Gin tourism

I’ve decided that I need to go to the Shetland islands. I spent a week running around the Orkneys during a trip to the UK in my younger days, but I didn’t have time to go any higher and I always kind of felt wistful about it.

I mean, they have a viking fire festival every January where they dress up like vikings in the day and then burn a viking boat that night, and dance and drink until dawn:

Burning

(image courtesy of a bloke named Martin Deutsch who kindly shares his images under a creative commons licence and apparently goes to cool stuff)

But even more importantly, they have a gin distillery there, Shetland Reel Gin, where you do a two-day course learning all about how they make gin. They collect you from Shetland’s capital and then have to take you via multiple ferries, from what I could see, right up to the most northern island, where they are. You stay overnight at some fancy resort and it all sounds extremely appealing to me.

I was telling my cousin-in-law about this the other day, while we were taking out kids to a wildlife sanctuary on the Mornington Peninsula that isn’t that far from our place. I told her about my current desperation to go to cold, windswept Scottish islands, and the festival and the many ferry rides it would take to get to the distillery and she pointed out that I can take a damned gin-making course at the Bass and Flinders distillery without having to fly half-way across the world and take fourteen ferries.

It’s just not the same.

If the gin were the point, I could just buy a make-your-own gin kit and do it at home (I was going to write “or even set up my own still” but I just googled and making your own spirits from scratch all seems a bit fiddly for me. Like the time I made mozzarella).

Perhaps I could stay slightly closer to home and go to the one at the McHenry Distillery in Tasmania. Which is also on my list of distilleries to possibly visit on islands.

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 8.52.22 PMIn the meantime, I think I’ll just drink this bottle of gin that my cousins bought me. Night night.

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Japanese poetry in honour of my various aches

I think I’m heading into the whingey part of being poorly after my sinus surgery. Here is a haiku in three parts, in honour of all the places that I ache.

SickBentoSakurakoKitsaBoth of my eyebrows
My right cheekbone and temple
My jaw and my teeth

My hair kind of hurts
And my nose, obviously
My neck isn’t great

Sometimes my eyes hurt
And the roof of my mouth, too
Ah well, could be worse

(“Sick bento” pic by Sakurako Kitsa on flickr. Thought it was fitting)

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Antonio D’Agostini

I pulled some of my old storybooks out of storage a few weeks ago, since my child has embraced Disney with open arms but hasn’t actually been given any traditional fairytales (we’ve been reading her a lot of Dr Seuss and Hairy Maclary).

Luckily I have at least four copies of each story in my possession, someway or other (well, and a bunch of academic titles on the subject since I did my honours thesis on children’s literature, but she can’t have them).

I always loved these two — the most ginormous versions of The Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. The illustrations, by Antonio D’Agostini, were just fantastic — enormously 70s, but just fantastic.

I’ve been having trouble finding out much about the artist, so he clearly wasn’t a big deal, but he left an impression on me. Hopefully these will help somebody somewhere googling him (or somebody somewhere googling him who knows more will be kind enough to leave a comment).

The Sleeping Beauty Antonio DagostiniThe Sleeping Beauty Antonio Dagostini the fairiesThe Sleeping Beauty Antonio Dagostini Aurora

The Sleeping Beauty Antonio Dagostini i shall save you

I AM SUCH A HERO LOOK AT MY WHITE HORSE ALSO I DON’T LOOK AT ALL LIKE THE VILLAIN FROM HIGHLANDER

The Sleeping Beauty Antonio Dagostini married

LOOK I SAVED HER AND NOW I LOOK A BIT LIKE KEANU REEVES

Snow White Antonio Dagostini

Snow White Antonio Dagostini Queen

The Evil Queen always has the best outfits ever. It’s in her contract.

Snow White Antonio Dagostini Here lies a kings daughter

“Ooh, what an attractive corpse, can I have it?” “Sure thing, mate.”

Snow White Antonio Dagostini I found a girl

“She woke up, yay! Now she’ll be much easier to carry! Bye, little men!”


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A strange easter

Well, I survived my surgery. I still feel pretty rotten. My child understands that mummy’s “sick”. Even though I’m still in the house, because I’m not the one looking after her, she seems to be “missing” me. She comes to look at me in bed, declaring “that’s my mummy!” when she spots me, as though she’s found me in a game of hide and seek. She informs me that I’m sick and asks me if I’m feeling “better” a lot.

We watched Cinderella at her request on the couch under a blanky the other afternoon. She was so excited to be doing something with me. I gave her a lot of kisses and promised her things would be back to normal soon.

It’s been a bit of a grim easter, really. My friend’s grandmother died, and then my aunt’s father, and then I found out that a client from work lost his mother, AND one of my mother’s friends lost THEIR mother. I thought these things were only supposed to go in threes.

I have no peppy way to end this post.

Sorry.

The only other thing I have to say is that for the first time, after having a new experience opened up to me, I find myself feeling less empathetic and sympathetic, not more, for the actions of others, because it’s occurred to me that sinus surgery must be a bit like have plastic surgery in terms of a doctor cutting your face up and stitching it back together and I don’t know why anyone would do this to themselves if they didn’t need to. This is just shit. I feel shit.

Blerg.

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Quite nice food I’ve had lately (and not so lately)

Apparently this is the fifth of these I’ve done (try hereherehere and here, for previous editions). It’s quite overdue since I visited a lot of these places ages ago (and some just last week), but the whole baby thing means I just haven’t had time to write about the lovely food I’ve been having out and about.

Mostly I’m finally finishing this long-drafted post NOW because I’m having surgery next week and, in case I DIE, I want you to all know how nice these places are and that you should go. I want to go back to every single one of them (and often have, much to the dismay of my bank balance).

Top Paddock in Richmond (this is from quite a while ago, sorry)

TopPaddockBar

TopPaddockFood

TopPaddockSeating

Storm in a Teacup in Collingwood

StormInAteacupWall

StormInAteacupDino StormInAteacupLunch StormInAteacupMenu StormInAteacupReadingMaterialPlusBigCats

Daniel Son in Murrumbeena

DanielSonDanielSonDominosLuxBite (their Toorak store is just STUNNING, look at it!!!! Their tiny CBD shopfront is so different)

LuxBiteLightFittingLuxBiteStripesLuxBiteStillLifeLuxBiteCakes2 LuxBiteCakes3LuxBiteLollyBagCakeLuxBiteIceCoffeeLuxBiteCakes

 Tivoli Street Bakery in South Yarra

TivoliStreetBakeryYum(Mmmm, slaw. But get the doughnuts. SERIOUSLY)

The Black Squirrel in Sandringham

Black Squirrel Burger They do their own cold drip coffee and it’s lovely

Black SquirrelClement at the South Melbourne market (god, those DOUGHNUTS)

Clement

The new Mork cafe in North Melbourne

Mork shopfront Mork plants Mork hot chocolate My friend ordered the smoked hot chocolate and I was jealous.

Mork smokes chocolate Mork Cakes

Sierra Tango in Cheltenham, where they have handsome men playing atmospheric gypsy (almost tango-like, you might say) music on Tuesday nights (and Saturdays as well, I think they said)

SierraTango SierraTangoDessertThe Kettle Black in South Melbourne (I went before Christmas but dream of going again)

KettleBlackKettleBlackMushrooms KettleBlackCakesYum. YUM.

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Food tour of Melbourne the second

Because we couldn’t manage to finish my very long list of places in the city and surrounds where I wanted to eat on our last visit, my friend F and I decided that we really had better go again and stuff our faces some more, before I went back to work.

Have been too busy to post this so it’s whatever the blogging equivalent of a #latergram is (is there a word for that? there should be). Anyway, we managed to make it back to Short Stop and it was bloody worth the trip. Yum.

Shortstop
They are so unpretentious, I love it. They’re not pretending to be anything other than a doughnut place. The coffee comes in black or white (and is good). The staff were lovely. The flavours are interesting. The shop is nice.

Brilliant. Yum.

Then we went up to Lygon Street (we both went to Melbourne uni so the tram ride felt nicely nostalgic) to visit Pidapipo‘s new permanent shop (the previous one was a pop-up). Much like Short Stop, we had attempted to go before and they’d been randomly closed. Much like Short Stop, it was so bloody worth the trip back.

PidapipoTable

Cute tables!!!!


PidapipoSignage

Pidapipo

They just rated a mention as one of the best gelato places in Melbourne, which they have well earned.

They have a nutella tap. Really.

We had a wander in Readings and Gewurzhaus, spent too much money (as usual) in King and Godfrey, then went back to the CBD for lunch only to find the place I wasn’t too sure about eating at was… closed. It looked shit anyway, to be honest, and so we grabbed something to eat somewhere else and since we were right near Madame Brussels by that point and neither of us had been there for years, we went “fuck it” and climbed on up.

MadamBMadamBrusselsFeast

Bloody good way to while away a child-free afternoon.

I was back at work the next week, but I had ticked Pidapipo and Short Stop off my list and spent another lovely day with my friend so all in all, I went back happy :)

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My chicken stock; a tired and rushed recipe post

I’m going to start with apologies; I’m vaguely sick and definitely exhausted but I promised a friend I’d write her up my stock recipe and a bunch of tips AGES ago so I decided today to just write up SOMETHING. I suspect it is less helpful than it could be and will try to clean it up later.

My partner’s on the low FODMAP diet. So we make a lot of stuff from scratch. Stock is one of the things I often made myself anyway; when his diet changed, I just needed to tweak the recipe a bit.

This is kind of hard to write because I never measure anything when I make stock, but basically, for a nice tasty stock, I find you need four things: meat, veggies, herbs/spices and salt. Well, and water, obviously.

With regards to the meat, I use leftover bits and bobs, including a lot of bones, because my Nonno raised me not to waste perfectly good food. I keep a couple of one-litre containers in the freezer and whenever we roast a chook, the leftover bones and skin all go in there for the next time I make stock, rather than just chuck them in the bin. Same goes for the bones and gristly bits after I slow-cook lamb shanks for stew (YES I SOMETIMES PUT LAMB BONES IN MY CHICKEN STOCK I ADMIT IT), as well as any fatty/gristly bits off the side of steak or chicken breast that I cut off before cooking.

That way, when we need stock, I just pull these containers out of the freezer and I usually have enough. For instance, this is two roast chickens worth of bones, skin and gristly bits, from the other night, in a 1.75ml container, about to go into the freezer:

ChickenBones

Not the most attractive pic I’ve ever posted, but illustrative enough

If I don’t seem to have enough, I add some chicken wings, necks and/or carcasses from the organic butcher. I always add a bit more salt in this case, since they haven’t been pre-seasoned or roasted.

I’ve tried making stock just using a whole raw chicken, which is what a lot of cookbooks recommend. I found this pointlessly expensive and not as tasty. So there.

With regards to the veggies, I try to add about half as much of them (in terms of volume, just by sight) as chicken. Pre-low FODMAP, I used to add a few carrots; a whole garlic clove, cut in half if I could be bothered; ditto an onion; and leftover celery bits, like the base and the tough outer stalks and the crappy pale inner stalks, plus all the leaves — basically all those bits you don’t normally use when you buy a whole celery (again, I used to freeze these when they turned up in my fridge, along with any bendy carrots and half-used onions that I had no plans for, so I’d have them for stock-making when I needed them).

Post-low FODMAP, celery, onions and garlic are all out. Instead, I add three carrots or so and the green part of a bunch of spring onions. It isn’t as good but it’s fine and I try to make sure to add asafoetida and a lot of chives to any dish I use the stock in, to add some garlic/onion flavour.

With regards to the herbs and spices, I add about a cup of herbs from the garden when I have them — it tends to be a mix of oregano, parsley, marjoram, various thymes, rosemary and a couple of fresh bay leaves. Basically, whatever’s there. I don’t bother chopping them and I include stalks. If I don’t have enough fresh herbs, I use a good amount of dried stuff — say, three tablespoons worth?

I also add a big chunk of ginger (this I do cut up, but not too carefully), some whole cardamom pods and a couple of anise stars. The end product does not end up tasting exotic because of these last few additions; they just sort of help round out the flavour.

Then I just cover the lot thoroughly with water — about four litres — and add maybe three tablespoons of salt (it’s really not that much considering it’s going into four litres of water) and about two tablespoons of whole mixed peppercorns.

A bone-based stock should cook for four-six hours to make sure you get as much protein and flavour out of the bones as possible. I’ve read a few people on the internet insist that you soak the bones beforehand to help with this, or even that you should add vinegar to help them break down. I don’t do either of these things. It seems counterintuitive to me to soak the bones of a roast chicken and then discard all that lovely roast flavour along with the water; and I don’t think vinegar would help with it either. But go ahead if you like.

Something else I don’t do is watch the stock like a hawk to make sure it never boils. People do this so that the stock stays clear but frankly, I don’t care if my stock is cloudy. I prefer to set and forget. So, I stick everything in a big stock pot, crank the hot plate up to high until the water boils, reduce to a simmer and go do something else for four-six hours.

StockReadyToCook

So, here is something approximating a “recipe” version of all that:

Ingredients:

Chicken bones like carcasses, wings and necks – about two kilos worth
Veggies (for low-FODMAP version, this is three carrots and a bunch of spring onions, green part only; for normal version, this is a head of garlic, an onion, two carrots, and three stalks of celery)
About a cup of fresh mixed herbs, including stalks
A two-inch piece of ginger, chopped roughly
Two whole star anise
Three or four cardamom pods
Two tablespoons of whole mixed peppercorns
About four litres of water (enough to cover everything and then some)

Method:

Put everything in a big stock pot. Bring to boil and then reduce to low-ish heat so that it’s still simmering a bit.

Put the lid on and go do something else for four-six hours. Check on it occasionally and give it a stir if you really feel the need.

Turn off the heat and give it at least ten minutes to cool down a bit so that you don’t need to be terrified of burning yourself horribly.

I’m not joking about that last point, the pot and its contents will be very, very hot. Please be careful. Taking out the bones now with a slotted spoon will help it cool down a bit faster, as will sticking the whole pot in an ice bath.

Once you’re comfortable with the temperature of the pot and its contents, strain the stock through muslin or a clean tea towel on a strainer. I don’t recommend skipping the cloth and just using a strainer; you’ll get a lot of sedimenty bits from the bones and the stock is heaps better without those.

Voila:

Stock

I never do this any more but this is the point where you would taste it to make sure it’s not bland. If it is, it’s not the end of the world — just tip it back into the now-empty stock pot, add a couple of pinches of salt and maybe some more herbs, and boil it until it tastes decent. Next time, add less water or more stuff.

But whether you boil it down or not, one step you probably aren’t going to want to skip is letting the stock sit in the fridge overnight so that all the fat can rise to the top and solidify. Then it’s an easy task to just scrape it all off with a spoon.

Let me know how you go!

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