME.) But last month, I saw the work of Catherine McCord on Instagram and, while I don't feel any pressure to go to that extent, it made me up my game a little. Put a bit of thought into it. And it's amazing the difference that considering it at 7 the night before can make to what you put together at 7 in the morning.

Camp lunch series from Weelicious

Leftovers are the answer to almost everything. If I roast a chicken, I pick up a tray of extra wingettes or drumsticks from Kevin's Poultry (five dollar trays people!) and put them on the side. Dusted in a bit of paprika and oregano, they are perfect for picking out of a lunchbox the next day.

Hold back a bit of cooked lamb for souvlaki wraps or mix through pasta at the last minute and pop into a thermos.

And while there is still the occasional morning when I make Vegemite and cheese sandwiches, an inexpensive shaper makes it that bit more interesting.

The same applies to fruit - I had some highly suspicious children visiting during the holidays. They demanded chips for an afternoon snack, but when given a platter of sliced watermelon, kiwi fruit and apple plus cookie cutters of their choice, the fruit vanished in minutes. Nothing but skin and satisfaction left.

It's easy to make a carb-heavy lunch, but I have been making a conscious effort to reduce any processed foods and up the protein content. And colour is key. Mixing two different grape varieties together or a handful of yellow and baby orange tomatoes has a much higher success rate than one or the other.

Shop Neutral have an excellent range of Lunchbots boxes in different shapes and configurations. There are also gorgeous little round tubs that I use to bring yoghurt in to work or pop some strawberries aside for my daughter. 

They also stock insulated lunch totes made from recycled plastic bottles to help keep things cool in the warmer months.

I thoroughly recommend checking the weelicious site for lunchbox ideas but really, it's about you and your kids and what works for you. The prettiest lunch in the world is wasted if your child won't eat it.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Cheese Me Please Me

We are a cheesy lot around here. Many a Friday evening will find us tucking into a mature goat cheese, Tuesday lunchtime trying out a new Brie. It's the nature of working surrounded by so many good things.

Spring brings birth in farmers' fields and the consistency of milk begins to change in accordance with seasons. It is about to be a GLORIOUS time for fresh goat and sheep cheeses.

Woodside Cheese Wrights in the Adelaide Hills write in their blog:
I have cheeses that have seasons. They are made with milk that is at its peak in terms of freshness, fat, protein and mineral content and it is perfectly determined by the animals themselves.... It is to say that cheese made with spring goat milk is the BEST time for this cheese to be made. And you can taste the difference. In spring the goats will graze on young green shoots in pastures which are sweet and nutritious and this is transferred directly to the milk. Producing a floral and herbaceous smell in the cheese room that is truly unforgettable. I love this time and the way the cheeses come together with ease, the sweetness in the milk is a motivation in itself.
Living in supermarket-land, I think it's easy to forget that cheese has a timing and a precision all its own, just like broad beans and fresh asparagus. A living thing to be coaxed and cared for.

And to celebrate Spring and glorious cheese, we are holding free Cheese Appreciation Classes every Friday in October. Angelo from the Cheese Shop Deli, a man who lives, breathes and dances cheese, will conduct a tasting and discussion about 4 very different cheeses including blue, brie, cheddar and a 'mystery cheese' (I am not sure I want to know what a 'mystery cheese' is and I wish you all the best of luck).

We are also celebrating Cheese Week from Saturday 26 October to Saturday 2 November, with cooking demonstrations, cheese tastings, cheese and wine pairing. There's a hamper pack up for grabs valued at over $300 (imagine All That Cheese.) Kids can make their own cheese ball and you can learn how to make your own cheese at home.

I sat down to talk to Angelo about what makes a great cheese (okay, I nabbed him by a fruit stand last Saturday) and he told me that:
It's a balance between product and artisanal craft to get something that's balanced, that's live and that's delicious. There are so many different varieties of cheese, but that's what people like. A balanced flavour means that you don't get anything untoward on the palate that's inconsistent with the base flavour ... you don't have too much acid, you don't have too much fat, it's just a wonderful experience.

And if you miss out, well hard (Aussie) cheddar